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“Don’t make this about me,” her dad said. “I do the best I can, Piper. We’ve had this conversation.”

No, she thought. You’ve cut off this conversation. For years.

Her dad sighed. “Jane’s talked to the police, brokered a deal. The dealership won’t press charges, but you have to agree to go to a boarding school in Nevada. They specialize in problems … in kids with tough issues.”

“That’s what I am.” Her voice trembled. “A problem.”

“Piper … you said you’d try. You let me down. I don’t know what else to do.”

“Do anything,” she said. “But do it yourself! Don’t let Jane handle it for you. You can’t just send me away.”

Dad looked down at the picnic basket. His sandwich sat uneaten on a piece of gold leaf paper. They’d planned for a whole afternoon in the surf. Now that was ruined.

Piper couldn’t believe he’d really give in to Jane’s wishes. Not this time. Not on something as huge as boarding school.

“Go see her,” Dad said. “She’s got the details.”

“Dad …”

He looked away, gazing at the ocean like he could see all the way to Ghost Country. Piper promised herself she wouldn’t cry. She headed up the beach toward Jane, who smiled coldly and held up a plane ticket. As usual, she’d already arranged everything. Piper was just another problem of the day that Jane could now check off her list.

Piper’s dream changed.

She stood on a mountaintop at night, city lights glimmering below. In front of her, a bonfire blazed. Purplish flames seemed to cast more shadows than light, but the heat was so intense, her clothes steamed.

“This is your second warning,” a voice rumbled, so powerful it shook the earth. Piper had heard that voice before in her dreams. She’d tried to convince herself it wasn’t as scary as she remembered, but it was worse.

Behind the bonfire, a huge face loomed out of the darkness. It seemed to float above the flames, but Piper knew it must be connected to an enormous body. The crude features might’ve been chiseled out of rock. The face hardly seemed alive except for its piercing white eyes, like raw diamonds, and its horrible frame of dreadlocks, braided with human bones. It smiled, and Piper shivered.

“You’ll do what you’re told,” the giant said. “You’ll go on the quest. Do our bidding, and you may walk away alive. Otherwise—”

He gestured to one side of the fire. Piper’s father was hanging unconscious, tied to a stake.

She tried to cry out. She wanted to call to her dad, and demand the giant let him go, but her voice wouldn’t work.

“I’ll be watching,” the giant said. “Serve me, and you both live. You have the word of Enceladus. Fail me … well, I’ve slept for millennia, young demigod. I am very hungry. Fail, and I’ll eat well.”

The giant roared with laughter. The earth trembled. A crevice opened at Piper’s feet, and she tumbled into darkness.

She woke feeling like she’d been trampled by an Irish step-dancing troupe. Her chest hurt, and she could barely breathe. She reached down and closed her hand around the hilt of the dagger Annabeth had given her—Katoptris, Helen of Troy’s weapon.

So Camp Half-Blood hadn’t been a dream.

“How are you feeling?” someone asked.

Piper tried to focus. She was lying in a bed with a white curtain on one side, like in a nurse’s office. That redheaded girl, Rachel Dare, sat next to her. On the wall was a poster of a cartoon satyr who looked disturbingly like Coach Hedge with a thermometer sticking out of his mouth. The caption read: Don’t let sickness get your goat!

“Where—” Piper’s voice died when she saw the guy at the door.

He looked like a typical California surfer dude—buff and tan, blond hair, dressed in shorts and a T-shirt. But he had hundreds of blue eyes all over his body—along his arms, down his legs, and all over his face. Even his feet had eyes, peering up at her from between the straps of his sandals.

“That’s Argus,” Rachel said, “our head of security. He’s just keeping an eye on things … so to speak.”

Argus nodded. The eye on his chin winked.

“Where—?” Piper tried again, but she felt like she was talking through a mouthful of cotton.

“You’re in the Big House,” Rachel said. “Camp offices. We brought you here when you collapsed.”

“You grabbed me,” Piper remembered. “Hera’s voice—”

“I’m so sorry about that,” Rachel said. “Believe me, it was not my idea to get possessed. Chiron healed you with some nectar—”


“The drink of the gods. In small amounts, it heals demigods, if it doesn’t—ah—burn you to ashes.”

“Oh. Fun.”

Rachel sat forward. “Do you remember your vision?”

Piper had a moment of dread, thinking she meant the dream about the giant. Then she realized Rachel was talking about what happened in Hera’s cabin.

“Something’s wrong with the goddess,” Piper said. “She told me to free her, like she’s trapped. She mentioned the earth swallowing us, and a fiery one, and something about the solstice.”

In the corner, Argus made a rumbling sound in his chest. His eyes all fluttered at once.

“Hera created Argus,” Rachel explained. “He’s actually very sensitive when it comes to her safety. We’re trying to keep him from crying, because last time that happened …well, it caused quite a flood.”

Argus sniffled. He grabbed a fistful of Kleenex from the bedside table and started dabbing eyes all over his body.

“So …” Piper tried not to stare as Argus wiped the tears from his elbows. “What’s happened to Hera?”

“We’re not sure,” Rachel said. “Annabeth and Jason were here for you, by the way. Jason didn’t want to leave you, but Annabeth had an idea—something that might restore his memories.”

“That’s … that’s great.”

Jason had been here for her? She wished she’d been conscious for that. But if he got his memories back, would that be a good thing? She was still holding out hope that they really did know each other. She didn’t want their relationship to be just a trick of the Mist.

Get over yourself, she thought. If she was going to save her dad, it didn’t matter whether Jason liked her or not. He would hate her eventually. Everyone here would.

She looked down at the ceremonial dagger strapped to her side. Annabeth had said it was a sign of power and status, but not normally used in battle. All show and no substance. A fake, just like Piper. And its name was Katoptris, looking glass. She didn’t dare unsheathe it again, because she couldn’t bear to see her own reflection.

“Don’t worry.” Rachel squeezed her arm. “Jason seems like a good guy. He had a vision too, a lot like yours. Whatever’s happening with Hera—I think you two are meant to work together.”

Rachel smiled like this was good news, but Piper’s spirits plunged even further. She’d thought that this quest—whatever it was—would involve nameless people. Now Rachel was basically telling her: Good news! Not only is your dad being held ransom by a cannibal giant, you also get to betray the guy you like! How awesome is that?

“Hey,” Rachel said. “No need to cry. You’ll figure it out.”

Piper wiped her eyes, trying to get control of herself. This wasn’t like her. She was supposed to be tough—a hardened car thief, the scourge of L.A. private schools. Here she was, crying like a baby. “How can you know what I’m facing?”

Rachel shrugged. “I know it’s a hard choice, and your options aren’t great. Like I said, I get hunches sometimes.

But you’re going to be claimed at the campfire. I’m almost sure. When you know who your godly parent is, things might be clearer.”

Clearer, Piper thought. Not necessarily better.

She sat up in bed. Her forehead ached like someone had driven a spike between her eyes. There’s no getting your mother back, her dad had told her. But apparently, tonight, her mom might claim her. For the first time, Piper wasn’t sure she wanted that.

“I hope it’s Athena.” She looked up, afraid Rachel might make fun of her, but the oracle just smiled.

“Piper, I don’t blame you. Truthfully? I think Annabeth is hoping that too. You guys are a lot alike.”

The comparison made Piper feel even guiltier. “Another hunch? You don’t know anything about me.”

“You’d be surprised.”

“You’re just saying that because you’re an oracle, aren’t you? You’re supposed to sound all mysterious.”

Rachel laughed. “Don’t be giving away my secrets, Piper. And don’t worry. Things will work out—just maybe not the way you plan.”

“That’s not making me feel better.”

Somewhere in the distance, a conch horn blew. Argus grumbled and opened the door.

“Dinner?” Piper guessed.

“You slept through it,” Rachel said. “Time for the campfire. Let’s go find out who you are.”

THE WHOLE CAMPFIRE IDEA FREAKED PIPER OUT. It made her think of that huge purple bonfire in the dreams, and her father tied to a stake.

What she got instead was almost as terrifying: a sing-along. The amphitheater steps were carved into the side of a hill, facing a stone-lined fire pit. Fifty or sixty kids filled the rows, clustered into groups under various banners.

Piper spotted Jason in the front next to Annabeth. Leo was nearby, sitting with a bunch of burly-looking campers under a steel gray banner emblazoned with a hammer. Standing in front of the fire, half a dozen campers with guitars and strange, old-fashioned harps—lyres?—were jumping around, leading a song about pieces of armor, something about how their grandma got dressed for war. Everybody was singing with them and making gestures for the pieces of armor and joking around. It was quite possibly the weirdest thing Piper had ever seen—one of those campfire songs that would’ve been completely embarrassing in daylight; but in the dark, with everybody participating, it was kind of corny and fun. As the energy level got higher, the flames did too, turning from red to orange to gold.

Finally the song ended with a lot of rowdy applause. A guy on a horse trotted up. At least in the flickering light, Piper thought it was a guy on a horse. Then she realized it was a centaur—his bottom half a white stallion, his top half a middle-aged guy with curly hair and a trimmed beard. He brandished a spear impaled with toasted marshmallows. “Very nice! And a special welcome to our new arrivals. I am Chiron, camp activities director, and I’m happy you have all arrived here alive and with most of your limbs attached. In a moment, I promise we’ll get to the s’mores, but first—”

“What about capture the flag?” somebody yelled. Grumbling broke out among some kids in armor, sitting under a red banner with the emblem of a boar’s head.