She frowned. "How did you know about that?"
Rachel didn't look surprised. She tugged at her beach shorts. They were covered in drawings, which wasn't unusual for her, but these symbols I recognized: Greek letters, pictures from camp beads, sketches of monsters and faces of gods. I didn't understand how Rachel could have known about some of that. She'd never been to Olympus or Camp Half-Blood.
"I've been seeing things too," she muttered. "I mean, not just through the Mist. This is different. I've been drawing pictures, writing lines—"
"In Ancient Greek," I said. "Do you know what they say?"
"That's what I wanted to talk to you about. I was hoping . . . well, if you had gone with us on vacation, I was hoping you could have helped me figure out what's happening to me."
She looked at me pleadingly. Her face was sunburned from the beach. Her nose was peeling. I couldn't get over the shock that she was here in person. She'd forced her family to cut short their vacation, agreed to go to a horrible school, and flown a helicopter into a monster battle just to see me. In her own way, she was as brave as Annabeth.
But what was happening to her with these visions really freaked me out. Maybe it was something that happened to all mortals who could see through the Mist. But my mom had never talked about anything like that. And Hestia's words about Luke's mom kept coming back to me: May Castellan went too far. She tried to see too much.
"Rachel," I said, "I wish I knew. Maybe we should ask Chiron—"
She flinched like she'd gotten an electric shock. "Percy, something is about to happen. A trick that ends in death."
"What do you mean? Whose death?"
"I don't know." She looked around nervously. "Don't you feel it?"
"Is that the message you wanted to tell me?"
"No." She hesitated. "I'm sorry. I'm not making sense, but that thought just came to me. The message I wrote on the beach was different. It had your name in it."
"Perseus," I remembered. "In Ancient Greek."
Rachel nodded. "I don't know its meaning. But I know it's important. You have to hear it. It said, Perseus, you are not the hero."
I stared at her like she'd just slapped me. "You came thousands of miles to tell me I'm not the hero?"
"It's important," she insisted. "It will affect what you do."
"Not the hero of the prophecy?" I asked. "Not the hero who defeats Kronos? What do you mean?"
"I'm . . . I'm sorry, Percy. That's all I know. I had to tell you because—"
"Well!" Chiron cantered over. "This must be Miss Dare."
I wanted to yell at him to go away, but of course I couldn't. I tried to get my emotions under control. I felt like I had another personal hurricane swirling around me. "Chiron, Rachel Dare," I said. "Rachel, this is my teacher Chiron."
"Hello," Rachel said glumly. She didn't look at all surprised that Chiron was a centaur.
"You are not asleep, Miss Dare," he noticed. "And yet you are mortal?"
"I'm mortal," she agreed, like it was a depressing thought. "The pilot fell asleep as soon as we passed the river. I don't know why I didn't. I just knew I had to be here, to warn Percy."
"She's been seeing things," I said. "Writing lines and making drawings."
Chiron raised an eyebrow. "Indeed? Tell me."
She told him the same things she'd told me.
Chiron stroked his beard. "Miss Dare . . . perhaps we should talk."
"Chiron," I blurted. I had a sudden terrible image of Camp Half-Blood in the 1990s, and May Castellan's scream coming from that attic. "You . . . you'll help Rachel, right? I mean, you'll warn her that she's got to be careful with this stuff. Not go too far."
His tail flicked like it does when he's anxious. "Yes, Percy. I will do my best to understand what is happening and advise Miss Dare, but this may take some time. Meanwhile, you should rest. We've moved your parents' car to safety. The enemy seems to be staying put for now. We've set up bunks in the Empire State Building. Get some sleep."
"Everybody keeps telling me to sleep," I grumbled. "I don't need sleep."
Chiron managed a smile. "Have you looked at yourself recently, Percy?"
I glanced down at my clothes, which were scorched, burned, sliced, and tattered from my night of constant battles. "I look like death," I admitted. "But you think I can sleep after what just happened?"
"You may be invulnerable in combat," Chiron chided, "but that only makes your body tire faster. I remember Achilles. Whenever that lad wasn't fighting, he was sleeping. He must’ve taken twenty naps a day. You, Percy, need your rest. You may be our only hope."
I wanted to complain that I wasn't their only hope, According to Rachel, I wasn't even the hero. But the look in Chiron's eyes made it clear he wasn't going to take no for an answer.
"Sure," I grumbled. "Talk."
I trudged toward the Empire State Building. When I glanced back, Rachel and Chiron were walking together in earnest conversation, like they were discussing funeral arrangements.
Inside the lobby, I found an empty bunk and collapsed, sure that I would never be able to sleep. A second later, my eyes closed.
In my dreams, I was back in Hades's garden. The lord of the dead paced up and down, holding his ears while Nico followed him, waving his arms.
"You have to!" Nico insisted.
Demeter and Persephone sat behind them at the breakfast table. Both of the goddesses looked bored. Demeter poured shredded wheat into four huge bowls. Persephone was magically changing the flower arrangement on the table, turning the blossoms from red to yellow to polka-dotted.
"I don't have to do anything!" Hades s eyes blazed. "I'm a god!"
"Father," Nico said, "if Olympus falls, your own palace's safety doesn't matter. You'll fade too."
"I am not an Olympian!" he growled. "My family has made that quite clear."
"You are,'' Nico said. "Whether you like it or not."
"You saw what they did to your mother," Hades said. "Zeus killed her. And you would have me help them? They deserve what they get!"
Persephone sighed. She walked her fingers across the table, absently turning the silverware into roses. "Could we please not talk about that woman?"
"You know what would help this boy?" Demeter mused. "Farming."
Persephone rolled her eyes. "Mother—"
"Six months behind a plow. Excellent character building."
Nico stepped in front of his father, forcing Hades to face him. "My mother understood about family. That's why she didn't want to leave us. You can't just abandon your family because they did something horrible. You've done horrible things to them too."
"Maria died!" Hades reminded him.
"You can't just cut yourself off from the other gods!"
"I've done very well at it for thousands of years."
"And has that made you feel any better?" Nico demanded. "Has that curse on the Oracle helped you at all? Holding grudges is a fatal flaw. Bianca warned me about that, and she was right."
"For demigods! I am immortal, all-powerful! I would not help the other gods if they begged me, if Percy Jackson himself pleaded—"
"You're just as much of an outcast as I am!" Nico yelled. "Stop being angry about it and do something helpful for once. That's the only way they'll respect you!"
Hades's palm filled with black fire.
"Go ahead," Nico said. "Blast me. That's just what the other gods would expect from you. Prove them right."
"Yes, please," Demeter complained. "Shut him up."
Persephone sighed. "Oh, I don't know. I would rather fight in the war than eat another bowl of cereal. This is boring."
Hades roared in anger. His fireball hit a silver tree right next to Nico, melting it into a pool of liquid metal.
And my dream changed.
I was standing outside the United Nations, about a mile northeast of the Empire State Building. The Titan army had set up camp all around the UN complex. The flagpoles were hung with horrible trophies—helmets and armor pieces from defeated campers. All along First Avenue, giants sharpened their axes. Telkhines repaired armor at makeshift forges.
Kronos himself paced at the top of the plaza, swinging his scythe so his dracaenae bodyguards stayed way back. Ethan Nakamura and Prometheus stood nearby, out of slicing range. Ethan was fidgeting with his shield straps, but Prometheus looked as calm and collected as ever in his tuxedo.
"I hate this place," Kronos growled. "United Nations. As if mankind could ever unite. Remind me to tear down this building after we destroy Olympus."
"Yes, lord." Prometheus smiled as if his master's anger amused him. "Shall we tear down the stables in Central Park too? I know how much horses can annoy you."
"Don't mock me, Prometheus! Those cursed centaurs will be sorry they interfered. I will feed them to the hellhounds, starting with that son of mine—that weakling Chiron."
Prometheus shrugged. "That weakling destroyed an entire legion of telkhines with his arrows."
Kronos swung his scythe and cut a flagpole in half. The national colors of Brazil toppled into the army, squashing a dracaena.
"We will destroy them!" Kronos roared. "It is time to unleash the drakon. Nakamura, you will do this."
"Y-yes, lord. At sunset?"
"No," Kronos said. "Immediately. The defenders of Olympus are badly wounded. They will not expect a quick attack. Besides, we know this drakon they cannot beat."
Ethan looked confused. "My lord?"
"Never you mind, Nakamura. Just do my bidding. I want Olympus in ruins by the time Typhon reaches New York. We will break the gods utterly!"
"But, my lord," Ethan said. "Your regeneration."
Kronos pointed at Ethan, and the demigod froze.
"Does it seem," Kronos hissed, "that I need to regenerate?"
Ethan didn't respond. Kind of hard to do when you're immobilized in time.
Kronos snapped his fingers and Ethan collapsed.
"Soon," the Titan growled, "this form will be unnecessary. I will not rest with victory so close. Now, go!"
Ethan scrambled away.
"This is dangerous, my lord," Prometheus warned. "Do not be hasty."
"Hasty? After festering for three thousand years in the depths of Tartarus, you call me hasty? I will slice Percy Jackson into a thousand pieces."
"Thrice you've fought him," Prometheus pointed out. "And yet you've always said it is beneath the dignity of a Titan to fight a mere mortal. I wonder if your mortal host is influencing you, weakening your judgment."
Kronos turned his golden eyes on the other Titan. "You call me weak?"
"No, my lord. I only meant—"
"Are your loyalties divided?" Kronos asked. "Perhaps you miss your old friends, the gods. Would you like to join them?"
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