The Trials of Apollo, Book Two: The Dark Prophecy PDF
Download The Dark Prophecy – The Dark Prophecy: Zeus has punished his son Apollo–god of the sun, music, archery, poetry, and more–by casting him down to earth in the form of a gawky, acne-covered sixteen-year-old mortal named Lester. The only way Apollo can reclaim his rightful place on Mount Olympus is by restoring several Oracles that have gone dark.
Table of Contents
The Dark Prophecy
What is affecting the Oracles, and how can Apollo/Lester do anything about them without his powers?After experiencing a series of dangerous–and frankly, humiliating–trials at Camp Half-Blood, Lester must now leave the relative safety of the demigod training ground and embark on a hair-raising journey across North America. Somewhere in the American Midwest, he and his companions must find the most dangerous Oracle from ancient times: a haunted cave that may hold answers for Apollo in his quest to become a god again–if it doesn’t kill him or drive him insane first. Standing in Apollo’s way is the second member of the evil Triumvirate, a Roman emperor whose love of bloodshed and spectacle makes even Nero look tame. To survive the encounter, Apollo will need the help of son of Hephaestus Leo Valdez, the now-mortal sorceress Calypso, the bronze dragon Festus, and other unexpected allies–some familiar, some new–from the world of demigods. Come along for what promises to be a harrowing, hilarious, and haiku-filled ride
Editorial Reviews – The Dark Prophecy
PRAISE FOR THE HIDDEN ORACLE
“A clash of mythic intrigues and centuries of pop culture to thrill die-hard and new fans alike.”―Kirkus Reviews
PRAISE FOR THE HIDDEN ORACLE
“Riordan’s characters continue to be an impressively diverse group. . . . This latest has Riordan’s signature wry narration, nonstop action, and mythology brought to life. A must-buy. . . .”―School Library Journal
I wanted to love this book. I’ve been reading all of Riordan’s mythology series’ since the beginning with Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief but this one fell flat to me. Riordan for whatever reason is officially in a slump of epic proportions, arguably dating back to the first Trials of Apollo book. The heart and humor which defined Percy Jackson, the Kane Chronicles, Heroes of Olympus, and at least the first tome of Magnus Chase. There was a little bit of humor, but it was not the humor we typically get from Riordan. The jokes were simple and lacked the cleverness that defines Riordan’s typical work. I will try to pick out some strengths, then address the most glaring weaknesses and end with a few more strengths.
First, I really enjoyed Apollo’s growth. He started out as the spoiled god of the sun which defined his character in the first of these books. The fact that he did not grow is my biggest annoyance about the first book in the series, The Hidden Oracle. Finally, Apollo began to show some growth and began to recognize the value of humanity beyond just amusements for gods. It takes some very tragic occurrences for him to get there, but Apollo finally grows. The downside of that is that his growth takes basically until the end of the third act, so we get very little of the new and improved Apollo. Hopefully this growth will stick and salvage the final book in this trilogy. Another good part is the introduction of new mythologies, such as the Crete and Minoan gods who predated the Greek societies. I wish Riordan would have spent a little bit more time on these. He even introduced some African mythology in a potential hint for a new series, but that is also a negative so more on “Jimmy” a little later. Further, I love the villains in this series. Unlike previous series that Riordan has written, the antagonist is not a typical god, but former Roman Emperors. As a history buff I love seeing this new take on the series.
Now we get to the negatives, which are unfortunately prevalent. My first negative is that the story was very static. By that I mean that we did not have the typical quest that is so common in Riordan’s works. We spend the entire book in and around Indianapolis. There was no goal that we could travel with our heroes. This particular format proved to be flat, static and boring.
I think one of the biggest minuses for this book was the overemphasis of gay/lesbian characters.Now, I loved when Nico DiAngelo came out as gay in The House of Hades. It proved to be a major positive for his character and the series. I am also gay, so I have no qualms with a gay character but Apollo’s commentary on cute attractive males in complete overkill. It borders on being offensive. We don’t need every time Apollo sees an attractive male for him to comment on their attractiveness. There are more subtle ways to do the same thing without making it seem like Apollo is attracted to every male he sees. Further, every significant new character in this book was either bisexual or homosexual. That’s not necessary and again overkill. Emmie and Jo are lesbian parents to a crucial character. The same role could have been sisters with one having a daughter and the other a niece. I don’t necessarily mind that they are a lesbian couple, but combined with Apollo’s constant references to past boyfriends and cute boys it adds to the overkill. Worst of all, a new character was introduced who at first seemed to only be an object for Apollo to fascinate over, even earning the offensive title of loincloth Jimmy. The character, whose real name is Olujiame, is revealed to have a potential connection to other gods, from African mythology perhaps. I fear this is an introduction to the successor series to Magnus Chase. Don’t get me wrong, I would love for Riordan to tackle African myths in about five years. But right now, I think he needs to take a break. His writing in this book just reads like he is bored and phoning it in. It is understandable since he has been putting out a book a year since 2005!
I want to close with a positive. The last fifth of the book is good. Best of all, Apollo and the reader understand an important message of kindness, understanding, empathy and compassion. If you can make it through the first 24 chapters or so there are some strong redeeming qualities that make up for some of the major problems that prevent this book from being among the greats of Riordan’s career. I choose to believe that the books ending provides some hope for the future of this series and the Magnus Chase series.
Rick Riordan is now 12 books in his giant series that started with The Lightning Thief and he is not slowing down. The Dark Prophecy picks up 6 weeks after the conclusion of The Hidden Oracle and we start off with action right from the get go. The one thing I love about Rick Riordan’s books is that you are never bored. If there isn’t any action going on your laughing your head off, if your not laughing your reading some gripping action sequences. It is one entertaining book from start to finish. I am enjoying Apollo so much as the MC, do I miss Percy (of course) but Apollo just has this freshness about him even though he is 1000+ years old. It was great to see Leo and Calypso again after the ending of The Blood of Olympus. Heck it was even more great to see Thalia again (I loved Thalia!!). The Riordan is keeping the story fresh but finding ways to bring all his other well loved characters back into the flow is just simply amazing and I for one cannot wait to continue on this journey and see how it all comes to an end!!
For some resson, I got the large print instead of the regular print edtion I ordered.
Riodran charms us with his wit once again. Despite the serious plot, a talking arrow is the comic relief (as well as Apollo). It’s just as engaging, if not more, than the first book. The plot and thoughts flow better.
However, I was wondering how Megan McCafferty aged two years in six months. Age is usually described to get a sense of apperance for young characters. I heard that Meg was a trans though. It’s very confusing to imagine her appearance while reading the book. Even more confusing is that she still fits in Sally Jackson’s clothes. And was able to do so as a ten year old. The change from appearing ten to twelve often includes significant growth and development.
Even more complex is how a seven year old can be the size of Leo Valdez. He was described as being scrawny compared to white people, but does not mention that Calypso is taller or wahtever. So, I will assume that Calypso is even more petite than Leo. Which isn’t suprising, as my Greek relatives are very petite.
I loved how accepting everyone is of Hematia and Josphine’s relationship. Usually, people face scorn for interrracial relationships, even more for homosexual ones. They don’t seem to mention the stigma, which would be surprising in Indianapolis (the mid-west is more racist and conservative for the most part). They just don’t seem to care and ignore the world. That makes them very brave, especially since Josephine is from the 20’s.
A would-read for sure. The actual book was in great condition, but had differently styled cover art than the edition of the first one I bought. The length is very reasonable too, about 400 pages compared the first one with a skimpy 250. It included a short story that is in The Demigod Diaries, which was disappointing since the first one had a new to me short story.
Chapter 1: The Dark Prophecy
WHEN OUR DRAGON declared war on Indiana, I knew it was going to be a bad day. We’d been traveling west for six weeks, and Festus had never shown such hostility toward a state. New Jersey he ignored. Pennsylvania he seemed to enjoy, despite our battle with the Cyclopes of Pittsburgh. Ohio he tolerated, even after our encounter with Potina, the Roman goddess of childhood drinks, who pursued us in the form of a giant red pitcher emblazoned with a smiley face. Yet for some reason, Festus decided he did not like Indiana. He landed on the cupola of the Indiana Statehouse, flapped his metallic wings, and blew a cone of fire that incinerated the state flag right off the flagpole. “Whoa, buddy!” Leo Valdez pulled the dragon’s reins. “We’ve talked about this. No blowtorching public monuments!” Behind him on the dragon’s spine, Calypso gripped Festus’s scales for balance. “Could we please get to the ground? Gently this time?” For a formerly immortal sorceress who once controlled air spirits, Calypso was not a fan of flying. Cold wind blew her chestnut hair into my face, making me blink and spit. That’s right, dear reader. I, the most important passenger, the youth who had once been the glorious god Apollo, was forced to sit in the back of the dragon. Oh, the indignities I had suffered since Zeus stripped me of my divine powers! It wasn’t enough that I was now a sixteen-year-old mortal with the ghastly alias Lester Papadopoulos. It wasn’t enough that I had to toil upon the earth doing (ugh) heroic quests until I could find a way back into my father’s good graces, or that I had a case of acne which simply would not respond to over-the-counter zit medicine. Despite my New York State junior driver’s license, Leo Valdez didn’t trust me to operate his aerial bronze steed! Festus’s claws scrabbled for a hold on the green copper dome, which was much too small for a dragon his size. I had a flashback to the time I installed a life-size statue of the muse Calliope on my sun chariot and the extra weight of the hood ornament made me nosedive into China and create the Gobi Desert. Leo glanced back, his face streaked with soot. “Apollo, you sense anything?” “Why is it my job to sense things? Just because I used to be a god of prophecy—” “You’re the one who’s been having visions,” Calypso reminded me. “You said your friend Meg would be here.” Just hearing Meg’s name gave me a twinge of pain. “That doesn’t mean I can pinpoint her location with my mind! Zeus has revoked my access to GPS!” “GPS?” Calypso asked. “Godly positioning systems.” “That’s not a real thing!” “Guys, cool it.” Leo patted the dragon’s neck. “Apollo, just try, will you? Does this look like the city you dreamed about or not?” I scanned the horizon. Indiana was flat country—highways crisscrossing scrubby brown plains, shadows of winter clouds floating above urban sprawl. Around us rose a meager cluster of downtown high-rises—stacks of stone and glass like layered wedges of black and white licorice. (Not the yummy kind of licorice, either; the nasty variety that sits for eons in your stepmother’s candy bowl on the coffee table. And, no, Hera, why would I be talking about you?) After falling to earth in New York City, I found Indianapolis desolate and uninspiring, as if one proper New York neighborhood—Midtown, perhaps—had been stretched out to encompass the entire area of Manhattan, then relieved of two-thirds of its population and vigorously power-washed. I could think of no reason why an evil triumvirate of ancient Roman emperors would take interest in such a location. Nor could I imagine why Meg McCaffrey would be sent here to capture me. Yet my visions had been clear. I had seen this skyline. I had heard my old enemy Nero give orders to Meg: Go west. Capture Apollo before he can find the next Oracle. If you cannot bring him to me alive, kill him. The truly sad thing about this? Meg was one of my better friends. She also happened to be my demigod master, thanks to Zeus’s twisted sense of humor. As long as I remained mortal, Meg could order me to do anything, even kill myself….No. Better not to think of such possibilities I shifted in my metal seat. After so many weeks of travel, I was tired and saddle sore. I wanted to find a safe place to rest. This was not such a city. Something about the landscape below made me as restless as Festus. Alas, I was sure this was where we were meant to be. Despite the danger, if I had a chance of seeing Meg McCaffrey again, of prying her away from her villainous stepfather’s grasp, I had to try. “This is the spot,” I said. “Before this dome collapses under us, I suggest we get to the ground.” Calypso grumbled in ancient Minoan, “I already said that.” “Well, excuse me, sorceress!” I replied in the same language. “Perhaps if you had helpful visions, I’d listen to you more often!” Calypso called me a few names that reminded me how colorful the Minoan language had been before it went extinct. “Hey, you two,” Leo said. “No ancient dialects. Spanish or English, please. Or Machine.” Festus creaked in agreement. “It’s okay, boy,” Leo said. “I’m sure they didn’t mean to exclude us. Now let’s fly down to street level, huh?” Festus’s ruby eyes glowed. His metal teeth spun like drill bits. I imagined him thinking, Illinois is sounding pretty good right about now. But he flapped his wings and leaped from the dome. We hurtled downward, landing in front of the statehouse with enough force to crack the sidewalk. My eyeballs jiggled like water balloons. Festus whipped his head from side to side, steam curling from his nostrils. I saw no immediate threats. Cars drove leisurely down West Washington Street. Pedestrians strolled by: a middle-aged woman in a flowery dress, a heavyset policeman carrying a paper coffee cup labeled CAFÉ PATACHOU, a cleancut man in a blue seersucker suit. The man in blue waved politely as he passed. “Morning.” “’Sup, dude,” Leo called. Calypso tilted her head. “Why was he so friendly? Does he not see that we’re sitting atop a fifty-ton metal dragon?” Leo grinned. “It’s the Mist, babe—messes with mortal eyes. Makes monsters look like stray dogs. Makes swords look like umbrellas. Makes me look even more handsome than usual!” Calypso jabbed her thumbs into Leo’s kidneys. “Ow!” he complained. “I know what the Mist is, Leonidas—” “Hey, I told you never to call me that.” “—but the Mist must be very strong here if it can hide a monster of Festus’s size at such close range. Apollo, don’t you find that a little odd?” I studied the passing pedestrians. True, I had seen places where the Mist was particularly heavy. At Troy, the sky above the battlefield had been so thick with gods you couldn’t turn your chariot without running into another deity, yet the Trojans and Greeks saw only hints of our presence. At Three Mile Island in 1979, the mortals somehow failed to realize that their partial nuclear meltdown was caused by an epic chainsaw fight between Ares and Hephaestus. (As I recall, Hephaestus had insulted Ares’s bell-bottom jeans.) Still, I did not think heavy Mist was the problem here. Something about these locals bothered me. Their faces were too placid. Their dazed smiles reminded me of ancient Athenians just before the Dionysus Festival—everyone in a good mood, distracted, thinking about the drunken riots and debauchery to come. “We should get out of the public eye,” I suggested. “Perhaps—” Festus stumbled, shaking like a wet dog. From inside his chest came a noise like a loose bicycle chain. “Aw, not again,” Leo said. “Everybody off!” Calypso and I quickly dismounted. Leo ran in front of Festus and held out his arms in a classic dragonwrangler’s stance. “Hey, buddy, it’s fine! I’m just going to switch you off for a while, okay? A little downtime to—” Festus projectile-vomited a column of flames that engulfed Leo. Fortunately, Valdez was fireproof. His clothes were not. From what Leo had told me, he could generally prevent his outfits from burning up simply by concentrating. If he were caught by surprise, however, it didn’t always work. When the flames dissipated, Leo stood before us wearing nothing but his asbestos boxer shorts, his magical tool belt, and a pair of smoking, partially melted sneakers. “Dang it!” he complained. “Festus, it’s cold out here!” The dragon stumbled. Leo lunged and flipped the lever behind the dragon’s left foreleg. Festus began to collapse. His wings, limbs, neck, and tail contracted into his body, his bronze plates overlapping and folding inward. In a matter of seconds, our robotic friend had been reduced to a large bronze suitcase. That should have been physically impossible, of course, but like any decent god, demigod, or engineer, Leo Valdez refused to be stopped by the laws of physics. He scowled at his new piece of luggage. “Man…I thought I fixed his gyro- capacitor. Guess we’re stuck here until I can find a machine shop.” Calypso grimaced. Her pink ski jacket glistened with condensation from our flight through the clouds. “And if we find such a shop, how long will it take to repair Festus?” Leo shrugged. “Twelve hours? Fifteen?” He pushed a button on the side of the suitcase. A handle popped up. “Also, if we see a men’s clothing store, that might be good.” I imagined walking into a T.J. Maxx, Leo in boxer shorts and melted sneakers, rolling a bronze suitcase behind him. I did not relish the idea. Then, from the direction of the sidewalk, a voice called, “Hello!” The woman in the flowery dress had returned. At least she looked like the same woman. Either that or lots of ladies in Indianapolis wore purple-and-yellow honeysuckle-pattern dresses and had 1950s bouffant hairstyles. She smiled vacantly. “Beautiful morning!” It was in fact a miserable morning—cold and cloudy with a smell of impending snow—but I felt it would be rude to ignore her completely. I gave her a little parade wave—the sort of gesture I used to give my worshippers when they came to grovel at my altar. To me, the message was clear enough: I see you, puny mortal; now run along. The gods are talking. The woman did not take the hint. She strolled forward and planted herself in front of us. She wasn’t particularly large, but something about her proportions seemed off. Her shoulders were too wide for her head. Her chest and belly protruded in a lumpy mass, as if she’d stuffed a sack of mangos down the front of her dress. With her spindly arms and legs, she reminded me of some sort of giant beetle. If she ever tipped over, I doubted she could easily get back up. “Oh, my!” She gripped her purse with both hands. “Aren’t you children cute!” Her lipstick and eye shadow were both a violent shade of purple. I wondered if she was getting enough oxygen to her brain. “Madam,” I said, “we are not children.” I could have added that I was over four thousand years old, and Calypso was even older, but I decided not to get into that. “Now, if you’ll excuse us, we have a suitcase to repair and my friend is in dire need of a pair of pants.” I tried to step around her. She blocked my path. “You can’t go yet, dear! We haven’t welcomed you to Indiana!” From her purse, she drew a smartphone. The screen glowed as if a call were already in progress. “It’s him, all right,” she said into the phone. “Everybody, come on over. Apollo is here!” My lungs shriveled in my chest. In the old days, I would have expected to be recognized as soon as I arrived in a town. Of course the locals would rush to welcome me. They would sing and dance and throw flowers. They would immediately begin constructing a new temple. But as Lester Papadopoulos, I did not warrant such treatment. I looked nothing like my former glorious self. The idea that the Indianans might recognize me despite my tangled hair, acne, and flab was both insulting and terrifying. What if they erected a statue of me in my present form—a giant golden Lester in the center of their city? The other gods would never let me hear the end of it! “Madam,” I said, “I’m afraid you have mistaken me—” “Don’t be modest!” The woman tossed her phone and purse aside. She grabbed my forearm with the strength of a weightlifter. “Our master will be delighted to have you in custody. And please call me Nanette.” Calypso charged. Either she wished to defend me (unlikely), or she was not a fan of the name Nanette. She punched the woman in the face. This by itself did not surprise me. Having lost her immortal powers, Calypso was in the process of trying to master other skills. So far, she’d failed at swords, polearms, shurikens, whips, and improvisational comedy. (I sympathized with her frustration.) Today, she’d decided to try fisticuffs. What surprised me was the loud CRACK her fist made against Nanette’s face —the sound of finger bones breaking. “Ow!” Calypso stumbled away, clutching her hand. Nanette’s head slid backward. She released me to try to grab her own face, but it was too late. Her head toppled off her shoulders. It clanged against the pavement and rolled sideways, the eyes still blinking, the purple lips twitching. Its base was smooth stainless steel. Attached to it were ragged strips of duct tape stuck with hair and bobby pins. “Holy Hephaestus!” Leo ran to Calypso’s side. “Lady, you broke my girlfriend’s hand with your face. What are you, an automaton?” “No, dear,” said decapitated Nanette. Her muffled voice didn’t come from the stainless-steel head on the sidewalk. It emanated from somewhere inside her dress. Just above her collar, where her neck used to be, an outcropping of fine blond hair was tangled with bobby pins. “And I must say, hitting me wasn’t very polite.” Belatedly, I realized the metal head had been a disguise. Just as satyrs covered their hooves with human shoes, this creature passed for mortal by pretending to have a human face. Its voice came from its gut area, which meant… My knees trembled. “A blemmyae,” I said. Nanette chuckled. Her bulging midsection writhed under the honeysuckle cloth. She ripped open her blouse—something a polite Midwesterner would never think of doing—and revealed her true face. Where a woman’s brassiere would have been, two enormous bulging eyes blinked at me. From her sternum protruded a large shiny nose. Across her abdomen curled a hideous mouth—glistening orange lips, teeth like a spread of blank white playing cards. “Yes, dear,” the face said. “And I’m arresting you in the name of the Triumvirate!” Up and down Washington Street, pleasant-looking pedestrians turned and began marching in our direction
Chapter 2: The Dark Prophecy
GEE, APOLLO, you may be thinking, why didn’t you simply pull out your bow and shoot her? Or charm her with a song from your combat ukulele? True, I had both those items slung across my back along with my quiver. Sadly, even the best demigod weapons require something called maintenance. My children Kayla and Austin had explained this to me before I left Camp HalfBlood. I couldn’t just pull my bow and quiver out of thin air as I used to when I was a god. I could no longer wish my ukulele into my hands and expect it to be perfectly in tune. My weapons and my musical instrument were carefully wrapped in blankets. Otherwise flying through the wet winter skies would’ve warped the bow, ruined the arrows, and played Hades with the strings of my ukulele. To get them out now would require several minutes that I did not have. Also, I doubted they would do me much good against blemmyae. I hadn’t dealt with their kind since the time of Julius Caesar, and I would’ve been happy to go another two thousand years without seeing one. How could a god of poetry and music be effective against a species whose ears were wedged under their armpits? Nor did the blemmyae fear or respect archery. They were sturdy melee fighters with thick skin. They were even resistant to most forms of disease, which meant they never called on me for medical help nor feared my plague arrows. Worst of all, they were humorless and unimaginative. They had no interest in the future, so they saw no use for Oracles or prophecies. In short, you could not create a race less sympathetic to an attractive, multitalented god like me. (And believe me, Ares had tried. Those eighteenthcentury Hessian mercenaries he cooked up? Ugh. George Washington and I had the worst time with them.) “Leo,” I said, “activate the dragon.” “I just put him into sleep cycle.” “Hurry!” Leo fumbled with the suitcase’s buttons. Nothing happened. “I told you, man. Even if Festus weren’t malfunctioning, he’s really hard to wake up once he’s asleep.” Wonderful, I thought. Calypso hunched over her broken hand, muttering Minoan obscenities. Leo shivered in his underwear. And I…well, I was Lester. On top of all that, instead of facing our enemies with a large fire-breathing automaton, we would now have to face them with a barely portable piece of metal luggage. I wheeled on the blemmyae. “BEGONE, foul Nanette!” I tried to muster my old godly wrath voice. “Lay hands upon my divine person again and you shall be DESTROYED!” Back when I was a god, that threat would have been enough to make entire armies wet their camouflage pants. Nanette just blinked her cow-brown eyes. “Don’t fuss, now,” she said. Her lips were grotesquely hypnotic, like watching a surgical incision being used as a puppet. “Besides, dearie, you’re not a god anymore.” Why did people have to keep reminding me of that? More locals converged on our position. Two police officers trotted down the steps of the statehouse. At the corner of Senate Avenue, a trio of sanitation workers abandoned their garbage truck and lumbered over wielding large metal trash cans. From the other direction, a half dozen men in business suits tromped across the capitol lawn. Leo cursed. “Is everybody in this town a metalhead? And I don’t mean the good kind of metalhead.” “Relax, sweetie,” Nanette said. “Surrender and we won’t have to hurt you much. That’s the emperor’s job!” Despite her broken hand, Calypso apparently didn’t feel like surrendering. With a defiant yell she charged Nanette again, this time launching a karate kick toward the blemmyae’s giant nose. “Don’t!” I blurted out, too late. As I mentioned, blemmyae are sturdy beings. They’re difficult to hurt and even more difficult to kill. Calypso’s foot connected with its target, and her ankle bent with a nasty pop. She collapsed, gurgling in pain. “Cal!” Leo ran to her side. “Back off, chest-face!” “Language, dear,” Nanette chided. “Now I’m afraid I’ll have to stomp on you.” She raised one patent leather pump, but Leo was faster. He summoned a globe of fire and threw it like a baseball, hitting Nanette right between her huge chest-level eyes. Flames washed over her, setting her eyebrows and flowery dress ablaze. As Nanette screamed and stumbled, Leo yelled, “Apollo, help me!” I realized I’d been standing there, frozen in shock—which would’ve been fine if I’d been watching the scene unfold from the safety of my throne on Mount Olympus. Alas, I was very much down here in the trenches with the lesser beings. I helped get Calypso to her feet (her one good foot, at least). We slung her arms over our shoulders (with lots of screaming from Calypso when I accidentally grabbed her broken hand) and began hobbling away. Thirty feet across the lawn, Leo suddenly stopped. “I forgot Festus!” “Leave him,” I snapped. “What?” “We can’t manage him and Calypso! We’ll come back later. The blemmyae might just ignore him.” “But if they figure out how to open him,” Leo fretted, “if they hurt him—” “MARRRGGGGH!” Behind us, Nanette ripped off the shreds of her burning dress. From the waist down, shaggy blond fur covered her body, not unlike a satyr. Her eyebrows smoldered, but otherwise her face looked unhurt. She spat ashes from her mouth and glared in our direction. “That was not nice! GET THEM!” The businessmen were almost on top of us, eliminating any hope that we could make it back to Festus without getting caught. We chose the only heroic option available: we ran. I hadn’t felt so encumbered since my three-legged death race with Meg McCaffrey back at Camp Half-Blood. Calypso tried to help, kicking along like a pogo stick between Leo and me, but whenever she jostled her broken foot or hand, she yelped and sagged against us. “S-sorry, guys,” she muttered, her face beaded with sweat. “Guess I’m not meant to be a melee fighter.” “Neither am I,” I admitted. “Perhaps Leo can hold them off while—” “Hey, don’t look at me,” Leo grumbled. “I’m just a repair guy who can throw the occasional fireball. Our fighter is stuck back there in suitcase mode.” “Hobble faster,” I suggested. We reached the street alive only because the blemmyae moved so slowly. I suppose I would, too, if I were balancing a fake metal head on my, er, head, but even without their disguises, the blemmyae were not as swift as they were strong. Their terrible depth perception made them walk with exaggerated caution, as if the ground were a multilayered hologram. If only we could outhobble them… “Good morning!” A police officer appeared on our right, his firearm drawn. “Halt or I will shoot! Thank you!” Leo pulled a stoppered glass bottle from his tool belt. He tossed it at the officer’s feet and green flames exploded around him. The officer dropped his gun. He began tearing off his burning uniform, revealing a chest-face with shaggy pectoral eyebrows and a belly beard in need of a shave. “Phew,” Leo said. “I was hoping he was a blemmyae. That was my only vial of Greek fire, guys. And I can’t keep summoning fireballs unless I want to pass out, so—” “We need to find cover,” said Calypso. Sensible advice, but cover did not seem to be an Indiana concept. The streets were wide and straight, the landscape flat, the crowds sparse, the sight lines endless. We turned onto South Capitol. I glanced over my shoulder and saw the mob of smiling fake-headed locals gaining on us. A construction worker stopped to rip the fender off a Ford pickup, then rejoined the parade, his new chrome club slung over his shoulder. Meanwhile, the regular mortals—at least, those who did not seem interested in killing us at the moment—went about their business, making phone calls, waiting at traffic lights, sipping coffee in nearby cafés, completely ignoring us. At one corner, sitting on a milk crate, a heavily blanketed homeless man asked me for change. I resisted the urge to tell him that change was coming up fast behind us, carrying assorted weapons. My heart pounded. My legs shook. I hated having a mortal body. I experienced so many bothersome things, like fear, cold, nausea, and the impulse to whimper Please don’t kill me! If only Calypso hadn’t broken her ankle we might have moved faster, but we couldn’t very well leave her behind. Not that I particularly liked Calypso, mind you, but I’d already convinced Leo to abandon his dragon. I didn’t want to push my luck. “There!” said the sorceress. She pointed with her chin to what looked like a service alley behind a hotel. I shuddered, remembering my first day in New York as Lester Papadopoulos. “What if it’s a dead end? The last time I found myself in a dead-end alley, things did not go well.” “Let’s try,” Leo said. “We might be able to hide in there, or…I dunno.” I dunno sounded like a sketchy plan B, but I had nothing better to offer Good news: the alley was not a dead end. I could clearly see an exit at the far end of the block. Bad news: the loading bays along the back of the hotel were locked, giving us nowhere to hide, and the opposite wall of the alley was lined with Dumpsters. Oh, Dumpsters! How I hated them! Leo sighed. “I guess we could jump in—” “No!” I snapped. “Never again!” We struggled through the alley as fast as we could. I tried to calm my nerves by silently composing a sonnet about various ways a wrathful god could destroy Dumpsters. I became so engrossed I didn’t notice what was in front of us until Calypso gasped. Leo halted. “What the—? Hijo.” The apparition glowed with a faint ginger light. He wore a traditional chiton, sandals, and a sheathed sword, like a Greek warrior in the prime of life…except for the fact that he had been decapitated. Unlike the blemmyae, however, this person obviously had once been human. Ethereal blood trickled from his severed neck, splattering his luminous orange tunic. “It’s a cheese-colored ghost,” Leo said. The spirit raised one hand, beckoning us forward. Not being born a mortal, I had no particular fear of the dead. You’ve seen one tormented soul, you’ve seen them all. But something about this ghost unsettled me. He stirred a distant memory, a feeling of guilt from thousands of years ago…. Behind us, the voices of the blemmyae grew louder. I heard them calling out “Morning!” and “Excuse me!” and “Lovely day!” to their fellow Indianans. “What do we do?” Calypso asked. “Follow the ghost,” I said. “What?” Leo yelped. “We follow the cheese-colored ghost. As you’re always saying: Vaya con queso.” “That was a joke, ese.” The orange spirit beckoned again, then floated toward the end of the alley. Behind us, a man’s voice shouted, “There you are! Lovely weather, isn’t it?” I turned in time to see a truck fender spiraling toward us. “Down!” I tackled Calypso and Leo, provoking more screams of agony from the sorceress. The truck fender sailed over our heads and slammed into a Dumpster, sending up a festive explosion of garbage confetti. We struggled to our feet. Calypso was shivering, no longer complaining about the pain. I was fairly sure she was going into shock. Leo pulled a staple gun from his tool belt. “You guys go ahead. I’ll hold them off as long as I can.” “What are you going to do?” I demanded. “Sort and collate them?” “I’m going to throw things at them!” Leo snapped. “Unless you’ve got a better idea?” “B-both of you stop,” Calypso stammered. “We d-don’t leave anyone behind. Now walk. Left, right, left, right.” We emerged from the alley into a wide-open circular plaza. Oh, why couldn’t Indianans build a proper city with narrow, twisting streets, plenty of dark corners, and perhaps some conveniently placed bombproof bunkers? In the middle of a ring-shaped drive stood a fountain surrounded by dormant flower beds. To the north rose the twin towers of another hotel. To the south loomed an older, grander building of redbrick and granite—perhaps a Victorianera train station. On one side of the edifice, a clock tower soared roughly two hundred feet into the sky. Above the main entrance, under a marble archway, a colossal rose window gleamed in a frame of green copper, like a stained-glass version of the dartboard we used for our weekly game night on Mount Olympus. That thought made me heartsick with nostalgia. I would’ve given anything to be back home for game night, even if it meant listening to Athena gloat about her Scrabble scores. I scanned the plaza. Our ghostly guide seemed to have disappeared. Why had he brought us here? Should we try the hotel? The train station? Those questions became moot when the blemmyae surrounded us. The mob burst out of the alley behind us. A police car swerved into the roundabout next to the train station. A bulldozer pulled into the hotel’s driveway, the operator waving and calling out cheerfully, “Hello! I’m going to bulldoze you!” All exits from the plaza were quickly blocked. A line of sweat freeze-dried against my neck. An annoying whine filled my ears, which I realized was my own subvocalized whimpering of Please don’t kill me, please don’t kill me. I won’t die here, I promised myself. I’m much too important to bite it in Indiana. But my trembling legs and chattering teeth seemed to disagree. “Who has an idea?” I asked my compatriots. “Please, any brilliant idea.” Calypso looked like her most brilliant idea at the moment was trying not to throw up. Leo hefted his staple gun, which didn’t seem to frighten the blemmyae. From the midst of the mob, our old friend Nanette emerged, her chest-face grinning. Her patent leather pumps clashed terribly with her blond leg fur. “Gosh darn it, dears, you’ve made me a bit miffed.” She grabbed the nearest street sign and single-handedly ripped it out of the ground. “Now, please hold still, won’t you? I’m just going to smash your heads with this .
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About the Author
Rick Riordan, dubbed “storyteller of the gods” by Publishers Weekly, is the author of five #1 New York Times best-selling middle grade series with millions of copies sold throughout the world: Percy Jackson and the Olympians, The Heroes of Olympus, and the Trials of Apollo, based on Greek and Roman mythology; the Kane Chronicles, based on Ancient Egyptian mythology; and Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, based on Norse mythology. Rick collaborated with illustrator John Rocco on two #1 New York Times best-selling collections of Greek myths for the whole family: Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods and Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes. Rick lives in Boston, Massachusetts with his wife and two sons. Follow him on Twitter at @camphalfblood.
Rick Riordan is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, the Kane Chronicles, and the Heroes of Olympus. He is also the author of the multi-award-winning Tres Navarre mystery series for adults.
For fifteen years, Rick taught English and history at public and private middle schools in the San Francisco Bay Area and in Texas. In 2002, Saint Mary’s Hall honored him with the school’s first Master Teacher Award.
While teaching full time, Riordan began writing mystery novels for grownups. His Tres Navarre series went on to win the top three national awards in the mystery genre – the Edgar, the Anthony and the Shamus. Riordan turned to children’s fiction when he started The Lightning Thief as a bedtime story for his oldest son.
Today over 35 million copies of his Percy Jackson, Kane Chronicles, and Heroes of Olympus books are in print in the United States, and rights have been sold into more than 35 countries. Rick is also the author of The 39 Clues: The Maze of Bones, another #1 New York Times bestseller.
Rick Riordan now writes full-time. He lives in Boston with his wife and two sons.