Mist Tag Becomes Far Too Easy
I showed Helen the rest of the cabins, Thalia’s pine tree, the canoe lake, the amphitheater, the rock wall (which was currently spraying lava all over the area), and the fireworks beach before finally taking her to the Mess Hall for Dinner. We arrived just in time, slipping into our seats just before the nymphs came out with the food. I sat at the head table next to Chiron and Dionysus, though fortunately I sat on the opposite end as the wine god. Chiron gave me a little bit of a stink eye for my near tardiness, which was kind of bothersome. Usually, the other campers would agree that Chiron was like a really cool uncle who was very chill and just went along with whatever happened, as long as no one got hurt. However, since I’d fled from the camp without permission last year, breaking the camp’s #1 rule, he’d tagged me as a rebel, which anyone who knew me well would laugh at. I was definitely no rebel—in fact, the only reason I’d left the camp was because Heather and Jordan were willing to go. If they hadn’t brought it up, I probably wouldn’t have even considered leaving. But the thought of losing absolutely all my close friends on one quest? That pushed me too far.
No, in reality, I’m pretty much the least rebellious person I know. All my friends talk about how they get into arguments with their parents, but I never had any issues with my stepdad. For whatever reason, the teenage brat inside me never really awakened, and since I knew perfectly well that he’d adopted me from my real mother after her death, and continued to care for me after his own wife’s death, I never wanted to cause him any more trouble. After I came to Camp Half-Blood the first time, and after the incident on Mt. McKinley, I went home to Dallas for a while, where we both decided it would be best for me to live at camp, so I could live out my duties as Oracle.
Once everyone had been given a silver platter and a goblet, Chiron stood to say a few words.
“Before we begin, I would like to remind those of you who know, and notify any of you don’t, that two new campers arrived today. Helen and Dylan, if you would both stand please.”
Helen stood up at the Nemesis table, while a tall, slender, blonde boy around age 11 rose at the other end of the hall, at the Hermes table. He waved shyly at the rest of the campers, and Helen copied him.
“As you can see, Helen has already been placed in the Nemesis cabin, while Dylan remains unclaimed, and so will be staying at the Hermes cabin. Please treat each of them with the same respect you give to every other camper. Thank you.”
He sat down, and quickly snatched the largest piece of steak from the platter in front of him and bit into it like a savage. One thing most people didn’t know was that Chiron, when he was hungry, became more beast than man. It was practically the only time I’d see past the mild-mannered camp director and realize that he was, in fact, a Greek Monster.
Placing a chicken breast on my plate, I looked over at Jordan, who was currently trying to keep Megan from using the entire array of food platters as her own plate. As I watched, she kicked over her silver goblet, which spilled an orange liquid onto the table and the floor. Jordan rolled his eyes and simply gave up at this point, grabbing a cob of corn before Megan dragged everything to her side.
Helen seemed to be getting along fine with her new cabin-mates, though one wasn’t talking very much at all. The most surprising thing was, despite all their tough, rugged exteriors, they seemed to be talking about the Rainbow Dash on Helen’s shirt. I guess, much like their cabin, they have two very contrasting side of their personality.
I grabbed my silverware and dug into my chicken, quietly eating while Chiron went to town next to me. Unfortunately, since I did sit at the head table, there really wasn’t anyone to talk to except for the horseman who always kept his eye on me.
I picked up my own goblet and whispered into it.
“G-Force,” I said, as I always did. G-Force was a mango drink that was (strangely) bright green. My mother, my real one, had brought it to me from New Zealand once, and ever since, it’d been my favorite drink of all time.
The cup instantly filled with the green drink, as it did with any drink that it was told. I smiled and took a sip, trying to pass the burp that came afterwards as a cough.
Once dinner was over, I walked over to Jordan, where I handed him a piece of steak I’d placed in a little ziploc bag. He ate it quickly, while Megan went running off to the volleyball court. Helen joined us, saying goodbye to Jenny and the two other Nemesis children.
“Thanks man,” Jordan said, wiping his face with the back of his hand.
“Sure.” We all started walking towards the North woods, to finish Helen’s tour of the camp, while me and Jordan filled her in on all the stories about the different places we saw.
Once we reached the woods, though, I looked back and saw that Megan had left the volleyball court.
“You sure she’s not gonna go run around the cabin?” I asked Jordan, and he shrugged.
“She doesn’t usually like to go inside after dinner. And if she does, well . . . meh.”
I chuckled. “All right.”
Just as I started turning back around to lead Helen to Zeus’s Fist, a pile of boulders that looked a little like the god punching his way out of the ground at the right angle, Laurel crashed into me from thin air.
“Oh my gods, Laurel!” I yelled, picking myself up off of the hard soil, dusting off some of the dirt and leaves from my hair. “What was that?”
“Sorry,” she said, reaching her hand out to me. “Mix-up.”
“Mix-up?” I asked, but she ignored me.
“Hey Jordan!” she said, and hi-fived him. She examined Helen for a second before awkwardly saying, “Heeeeey . . .”
“Helen,” she offered, and Laurel nodded.
“Right,” she said, tapping her index finger on the side of her head. “Helen of Detroit.”
Me and Jordan simultaneously looked at each other, not saying anything, but it was clear we were both laughing in our heads.
“Yep,” Helen said, “And you’re Laurel, right?”
“Yes indeedio!” she answered, and ran further into the woods just a little bit. “Like that Mountain Laurel over there!” she shouted, pointing at her tree off in the distance.
“Got it,” Helen said, and only then noticed that Jordan and I were laughing at her name. “Yes, Helen of Detroit. I know what you’re thinking, and thank you for comparing me to the face that launched a thousand ships.”
It wasn’t like that was an insult.
“So,” Laurel said casually, sliding into place between me and Helen. “You guys showing Helen around?”
“Yeah, we’re—” Jordan started, but Helen stopped him.
“Have you taken her to see Thalia’s Pine?”
“Yeah, I took her there before din—”
“Yeah, we went there right after—”
“The rock wall?”
“The canoe lake?”
“Laurel! We’ve already gone to all those places . . . I mean, not Zeus’s Fist, we were going there now, but—”
“Ooh Zeus’s Fist! Come on, I’ll lead you guys!”
“No, Laurel!” I yelled, but she’d already run ahead.
“That was . . . interesting,” Helen said, watching Laurel as she ran through the trees.
“I swear she’s not usually that . . . that . . .”
“Hyper,” Jordan suggested, and I nodded. “She really isn’t Helen. I don’t know what’s gotten into her.”
“I think I do,” Helen said, but shook her head as soon as she did.
“Why?” I asked.
“Nevermind,” she said quickly. “We should probably go meet here at the . . . fist.”
She started walking before we could respond, so Jordan and I both followed, still confused.
* * *
When we got to Zeus’s Fist, we found Laurel sitting atop the pile, swinging her legs and twiddling her thumbs. When she saw us, she hopped down, landing gently on a pile of leaves that blew together too quickly for it to have been natural.
“Took you guys long enough,” she said, and grabbed Helen’s arm, yanking her around to the other side of the mound. Jordan and I ran after her, catching her from falling from the sudden pull.
“If you squat right about . . . here,” Laurel said, positioning Helen, “the rocks will start to look like—”
“Zeus’s fist,” she finished, and Laurel looked satisfied, though still a little anxious.
“Laurel,” Jordan asked her. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, you’re acting a little . . . edgy,” I added, but she waved it off.
“Of course I’m fine, I just . . .” she paused, thinking hard. I guess she couldn’t think of a way to finish the thought, so she changed the subject. “Hey, have you guys decided your teams for Mist Tag tomorrow?”
“Mist Tag?” Helen asked, and stood up, stretching her legs.
“It’s a game we play every other Monday night,” I told her. “We basically all go into the arena, and the Zeus kids fill the area with this magical substance called the Mist, which is—”
“I know what the Mist is. Ivan explained it,” she said.
“Okay. Anyway, they fill the arena with the Mist, and we all have a giant battle.”
Helen looked a little surprised, and Jordan told her the minor detail I’d forgotten.
“All the weapons we use are plastic,” he said, and she sighed in relief.
“Okay, because I was gonna say—”
“Although they did used to use real weapons,” Laurel corrected, and Helen gulped. “Up until about ten years ago. A bunch of kids who’d once been part of the Titan’s army started viciously attacking the other campers, and killed one or two, I think.”
“But again, they don’t use real weapons anymore,” I emphasized. “Just plastic. The only danger is getting a bit of a bruise, but even then, we have armor. Real armor. Metal.”
“Okay,” Helen said, but her voice was trembling.
“No, the teams haven’t been finalized,” Jordan answered Laurel. “Although the Hades cabin did agree that you could join us again, Alex,” he told me.
“The Hades cabin consists of you and Megan. It’s not like there was really an intense discussion about it,” I said. “But thanks.”
“What about the Nemesis cabin,” Helen asked. “Can we be with you guys?”
“Well, you’ll have to ask the rest of your cabin,” I said. “But the Chronos ‘cabin’ says yes.”
She smiled. “Thanks, although, I have to warn you, I’ve never used a weapon in my life.”
“Neither has Megan,” Jordan reassured her. “Whenever we play, she just runs around and trips everybody.”
“So glad to have your guys’ cabins,” I joked, and everyone but Laurel laughed.
“What about us Dryads?” she asked. “Whose team are we on?”
“The Dryads don’t play,” I said to her.
“Just because we’ve never played before doesn’t mean we won’t play this time!”
“Well, I mean, you can talk to Chiron about it, but—” Before I could finish, she ran past me, knocking me over into Helen, who managed to catch me without falling over herself.
“Thanks,” I said, and Jordan picked a leaf out of my hair that must have come from Laurel’s dress.
“Shall we finish the tour?” he asked, and Helen nodded.
“Right this way then,” he said, and led us both away from Zeus’s Fist.
* * *
After we showed Helen the rest of the highlights of the camp, we ran back to the Big House and the cabins, as it was just a minute before the Harpies, big chicken-like ladies, would go around, looking for demigods out past curfew to snack on. We agreed to meet up at breakfast as soon as we could, and separated near the central hearth of the camp. Once I reached the Big House, I crept through the old, rickety building, carefully stepping on the floorboards that I’d learned from experience were safe to walk on at night, when I didn’t want anyone to know how late I was getting in.
I managed to sneak up the stairs to the second floor and third floor before I made my mistake. I heard a loud sneezing sound coming from my right which made me jump, creating a loud thumping sound when I hit the floor. I could see that Dionysus had been the one sneezing in the other room, and Chiron was sitting by his side, holding soup for him to drink. He looked up at me, rolled his eyes, and gestured for me to just go upstairs. I released the tension in my shoulders and simply walked up the next flight of stairs to the attic, where I shut the door behind me and let out the air I’d been holding since the bottom floor. I then walked over to my bed and looked over at the large analog clock on the wall. It was running just about one microsecond fast, though that would only result in being one second ahead in about 2,700 years, so I figured it was close enough. I wasn’t tired, so I considered playing a round of Mariokart Wii before bed, but I decided instead to look at some of the old spoils of war that were stashed up here from past generations. I would do this quite often at night when I couldn’t sleep, and I’d almost always find something interesting to examine.
Once, I’d found an old, bashed-in shield that had originally belonged to a daughter of Aphrodite named Sierra, who had gone with me and my friends on our quest last year, only to reveal herself as a spy for my father and Chaos. I’d trapped her above Mt. McKinley using a special type of magic specific to, as well as to the children of, Hecate. Her betrayal had led to the death of almost everyone in our party, all five of whom who died being the five originally chosen to go on the quest. My friend had told me that the previous Oracle, a 30-year-old name Rachel Dare, had somehow lost her perfect connection with prophecies, and had started giving quests to the wrong people, which had both times led to the death of all the recipients. Now that I was the Oracle, I had never failed to given a prophecy to the right person. True, I’d only given one, but that could’ve meant that I’d always failed, had it been wrong.
The prophecy I’d given, which I’d said just after becoming the Oracle, had been nicknamed “The Prophecy of the Master”. It said:
The Master of All shall rise once more,
And the gods shall fade forevermore.
Destruction will spread, Chaos will thrive,
And only the enemies shall survive.
But alas, one hero may ruin it all,
If the closest to him is the first to fall.
The hero shall join to avenge his friend,
But the world shall die if the hero meets his end.
Not very uplifting, but I’ve been told it sounds about as cheerful as any other prophecy.
As I browsed through the old pieces of weaponry, I found a small chest beneath one table, in which there were about a hundred or so gold coins. Inside, there was a note so old and weak that I almost dropped it, worried that it would crumble in my hadn. It read:
Gold Coins of Chrysaor - Will Return to Find More
Edward Teach, Son of Ares
Now I’m no expert with famous demigods, but I knew this guy. Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard the Pirate, was pretty much as infamous as you could be. But I’d had no idea he was a son of Ares, not to mention the fact that he’d once lived at Camp Half-Blood! How old was this camp?
I carefully put the note down inside, closed the lid, and was about to gently put the box back down, when I noticed a much, much newer note stuck to the back. I pulled the bright pink sticky note from the wrinkled leather and began reading it. Unfortunately, this wasn’t written in Greek, so it took me a while to decipher it.
“Teach . . . returned . . . to . . . the . . . Sea . . . of . . . Monsters . . . to . . . find . . . Chrysaor. But . . . he’d . . . returned . . . to . . . the . . . Mare Nostrum . . . Teach . . . disappeared . . . only . . . to . . . be . . . found . . . trapped . . . by . . . Circe, . . . and . . . was . . . rescued . . . by . . . Annabeth . . . Chase . . . and . . . Percy . . . Jackson.”
I’d heard that kid’s name too. I wasn’t sure about the other one named Annabeth, but there was no doubt that Percy was a legend around Camp Half-Blood. From what I’d heard, he’d killed the Minotaur twice, faced the Cyclops Polyphemus, taken on Atlas, and almost single-handedly defeated Kronos when he’d returned from Tartarus. That was a lot, even for a demigod.
I put the note back on the box, and retired to my bed. I sat there for a while, thinking about Percy. This kid was probably . . . what, 30 right now? I couldn’t imagine growing up as a normal adult after accomplishing all that.
Then again, I couldn’t even imagine accomplishing all that. I was the first male Oracle ever, and I seriously doubted much of anyone would remember me when I stopped coming and began a normal life in the outside world.
Soon enough, the cold January air overtook me, and I relented, covering myself with three layers of blankets. Almost immediately, I fell asleep, wondering if I would ever be able to become as great a hero as Percy Jackson.
* * *
The next morning at breakfast, the three of us met outside the Mess Hall, knowing that once we sat down we’d be separated by our parentage. Helen told us her schedule and discovered that her and I would both be picking strawberries from 3 to 4 in the afternoon, and we could talk then, as well as during free time after lunch with Jordan. We parted ways at the door, joining the rest of our table, though two of the Nemesis children hadn’t come yet. The nymphs served a breakfast of waffles and eggs, with an omelet bar set up next to the kitchen. I scarfed down my food, only now realizing how hungry I’d been thanks to the trip to Detroit yesterday. Just before 9, when the campers would be sent off to our first activity of the day, I saw Laurel out of the corner of my eye, running quickly to the woods. Before I could think about it too long, though, Chiron dismissed us, and I headed out of the Mess Hall, trudging through the grassy fields to the arena for Javelin throwing.
The Hermes campers greeted me at the arena, apparently still fine with me tagging along with their schedule. Since there was only one Chronos demigod at camp, it didn’t really make enough sense for me to get my own schedule made, so I just followed the Hermes campers from place to place, since their classes were set up purposefully to accept new demigods almost daily.
After a few quick rounds of static and moving target practice, we moved on to the more advanced levels of Javelin throwing—throwing precisely enough to hit enemies between pieces of armor, and hard enough to injure them even where they wore protective gear. A large demigod analog made of hay was positioned at the other end of the field, being pulled left and right by a complex array of machines created by the Hephaestus campers. After a few minutes of narrow misses and overshooting, one Hermes camper named Henry, who’d always been naturally talented with javelins, managed to sink half the rod in one of the eye holes in the helmet. I did the same with the other eye almost immediately after, using my own weapon, but you don’t see me bragging.
After Javelin Throwing we all went to the amphitheater for Monster Fighting, and I saw Helen walking out the other side, her clothes singed in at least a dozen places. I realized that perhaps Monster Fighting wasn’t a great first activity for her, but at least it was over now.
When we all entered the marble stadium, a group of older campers were just managing to get a sapphire blue dragon to go back through one of the vomitoria, while it blasted each of them with snow white fire. Apparently the fire only burned like the lava on the rock walls—torching clothing but not harming the skin.
Soon enough, the dragon had been returned to the storage area beneath the amphitheater, where it would either be released into the woods or kept for a later class. To be honest, I was a little disappointed, since I’d never gotten the chance to fight a dragon at camp before. I imagine it would be more fun to do with about two dozen or so of my friends with me than facing off with one all by myself on a television show for the gods like I had last year.
After our lesson about the variety of sea creatures found around Camp Half-Blood, we took a little field trip to the canoe lake, where our instructor, a satyr named Vernon, insisted that we spend the rest of our time “experiencing the life of a Naiad” by swimming in the water. At first I wasn’t sure if he had forgotten to make a lesson plan for the day or if he was just feeling lazy, but just 4 minutes later I could see that he had fallen asleep on the shore. When class ended, we had to wake him up so that he could get back to the amphitheater for the next class.
After Monster Fighting I had a painfully boring hour of polishing trophies back at the amphitheater, which led up to Lunch. Jordan, Helen, and I said a quick hello outside the Mess Hall before going to our seats, when Helen told us about how, since it was her first day, Vernon had let her lead the class in a battle against the blue dragon we’d seen. Apparently she was somewhat talented with a sword, and had managed to cut off the spiked ball at the end of it’s tail, keeping one of the spikes as a souvenir, which she’d put in her cabin on the way to lunch.
An hour of free time came next, so the three of us all went down to the fireworks beach, where Ivan eventually found us and joined in the conversation. Helen told us a few jokes in Ancient Greek, having decided to use her class time from this morning to ask her teacher translations for sentences that, when out of context, were completely normal.
Once the hour had passed, we went our different ways again, Ivan following Helen to Archery. I went to Pegasus Riding, which was definitely not my strong suit, and suffered just under sixty near-horse-trampling, almost-falling-from-the-sky, distressed-neighing-filled minutes at the stables. I was extremely relieved once it was all over, and gladly went to the strawberry fields to meet Helen.
Helen and Ivan were already in the middle of the fields by the time I arrived, and they showed me the freak strawberry they’d found—a bright pink one that looked like another point was trying to jut out of the side. We all started talking before Jenny came over and told Helen and I that the Nemesis cabin was officially teamed up with the Chronos and Hades campers for Mist Tag. Since each team has to have at least four cabins, and since ours was still relatively small in size, I asked the Hermes campers, who agreed to join us, making us a pretty decent-sized group.
Finally, after strawberry picking, it was time for Cabin Clean-Up. We did this every Monday and Wednesday, as well as Friday, though that day no one really did clean. It’s because on Tuesdays and Thursdays during breakfast and lunch, the nymphs and satyrs of the camp would go around inspecting all the cabins, and they would rate them out of five, one being the untidiest. Any cabin who received a one would be forced to give up the activities they had on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the same time as Cabin Clean-Up the day before, and instead spend the time cleaning up their cabins with adult (ahem, Dionysus’s) supervision. They would also rank the cabins by neatness, and the best cabin (usually Aphrodite’s) would be given an extra hour of free time before lunch the next day, while the worst cabin would spend the free time they have with the same punishment as the ones. And since these usually overlapped, no one wanted to be the worst cabin, and have to suffer Dionysus for two extra hours.
I said goodbye to Helen and Ivan, and ran back to the Big House, where I spent the first five minutes or so cleaning, putting anything that didn’t have a proper place in the other, cluttered, not-technically-part-of-my-room, side of the attic. The rest of the time, I played Super Smash Bros. Brawl, not stopping until I’d beaten Crazy Hand for the third time in a row.
Dinner was excellent, and the atmosphere of the entire Mess Hall was just as great. Everyone was excited for Mist Tag, and anyone who hadn’t formed their teams yet was finishing the truces now. Unfortunately, it looked like the Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Ares, and Tyche cabins were forming an alliance, which made them positively deadly. I mean really, two of the big three gods, both war gods, and a luck god all combined? It should’ve been outlawed!
Chiron picked up on the fact that all of us were getting antsy, so he allowed us to sit with the other campers in our team, a privilege not usually awarded except under rare circumstances. We all took the opportunity, and instantly got up, moving to meet with our teammates. I found the Nemesis and Hermes campers had already congregated at the Hades table, so I ran over, taking the seat next to Jordan and, surprisingly, Laurel.
“Laurel?” I asked, surprised.
“Yeah,” she said innocently. “What’s up?”
“Wait, are you playing with us?”
“Yeah,” she answered excitedly. “Chiron said I could, and the Nemesis and Hades cabins voted me in.”
“Not that we voted against it,” said Evan, the head counselor of the Hermes cabin when Heather’s not here. “We were just a little trying to get all of us to get over here without losing anyone to take part.”
“Well, great!” I said, hi-fiving Laurel. She smiled back at me, and for the last five minutes of dinner, we began discussing our war tactics. When my body clock told me it was 6, Chiron roared over the collective murmurs of the room, telling us it was time to go.
Like an angry mob, the entire camp dashed to the arena, ready to begin the battle.
* * *
Once we all arrived at the battlefield, we divided into four groups. Zeus’s group stayed at the entrance closest to the Mess Hall, with the other two groups besides us, led by Apollo and Nike, running around the circumference on the opposite side. At the first entrance we came to, we found a stash of about three dozen different types of plastic weaponry, all the way from balls that released almost deadly smells, to an array of battle axes, with points that looked like they might hurt even without being made of metal.
There were just enough suits of Celestial Bronze armor for each of us, which was a relief to Helen. Jordan and I helped fit her into a breastplate and helmet, and gave her the only pair of chainmail sleeves and leggings. Since she’d said that a sword wasn’t too difficult for her to handle, she chose a broadsword with a hilt fashioned to look like a rampaging mustang’s head, from which a long unicorn horn had sprouted.
Unfortunately, none of the rest of us were able to use our own weapons, so we selected whatever seemed the most similar. I chose the same set of half a dozen javelins as I had before, just as the Hermes camper, Henry, did also. Jordan selected a trident which, while very much like his own pitchfork, always seemed off to him, like Poseidon, the god who held the trident as his own weapon, was rejecting him as a user.
Once we were all situated, Chiron walked out into the center of the arena, roughly 90 feet away. He cupped his hands around his mouth, and spoke louder than if he’d had a megaphone.
“Heroes!” he cried. “I trust you all know the rules. If you are decided to be fatally wounded, you are to return to your home base until another entire team has been defeated. If your entire team is defeated, you are to remain at your home base. That base is where you stand now. Taking live prisoners is permitted, but they may not be bound or gagged. I will serve as a referee and battlefield medic, as always. Now, if the Zeus campers would kindly step forward . . .”
The two children of Zeus, Grayson and Suzanne, ran forward to where Chiron was standing, and, now well-practiced, stood back-to-back, waving their arms, and snapping their fingers. In just a few seconds, a cloud of Mist formed over their heads, swirling and growing rapidly. In less than a minute of Helen oohing and aahing, a gigantic ceiling of the Mist covered the entire arena, and with a quick flurry of hand motions from the Zeus campers, it descended, blocking out anything more than five feet away.
“Remember, do not trust your eyes. The Mist will keep you from seeing the truth. You must listen to your other senses and instincts in order to succeed. Now, prepare for battle at my say so!”
There was galloping, and I knew that Chiron had gone straight to the team with the Apollo cabin. He wasn’t showing favoritism, and if anything he was showing the opposite. As battlefield medic, he had to help whoever was in need. And when one team is up against another with the dirty-playing Hermes campers, another with two war gods, and another with a goddess of victory, you know who’s out of luck.
“What did Chiron mean when you are ‘decided to be fatally wounded’?” Helen asked me, adrenaline now clearly putting her on edge.
Before I could answer, Jenny tapped her whip on Helen’s left shoe, one of the few places on her that wasn’t guarded. Jenny’s whip flashed Green, and Helen’s jaw dropped.
“The Hephaestus cabin made these,” Jenny explained. “They’re not deadly, usually, but they’re magic. If you ‘fatally wound’ someone, their weapon flashes with your team’s color. Then they’re dead, temporarily, until another team is entirely destroyed. Hit people on their weak spots, and don’t trust your eyes.”
She said the last part a little aggressively, like if Helen once believed the things she saw, Jenny would bring a world of hurt. Fortunately, Helen shook it off, smiling. I showed her how each of the different colors had about five cabins per team, with us all on the green team, Zeus’s team on red, Nike’s team with yellow and Apollo’s team with blue.
“Cool,” she said. “So do we have a plan, or—”
“Begin!” Chiron roared, and everyone in our team split up, disappearing into the Mist, including Jordan and Laurel.
“No,” I told her, and grabbed her hand. “Just stick with me and hit anyone who tries to attack you.”
“Okay,” she said, and began running with me towards the center of the arena. As we moved, faint flashes of color appeared, and a few shadows of demigods chasing after us.
“Where are we going?” Helen asked, barely audible over the yelling all around us. She seemed pretty calm despite the intensity of our surroundings.
“It’s always smart to go to the opposite side of the area,” I told her. “If you get hit, you can distract other fighters on your way back, and they’ll waste time getting you—”
A boy lunged at me out of the Mist, knocking me down. I tried to raise my arm to hit him with one of my javelins, but he’d pinned it down. He hit my unguarded legs with his club, and they flashed yellow.
He began to swing his club again, but Helen knocked him off of me with her sword. He dropped his club, and Helen ran over to him, jabbing the point of the sword through his unprotected side, and the club flashed red.
Red? I thought, but shook off the thought. Don’t trust your eyes, dummy!
“Aw man,” the boy said, and ran towards the Apollo team’s base.
“His weapon flash red,” Helen said, and gave me her hand, pulling me up off the ground. “I thought we were green.”
“Don’t believe what you see,” I told her. “In fact, shut your eyes.”
“What?” she yelled. “In the middle of this?”
“I’ll watch your back,” I reassured her. “I just need someone to tell me who the attacker is, based on the sounds.”
“I don’t know people by their sounds, Alex! I’ve been here two days!”
“You’re a demigod!” I cried. “It’s literally in your blood! Listen to your instincts.”
Reluctantly, she shut her eyes, and I raised all my javelins. Two more demigods ran over at the same time, and Helen yelled out.
The taller one, who seemed to be a girl, struck me with the butt of her sword, and it flashed red.
“They’re not red!” I yelled, and hit the girl with one of my javelins, and her sword flashed green, confusingly.
“They are!” Helen yelled. “They’re from Poseidon!”
The shorter of the two, a boy, bashed into me with his shield, and it also flashed red, confusing me even further. “Or . . . maybe they are.”
I tripped the boy over and grabbed Helen by the arm. “Follow me!” I said.
We began running, and I threw one of my javelins at the boy. He too flashed green, and I was convinced—something weird was happening. The Mist wasn’t preventing me from seeing anything.
“Green!” Helen yelled, before I even saw anyone coming. “Wait, they’re green.”
I turned around and, sure enough, I saw Megan running frantically by. Another person came, who Helen also confirmed to be green. However, they still came up to us.
“It’s Alex and Helen,” I told the person. “I’m on the green team too.”
But the person didn’t stop. They charged at Helen, and I could just see the person’s—a boy’s—face as he charged up to her. It was one of the boys from the Nemesis cabin.
“Seymour?” Helen asked, but he didn’t stop running. “What are you—”
He tackled her, slamming the edge of his plastic knife against her neck, making it flash green and, somehow, didn’t make Helen’s sword flash green as well. As far as I knew, friendly fire hadn’t been disabled, even if it was severely frowned upon. It meant Seymour wasn’t ‘fatally wounding’ Helen. He was taking her as a prisoner.
“Hey, man, what are you doing?” I yelled, and the guy got up and hit me on my waist with the knife, making my javelins flash green.
“Go away, Alex,” he said, his voice solid as a rock. “Chiron said we could take prisoners.”
“Not from your own team!”
Seymour grabbed Helen by the arm, and I ran over to her, but someone knocked me down. Someone I knew.
“Jenny, what’s going on?” I screamed, but she just grabbed Helen’s other arm and ran. I got up and followed, but I couldn’t see them. For a few seconds I could hear muffled screaming, but it faded quickly.
“Chiron also said no gagging!” I roared, but no one responded. I ran frantically after Helen, but nothing happened. Only now did the other campers seem to realize that the Mist was hardly confusing them at all, and the longer the game went on, the less of an effect it had. They started laughing at how easy it was, while I was still running, trying to find Helen.
Then I heard Jordan.
“Alex!” he cried. “Get over here, qui—”
He got cut off, but I went to where the sound had come from. I faintly saw Jordan being dragged by Jenny, her hand over his mouth, when he disappeared. I ran after him, but I suddenly started bumping into a bunch of demigods who had practically given up on the game, since the Mist was, for whatever reason, not working correctly. I kept asking them for help, and telling them that my friends had been taken by the Nemesis campers, but they just tried to convince me to forget about the game. I actually was about to give up hope on finding Helen and Jordan in all the Mist, when Laurel appeared next to me.
“Alex, can you believe it?” she asked excitedly. “I got twelve demigods. Twelve!”
“Laurel!” I yelled, and she looked at me blankly. “I need your help. Do you know where Jordan and Helen are?”
“Yeah,” she said, looking a little hurt by my bluntness. “They’re with the Nemesis campers near the north entrance.”
“Transpetalport me there!” I said, and she looked a little less hurt.
“Got it!” she could tell I needed to hurry, so she made a thin, papery flower appear around me as fast as she could, and shot me over to the north entrance, where I grabbed my necklace, took it off, pressed the Alpha, and used my spear to slash my way out of the flower. A Nemesis girl who wasn’t Jenny stood right in front of me, and I tackled her.
The other Nemesis child, Seymour, picked me up with incredible strength, and rolled me away. I jumped up, and right before I smacked Seymour with the butt of my spear, Laurel appeared and knocked him over.
I looked around, watching for any sign of movement, and saw a fireball appear. I ran to it, and found Jordan, who was, along with Helen, pinned down by Jenny, with his mouth covered by her hand. I swung my spear at her, hitting her hard on the arm, and she jumped up. Jordan kicked her away, and helped Helen up. Jordan summoned his real pitchfork, the plastic one probably back near the center of the arena, and Laurel helped Helen get out of harm’s way. Seymour ran behind Jenny, who pulled her plastic whips up, and I realized that even when whips were made of plastic, they would still be just as dangerous. The Hephaestus campers kind of dropped the ball there.
Seymour raised his plastic knife, and Jordan quickly hit it out of his hand.
“Why do you two have to be so annoying?” Jenny yelled.
“Us?” I asked, furious. “What the Styx are you doing?”
“We are fulfilling a tradition older than you, Monroe!” she roared. “We’re children of Nemesis. We bring people up and strike them down. Since the first time a demigod child of Nemesis came to Camp Half-Blood, all newcomers to the cabin are given a grace period, in which we allow them to enjoy their new home. Then, we take the good fortune they’ve received and turn it against them at the first chance we get.”
“That’s sick!” Jordan said.
“It’s balance, Ghosty! Every one of us has had it done. It’s a little thing called hazing.”
“There’s a difference between hazing and attacking your family!” I screamed, using all my willpower not to attack my extended family now.
“Not when you’re a child of the revenge goddess. No, the only difference is how much of a change in luck you get. I just wish Helen had gotten more time to enjoy camp before facing her destiny. You’re a child of Nemesis too, remember. This is part of who you are!”
“Shut up, Jenny!” yelled another voice, one I didn’t know. The girl I’d tackled before, who I could now see was the quiet one from the Nemesis table, stepped forward. “You never even had it happen to you! You were the only Nemesis camper when you got here!”
“Charlotte!” Jenny looked absolutely infuriated, as if Charlotte was the person she most loathed in the world. Then, suddenly, she was calm.
“Fine, you’re probably right,” she said, her voice smooth. “Helen, I’m sorry we went to this extreme. I just want to make sure our mother can be satisfied with you being in her cabin.”
She actually sounded sincere, and I believed more than ever that she was truly insane. However, the worst thing was Helen’s response.
It’s okay? After all that, you can just forgive and forget?
“Helen,” I said, disbelieving, “are you sure?”
“Yeah,” she answered, sounding calm now too. Jordan and Laurel’s mouths dropped as well as mine, as we all wondered how people could possibly be so incredibly angry one second, and completely relaxed the next. I, for one, was still considering assaulting Jenny and Seymour. “Look, I know this is weird. I don’t know why I’m okay with this, I just, kind of . . . am.”
For a second, I thought I saw a very faint, strange, maroon glow appear around Helen, like a blessing from her mother. Maybe this all did make Helen more Nemesis-like, but if it did, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it.
“Attagirl,” Jenny said, and playfully punched Helen on the shoulder. Before much of anything else could happen, really, the Mist began to dissipate, and I could see the other campers, all bunched together in the middle.
“Come on,” Seymour said, apparently cool as a cucumber now too. “Let’s get over there.”
All four of the Nemesis kids, including Helen, headed for the center, but only she seemed to notice our reluctance.
“Guys, let’s go,” she said, but we were all just still. She came up to us, sighed, and said, “I really can’t explain it either. But everything’s fine. Please, trust me.”
She reached her hand out to me, and I took it. Jordan seemed to relax a little, but Laurel just tensed up more.
“Laurel,” I said. “Are you okay?”
Before she answered, she looked at me, her eyes both angry and slightly watery, and disappeared into a puff of green pollen, which faded as quickly as the Mist had.
“Alex, come on,” Jordan said, and Helen squeezed my hand. Together, with two-thirds of use still in shock from what had just happened, we went to join Chiron and the other campers.
* * *