- The Last Olympian
"They'll get over it," Annabeth said. "Clarisse will come to her senses."
I wasn't so sure. That didn't sound like the Clarisse I knew.
I scanned more reports and we inspected a few more cabins. Demeter got a four. Hephaestus got a three and probably should've gotten lower, but with Beckendorf being gone and all, we cut them some slack. Hermes got a two, which was no surprise. All campers who didn't know their godly parentage were shoved into the Hermes cabin, and since the gods were kind of forgetful, that cabin was always overcrowded.
Finally we got to Athena's cabin, which was orderly and clean as usual. Books were straightened on the shelves. The armor was polished. Battle maps and blueprints decorated the walls. Only Annabeth's bunk was messy. It was covered in papers, and her silver laptop was still running.
"Vlacas," Annabeth muttered, which was basically calling herself an idiot in Greek.
Her second-in-command, Malcolm, suppressed a smile. "Yeah, um . . . we cleaned everything else. Didn't know if it was safe to move your notes."
That was probably smart. Annabeth had a bronze knife that she reserved just for monsters and people who messed with her stuff.
Malcolm grinned at me. "We'll wait outside while you finish inspection." The Athena campers filed out the door while Annabeth cleaned up her bunk.
I shuffled uneasily and pretended to go through some more reports. Technically, even on inspection, it was against camp rules for two campers to be . . . like, alone in a cabin.
That rule had come up a lot when Silena and Beckendorf started dating. And I know some of you might be thinking, Aren't all demigods related on the godly side, and doesn't that make dating gross? But the thing is, the godly side of your family doesn't count, genetically speaking, since gods don't have DNA. A demigod would never think about dating someone who had the same godly parent. Like two kids from Athena cabin? No way. But a daughter of Aphrodite and a son of Hephaestus? They're not related. So it's no problem.
Anyway, for some strange reason I was thinking about this as I watched Annabeth straighten up. She closed her laptop, which had been given to her as a gift from the inventor Daedalus last summer.
I cleared my throat. "So . . . get any good info from that thing?"
"Too much," she said. "Daedalus had so many ideas, I could spend fifty years just trying to figure them all out."
"Yeah," I muttered. "That would be fun."
She shuffled her papers—mostly drawings of buildings and a bunch of handwritten notes. I knew she wanted to be an architect someday, but I'd learned the hard way not to ask what she was working on. She'd start talking about angles and load-bearing joints until my eyes glazed over.
"You know . . ." She brushed her hair behind her ear, like she does when she's nervous. "This whole thing with Beckendorf and Silena. It kind of makes you think. About . . . what's important. About losing people who are important."
I nodded. My brain started seizing on little random details, like the fact that she was still wearing those silver owl earrings from her dad, who was this brainiac military history professor in San Francisco.
"Urn, yeah," I stammered. "Like . . . is everything cool with your family?"
Okay, really stupid question, but hey, I was nervous.
Annabeth looked disappointed, but she nodded.
"My dad wanted to take me to Greece this summer," she said wistfully. "I've always wanted to see—"
"The Parthenon," I remembered.
She managed a smile. "Yeah."
"That's okay. There'll be other summers, right?"
As soon as I said it, I realized it was a boneheaded comment. I was facing the end of my days. Within a week, Olympus might fall. If the Age of the Gods really did end, the world as we knew it would dissolve into chaos. Demigods would be hunted to extinction. There would be no more summers for us.
Annabeth stared at her inspection scroll. "Three out five," she muttered, "for a sloppy head counselor. Come on. Let's finish your reports and get back to Chiron."
On the way to the Big House, we read the last report, which was handwritten on a maple leaf from a satyr in Canada. If possible, the note made me feel even worse.
" 'Dear Grover,'" I read aloud. " 'Woods outside Toronto attacked by giant evil badger. Tried to do as you suggested and summon power of Pan. No effect. Many naiads' trees destroyed. Retreating to Ottawa. Please advise. Where are you? —Gleeson Hedge, protector.'"
Annabeth grimaced. "You haven't heard anything from him? Even with your empathy link?"
I shook my head dejectedly.
Ever since last summer when the god Pan had died, our friend Grover had been drifting farther and farther away. The Council of Cloven Elders treated him like an outcast, but Grover still traveled all over the East Coast, trying to spread the word about Pan and convince nature spirits to protect their own little bits of the wild. He'd only come back to camp a few times to see his girlfriend, Juniper.
Last I'd heard he was in Central Park organizing the dryads, but nobody had seen or heard from him in two months. We'd tried to send Iris-messages. They never got through. I had an empathy link with Grover, so I hoped I would know if anything bad happened to him. Grover had told me one time that if he died, the empathy link might kill me too. But I wasn't sure if that was still true or not.
I wondered if he was still in Manhattan. Then I thought about my dream of Rachel's sketch—dark clouds closing on the city, an army gathered around the Empire State Building.
"Annabeth." I stopped her by the tetherball court. I knew I was asking for trouble, but I didn't know who else to trust. Plus, I'd always depended on Annabeth for advice. "Listen, I had this dream about, um, Rachel . . ."
I told her the whole thing, even the weird picture of Luke as a child.
For a while she didn't say anything. Then she rolled up her inspection scroll so tight she ripped it. "What do you want me to say?"
"I'm not sure. You're the best strategist I know. If you were Kronos planning this war, what would you do next?"
"I'd use Typhon as a distraction. Then I'd hit Olympus directly, while the gods were in the West."
"Just like in Rachel's picture."
"Percy," she said, her voice tight, "Rachel is just a mortal."
"But what if her dream is true? Those other Titans—they said Olympus would be destroyed in a matter of days. They said they had plenty of other challenges. And what's with that picture of Luke as a kid—"
"We'll just have to be ready."
"How?" I said. "Look at our camp. We can't even stop fighting each other. And I'm supposed to get my stupid soul reaped."
She threw down her scroll. "I knew we shouldn't have shown you the prophecy." Her voice was angry and hurt. "All it did was scare you. You run away from things when you're scared."
I stared at her, completely stunned. "Me? Run away?"
She got right in my face. "Yes, you. You're a coward, Percy Jackson!"
We were nose to nose. Her eyes were red, and I suddenly realized that when she called me a coward, maybe she wasn't talking about the prophecy.
"If you don't like our chances," she said, "maybe you should go on that vacation with Rachel."
"If you don't like our company."
"That's not fair!"
She pushed past me and stormed toward the strawberry fields. She hit the tetherball as she passed and sent it spinning angrily around the pole.
I'd like to say my day got better from there. Of course it didn't.
That afternoon we had an assembly at the campfire to burn Beckendorf's burial shroud and say our good-byes. Even the Ares and Apollo cabins called a temporary truce to attend.
Beckendorf's shroud was made out of metal links, like chain mail. I didn't see how it would burn, but the Fates must've been helping out. The metal melted in the fire and turned to golden smoke, which rose into the sky. The campfire flames always reflected the campers' moods, and today they burned black.
I hoped Beckendorf's spirit would end up in Elysium. Maybe he'd even choose to be reborn and try for Elysium in three different lifetimes so he could reach the Isles of the Blest, which was like the Underworld's ultimate party headquarters. If anyone deserved it, Beckendorf did.
Annabeth left without a word to me. Most of the other campers drifted off to their afternoon activities. I just stood there staring at the dying fire. Silena sat nearby crying, while Clarisse and her boyfriend, Chris Rodriguez, tried to comfort her.
Finally I got up the nerve to walk over. "Hey, Silena, I'm really sorry."
She sniffled. Clarisse glared at me, but she always glares at everyone. Chris would barely look at me. He'd been one of Luke's men until Clarisse rescued him from the Labyrinth last summer, and I guess he still felt guilty about it.
I cleared my throat. "Silena, you know Beckendorf carried your picture. He looked at it right before we went into battle. You meant a lot to him. You made the last year the best of his life."
"Good work, Percy," Clarisse muttered.
"No, it's all right," Silena said. "Thank . . . thank you, Percy. I should go."
"You want company?" Clarisse asked.
Silena shook her head and ran off.
"She's stronger than she looks," Clarisse muttered, almost to herself. "She'll survive."
"You could help with that," I suggested. "You could honor Beckendorf's memory by fighting with us."
Clarisse went for her knife, but it wasn't there anymore. She'd thrown it on the Ping-Pong table in the Big House.
"Not my problem," she growled. "My cabin doesn't get honor, I don't fight."
I noticed she wasn't speaking in rhymes. Maybe she hadn't been around when her cabinmates got cursed, or maybe she had a way of breaking the spell. With a chill, I wondered if Clarisse could be Kronos's spy at camp. Was that why she was keeping her cabin out of the fight? But as much as I disliked Clarisse, spying for the Titans didn't seem like her style.
"All right," I told her. "I didn't want to bring this up, but you owe me one. You'd be rotting in a Cyclops's cave in the Sea of Monsters if it wasn't for me."
She clenched her jaw. "Any other favor, Percy. Not this. The Ares cabin has been dissed too many times. And don't think I don't know what people say about me behind my back."
I wanted to say, Well, it's true. But I bit my tongue.
"So, what—you're just going to let Kronos crush us?" I asked.
"If you want my help so bad, tell Apollo to give us the chariot."
"You're such a big baby."
She charged me, but Chris got between us. "Whoa, guys," he said. "Clarisse, you know, maybe he's got a point."
She sneered at him. "Not you too!" She trudged off with Chris at her heels.
"Hey, wait! I just meant—Clarisse, wait!"
I watched the last sparks from Beckendorf's fire curl into the afternoon sky. Then I headed toward the sword-fighting arena. I needed a break, and I wanted to see an old friend.
I DRIVE MY DOG INTO
Mrs. O'Leary saw me before I saw her, which was a pretty good trick considering she's the size of a garbage truck. I walked into the arena, and a wall of darkness slammed into me.