“Yes,” the centaur said. “I know the Ares cabin is anxious to return to the woods for our regular games. ”
“And kill people!” one of them shouted.
“However,” Chiron said, “until the dragon is brought under control, that won’t be possible. Cabin Nine, anything to report on that?”
He turned to Leo’s group. Leo winked at Piper and shot her with a finger gun. The girl next to him stood uncomfortably. She wore an army jacket a lot like Leo’s, with her hair covered in a red bandanna. “We’re working on it. ”
“How, Nyssa?” an Ares kid demanded.
“Really hard,” the girl said.
Nyssa sat down to a lot of yelling and complaining, which caused the fire to sputter chaotically. Chiron stamped his hoof against the fire pit stones—bang, bang, bang—and the campers fell silent.
“We will have to be patient,” Chiron said. “In the meantime, we have more pressing matters to discuss. ”
“Percy?” someone asked. The fire dimmed even further, but Piper didn’t need the mood flames to sense the crowd’s anxiety.
Chiron gestured to Annabeth. She took a deep breath and stood.
“I didn’t find Percy,” she announced. Her voice caught a little when she said his name. “He wasn’t at the Grand Canyon like I thought. But we’re not giving up. We’ve got teams everywhere. Grover, Tyson, Nico, the Hunters of Artemis —everyone’s out looking. We will find him. Chiron’s talking about something different. A new quest. ”
“It’s the Great Prophecy, isn’t it?” a girl called out.
Everyone turned. The voice had come from a group in back, sitting under a rose-colored banner with a dove emblem. They’d been chatting among themselves and not paying much attention until their leader stood up: Drew.
Everyone else looked surprised. Apparently Drew didn’t address the crowd very often.
“Drew?” Annabeth said. “What do you mean?”
“Well, come on. ” Drew spread her hands like the truth was obvious. “Olympus is closed. Percy’s disappeared. Hera sends you a vision and you come back with three new demigods in one day. I mean, something weird is going on. The Great Prophecy has started, right?”
Piper whispered to Rachel, “What’s she talking about—the Great Prophecy?”
Then she realized everyone else was looking at Rachel, too.
“Well?” Drew called down. “You’re the oracle. Has it started or not?”
Rachel’s eyes looked scary in the firelight. Piper was afraid she might clench up and start channeling a freaky peacock goddess again, but she stepped forward calmly and addressed the camp.
“Yes,” she said. “The Great Prophecy has begun. ”
Pandemonium broke out.
Piper caught Jason’s eye. He mouthed, You all right? She nodded and managed a smile, but then looked away. It was too painful seeing him and not being with him.
When the talking finally subsided, Rachel took another step toward the audience, and fifty-plus demigods leaned away from her, as if one skinny redheaded mortal was more intimidating than all of them put together.
“For those of you who have not heard it,” Rachel said, “the Great Prophecy was my first prediction. It arrived in August. It goes like this:
“Seven half-bloods shall answer the call. To storm or fire the world must fall—”
Jason shot to his feet. His eyes looked wild, like he’d just been tasered.
Even Rachel seemed caught off guard. “J-Jason?” she said. “What’s—”
“Ut cum spiritu postrema sacramentum dejuremus,” he chanted. “Et hostes ornamenta addent ad ianuam necem. ”
An uneasy silence settled on the group. Piper could see from their faces that several of them were trying to translate the lines. She could tell it was Latin, but she wasn’t sure why her hopefully future boyfriend was suddenly chanting like a Catholic priest.
“You just … finished the prophecy,” Rachel stammered. “—An oath to keep with a final breath/And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death. How did you—”
“I know those lines. ” Jason winced and put his hands to his temples. “I don’t know how, but I know that prophecy. ”
“In Latin, no less,” Drew called out. “Handsome and smart. ”
There was some giggling from the Aphrodite cabin. God, what a bunch of losers, Piper thought. But it didn’t do much to break the tension. The campfire was burning a chaotic, nervous shade of green.
Jason sat down, looking embarrassed, but Annabeth put a hand on his shoulder and muttered something reassuring. Piper felt a pang of jealousy. It should have been her next to him, comforting him.
Rachel Dare still looked a little shaken. She glanced back at Chiron for guidance, but the centaur stood grim and silent, as if he were watching a play he couldn’t interrupt—a tragedy that ended with a lot of people dead onstage.