My name is Mark Service and I am a son of Ares, yeah, the Ancient Greek god of war that Ares. First off I want to say my Dad is not a bad guy. I mean sure he's about death and violence but he's also about strength, valor, friendship and loyalty. Besides, if it weren't for mortals there'd be no war for him to be god of so talk about the pot calling the kettle black!
My mom is Major Pamela Service US Army. You know that motto 'Army Strong' well whoever came up with it was thinking of Mom. When I was seven days old, and Mom had been out of bed for only three, she took a cyclops apart with her bare hands that's how badass my Mom is – and shows that brains and skill beat brute force any day of the week.
The cyclops was sent by Aphrodite, ditto for the rest of the monsters that showed up with monotonous regularity (Mom's phrase) as I was growing up. As you probably know, if you know anything about Greek mythology, Dad and the Cyprian have been an item for about three thousand years. The Immortal Bimbo's got a real hate on my Mom because Dad really likes her, which extends to me – yeah, like we care.
I've been spending my summers at Camp Half-Blood since I was ten year old. I saw Callie my very first day and maybe the Immortal Juvenile Delinquent (Eros) shot one of his arrows at me because I couldn't get her out of my head. Callie is a daughter of Aphrodite and she is beautiful – not pretty, not glamorous, beautiful – inside as well as outside, she must get it from her dad. Anyway Callie makes her sisters look like the plastic dolls they are (okay, maybe not Silena and a few of the others). So I tried to get her to notice me; pulling her hair every time I got the chance, tripping her as the Aphroditans passed on their way to their table in the dining pavilion, blowing spitballs at her in Greek class – hey, I was ten!
Thing is Callie had another admirer; Polypoetes Stone, son of Hephaestus (note: it does not pay to have a mortal parent up on her Ancient Greek!). The Smith of the Gods is of course Aphrodite's husband (see why I call her a bimbo?) so needless to say he and my dad do not get along. Anyway Poly started playing tricks on me in retaliation for bugging Callie, and being Hephaestus' son he's real clever, not to mention good with his hands. So I pounded him, which made Callie notice me all right but not in a good way. And that was situation prior to the Party Pony Panty Raid.
I was jerked out of a sound sleep in the dark way before the dawn by what sounded like a major battle in the commons, that's the space enclosed by the U of our cabins; furious screams, deeper whoops and howls and the clash of bronze blades. I pulled my armor on over my t-shirt and briefs, grabbed my sword and joined the crowd exiting our cabin, hurtling over the barricade in front of the door rather than going round, which was lame.
The bonfire in the middle of the commons was leaping high and red and Artemis' cabin glowed bright silver giving plenty of light to see the centaurs assaulting Cabin Ten, Aphrodite's Cabin where Callie was.
There are two kinds of centaurs: Chiron, our camp activities director who's been training demigods literally forever – and all the rest who are…. Well imagine a drunken biker gang with literal horses' asses and it'll give you the basic idea. Centaurs don't count as monsters any more than satyrs and nymphs do so the magic barrier defending the camp hadn't stopped them – which was bad.
The Athenans were pouring out of the cabin opposite ours, also fully armed. Without a word exchanged the twenty odd of us formed a phalanx and hit the Ponies from the rear. We sank into them like a celestial bronze spear into a target a few of us, including me, winning through to the cabin.
It was chaos inside with four or five Ponies crashing around trying to ward off some seriously pissed Love children who were giving a darn good account of themselves - a lot better than you'd expect from the way they train. But hey, you want to get an Aphroditan fighting mad, wake her up in the middle of the night when she's got her hair in curlers and cold cream smeared all over her face. Those girls were ready to kill and so were the guys! We fought in a blizzard of lingerie from smashed footlockers with the shards of broken mirrors crunching under foot and hoof.
I jumped on a bunk feeling the springs give under me and bounced off onto the back of the nearest centaur then threw my sword belt around his neck as a garrot and twisted. His legs gave way and we crashed to the floor with Aphroditans, Areans and Athenans piling on and flailing away with fists and shields and brushes and curling irons. There was something like an explosion from the back of the cabin then vines were crawling in from all directions trapping Pony and camper alike in their writhing green coils.
Mr. D, aka Dionysus (hence the vines) was mad as hell over his lost sleep and turned the captured Ponies into bottle nosed dolphins before banishing them with a gesture to the arctic ocean. Chiron was red with fury and shame as he circulated among the wounded passing out squares of ambrosia to those of us with just bruises and cuts, while the Apollans patched up the more seriously hurt. But not even Mr. D felt inclined to blame old Chiron, it wasn't as if we all didn't have plenty of embarrassing relations of our own. On the other hand we campers were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves. Between the hundred or so of us we'd managed to take down some twenty or thirty Ponies. Considering we're talking about a couple of tons of horse/man four to one was a darn good ratio. The other kids sat around the fire munching their ambrosia and exchanging war stories but I stayed on my feet looking for Callie. I didn't find her but I did find Polypoetes, sporting a big black eye and a worried look.
"Have you seen Callie?" was the first thing out of his mouth.
By now I was so worried myself that I gave him a straight answer, "No."
"I just came from the Big House, she's not up there with the wounded," he went on. "If she's not here either –"
I cut in at that point shouting, "Chiron!"
"So, one kid more or less, what's the diff?" was Mr. D's reaction to the news as he lolled in his lazy-boy chugging a diet coke.
I did a slow burn but didn't open my mouth. It wasn't like his attitude came as any surprise we all knew how Mr. D felt about heroes. Poly elbowed me hard as if I was about to do something stupid. I elbowed him right back, nearly knocking him off his feet.
Chiron breathed out a sigh that was nearly a snort. "We are responsible for the girl, Mr. D."
"It's a real bad idea to piss off her mom," I pointed out. Nobody knew better than me how nasty Aphrodite could get.
"Phooey," was Mr. D's answer. "Aphrodite has more brats then she can keep track of. Let her save the kid if she cares, nobody else does."
"We do sir," said Poly, taking the words right out of my mouth.
"Well I don't. You want to rescue the fair maiden be my guest. I am going back to bed!"
I'd reached the end of my rope and was about to do something totally un-smart when Chiron nearly knocked me on my butt pushing between me and the lazy-boy. "Go back to bed, boys," he said firmly.
Poly dragged on my arm so I left pulling free the minute the door shut behind us. "Lemme alone."
"Sure," he said. "I thought you'd want to come but if you'd rather go to bed like a baby that's fine by me -"
"What the hell are you talking about?" I snarled. "Go where?"
"To rescue Callie of course," he answered. "Weren't you listening? Mr. D just gave us a quest."
"Huh?" then I remembered. "Hey, he didn't mean that."
Poly gave me this totally fake innocent blue-eyed look. "Sure he meant it, go rescue her yourself he said."
Hey, I may be slow but not that slow. I found myself grinning like crazy. "He did, didn't he? We got permission."
"Sure we do," Poly agreed looking pretty wicked himself.
Trouble was Party Ponies move around. This herd could be anywhere in New York state – and Callie too. "Where do we start looking?" I asked, feeling all discouraged again.
"We ask the Oracle of course," Poly said so smugly I felt like hitting him.
The Oracle is a spirit of prophecy currently inhabiting the mummified corpse of its last keeper – yecch major creep out. We keep her – it? – in the attic. Other than that the attic of the Big House is a real cool place, full of hero trophies like pickled monster parts, Hermes' spare sandals, Achilles' broken shield, that kind of thing piled on tables, on shelves and on the floor. The mummy hung out at the far end, perched on a tall three legged stool and leaning drunkenly against the gable window, a shriveled bag of bones dressed like a 60s flower child. I was really hoping she'd ignore us like she usually does seekers but no such luck. Slowly she creaked upright turning her leathery face with its white slits of eyes towards Poly and me. We both took a step back, resisting the urge to run for it.
Then it got worse. She opened her mouth but instead of a voice green mist poured out with a hiss that somehow formed words in our heads; I am the spirit of Delphi, speaker of the prophecies of Phoebus Apollo, slayer of the mighty Python. No duh. Approach, seeker, and ask.
We stayed right where we were, which was already too close, but said in ragged unison; "Where is Callie Frank?"
The mist collected itself off the floor into a shape, Callie's shape but green and not nearly so pretty. Her lips moved but it was the Oracle's voice that came out of them: On the Hill of Watch, seek for that which you have lost. Valor and skill united shall prevail but both must pay the cost. Warring gods, enemy sons shall reconcile. And fair contention's daughter freed from bonds, make all right with her smile.
Poly beat me to the trap door – but not by much!