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What happened? I, the silver-tongued god of poetry, could not bring myself to describe my fall from grace to this kind woman. I understood why Poseidon had been so smitten with her. Sally Jackson possessed just the right combination of compassion, strength, and beauty. She was one of those rare mortal women who could connect spiritually with a god as an equal—to be neither terrified of us nor greedy for what we can offer, but to provide us with true companionship. If I had still been an immortal, I might have flirted with her myself.
But I was now a sixteen-yearold boy. My mortal form was working its way upon my state of mind. I saw Sally Jackson as a mom —a fact that both consternated and embarrassed me. I thought about how long it had been since I had called my own mother.
I should probably take her to lunch when I got back to Olympus. Sally gave him the slightest motherly eyebrow raise. Apollo can take a shower, then wear your extra clothes. You two are about the same size. Thankfully, Meg did not bite her. No doubt she was thinking, Who dressed this poor girl like a traffic light? Sally laughed. Percy, you take Apollo. Percy left me alone in the bathroom to take care of all this myself, for which I was grateful. He offered me some ambrosia and nectar—food and drink of the gods—to heal my wounds, but I was not sure it would be safe to consume in my mortal state.
When I was done, I stared at my battered face in the bathroom mirror. Perhaps teenage angst had permeated the clothes, because I felt more like a sulky high schooler than ever. I thought how unfair it was that I was being punished, how lame my father was, how no one else in the history of time had ever experienced problems like mine. Of course, all that was empirically true.
No exaggeration was required. The swelling in my nose had subsided. My ribs still ached, but I no longer felt as if someone were knitting a sweater inside my chest with hot needles. Accelerated healing was the least Zeus could do for me. I was a god of medicinal arts, after all. Zeus probably just wanted me to get well quickly so I could endure more pain, but I was grateful nonetheless. I examined the black T-shirt Percy had given me. I had no problem with Led Zeppelin.
I had inspired all their best songs.
But I had a sneaking suspicion that Percy had given me this shirt as a joke—the fall from the sky. Yes, ha-ha. I decided not to comment on it. Percy was sitting on his bed, staring at the trail of blood droplets I had made across his carpet. Percy spread his hands. The Acropolis. We gods had battled side by side with Percy Jackson and his comrades. I ask you: How was that my fault?
Zeus seemed to consider egotism a trait the boy had inherited from me. Which is ridiculous. I am much too self-aware to be egotistical.
Then bam—he vaporized you. What had happened in the last six months? Had I been in some kind of stasis? Had Zeus taken that long to decide what to do with me? Your punishment. My shame felt fresh and raw, as if the conversation had just happened, but I could not be sure.
After being alive for so many millennia, I had trouble keeping track of time even in the best of circumstances. Last year I lost an entire semester thanks to Hera. During the war with Gaea, I had been focused mostly on my own fabulous exploits. But I suppose he and his friends had undergone a few minor hardships. Do you have something besides the Prius? A Maserati, perhaps? They were long and nimble. He would have made an excellent musician. If I want to go to college with Annabeth next fall, I have to stay out of trouble and get my diploma.
Some family emergency. Calliope is quite touchy when novelists forget to thank her. On the sill was a potted plant with delicate silver leaves— possibly moonlace.
I wanted to get back to talking about my problems. I was impatient with Percy for turning the conversation to himself. Sadly, I have found this sort of self-centeredness common among demigods.
Can you turn down such glory? It always disappointed me when mortals put themselves first and failed to see the big picture—the importance of putting me first—but I had to remind myself that this young man had helped me out on many previous occasions. He had earned my goodwill. For a moment I thought he wanted my autograph. Then I remembered the pen was the disguised form of his sword, Riptide. He smiled, and some of that old demigod mischief twinkled in his eyes.
She had transformed Meg from a street urchin into a shockingly pretty young girl. Her round face was scrubbed clean of grime. Her cat-eye glasses had been polished so the rhinestones sparkled. She had evidently insisted on keeping her old red sneakers, but she wore new black leggings and a knee-length frock of shifting green hues.
Meg now had an elfish springtime aura that reminded me very much of a dryad.
In fact… A sudden wave of emotion overwhelmed me. I choked back a sob. Meg pouted. Only two mortals ever had broken my heart. I felt no attraction to Meg. I was sixteen or four thousand plus, depending on how you looked at it. She was a very young twelve. But the way she appeared now, Meg McCaffrey might have been the daughter of my former love…if my former love had lived long enough to have children. It was too painful. I looked away.
Meg sat on the edge of the sofa. Can you believe that? I wrote the music and poetry analysis sections. Meg swung her feet. Like me? What about your parents? She studied her chewed cuticles, the matching crescent rings glinting on her middle fingers. As soon as its leaves are touched, the plant closes up defensively.
Percy raised his hands. I may have exaggerated my brave defense against Cade and Mikey—just for narrative effect, you understand. As I finished, Sally Jackson returned. She set down a bowl of tortilla chips and a casserole dish filled with elaborate dip in multicolored strata, like sedimentary rock. You invented this for me? It tasted almost as good as ambrosia nachos. Meg ate like a chipmunk, shoving more food in her mouth than she could possibly chew. My belly was full. I had never been so happy.
I had a strange desire to fire up an Xbox and play Call of Duty. You guys barely know each other. My fate is now linked with young McCaffrey. She seemed to savor that word. From his pocket, Percy fished his ballpoint pen. He tapped it thoughtfully against his knee. We tried to overthrow Zeus. Oh, and your father, Poseidon. We were both cast down to earth as mortals, forced to serve Laomedon, the king of Troy. He was a harsh master. He even refused to pay us for our work!
But as I was saying, the second time I became mortal, Zeus got mad because I killed some of his Cyclopes. My brother is a Cyclops. They made the lightning bolt that killed one of my sons! He was a kind master. I liked him so much, I made all his cows have twin calves.
Possibly more. I gritted my teeth. But if I suffer through them and prove I am worthy, Zeus will forgive me and allow me to become a god again. I had to believe my mortal punishment was temporary, as it had been the last two times.
I could only hope this would not apply to me. I can figure out which of my godly powers remain with me in this mortal form. Once we reach camp, the magical borders will protect me. You, too. I have to. Being a mortal was traumatic enough. The thought of being barred from camp, of being unimportant…No.
That simply could not be. I must have other abilities! I hear you throw a mean garbage bag. Any other skills we should know about?
Summoning lightning? Making toilets explode?
I did not like the way she was grinning at Percy. We might never get out of here. Percy gestured with distaste at his test manuals. Got a lot of studying. The first two times I took the SAT—ugh. I was glad there were no garbage bags nearby for her to throw.
For some reason, the cookies were blue, but they smelled heavenly—and I should know. Sally sighed. Her expression softened, her innate kindness perhaps overweighing her concern. Be careful. It was lovely meeting you both. Please try not to die. He reached for the cookies, but she moved the plate away. And hurry, dear. It would be a shame if Paul ate them all when he gets home. He faced us. A batch of cookies is depending on me. If you get me killed on the way to camp, I am going be ticked off.
Perhaps that was an arcane ward against evil spirits. Hecate would have known. Once we reached the Prius, Meg called shotgun, which was yet another example of my unfair existence. Gods do not ride in the back. I again suggested following them in a Maserati or a Lamborghini, but Percy admitted he had neither. The Prius was the only car his family owned. I mean…wow. Just wow.
Sitting in the backseat, I quickly became carsick. I was used to driving my sun chariot across the sky, where every lane was the fast lane. I was not used to the Long Island Expressway. Believe me, even at midday in the middle of January, there is nothing express about your expressways. Percy braked and lurched forward.
I sorely wished I could launch a fireball in front of us and melt cars to make way for our clearly more important journey. At least some Hephaestian bumper blades? What sort of cheap economy vehicle is this? Again I wondered if she had some connection to Artemis.
Perhaps Artemis had sent Meg to look after me? Artemis had trouble sharing anything with me—demigods, arrows, nations, birthday parties. Meg had another sort of aura…one I would have been able to recognize easily if I were a god. But, no. I had to rely on mortal intuition, which was like trying to pick up sewing needles while wearing oven mitts. Meg turned and gazed out the rear windshield, probably checking for any shiny blobs pursuing us.
Meg huffed. Neither of us answered. For a moment, I was too stunned to speak. And believe me, I have to be very stunned for that to happen. How was I to know that Gaea would take advantage of the chaos of war and raise my oldest, greatest enemy from the depths of Tartarus so he could take possession of his old lair in the cave of Delphi and cut off the source of my prophetic power?
How could you not know that would happen? The next sound you hear will be me blowing you a giant Meg-McCaffrey-quality raspberry. I swallowed back the taste of fear and seven-layer dip. Those are the rules. Meg threw a piece of lint at me.
The water swirled around me, tugging me downward. Soon I would be left shivering and exposed, or else I would be sucked down the drain into the sewers of hopelessness.
I was beginning to see what was in store for me during my mortal sojourn. The Oracle was held by hostile forces. My adversary lay coiled and waiting, growing stronger every day on the magical fumes of the Delphic caverns.
And I was a weak mortal bound to an untrained demigod who threw garbage and chewed her cuticles. Zeus could not possibly expect me to fix this. Not in my present condition. And yet…someone had sent those thugs to intercept me in the alley. Someone had known where I would land.
Nobody can tell the future anymore, Percy had said. Where was she finding this lint? It had felt good while it lasted. She pointed behind us. I envisioned crossing an actual countryside. Instead, Percy shot down the nearest exit ramp, wove across the parking lot of a shopping mall, then blasted through the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant without even ordering anything. We swerved into an industrial area of dilapidated warehouses, the smoking apparitions still closing in behind us.
We sped north, the warehouses giving way to a hodgepodge of apartment buildings and abandoned strip malls. I fight better near water. I glanced out the rear window. The three glittering plumes were still gaining. One of them passed through a middle-aged man crossing the street. The mortal pedestrian instantly collapsed. I hate being mortal! Meg yelped as her head hit the ceiling. Then she began giggling uncontrollably.
The landscape opened into actual countryside—fallow fields, dormant vineyards, orchards of bare fruit trees. We can do it. One of the shiny smoke clouds pulled a dirty trick, pluming from the pavement directly in front of us. Instinctively, Percy swerved. The Prius went off the road, straight through a barbed wire fence and into an orchard.
Percy managed to avoid hitting any of the trees, but the car skidded in the icy mud and wedged itself between two trunks.
Miraculously, the air bags did not deploy. Percy popped his seat belt. Get me out of here! It was firmly jammed against the side of a peach tree. The three smoky figures had stopped at the edge of the orchard. Now they advanced slowly, taking on solid shapes. They grew arms and legs. Their faces formed eyes and wide, hungry mouths.
I knew instinctively that I had dealt with these spirits before. I was a panicky sixteen-year-old. My palms sweated.
My teeth chattered. Percy and Meg struggled to get out of the Prius. They needed time, which meant I had to run interference. They hovered in place about forty feet away. I heard Meg grunt as she tumbled out of the backseat. Percy scrambled after her. I advanced toward the spirits, the frosty mud crunching under my shoes.
My breath steamed in the cold air. I raised my hand in an ancient three-fingered gesture for warding off evil. My hopes lifted. I waited for them to dissipate or flee in terror. Instead, they solidified into ghoulish corpses with yellow eyes. Their clothes were tattered rags, their limbs covered with gaping wounds and running sores.
But the list never seems to end. Their cadaverous mouths gaped. Their tongues lolled. Their eyes glistened with a film of yellow mucus. Except for that story about how I flayed the satyr Marsyas alive.
That was a total lie. Difficult for me, but I managed. Once I was born, spreading illnesses became part of my job. Stop interrupting! I will strike you down! In fact, I was terrified. My sixteen-year-old mortal instincts were screaming, RUN! My knees were knocking together, and my right eye had developed a nasty twitch.
But the secret to dealing with plague spirits was to keep talking so as to appear in charge and unafraid. I trusted that this would allow my demigod companions time to come up with a clever plan to save me.
I certainly hoped Meg and Percy were working on such a plan. The spirit on the right bared his rotten teeth. Where is your booow?
Percy cleared his throat. I thought. It does not have the pooooetry of a good epidemic. I thrust out my arms, hoping to blast them to dust. Nothing happened. The branch stuck. Glittering smoke began swirling down the length of the wood. Meanwhile, Percy Jackson charged into battle. Whenever his blade connected with the nosoi, their bodies simply dissolved into glittery mist, then resolidified.
A spirit lunged to grab him. I took one century off to lie around the beach in Cabo, and came back and found that the nosoi had gotten loose and a third of the continent was dead.
Gods, I was so irritated. But I was too terrified to argue.
Meg and Percy sprinted off through the orchard, and I followed. Percy pointed to a line of hills about a mile ahead.
With a casual flick of his hand, Percy caused the side of the tank to rupture. A wall of water crashed into the three nosoi behind us. My chest ached. Each breath was a ragged wheeze.
I resented that these two demigods could carry on a conversation while running for their lives while I, the immortal Apollo, was reduced to gasping like a catfish. Two of the nosoi solidified into cadavers—one with a peach for a third eye, the other with a tree branch sticking out of his chest. He ran straight into the plume of smoke. He fell to his knees, clawing at his throat. Meg picked up another withered peach from the field, but it would offer her little defense against the forces of darkness.
I tried to figure out how to help Percy—because I am all about helping—but the branch-impaled nosos charged at me. I turned and fled, running face-first into a tree. I found myself flat on my back, spots dancing in my eyes, the cadaverous visage of the plague spirit looming over me. I wish it had. Instead, my regrets passed before my eyes. Despite being a gloriously perfect being, I do have a few regrets.
I remembered that day at Abbey Road Studios, when my envy led me to set rancor in the hearts of John and Paul and break up the Beatles.
I remembered Achilles falling on the plains of Troy, cut down by an unworthy archer because of my wrath. I saw Hyacinthus, his bronze shoulders and dark ringlets gleaming in the sunlight. Standing on the sideline of the discus field, he gave me a brilliant smile. Watch me, I said. And of course I saw her—the other love of my life—her fair skin transforming into bark, her hair sprouting green leaves, her eyes hardening into rivulets of sap.
Those memories brought back so much pain, you might think I would welcome the glittering plague mist descending over me. Yet my new mortal self rebelled. I was too young to die!
Yes, my godly catalogue of exes was filled with more beautiful people than a Kardashian party guest list, but none of that seemed real to me. That may seem silly. We are immortal.
In my case, three stinking times. Gods know about fading. They know about being forgotten over the centuries. The idea of ceasing to exist altogether terrifies us. In fact—well, Zeus would not like me sharing this information, and if you tell anyone, I will deny I ever said it—but the truth is we gods are a little in awe of you mortals.
You spend your whole lives knowing you will die. No matter how many friends and relatives you have, your puny existence will quickly be forgotten.
How do you cope with it? Why are you not running around constantly screaming and pulling your hair out? Your bravery, I must admit, is quite admirable. Now where was I? I was dying. I rolled around in the mud, holding my breath. I tried to brush off the disease cloud, but it was not as easy as swatting a fly or an uppity mortal. I caught a glimpse of Meg, playing a deadly game of tag with the third nosos, trying to keep a peach tree between herself and the spirit.
She yelled something to me, but her voice seemed tinny and far away. Somewhere to my left, the ground shook. A miniature geyser erupted from the field. Percy crawled toward it desperately. He thrust his face in the water, washing away the smoke. My eyesight began to dim.
Percy struggled to his feet. He ripped out the source of the geyser—an irrigation pipe—and turned the water on me. Normally I do not like being doused. Every time I go camping with Artemis, she likes to wake me up with a bucket of ice-cold water.
The water disrupted the smoke, allowing me to roll away and gasp for air. Nearby, our two gaseous enemies re-formed as dripping wet corpses, their yellow eyes glowing with annoyance. Meg yelled again. This time I understood her words. All around the orchard, the frozen blackened remnants of the harvest were beginning to levitate.
Believe me, in four thousand years I have seen some strange things. I have seen the dreaming face of Ouranos etched in stars across the heavens, and the full fury of Typhon as he raged across the earth. But never before had I seen an uprising of frozen fruit. If I had been standing up, I would have been killed, but Meg simply stood there, unfazed and unhurt, as frozen dead fruit zinged around her.
All three nosoi collapsed, riddled with holes. Every piece of fruit dropped to the ground. Percy looked up, his eyes red and puffy. That was generally a good sign. Meg looked horrified. I just knew it would happen.
It got up, wobbling on its heavily perforated legs. Perhaps the spirit meant me. When in doubt, I usually assumed the conversation was about me.
Her face paled. Her arms trembled. This time the fruit blurred together in a fructose dust devil, until standing in front of Meg was a creature like a pudgy human toddler wearing only a linen diaper. Protruding from his back were wings made of leafy branches. His babyish face might have been cute except for the glowing green eyes and pointy fangs. The creature snarled and snapped at the air.
They edged away from the snarling baby. I stared at her in disbelief. She had to be the cause of this fruit-based strangeness, but she looked as shocked as we were.
The peach baby turned toward the nosoi. For a moment, I feared he would make some hellish alliance—an axis of evil between illnesses and fruits. The middle corpse, the one with the peach in his forehead, inched backward. That is not a figure of speech. In a matter of seconds, the nosos had been torn to shreds and devoured. Understandably, the other two nosoi retreated, but the karpos crouched and sprang.
He landed on the second corpse and proceeded to rip it into plague-flavored Cream of Wheat. The last spirit dissolved into glittering smoke and tried to fly away, but the peach baby spread his leafy wings and launched himself in pursuit.
He opened his mouth and inhaled the sickness, snapping and swallowing until every wisp of smoke was gone. He landed in front of Meg and belched.
His green eyes gleamed. Instead, even after eating three whole nosoi, the little fellow looked hungry. He howled and beat his small chest. His nose was still red and runny, and his face was puffy. This brings to mind an expression I coined ages ago: A peach a day keeps the plague spirits away!
Percy wiped his nose. Instead of getting a deadly illness, you got a head cold. After an awkward moment, it occurred to me that if he was a god and I was a worshipper, he might expect gratitude. He nodded. My mom and Paul need thah car.
The western border is wilder— hills and woods, all heavily enchanted. I had no alternative. There was no plan B that would keep me alive. Cops love me almost as much as teachers do. Get lots of fluids. Okay, just try to survive until the weekend, will you? A wise precaution before approaching law enforcement.
He trudged down the hill, sneezing and sniffling. Can you tell me where Manhattan is? I was having the worst day in the history of days. I was stuck with a scary girl and an even scarier peach baby. I was by no means ready for anything. But I also desperately wanted to reach camp. Hence, there are lots of books getting into PDF format. Below are some websites for downloading free PDF books which you could acquire all the knowledge as you want.
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