I was hungry, I was tired, and we hadn't even started the quest yet. It was three in the morning, and I was dead beat. I hadn't gotten a wink of sleep. My eyes were probably shadowed by dark circles.
At six, I surrendered to trying to sleep and got dressed. Some of the campers were already up. Birds chirped, naiads gurgled, trees giggled. One of the daughters of Demeter was watching the sunset. Nature was wide awake.
"You ready?" a voice called. "I didn't want to wake you." I turned. It was Audrey.
"You're up already? Wow." I said.
"Yeah, everyone is up already, getting ready and saying good-bye." I felt my cheeks flush. Sheesh, did heroes rise early. You'd think that fighters and strategists like the Camp Half-Blood Campers would enjoy their sleep. Oh, they had those dreams. I guess I understood why they were happy to jump out of bed.
"Ladies," Chiron said. We were in the Big House. I had never been to one of the War Councils, but this felt like one. "Did any of you have any thoughts on what the cauldron in the prophecy could be referring to?" Silence. Monica muttered Greek names under her breath and scrunched up her eyebrows. Maggie also was trying to remember. Emily crossed her arms. Audrey looked at her feet. Thank goodness I wasn't the only one behind on my Greek Mythology.
Chiron cleared his throat and broke the silence. "I was thinking of Medea's cauldron, a powerful magical object. To find this object would be very difficult. Do you know why? When you drop a gold drachama, what happens?"
"Nothing," Emily answered, like 'duh'.
"Precisely," Chiron continued. "Nothing. Some things do not move with Western Civilization."
"Excuse me, Chiron, but wouldn't a god have taken the cauldron? I mean, if they wanted it, why not?" I asked.
"Aaah, Daphne, that is an excellent observation. That brings me to my next point. Gods cannot trespass into the territory of other immortals. Hades is allowed on Olympus only on the Winter Solstice. Hephaestus does not like to be disturbed in his forge. Poseidon and Hades take great pride in their own kingdoms. But there is a different place I had in mind."
Chiron paused for the effect of his words. "There is a shaft in the middle of the world. Heroes have been sent before by the lord Zeus himself and have not returned. The shaft is a place where no regular mortal, god, or Titan may enter. It is purposefully for the quests of the children of the gods."
"A shaft? What the heck is a shaft?" Audrey asked.
"A tunnel," Chiron answered. "And this particular tunnel leads to Arima, the most dangerous place in the world. It is the home of Echidna, mother of all monsters. It is so deep into the earth, it would make the Underworld look like your backyard. The quest will most likely get you killed." I had never heard Chiron so serious before.
That sure sounds like fun to me, I thought sarcastically.
Emily spoke up, "Well, it sounds like a great place to hide something from the gods."