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    The combustion chamber opened its various chambers wit...lick, click, click. Superdangerous liquids and gases flowed into the syncopator. The engine shuddered. Then the heat subsided, and the shaking calmed down t...omfortable purr.

    Leo put his hand on the hull, now thrumming with the magical energy. Buford snuggled affectionately against his leg and puffed steam.

    "That's right, Buford." Leo turned proudly to his friends. "That is the sound of an engine not exploding."

    Leo didn't realize how stressed he'd been until he passed out.

    When he woke up, he was lying o...ot near the Argo II. The entire Hephaestus cabin was there. They'd gotten the engine levels stabilized and were all expressing their amazement at Leo's genius.

    Once he was back on his feet, Jason and Piper pulled him aside and promised they hadn't told anyone just how close the ship had come to exploding. No one would ever know about the huge mistake that almost vaporized the woods.

    Still, Leo couldn't stop trembling. He'd almost ruined everything. To calm himself down, he pulled out the Lemon Pledge and carefully polished Buford. Then he took the spare syncopator and locked it i...upply cabinet that did not have legs. Just in case. Buford could be temperamental.

    An hour later, Chiron and Argus arrived from the Big House to take care of the Maenads.

    Argus, the head of security, wa...ig blond dude with hundreds of eyes all over his body. He seemed embarrassed to find tha...ozen dangerous Maenads had infiltrated his territory unnoticed. Argus never spoke, but he blushed brightly and all the eyes on his body stared at the floor.

    Chiron, the camp director, looked more annoyed than concerned. He stared down at the Maenads-which he could do, bein...entaur. From the waist down, he was white stallion. From the waist up, he wa...iddle-aged guy with curly brown hair...eard, an...ow and quiver strapped across his back.

    "Oh, them again," Chiron said. "Hello, Babette."

    "We will destroy you!" Babette shrieked. "We will dance with you, feed you yummy appetizers, party with you until the wee hours, and rip you to pieces!"

    "Uh-huh." Chiron looked unimpressed. He turned to Leo and his friends. "Well done, you three. The last time these girls came looking for Dionysus, they caused quit...uisance. You caught them before they could get out of hand. Dionysus will be pleased they've been captured."

    "So they do annoy him?" Leo asked.

    "Absolutely," Chiron said. "Mr...espises his fan club almost as much as he despises demigods."

    "We are no...an club!" Babette wailed. "We are his followers, his chosen, his special ones!"

    "Uh-huh," Chiron said again.

    "So..." Piper shifted uneasily. "Dionysus wouldn't have minded if we had to destroy them?"

    "Oh, no, he would mind!" Chiron said. "They're still his followers, even if he hates them. If you hurt them, Dionysus would be forced to drive you insane or kill you. Probably both. So well done." He looked at Argus. "Same plan as last time?"

    Argus nodded. He gestured to one of the Hephaestus campers, who drov...orklift over and loaded up the cage.

    "What will you do with them?" Jason asked.

    Chiron smiled kindly. "We'll send them t...lace where they feel at home. We'll load them o...us to Atlantic City."

    "Ouch," Leo said. "Doesn't that place have enough problems?"

    "Not to worry," Chiron promised. "The Maenads will get the partying out of their systems very quickly. They'll wear themselves out and fade away until next year. They always seem to show up around the holidays. Quite annoying."

    The Maenads were carted off. Chiron and Argus headed back to the Big House, and Leo's campers helped him lock up Bunke...or the night.

    Usually Leo worked into the wee hours, but he decided he'd done enough for one day. It was Christmas Eve, after all. He'd earne...reak.

    Camp Half-Blood didn't really celebrate mortal holidays, but everyone was i...ood mood at the campfire. Some kids were drinking eggnog. Leo, Jason, and Piper passed on that and went for hot chocolate instead.

    They listened to sing-along songs and watched sparks from the fire curl up toward the stars.

    "You saved my hide again, guys," Leo told his friends. "Thank you."

    Jason smiled. "Anything for you, Valdez. You sure the Argo II will be safe now?"

    "Safe? No. But she's not in danger of exploding. Probably."

    Piper laughed. "Great...eel much better."

    They sat quietly, enjoying each other's company, but Leo knew this was jus...rief moment of peace. The Argo II had to be finished by the summer solstice. Then they would sail off on their great adventure-first to find Jason's old home, the Roman camp. After that...the giants were waiting. Gaea the earth mother, the most powerful enemy of the gods, was marshaling her forces to destroy Olympus. To stop her, Leo and his friends would have to sail to Greece, the ancient homeland of the gods. At any point along the way, Leo knew he might die.

    For now, though, he decided to enjoy himself. When your life is o...imer to an inevitable explosion, that's about all you can do.

    He raised his goblet of hot chocolate. "To friends."

    "Friends," Piper and Jason agreed.

    Leo stayed at the campfire until the song leader from Apollo cabin suggested they all do the Hokey Pokey. Then Leo decided to call i...ight.

    Word Scramble

    Unscramble the words below to find out which seven half-bloods must band together to fulfill the prophecy's quest!

    (answer key here)

    SNOJA  __ __ __ __ __

    ELO  __ __ __

    IEPRP  __ __ __ __ __

    FANKR  __ __ __ __ __

    ZLAHE  __ __ __ __ __

    ERYPC  __ __ __ __ __

    NHNETABA  __ __ __ __ __ __ __ __

    OLYMPIAN WORD SEARCH

    Discover the hidden words lurking in this puzzle!

    (answer key here)

    AEGIS DAGGER LEO AMALTHEIA DIARY LEUCROTAE ANNABETH FESTUS LUKE ARGO HALCYON MAENAD BUFORD HALF BLOOD PERCY CACUS HERMES PIPER CELESTIAL JASON THALIA

    ANSWER KEY WORD SCRAMBLE ANSWERS Jason, Leo, Piper, Frank, Hazel, Percy, and Annabeth must unite to answer the prophecy's call.

    (

    return to word scramble

    )

    OLYMPIAN WORD SEARCH ANSWERS

    (return to word search)

    A Note From Rich Riordan

    PERCY JACKSON began a...edtime story for my son Haley. In the spring of 2002, when Haley was in first grade, he began having trouble at school. We soon found out he had ADHD and dyslexia. This made reading difficult for him, but he did enjoy Greek mythology, whic...ad taught in middle school for many years. To keep him interested in reading...egan telling Haley myths at home. Whe...an out, he asked me to make u...ew one. The result was Percy Jackson, the modern ADHD/dyslexic demigod, inspired by my son's own struggle.

    Over the years, Haley and Percy have grown up together. Percy becam...ero. Haley did some pretty heroic things too. He learned to overcome his learning disabilities, excelled in school, becam...oracious reader, and-much to my astonishment-decided he wanted to write books of his own. He recently completed his first manuscript fo...ovel, which is longer than anything I've ever written...lso have to admit his writing skills are light-years beyond where mine were at age sixteen.

    At the time of this writing, Haley and Percy are the same age-sixteen. It's amazing to me how far both of them have come. Whe...as planning this book of stories, it occurred to me that Haley might have something to say about Percy's world. After all, he inspired it. If not for his encouragement...ever would've written down The Lightning Thief.

    I asked Haley if he'd like to contribut...tory for Demigod Diaries. He immediately took up the challenge. The result is "Son of Magic," in which Haley carves out new territory in Percy's world. His story hinges on an intriguing question: After The Last Olympian, what happened to the demigods who fought in Kronos's army?

    You're about to meet one of those demigods. You're also going to get some answers about how the Mist works, and why monsters can "smell" heroes...ish I'd come up with these ideas!

    It seems only fitting that Haley an...ave come full circle. The boy who inspired me to create Percy Jackson is now writing about Percy's world himself. It's my pleasure to introduce "Son of Magic," the debut story from Haley Riordan.

    Son of Magic

    by Haley Riordan

    "NORMALL...NVITE PEOPLE to ask me questions when I'm finished, but this tim...ave one I'd like to ask you all instead." He too...tep back, trying to make eye contact with each and every one of the thousand audience members. "When you die, what happens? The question seems so childish, doesn't it? But do any of you know the answer?"

    There was silence, just like there was supposed to be....

    Dr. Claymore didn't expect anyone to answer the question after the speech he'd just given. He didn't think anyone would even dare to try.

    But as always, someone dashed his hopes.

    This time it was the brown-haired, freckle-faced boy in the front of the auditorium. Claymore recognized him-it was the same kid who had run up to him in the parking lot, telling him wha...ig fan he was and how he'd read all his books....

    "Yes?" Dr. Claymore asked him. "You think you know? Then please, we are all dying to hear you."

    The boy who had been so energetic before now seemed tongue-tied.

    Claymore knew it was cruel to mak...ool out of this innocent child. But he also knew it was necessary.

    Claymore was just an actor, performing for his patrons like any good showman would durin...agic show. And this boy had just volunteered to be part of his act.

    At this point the entire audience was staring at the child. The man sitting next to him-the boy's father, Claymore assumed-shifted uncomfortably in his seat.

    With so much attention focused on him, Claymore doubted the child would even have the strength to breathe. He looked so frail-skinny and awkward, probably the butt of man...oke at his school.

    But then the seemingly weak boy did something surprising. He stood up and found his voice.

    "We don't know," the boy said. His entire body was shaking, but he met Claymore's gaze. "You criticize every single idea people have about the afterlife. After all your research, why are you asking us for an answer? Haven't you found one yourself?"

    Claymore didn't respond immediately. Had the boy said "heaven" or "reincarnation," he would have snapped back lik...hip, but these comments were different. They made his act come t...creeching halt. The audience turned their eyes on him wit...erating gaze, as if they found it easier to cling to the boy's simplistic words than to Claymore's life's work.

    But like any good showman, Claymore ha...ackup plan. He didn't let more than five seconds pass. Any longer, and he would have seemed nervous. Any shorter, and it would seem like he was lashing out. After the appropriate pause, he gave his rehearsed response.

    ...
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