That afternoon was one of the most miserable I'd ever had at camp, which goes to show, you never know when your world is about to be rocked to pieces.
I got to the sword-fighters arena and found Kelly had had the same idea. Her gym bag was plopped at the edge of the stage. She was working solo, whaling on battle dummies with a sword I'd never seen before. It was a regular steel blade, because she was slashing the dummies' heads right off, stabbing through their straw- stuffed guts. Her orange Camp Half-Blood shirt was dripping in sweat. Her expression was so intense, her life might've really been in danger. I watched, fascinated, as she disemboweled the whole row of dummies, hacking off limbs and basically reducing them to a pile of straw and armor.
They were only dummies, but I still couldn't help being awed by Kelly's skill. The girl was an incredible fighter.
Finally, she saw me, and stopped mid-swing. "Harry."
"Um, sorry," I said embarrassed "I just-"
"It's okay," She said lowering her sword "Just doing some extra-training."
"Those dummies won't be bothering anybody anymore."
Kelly shrugged "They build new ones every time were running low on equipment."
Now that her sword wasn't swirling around, I could see something odd about it. It looked like Luke's and Ben's weapons.
Kelly noticed me looking at it. "Oh, this? New toy. This is Pisó̱plata (Greek: Back Stabber)."
Kelly turned the blade in the light so it glinted wickedly. "Harms both mortals and immortals. You've seen Luke's sword right?"
I thought about what Chiron had told us when we started our quests-that a hero should never harm any mortals unless absolutely necessary.
"I didn't know they could make more weapons like that."
"They can," Kelly agreed "It's very hard though."
She gave me a tiny smile, then slid the sword into its scabbard.
"Listen, I was going to come for you. What do you say we go down to the woods, look for something to fight?"
I don't know why I even hesitated. I should've felt relieved that Kelly was being so friendly. Ever since she'd seen Luke come back with us from our quest, she'd been acting a little distant. I was afraid she might resent us for bringing Luke back with us.
"You think it's a good idea?" I asked "I mean-"
"Aw, come on." She rummaged in her gym bag and pulled out a six-pack of cokes. "Drinks are on me."
I stared at the cokes, wondering where the heck she'd gotten them. There were no regular mortal sodas at the camp store. No way to smuggle them in unless you talked to a satyr, maybe.
Of course, the magic goblets would fill anything you want, but it didn't taste the same as real coke, straight out of the can.
Sugar and caffeine. My willpower crumbled.
"Sure," I decided "Why not?"
We walked down to the woods and kicked around for some kind of monster to fight, but it was too cold. All the monsters with any sense must've been taking siestas in their nice caves.
We found a shady spot by the creek where I'd had played my first capture the flag game. We sat on a big rock, drank our cokes, and watched the sunlight and snow in the woods.
After a while Kelly said, "You miss being normal?"
"You mean before monsters began attacking me every three feet? Are you kidding?"
Kelly raised an eyebrow.
"Yeah, I miss it," I admitted "You?"
A shadow passed over her face.
I was used to hearing from everyone Kelly was pretty, smart, but at the moment, she looked weary, and angry. Her blond hair was gray in the sunlight. I could imagine her as an old lady.
"I've lived at Half-Blood Hill since the second Titan War ended," She told me "Katie from Ares has also. All I've done is train, train, and train."
She crumpled her coke can and threw it into the creek, which really shocked me. One of the first things you learn at Camp Half-Blood is: Don't litter. You'll hear from the nymphs and naiads. They'll get even. You'll crawl into bed one night and find your sheets filled with centipedes and mud.
"The heck with laurel wreaths," Kelly said "I trained for glory not to end up like those trophies in the Big House attic."
"You make sound like your leaving and joining Ben."
Kelly gave me a twisted smile. "Oh, I'm leaving, all right, Harry. I brought you down here to say goodbye."
She snapped her fingers. A small fire burned a hole in the ground at my feet. Out crawled something glistening black, about the size of my hand. A scorpion.
I started to go for my rose.
"I wouldn't," Kelly cautioned "Pit scorpions can jump up to fifteen feet high. It's stinger can pierce right through your clothes. You'll be dead in sixty seconds."
Then it hit me the prophecy.
You shall sail, an iron ship with
Warriors of bone.
You shall find what you seek and
Make it your own.
You shall be betrayed by one
Who calls you a friend.
A link unknown to be held
A new bond shall be weld.
But you shall fail to save
What matters, most in the end.
"You will be betrayed by one who calls you a friend."
"You." I said
She stood calmly and brushed off her pants.
The scorpion paid no attention to her. It kept its beady black eyes on me, clamping its pincers as it crawled onto my shoe.
"Ben's finishing something that should've been in the last war." Kelly said "Don't you feel it-the darkness gathering, the monsters growing stronger? Don't you realize how useless it all is? All the heroics-being pawns of the Gods. That's the only reason they've hung on, thanks to us half-bloods. They should've been overthrown thousands of years ago."
I couldn't believe this was happening.
"Kelly...you're talking about our parents," I said
"That's supposed to make me love them? Their Western Civilization beliefs are a disease, Harry. It's killing the world. The only way to stop it is to burn it to the ground, start over with something more honest."
"You're as crazy as Ben."
Her yes flared. "Ben is fighting for a good cause. If I had time, Harry. I could explain. But I'm afraid you won't live that long. Just know this we're finishing what Luke didn't."
The scorpion crawled onto my pant leg.
There had to be a way out of this. I needed time to think.
"Kronos," I said "That's who you serve."
The air got colder.
"You should be careful with names," She warned
"Kronos spoke to you and Ben in your dreams. He got Ben to steal the Master Bolt and kidnap Giselle."
Kelly's eye twitched. "You should've joined Ben when he gave you a chance."
"He's brainwashing you, Kelly."
"You're wrong. He showed me that my talents are being wasted. After all that training I've done I get no quest." She said angrily
The scorpion was sitting on my knee now, staring at me with glittering eyes. I tried to keep my voice level. "So why stay at camp instead of leaving with Ben before?"
Kelly's smiled wavered. "He needed a spy and to get you boybanders on his side." Kelly drew her new sword. She ran her thumb down the flat of the blade, as if she were hypnotized by its beauty. "He needed information."
"He knew that me and Giselle were broken up."
"Divide and conquer."
"That's why we got the quest for the Book." I said "To help finish healing Kronos."
"And he would have been healed, had it not been for Luke and Sam meddling with our plans."
Kelly looked down at the scorpion, which was now sitting on my thigh. "You made the wrong choice, Harry. But don't worry my little friend will set things right."
"Call off the bug," I said "If you're so strong, fight me yourself."
Kelly smiled "Nice try, Harry. But I'm not someone you can bait. My lord is waiting, and he's got plenty of quests for me to undertake."
"Goodbye, Harry. There is a new Golden Age coming. But this time you won't be part of it."
She slashed her sword in an arc and disappeared in a ripple of darkness.
The scorpion lunged.
I swatted it away with my hand and drew my rose. The thing jumped at me and I cut it in half in midair.
I was about to congratulate myself until I looked down at my hand. My hand had a huge red welt, oozing and smoking with yellow guck. The thing had gotten me after all.
My ears pounded. My vision went foggy.
I stumbled into the creek barley standing up.
The poison was too strong. My vision was now getting darker.
Sixty seconds, Kelly had told me.
I had to get back to camp. If I collapsed out here, my body would be dinner for a monster. Nobody would ever know what had happened.
My legs felt like lead. My forehead was burning.
I stumbled toward camp, and the nymphs stirred from their trees.
"Help," I croaked "Please..."
Two of them took my arms, pulling me along. I remember making it to the clearing, a counselor shouting for help, a centaur blowing a conch horn.
Then everything went black.