Honestly, after last summer, I was expecting a nice relaxing time at Camp Half-Blood. I mean, we had all helped save the world. Some of us even died trying to stop Kronos from taking Olympus. In the end we were honored as heroes, even Luke had managed to redeem himself before he died. With the war averted I looked forward to a calm summer filled with combat training.
I waved good-bye to my mom and Paul before setting off over the hill. I had stayed home for an extra week to celebrate my mom becoming a published author. Last night we had my going away meal with blueberry pie for dessert.
The fleece glittered in the sunlight as Peleus, the dragon, gently snored beneath it. I reached the top of the hill and looked out over the camp for the first time in nine months. I wish I could say that I was surprised to see so many new kids running around the camp, but after the oath I had the gods make last summer; I was a little surprised that there weren't more. Apollo's cabin was going to need additions though. I had no idea that that guy was so popular with women. Although I guess it makes sense since he is the god of poetry and music. What woman could resist being serenaded by the sun god? I looked over at the cabins to see the progress that had been made over the school year. The U that was made up of the twelve cabins of the major gods was now surrounded by the cabins of the minor gods. I hadn't realized that there were that many minor gods in the Greek mythos, and to count them all would have taken way too long, especially with my ADHD. I looked closer at the cabins of the major gods and realized that across from the cabin of Zeus, past the hearth in the center, was a new large black cabin facing the rest. I looked closer and saw that in the freezes around the roof were skulls and figures of souls being corralled by hooded skeletons across what looked like a river. A shiver went up my spine. This was Hades's cabin.
I looked over at Athena's cabin. Things with Annabeth had gone well for a little while, but in the end we called it off. She was still upset over Luke, even after his death he is still a touchy subject. I won't deny that he died a hero, but that isn't how he lived. How many of our friends' deaths had he been responsible for? How many kids at camp were now without at least one sibling, if not more? Yes, he stopped Kronos in the end. And, yes, in so doing saved us all and stopped the fall of western civilization, but anytime his name came up Annabeth would become extremely defensive. On top of that, she was really jealous. I mean, I thought it was bad when Rachel had been with us, but that was before we even started dating. Then I couldn't even be in the same room as another female (human, monster, or dryad). I really hoped we could still be friends but judging by the glares her siblings were giving me, I figured I'd be on my own this summer. The whole thing was made even more frustrating by the fact that I had given up immortality to be with her. But as I looked at all the new kids who finally knew the truth about who their parents were and would now learn to protect themselves, I realized that I had made the right choice.
As I walked to Poseidon's cabin I couldn't help but think back to the last conversation I'd had with my father. "I suppose this means I can claim all those other sons and daughters of mine and send you some siblings next summer." He never did say whether or not he was kidding. I guess I was going to find out, and with that thought I pushed open the door.
Even though I was a week late to camp, the room was empty. No cluttered bunks, no trash littering the floor, and no other children of Poseidon. At first I was relieved, I mean, I won't have to adjust to a new roommate, and I could still call lights out whenever I wanted. However, I couldn't help but miss Tyson a little in that moment, but he was the general of the Cyclopes army now. I couldn't expect him to come to camp just to clean up my room so I could pass inspection. Plus he had our father's palace to help rebuild. I sighed; I guess I really was on my own this summer.
After I had put my stuff away I decided to walk down to the big house. Who knew, maybe I could talk to Rachel. I know she's the Delphi Oracle now, and I swear on the River Styx, I don't think of her in a romantic way at all anymore. She's just a friend who I haven't seen in a while. I also wanted to hear how her first year at Clarion Lady's Academy went. I hope she hadn't made too many prophecies at random moments during the school day. I'm sure that would be awkward.
I looked at the watch that Tyson had made me nearly three years ago. It was already 4pm and a very hot summer day. As I looked toward the ocean I thought how nice it would be if, for once, the barrier would let a rain cloud or two to pass over the camp. I shielded my eyes as I made my way up the porch steps to the big house.
"Nice of you to finally join us Peter Johnson," came a voice to my left. I looked over to see Dionysus with his leopard print Hawaiian shirt and dark curly hair. He sat in his rocking chair reading a copy of Wine Connoisseur.
I had hoped that after everything we went through last summer he would remember my name and stop being so condescending. No such luck.
"Hey Mr.D, is Rachel in?"
"Up stairs most likely," He shrugged. "I cannot believe that anyone would pay so much for a bottle of Merlot! Not to mention that that year was a horrible year for wine!"
"What made that year so bad?" I asked. I'm 16 years old, what do I know about wine?
"It was the year I was exiled it this infernal camp," he said as he glared at me. I took that as my queue to leave.
I stepped inside the house and made my way up the stairs. I came to a guest room on the second floor that literally said "Rachel" in big bold letters on the door. Underneath that in slightly smaller letters it said "Oracle of Delphi". I knocked and heard Rachel's voice call "come in" from the other side of the door.
I pushed open the door and stepped into a room that might have been messier then my own room back home. But, unlike my room back home, it wasn't messy because of dirty clothes and trash wrappers on the floor; Rachel's room was covered by drawings and art supplies lying around. I saw a door on the other side of the room with a light coming from the other side. 'Of course Apollo's Oracle has her own bathroom', I thought. I can't even count the number of times I've been in the middle of showering when Ares' cabin would get tired of waiting their turn and just barge in. Which is even worse considering Hermes' cabin was usually supposed to be next.
"Rachel?" I called.
"I'll be right out."
'Ok so I guess I'll just wait for her,' I thought. I decided to look at some of the pictures that were scattered around the room. My eyes fell on one in particular. It was a picture of a boy from his chest up. He was shirtless lying on, what I realized, was a bed with his arms raised over his head. No, scratch that, his hands were bound above his head with a fraying rope. I stepped closer to get a better look and realized a few more things about the picture. The boy's eyes where tightly shut while his mouth hung open almost panting. His hair was messy and some of it was sticking to his face from what I assumed was sweat. What I thought was a rope binding his hands had tiny leaves sprouting from them. But I think the thing that shocked me most was that I recognized the boy. He was me.
I don't realize how freaked out I was by this until I heard the door knob turning, and jumped, nearly tripping over art supplies and crumpled papers.
"Sorry about making you wait," Rachel said as she turned off the light to the bath room. I hoped it wasn't too obvious that I was uncomfortably nervous.
"How are you?" she asked as she came up and hugged me. "I heard about you and Annabeth. I'm sorry that things didn't work out."
"Thanks Rachel, but I'm ok. I mean, I'm sort of bummed about it but maybe some time apart is what we need. Who knows, maybe we can work things out and get back together," I said trying to sound positive about a really crumby situation. "It's just that, well, we've been through so much together. I'd hate for things to end this way, you know?"
"Yeah, I'm sure you two can… oh not again -" Her face got really pale and she doubled over in pain. Almost instantly she stood up straight again, her eyes glowing serpent green. I was about to hear a prophecy.
"The son of the sea trapped by war,
A plot to turn hero into a whore,
Yet in the vine, salvation reap,
Bound forever, his to keep"
I had to rush forward to catch her before she fell. I tried to process what I just heard. 'The son of the sea trapped by war' had to refer to me, but the war was over. As for the rest of the prophecy, I didn't know what to make of it, but it didn't sound good. And the part about a hero becoming a whore, I started to get angry at the thought that anyone would even think about doing that to one of my friends.
"I'm sorry," Rachel said a little dazed. "What did I say?"
I helped her over to the bed. I figured it would be better to lie to her until I had time to figure out what it all meant.
"Nothing really," I said shrugging. "Something about tonight's dinner and training… you know, basic camp stuff." She didn't seem to buy it, but she let it go.
"Hey it's about 4:30, you wanna just walk around and catch up until dinner?" She asked me. "I've been cooped up in Clarion all year, and then, when I get here, everyone else is off training so I'm stuck here by myself all day."
"Yeah, let's go. And I'll try not to ask any more questions," I said with an honest smile.
"I'd really appreciate that," she said with a little laughter in her voice.
We walked around the lake and I told her about my year at school, and what it was like to have an English teacher who is also your stepfather. Don't get me wrong, I think Paul's great, but it's really hard to hide your horrible spelling test scores from your mom when Paul corrects the tests at the dinner table.
Rachel's year hadn't been much better. As she suspected, she didn't fit in with the snobs at Clarion. She had mostly kept to herself, and tried not to talk to anyone. She said that she hadn't given too many prophecies and that usually, when she felt one coming on, she would quickly duck into an empty room or a bathroom. On one occasion she had even run into the boy's locker room and given a prophecy to the entire, naked, varsity football team about how they would win their game, but the quarterback's girlfriend was cheating on him with her math tutor. I couldn't help but laugh at the story.
"Anyway after that incident the guys wouldn't stop hitting on me, and all the girls thought I was a slut or something," Rachel said exasperatedly.
"Well, if those guys ever tried anything I think Apollo would blow them to pieces," I assured her.
It was about 7ish now so we decided to make our way to the Mess Hall. Rachel went up to the head table to eat and I sat alone at Poseidon's table. The meal was really uncomfortable, mostly because the entire Athena table was glaring daggers at me. I really wonder what she had told them happened between us, because from what I remember I hadn't done anything to deserve those sort of looks. Oh well, I guess I just had to get used to it.
After dinner the rest of the campers went to the camp fire to be lead in songs by Apollo's cabin. I decided that it would be a good time to go to the stables and check on the pegasi. I'm sure Blackjack missed me.
'Boss, you're here! You didn't show up when the other campers did, and Guido said that you weren't coming back!' Blackjacks voice said in my mind. 'But you did come back boss! Did you bring me any doughnuts?'
"Hey Blackjack, I'm glad to see you too," I said smiling up at an all black pegasus. "Sorry buddy, no doughnuts."
'Can I have an apple? I like apples boss.'
"I don't have any apples on me either. How about some oats?"
'Oats are good! Oats are really good!' Blackjack whinnied and pawed at the ground in excitement. I gave a soft chuckle and went to get some oats from the feed bins in the back. The feed was stored in a small room in the back that was pretty dark at night. I knew were everything was from memory any way so it didn't bother me. I scooped some oats into a bowl and turned to leave the room.
'Oh hey boss,' I heard Blackjack call after me. 'A man came in and said he was a friend of yours. We told him you weren't here, but he said he'd wait for you.'
"Did he say who he was?" I asked. I wasn't too worried, there's no place on earth safer for young demigods then camp half-blood. No monsters could get in, and not even a mortal could cross its borders. That only left gods and other half-bloods. If you didn't count Athena's cabin, everyone was still pretty happy with me for helping to save the world last summer.
"I'm surprised," said a dark voice behind me. I was so startled that I dropped the bowl of oats. "I thought you'd, at least, be smart enough to remember me. Didn't I tell you to watch your back?"
"Ares." I moved to turned and face him but he had me pinned to one of the support beams before I could.
"What do you want?" I demanded. I was so dead. Ares hated me, like fillet-me-alive-wear-my-skin-as-a-suit-and-feed-my-insides-to-wild-dogs hated me. He had me pinned to the beam with his weight so I couldn't even fight back.
"What do I want? Humm, let me think. I'd like to kill you in the worst ways I can think of, although you seem to have some interesting ideas on that subject." Crap, I forgot gods can read minds. "However, after the stunt you pulled last summer, even Zeus would have my head for ending your pathetic life. So I suppose I'll have to move on to the next best thing." I felt him shift as he leaned in close.
"If I can't take your life," he whispered. "I'll take your freedom."
'Boss! Boss! He's not your friend is he? You need help boss?' Blackjack is a good friend and a great pegasus, but sometimes I forgot how naive he could be. Here I am, captured by the god of war himself, and Blackjack's still trying to work around the fact that he'd been lied to.
Ares pulled out a dagger from his belt and held it up to my face. I could see it glinting in the dim lighting. There was something on the blade making the tip black.
"This blade is covered in the poison of a very rare daimon found in deep Hades," Ares said putting the tip of the blade to my side.
"I thought you said you weren't going to kill me?" This wasn't good. I needed help, fast.
"This isn't a poison that will kill you, as long as all the requirements are met. Besides you have the curse of Achilles. Unless you chose your side as your fatal spot, you'll live." And with that he shoved the knife into my side.
He stepped back, and without him holding me up I crumbled to the ground. The pain was so intense I was blinded for a moment, but I needed to get it together if I was going to get out of this alive. Yeah, he hadn't hit my 'Achilles heel', but I wasn't sure if I could still bleed to death or not. I was sure someone from the camp would hear the alarmed neighing the pegasi were making. Someone had to come soon.
"The poison," I gasped. "What are the requirements?"
Ares stepped closer to me. He leaned down and roughly grabbed a hand full of my hair, pulling my head back to look at him.
"What's the matter whelp? I told you, I'd get in a lot of trouble if you died. All I need to do is stake my claim. It's not like you could st-" Whatever he was going to say was interrupted by a loud 'WHAMP'. Ares flew across the room and smashed through the back wall. I looked up to see Porkpie land next to me.
'Boss! Did you see? I kicked the bad man! Do I get oats too now?'
"Porkpie," I gritted my teeth. "I need to get to the Big House, right now. Chiron will, ow, know what to do." I managed to get to my feet and pull myself onto his back.
'Ok boss! Then oats?'
"I will kill that damn pegasus!" Ares roared. He was getting up, which meant we needed to get out of there quick.
"Porkpie we need to go now!" I shouted. And with that we flew out of the barn.
"Perseus Jackson! You will be mine!" I heard him shout after me. Porkpie flew as hard as he could, but it wasn't fast enough. As we passed over the arena I heard something slice through the air. Only too late did I realize it was a volley of flaming spears and they were headed right for Porkpie. One spear hit his thigh while another hit his wing. The flames were spreading fast. I tried to put out the flames in his wings but his tail was on fire too. We were going down.
'Boss, help me!' Porkpie whinnied franticly. 'Please boss. It hurts! I can't stay in the air!'
"I'm sorry, Porkpie," I whispered as we crashed into the ground 10 feet away from the singing campers at the campfire. The fall threw me off of Porkpie and I skidded to a stop in the dirt.
Everything was quiet for a moment. The campers stopped sing to see what was going on, but as soon as they realized they started rushing around in a frenzied panic.
"SILENCE!" I could hear Dionysus yell over the noise of the campers. Their voices instantly died.
"Porkpie," I groaned. He wasn't moving and the fire was still burning his wings. It had even spread to his mane and back. His legs were bent at strange angles and his head was twisted unnaturally.
"PORKPIE!" I screamed. And my world went black.