âAnd, Percy, donât worry about the bad boat. It is going away.â
âWhat do you mean?â
âPanama Canal! Very far away.â
I frowned. Why would Luke take his demon-infested cruise ship all the way down there? The last time weâd seen him, heâd been cruising along the East Coast, recruiting half-bloods and training his monstrous army.
âAll right,â I said, not feeling reassured. âThatâs . . . good. I guess.â
In the forges, a deep voice bellowed something I couldnât make out. Tyson flinched. âGot to get back to work! Boss will get mad. Good luck, Brother!â
âOk, tell Dadââ
But before I could finish, the vision shimmered and faded. I was alone again in my cabin, feeling even lonelier than before.
* * *
I was pretty miserable at dinner that night.
I mean, the food was excellent as usual. You canât go wrong with barbecue, pizza, and never-empty soda goblets. The torches and braziers kept the outdoor pavilion warm, but we all had to sit with our cabin mates, which meant I was alone at the Poseidon table. Thalia sat alone at the Zeus table, but we couldnât sit together. Camp rules. At least the Hephaestus, Ares, and Hermes cabins had a few people each. Nico sat with the Stoll brothers, since new campers always got stuck in the Hermes cabin if their Olympian parent was unknown. The Stoll brothers seemed to be trying to convince Nico that poker was a much better game than Mythomagic. I hoped Nico didnât have any money to lose.
The only table that really seemed to be having a good time was the Artemis table. The Hunters drank and ate and laughed like one big happy family. ZoÃ« sat at the head like she was the mama. She didnât laugh as much as the others, but she did smile from time to time. Her silver lieutenantâs band glittered in the dark braids of her hair. I thought she looked a lot nicer when she smiled. Bianca di Angelo seemed to be having a great time. She was trying to learn how to arm wrestle from the big girl whoâd picked a fight with the Ares kid on the basketball court. The bigger girl was beating her every time, but Bianca didnât seem to mind.
When weâd finished eating, Chiron made the customary toast to the gods and formally welcomed the Hunters of Artemis. The clapping was pretty half hearted. Then he announced the âgood willâ capture-the-flag game for tomorrow night, which got a lot better reception.
Afterward, we all trailed back to our cabins for an early, winter lights out. I was exhausted, which meant I fell asleep easily. That was the good part. The bad part was, I had a nightmare, and even by my standards it was a whopper.
Annabeth was on a dark hillside, shrouded in fog. It almost seemed like the Underworld, because I immediately felt claustrophobic and I couldnât see the sky aboveâjust a close, heavy darkness, as if I were in a cave.
Annabeth struggled up the hill. Old broken Greek columns of black marble were scattered around, as though something had blasted a huge building to ruins.
âThorn!â Annabeth cried. âWhere are you? Why did you bring me here?â She scrambled over a section of broken wall and came to the crest of the hill.
There was Luke. And he was in pain.
He was crumpled on the rocky ground, trying to rise. The blackness seemed to be thicker around him, fog swirling hungrily. His clothes were in tatters and his face was scratched and drenched with sweat.
âAnnabeth!â he called. âHelp me! Please!â
She ran forward.
I tried to cry out: Heâs a traitor! Donât trust him!
But my voice didnât work in the dream.
Annabeth had tears in her eyes. She reached down like she wanted to touch Lukeâs face, but at the last second she hesitated.
âWhat happened?â she asked.
âThey left me here,â Luke groaned. âPlease. Itâs killing