Thursday, September 13, 2012

The Last Olympian - Chapter 22

 Nobody steals mypegasus . Not even Rachel. I wasn't sure if I was more angry or amazed or worried.
 "What was she thinking?" Annabeth said as we ran for the river. Unfortunately, I had a pretty good idea,
and it filled me with dread.
 The traffic was horrible. Everybody was out on the streets gawking at the war zone damage. Police
sirens wailed on every block. There was no possibility of catching a cab, and the pegasi had flown away.
I would've settled for some Party Ponies, but they had disappeared along with most of the root beer in
Midtown. So we ran, pushing through mobs of dazed mortals that clogged the sidewalks.
 "She'll never get through the defenses," Annabeth said. "Peleus will eat her."
 I hadn't considered that. The Mist wouldn't fool Rachel like it would most people. She'd be able to find
the camp no problem, but I'd been hoping the magical boundaries would just keep her out like a force
field. It hadn't occurred to me that Peleus might attack.
 "We've got to hurry." I glanced at Nico. "I don't sup-pose you could conjure up some skeleton horses."
 He wheezed as he ran. "So tired . . . couldn't summon a dog bone."
 Finally we scrambled over the embankment to the shore, and I let out a loud whistle. I hated doing it.
Even with the sand dollar I'd given the East River for a magic cleaning, the water here was pretty
polluted. I didn't want to make any sea animals sick, but they came to my call.
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 Three wake lines appeared in the gray water, and a pod of hippocampi broke the surface. They
whinnied unhappily, shaking the river muck from their manes. They were beauti-ful creatures, with
multicolored fish tails, and the heads and forelegs of white stallions. The hippocampus in front was much
bigger than the others—a ride fit for a Cyclops.
 "Rainbow!" I called. "How's it going, buddy?"
 He neighed  a complaint.
 "Yeah, I'm sorry," I said. "But it's an emergency. We need to get to camp."
 He snorted.
 "Tyson?" I said. "Tyson is fine! I'm sorry he's not here. He's a big general now in the Cyclops army."
 "Yeah, I'm sure he'll still bring you apples. Now, about that ride . . ."
 In no time, Annabeth, Nico, and I were zipping up the East River faster than Jet Skis. We sped under
the Throgs Neck Bridge and headed for Long Island Sound.
 It seemed like forever until we saw the beach at camp. We thanked the hippocampi and waded ashore,
only to find Argus waiting for us. He stood in the sand with his arms crossed, his hundred eyes glaring at
 "Is she here?" I asked.
 He nodded grimly.
 "Is everything okay?" Annabeth said.
 Argus shook his head.
 We followed him up the trail. It was surreal being back at camp, because everything looked so peaceful:
no burning buildings, no wounded fighters. The cabins were bright in the sunshine, and the fields glittered
with dew. But the place was mostly empty.
 Up at the Big House, something was definitely wrong. Green light was shooting out all the windows, just
like I'd seen in my dream about May Castellan. Mist—the magical kind—swirled around the yard.
Chiron lay on a horse-size stretcher by the volleyball pit, a bunch of satyrs standing around him.
Blackjack cantered nervously in the grass.
 Don't blame me, boss! he pleaded when he saw me. The weird girl made me do it!
 Rachel Elizabeth Dare stood at the bottom of the porch steps. Her arms were raised like she was
waiting for someone inside the house to throw her a ball.
 "What's she doing?" Annabeth demanded. "How did she get past the barriers?"
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 "She flew," one of the satyrs said, looking accusingly at Blackjack."Right past the dragon, right through
the magic boundaries."
 "Rachel!" I called, but the satyrs stopped me when I tried to go any closer.
 "Percy, don't," Chiron warned. He winced as he tried to move. His left arm was in a sling, his two back
legs were in splints, and his head was wrapped in bandages. "You can't interrupt."
 "I thought you explained things to her!"
 "I did. And I invited her here."
 I stared at him in disbelief. "You said you'd never let anyone try again! You said—"
 "I know what I said, Percy. But I was wrong. Rachel had a vision about the curse of Hades. She
believes it may be lifted now. She convinced me she deserves a chance."
 "And if the curse isn't  lifted? If Hades hasn't gotten to that yet, she'll go crazy!"
 The Mist swirled around Rachel. She shivered like she was going into shock.
 "Hey!" I shouted. "Stop!"
 I ran toward her, ignoring the satyrs. I got within ten feet and hit something like an invisible beach ball. I
bounced back and landed in the grass.
 Rachel opened her eyes and turned. She looked like she was sleepwalking—like she could see me, but
only in a dream.
 "It's all right." Her voice sounded far away. "This is why I've come."
 "You'll be destroyed!"
 She shook her head. "This is where I belong, Percy. I finally understand why."
 It sounded too much like what May Castellan had said. I had to stop her, but I couldn't even get to my
 The house rumbled. The door flew open and green light poured out. I recognized the warm musty smell
of snakes.
 Mist curled into a hundred smoky serpents, slithering up the porch columns, curling around the house.
Then the Oracle appeared in the doorway.
 The withered mummy shuffled forward in her rainbow dress. She looked even worse than usual, which is
saying a lot. Her hair was falling out in clumps. Her leathery skin was cracking like the seat of a worn-out
bus. Her glassy eyes stared blankly into space, but I got the creepiest feeling she was being drawn
straight toward Rachel.
 Rachel held out her arms. She didn't look scared.
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 "You've waited too long," Rachel said. "But I'm here now."
 The sun blazed more brightly. A man appeared above the porch, floating in the air—a blond dude in a
white toga, with sunglasses and a cocky smile.
 "Apollo," I said.
 He winked at me but held up his finger to his lips.
 "Rachel Elizabeth Dare," he said. "You have the gift of prophecy. But it is also a curse. Are you sure you
want this?"
 Rachel nodded. "It's my destiny."
 "Do you accept the risks?"
 "I do."
 "Then proceed," the god said.
 Rachel closed her eyes. "I accept this role. I pledge myself to Apollo, God of Oracles. I open my eyes
to the future and embrace the past. I accept the spirit of Delphi, Voice of the Gods, Speaker of Riddles,
Seer  of Fate."
 I didn't know where she was getting the words, but they flowed out of her as the Mist thickened. A
green column of smoke, like a huge python, uncoiled from the mummy's mouth and slithered down the
stairs, curling affectionately around Rachel's feet. The Oracle's mummy crumbled, falling away until it was
nothing but a pile of dust in an old tie-dyed dress. Mist enveloped Rachel in a column.
 For a moment I couldn't see her at all. Then the smoke cleared.
 Rachel collapsed and curled into the fetal position. Annabeth, Nico, and I rushed forward, but Apollo
said, "Stop! This is the most delicate part."
 "What's going on?" I demanded. "What do you mean?"
 Apollo studied Rachel with concern. "Either the spirit takes hold, or it doesn't."
 "And if it doesn't?" Annabeth asked.
 "Five syllables," Apollo said, counting them on his fin-gers."That would be real bad."
 Despite Apollo's warning, I ran forward and knelt over Rachel. The smell of the attic was gone. The
Mist sank into the ground and the green light faded. But Rachel was still pale. She was barely breathing.
 Then her eyes fluttered open. She focused on me with difficulty. "Percy."
 "Are you okay?"
 She tried to sit up. "Ow." She pressed her hands to her temples.
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 "Rachel," Nico said, "your life aura almost faded completely. I could see you dying."
 "I'm all right," she murmured. "Please, help me up. The visions—they're a little disorienting."
 "Are you sure you're okay?" I asked.
 Apollo drifted down from the porch. "Ladies and gen-tlemen, may I introduce the new Oracle of
 "You're kidding," Annabeth said.
 Rachel managed a weak smile. "It's a little surprising to me too, but this is my fate. I saw it when I was in
New York. I know why I was born with true sight. I was meant to become the Oracle."
 I blinked. "You mean you can tell the future now?"
 "Not all the time," she said. "But there are visions, images, words in my mind. When someone asks me a
ques-tion, I . . . Oh no—"
 "It's starting," Apollo announced.
 Rachel doubled over like someone had punched her. Then she stood up straight and her eyes glowed
serpent green.
 When she spoke, her voicesounded tripled—like three Rachels were  talking at once:
 "Seven half-bloods shall answer the call.
 To storm or fire, the world must fall.
 An oath to keep with a final breath,
 And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death."
 At the last word, Rachel collapsed. Nico and I caught her and helped her to the porch. Her skin was
 "I'm all right," she said, her voice returning to normal.
 "What was that?" I asked.
 She shook her head, confused. "What was what?"
 "I believe," Apollo said, "that we just heard the next Great Prophecy."
 "What does it mean?" I demanded.
 Rachel frowned. "I don't even remember what I said."
 "No," Apollo mused. "The spirit will only speak through you occasionally. The rest of the time, our
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Rachel will be much as she's always been. There's no point in grilling her, even if she has just issued the
next big predic-tion for the future of the world."
 "What?" I said. "But—"
 "Percy," Apollo said, "I wouldn't worry too much. The last Great Prophecy about you took almost
seventy years to complete. This one may not even happen in your lifetime."
 I thought about the lines Rachel had spoken in that creepy voice: about storm and fire and the Doors of
Death. "Maybe," I said, "but it didn't sound so good."
 "No," said Apollo cheerfully. "It certainly didn't. She's going to make a wonderful Oracle!"
 It was hard to drop the subject, but Apollo insisted that Rachel needed to rest, and she did look pretty
 "I'm sorry, Percy," she said. "Back on Olympus, I didn't explain everything to you, but the calling
frightened me. I didn't think you'd understand."
 "I still don't," I admitted. "But I guess I'm happy for you."
 Rachel smiled. "Happy probably isn't the right word. Seeing the future isn't going to be easy, but it's my
destiny. I only hope my family . . ."
 She didn't finish her thought.
 "Will you still go to Clarion Academy?" I asked.
 "I made a promise to my father. I guess I'll try to be a normal kid during the school year, but—"
 "But right now you need sleep," Apollo scolded. "Chiron, I don't think the attic is the proper place for
our new Oracle, do you?"
 "No, indeed." Chiron looked a lot better now that Apollo had worked some medical magic on him.
"Rachel may use a guest room in the Big House for now, until we give the matter more thought."
 "I'm thinking a cave in the hills," Apollo mused. "With torches and a big purple curtain over the entrance .
. . really mysterious.  But inside, a totally decked-out pad with a game room and one of those home
theater systems."
 Chiron cleared his throat loudly.
 "What?" Apollo demanded.
 Rachel kissed me on the cheek. "Good-bye, Percy," she whispered. "And I don't have to see the future
to tell you what to do now, do I?"
 Her eyes seemed more piercing than before.
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 I blushed. "No."
 "Good," she said. Then she turned and followed Apollo into the Big House.
 The rest of the day was as strange as the beginning. Campers trickled in from New York by car, pegasus
, and chariot. The wounded were cared for. The dead were given proper funeral rites at the campfire.
 Silena's shroud was hot pink, but embroidered with an electric spear. The Ares and Aphrodite cabins
both claimed her as a hero, and lit the shroud together. No one men-tioned the word spy.  That secret
burned to ashes as the designer perfume smoke drifted into the sky.
 Even Ethan Nakamura was given a shroud—black silk with a logo of swords crossed under a set of
scales. As his shroud went up in flames, I hoped Ethan knew he had made a difference in the end. He'd
paid a lot more than an eye, but the minor gods would finally get the respect they deserved.
 Dinner at the pavilion was low-key. The only highlight was Juniper the tree nymph, who screamed,
"Grover!" and gave her boyfriend a flying tackle hug, making everybody cheer. They went down to the
beach to take a moonlit walk, and I was happy for them, though the scene reminded me of Silena and
Beckendorf, which made me sad.
 Mrs. O'Leary romped around happily, eating every-body's table scraps. Nico sat at the main table with
Chiron and Mr. D, and nobody seemed to think this was out of place. Everybody was patting Nico on
the back, compli-menting him on his fighting. Even the Ares kids seemed to think he was pretty cool.
Hey, show up with an army of undead warriors to save the day, and suddenly you're every-body's best
 Slowly, the dinner crowd trickled away. Some went to the campfire for a sing-along. Others went to
bed. I sat at the Poseidon table by myself and watched the moonlight on Long Island Sound. I could see
Grover and Juniper at the beach, holding hands and talking. It was peaceful.
 "Hey." Annabeth slid next to me on the bench. "Happy birthday."
 She was holding a huge misshapen cupcake with blue icing.
 I stared at her. "What?"
 "It's August 18th," she said. "Your birthday, right?"
 I was stunned. It hadn't even occurred to me, but she was right. I had turned sixteen this morning—the
same morning I'd made the choice to give Luke the knife. The prophecy had come true right on schedule,
and I hadn't even thought about the fact that it was my birthday.
 "Make a wish," she said.
 "Did you bake this yourself?" I asked.
 "Tyson helped."
 "That explains why it looks like a chocolate brick," I said. "With extra blue cement."
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 Annabeth laughed.
 I thought for a second, then  blew out the candle.
 We cut it in half and shared, eating with our fingers. Annabeth sat next to me, and we watched the
ocean. Crickets and monsters were making noise in the woods, but otherwise it was quiet.
 "You saved the world," she said.
 "We saved the world."
 "And Rachel is the new Oracle, which means she won't be dating anybody."
 "You don't sound disappointed," I noticed.
 Annabeth shrugged. "Oh, I don't care."
 She raised an eyebrow. "You got something to say to me, Seaweed Brain?"
 "You'd probably kick my butt."
 "Youknow I'd kick your butt."
 I brushed the cake off my hands. "When I was at the River Styx, turning invulnerable . . . Nico said I had
to con-centrate on one thing that kept me anchored to the world, that made me want to stay mortal."
 Annabeth kept her eyes on the horizon."Yeah?"
 "Then up on Olympus," I said, "when they wanted to make me a god and stuff, I kept thinking—"
 "Oh, you so wanted to."
 "Well, maybe a little. But I didn't, because I thought—I didn't want things to stay the same for eternity,
because things could always get better. And I was thinking . . ." My throat felt really dry.
 "Anyone in particular?" Annabethasked,  her voice soft.
 I looked over and saw that she was trying not to smile.
 "You're laughing at me," I complained.
 "I am not!"
 "You are so  not making this easy."
 Then she laughed for real, and she put her hands around my neck. "I am never, ever  going to make things
easy for you, Seaweed Brain. Get used to it."
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 When she kissed me, I had the feeling my brain was melting right through my body.
 I could've stayed that way forever, except a voice behind us growled, "Well, it's about time!"
 Suddenly the pavilion was filled with torchlight and campers. Clarisse led the way as the eavesdroppers
charged and hoisted us both onto their shoulders.
 "Oh, come on!" I complained. "Is there no privacy?"
 "The lovebirds need to cool off!" Clarisse said with glee.
 "The canoe lake!" Connor Stoll shouted.
 With a huge cheer, they carried us down the hill, but they kept us close enough to hold hands. Annabeth
was laughing, and I couldn't help laughing too, even though my face was completely red.
 We held hands right up to the moment they dumped us in the water.
 Afterward, I had the last laugh. I made an air bubble at the bottom of the lake. Our friends kept waiting
for us to come up, but hey—when you're the son of Poseidon, you don't have to hurry.
 And it was pretty much the best underwater kiss of all time.

The Last Olympian - Chapter 23

 Camp went late that summer. It lasted two more weeks, right up to  the start of a new school year, and I
have to admit they were the best two weeks of my life.
 Of course, Annabeth would kill me if I said anything different, but there was a lot of other great stuff
going on too. Grover had taken over the satyr seekers and was send-ing them out across the world to
find unclaimed half-bloods. So far, the gods had kept their promise. New demigods were popping up all
over the place—not just in America, but in a lot of other countries as well.
 "We can hardly keep up," Grover admitted one afternoon as we were taking a break at the canoe lake.
"We're going to need a bigger travel budget, and I could use a hundred more satyrs."
 "Yeah, but the satyrs you have  are working super hard," I said. "I think they're scared of you."
 Grover blushed. "That's silly. I'm not scary."
 "You're a lord of the Wild , dude. The chosen one of Pan.  A member of the Council of—"
 "Stop it!" Grover protested. "You're as bad as Juniper. I think she wants me to run for president next."
 He chewed on a tin can as we stared across the pond at the line of new cabins under construction. The
U-shape would soon be a complete rectangle, and the demigods had really taken to the new task with
 Nico had some undead builders working on the Hades cabin. Even though he was still the only kid in it,
it was going to look pretty cool: solid obsidian walls with a skull over the door and torches that burned
with green fire twenty-four hours a day. Next to that were the cabins of Iris, Nemesis, Hecate, and
several others I didn't recognize. They kept adding new ones to the blueprints every day. It was going so
well, Annabeth and Chiron were talking about adding an entirely new wing of cabins just so they could
have enough room.
 The Hermes cabin was a lot less crowded now, because most of the unclaimed kids had received signs
from their godly parents. It happened almost every night, and every night more demigods straggled over
the property line with the satyr guides, usually with some nasty monsters pursuing them, but almost all of
them made it through.
 "It's going to be a lot different next summer," I said. "Chiron's expecting we'll have twice as many
 "Yeah," Grover agreed, "but it'll be the same old place."
 He sighed contentedly.
 I watched as Tyson led a group of Cyclops builders. They were hoisting huge stones in place for the
Hecate cabin, and I knew it was a delicate job. Each stone was engraved with magical writing, and if
they dropped one, it would either explode or turn everyone within half a mile into a tree. I figured nobody
but Grover would like that.
 "I'll be traveling a lot," Grover warned, "between pro-tecting nature and finding half-bloods. I may not
see you as much."
 "Won't change anything," I said. "You're still my best friend."
 He grinned. "Except for Annabeth."
 "That's different."
 "Yeah," he agreed. "It sure is."
 In the late afternoon, I was taking one last walk along the beach when a familiar voice said, "Good day
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for fishing."
 My dad, Poseidon, was standing knee-deep in the surf, wearing his typical Bermuda shorts, beat-up
cap, and a real subtle pink-and-green Tommy Bahama shirt. He had a deep-sea fishing rod in his hands,
and when he cast it the line went way out—like halfway across Long Island Sound.
 "Hey, Dad," I said. "What brings you here?"
 He winked. "Never really got to talk in private on Olympus.  I wanted to thank you."
 "Thank me? You came to the rescue."
 "Yes, and I got my palace destroyed in the process, but you know—palaces can be rebuilt. I've gotten
so many thank-you cards from the other gods. Even Ares wrote one, though I think Hera forced him to.
It's rather gratifying. So, thank you. I suppose even the gods can learn new tricks."
 The Sound began to boil. At the end of my dad's line, a huge green sea serpent erupted from the water.
It thrashed and fought, but Poseidon just sighed. Holding his fishing pole with one hand, he whipped out
his knife and cut the line. The monster sank below the surface.
 "Not eating size," he complained. "I have to release the little ones or the game wardens will be all over
 "Little ones?"
 He grinned. "You're doing well with those new cabins, by the way. I suppose this means I can claim all
those other sons and daughters of mine and send you some siblings next summer."
 Poseidon reeled in his empty line.
 I shifted my feet. "Um, you were  kidding, right?"
 Poseidon gave me one of his inside-joke winks, and I still didn't know whether he was serious or not.
"I'll see you soon, Percy. And remember, know which fish are big enough to land, eh?"
 With that he dissolved in the sea breeze, leaving a fish-ing pole lying in the sand.
 That evening was the last night of camp—the bead ceremony. The Hephaestus cabin had designed the
bead this year. It showed the Empire State Building, and etched in tiny Greek letters, spiraling around the
image, were  the names of all the heroes who had died defending Olympus. There were too many names,
but I was proud to wear the bead. I put it on my camp necklace—four beads now. I felt like an
old-timer. I thought about the first campfire I'd ever attended, back when I was twelve, and how I'd felt
so at home. That at least hadn't changed.
 "Never forget this summer!" Chiron told us. He had healed remarkably well, but he still trotted in front of
the fire with a slight limp. "We have discovered bravery and friendship and courage this summer. We
have upheld the honor of the camp."
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 He smiled at me, and everybody cheered. As I looked at the fire, I saw a little girl in a brown dress
tending the flames. She winked at me with red glowing eyes. No one else seemed to notice her, but I
realized maybe she preferred it that way.
 "And now," Chiron said, "early to bed! Remember, you must vacate your cabins by noon tomorrow
unless you've made arrangements to stay the year with us. The cleaning harpies will eat any stragglers,
and I'd hate to end the sum-mer on a sour note!"
 The next morning, Annabeth and I stood at the top of Half-Blood Hill. We watched the buses and vans
pull away, taking most of the campers back to the real world. A few old-timers would be staying behind,
and a few of the new-comers, but I was heading back to Goode High School for my sophomore
year—the first time in my life I'd ever done two years at the same school.
 "Good-bye," Rachel said to us as she shouldered her bag. She looked pretty nervous, but she was
keeping a promise to her father and attending Clarion Academy in New Hampshire. It would be next
summer before we got our Oracle back.
 "You'll do great." Annabeth hugged her. Funny, she seemed to get along fine with Rachel these days.
 Rachel bit her lip. "I hope you're right. I'm a little wor-ried. What if somebody asks what's on the next
math test and I start spouting a prophecy in the middle of geometry class?The Pythagorean theorem
shall be problem two.  . . . Gods, that  would be embarrassing."
 Annabeth laughed, and to my relief, it made Rachel smile.
 "Well," she said, "you two be good to each other." Go figure, but she looked at me like I was some kind
of trouble-maker. Before I could protest, Rachel wished us well and ran down the hill to catch her ride.
 Annabeth, thank goodness, would be staying in New York. She'd gotten permission from her parents to
attend a boarding school in the city so she could be close to Olympus and oversee the rebuilding efforts.
 "And close to me?" I asked.
 "Well, someone's got a big sense of his own impor-tance." But she laced her fingers through mine. I
remem-bered what she'd told me in New York, about building something permanent, and I thought—just
maybe—we were off to a good start.
 The guard dragon Peleus curled contentedly around the pine tree underneath the Golden Fleece and
began to snore, blowing steam with every breath.
 "You've been thinking about Rachel's prophecy?" I asked Annabeth.
 She frowned. "How did you know?"
 "Because I know you."
 She bumped me with her shoulder. "Okay, so I have.Seven half-bloods shall answer the call.  I
wonder who they'll be. We're going to have so many new faces next summer."
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 "Yep," I agreed. "And all that stuff about the world falling in storm or fire."
 She pursed her lips. "And foes at the Doors of Death. I don't know, Percy, but I don't like it. I thought .
. . well, maybe we'd get somepeace for a change."
 "Wouldn't be Camp Half-Blood if it was peaceful," I said.
 "I guess you're right . . . Or maybe the prophecy won't happen for years."
 "Could be a problem for another generation of demigods," I agreed. "Then we can kick back and
 She nodded, though she still seemed uneasy. I didn't blame her, but it was hard to feel too upset on a
nice day, with her next to me, knowing that I wasn't really saying good-bye. We had lots of time.
 "Race you to the road?" I said.
 "You are so going to lose." She took off down Half-Blood Hill and I sprinted after her.
 For once, I didn't look back.

The Last Olympian - Chapter 20

 The Three Fates themselves took Luke's body.
 I hadn't seen the old ladies in years, since I'd witnessed them snip a life thread at a roadside fruit stand
when I was twelve. They'd scared me then, and they scared me now—three ghoul-ish grandmothers with
bags of knitting needles and yarn.
 One of them looked at me, and even though she didn't say anything, my life literally flashed before my
eyes. Suddenly I was twenty. Then I was a middle-aged man. Then I turned old and withered. All the
strength left my body, and I saw my own tombstone and an open grave, a coffin being lowered into the
ground. All this happened in less than a second.
 It is done,she said.
 The Fate held up the snippet of blue yarn—and I knew it was the same one I'd seen four years ago, the
lifeline I'd watched them snip. I had thought it was my life. Now I real-ized it was Luke's. They'd been
showing me the life that would have to be sacrificed to set things right.
 They gathered up Luke's body, now wrapped in a white-and-green shroud, and began carrying it out of
the throne room.
 "Wait," Hermes said.
 The messenger god was dressed in his classic outfit of white Greek robes, sandals, and helmet. The
wings of his helm fluttered as he walked. The snakes George and Martha curled around his caduceus,
murmuring,Luke, poor Luke.
 I thought about May Castellan, alone in her kitchen, baking cookies and making sandwiches for a son
who would never come home.
 Hermes unwrapped Luke's face and kissed his fore-head. He murmured some words in Ancient
Greek—a final blessing.
 "Farewell," he whispered. Then he nodded and allowed the Fates to carry away his son's body.
 As they left, I thought about the Great Prophecy. The lines now made sense to me. The hero's soul,
cursed blade shall reap.  The hero was Luke. The cursed blade was the knife he'd given Annabeth long
ago—cursed because Luke had broken his promise and betrayed his friends. A single choice shall end
his days. My choice, to give him the knife, and to believe, as Annabeth had, that he was still capable of
setting things right. Olympus to preserve or raze. By sacrificing himself, he had saved Olympus. Rachel
was right. In the end, I wasn't really the hero. Luke was.
 And I understood something else: When Luke had descended into the River Styx,  he would've had to
focus on something important that would hold him to his mortal life. Otherwise he would've dissolved. I
had seen Annabeth, and I had a feeling he had too. He had pictured that scene Hestia showed me—of
himself in the good old days with Thalia and Annabeth, when he promised they would be a family.
Hurting Annabeth in battle had shocked him into remembering that promise. It had allowed his mortal
con-science to take over again, and defeat Kronos. His weak spot—his Achilles heel—had saved us all.
 Next to me, Annabeth's knees buckled. I caught her, but she cried out in pain, and I realized  I'd grabbed
her broken arm.
 "Oh gods," I said. "Annabeth, I'm sorry."
 "It's all right," she said as she passed out in my arms.
 "She needs help!" I yelled.
 "I've got this." Apollo stepped forward. His fiery armor was so bright it was hard to look at, and his
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matching Ray-Bans and perfect smile made him look like a male model for battle gear."God of medicine,
at your service."
 He passed his hand over Annabeth's face and spoke an incantation. Immediately the bruises faded. Her
cuts and scars disappeared. Her arm straightened, and she sighed in her sleep.
 Apollo grinned. "She'll be fine in a few minutes. Just enough time for me to compose a poem about our
victory: 'Apollo and his friends save Olympus.'Good, eh?"
 "Thanks, Apollo," I said. "I'll, um, let you handle the poetry."
 The next few hours were a blur. I remembered my promise to my mother. Zeus didn't even blink an eye
when I told him my strange request. He snapped his fingers and informed me that the top of the Empire
State Building was now lit up blue. Most mortals would just have to wonder what it meant, but my mom
would know: I had survived, Olympus was saved.
 The gods set about repairing the throne room, which went surprisingly fast with twelve superpowerful
beings at work. Grover and I cared for the wounded, and once the sky bridge re-formed, we greeted
our friends who had survived. The Cyclopes had saved Thalia from the fallen statue. She was on
crutches, but otherwise she was okay. Connor and Travis Stoll had made it through with only minor
injuries. They promised me they hadn't even looted the city much. They told me my parents were fine,
though they weren't allowed into Mount Olympus. Mrs. O'Leary had dug Chiron out of the rubble and
rushed him off to camp. The Stolls looked kind of worried about the old centaur, but at least he was
alive. Katie Gardner reported that she'd seen Rachel Elizabeth Dare run out of the Empire State Building
at the end of the battle. Rachel had looked unharmed, but nobody knew where she'd gone, which also
troubled me.
 Nicodi  Angelo came into Olympus to a hero's wel-come, his father right behind him, despite the fact that
Hades was only supposed to visit Olympus on winter sol-stice. The god of the dead looked stunned
when his relatives clapped him on the back. I doubt he'd ever gotten such an enthusiastic welcome
 Clarisse marched in, still shivering from her time in the ice block, and Ares bellowed, "There's my girl!"
 The god of war ruffled her hair and pounded her on the back, calling her the best warrior he'd ever seen.
"That drakon-slaying? THAT'S what I'm talking about!"
 She looked pretty overwhelmed. All she could do was nod and blink, like she was afraid he'd start
hitting her, but eventually she began to smile.
 Hera and Hephaestus passed me, and while Hephaestus was a little grumpy about my jumping on his
throne, he thought I'd done "a pretty bang-up job, mostly."
 Hera sniffed in disdain. "I suppose I won't destroy you and that little girl now."
 "Annabeth saved Olympus," I told her. "She convinced Luke to stop Kronos."
 "Hmm," Hera whirled away in a huff, but I figured our lives would be safe, at least for a little while.
 Dionysus's head was still wrapped in a bandage. He looked me up and down and said, "Well, Percy
Jackson. I see Pollux made it through, so I suppose you aren't com-pletely inept. It's all thanks to my
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training, I suppose."
 "Urn, yes, sir," I said.
 Mr. D nodded. "As thanks for my bravery, Zeus has cut my probation at that miserable camp in half. I
now have only fifty years left instead of one hundred."
 "Fifty years, huh?"I tried to imagine putting up with Dionysus until I was an old man, assuming I lived that
 "Don't get so excited, Jackson," he said, and I realized he was saying my name correctly. "I still plan on
making your life miserable."
 I couldn't help smiling. "Naturally."
 "Just so we understand each other." He turned and began repairing his grapevine throne, which had been
singed by fire.
 Grover stayed at my side. From time to time he would break down in tears. "So many nature spirits
dead, Percy. Somany."
 I put my arm around his shoulders and gave him a rag to blow his nose. "You did a great job, G-man.
Wewill come back from this. We'll plant new trees. We'll clean up the parks. Your friends will be
reincarnated into a better world."
 He sniffled dejectedly. "I . . . I suppose. But it was hard enough to rally them before. I'm still an outcast.
I could barely get anyone to listen to me about Pan. Now will they ever listen to me again? I led them into
a slaughter."
 "They will listen," I promised."Because you care about them.  You care about the Wild more than
 He tried for a smile. "Thanks, Percy. I hope . . . I hope you know I'm really proud to be your friend."
 I patted his arm. "Luke was right about one thing, G-man. You're the bravest satyr I ever met."
 He blushed, but before he could say anything, conch horns blew. The army of Poseidon marched into
the throne room.
 "Percy!" Tyson yelled. He charged toward me with his arms open. Fortunately he'd shrunk back to
normal size, so his hug was like getting hit by a tractor, not the entire farm.
 "You are not dead!" he said.
 "Yeah!"I agreed. "Amazing, huh?"
 He clapped his hands and laughed happily. "I am not dead either. Yay! We chained Typhon. It was fun!"
 Behind him, fifty other armored Cyclopes laughed and nodded and gave each other high fives.
 "Tyson led us," one rumbled. "He is brave!"
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 "Bravest of the Cyclopes!" another bellowed.
 Tyson blushed. "Was nothing."
 "I saw you!" I said. "You were incredible!"
 I thought poor Grover would pass out. He's deathly afraid of Cyclopes. But he steeled his nerves and
said, "Yes. Um . . . three cheers for Tyson!"
 "YAAARRRRR!" the Cyclopes roared.
 "Please don't eat me," Grover muttered, but I don't think anyone heard him.
 The conch horns blasted again. The Cyclopes parted, and my father strode into the throne room in his
battle armor, his trident glowing in his hands.
 "Tyson!" he roared. "Well done, my son. And Percy—" His face turned stern. He wagged his finger at
me, and for a second I was afraid he was going to zap me. "I even for-give you for sitting on my throne.
You have saved Olympus!"
 He held out his arms and gave me a hug. Irealized , a lit-tle embarrassed, that I'd never actually hugged
my dad before. He was warm—like a regular human—and he smelled of a salty beach and fresh sea air.
 When he pulled away, he smiled kindly at me. I felt so good, I'll admit I teared up a little. I guess until that
moment I hadn't allowed myself to realize just how terrified I had been the last few days.
 "Shhh," he said. "No hero is above fear, Percy. And you have risen above every hero. Not even
 "POSEIDON!" a voice roared.
 Zeus had taken his throne. He glared across the room at my dad while all the other gods filed in and
took their seats. Even Hades was present, sitting on a simple stone guest chair at the foot of the hearth.
Nico sat cross-legged on the ground at his dad's feet.
 "Well, Poseidon?" Zeus grumped. "Are you too proud to join us in council, my brother?"
 I thought Poseidon was going to get mad, but he just looked at me and winked. "I would be honored,
Lord Zeus."
 I guess miracles do happen. Poseidon strode over to his fishing seat, and the Olympian Council
 While Zeus was talking—some long speech about the brav-ery of the gods, etc.—Annabeth walked in
and stood next to me. She looked good for someone who'd recently passed out.
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 "Miss much?" she whispered.
 "Nobody's planning to kill us, so far," I whispered back.
 "First time today."
 I cracked up, but Grover nudged me because Hera was giving us a dirty look.
 "As for my brothers," Zeus said, "we are thankful"—he cleared his throat like the words were hard to
get out—"erm, thankful for the aid of Hades."
 The lord of the dead nodded. He had a smug look on his face, but I figure he'd earned the right. He
patted his son Nico on the shoulders, and Nico looked happier than I'd ever seen him.
 "And, of course," Zeus continued, though he looked like his pants were smoldering, "we must . . . um . .
. thank Poseidon."
 "I'm sorry, brother," Poseidon said. "What was that?"
 "We must thank Poseidon," Zeus growled. "Without whom . . . it would've been difficult—"
 "Difficult?" Poseidon asked innocently.
 "Impossible," Zeus said. "Impossible to defeat Typhon."
 The gods murmured agreement and pounded their weapons in approval.
 " Which leaves us," Zeus said, "only the matter of thank-ing our young demigod heroes, who defended
Olympus so well—even if there are a few dents in my throne. "
 He called Thalia forward first, since she was his daugh-ter, and promised her help in filling the Hunters'
 Artemis smiled. "You have done well, my lieutenant. You have made me proud, and all those Hunters
who per-ished in my service will never be forgotten. Theywill achieve Elysium, I am sure."
 She glared pointedly at Hades.
 He shrugged. "Probably."
 Artemis glared at him some more.
 "Okay," Hades grumbled. "I'll streamline their applica-tion process."
 Thalia beamed with pride. "Thank you, my lady." She bowed to the gods, even Hades, and then limped
over to stand by Artemis's side.
 "Tyson, son of Poseidon!"Zeus called. Tyson looked nervous, but he went to stand in the middle of the
Council, and Zeus grunted.
 "Doesn't miss many meals, does he?" Zeus muttered. "Tyson, for your bravery in the war, and for
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leading the Cyclopes, you are appointed a general in the armies of Olympus. You shall henceforth lead
your brethren into war whenever required by the gods. And you shall have a new . . . um . . . what kind
of weapon would you like?A sword? An axe?"
 "Stick!" Tyson said, showing his broken club.
 "Very well," Zeus said. "We will grant you a new, er, stick. The best stick that may be found."
 "Hooray!" Tyson cried, and all the Cyclopes cheered and pounded him on the back as he rejoined them.
 "Grover Underwood of the satyrs!" Dionysus called.
 Grover came forward nervously.
 "Oh, stop chewing your shirt," Dionysus chided. "Honestly, I'm not going to blast you. For your bravery
and sacrifice, blah, blah, blah, and since we have an unfortunate vacancy, the gods have seen fit to name
you a member of the Council of Cloven Elders."
 Grover collapsed on the spot.
 "Oh, wonderful," Dionysus sighed, as several naiads came forward to help Grover. "Well, when he
wakes up, someone tell him that he will no longer be an outcast, and that all satyrs, naiads, and other
spirits of nature will hence-forth treat him as a lord of the Wild, with all rights, privi-leges, and honors,
blah, blah, blah. Now please, drag him off before he wakes up and starts groveling."
 "FOOOOOD," Grover moaned, as the nature spirits carried him away.
 I figured he'd be okay. He would wake up as a lord of the Wild with a bunch of beautiful naiads taking
care of him. Life could be worse.
 Athena called, "Annabeth Chase, my own daughter."
 Annabeth squeezed my arm, then walked forward and knelt at her mother's feet.
 Athena smiled. "You, my daughter, have exceeded all expectations. You have used your wits, your
strength, and your courage to defend this city, and our seat of power. It has come to our attention that
Olympus is . . . well, trashed. The Titan lord did much damage that will have to be repaired. We could
rebuild it by magic, of course, and make it just as it was. But the gods feel that the city could be
improved. We will take this as an opportunity. And you, my daughter, will design these improvements."
 Annabeth looked up, stunned. "My . . . my lady?"
 Athena smiled wryly. "You are an architect, are you not? You have studied the techniques of Daedalus
himself. Who better to redesign Olympus and make it a monument that will last for another eon?"
 "You mean . . . I can design whatever I want?"
 "As your heart desires," the goddess said. "Make us a city for the ages."
 "As long as you have plenty of statues of me," Apollo added.
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 "And me," Aphrodite agreed.
 "Hey, and me!"Ares said. "Big statues with huge wicked swords and—"
 "All right!"Athena interrupted. "She gets the point. Rise, my daughter, official architect of Olympus."
 Annabeth rose in a trance and walked back toward me.
 "Way to go," I told her, grinning.
 For once she was at a loss for words. "I'll . . . I'll have to start planning . . . Drafting paper, and, um,
 "PERCY JACKSON!"Poseidon announced. My name echoed around the chamber.
 All talking died down. The room was silent except for the crackle of the hearth fire. Everyone's eyes
were on me—all the gods, the demigods, the Cyclopes, the spirits. I walked into the middle of the throne
room. Hestia smiled at me reassuringly. She was in the form of a girl now, and she seemed happy and
content to be sitting by her fire again. Her smile gave me courage to keep walking.
 First I bowed to Zeus. Then I knelt at my father's feet.
 "Rise, my son," Poseidon said.
 I stood uneasily.
 "A great hero must be rewarded," Poseidon said. "Is there anyone here who would deny that my son is
deserving  ?"
 I waited for someone to pipe up. The gods never agreed on anything, and many of them still didn't like
me, but not a single one protested.
 "The Council agrees," Zeus said. "Percy Jackson, you will have one gift from the gods."
 I hesitated. "Any gift?"
 Zeus nodded grimly. "I know what you will ask.The greatest gift of all. Yes, if you want it, it shall be
yours. The gods have not bestowed this gift on a mortal hero in many centuries, but, Perseus Jackson—if
you wish it—you shall be made a god.Immortal. Undying. You shall serve as your father's lieutenant for all
 I stared at him, stunned. "Um . . . a god?"
 Zeus rolled his eyes. "A dimwitted god, apparently. But yes. With the consensus of the entire Council, I
can make you immortal. Then I will have to put up with you forever."
 "Hmm," Ares mused. "That means I can smash him to a pulp as often as I want, and he'll just keep
coming back for more. I like this idea."
 "I approve as well," Athena said, though she was look-ing at Annabeth.
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 I glanced back. Annabeth was trying not to meet my eyes. Her face was pale. I flashed back to two
years ago, when I'd thought she was going to take the pledge to Artemis and become a Hunter. I'd been
on the edge of a panic attack, thinking that I'd lose her. Now, she looked pretty much the same way.
 I thought about the Three Fates, and the way I'd seen my life flash by. I could avoid all that. No aging,
no death, no body in the grave. I could be a teenager forever, in top condition, powerful, and immortal,
serving my father. I could have power and eternal life.
 Who could refuse that?
 Then I looked at Annabeth again. I thought about my friends from camp: Charles Beckendorf, Michael
Yew,Silena Beauregard, so many others who were now dead. I thought about Ethan Nakamura and
 And I knew what to do.
 "No," I said.
 The Council was silent. The gods frowned at each other like they must have misheard.
 "No?" Zeus said. "You are . . . turning down our gener-ous gift?"
 There was a dangerous edge to his voice, like a thunder-storm about to erupt.
 "I'm honored and everything," I said. "Don't get me wrong. It's just . . . I've got a lot of life left to live. I'd
hate to peak in my sophomore year."
 The gods were glaring at me, but Annabeth had her hands over her mouth. Her eyes were shining. And
that kind of made up for it.
 "I do want a gift, though," I said. "Do you promise to grant my wish?"
 Zeus thought about this."If it is within our power."
 "It is," I said. "And it's not even difficult. But I need your promise on the River Styx."
 "What?" Dionysus cried. "You don't trust us?"
 "Someone once told me," I said, looking at Hades, "you should always get a solemn oath."
 Hades shrugged. "Guilty."
 "Very well!" Zeus growled. "In the name of the Council, we swear by the River Styx to grant your
reasonable request as long as it is within our power."
 The other gods muttered assent. Thunder boomed, shaking the throne room. The deal was made.
 "From now on, I want to you properly recognize the children of the gods," I said. "All the children . . . of
all the gods."
 The Olympians shifted uncomfortably.
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 "Percy," my father said, "what exactly do you mean?"
 "Kronos couldn't have risen if it hadn't been for a lot of demigods who felt abandoned by their parents,"
I said. "They felt angry, resentful, and unloved, and they had a good reason."
 Zeus's royal nostrils flared. "You dare accuse—"
 "No more undetermined children," I said. "I want you to promise to claim your children—all your
demigod children—by the time they turn thirteen. They won't be left out in the world on their own at the
mercy of monsters. I want them claimed and brought to camp so they can be trained right, and survive."
 "Now, wait just a moment," Apollo said, but I was on a roll.
 "And the minor gods," I said. "Nemesis, Hecate, Morpheus, Janus, Hebe-—they all deserve a general
amnesty and a place at Camp Half-Blood. Their children shouldn't be ignored. Calypso and the other
peaceful Titan-kind should be pardoned too. And Hades—"
 "Are you calling me a minor god?"  Hades bellowed.
 "No, my lord," I said quickly. "But your children should not be left out. They should have a cabin at
camp. Nico has proven that. No unclaimed demigods will be crammed into the Hermes cabin anymore,
wondering who their parents are. They'll have their own cabins, for all the gods. And no more pact of the
Big Three.  That didn't work anyway. You've got to stop trying to get rid of powerful demigods. We're
going to train them and accept them instead. All children of the gods will be welcome and treated with
respect. That is my wish."
 Zeus snorted. "Is that all?"
 "Percy," Poseidon said, "you ask much. You presume much."
 "I hold you to your oath," I said. "All of you."
 I got a lot of steely looks. Strangely, it was Athena who spoke up: "The boy is correct. We have been
unwise to ignore our children. It proved a strategic weakness in this war and almost caused our
destruction. Percy Jackson, I have had my doubts about you, but perhaps"—she glanced at Annabeth,
and then spoke as if the words had a sour taste—"perhaps I was mistaken. I move that we accept the
boy's plan."
 "Humph," Zeus said. "Being told what to do by a mere child.  But I suppose . . ."
 "All in favor," Hermes said.
 All the gods raised their hands.
 "Um, thanks," I said.
 I turned, but before I could leave, Poseidon called, "Honor guard!"
 Immediately the Cyclopes came forward and made two lines from the thrones to the door—an aisle for
me to walk through. They came to attention.
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 "All hail, Perseus Jackson," Tyson said."Hero of Olympus . . . and my big brother!"

The Last Olympian - Chapter 21

 Annabeth and I were on our way out when I spotted Hermes in a side courtyard of the palace. He was
staring at an Iris-message in the mist of a fountain.
 I glanced at Annabeth. "I'll meet you at the elevator."
 "You sure?" Then she studied my face. "Yeah, you're sure."
 Hermes didn't seem to notice me approach. The Iris-message images were going so fast I could hardly
understand them. Mortal newscasts from all over the country flashed by: scenes of Typhon's destruction,
the wreckage our battle had left across Manhattan, the president doing a news con-ference, the mayor of
New York, some army vehicles riding down the Avenue of the Americas.
 "Amazing," Hermes murmured. He turned toward me. "Three thousand years, and I will never get over
the power of the Mist . . . and mortal ignorance."
 "Thanks, I guess."
 "Oh, not you. Although, I suppose I should wonder, turning down immortality."
 "It was the right choice."
 Hermes looked at me curiously,then  returned his attention to the Iris-message. "Look at them. They've
already decided Typhon was a freak series of storms. Don't Iwish.  They haven't figured out how all the
statues in Lower Manhattan got removed from their pedestals and hacked to pieces. They keep showing
a shot of Susan B. Anthony strangling Frederick Douglass. But I imagine they'll even come up with a
logical explanation for that."
 "How bad is the city?"
 Hermes shrugged."Surprisingly, not too bad.  The mortals are shaken, of course. But this is New York.
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I've never seen such a resilient bunch of humans. I imagine they'll be back to normal in a few weeks; and
of course I'll be helping."
 "I'm the messenger of the gods. It's my job to monitor what the mortals are saying, and if necessary, help
them make sense of what's happened. I'll reassure them. Trustme, they'll put this down to a freak
earthquake or a solar flare.Anything but the truth."
 He sounded bitter. George and Martha curled around his caduceus, but they were silent, which made
me think that Hermes was really really angry. I probably should've kept quiet, but I said, "I owe  you an
 Hermes gave me a cautious look. "And why is that?"
 "I thought you were a bad father," I admitted. "I thought you abandoned Luke because you knew his
future and didn't do anything to stop it."
 "I did know his future," Hermes said miserably.
 "But you knew more than just the bad stuff—that he'd turn evil. You understood what he would do in
the end. You knew he'd make the right choice. But you couldn't tell him, could you?"
 Hermes stared at the fountain. "No one can tamper with fate, Percy, not even a god. If I had warned him
what was to come, or tried to influence his choices, I would've made things even worse. Staying silent,
staying away from him . . . that was the hardest thing I've ever done."
 "You had to let him find his own path," I said, "and play his part in saving Olympus."
 Hermes sighed. "I should not have gotten mad at Annabeth. When Luke visited her in San Francisco . . .
well, I knew she would have a part to play in his fate. I foresaw that much. I thought perhaps she could
do what I could not and save him. When she refused to go with him, I could barely contain my rage. I
should have known better. I was really angry with myself."
 "Annabeth did save him," I said. "Luke died a hero. He sacrificed himself to kill Kronos."
 "I appreciate your words, Percy. But Kronos isn't dead. You can't kill a Titan."
 "I don't know," Hermes grumbled. "None of us do. Blown to dust.Scattered to the wind. With luck, he's
spread so thin that he'll never be able to form a consciousness again, much less a body. But don't mistake
him for dead, Percy."
 My stomach did a queasy somersault. "What about the other Titans?"
 "In hiding," Hermes said. "Prometheus sent Zeus a message with a bunch of excuses for supporting
Kronos . 'I was just trying to minimize the damage,' blah, blah.He'll keep his head low for a few centuries
if he's smart. Krios has fled, and Mount Othrys has crumbled into ruins. Oceanus slipped back into the
deep ocean when it was clear Kronos had lost. Meanwhile, my son Luke is dead. He died believ-ing I
didn't care about him. I will never forgive myself."
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 Hermes slashed his caduceus through the mist. The Iris-picture disappeared.
 "A long time ago," I said, "you told me the hardest thing about being a god was not being able to help
your children. You also told me that you couldn't give up on your family, no matter how tempting they
made it."
 "And now you know I'm a hypocrite?"
 "No, you were right, Luke loved you. At the end, he realized his fate. I think he realized why you
couldn't help him. He remembered what was important."
 "Too late for him and me."
 "You have other children. Honor Luke by recognizing them. All the gods can do that."
 Hermes's shoulders sagged. "They'll try, Percy. Oh, we'll all try to keep our promise. And maybe for a
while things will get better. But we gods have never been good at keeping oaths. You were born because
of a broken promise, eh? Eventually we'll  become forgetful. We always do."
 "You can change."
 Hermes laughed. "After three thousand years, you think the gods can change their nature?"
 "Yeah," I said. "I do."
 Hermes seemed surprised by that. "You think . . . Luke actually loved me?After all that happened?"
 "I'm sure of it."
 Hermes stared at the fountain. "I'll give you a list of my children. There's a boy in Wisconsin. Two girls in
Los Angeles. A few others. Will you see that they get to camp?"
 "I promise," I said. "And I won't forget."
 George and Martha twirled around the caduceus. I know snakes can't smile, but they seemed to be
 "Percy Jackson," Hermes said, "you might just teach us a thing or two."
 Another god was waiting for me on the way out of Olympus. Athena stood in the middle of the road
with her arms crossed and a look on her face that made me thinkUh-oh.  She'd changed out of her
armor, into jeans and a white blouse, but she didn't look any less warlike. Her gray eyes blazed.
 "Well, Percy," she said. "You will stay mortal."
 "Um, yes, ma'am."
 "I would know your reasons."
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 "I want to be a regular guy. I want to grow up. Have, you know, a regular high school experience."
 "And my daughter?"
 "I couldn't leave her," I admitted, my throat dry. "Or Grover," I added quickly. "Or—"
 "Spare me." Athena stepped close to me, and I could feel her aura of power making my skin itch. "I
once warned you, Percy Jackson, that to save a friend you would destroy the world. Perhaps I was
mistaken. You seem to have saved both your friends and the world. But think very carefully about how
you proceed from here. I have given you the ben-efit of the doubt. Don't mess up."
 Just to prove her point, she erupted in a column of flame, charring the front of my shirt.
 Annabeth was waiting for me at the elevator. "Why do you smell like smoke?"
 "Long story," I said. Together we made our way down to the street level. Neither of us said a word. The
music was awful—Neil Diamond or something. I should've made that part of my gift from the gods:
better elevator tunes.
 When we got into the lobby, I found my mother and Paul arguing with the bald security guy, who'd
returned to his post.
 "I'm telling you," my mom yelled, "wehave to go up! My son—" Then she saw me and her eyes
widened. "Percy!"
 She hugged the breath right out of me.
 "We saw the building lit up blue," she said. "But then you didn't come down. You went up hours ago!"
 "She was getting a bit anxious," Paul said drily.    
 "I'm all right," I promised as my mom hugged Annabeth. "Everything's okay now."
 "Mr. Blofis," Annabeth said, "that was wicked sword work."
 Paul shrugged. "It seemed like the thing to do. ButPercy, is this really . . . I mean, this story about the six
hundredth floor?"
 "Olympus," I said."Yeah."
 Paul looked at the ceiling with a dreamy expression. "I'd like to see that."
 "Paul," my mom chided. "It's not for mortals. Anyway, the important thing is we're safe. All of us."
 I was about to relax. Everything felt perfect. Annabeth and I were okay. My mom and Paul had
survived. Olympus was saved.
 But the life of a demigod is never so easy. Just then Nico ran in from the street, and his face told me
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something was wrong.
 "It's Rachel," he said. "I just ran into her down on 32nd Street."
 Annabeth frowned. "What's she done this time?"
 "It's where she's gone," Nico said. "I told her she woulddie if she tried, but she insisted. She just took
Blackjack and—"
 "She took my pegasus?" I demanded.
 Nico nodded. "She's heading to Half-Blood Hill. She said she had to get to camp."

The Last Olympian - Chapter 19

 The bridge to Olympus was dissolving. We stepped out of the elevator onto the white marble walkway,
and immediately cracks appeared at our feet.
 "Jump!"Groversaid,  which was easy for him since he's part mountain goat.
 He sprang to the next slab of stone while ours tilted sickeningly.
 "Gods, I hate heights!" Thalia yelled as she and I leaped. But Annabeth was in no shape for jumping.
She stumbled and yelled, "Percy!"
 I caught her hand as the pavement fell, crumbling into dust. For a second I thought she was going to pull
us both over .Her feet dangled in the open air. Her hand started to slip until I was holding her only by her
fingers. Then Grover and Thalia grabbed my legs, and I found extra strength. Annabeth was not going to
 I pulled her up and we lay trembling on the pavement. I didn't realize  we had our arms around each other
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until she suddenly tensed.
 "Um, thanks," she muttered.
 I tried to sayDon'tmention it, but it came out as, "Uh duh."
 "Keep moving!" Grover tugged my shoulder. We untan-gled ourselves and sprinted across the sky
bridge as more stones disintegrated and fell into oblivion. We made it to the edge of the mountain just as
the final section collapsed.
 Annabeth looked back at the elevator, which was now completely out of reach—a polished set of metal
doors hanging in space, attached to nothing, six hundred stories above Manhattan.
 "We're marooned," she said."On our own."
 "Blah-ha-ha!" Grover said. "The connection between Olympus and America is dissolving. If it fails—"
 "The gods won't move on to another country this time," Thalia said. "This will be the end of Olympus.
Thefinal  end."
 We ran through streets. Mansions were burning. Statues had been hacked down. Trees in the parks
were blasted to splinters. It looked like someone had attacked the city with a giant Weedwacker.
 "Kronos's scythe," I said.
 We followed the winding path toward the palace of the gods. I didn't remember the road being so long.
Maybe Kronos was making time go slower, or maybe it was just dread slowing me down. The whole
mountaintop was in ruins—so many beautiful buildings and gardens gone.
 A few minor gods and nature spirits had tried to stop Kronos. What remained of them was strewn about
the road: shattered armor, ripped clothing, swords and spears broken in half.
 Somewhere ahead of us, Kronos's voice roared: "Brick by brick! That was my promise. Tear it down
 A white marble temple with a gold dome suddenly exploded. The dome shot up like the lid of a teapot
and shattered into a billion pieces, raining rubble over the city.
 "That was a shrine to Artemis," Thalia grumbled. "He'll pay for that."
 We were running under the marble archway with the huge statues of Zeus and Hera when the entire
mountain groaned, rocking sideways like a boat in a storm.
 "Look out!" Grover yelped. The archway crumbled. I looked up in time to see a twenty-ton scowling
Hera topple  over on us. Annabeth and I would've been flattened, but Thalia shoved us from behind and
we landed just out of danger.
 "Thalia!" Grover cried.
 When the dust cleared and the mountain stopped rock-ing, we found her still alive, but her legs were
pinned under the statue.
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 We tried desperately to move it, but it would've taken several Cyclopes. When we tried to pull Thalia
out from under it, she yelled in pain.
 "I survive all those battles," she growled, "and I get defeated by a stupid chunk of rock!"
 "It's Hera," Annabeth said in outrage. "She's had it in for me all year. Her statue would've killed me if
you hadn't pushed us away."
 Thalia grimaced. "Well, don't just stand there! I'll be fine. Go!"
 We didn't want to leave her, but I could hear Kronos laughing as he approached the hall of the gods.
More build-ings exploded.
 "We'll be back," I promised.
 "I'm not going anywhere," Thalia groaned.
 A fireball erupted on the side of the mountain, right near the gates of the palace.
 "We've got to run," I said.
 "I don't suppose you mean away,"  Grover murmured hopefully.
 I sprinted toward the palace, Annabeth right behind me.
 "I was afraid of that," Grover sighed, and clip-clopped after us.
 The doors of the palace were big enough to steer a cruise ship through, but they'd been ripped off their
hinges and smashed like they weighed nothing. We had to climb over a huge pile of broken stone and
twisted metal to get inside.
 Kronos stood in the middle of the throne room, his arms wide, staring at the starry ceiling as if taking it
all in. His laughter echoed even louder than it had from the pit of Tartarus.
 "Finally!" he bellowed.  "The Olympian Council—so proud and mighty. Which seat of power shall I
destroy first?"
 Ethan Nakamura stood to one side, trying to stay out of the way of his master's scythe. The hearth was
almost dead, just a few coals glowing deep in the ashes. Hestia was nowhere to be seen. Neither was
Rachel. I hoped she was okay, but I'd seen so much destruction I was afraid to think about it. The
Ophiotaurus swam in his water sphere in the far corner of the room, wisely not making a sound, but it
wouldn't be long before Kronos noticed him.
 Annabeth, Grover, and I stepped forward into the torch-light. Ethan saw us first.
 "My lord," he warned.
 Kronos turned and smiled through Luke's face. Except for the golden eyes, he looked just the same as
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he had four years ago when he'd welcomed me into the Hermes cabin. Annabeth made a painful sound in
the back of her throat, like someone had just sucker punched her.
 "Shall I destroy you first, Jackson?" Kronos asked. "Is that the choice you will make—to fight me and
die instead of bowing down? Prophecies never end well, you know."
 "Luke would fight with a sword," I said. "But I suppose you don't have his skill."
 Kronos sneered. His scythe began to change, until he held Luke's old weapon, Backbiter, with its
half-steel, half-Celestial bronze blade.
 Next to me, Annabeth gasped like she'd suddenly had an idea. "Percy, the blade!" She unsheathed her
knife."The hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap."
 I didn't understand why she was reminding me of that prophecy line right now. It wasn't exactly a morale
booster, but before I could say anything, Kronos raised his sword.
 "Wait!" Annabeth yelled.
 Kronos came at me like a whirlwind.
 My instincts took over. I dodged and slashed and rolled, but I felt like I was fighting a hundred
swordsmen. Ethan ducked to one side, trying to get behind me until Annabeth intercepted him. They
started to fight, but I couldn't focus on how she was doing. I was vaguely aware of Grover playing his
reed pipes. The sound filled me with warmth and courage—thoughts of sunlight and a blue sky and a
calm meadow, somewhere far away from the war.
 Kronos backed me up against the throne of Hephaestus—a huge mechanical La-Z-Boy type thing
cov-ered  with bronze and silver gears. Kronos slashed, and I managed to jump straight up onto the seat.
The throne whirred and hummed with secret mechanisms.Defense mode,  it warned.Defense mode.
 That couldn't be good. I jumped straight over Kronos's head as the throne shot tendrils of electricity in
all direc-tions. One hit Kronos in the face, arcing down his body and up his sword.
 "ARG!"He crumpled to his knees and dropped Backbiter.
 Annabeth saw her chance. She kicked Ethan out of the way and charged Kronos. "Luke, listen!"
 I wanted to shout at her, to tell her she was crazy for trying to reason with Kronos, but there was no
time. Kronos flicked his hand. Annabeth flew backward, slamming into the throne of her mother and
crumpling to the floor.
 "Annabeth!" I screamed.
 Ethan Nakamura got to his feet. He now stood between Annabeth and me. I couldn't fight him without
turning my back on Kronos.
 Grover's music took on a more urgent tune. He moved toward Annabeth, but he couldn't go any faster
and keep up the song. Grass grew on the floor of the throne room. Tiny roots crept up between the
cracks of the marble stones.
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 Kronos rose to one knee. His hair smoldered. His face was covered with electrical burns. He reached
for his sword, but this time it didn't fly into his hands.
 "Nakamura!" he groaned. "Time to prove yourself. You know Jackson's secret weakness. Kill him, and
you will have rewards beyond measure."
 Ethan's eyes dropped to my midsection, and I was sure that he knew. Even if he couldn't kill me himself,
all he had to do was tell Kronos. There was no way I could defend myself forever.
 "Look around you, Ethan," I said. "The end of the world.  Is this the reward you want? Do you really
want everything destroyed—the good with the bad?Everything? "
 Grover was almost to Annabeth now. The grass thick-ened on the floor. The roots were almost a foot
long, like a stubble of whiskers.
 "There is no throne to Nemesis," Ethan muttered. "No throne to my mother."
 "That's right!" Kronos tried to get up, but stumbled. Above his left ear, a patch of blond hair still
smoldered. "Strike them down! They deserve to suffer."
 "You said your mom is the goddess of balance," I reminded him. "The minor gods deserve better, Ethan,
but total destruction isn'tbalance. Kronos doesn't build. He only destroys."
 Ethan looked at the sizzling throne of Hephaestus. Grover's music kept playing,  and Ethan swayed to it,
as if the song were filling him with nostalgia—a wish to see a beautiful day, to be anywhere but here. His
good eye blinked.
 Then he charged . . . but not at me.
 While Kronos was still on his knees, Ethan brought down his sword on the Titan lord's neck. It should
have killed him instantly, but the blade shattered. Ethan fell back, grasping his stomach. A shard of his
own blade had rico-cheted and pierced his armor.
 Kronos rose unsteadily, towering over his servant. "Treason," he snarled.
 Grover's music kept playing, and grass grew around Ethan's body. Ethan stared at me, his face tight with
 "Deserve better," he gasped. "If they just . . . had thrones—"
 Kronos stomped his foot, and the floor ruptured around Ethan Nakamura. The son of Nemesis fell
through a fissure that went straight through the heart of the mountain—straight into open air.
 "So much for him." Kronos picked up his sword."And now for the rest of you."
 My only thought was to keep him away from Annabeth.
 Grover was at her side now. He'd stopped playing and was feeding her ambrosia.
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 Everywhere Kronos stepped, the roots wrapped around his feet, but Grover had stopped his magic too
early. The roots weren't thick or strong enough to do much more than annoy the Titan.
 We fought through the hearth, kicking up coals and sparks. Kronos slashed an armrest off the throne of
Ares, which was okay by me, but then he backed me up to my dad's throne.
 "Oh, yes," Kronos said. "This one will make fine kin-dling for my new hearth!"
 Our blades clashed in a shower of sparks. He was stronger than me, but for the moment I felt the power
of the ocean in my arms. I pushed him back and struck again—slashing Riptide across his breastplate so
hard I cut a gash in the Celestial bronze.
 He stamped his foot again and time slowed. I tried to attack but I was moving at the speed of a glacier.
Kronos backed up leisurely, catching his breath. He examined the gash in his armor while I struggled
forward, silently cursing him. He could take all the time-outs he wanted. He could freeze me in place at
will. My only hope was that the effort was draining him. If I could wear him down . . .
 "It's too late, Percy Jackson," he said. "Behold."
 He pointed to the hearth, and the coals glowed. A sheet of white smoke poured from the fire, forming
images like an Iris-message. I saw Nico and my parents down on Fifth Avenue, fighting a hopeless battle,
ringed in enemies. In the background Hades fought from his black chariot, summon-ing wave after wave
of zombies out of the ground, but the forces of the Titan's army seemed just as endless. Meanwhile,
Manhattan was being destroyed. Mortals, now fully awake, were running in terror. Cars swerved and
 The scene shifted, and I saw something even more terrifying.
 A column of storm was approaching the Hudson River, moving rapidly over the Jersey shore. Chariots
circled it, locked in combat with the creature in the cloud.
 The gods attacked. Lightning flashed. Arrows of gold and silver streaked into the cloud like rocket
tracers and exploded. Slowly, the cloud ripped apart, and I saw Typhon clearly for the first time.
 I knew as long as I lived (which might not be that long) I would never be able to get the image out of my
mind. Typhon's head shifted constantly. Every moment he was a different monster, each more horrible
than the last. Looking at his face would've driven me insane, so I focused on his body, which wasn't
much better. He was humanoid, but his skin reminded me of a meat loaf sandwich that had been in
someone's locker all year. He was mottled green, with blis-ters the size of buildings, and blackened
patches from eons of being stuck under a volcano. His hands were human, but with talons like an eagle's.
His legs were scaly and reptilian.
 "The Olympians are giving their final effort." Kronos laughed."How pathetic."
 Zeus threw a thunderbolt from his chariot. The blast lit up the world. I could feel the shock even here on
Olympus, but when the dust cleared, Typhon was still standing. He staggered a bit, with a smoking crater
on top of his misshapen head, but he roared in anger and kept advancing.
 My limbs began to loosen up. Kronos didn't seem to notice. His attention was focused on the fight and
his final victory. If I could hold out a few more seconds, and if my dad kept his word . . .
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 Typhon stepped into the Hudson River and barely sank to midcalf.
 Now, I thought, imploring the image in the smoke.Please, it has to happen now.
 Like a miracle, a conch horn sounded from the smoky picture. The call of the ocean.The call of
 All around Typhon, the Hudson River erupted, churning with forty-foot waves. Out of the water burst a
new chariot—this one pulled by massive hippocampi, who swam in air as easily as in water. My father,
glowing with a blue aura of power, rode a defiant circle around the giant's legs. Poseidon was no longer
an old man. He looked like himself again—tan and strong with a black beard. As he swung his trident,
the river responded, making a funnel cloud around the monster.
 "No!" Kronos bellowed after a moment of stunned silence. "NO!"
 "NOW, MY BRETHREN!" Poseidon's voice was so loud I wasn't sure if I was hearing it from the
smoke image or from all the way across town. "STRIKE FOR OLYM-PUS!"
 Warriors burst out of the river, riding the waves on huge sharks and dragons and sea horses. It was a
legion of Cyclopes, and leading them into battle was . . .
 "Tyson!" I yelled.
 I knew he couldn't hear me, but I stared at him in amazement. He'd magically grown in size. He had to
be thirty feet tall, as big as anyof  his older cousins, and for the first time he was wearing full battle armor.
Riding behind him was Briares, the Hundred-Handed One.
 All the Cyclopes held huge lengths of black iron chains—big enough to anchor a battleship—with
grap-pling hooks at the ends. They swung them like lassos and began to ensnare Typhon, throwing lines
around the creature's legs and arms, using the tide to keep circling, slowly tangling him. Typhon shook
and roared and yanked at the chains, pulling some of the Cyclopes off their mounts; but there were too
many chains. The sheer weight of the Cyclops battalion began to weigh Typhon down. Poseidon threw
his trident and impaled the monster in the throat. Golden blood, immortal ichor, spewed from the wound,
making a waterfall taller than a skyscraper. The trident flew back to Poseidon's hand.
 The other gods struck with renewed force. Ares rode in and stabbed Typhon in the nose. Artemis shot
the monster in the eye with a dozen silver arrows. Apollo shot a blazing volley of arrows and set the
monster's loincloth on fire. And Zeus kept pounding the giant with lightning, until finally, slowly, the water
rose, wrapping Typhon like a cocoon, and he began to sink under the weight of the chains. Typhon
bellowed in agony, thrashing with such force that waves sloshed the Jersey shore, soaking five-story
buildings and splashing over the George Washington Bridge—but down he went as my dad opened a
special tunnel for him at the bottom of the river—an endless waterslide that would take him straight to
Tartarus. The giant's head went under in a seething whirlpool, and he was gone.
 "BAH!" Kronos screamed. He slashed his sword through the smoke, tearing the image to shreds.
 "They're on their way," I said. "You've lost."
 "I haven't even started."
 He advanced with blinding speed. Grover—brave, stu-pid satyr that he was—tried to protect me, but
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Kronos tossed him aside like a rag doll.
 I sidestepped and jabbed under Kronos's guard. It was a good trick. Unfortunately, Luke knew it. He
countered the strike and disarmed me using one of the first moves he'd ever taught me. My sword
skittered across the ground and fell straight into the open fissure.
 "STOP!" Annabeth came from nowhere.
 Kronos whirled to face her and slashed with Backbiter, but somehow Annabeth caught the strike on her
dagger hilt. It was a move only the quickest and most skilled knife fighter could've managed. Don't ask
me where she found the strength, but she stepped in closer for leverage, their blades crossed, and for a
moment she stood face-to-face with the Titan lord, holding him at a standstill.
 "Luke," she said, gritting her teeth, "I understand now. You have to trust me."
 Kronos roared in outrage. "Luke Castellan is dead! His body will burn away as I assume my true form!"
 I tried to move, but my body was frozen again. How could Annabeth, battered and half dead with
exhaustion, have the strength to fight a Titan like Kronos?
 Kronos pushed against her, trying to dislodge his blade, but she held him in check, her arms trembling as
he forced his sword down toward her neck.
 "Your mother," Annabeth grunted. "She saw your fate."
 "Service to Kronos!" the Titan roared. "This is my fate."
 "No!" Annabeth insisted. Her eyes were tearing up, but I didn't know if it was from sadness or pain.
"That's not the end, Luke. The prophecy: she saw what you would do. It applies to you!"
 "I will crush you, child!" Kronos bellowed.
 "You won't," Annabeth said. "You promised. You're holding Kronos back even now."
 "LIES!"Kronos pushed again, and this time Annabeth lost her balance. With his free hand, Kronos
struck her face, and she slid backward.
 I summoned all my will. I managed to rise, but it was like holding the weight of the sky again.
 Kronos loomed over Annabeth, his sword raised.
 Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. She croaked, "Family, Luke. You promised."
 I took a painful step forward. Grover was back on his feet, over by the throne of Hera, but he seemed
to be strug-gling to move as well. Before either of us could get anywhere close to Annabeth, Kronos
 He stared at the knife in Annabeth's hand, the blood on her face. "Promise."
 Then he gasped like he couldn't get air. "Annabeth . . ." But it wasn't the Titan's voice. It was Luke's. He
stumbled forward like he couldn't control his own body. "You're bleeding. . . ."
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 "My knife." Annabeth tried to raise her dagger, but it clattered out of her hand. Her arm was bent at a
funny angle. She looked at me, imploring, "Percy, please . . ."
 I could move again.
 I surged forward and scooped up her knife. I knocked Backbiter out of Luke's hand, and it spun into
the hearth. Luke hardly paid me any attention. He stepped toward Annabeth, but I put myself between
him and her.
 "Don't touch her," I said.
 Anger rippled across his face. Kronos's voice growled: "Jackson . . ." Was it my imagination, or was his
whole body glowing, turning gold?
 He gasped again. Luke's voice: "He's changing. Help. He's . . . he's almost ready. He won't need my
body anymore. Please—"
 "NO!" Kronos bellowed. He looked around for his sword, but it was in the hearth, glowing among the
 He stumbled toward it. I tried to stop him, but he pushed me out of the way with such force I landed
next to Annabeth and cracked my head on the base of Athena's throne.
 "The knife, Percy," Annabeth muttered. Her breath was shallow. "Hero . . . cursed blade . . ."
 When my vision came back into focus, I saw Kronos grasping his sword. Then he bellowed in pain and
dropped it. His hands were smoking and seared. The hearth fire had grown red-hot, like the scythe
wasn't compatible with it. I saw an image of Hestia flickering in the ashes, frowning at Kronos with
 Luke turned and collapsed, clutching his ruined hands. "Please, Percy . . ."
 I struggled to my feet. I moved toward him with the knife. I should kill him. That was the plan.
 Luke seemed to know what I was thinking. He mois-tened his lips. "You can't . . . can't do it yourself.
He'll break my control. He'll defend himself.Only my hand. I know where. I can . . . can keep him
 He was definitely glowing now, his skin starting to smoke.
 I raised the knife to strike. Then I looked at Annabeth, at Grover cradling her in his arms, trying to shield
her. And I finally understood what she'd been trying to tell me.
 You are not the hero, Rachel had said.It will affect what you do.
 "Please," Luke groaned. "No time."
 If Kronos evolved into his true form, there would be no stopping him. He would make Typhon look like
a play-ground bully.
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 The line from the great prophecy echoed in my head:A hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap. My whole
world tipped upside down, and I gave the knife to Luke.
 Grover yelped. "Percy? Are you . . . um . . ."
 Crazy. Insane. Off my rocker.Probably.
 But I watched as Luke grasped the hilt.
 I stood before him—defenseless.
 He unlatched the side straps of his armor, exposing a small bit of his skin just under his left arm, a place
that would be very hard to hit. With difficulty, he stabbed himself.
 It wasn't a deep cut, but Luke howled. His eyes glowed like lava. The throne room shook, throwing me
off my feet. An aura of energy surrounded Luke, growing brighter and brighter. I shut my eyes and felt a
force like a nuclear explo-sion blister my skin and crack my lips.
 It was silent for a long time.
 When I opened my eyes, I saw Luke sprawled at the hearth. On the floor around him was a blackened
circle of ash. Kronos's scythe had liquefied into molten metal and was trickling into the coals of the
hearth, which now glowed like a blacksmith's furnace.
 Luke's left side was bloody. His eyes were open—blue eyes, the way they used to be. His breath was a
deep rattle.
 "Good . . . blade," he croaked.
 I knelt next to him. Annabeth limped over with Grover's support. They both had tears in their eyes.
 Luke gazed at Annabeth. "You knew. I almost killed you, but you knew . . ."
 "Shhh."Her voice trembled. "You were a hero at the end, Luke. You'll go to Elysium."
 He shook his head weakly. "Think . . . rebirth. Try for three times.Isles of the Blest."
 Annabeth sniffled. "You always pushed yourself too hard."
 He held up his charred hand. Annabeth touched his fin-gertips.
 "Did you . . ." Luke coughed and his lips glistened red. "Did you love me?"
 Annabeth wiped her tears away. "There was a time I thought . . . well, I thought . . ." She looked at me,
like she was drinking in the fact that I was still here. And I realized I was doing the same thing. The world
was collapsing, and the only thing that really mattered to me was that she was alive.
 "You were like a brother to me, Luke," she said softly. "But I didn't love you."
 He nodded, as if he'd expected it. He winced in pain.
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 "We can get ambrosia," Grover said. "We can—"
 "Grover," Luke gulped. "You're the bravest satyr I ever knew. But no.  There's no healing. . . ."Another
 He gripped my sleeve, and I could feel  the heat of his skin like a fire. "Ethan. Me. All the unclaimed.  Don't
let it . . . Don't let it happen again."
 His eyes were angry, but pleading too.
 "I won't," I said. "I promise."
 Luke nodded, and his hand went slack.
 The gods arrived a few minutes later in their full war regalia, thundering into the throne room and
expecting a battle.
 What they found were Annabeth, Grover, and me standing over the body of a broken half-blood, in the
dim warm light of the hearth.
 "Percy," my father called, awe in his voice. "What . . . what is this?"
 I turned and faced the Olympians.
 "We need a shroud," I announced, my voice cracking. "A shroud for the son of Hermes."

The Last Olympian - Chapter 17

 "What were you thinking?" Clarisse cradled Silena's head in her lap.
 Silena tried to swallow, but her lips were dry and cracked."Wouldn't . . . listen.  Cabin would . . . only
follow you."
 "So you stole my armor," Clarisse said in disbelief. "You waited until Chris and I went out on patrol; you
stole my armor and pretended to be me." She glared at her siblings. "And NONE of you noticed?"
 The Ares campers developed a sudden interest in their combat boots.
 "Don't blame them," Silena said. "They wanted to . . . to believe I was you."
 "Youstupid  Aphrodite girl," Clarisse sobbed. "You charged a drakon?Why?"
 " All myfault," Silena said, a tear streaking the side of her face. "The drakon, Charlie's death . . . camp
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 "Stop it!" Clarisse said. "That's not true."
 Silena opened her hand. In her palm was a silver bracelet with a scythe charm, the mark of Kronos.
 A cold fistclosed  around my heart. "You were the spy."
 Silena tried to nod. "Before . . . before I liked Charlie, Luke was nice to me. He was so . . . charming.
Handsome. Later, I wanted to stop helping him, but he threatened to tell. He promised . . . he promised I
was saving lives. Fewer people would get hurt. He told me he wouldn't hurt . . . Charlie. He lied to me."
 I met Annabeth's eyes. Her face was chalky. She looked like somebody had just yanked the world out
from under her feet.
 Behind us, the battle raged.
 Clarisse scowled at her cabinmates. "Go, help the centaurs. Protect the doors. GO!"
 They scrambled off to join the fight.
 Silena took a heavy, painful breath. "Forgive me."
 "You're not dying," Clarisse insisted.
 "Charlie . . ." Silena's eyes were a million miles away. "See Charlie . . ."
 She didn't speak again.
 Clarisse held her and wept. Chris put a hand on her shoulder.
 Finally Annabeth closed Silena's eyes.
 "We have to fight." Annabeth's voice was brittle. "She gave her life to help us. We have to honor her."
 Clarisse sniffled and wiped her nose. "She was a hero, understand? A hero."
 I nodded. "Come on, Clarisse."
 She picked up a sword from one of  her fallen siblings. "Kronos is going to pay."
 * * *
 I'd like to say I drove the enemy away from the Empire State Building. The truth was Clarisse did all the
work. Even without her armor or spear, she was a demon. She rode her chariot straight into the Titan's
army and crushed everything in her path.
 She was so inspiring, even the panicked centaurs started to rally. The Hunters scrounged arrows from
the fallen and launched volley after volley into the enemy. The Ares cabin slashed and hacked, which was
their favorite thing. The monsters retreated toward 35th Street.
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 Clarisse drove to the drakon's carcass and looped a grappling line through its eye sockets. She lashed
her horses and took off, dragging the drakon behind the chariot like a Chinese New Year dragon. She
charged after the enemy, yelling insults and daring them to cross her. As she rode, I realized she was
literally glowing. An aura of red fire flick-ered around her.
 "The blessing of Ares," Thalia said. "I've never seen it in person before."
 For the moment, Clarisse was as invincible as I was. The enemy threw spears and arrows, but nothing
hit her.
 "I AM CLARISSE, DRAKON-SLAYER!" she yelled. "I will kill you ALL! Where is Kronos? Bring
him out! Is he a coward?"
 "Clarisse!"I yelled. "Stop it. Withdraw!"
 "What's the matter, Titan lord?" she yelled. "BRING IT ON!"
 There was no answer from the enemy. Slowly, they began to fall back behind a dracaenae shield wall,
while Clarisse drove in circles around Fifth Avenue, daring anyone to cross her path. The
two-hundred-foot-long drakon carcass made a hollow scraping noise against the pavement, like a
thousand knives.
 Meanwhile, we tended our wounded, bringing them inside the lobby. Long after the enemy had retreated
from sight, Clarisse kept riding up and down the avenue with her horrible trophy, demanding that Kronos
meet her battle.
 Chris said, "I'll watch her. She'll get tired eventually. I'll make sure she comes inside."
 "What about the camp?" I asked. "Is anybody left there?"
 Chris shook his head. "Only Argus and the nature spirits.  Peleus the dragon is still guarding the tree."
 "They won't last long," I said. "But I'm glad you came."
 Chris nodded sadly. "I'm sorry it took so long. I tried to reason with Clarisse. I said there's no point in
defending camp if you guys die. All our friends are here. I'm sorry it took Silena . . ."
 "My Hunters will help you stand guard," Thalia said. "Annabeth and Percy, you should go to Olympus. I
have a feeling they'll need you up there—to set up the final defense."
 The doorman had disappeared from the lobby. His book was facedown on the desk and his chair was
empty. The rest of the lobby, however, was jam-packed with wounded campers, Hunters, and satyrs.
 Connor and Travis Stoll met us by the elevators.
 "Is it true?" Connor asked. "About Silena?"
 I nodded. "She died a hero."
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 Travis shifted uncomfortably. "Um, I also heard—"
 "That's it," I insisted. "End of story."
 "Right," Travis mumbled. "Listen, we figure the Titan's army will have trouble getting up the elevator.
They'll have to go up a few at a time. And the giants won't be able to fit at all."
 "That's our biggestadvantage," I said. "Any way to dis-able the elevator?"
 "It's magic," Travis said. "Usually you need a key card, but the doorman vanished. That means the
defenses are crumbling. Anyone can walk into the elevator now and head straight up."
 "Then we have to keep them away from the doors," I said. "We'll bottle them up in the lobby."
 "We need reinforcements," Travis said. "They'll just keep coming. Eventually they'll overwhelm us."
 "There are no reinforcements," Connor complained.
 I looked outside at Mrs. O'Leary, who was breathing against the glass doors and smearing them with
hellhound drool.
 "Maybe that's not true," I said.
 I went outside and put a hand on Mrs. O'Leary s muzzle. Chiron had bandaged her paw, but she was
still limping. Her fur was matted with mud, leaves, pizza slices, and dried monster blood.
 "Hey, girl." I tried to sound upbeat.  "I know you're tired, but I've got one more big favor to ask you." I
leaned next to her and whispered in her ear.
 After Mrs. O'Leary shadow-traveled away, I rejoined Annabeth in the lobby. On the way to the
elevator, we spotted Grover kneeling over a fat wounded satyr.
 "Leneus!" I said.
 The old satyr looked terrible. His lips were blue. There was a broken spear in his belly, and his furry
goat legs were twisted at a painful angle.
 He tried to focus on us, but I don't think he saw us.
 "Grover?" he murmured.
 "I'm here, Leneus." Grover was blinking back tears, despite all the horrible things Leneus had said about
 "Did . . . did we win?"
 "Um . . . yes," Grover lied. "Thanks to you, Leneus. We drove the enemy away."
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 "Told you," the old satyr mumbled. "True leader.  True . . ."
 He closed his eyes for the last time.
 Grover gulped. He put his hand on Leneus's forehead and spoke an ancient blessing. The old satyr's
body melted, until all that was left was a tiny sapling in a pile of fresh soil.
 "A laurel," Grover said in awe. "Oh, that lucky old goat."
 He gathered up the sapling in his hands. "I . . . I should plant him. In Olympus, in the gardens."
 "We're going that way," I said. "Come on."
 Easy-listening music played as the elevator rose. I thought about the first time I'd visited Mount
Olympus, back when I was twelve. Annabeth and Grover hadn't been with me then. I was glad they
were with me now. I had a feeling it might be our last adventure together.
 "Percy," Annabeth said quietly. "You were right about Luke." It was the first time she'd spoken since
Silena Beauregard's death. She kept her eyes fixed on the elevator floors as they blinked into the magical
numbers: 400, 450,500 .
 Grover and I exchanged glances.
 "Annabeth," I said. "I'm sorry—"
 "You tried to tell me." Her voice was shaky. "Luke is no good. I didn't believe you until . . . until I heard
how he'd used Silena. Now I know. I hope you're happy."
 "That doesn't make me happy."
 She put her head against the elevator wall and wouldn't look at me.
 Grover cradled his laurel sapling in his hands. "Well . . . sure good to be together again. Arguing.Almost
dying.Abject terror. Oh, look. It's our floor."
 The doors dinged and we stepped onto the aerial walkway.
 Depressing is not a word that usually describes Mount Olympus, but it looked that way now. No fires lit
the braziers. The windows were dark. The streets were deserted and the doors were barred. The only
movement was in the parks, which had been set up as field hospitals. Will Solace and the other Apollo
campers scrambled around, caring for the wounded. Naiads and dryads tried to help, using nature magic
songs to heal burns and poison.
 As Grover planted the laurel sapling, Annabeth and I went around trying to cheer up the wounded. I
passed a satyrwith a broken leg, a demigod who was bandaged from head to toe, and a body covered in
the golden burial shroud of Apollo's cabin. I didn't know who was underneath. I didn't want to find out.
 My heart felt like lead, but we tried to find positive things to say.
 "You'll be up and fighting Titans in no time!" I told one camper.
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 "You look great," Annabeth told another camper.
 "Leneus turned into a shrub!" Grover told a groaning satyr.
 I found Dionysus's son Pollux propped up against a tree. He had a broken arm, but otherwise he was
 "I can still fight with the other hand," he said, gritting his teeth.
 "No," I said. "You've done enough. I want you to stay here and help with the wounded."
 "Promise me to stay safe," I said. "Okay? Personal favor."
 He frowned uncertainly. It wasn't like we were good friends or anything, but I wasn't going to tell him it
was a request from his dad. That would just embarrass him. Finally he promised, and when he sat back
down, I could tell he was kind of relieved.
 Annabeth, Grover, and I kept walking toward the palace. That's where Kronos would head. As soon as
he made it up   the elevator—and I had no doubt he would, one way or another—he would destroy the
throne room, the center of the gods' power.
 The bronze doors creaked open. Our footsteps echoed on the marble floor. The constellations twinkled
coldly on the ceiling of the great hall. The hearth was down to a dull red glow. Hestia, in the form of a
little girl in brown robes, hunched at its edge, shivering. The Ophiotaurus swam sadly in his sphere of
water. He let out a half-hearted moo when he saw me.
 In the firelight, the thrones cast evil-looking shadows, like grasping hands.
 Standing at the foot of Zeus's throne, looking up at the stars, was Rachel Elizabeth Dare. She was
holding a Greek ceramic vase.
 "Rachel?" I said. "Um, what are you doing with that?"
 She focused on me as if she were coming out of a dream. "I found it. It's Pandora's jar, isn't it?"
 Her eyes were brighter than usual, and I had a bad flashback of moldy sandwiches and burned cookies.
 "Please put down the jar," I said.
 "I can see Hope inside it." Rachel ran her fingers over the ceramic designs."So fragile."
 My voice seemed to bring her back to reality. She held out the jar, and I took it. The clay felt as cold as
 "Grover," Annabeth mumbled. "Let's scout around the palace. Maybe we can find some extra Greek fire
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or Hephaestus traps."
 Annabeth elbowed him.
 "Right!" he yelped. "I love traps!"
 She dragged him out of the throne room.
 Over by the fire, Hestia was huddled in her robes, rock-ing back and forth.
 "Come on," I told Rachel. "I  want you to meet someone."
 We sat next to the goddess.
 "Lady Hestia," I said.
 "Hello, Percy Jackson," the goddess murmured."Getting colder. Harder to keep the fire going."
 "I know," I said. "The Titans are near."
 Hestia focused on Rachel. "Hello, my dear. You've come to our hearth at last."
 Rachel blinked. "You've been expecting me?"
 Hestia held out her hands, and the coals glowed. I saw images in the fire: My mother, Paul, and I eating
Thanksgiving dinner at the kitchen table; my friends and me around the campfire at Camp Half-Blood,
singing songs and roasting marshmallows; Rachel and me driving along the beach in Paul's Prius.
 I didn't know if Rachel saw the same images, but the tension went out of her shoulders. The warmth of
the fire seemed to spread across her.
 "To claim your place at the hearth," Hestia told her, "you must let go of your distractions. It is the only
way you will survive."
 Rachel nodded. "I . . . I understand."
 "Wait," I said. "What is she talking about?"
 Rachel took a shaky breath. "Percy, when I came here . . . I thought I was coming for you. But I wasn't.
You and me . . ." She shook her head.
 "Wait. Now I'm a distraction? Is this because I'm 'not the hero' or whatever?"
 "I'm not sure I can put it into words," she said. "I was drawn to you because . . . because you opened
the door to all of this." She gestured at the throne room. "I needed to understand my true sight. But you
and me, that wasn't part of it. Our fates aren't intertwined. I think you've always known that, deep down."
 I stared at her. Maybe I wasn't the brightest guy in the world when it came to girls, but I was pretty sure
Rachel had just dumped me, which was lame considering we'd never even been together.
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 "So . . .what," I said. '"Thanks for bringing me to Olympus. See ya.' Is that what you're saying?"
 Rachel stared at the fire.
 "Percy Jackson," Hestia said. "Rachel has told you all she can. Her moment is coming, but your decision
approaches even more rapidly. Are you prepared?"
 I wanted to complain that no, I wasn't even close to prepared.
 I looked at Pandora's jar, and for the first time I had an urge to open it. Hope seemed pretty useless to
me right now.So many of my friends were dead.  Rachel was cutting me off. Annabeth was angry with
me. My parents were asleep down in the streets somewhere while a monster army    surrounded the
building. Olympus was on the verge of failing, and I'd seen so many cruel things the gods had done: Zeus
destroying Mariadi  Angelo, Hades cursing the last Oracle, Hermes turning his back on Luke even when
he knew his son would become evil.
 Surrender, Prometheus's voice whispered in my ear.Otherwise your home will be destroyed. Your
precious camp will burn.
 ThenI looked at Hestia. Her red eyes glowed warmly. I remembered the images I'd seen in her
hearth—friends and family, everyone I cared about.
 I remembered something Chris Rodriguez had said: There's no point in defending camp if you guys
die. All our friends are here. And Nico, standing up to hisfather,  Hades: If Olympus falls, he  said,your
own palace's safety doesn't matter.
 I heard footsteps. Annabeth and Grover came back into the throne room and stopped when they saw
us. I probably had a pretty strange look on my face.
 "Percy?" Annabeth didn't sound angry  anymore—just concerned. "Should we, um, leave again?"
 Suddenly I felt like someone had injected me with steel. I understood what to do.
 I looked at Rachel. "You're not going to do anything stupid, are you? I mean . . . you talked to Chiron,
 She managed a faint smile. "You're worried about me doing something stupid?"
 "But I mean . . . will you be okay?"
 "I don't know," she admitted. "That kind of depends on whether you save the world, hero."
 I picked up Pandora's jar. The spirit of Hope fluttered inside, trying to warm the cold container.
 "Hestia," I said, "I give this to you as an offering."
 The goddess tilted her head. "I am the least of the gods. Why would you trust me with this?"
 "You're the last Olympian," I said."And the most important."
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 "And why is that, Percy Jackson?"
 "Because Hope survives best at the hearth," I said. "Guard it for me, and I won't be tempted to give up
 The goddess smiled. She took the jar in her hands and it began to glow. The hearth fire burned a little
 "Well done, Percy Jackson," she said. "May the gods bless you.  "
 "We're about to find out." I looked at Annabeth and Grover. "Come on, guys."
 I marched toward my father's throne.
 The seat of Poseidon stood just to the right of Zeus's, but it wasn't nearly as grand. The molded black
leather seat was attached to a swivel pedestal, with a couple of iron rings on the side for fastening a
fishing pole (or a trident). Basically it looked like a chair on a deep-sea boat, that you would sit in if  you
wanted to hunt shark or marlin or sea monsters.
 Gods in their natural state are about twenty feet tall, so I could just reach the edge of the seat if I
stretched my arms.
 "Help me up," I told Annabeth and Grover.
 "'Are you crazy?" Annabeth asked.
 "Probably," I admitted.
 "Percy," Grover said, "the godsreally don't appreciate people sitting in their thrones. I mean like
turn-you-into-a-pile-of-ashes don't appreciate it."
 "I need to get his attention," I said. "It's the only way."
 They exchanged uneasy looks.
 "Well," Annabeth said, "this'll get his attention."
 They linked their arms to make a step, then  boosted me onto the throne. I felt like a baby with my feet so
high off the ground. I looked around at the other gloomy, empty thrones, and I could imagine what it
would be like sitting on the Olympian Council—so much power but so much arguing, always eleven other
gods trying to get their way. It would be easy to  get paranoid, to look out only for my own interest,
especially if I were Poseidon. Sitting in his throne, I felt like I had the entire sea at my command—vast
cubic miles of ocean churning with power and mystery. Why should Poseidon listen to anyone? Why
shouldn't he be the greatest of the twelve?
 Then I shook my head. Concentrate.
 The throne rumbled. A wave of gale-force anger slammed into my mind:
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 The voice stopped abruptly. The anger retreated, which was a good thing, because just those two words
had almost blasted my mind to shreds.
 Percy. My father's voice was still angry but more controlled. What —exactly —are you doing on my
 "I'm sorry, Father," I said. "I needed to get your attention."
 This was a very dangerous thing to do. Even for you. If I hadn't looked before I blasted, you would now
be a puddle of seawater.
 "I'm sorry," I said again. "Listen, things are rough up here."
 I told him what was happening. Then I told him my plan.
 His voice was silent for a long time.
 Percy, what you ask is impossible. My palace —
 "Dad, Kronos sent an army against you on purpose. He wants to divide you from the other gods
because he knows you could tip the scales."
 Be that as it may, he attacks my home.
 "I'm at  your home," I said. "Olympus."
 The floor shook. A wave of anger washed over my mind. I thought I'd gone too far, but then the
trembling eased. In the background of my mental link, I heard underwater explosions and the sound of
battle cries: Cyclopes bellowing, mermen shouting.
 "Is Tyson okay?" I asked.
 The question seemed to take my dad by surprise. He's fine.Doing much better than I expected.Though
"peanut butter" is a strange battle cry.
 "You let him fight?"
 Stop changing the subject! You realize what you are asking me to do? My palace will be destroyed.
 "And Olympus might be saved."
 Do you have any idea how long I've worked on remodeling this palace? The game room alone took six
hundred years.
 Very well! It shall be as you say. But my son, pray this works.
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 "I am praying. I'm talking to you, right?"
 Oh . . . yes. Good point. Amphitrite —incoming!
 The sound of a large explosion shattered our connec-tion.
 I slipped down from the throne.
 Grover studied me nervously. "Are you okay? You turned pale and . . . you started smoking."
 "I did not!" Then I looked at my arms. Steam was curling off my shirtsleeves. The hair on my arms was
 "If you'd sat there any longer," Annabeth said, "you would've spontaneously combusted. I hope the
conversation was worth it?"
 Moo, said the Ophiotaurus in his sphere of water.
 "We'll find out soon," I said.
 Just then the doors of the throne room swung open. Thalia marched in. Her bow was snapped in half
and her quiver was empty.
 "You've got to get down there," she told us. "The enemy is advancing. And Kronos is leading them."