“You did what?” Piper McLean asked incredulously.
Nico sighed. “I didn’t mean for any of this to happen! I just didn’t want to be Cupid’s little slave.”
Piper started pacing across Cabin 10. “This is really, really bad.” She collapsed on her pastel blue bed and stared at Nico with her mesmerizing eyes, each one like a miniature kaleidoscope. “Cupid is quite possibly the worst god to mess with. Zeus will hit you with a lightning bolt. Poseidon will drown you. Dionysus will make you go insane. But Cupid will shatter your relationships and make people hate you. There isn’t a worse punishment.”
“I get that. But how do I stop him?” Piper looked at him sadly.
“I don’t know. Obviously you could just be his ‘champion’, but that sort of seems out of the question,” she explained.
“Could you contact your mom? Cupid is her minion, after all,” Nico suggested.
“Maybe, yeah. She’s usually down in Charleston. I’ll grab Annabeth, and we’ll head down there later. But first I should go make sure Clarisse is okay,” Piper said, making for the door.
“I’ll come too. Maybe I can help her understand what’s going on.” Nico started to follow her.
“I don’t think that’s the best idea, Nico.”
“Piper, please. This is my mess, I should help clean it up,” he insisted.
She begrudgingly agreed and they set off for Cabin 5. As soon as they stepped over the barbed wire, Nico could tell something was wrong. Loud sobs escaped through the thin wooden walls. That couldn’t be good.
Nico and Piper carefully picked over the landmines surrounding the cabin and stood at the doorstep. Piper knocked gently on the door.
The crying abruptly stopped. “Who is it?” Clarisse’s shaky voice called out.
“It’s Piper,” she said sweetly.
Clarisse sniffled loudly and cried out, “Come in!” Piper hesitantly pushed open the door to see Clarisse sprawled across her metal bed. She was cradling a box of tissues like it was her only friend. Her face was red and blotchy from crying, and tears pooled in her eyes. She stared at Piper with an look of intense melancholy. Her brown eyes shifted to Nico, and her expression changed from sad to outraged. “You didn’t tell me he was here!” she shouted. “Nico, leave us alone!”
“Clarisse, I only want to help,” he said, using his most calming voice.
“Don’t worry, everything will be okay,” Piper charmspoke. Nico could feel the effects washing over him. He felt like nothing would ever go wrong ever again.
“I don’t know what to do, Piper. Chris just dumped me, for no reason!” Clarisse wailed. “I...I think I love him. I still love him. Why would he do this to me?”
“I’m sure it’s hard to understand what’s happening, but-” Piper started.
“Oh, like you know better? You’ve never had your heart broken! I wonder how you would be if Jason left you without a cause,” she retorted.
“Chris had a cause, Clarisse,” Nico interjected. “He and Lou Ellen fell in love.”
“They...what?” She sat up on her bed, her back ramrod straight. “He...how? When? Why?”
“It’s not your fault. I angered Cupid, and he-” Nico began, but his words caught in his throat when an arrow sailed in through the window, piercing Clarisse in the shoulder. But this arrow wasn’t like the arrows Cupid had shot at Lou Ellen and Chris. While those were pure white, this arrow was as black as midnight.
“I’m going to kill Lou Ellen,” Clarisse grumbled as the arrow vanished into her skin. “I will tear her limb from limb.” She stood and turned to the door, but Piper jumped in front of her.
“No, Clarisse!” Piper shouted. “Revenge isn’t the answer here. You have to accept that-”
“Get out of my way, McLean!” Clarisse screamed, and with one powerful swipe, she knocked Piper against the wall.
“Piper!” Nico cried, running over to her as Clarisse marched out. “Are you okay?”
“Yeah, I think so,” she said, rubbing her arm. “A little bruised, but nothing serious.”
“I don’t know what just happened. Clarisse got struck by an arrow before she left-”
“An arrow? A love arrow?” Piper inquired, suddenly intrigued.
“No, this was different from the other arrows. This one was black instead of white. What does that mean?” Nico asked.
“Oh, gods. Did I ever tell you the story of when Annabeth and I fought Mimas in Sparta?” Piper said. Her tone seemed far too grave for storytime.
“When we were there, I said something to her. I said that fear, love, and hate are almost identical emotions. Maybe Cupid can control all three,” she suggested.
A cold feeling spread through Nico. “So that arrow...it was a hate arrow. It made her hate Lou Ellen.”
“Really intense hate. And for a child of Ares that’s a very bad thing,” Piper warned.
“Alright, we have to do something. You go down to Charleston, talk to Aphrodite. I’ll go deal with Clarisse,” Nico said, and Piper nodded before running off.
Now for the hard part. Stopping an enormous angry Ares girl from killing Lou Ellen. He charged outside and stopped in his tracks.
Lou Ellen and Clarisse were doing battle. Clarisse was hefting her electric spear, circling Lou Ellen like a cage fighter. Lou Ellen looked scary despite her small stature. Her magical balls levitated around her, floating in her Mist. Campers stood around them, trying to intervene, but one of the girls seemed to have created a magical barrier. No one could through to them.
Chiron galloped down from the Big House. “Stop this at once!” he shouted, but they either didn’t hear or didn’t care.
Suddenly Clarisse leaped forward with superhuman strength, her spear aimed at Lou Ellen’s heart. Lou Ellen dodged to the right and threw one of her balls. Clarisse ducked under it and continued advancing. She stabbed again, but Lou Ellen shifted the spear with the Mist. The Mist continued to curl around the spear, and Clarisse suddenly screamed as it writhed in her hand, now a snake. She threw it to the ground and looked ready to fight with her bare hands, but Lou Ellen had tossed another ball. It hit Clarisse in the forehead, and exploded into Mist.
Clarisse cursed and writhed around as the Mist enveloped her body. Suddenly she started screaming, and her movements seemed to become more labored. She froze altogether, and her screams stopped. The Mist blew away from her to reveal what used to be Clarisse LaRue.
“Lou Ellen! You turned her to stone?!” Wesley shouted. It was true. Clarisse was now a hunk of rock, her face frozen in an expression of terror and pain.
“Turn her back this instant!” Chiron shouted.
Lou Ellen turned to him. “No way. She deserves to stay that way forever, watching the rest of the world live their lives.”
“What!?” he screamed, clearly outraged. “Take down this barrier!”
“I don’t think so, old horse!” She flicked her finger, and suddenly Chris was standing next to her. “I don’t need this. I don’t need any of you! Chris, we’re leaving.”
“Fine by me,” Chris said, an unfamiliar malice alight in his eyes. A column of Mist erupted around them, and when it dissipated they were gone.
The barrier faded, and campers surged forward to help Clarisse. “Wesley!” Chiron called.
“Yeah?” he answered.
“You’re the second-best magic user at camp - I suppose now you’re the best. How do we change her back?”
“I don’t think we can,” he admitted. “Spells can only be undone by the sorcerer that cast them.”
He stared up at Chiron. “Clarisse is doomed.”
Nico almost felt like crying. Lou Ellen and Chris’s personalities had been mangled by Cupid, Clarisse might be a statue forever, and it was all Nico’s fault.
“Piper, please hurry,” he mumbled to himself. Cupid was tearing Camp Half-Blood apart. He had told Nico that the worst was yet to come, but what could possibly be worse than this?He really didn’t want to find out. But he had a feeling he was going to.