Oh, and according to the ancient prophecy, I was going to die when I turned sixteen—which happened to be in five days, the exact same time Typhon was supposed to hit New York. Almost forgot that.

"Well," Chiron said, "I think that's enough for one night."

He waved his hand and the steam dissipated. The stormy battle of Typhon and the gods disappeared.

"That's an understatement," I muttered.

And the war council adjourned.




I dreamed Rachel Elizabeth Dare was throwing darts at my picture.

She was standing in her room . . . Okay, back up. I have to explain that Rachel doesn't have a room. She has the top floor of her family's mansion, which is a renovated brownstone in Brooklyn. Her "room" is a huge loft with industrial lighting and floor-to-ceiling windows. It's about twice as big as my mom's apartment.

Some alt rock was blaring from her paint-covered Bose docking system. As far as I could tell, Rachel's only rule about music was that no two songs on her iPod could sound the same, and they all had to be strange.

She wore a kimono, and her hair was frizzy, like she'd been sleeping. Her bed was messed up. Sheets hung over a bunch of artist's easels. Dirty clothes and old energy bar wrappers were strewn around the floor, but when you've got a room that big, the mess doesn't look so bad. Out the windows you could see the entire nighttime skyline of Manhattan.

The picture she was attacking was a painting of me standing over the giant Antaeus. Rachel had painted it a couple of months ago. My expression in the picture was fierce—disturbing, even—so it was hard to tell if I was the good guy or the bad guy, but Rachel said I'd looked just like that after the battle.

"Demigods," Rachel muttered as she threw another dart at the canvas. "And their stupid quests."

Most of the darts bounced off, but a few stuck. One hung off my chin like a goatee.

Someone pounded on her bedroom door.

"Rachel!" a man shouted. "What in the world are you doing? Turn off that—"

Rachel scooped up her remote control and shut off the music. "Come in!"

Her dad walked in, scowling and blinking from the light. He had rust-colored hair a little darker than Rachel's. It was smushed on one side like he'd lost a fight with his pillow. His blue silk pajamas had "WD" monogrammed on the pocket. Seriously, who has monogrammed pajamas?

"What is going on?" he demanded. "It's three in the morning."

"Couldn't sleep," Rachel said.

On the painting, a dart fell off my face. Rachel hid the rest behind her back, but Mr. Dare noticed.

"So . . . I take it your friend isn't coming to St. Thomas?" That's what Mr. Dare called me. Never Percy. Just your friend. Or young man if he was talking to me, which he rarely did.

Rachel knit her eyebrows. "I don't know."

"We leave in the morning," her dad said. "If he hasn't made up his mind yet—"

"He's probably not coming," Rachel said miserably. "Happy?"

Mr. Dare put his hands behind his back. He paced the room with a stern expression. I imagined he did that in the boardroom of his land development company and made his employees nervous.

"Are you still having bad dreams?" he asked. "Headaches?"

Rachel threw her darts on the floor. "I should never have told you about that."

"I'm your father," he said. "I'm worried about you."

"Worried about the family's reputation," Rachel muttered.

Her father didn't react—maybe because he'd heard that comment before, or maybe because it was true.

"We could call Dr. Arkwright," he suggested. "He helped you get through the death of your hamster."

"I was six then," she said. "And no, Dad, I don't need a therapist. I just . . ." She shook her head helplessly.

Her father stopped in front of the windows. He gazed at the New York skyline as if he owned it—which wasn't true. He only owned part of it.

"It will be good for you to get away," he decided. "You've had some unhealthy influences."

"I'm not going to Clarion Ladies Academy," Rachel said. "And my friends are none of your business."

Mr. Dare smiled, but it wasn't a warm smile. It was more like, Someday you'll realize how silly you sound.

"Try to get some sleep," he urged. "We'll be at the beach by tomorrow night. It will be fun."

"Fun," Rachel repeated. "Lots of fun."

Her father exited the room. He left the door open behind him.

Rachel stared at the portrait of me. Then she walked to the easel next to it, which was covered in a sheet.

"I hope they're dreams," she said.

She uncovered the easel. On it was a hastily sketched charcoal, but Rachel was a good artist. The picture was definitely Luke as a young boy. He was about nine years old, with a wide grin and no scar on his face. I had no idea how Rachel could've known what he looked like back then, but the portrait was so good I had a feeling she wasn't guessing. From what I knew about Luke's life (which wasn't much), the picture showed him just before he'd found out he was a half-blood and had run away from home.

Rachel stared at the portrait. Then she uncovered the next easel. This picture was even more disturbing. It showed the Empire State Building with lightning all around it. In the distance a dark storm was brewing, with a huge hand coming out of the clouds. At the base of the building a crowd had gathered . . . but it wasn't a normal crowd of tourists and pedestrians. I saw spears, javelins, and banners—the trappings of an army.

"Percy," Rachel muttered, as if she knew I was listening, "what is going on?"

The dream faded, and the last thing I remember was wishing I could answer her question.

The next morning, I wanted to call her, but there were no phones at camp. Dionysus and Chiron didn't need a landline. They just called Olympus with an Iris-message whenever they needed something. And when demigods use cell phones, the signals agitate every monster within a hundred miles. It's like sending up a flare: Here I am! Please rearrange my face! Even within the safe borders of camp, that's not the kind of advertising we wanted to do.

Most demigods (except for Annabeth and a few others) don't even own cell phones. And I definitely couldn't tell Annabeth, "Hey, let me borrow your phone so I can call Rachel!" To make the call, I would've had to leave camp and walk several miles to the nearest convenience store. Even if Chiron let me go, by the time I got there, Rachel would've been on the plane to St. Thomas.

I ate a depressing breakfast by myself at the Poseidon table. I kept staring at the fissure in the marble floor where two years ago Nico had banished a bunch of bloodthirsty skeletons to the Underworld. The memory didn't exactly improve my appetite.

After breakfast, Annabeth and I walked down to inspect the cabins. Actually, it was Annabeth's turn for inspection. My morning chore was to sort through reports for Chiron. But since we both hated our jobs, we decided to do them together so it wouldn't be so heinous.

We started at the Poseidon cabin, which was basically just me. I'd made my bunk bed that morning (well, sort of) and straightened the Minotaur horn on the wall, so I gave myself a four out of five.

Annabeth made a face. "You're being generous." She used the end of her pencil to pick up an old pair of running shorts.

I snatched them away. "Hey, give me a break. I don't have Tyson cleaning up after me this summer."

"Three out of five," Annabeth said. I knew better than to argue, so we moved along.

I tried to skim through Chiron's stack of reports as we walked. There were messages from demigods, nature spirits, and satyrs all around the country, writing about the latest monster activity. They were pretty depressing, and my ADHD brain did not like concentrating on depressing stuff.

Little battles were raging everywhere. Camp recruitment was down to zero. Satyrs were having trouble finding new demigods and bringing them to Half-Blood Hill because so many monsters were roaming the country. Our friend Thalia, who led the Hunters of Artemis, hadn't been heard from in months, and if Artemis knew what had happened to them, she wasn't sharing information.

We visited the Aphrodite cabin, which of course got a five out of five. The beds were perfectly made. The clothes in everyone's footlockers were color coordinated. Fresh flowers bloomed on the windowsills. I wanted to dock a point because the whole place reeked of designer perfume, but Annabeth ignored me.

"Great job as usual, Silena," Annabeth said.

Silena nodded listlessly. The wall behind her bed was decorated with pictures of Beckendorf. She sat on her bunk with a box of chocolates on her lap, and I remembered that her dad owned a chocolate store in the Village, which was how he'd caught the attention of Aphrodite.

"You want a bonbon?" Silena asked. "My dad sent them. He thought—he thought they might cheer me up."

"Are they any good?" I asked.

She shook her head. "They taste like cardboard."

I didn't have anything against cardboard, so I tried one. Annabeth passed. We promised to see Silena later and kept going.

As we crossed the commons area, a fight broke out between the Ares and Apollo cabins. Some Apollo campers armed with firebombs flew over the Ares cabin in a chariot pulled by two pegasi. I'd never seen the chariot before, but it looked like a pretty sweet ride. Soon, the roof of the Ares cabin was burning, and naiads from the canoe lake rushed over to blow water on it.

Then the Ares campers called down a curse, and all the Apollo kids' arrows turned to rubber. The Apollo kids kept shooting at the Ares kids, but the arrows bounced off.

Two archers ran by, chased by an angry Ares kid who was yelling in poetry: "Curse me, eh? I'll make you pay! / I don't want to rhyme all day!"

Annabeth sighed. "Not that again. Last time Apollo cursed a cabin, it took a week for the rhyming couplets to wear off."

I shuddered. Apollo was god of poetry as well as archery, and I'd heard him recite in person. I'd almost rather yet shot by an arrow.

"What are they fighting about anyway?" I asked.

Annabeth ignored me while she scribbled on her inspection scroll, giving both cabins a one out of five.

I found myself staring at her, which was stupid since I'd seen her a billion times. She and I were about the same height this summer, which was a relief. Still, she seemed so much more mature. It was kind of intimidating. I mean, sure, she'd always been cute, but she was starting to be seriously beautiful.

Finally she said, "That flying chariot."


"You asked what they were fighting about."

"Oh. Oh, right."

"They captured it in a raid in Philadelphia last week. Some of Luke's demigods were there with that flying chariot. The Apollo cabin seized it during the battle, but the Ares cabin led the raid. So they've been fighting about who gets it ever since."

We ducked as Michael Yew's chariot dive-bombed an Ares camper. The Ares camper tried to stab him and cuss him out in rhyming couplets. He was pretty creative about rhyming those cuss words.

"We're fighting for our lives," I said, "and they're bickering about some stupid chariot."