I started off my morning by watching the sunrise with Medea. Not voluntarily, at first- she threw pebbles at the window of my cabin until I woke up and proceeded to cheerily tell me that there was a meeting first thing in the morning. Apparently, being back at camp meant that I couldn't let Chiron sit in for me- a major bummer.

We had a good thing going, Chiron and me. The old horse got to do some more stuff around camp without having to report to Mr. D, and I got to sleep in! A win-win situation all around, if I'd ever seen one.

It was hard to be too mad at the blonde once she got me a nice, hot cup of cocoa, though. I'll stand by this until the day I die, but a good cup of hot chocolate can make up for almost anything. Next time you're in a squeeze, go get a bag of Swiss Miss and watch as your problems disappear.

The sunrise was pretty, too. I've never been much of a nature guy, but I'll never say no to doing some fun stuff with Medea- she's one of the cooler, older demigods I've met. Granted, that's not saying much since her competition is Luke and he's out to kill me, so…

After the sunrise, we sat in the meadow for a while after, watching the satyrs chase the wood nymphs through the fallen leaves. The nymphs had promised to kiss the satyrs if they got caught, but they hardly ever did. Usually, the nymphs would let the satyrs get up a full head of steam, then they'd turn into a tree and the poor satyrs dumb enough to keep going at that point would slam into it headfirst and fall over.

It was fun for a while, I guess. Eventually, she said we had to get going, and we left the lovestruck goats to their own devices. I figured the infirmary- sorry, the hospital- would be getting a few concussed satyrs in their care this afternoon.

About halfway through the walk, though, Medea glanced at me, curiosity rippling across her face, "So, you won the tournament, right? You didn't get ousted by a fish stick, or a talking octopus, or something?"

We were walking along a stone path that wound its way through the denseness of the Camp Half-Blood Forest as the sound of birds and the rustling of leaves filled the air. In the clearing in front of us, a duo of squirrels wrestled over an acorn.

I pulled the strings of my hoodie a bit tighter as the crisp air of the fall began seeping through. After being in Atlantis- which was actually temperature regulated around the clock by underwater volcanoes- for so long, I'd almost forgotten how cold September in the overworld was.

The sky was a deep shade of blue. We were an hour or two past the sunrise at this point, so the sun was relatively high in the sky, casting a warm glow over the landscape. A light mist clung to the ground, giving the world an ethereal feel. Earlier in our walk, I'd joked to Medea that she'd basically transformed the camp into a Disney channel sitcom, which she then claimed to take pride in.

The leaves on the trees had turned to a riot of oranges, yellows, and reds, and they rustled gently in the breeze.

"Won? I mopped the floor with everyone else," I clarified as a gust of wind sent a shower of colorful leaves to the ground. Medea snorted beside me as I added, "I just stayed the extra month to train a bit with my dad. Not 'cause I couldn't win. Besides, I'd whoop a talking octopus. They technically have to do everything I say, you know."

"I know, Jackson. Well, the octopus thing I didn't know, but everything else...what I'm saying is, I'm pulling your leg. There's no way you would've lost," Medea didn't seem to mind the cold- she wore a long maroon shirt and some jeans, with a beanie. Not without her usual pin or two, the hem of her beanie was adorned with a few pins depicting various scenes from The Office. "You definitely look like you've gotten stronger, too. Maybe someday you can fight Argus or something. I sparred with him this morning and was pleasantly surprised."

"Argus? Like the ton-of-eyes all over his body dude?"

Medea nodded, "Yeah. He's pretty strong, you know."

I tried to imagine that. Argus was the head of security for camp, and one of my aunt Hera's servants. The myths say he was her favorite servant because he technically never actually fell asleep. When some of his eyes closed for a nap, others were open; so, Argus always knew what was going on around him.

Nowadays, though, he rarely showed himself unless something serious was going on. I'd still feel pretty comfortable taking him on- if a little weirded out by his whole...multiple-eye situation.

I shook my head and kept walking with her as our shoes crunched against the leaves and sticks on the path. "Where does this path lead, anyway?"

"This is the path to town," She gestured along the stone road we were walking on. "We wanted a way to keep the living situation separate enough without making anyone feel too isolated, so this is what we settled on. A little path through the forest."

As she spoke, my eyes trailed along the path- it looked like it was made of large, flat stones that had been carefully placed to create a somewhat stable and even surface. The stones were mossy and worn, and they were surrounded by tall blades of grass and wildflowers that had grown up around them.

I felt on one of the guide stones- a ten-foot-tall slab of stone with a lantern on top, "You really gave it one of those old, rustic feels, huh?"

"Well, you asked me to," Medea pointed out, nodding toward the lantern. "Those lanterns are a lifesaver, though. A gift from Lady Hestia. They never run out of fuel."

"Nice of her," I commented. "She had a lot of good things to say about the camp, and what you're doing here."

"I'm just doing what's right," Medea said firmly. She scratched her ear, "And you are, too. It'll be good to have you back for a meeting. Are you planning on staying for a while?"

"As a whole, yeah. I just have a quick mission to take care of this weekend. Beyond that, I'm probably at camp indefinitely for a while."

Medea didn't turn to look at me as she asked, "No school?"

"Nah. With all of the movement and stuff around the monsters, I think it's best I stay put and focus on getting stronger," I said truthfully. "Besides, I've got actual work to do here, now, too. Say, isn't a path through the forest a little, well, dangerous?"

"Lady Hestia's lanterns ward away any monsters- not that there were any when we canvassed this part of the forest, anyway," Medea replied. "Besides, none of the younger kids should be walking back and forth alone, anyway. It might just be a thirty-second walk, but that doesn't mean we should be careless."

The path opened, leading us out of the forest and into the hole I'd seen before I left for Atlantis. Now, though, it was full of a small smattering of log cabins nestled among the tall trees. Each cabin looked like it was made from the rough-hewn logs of the surrounding pine and spruce, their walls adorned with moss and lichen. The roofs were made from cedar shingles, weathered and grey.

Behind this collection of cabins, there was another one. And, behind that one, there was a third one. Each collection housed more and more cabins- I tried counting, but I got bored past twenty.

"You even made the cabins look old," I complimented, waving to some of the other demigods milling about. "I'm seriously impressed with all this."

"Jeez, you're going to give me a big head if you keep talking like this," Medea stopped our walk near one of those old-timey signposts. There were dozens of arrows, pointing to all kinds of things like our brand-new armory, the Big House, schools, libraries, the General Store- you name it, it was there.

Most of the arrows pointed east, toward the Big House. As I squinted in the distance, I noticed another collection of buildings, nestled neatly around it- some of which were placed near our strawberry fields.

Medea followed my line of sight, "That's town. It's a nice, central point that's equidistant from the kid cabins and, well, adult cabins. All the important stuff like the school, library, store- it's all there."

Medea and I made some light-hearted small talk as we continued our foray into town- a concept that felt kind of weird, but not entirely unappealing to me. In a lot of ways, I was grateful for what Medea had done. Everything I loved about camp was still there- it was just much better now.

The morning sun beat down on the stone pavement of town, casting long shadows across the bustling market.

I was vaguely reminded of the time I went to a farmer's market as a kid- vendors shouted out their wares, hawking everything from fresh produce to hand-woven textiles. The scent of roasting meats and baking bread mingled with the air, creating a heady mix that was both inviting and overwhelming.

At the center of the town stood a grand marble fountain, its water sparkling in the bright light. People of all ages and walks of life bustled around it, filling jugs, and washing their hands in the cool, clear water. Children laughed and splashed, their carefree voices echoing off the surrounding buildings, and I was reminded of why I did, well, this.

The little bit of heartache left over from my breakup with MJ seemed to disappear, even if it was just for the moment. If there had been any part of me doubting my decision, any part of me wishing I could go back to being a normal guy, it was gone.

At that moment right there, I knew I'd made the right call to stay in Atlantis- I wanted to be as strong as possible to protect this.

If you'd told me, last summer, that there was even the slightest possibility of demigods getting to live peacefully, I wouldn't have believed you.

But now? I inhaled the smell of freshly baked bread and rosemary, feeling a sense of relief and security wash over me. There was a way. We could live peacefully, grow older, and even find a way to use our talents without giving up our heritage- what makes us special.

No monster attacks, no juggling two lives- this was the dream. If the look of contentment on Medea's face was any indication, she felt the same way.

"It's so nice to just…be out in the sun," Medea eventually commented. She watched the kids splash around for a bit before adding, "And not constantly on the move."

The middle of town, by the Big House, was surrounded by a mix of old and new architecture, from the stone slabs of one of the temples to the brightly painted facades of modern shops and cafes. The Big House, which was now surrounded by grand columns and ornate friezes, loomed over one side of the square, while on the other side, a newly made local theater offered three different daily shows.

We made our way back into the meeting room of the Big House, where the rest of the strategoi were already assembled.

"My word!" Apostolos, if I remembered correctly, gasped from across the room. "Look! Perseus is back."

"Percy is still fine," I smiled politely as I waved to all my colleagues, "I am indeed back, though. To tell you the truth, I was going to sleep in, but…"

"Medea got to you first?" Elena finished knowingly. She flashed me a pretty smile, "That's the norm. It's good to see you, Percy. You look relaxed."

"I had a very…straightforward summer in Atlantis, we'll say," There was a ripple of laughter at the table as I settled into my seat, with Medea sitting down next to me.

"I'm calling this meeting to order," Medea cleared her throat. "As all the strategoi are assembled here today, I propose we first recount all of the changes to camp for Percy. From there, we'll vote on pressing matters, and then create some action items for everyone to work on for our next meeting. We'll begin with you, Magnus."

"Good to see you again, lil' cous," Magnus waved his hand, "The architecture for the camp-EDEN hybrid is well underway; by the estimations of our construction team, about 80% of our plans have been completed. Aside from a lot of quality-of-life things like torches and lanterns around camp, as well as signposts, much of the architecture has been completed, as well."

He paused for a moment, removing a bronze cryptex from his pocket. He flicked through letters on it, flashing through words like RESI, GYM, LAB.

At every subsequent word change, beams of pure light shot out of the ends of the cylinder, smashing together to create 3D schematics of all kinds of buildings.

I was so mesmerized by how the model changed shape that I almost didn't even notice he was still talking.

"—so, we decided on accepting both drachma and cash for rent, though rent is incredibly subsidized for anyone- especially for camp demigods looking to make the transition into being working adults," Magnus said. "Finally, as we agreed upon, all requests must pass through you first. Any questions?"


Next up was Morgan, who was just as pale and intimidating as I remembered. And, to save your attention span, I won't go into the specifics of what she said.

All in all, she gave a boilerplate report on how moving from underground to being above ground had boosted the stock price of EDEN by a substantial margin- something about how being in the public eye and having real assets to point to had been a game-changer amongst the mortal investors.

She foresaw a continued and sustained rise in the stock of camp- especially now since we were working together and had all the farmland you could want. Apparently, adult children of Demeter could work wonders in an agricultural setting.

Finally, Morgan outlined the job searching process for any prospective demigods who wanted to use their talents. Basically, they had to schedule a meeting with her, and she would gauge their skills and find a good profession for them; apparently, parentage only played a small role in what you were good at in the grand scheme of things. You could be a child of Athena and end up working in construction, you could be a child of Ares and end up as a psychologist- the possibilities were endless.

Cleo's spiel had been a bit more fun, if not way shorter. The only thing of note was how a bunch of the kids from camp kept requesting more and more candy in the general store, whereas Chiron was trying everything in his power to stop that from becoming an eventuality.

I zoned back in for real when Elena started talking.

"The hospital's up and running, right where the infirmary used to be," she said pleasantly, pursing her lips. "With the allotted funds we have, we've been able to procure a decent bit of nectar and ambrosia, not that we've had to use it. At most, I think we've had a training accident here and there, but the frequency of monster attacks has all but dropped to zero. I'm no expert, but I think that the wards powered by the golden apple are stronger at dissuading monsters from attacking or even stepping near camp. Oh, and we've had a few incidents because of you."

"Incidents…because of me?" I repeated, my confusion growing stronger with every word. "How? Why? I've been in Atlantis all summer!"

Elena leaned forward challengingly, "Some of the kids have been playing the Percy game. It's a game where one person takes turns pretending to be you, and everyone else is a monster. They fight with wooden swords and let me tell you, Jackson, I've had to heal a particular group of kids every single day."

I groaned and put my head in my hands, "Do I even want to know?"

"Malcolm and his friends," Elena told me anyway, smiling like a madman the whole time. "His pet bird seems to enjoy playing with him."

"His pet bird?" I wondered aloud before the realization hit me. "Oh. Alycone. She's still hanging around, then."

"She is," Elena confirmed. Her smile dropped a little, "Jokes aside, do you think you can talk to them? I get wanting to be like their hero, but what they're doing is pretty dangerous. I just don't want them to get hurt."

"I'll talk to them," I assured her. I didn't want Malcolm to get hurt, either- even if it was pretty funny to me that he and Alcyone were living out our past adventures.

As Apostolos began his spiel, my thoughts drifted back to Malcolm. Though it had been fun to take a summer kind of to myself, I hadn't forgotten about Malcolm's special condition or Serqet's warning.

"He'll go insane. Whether it's in a few years, or a few decades, eventually…"

My fingers drummed restlessly against the table. I was a bit over my head with all the Egyptian stuff. Their world- everything from the gods and goddesses in it to the power hierarchy- was so vastly different.

I figured worst case, I could give that guy from earlier, Julius Kane, a call once I found some free time. His business card was probably somewhere in my cabin.

"—and the machines are super cool, dude," Leo, who had interrupted Apostolos to start his own spiel, said excitedly. "Speaking of which…"

He reached into a toolbelt around his waist and pulled out a small, disc-looking object. As I leaned closer, everyone seemed to roll their eyes at the intricately designed object which I swear seemed to glow with otherworldly energy.

"Are you guys not dumbfounded by this?" I asked incredulously as the shimmering silver metal shone with engraved symbols and runes. "That frisbee is glowing!"

"Leo always makes these weird things we don't understand," Elena commented from beside him as she peeked at the object. She winked at me, "It's not too far out of the ordinary."

"This is my brand-new detector," Leo said as held the disc in his hand. It started pulsing with warm energy and spinning rapidly. As it spun, it began emitting a soft humming sound, "The faster it hums, the more mana you got. Once it's done detecting, it displays a number at the top. After you fried my last one, I went to work on making this new and improved one."

"Dude, I'm sorry about that, by the way," I apologized, remembering his prototype from earlier. I glanced back at the spinning disc. "What's so different about this one, though?"

"Well, if you remember, the last time we were here, I talked to you about the experiment EDEN had conducted using an ammeter and a sample group of demigods. That experiment was what laid the framework for my dial- I imagined mana- again, super weird that you guys call it that- as some sort of electrical current. Like it was a measurable phenomenon. Well, after you fried my dial, I got to thinking," Leo's eyes gleamed. A manic type of curiosity was beginning to shine through, "I was going about it all wrong. See, the experiment before calculated how much mana was quantifiable in metal after being used. The point of the experiment wasn't to find a way to magically guess how powerful you were, it was a safety precaution so we could start bringing technology around us."

"That makes sense," I agreed, considering what Leo just said. "So, if you can't think about it in terms of resistance to metal, how do you think about it?"

"That's exactly what I said!" Leo yelled excitedly. He grinned unabashedly, even as Morgan gave him a death stare and gestured for him to quiet down. "While you were gone, I chased down a few avenues and ran some experiments on my lonesome. Your friends Piper, Thalia, and Jason were helpful, though."

"Thalia and Jason?" I repeated, raising an eyebrow. "Why'd you go to them for help?"

"Well, I guess at first I figured maybe your power was a result of being Big Three material, so I tested my prototype dial on them, too," Leo explained, pulling a notebook out of his toolbelt. He flipped through the pages, showing me all kinds of tables and graphs, "The crazy thing, though, was that it worked just fine for them! Well, on Jason's third time using it, the dial did steam a little, but nothing like the explosion you had. But then when Piper used it, it steamed a bit on the first try."

"Piper is technically my student," I offered. "She might hate the term, but yeah. I'm still surprised that hers steamed before Jason's. I'm under the impression, just from fighting with them both, that he's got a bit more power."

I found myself a bit perplexed. Sure, it had been a while since I'd looked at both of their stats, but unless Piper went through something crazy this summer, I figured there was no way she could have more mana than Jason.

Jason literally has a perk called [Mana Beast]- I have no clue how he must've gotten it, but it essentially grows his [WIS] stat at twice the speed. Add on top of that his natural inclination toward his offensive powers, and he's comfortably more developed in that area. Not that I'd tell Piper that.

"He does," Leo agreed. He tapped the side of his head, "But that isn't what matters. It's the potency of the mana that makes all the difference."

"You've officially lost me," I said, much to the amusement of everyone around me. Medea looked like she wanted to take a picture of my confusion, "The potency of mana? What does that even mean?"

Before he even began talking, though, my brain flashed back to two summers ago- how powerful and frightening Hades' mana had been on the beach with Ares. The description of my [Mana Manipulation] skill also stipulated that at larger quantities, mana would behave more like a liquid than anything.

Was that what he was talking about?

"Potency is like…well, it's like a muscle," Leo tried to explain. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes as he pulled out a mini-skateboard and started doing tricks with it- this kid was seriously ADHD- even by demigod standards, "Like, if you work out your arm a lot, it gets big, right? Well, mana is the same way. Depending on how you use it, it can become potent. Your friend Jason mainly uses it for lightning-related things, whereas Piper uses it for all kinds of stuff. It's like the difference between working out once a week and seven times a week. His mana gets one, lateral use. Hers gets multiple, flexible uses. So, her mana is more potent."

"Okay," I said a moment later. I wouldn't admit it out loud, but his working-out analogy cleared things up for me more than his explanation did. "That makes sense. But how did you figure that out? No offense, but I feel like that isn't the kind of thing you can just randomly stumble upon randomly."

"Like I said before, my mistake the first time around was thinking mana was something scientific. The truth is, even though it behaves in scientific ways sometimes, it's still more of an arcane thing," Leo explained excitedly. "So, I talked to some of our wizards—"

"Children and descendants of Hecate," Medea added in my ear.

"—about how to measure someone's mana, and they helped me enchant this thingy right here," Leo gestured to the disc again. "The disc can calculate the power of the person holding it by measuring the strength and potency of their mana. After taking both into account, it can also help determine their level of skill and expertise in the use of mana. EDEN is commissioning a ton of them to help scout out some of our younger kids."

"That's…awesome," I said genuinely. I felt like awesome didn't really do Leo's experiment justice, but I couldn't think of any other words for it. "And, let me guess, you want me to try?"

He slid the disc across the table with a megawatt grin on his face, "Channel some mana into it and see for yourself, wonder boy."

"I see that Silena still hasn't let that go," I mumbled to myself as I picked up the disc. Immediately, I felt the runes on the disc heat up uncomfortably. The metal handle seemed to latch onto my fingers as I started channeling some mana into it. "Is it supposed to get this hot?"

"Try to cut off your mana flow," Elena instructed from across the table as her eyes glowed a pale shade of yellow. Her abilities from Apollo, I figured. The word on the block was that her med-sight let her zoom in on and see injuries with the same level of detail as a microscope. She frowned as her eyes returned to normal, "It looks like it's starting to burn you."

I tried to pry the disc off my hand, but the metal handle was like melted wax. The bell inside of the disc began ringing at a frenetic pace before vibrating so hard it exploded. The disc kept siphoning mana off my fingers, even as I tried to cut off the flow.

"I think you need to do some more prototyping," I said tightly as I failed to get it off again. A blue aura blasted to life around me, scattering the papers and pens on the table across the room. "I can't get it off!"

Medea stood up next to me and gently picked up her gauntlet off the table. She put it on and hit a purple gem, before clamping it down on the disc and tearing it off my hand.

I grumbled to myself and stuck my lightly injured hand into a glass of water as Leo and the rest of the people assembled at the table stared at me with wide eyes. "What?"

The rest of the meeting went by eventfully, even with Leo sulking in the back the whole time. I liked the kid- and I could see why he was the spokesperson for the blacksmiths and all, but a part of me was still kind of annoyed by him.

Again, logically speaking, I knew he was just excited to work on a project and all, but I just felt kind of annoyed at the whole thing. I'm not just some guinea pig for people to test stuff out on. I shook myself out of the weird feeling of annoyance settling in my gut and sighed.

I had plans to pick Malcolm up from school, but that wasn't for another two hours, so I figured I could spend some time catching up with the rest of the camp.

I went to a javelin-throwing class, but the Ares camper in charge chewed me out and made me leave after I accidentally put too much power into my throw and snapped both the javelin and the target in half.

Listen…I'll tell you the same thing I told him: it was still a bullseye!

Some of the assorted campers found it funny. After throwing a few more jokes at him, I did get around to apologizing for stealing the spotlight from him, but he still sent me packing, nonetheless.

I was told I could find Silena at the pegasus stables, so I meandered on down there after my premature ejection from javelin class.

It was fun catching up. She didn't have much to say about the summer, really, besides spilling all the tea about who was dating who. It certainly wasn't the most interesting topic for me, but I was so happy to see her, I didn't even really care.

Besides, the fact that one of her cabinmates, Drew Tanaka, was into me was news enough because it made it very clear that apparently, word about my breakup had spread faster than I'd expected it to. Sure, it felt a little weird that everyone in camp was so…involved in my life, but it wasn't exactly a new feeling. Zeus knows I got used to being the guy everyone stared at the second I walked in here with a green trident floating above my head.

Eventually, Silena had to get back to work- she was tending to one of the pregnant pegasi as a part of one of her wildlife classes at camp. She asked me if I wanted to get involved with the birthing process, 'cause I could talk to them and stuff, but I respectfully declined. I wasn't really interested in seeing the circle of life so early in the day. Or ever.

I continued on my path, intent on finding the training arena, which was where Silena told me I could find Jason and Thalia, but as I walked by the Big House, a weird idea suddenly crossed my mind: the Oracle!

I'd never really used her before- my last two quests had either been from a god or of my own volition. Still, if my goal really was to save Malcolm, maybe she could help. To be quite honest, a part of me was really hoping she could.

As long as I could handle his problem on my own terms, I guess it would feel like it was still in my control. Calling Julius or reaching out to Nepthys, or something, would mean admitting that Malcolm's fate was out of my hands, and I wasn't sure that was exactly something I wanted to do. Not yet, if I could help it.

I snuck back into the Big House after using my [Mana Detection] skill to make sure Mr. D and Chiron were out of sight.

If I remembered correctly...Annabeth had once offhandedly mentioned to me that I could find the Oracle in the attic. Unless Medea's plans had somehow spilled into the Big House (wasn't one of the stipulations Chiron put out there that the Big House wasn't changed internally?), I'd probably find her four or so flights up.

Thankfully, even if construction was allowed in here, it didn't seem to retroactively make Annabeth's advice useless. I just climbed up the stairs and eventually ended up face to face with a bright green trapdoor- it was one of those old-fashioned ones, with a little rope to pull, and everything.

I pulled the cord, coughing as a plume of dust exploded as the door swung down. Waving my hand in front of my face a few times to scatter the dust, I grabbed onto the wooden ladder that had clattered into place.

The cold air from above smelled like mildew and rotten wood and something else...a smell I remembered from Medusa's Lair. Reptiles. The smell of snakes.

Not my favorite smell. The hairs on my arms stood up as I climbed- somehow, the air in the attic was even colder than it was outside.

The attic was filled with Greek hero junk: armor stands covered in cobwebs; once-bright shields pitted with rust; old leather steamer trunks plastered with stickers saying ITHAKA, CIRCE'S ISLE, and LAND OF THE AMAZONS.

One long table was stacked with glass jars filled with pickled things-severed hairy claws, huge yellow eyes, and various other parts of monsters. A dusty mounted trophy on the wall looked like a giant snake's head, but with horns and a full set of shark's teeth. The plaque read, HYDRA HEAD #1, WOODSTOCK, N.Y., 1969.

There were shields with monster bites out of them, and swords bent in the shapes of daemon heads, and a bunch of taxidermies, like a stuffed harpy and a bright orange python.

I moved carefully, trying to take extra care to not accidentally knock something over, or make an unwanted creaking noise.

I didn't want to end up like one of those old movie scenes- you know, the ones where the good guy is trying to sneak around but he accidentally steps on the wrong floorboard or something, and everyone and their mom is suddenly like: Hey guys, did you hear that? It sounds like someone's in the attic! Let's go check it out!

By the window, sitting on a wooden tripod stool, was the most gruesome memento of all: a mummy.

Not the wrapped-in-cloth kind, but a human female body shriveled to a husk. She wore a tie-dyed sundress, lots of beaded necklaces, and a headband over long black hair. The skin of her face was thin and leathery over her skull, and her eyes were glassy white slits as if the real eyes had been replaced by marbles; she'd been dead a long, long time.

"Annabeth didn't mention you'd be dead," I muttered under my breath, yelping as she sat up on her stool and opened her mouth. Sheepishly, I added, "Sorry?"

The Oracle didn't seem to mind. A green mist poured from the mummy's mouth, coiling over the floor in thick tendrils, hissing like twenty thousand snakes. The trapdoor behind me slammed shut.

Not creepy at all.

Inside my head, I heard a voice, slithering into one ear and coiling around my brain. It was a really weird, unpleasant feeling, and I had to try not to shiver as I heard her say: I am the spirit of Delphi, speaker of the prophecies of Phoebus Apollo, slayer of the mighty Python. Approach, seeker, and ask.

I steeled myself and stared directly into her eyes, "How can I save Malcolm Franks?"

The green mist that had been pouring into the room began swirling more thickly, collecting right in front of me and around the table with the pickled monster-part jars.

Suddenly there were four women sitting around the table, playing cards.

Three of their faces became clearer, while the one in the back remained hidden. My eyebrows scrunched together as Aphrodite, MJ, and Thalia stared back at me, their faces, and expressions so real that, for a second, I had to remind myself I was seeing an illusion.

Aphrodite looked at me with a blank expression, before her mouth opened, and more green mist fell out. In the Oracle's voice, she said, "A friend you'll soon lose, a bond you'll soon rue. Though you'll try to save them, your efforts will accrue."

Next to her, MJ spoke next, "A fate you cannot change, a path laid out before. You'll scream and you'll beg, but to death, they'll soar."

Thalia threw down her cards and cocked her head at me, a sad frown on her face, "You'll curse the gods above, for their cruel game. But know that this tragedy was never in vain."

The blurred face spoke last, "For in loss, you'll find strength, in pain, you'll find grace. And though you'll never forget, your friend's smile and face. You'll carry on their legacy, and honor their name. Be warned, seeker, for in memory of your friend, you'll never be the same."

The figures began to dissolve. The tail of the mist snake disappeared into the mummy's mouth. She reclined back against the wall. Her mouth closed tight as if it hadn't been open in a hundred years.

The attic was silent again, abandoned, nothing but a room full of mementos and my woes.

AN: Here's the next chapter! We're almost at 1 MILLION views, which is crazy! I'm really glad so many people like this story, and I hope I can keep providing for you guys. This chapter does feel a little bit on the shorter side, but it's a two-parter, so yeah…anyway! Part Two should be out next week.

Also: buckle up. As you should be able to tell from this chapter, this is crunch time now. The last 400K words, believe it or not, have been mostly just setting up our world and this version of Percy Jackson for the destiny that awaits him.

Come on- you didn't really think getting these powers would make his life easier, did you? It's like I said at the very start- in a lot of ways, the powers have only complicated his life even more. And now, well, he's going to reap the consequences.

This is going to be the longest arc thus far- and, moving forward, all arcs will continue to be this long. I read a review about someone asking whether the events of Titan's Curse would even happen, and believe me, they will. Just not how you're expecting them to.

It felt really good to write this chapter. There's a lot of foreshadowing and symbolism and all that for anyone who's interested in that stuff, and I look forward to seeing your guys' reviews and theories. Really. It makes me super happy to read them, so please drop them below!

Zarathos 11: Hey! I meant physically, but no, technically, he is indeed still 15. The [Godly Constitution] perk, alongside Atlantis' special quality of advancing people to their physical primes, has given him the physical appearance of someone a few years older- in my mind, and as you'll see in the next chapter, he looks, talks, and feels like he's somewhere in the range of 18-20. It's also just a bit of author leeway since I eventually want to write more…mature scenes. Also, the infusion will indeed let him capture souls.

Guest: Huh…I didn't know that about whales. Also, your second idea is super sick. I'm just imagining Percy out here doing Gaara moves and it's leaving a huge smile on my face lol.

PerseusKyogre09: Thank you! I also hated how she did that, so don't worry, not happening here. I have pretty big plans for both Bianca and Nico, so you'll have to stay tuned to see more of that.

surya25addanki: That will always be one of his biggest struggles- the conundrum between godhood and humanity. It's one of the running themes of this story, so don't worry, he won't lose it.

pontus first god of the sea: Oh, Titan's Curse is going to happen, alright. It's going to happen…

Noctis Lucius Caelum: I think you'll like the next chapter then. Spoiler alert: it will finally be perks time, lol!

vkg313: No Tyson in this story.

Dragon Bone Z: Trust me, this arc has everything you're looking for, and hopefully, it does indeed blow you out of the water, lol. Given our conversations, I think you'll most enjoy what Jason and Thalia are up to in the training arena. Stay tuned.