Will decided to drop Mira off at her cabin first. Percy was missing (duh! she told herself), so she didn't have any half siblings to meet. Will told her to go to the dining pavilion when the bell rang, and then left to show Leo around. She shrugged, and turned back to her cabin.
The Poseidon cabin was pretty, she had to admit. The cabin was low, long and solid, with all the windows facing the sea. Though her family died during a raging storm over crashing water, Mira felt at peace when she gazed at the waves hitting the shore. The outer walls of the cabin were made of rough gray stone with pieces of seashell and coral. It looked like the bottom of the ocean floor. Mira picked up one of the sand dollars that had fallen on the floor in front of the door. She frowned. She could tell it was still alive because of the color. How did it get here?
Mira looked around furtively, before realizing she didn't need to; there was nobody here who could get angry at her for taking a walk. Mind made, Mira strolled to the beach and put the creature on the sand. Maybe it was just a mirage, but Mira thought she saw a flash of green when the sand dollar buried itself under the beach. In it's place appeared a tiny golden sea turtle. Mira's eyes narrowed as the turtle wriggled to her feet.
Was she suppose to pick it up?
Mira shrugged and did just that, holding it in her tiny hand. She screamed and dropped it immediately when it started shrinking rapidly in her hand, and the turtle fell into the sand. Another flash of silver appeared, and Mira stared at the turtle curiously.
Curiously, Mira picked it up again, more carefully this time. Nothing happened. Mira examined the turtle, which now had a near-complete circle attached to it. Her eyes brightened with realization. It was supposed to be a nose ring! She gazed at the beach with wonder, trying to find the sand dollar. Was this from her supposed father?
She thought so. Hesitantly, Mira took out the stud she had in her nose already and put the turtle ring in. She smiled after that. It felt nice to receive a gift. She hadn't gotten one in a long time.
Mission accomplished, Mira walked back to her cabin. She had a great sense of navigation. She quietly slipped into the structure, hoping no one had noticed her. The cabin wasn't too bad, Mira thought.
On the inside, it had six empty bunk beds and the walls were glowing, like abalone. There was a fountain in the room, with sparkling, crystal-like water flowing through it. The fountain was made out of gray sea rock, had a fish that spouted the water from its mouth, and had a coral decoration. The bottom was filled with what Mira assumed were golden drachmas, which reflected the sunlight that was streaming through the window. Mira went over to examine the fountain from up close. She noticed that there was a crack in the sea rock, and she remembered how Percy had destroyed the fountain when he had gotten a message from Bianca that one time.
On the windowsill near the bunk beds were underwater plants and corals, like water hyacinths and water lilies, and even a couple of lotuses. The coral were all vibrant, and light reflected off of them on a wall across the room, which made it look like an underwater light show was on display. It was all so colorful and bright and whimsically happy. Mira loved it.
Mira set the bag full of stuff Will had handed her- clothes, water bottles, a toiletry kit, a blanket, and some pastry looking thing- on the bedside table. Will had told her to put the pastry inside a first aid kit that was hidden under some bed. Mira guessed it was ambrosia. Instead of rushing to put everything away, Mira tiredly collapsed on the closest bed. On the ceiling, she could see bronze sea creatures hanging by threads, like mobiles.
Mira hadn't even noticed she had been dozing off until she woke up in the bunk bed, disoriented. She had just felt so comfortable. She got up rather lazily and put away all her new, 'Demigod Life Starter Kit' material away. Then she decided to take a shower and change. Finally, she'd be free of this blasted outfit. But as she grabbed her clothes, she noticed a couple of pictures taped to the wall near one of the other beds.
Mira's heart skipped a beat when she noticed it was a picture of Percy and Annabeth. They were adorable. Both of them were smiling, their heads leaned in towards each other. It seemed like a candid. There was one of Percy and a ginger haired boy- Grover, probably, based off the rather telling goat legs. They were both laughing as Annabeth glared at them. The third was of of Percy with a brown haired, burly looking boy. He had only one eye, so it was easy to guess who that was. Mira's eyes fell when she felt guilty for making these people go through the war all over again.
She sighed deeply, and went to take a shower to calm herself down. She let the warm water flow over her soothingly, even played with it just a bit, but it didn't really work in washing away her worries. She just felt so miserable. After a long shower, Mira hopped out, and threw on a Camp Half-Blood shirt (the real thing, not some merchandise meant to be sold to fans all over the world), and paired it with jeans and a hoodie. Just as she had finished drying her damp hair with a towel, there was a knock on the door. She rushed to the door, and opened it.
It was Will.
"Hi," She spoke carefully, not sure why he was there.
"You skipped dinner."
Will rolled his eyes, and gave her a smile. "Come on, Ariel. I came by earlier to call you, but you didn't answer. Figured you were asleep, so I decided not to wake you. You had a tough day today."
"I saved you some food. You can have it at the campfire."
Mira smiled brightly at that. Will was just too sweet.
"Thanks, Will," she beamed.
"That certainly cheered you up," he grinned, raising an eyebrow.
"It's FOOD. Of course I'm excited," Mira joked. She felt at ease with Will, though she was usually pretty closed off.
"True. Now let's go," he said, and dragged her to the campfire by her hand. Mira laughed, and struggled out of his grip when they arrived.
The amphitheater steps were carved into the side of a hill, facing a stone-lined fire pit. Fifty or sixty kids filled the rows, clustered into groups under various banners. Mira spotted Jason in the front next to Annabeth. Piper was seated with the Hermes kids, and Leo was nearby, sitting with a bunch of burly-looking campers under a steel gray banner emblazoned with a hammer. Standing in front of the fire, half a dozen campers with guitars and strange, old-fashioned harps—lyres?—were jumping around, leading a song about pieces of armor, something about how their grandma got dressed for war.
"Wow. Those your siblings?"
"Yup," Will smiled at them fondly.
"Guess I'll see you later," Mira said, a little reluctantly as she glanced at the banner with a trident. Without Percy or Tyson, nobody was there. She'd be alone, like always.
Will was too distracted to notice Mira's mood. "See ya!" he said, waving excitedly as he joined his brothers and sisters at the singalong. Mira sighed as she sat under the Poseidon banner. She sat quietly and ate the food that Will had so generously placed on the seat there. Everybody was singing with the Apollo kids, and gesturing for the pieces of armor and joking around. It was quite possibly the weirdest thing Mira had ever witnessed, but it looked very fun, too. Very camp-y. Mira had never been to a camp before in her life, and she loved the idea of sing-alongs.
As the energy level got higher, the flames did too, turning from red to orange to gold. Finally the song ended with a lot of rowdy applause. Mira joined in, clapping heartily as she laughed. This was why she wanted to come here. Somehow, she felt more at home here than she ever did back in her own world. Laughing, Mira glanced up in the direction of the Big House. That's when she saw him.
A guy on a horse trotted up. At least in the flickering light, that's what it looked like. Then Mira realized it was a centaur— more specifically, Chiron. He was exactly how she had imagined him. His top half was a middle-aged guy with curly hair and a trimmed beard, and his bottom half was a white stallion. He brandished a spear impaled with toasted marshmallows.
“Very nice! And a special welcome to our new arrivals. I am Chiron, camp activities director, and I’m happy you have all arrived here alive and with most of your limbs attached. In a moment, I promise we’ll get to the s’mores, but first—”
"What about capture the flag?” somebody yelled.
Grumbling broke out among some kids in armor, sitting under a red banner with the emblem of a boar’s head.
“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.
Oh, gods. Mira thought, shuddering at the idea. Those Ares kids were a bit much for her.
“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. Mira saw Leo winking at Piper. 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. Mira didn't like it. It's not like the Hephaestus kids were being lazy. They were the ones handling a dragon problem all by themselves. The others should be at least a little nicer about it.
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 the mood flames weren't needed to see how anxious the crowd was. 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.”
Annabeth looked like she wanted to say more, and from the way she turned to Mira, she knew it had to do with her. Mira felt nervous all of a sudden. Before Annabeth could utter a single word, a familiar voice rang out.
“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. Mira had to admit it: the girl was smart. “Olympus is closed. Percy’s disappeared. Hera sends you a vision and you come back with four new demigods in one day. One of them is Percy's sister, a daughter of the big three. I mean, something weird is going on. The Great Prophecy has started, right?”
Everyone turned to another girl this time, one sitting next to Piper. She had wild, curly red hair and freckles all over the place. It was hard to see her expression from the dim light, but it was clear she wasn't happy.
"Well?” Drew called down. “You’re the oracle. Has it started or not?”
It was Rachel. Rachel Elizabeth Dare. Another mortal, like Mira, who had been thrust into this world. Mira had never related with Rachel as much as she did right now.
Rachel stepped forward calmly and addressed the camp. “Yes,” she said. “The Great Prophecy has begun.”
Mira sucked in a breath, though she knew this was coming. She set down her food. All of a sudden, she wasn't too hungry.
It was all finally starting. But what was Mira's role here?
The moment Rachel spoke, pandemonium broke out. Mira watched everyone with wide eyes. When the talking finally subsided, Rachel took another step toward the audience, and fifty-plus demigods leaned away from her, as if one skinny red-headed 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. It was Latin, not that Mira could understand it, but she could see that the language itself made the Greeks nervous.
"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. Could they not see that now was just not the time?! But a glance at Drew told Mira that the girl had been trying to lighten the suddenly tense mood.
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. Mira turned to Piper. She was staring at the two of them sadly. Mira huffed. She hated not being able to do anything.
Next to Piper, Rachel 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.
“Well,” Rachel said, trying to regain her composure. “So, yeah, that’s the Great Prophecy. We hoped it might not happen for years, but I fear it’s starting now. I can’t give you proof. It’s just a feeling. And like Drew said, some weird stuff is happening. The seven demigods, whoever they are, have not been gathered yet. I get the feeling some are here tonight. Some are not here.”
The campers began to stir and mutter, looking at each other nervously, until a drowsy voice in the crowd called out, “I’m here! Oh… were you calling roll?”
“Go back to sleep, Clovis,” someone yelled, and a lot of people laughed.
"Anyway,” Rachel continued, “we don’t know what the Great Prophecy means. We don’t know what challenge the demigods will face, but since the first Great Prophecy predicted the Titan War, we can guess the second Great Prophecy will predict something at least that bad.”
Or worse... Mira thought glumly.
“Or worse,” Chiron murmured. Maybe he didn’t mean everyone to overhear, but they did. The campfire immediately turned dark purple.
“What we do know,” Rachel said, “is that the first phase has begun. A major problem has arisen, and we need a quest to solve it. Hera, the queen of the gods, has been taken.”
Shocked silence. Then fifty demigods started talking at once. Chiron pounded his hoof again, but Rachel still had to wait before she could get back their attention. She told them about the incident on the Grand Canyon skywalk—how Gleeson Hedge had sacrificed himself when the storm spirits attacked, and the spirits had warned it was only the beginning.
They apparently served some great mistress who would destroy all demigods. Then Rachel told them about Piper passing out in Hera’s cabin. Piper had fainted?! How much had Mira missed?! She hadn't been there for her friend, once again. Mira felt like a failure.
Finally Rachel told them about Jason’s vision in the living room of the Big House. This was much worse than Mira had thought. The major plot had already started, and Mira was starting to forget everything faster and faster.
Everything... including the sound of her dad's booming laugh, or the way her mom used to dance while she was making aloo paratha. The way her father teased her mother when she got excited to wear traditional Indian clothes, and how her mother could get along with everyone. Tears filled her eyes, but she blinked them away furiously. No. She wasn't going to forget her mom and dad. She refused. One tear slipped out despite her best efforts, and she wiped it away angrily, accidentally meeting Leo's gaze. He rolled his eyes, as if ridiculing her for crying over Jason's vision. Mira glared. He had no idea what she was going through.
“Jason,” Rachel said. “Um… Do you remember your last name?” He looked self-conscious, but he shook his head.
“We’ll just call you Jason, then,” Rachel said. “It’s clear Hera herself has issued you a quest.”
Rachel paused, as if giving Jason a chance to protest his destiny. Everyone’s eyes were on him; there was so much pressure, Mira felt nervous just thinking about how tense Jason must be. But the mini Superman looked brave and determined. He set his jaw and nodded. “I agree.”
“You must save Hera to prevent a great evil,” Rachel continued. “Some sort of king from rising. For reasons we don’t yet understand, it must happen by the winter solstice, only four days from now.”
“That’s the council day of the gods,” Annabeth said. “If the gods don’t already know Hera’s gone, they will definitely notice her absence by then. They’ll probably break out fighting, accusing each other of taking her. That’s what they usually do.”
“The winter solstice,” Chiron spoke up, “is also the time of greatest darkness. The gods gather that day, as mortals always have, because there is strength in numbers. The solstice is a day when evil magic is strong. Ancient magic, older than the gods. It is a day when things… stir.”
The way he said it, stirring sounded absolutely sinister— like it should be a first-degree felony, not something you did to cookie dough.
“Okay,” Annabeth said, glaring at the centaur. “Thank you, Captain Sunshine. Whatever’s going on, I agree with Rachel. Jason has been chosen to lead this quest, so—”
“Why hasn’t he been claimed?” somebody yelled from the Ares cabin. “If he’s so important—”
“He has been claimed,” Chiron announced. “Long ago. Jason, give them a demonstration.”
At first, Jason didn’t seem to understand. He stepped forward nervously. For reassurance, he glanced at Piper, and she nodded encouragingly. She mimicked flipping a coin. Jason reached into his pocket. His coin flashed in the air, and when he caught it in his hand, he was holding a lance—a rod of gold about seven feet long, with a spear tip at one end. The other demigods gasped. Rachel and Annabeth stepped back to avoid the point, which looked sharp as an ice pick.
“Wasn’t that…” Annabeth hesitated. “I thought you had a sword."
“Um, it came up tails, I think,” Jason said. “Same coin, long-range weapon form."
“Dude, I want one!” yelled somebody from Ares cabin.
“Better than Clarisse’s electric spear, Lamer!” one of his brothers agreed.