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Copyright2005byRickRiordan

Allrightsreserved.Nopartofthisbookmaybereproducedortransmittedinany
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permissionfromthepublisher.ForinformationaddressHyperionBooksfor
Children,114FifthAvenue,NewYork,NewYork10011-5690.
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ISBN0-7868-5629-7(hardcover)
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Visitwww.hyperionbooksforchildren.com
Contents
1IAccidentallyVaporizeMyPre-AlgebraTeacher
2ThreeOldLadiesKnitTheSocksOfDeath
3GroverUnexpectedlyLosesHisPants
4MyMotherTeachesMeBullfighting
5IPlayPinochleWithAHorse
6IBecomeSupremeLordOfTheBathroom
7MyDinnerGoesUpInSmoke
8WeCaptureAFlag
9IAmOfferedAQuest
10IRuinAPerfectlyGoodBus
11WeVisitTheGardenGnomeEmporium
12WeGetAdviceFromAPoodle
13IPlungeToMyDeath
14IBecomeAKnownFugitive
15AGodBuysUsCheeseburgers
16WeTakeAZebraToVegas
17WeShopForWaterBeds
18AnnabethDoesObedienceSchool
19WeFindOutTheTruth,SortOf
20IBattleMyJerkRelative
21ISettleMyTab
22TheProphecyComesTrue
Acknowledgments
PreviewOfTheRedPyramid
To Haley,
who heard the story first
ONE
I ACCIDENTALLY VAPORIZE MY PRE-ALGEBRA
TEACHER
Look,Ididntwanttobeahalf-blood.
Ifyourereadingthisbecauseyouthinkyoumightbeone,myadviceis:close
this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your
birth,andtrytoleadanormallife.
Beingahalf-bloodisdangerous.Itsscary.Mostofthetime,itgetsyoukilledin
painful,nastyways.
Ifyoureanormalkid,readingthisbecauseyouthinkitsfiction,great.Readon.I
envyyouforbeingabletobelievethatnoneofthiseverhappened.
Butifyourecognizeyourselfinthesepagesifyoufeelsomethingstirringinside
stopreadingimmediately.Youmightbeoneofus.Andonceyouknowthat,its
onlyamatteroftimebeforetheysenseittoo,andtheyllcomeforyou.
DontsayIdidntwarnyou.
MynameisPercyJackson.
Imtwelveyearsold.Untilafewmonthsago,IwasaboardingstudentatYancy
Academy,aprivateschoolfortroubledkidsinupstateNewYork.
AmIatroubledkid?
Yeah.Youcouldsaythat.
I could start at any point in my short miserable life to prove it, but things really
started going bad last May, when our sixth-grade class took a field trip to
Manhattan twenty-eight mental-case kids and two teachers on a yellow school
bus, heading to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to look at ancient Greek and
Romanstuff.
Iknowitsoundsliketorture.MostYancyfieldtripswere.
ButMr.Brunner,ourLatinteacher,wasleadingthistrip,soIhadhopes.
Mr. Brunner was this middle-aged guy in a motorized wheelchair. He had
thinninghairandascruffybeardandafrayedtweedjacket,whichalwayssmelled
likecoffee.Youwouldntthinkhedbecool,buthetoldstoriesandjokesandletus
playgamesinclass.HealsohadthisawesomecollectionofRomanarmorand
weapons,sohewastheonlyteacherwhoseclassdidntputmetosleep.
I hoped the trip would be okay. At least, I hoped that for once I wouldnt get in
trouble.
Boy,wasIwrong.
See,badthingshappentomeonfieldtrips.Likeatmyfifth-gradeschool,when
we went to the Saratoga battlefield, I had this accident with a Revolutionary War
cannon. I wasnt aiming for the school bus, but of course I got expelled anyway.
Andbeforethat,atmyfourth-gradeschool,whenwetookabehind-the-scenestour
oftheMarineWorldsharkpool,Isortofhitthewrongleveronthecatwalkandour
classtookanunplannedswim.Andthetimebeforethat...Well,yougettheidea.
Thistrip,Iwasdeterminedtobegood.
All the way into the city, I put up with Nancy Bobofit, the freckly, redheaded
kleptomaniacgirl,hittingmybestfriendGroverinthebackoftheheadwithchunks
ofpeanutbutter-and-ketchupsandwich.
Groverwasaneasytarget.Hewasscrawny.Hecriedwhenhegotfrustrated.He
mustve been held back several grades, because he was the only sixth grader
with acne and the start of a wispy beard on his chin. On top of all that, he was
crippled. He had a note excusing him from PE for the rest of his life because he
hadsomekindofmusculardiseaseinhislegs.Hewalkedfunny,likeeverystep
hurt him, but dont let that fool you. You shouldve seen him run when it was
enchiladadayinthecafeteria.
Anyway, Nancy Bobofit was throwing wads of sandwich that stuck in his curly
brownhair,andsheknewIcouldntdoanythingbacktoherbecauseIwasalready
on probation. The headmaster had threatened me with death by in-school
suspensionifanythingbad,embarrassing,orevenmildlyentertaininghappened
onthistrip.
Imgoingtokillher,Imumbled.
Grovertriedtocalmmedown.Itsokay.Ilikepeanutbutter.
HedodgedanotherpieceofNancyslunch.
Thatsit.Istartedtogetup,butGroverpulledmebacktomyseat.
Yourealreadyonprobation,heremindedme.Youknowwhollgetblamedif
anythinghappens.
Looking back on it, I wish Id decked Nancy Bobofit right then and there. In-
schoolsuspensionwouldvebeennothingcomparedtothemessIwasaboutto
getmyselfinto.
Mr.Brunnerledthemuseumtour.
Herodeupfrontinhiswheelchair,guidingusthroughthebigechoeygalleries,
pastmarblestatuesandglasscasesfullofreallyoldblack-and-orangepottery.
It blew my mind that this stuff had survived for two thousand, three thousand
years.
Hegatheredusaroundathirteen-foot-tallstonecolumnwithabigsphinxonthe
top,andstartedtellingushowitwasagravemarker,astele,foragirlaboutour
age.Hetoldusaboutthecarvingsonthesides.Iwastryingtolistentowhathehad
tosay,becauseitwaskindofinteresting,buteverybodyaroundmewastalking,
and every time I told them to shut up, the other teacher chaperone, Mrs. Dodds,
wouldgivemetheevileye.
Mrs.DoddswasthislittlemathteacherfromGeorgiawhoalwaysworeablack
leatherjacket,eventhoughshewasfiftyyearsold.Shelookedmeanenoughto
ride a Harley right into your locker. She had come to Yancy halfway through the
year,whenourlastmathteacherhadanervousbreakdown.
From her first day, Mrs. Dodds loved Nancy Bobofit and figured I was devil
spawn. She would point her crooked finger at me and say, Now, honey, real
sweet,andIknewIwasgoingtogetafter-schooldetentionforamonth.
Onetime,aftershedmademeeraseanswersoutofoldmathworkbooksuntil
midnight,ItoldGroverIdidntthinkMrs.Doddswashuman.Helookedatme,real
serious,andsaid,Youreabsolutelyright.
Mr.BrunnerkepttalkingaboutGreekfuneralart.
Finally, Nancy Bobofit snickered something about the naked guy on the stele,
andIturnedaroundandsaid,Willyoushutup?
ItcameoutlouderthanImeantitto.
Thewholegrouplaughed.Mr.Brunnerstoppedhisstory.
Mr.Jackson,hesaid,didyouhaveacomment?
Myfacewastotallyred.Isaid,No,sir.
Mr. Brunner pointed to one of the pictures on the stele. Perhaps youll tell us
whatthispicturerepresents?
Ilookedatthecarving,andfeltaflushofrelief,becauseIactuallyrecognizedit.
ThatsKronoseatinghiskids,right?
Yes,Mr.Brunnersaid,obviouslynotsatisfied.Andhedidthisbecause...
Well...Irackedmybraintoremember.Kronoswasthekinggod,and
God?Mr.Brunnerasked.
Titan,Icorrectedmyself.And...hedidnttrusthiskids,whowerethegods.So,
um,Kronosatethem,right?ButhiswifehidbabyZeus,andgaveKronosarockto
eatinstead.Andlater,whenZeusgrewup,hetrickedhisdad,Kronos,intobarfing
uphisbrothersandsisters
Eeew!saidoneofthegirlsbehindme.
andsotherewasthisbigfightbetweenthegodsandtheTitans,Icontinued,
andthegodswon.
Somesnickersfromthegroup.
Behindme,NancyBobofitmumbledtoafriend,Likeweregoingtousethisin
reallife.Likeitsgoingtosayonourjobapplications,PleaseexplainwhyKronos
atehiskids.
And why, Mr. Jackson, Brunner said, to paraphrase Miss Bobofits excellent
question,doesthismatterinreallife?
Busted,Grovermuttered.
Shutup,Nancyhissed,herfaceevenbrighterredthanherhair.
AtleastNancygotpacked,too.Mr.Brunnerwastheonlyonewhoevercaught
hersayinganythingwrong.Hehadradarears.
Ithoughtabouthisquestion,andshrugged.Idontknow,sir.
I see. Mr. Brunner looked disappointed. Well, half credit, Mr. Jackson. Zeus
didindeedfeedKronosamixtureofmustardandwine,whichmadehimdisgorge
hisotherfivechildren,who,ofcourse,beingimmortalgods,hadbeenlivingand
growingupcompletelyundigestedintheTitansstomach.Thegodsdefeatedtheir
father, sliced him to pieces with his own scythe, and scattered his remains in
Tartarus,thedarkestpartoftheUnderworld.Onthathappynote,itstimeforlunch.
Mrs.Dodds,wouldyouleadusbackoutside?
The class drifted off, the girls holding their stomachs, the guys pushing each
otheraroundandactinglikedoofuses.
GroverandIwereabouttofollowwhenMr.Brunnersaid,Mr.Jackson.
Iknewthatwascoming.
ItoldGrovertokeepgoing.ThenIturnedtowardMr.Brunner.Sir?
Mr. Brunner had this look that wouldnt let you go intense brown eyes that
couldvebeenathousandyearsoldandhadseeneverything.
Youmustlearntheanswertomyquestion,Mr.Brunnertoldme.
AbouttheTitans?
Aboutreallife.Andhowyourstudiesapplytoit.
Oh.
Whatyoulearnfromme,hesaid,isvitallyimportant.Iexpectyoutotreatitas
such.Iwillacceptonlythebestfromyou,PercyJackson.
Iwantedtogetangry,thisguypushedmesohard.
Imean,sure,itwaskindofcoolontournamentdays,whenhedressedupina
suit of Roman armor and shouted: What ho! and challenged us, sword-point
againstchalk,toruntotheboardandnameeveryGreekandRomanpersonwho
hadeverlived,andtheirmother,andwhatgodtheyworshipped.ButMr.Brunner
expected me to be as good as everybody else, despite the fact that I have
dyslexiaandattentiondeficitdisorderandIhadnevermadeaboveaC inmylife.
Nohe didnt expect me to beasgood; he expected me to bebetter. And I just
couldntlearnallthosenamesandfacts,muchlessspellthemcorrectly.
Imumbledsomethingabouttryingharder,whileMr.Brunnertookonelongsad
lookatthestele,likehedbeenatthisgirlsfuneral.
Hetoldmetogooutsideandeatmylunch.
Theclassgatheredonthefrontstepsofthemuseum,wherewecouldwatchthe
foottrafficalongFifthAvenue.
Overhead, a huge storm was brewing, with clouds blacker than Id ever seen
over the city. I figured maybe it was global warming or something, because the
weather all across New York state had been weird since Christmas. Wed had
massive snow storms, flooding, wildfires from lightning strikes. I wouldnt have
beensurprisedifthiswasahurricaneblowingin.
Nobody else seemed to notice. Some of the guys were pelting pigeons with
Lunchables crackers. Nancy Bobofit was trying to pickpocket something from a
ladyspurse,and,ofcourse,Mrs.Doddswasntseeingathing.
GroverandIsatontheedgeofthefountain,awayfromtheothers.Wethought
thatmaybeifwedidthat,everybodywouldntknowwewerefromthatschoolthe
schoolforloserfreakswhocouldntmakeitelsewhere.
Detention?Groverasked.
Nah,Isaid.NotfromBrunner.Ijustwishhedlayoffmesometimes.ImeanIm
notagenius.
Groverdidntsayanythingforawhile.Then,whenIthoughthewasgoingtogive
me some deep philosophical comment to make me feel better, he said, Can I
haveyourapple?
Ididnthavemuchofanappetite,soIlethimtakeit.
I watched the stream of cabs going down Fifth Avenue, and thought about my
moms apartment, only a little ways uptown from where we sat. I hadnt seen her
sinceChristmas.Iwantedsobadtojumpinataxiandheadhome.Shedhugme
andbegladtoseeme,butshedbedisappointed,too.Shedsendmerightback
toYancy,remindmethatIhadtotryharder,evenifthiswasmysixthschoolinsix
yearsandIwasprobablygoingtobekickedoutagain.Iwouldntbeabletostand
thatsadlookshedgiveme.
Mr.Brunnerparkedhiswheelchairatthebaseofthehandicappedramp.Heate
celerywhilehereadapaperbacknovel.Aredumbrellastuckupfromthebackof
hischair,makingitlooklikeamotorizedcaftable.
IwasabouttounwrapmysandwichwhenNancyBobofitappearedinfrontofme
with her ugly friendsI guess shed gotten tired of stealing from the touristsand
dumpedherhalf-eatenlunchinGroverslap.
Oops.Shegrinnedatmewithhercrookedteeth.Herfreckleswereorange,as
ifsomebodyhadspray-paintedherfacewithliquidCheetos.
Itriedtostaycool.Theschoolcounselorhadtoldmeamilliontimes,Countto
ten, get control of your temper. But I was so mad my mind went blank. A wave
roaredinmyears.
Idontremembertouchingher,butthenextthingIknew,Nancywassittingonher
buttinthefountain,screaming,Percypushedme!
Mrs.Doddsmaterializednexttous.
Someofthekidswerewhispering:Didyousee
thewater
likeitgrabbedher
I didnt know what they were talking about. All I knew was that I was in trouble
again.
AssoonasMrs.DoddswassurepoorlittleNancywasokay,promisingtoget
heranewshirtatthemuseumgiftshop,etc.,etc.,Mrs.Doddsturnedonme.There
wasatriumphantfireinhereyes,asifIddonesomethingshedbeenwaitingforall
semester.Now,honey
Iknow,Igrumbled.Amontherasingworkbooks.
Thatwasnttherightthingtosay.
Comewithme,Mrs.Doddssaid.
Wait!Groveryelped.Itwasme.Ipushedher.
I stared at him, stunned. I couldnt believe he was trying to cover for me. Mrs.
DoddsscaredGrovertodeath.
Sheglaredathimsohardhiswhiskerychintrembled.
Idontthinkso,Mr.Underwood,shesaid.
But
Youwillstayhere.
Groverlookedatmedesperately.
Itsokay,man,Itoldhim.Thanksfortrying.
Honey,Mrs.Doddsbarkedatme.Now.
NancyBobofitsmirked.IgavehermydeluxeIll-kill-you-laterstare.ThenIturned
to face Mrs. Dodds, but she wasnt there. She was standing at the museum
entrance,wayatthetopofthesteps,gesturingimpatientlyatmetocomeon.
Howdshegettheresofast?
Ihavemomentslikethatalot,whenmybrainfallsasleeporsomething,andthe
nextthingIknowIvemissedsomething,asifapuzzlepiecefelloutoftheuniverse
andleftmestaringattheblankplacebehindit.Theschoolcounselortoldmethis
waspartoftheADHD,mybrainmisinterpretingthings.
Iwasntsosure.
IwentafterMrs.Dodds.
Halfwayupthesteps,IglancedbackatGrover.Hewaslookingpale,cuttinghis
eyesbetweenmeandMr.Brunner,likehewantedMr.Brunnertonoticewhatwas
goingon,butMr.Brunnerwasabsorbedinhisnovel.
Ilookedbackup.Mrs.Doddshaddisappearedagain.Shewasnowinsidethe
building,attheendoftheentrancehall.
Okay, I thought. Shes going to make me buy a new shirt for Nancy at the gift
shop.
Butapparentlythatwasnttheplan.
Ifollowedherdeeperintothemuseum.WhenIfinallycaughtuptoher,wewere
backintheGreekandRomansection.
Exceptforus,thegallerywasempty.
Mrs. Dodds stood with her arms crossed in front of a big marble frieze of the
Greekgods.Shewasmakingthisweirdnoiseinherthroat,likegrowling.
Even without the noise, I wouldve been nervous. Its weird being alone with a
teacher,especiallyMrs.Dodds.Somethingaboutthewayshelookedatthefrieze,
asifshewantedtopulverizeit...
Youvebeengivingusproblems,honey,shesaid.
Ididthesafething.Isaid,Yes,maam.
Shetuggedonthecuffsofherleatherjacket.Didyoureallythinkyouwouldget
awaywithit?
Thelookinhereyeswasbeyondmad.Itwasevil.
Shesateacher,Ithoughtnervously.Itsnotlikeshesgoingtohurtme.
Isaid,IllIlltryharder,maam.
Thundershookthebuilding.
Wearenotfools,PercyJackson,Mrs.Doddssaid.Itwasonlyamatteroftime
beforewefoundyouout.Confess,andyouwillsufferlesspain.
Ididntknowwhatshewastalkingabout.
AllIcouldthinkofwasthattheteachersmustvefoundtheillegalstashofcandy
Idbeensellingoutofmydormroom.OrmaybetheydrealizedIgotmyessayon
TomSawyer from the Internet without ever reading the book and now they were
going to take away my grade. Or worse, they were going to make me read the
book.
Well?shedemanded.
Maam,Idont...
Yourtimeisup,shehissed.
Then the weirdest thing happened. Her eyes began to glow like barbecue
coals. Her fingers stretched, turning into talons. Her jacket melted into large,
leathery wings. She wasnt human. She was a shriveled hag with bat wings and
clawsandamouthfullofyellowfangs,andshewasabouttoslicemetoribbons.
Thenthingsgotevenstranger.
Mr.Brunner,whodbeenoutinfrontofthemuseumaminutebefore,wheeledhis
chairintothedoorwayofthegallery,holdingapeninhishand.
Whatho,Percy!heshouted,andtossedthepenthroughtheair.
Mrs.Doddslungedatme.
Withayelp,Idodgedandfelttalonsslashtheairnexttomyear.Isnatchedthe
ballpointpenoutoftheair,butwhenithitmyhand,itwasntapenanymore.Itwasa
swordMr.Brunnersbronzesword,whichhealwaysusedontournamentday.
Mrs.Doddsspuntowardmewithamurderouslookinhereyes.
My knees were jelly. My hands were shaking so bad I almost dropped the
sword.
Shesnarled,Die,honey!
Andsheflewstraightatme.
Absolute terror ran through my body. I did the only thing that came naturally: I
swungthesword.
Themetalbladehithershoulderandpassedcleanthroughherbodyasifshe
weremadeofwater.Hisss!
Mrs.Doddswasasandcastleinapowerfan.Sheexplodedintoyellowpowder,
vaporizedonthespot,leavingnothingbutthesmellofsulfurandadyingscreech
andachillofevilintheair,asifthosetwoglowingredeyeswerestillwatchingme.
Iwasalone.
Therewasaballpointpeninmyhand.
Mr.Brunnerwasntthere.Nobodywastherebutme.
Myhandswerestilltrembling.Mylunchmustvebeencontaminatedwithmagic
mushroomsorsomething.
HadIimaginedthewholething?
Iwentbackoutside.
Ithadstartedtorain.
Groverwassittingbythefountain,amuseummaptentedoverhishead.Nancy
Bobofitwasstillstandingthere,soakedfromherswiminthefountain,grumblingto
heruglyfriends.Whenshesawme,shesaid,IhopeMrs.Kerrwhippedyourbutt.
Isaid,Who?
Ourteacher.Duh!
I blinked. We had no teacher named Mrs. Kerr. I asked Nancy what she was
talkingabout.
Shejustrolledhereyesandturnedaway.
IaskedGroverwhereMrs.Doddswas.
Hesaid,Who?
Buthepausedfirst,andhewouldntlookatme,soIthoughthewasmessingwith
me.
Notfunny,man,Itoldhim.Thisisserious.
Thunderboomedoverhead.
I saw Mr. Brunner sitting under his red umbrella, reading his book, as if hed
nevermoved.
Iwentovertohim.
He looked up, a little distracted. Ah, that would be my pen. Please bring your
ownwritingutensilinthefuture,Mr.Jackson.
IhandedMr.Brunnerhispen.IhadntevenrealizedIwasstillholdingit.
Sir,Isaid,wheresMrs.Dodds?
Hestaredatmeblankly.Who?
Theotherchaperone.Mrs.Dodds.Thepre-algebrateacher.
Hefrownedandsatforward,lookingmildlyconcerned.Percy,thereisnoMrs.
Doddsonthistrip.AsfarasIknow,therehasneverbeenaMrs.DoddsatYancy
Academy.Areyoufeelingallright?
TWO
THREE OLD LADIES KNIT THE SOCKS OF DEATH
I was used to the occasional weird experience, but usually they were over
quickly.Thistwenty-four/sevenhallucinationwasmorethanIcouldhandle.Forthe
restoftheschoolyear,theentirecampusseemedtobeplayingsomekindoftrick
onme.Thestudentsactedasiftheywerecompletelyandtotallyconvincedthat
Mrs.KerraperkyblondwomanwhomIdneverseeninmylifeuntilshegotonour
busattheendofthefieldtriphadbeenourpre-algebrateachersinceChristmas.
EverysooftenIwouldspringaMrs.Doddsreferenceonsomebody,justtosee
ifIcouldtripthemup,buttheywouldstareatmelikeIwaspsycho.
ItgotsoIalmostbelievedthemMrs.Doddshadneverexisted.
Almost.
ButGrovercouldntfoolme.WhenImentionedthenameDoddstohim,hewould
hesitate,thenclaimshedidntexist.ButIknewhewaslying.
Somethingwasgoingon.Somethinghadhappenedatthemuseum.
Ididnthavemuchtimetothinkaboutitduringthedays,butatnight,visionsof
Mrs.Doddswithtalonsandleatherywingswouldwakemeupinacoldsweat.
The freak weather continued, which didnt help my mood. One night, a
thunderstormblewoutthewindowsinmydormroom.Afewdayslater,thebiggest
tornado ever spotted in the Hudson Valley touched down only fifty miles from
YancyAcademy.Oneofthecurrenteventswestudiedinsocialstudiesclasswas
theunusualnumberofsmallplanesthathadgonedowninsuddensquallsinthe
Atlanticthatyear.
Istartedfeelingcrankyandirritablemostofthetime.MygradesslippedfromDs
toFs.IgotintomorefightswithNancyBobofitandherfriends.Iwassentoutintothe
hallwayinalmosteveryclass.
Finally,whenourEnglishteacher,Mr.Nicoll,askedmeforthemillionthtimewhyI
wastoolazytostudyforspellingtests,Isnapped.Icalledhimanoldsot.Iwasnt
evensurewhatitmeant,butitsoundedgood.
The headmaster sent my mom a letter the following week, making it official: I
wouldnotbeinvitedbacknextyeartoYancyAcademy.
Fine,Itoldmyself.Justfine.
Iwashomesick.
IwantedtobewithmymominourlittleapartmentontheUpperEastSide,evenif
Ihadtogotopublicschoolandputupwithmyobnoxiousstepfatherandhisstupid
pokerparties.
Andyet...therewerethingsIdmissatYancy.Theviewofthewoodsoutmy
dorm window, the Hudson River in the distance, the smell of pine trees. Id miss
Grover,whodbeenagoodfriend,evenifhewasalittlestrange.Iworriedhowhed
survivenextyearwithoutme.
IdmissLatinclass,tooMr.BrunnerscrazytournamentdaysandhisfaiththatI
coulddowell.
Asexamweekgotcloser,LatinwastheonlytestIstudiedfor.Ihadntforgotten
what Mr. Brunner had told me about this subject being life-and-death for me. I
wasntsurewhy,butIdstartedtobelievehim.
Theeveningbeforemyfinal,IgotsofrustratedIthrewtheCambridge Guide to
Greek Mythology across my dorm room. Words had started swimming off the
page, circling my head, the letters doing one-eighties as if they were riding
skateboards.TherewasnowayIwasgoingtorememberthedifferencebetween
Chiron and Charon, or Polydictes and Polydeuces. And conjugating those Latin
verbs?Forgetit.
Ipacedtheroom,feelinglikeantswerecrawlingaroundinsidemyshirt.
I remembered Mr. Brunners serious expression, his thousand-year-old eyes.I
willacceptonlythebestfromyou,PercyJackson.
Itookadeepbreath.Ipickedupthemythologybook.
Id never asked a teacher for help before. Maybe if I talked to Mr. Brunner, he
could give me some pointers. At least I could apologize for the big fat F I was
abouttoscoreonhisexam.IdidntwanttoleaveYancyAcademywithhimthinking
Ihadnttried.
Iwalkeddownstairstothefacultyoffices.Mostofthemweredarkandempty,but
Mr. Brunners door was ajar, light from his window stretching across the hallway
floor.
IwasthreestepsfromthedoorhandlewhenIheardvoicesinsidetheoffice.Mr.
Brunner asked a question. A voice that was definitely Grovers said . . . worried
aboutPercy,sir.
Ifroze.
Im not usually an eavesdropper, but I dare you to try not listening if you hear
yourbestfriendtalkingaboutyoutoanadult.
Iinchedcloser.
...alonethissummer,Groverwassaying.Imean,aKindlyOneintheschool!
Nowthatweknowforsure,andtheyknowtoo
We would only make matters worse by rushing him, Mr. Brunner said. We
needtheboytomaturemore.
Buthemaynothavetime.Thesummersolsticedeadline
Willhavetoberesolvedwithouthim,Grover.Lethimenjoyhisignorancewhile
hestillcan.
Sir,hesawher....
Hisimagination,Mr.Brunnerinsisted.TheMistoverthestudentsandstaffwill
beenoughtoconvincehimofthat.
Sir,I...Icantfailinmydutiesagain.Groversvoicewaschokedwithemotion.
Youknowwhatthatwouldmean.
Youhaventfailed,Grover,Mr.Brunnersaidkindly.Ishouldhaveseenherfor
whatshewas.NowletsjustworryaboutkeepingPercyaliveuntilnextfall
Themythologybookdroppedoutofmyhandandhitthefloorwithathud.
Mr.Brunnerwentsilent.
Myhearthammering,Ipickedupthebookandbackeddownthehall.
AshadowslidacrossthelightedglassofBrunnersofficedoor,theshadowof
somethingmuchtallerthanmywheelchair-boundteacher,holdingsomethingthat
lookedsuspiciouslylikeanarchersbow.
Iopenedthenearestdoorandslippedinside.
A few seconds later I heard a slowclop-clop-clop, like muffled wood blocks,
then a sound like an animal snuffling right outside my door. A large, dark shape
pausedinfrontoftheglass,thenmovedon.
Abeadofsweattrickleddownmyneck.
Somewhere in the hallway, Mr. Brunner spoke. Nothing, he murmured. My
nerveshaventbeenrightsincethewintersolstice.
Mineneither,Groversaid.ButIcouldhavesworn...
Go back to the dorm, Mr. Brunner told him. Youve got a long day of exams
tomorrow.
Dontremindme.
ThelightswentoutinMr.Brunnersoffice.
Iwaitedinthedarkforwhatseemedlikeforever.
Finally,Islippedoutintothehallwayandmademywaybackuptothedorm.
Groverwaslyingonhisbed,studyinghisLatinexamnoteslikehedbeenthere
allnight.
Hey,hesaid,bleary-eyed.Yougoingtobereadyforthistest?
Ididntanswer.
Youlookawful.Hefrowned.Iseverythingokay?
Just...tired.
Iturnedsohecouldntreadmyexpression,andstartedgettingreadyforbed.
I didnt understand what Id heard downstairs. I wanted to believe Id imagined
thewholething.
Butonethingwasclear:GroverandMr.Brunnerweretalkingaboutmebehind
myback.TheythoughtIwasinsomekindofdanger.
The next afternoon, as I was leaving the three-hour Latin exam, my eyes
swimmingwithalltheGreekandRomannamesIdmisspelled,Mr.Brunnercalled
mebackinside.
Foramoment,Iwasworriedhedfoundoutaboutmyeavesdroppingthenight
before,butthatdidntseemtobetheproblem.
Percy,hesaid.DontbediscouragedaboutleavingYancy.Its...itsforthe
best.
His tone was kind, but the words still embarrassed me. Even though he was
speaking quietly, the other kids finishing the test could hear. Nancy Bobofit
smirkedatmeandmadesarcasticlittlekissingmotionswithherlips.
Imumbled,Okay,sir.
I mean . . . Mr. Brunner wheeled his chair back and forth, like he wasnt sure
whattosay.Thisisnttherightplaceforyou.Itwasonlyamatteroftime.
Myeyesstung.
Herewasmyfavoriteteacher,infrontoftheclass,tellingmeIcouldnthandleit.
Aftersayinghebelievedinmeallyear,nowhewastellingmeIwasdestinedtoget
kickedout.
Right,Isaid,trembling.
No,no,Mr.Brunnersaid.Oh,confounditall.WhatImtryingtosay...youre
notnormal,Percy.Thatsnothingtobe
Thanks,Iblurted.Thanksalot,sir,forremindingme.
Percy
ButIwasalreadygone.
Onthelastdayoftheterm,Ishovedmyclothesintomysuitcase.
The other guys were joking around, talking about their vacation plans. One of
themwasgoingonahikingtriptoSwitzerland.AnotherwascruisingtheCaribbean
for a month. They were juvenile delinquents, like me, but they wererich juvenile
delinquents.Theirdaddieswereexecutives,orambassadors,orcelebrities.Iwas
anobody,fromafamilyofnobodies.
TheyaskedmewhatIdbedoingthissummerandItoldthemIwasgoingback
tothecity.
What I didnt tell them was that Id have to get a summer job walking dogs or
sellingmagazinesubscriptions,andspendmyfreetimeworryingaboutwhereId
gotoschoolinthefall.
Oh,oneoftheguyssaid.Thatscool.
TheywentbacktotheirconversationasifIdneverexisted.
TheonlypersonIdreadedsayinggood-byetowasGrover,butasitturnedout,I
didnt have to. Hed booked a ticket to Manhattan on the same Greyhound as I
had,sotherewewere,togetheragain,headingintothecity.
During the whole bus ride, Grover kept glancing nervously down the aisle,
watchingtheotherpassengers.Itoccurredtomethathedalwaysactednervous
and fidgety when we left Yancy, as if he expected something bad to happen.
Before, Id always assumed he was worried about getting teased. But there was
nobodytoteasehimontheGreyhound.
FinallyIcouldntstanditanymore.
Isaid,LookingforKindlyOnes?
Grovernearlyjumpedoutofhisseat.Whawhatdoyoumean?
I confessed about eavesdropping on him and Mr. Brunner the night before the
exam.
Groverseyetwitched.Howmuchdidyouhear?
Oh...notmuch.Whatsthesummersolsticedeadline?
Hewinced.Look,Percy...Iwasjustworriedforyou,see?Imean,hallucinating
aboutdemonmathteachers...
Grover
AndIwastellingMr.Brunnerthatmaybeyouwereoverstressedorsomething,
becausetherewasnosuchpersonasMrs.Dodds,and...
Grover,youreareally,reallybadliar.
Hisearsturnedpink.
From his shirt pocket, he fished out a grubby business card. Just take this,
okay?Incaseyouneedmethissummer.
Thecardwasinfancyscript,whichwasmurderonmydyslexiceyes,butIfinally
madeoutsomethinglike:

GroverUnderwood
Keeper
Half-BloodHill
LongIsland,NewYork
(800)009-0009

WhatsHalf
Dontsayitaloud!heyelped.Thatsmy,um...summeraddress.
Myheartsank.Groverhadasummerhome.Idneverconsideredthathisfamily
mightbeasrichastheothersatYancy.
Okay,Isaidglumly.So,like,ifIwanttocomevisityourmansion.
Henodded.Or...orifyouneedme.
WhywouldIneedyou?
ItcameoutharsherthanImeantitto.
GroverblushedrightdowntohisAdamsapple.Look,Percy,thetruthis,IIkind
ofhavetoprotectyou.
Istaredathim.
All year long, Id gotten in fights, keeping bullies away from him. Id lost sleep
worryingthathedgetbeatenupnextyearwithoutme.Andherehewasactinglike
hewastheonewhodefendedme.
Grover,Isaid,whatexactlyareyouprotectingmefrom?
Therewasahugegrindingnoiseunderourfeet.Blacksmokepouredfromthe
dashboardandthewholebusfilledwithasmelllikerotteneggs.Thedrivercursed
andlimpedtheGreyhoundovertothesideofthehighway.
After a few minutes clanking around in the engine compartment, the driver
announcedthatwedallhavetogetoff.GroverandIfiledoutsidewitheverybody
else.
Wewereonastretchofcountryroadnoplaceyoudnoticeifyoudidntbreak
downthere.Onoursideofthehighwaywasnothingbutmapletreesandlitterfrom
passing cars. On the other side, across four lanes of asphalt shimmering with
afternoonheat,wasanold-fashionedfruitstand.
Thestuffonsalelookedreallygood:heapingboxesofbloodredcherriesand
apples,walnutsandapricots,jugsofciderinaclaw-foottubfullofice.Therewere
nocustomers,justthreeoldladiessittinginrockingchairsintheshadeofamaple
tree,knittingthebiggestpairofsocksIdeverseen.
Imeanthesesockswerethesizeofsweaters,buttheywereclearlysocks.The
ladyontherightknittedoneofthem.Theladyontheleftknittedtheother.Thelady
inthemiddleheldanenormousbasketofelectric-blueyarn.
Allthreewomenlookedancient,withpalefaceswrinkledlikefruitleather,silver
hair tied back in white bandannas, bony arms sticking out of bleached cotton
dresses.
Theweirdestthingwas,theyseemedtobelookingrightatme.
IlookedoveratGrovertosaysomethingaboutthisandsawthatthebloodhad
drainedfromhisface.Hisnosewastwitching.
Grover?Isaid.Hey,man
Tellmetheyrenotlookingatyou.Theyare,arentthey?
Yeah.Weird,huh?Youthinkthosesockswouldfitme?
Notfunny,Percy.Notfunnyatall.
The old lady in the middle took out a huge pair of scissorsgold and silver,
long-bladed,likeshears.IheardGrovercatchhisbreath.
Weregettingonthebus,hetoldme.Comeon.
What?Isaid.Itsathousanddegreesinthere.
Comeon!Hepriedopenthedoorandclimbedinside,butIstayedback.
Acrosstheroad,theoldladieswerestillwatchingme.Themiddleonecutthe
yarn,andIswearIcouldhearthatsnipacrossfourlanesoftraffic.Hertwofriends
balleduptheelectric-bluesocks,leavingmewonderingwhotheycouldpossibly
beforSasquatchorGodzilla.
Attherearofthebus,thedriverwrenchedabigchunkofsmokingmetaloutof
theenginecompartment.Thebusshuddered,andtheengineroaredbacktolife.
Thepassengerscheered.
Darnright!yelledthedriver.Heslappedthebuswithhishat.Everybodyback
onboard!
Oncewegotgoing,Istartedfeelingfeverish,asifIdcaughttheflu.
Groverdidntlookmuchbetter.Hewasshiveringandhisteethwerechattering.
Grover?
Yeah?
Whatareyounottellingme?
Hedabbedhisforeheadwithhisshirtsleeve.Percy,whatdidyouseebackat
thefruitstand?
Youmeantheoldladies?Whatisitaboutthem,man?Theyrenotlike...Mrs.
Dodds,arethey?
Hisexpressionwashardtoread,butIgotthefeelingthatthefruit-standladies
were something much, much worse than Mrs. Dodds. He said, Just tell me what
yousaw.
Themiddleonetookoutherscissors,andshecuttheyarn.
He closed his eyes and made a gesture with his fingers that mightve been
crossinghimself,butitwasnt.Itwassomethingelse,somethingalmostolder.
Hesaid,Yousawhersnipthecord.
Yeah.So?ButevenasIsaidit,Iknewitwasabigdeal.
This is not happening, Grover mumbled. He started chewing at his thumb. I
dontwantthistobelikethelasttime.
Whatlasttime?
Alwayssixthgrade.Theynevergetpastsixth.
Grover, I said, because he was really starting to scare me. What are you
talkingabout?
Letmewalkyouhomefromthebusstation.Promiseme.
Thisseemedlikeastrangerequesttome,butIpromisedhecould.
Isthislikeasuperstitionorsomething?Iasked.
Noanswer.
Groverthatsnippingoftheyarn.Doesthatmeansomebodyisgoingtodie?
Helookedatmemournfully,likehewasalreadypickingthekindofflowersId
likebestonmycoffin.
THREE
GROVER UNEXPECTEDLY LOSES HIS PANTS
Confessiontime:IditchedGroverassoonaswegottothebusterminal.Iknow,I
know.Itwasrude.ButGroverwasfreakingmeout,lookingatmelikeIwasadead
man,muttering"Whydoesthisalwayshappen?"and"Whydoesitalwayshaveto
hesixthgrade?"
Wheneverhegotupset,Grover'sbladderactedup,soIwasn'tsurprisedwhen,
assoonaswegotoffthebus,hemademepromisetowaitforhim,thenmadea
beelinefortherestroom.Insteadofwaiting,Igotmysuitcase,slippedoutside,and
caughtthefirsttaxiuptown.
"East One-hundred-and-fourth and First," I told the driver. A word about my
mother,beforeyoumeether.
Her name is Sally Jackson and she's the best person in the world, which just
proves my theory that the best people have the rottenest luck. Her own parents
died in a plane crash when she was five, and she was raised by an uncle who
didn'tcaremuchabouther.Shewantedtobeanovelist,soshespenthighschool
workingtosaveenoughmoneyforacollegewithagoodcreativewritingprogram.
Thenherunclegotcancer,andshehadtoquitschoolhersenioryeartotakecare
ofhim.Afterhedied,shewasleftwithnomoney,nofamily,andnodiploma.The
onlygoodbreaksheevergotwasmeetingmydad.
Idon'thaveanymemoriesofhim,justthissortofwarmglow,maybethebarest
trace of his smile. My mom doesn't like to talk about him becauseit makes her
sad.Shehasnopictures.See,theyweren'tmarried.Shetoldmehewasrichand
important,andtheirrelationshipwasasecret.Thenoneday,hesetsailacrossthe
Atlanticonsomeimportantjourney,andhenevercameback.
Lostatsea,mymomtoldme.Notdead.Lostatsea.
She worked odd jobs, took night classes to get her high school diploma, and
raised me on her own. She never complained or got mad. Not even once. But I
knew I wasn't an easy kid. Finally, she married Gabe Ugliano, who was nice the
firstthirtysecondsweknewhim,thenshowedhistruecolorsasaworld-classjerk.
WhenIwasyoung,InicknamedhimSmellyGabe.I'msorry,butit'sthetruth.The
guyreekedlikemoldygarlicpizzawrappedingymshorts.Betweenthetwoofus,
wemademymom'slifeprettyhard.ThewaySmellyGabetreatedher,thewayhe
andIgotalong...well,whenIcamehomeisagoodexample.
I walked into our little apartment, hoping my mom would be home from work.
Instead,SmellyGabewasinthelivingroom,playingpokerwithhisbuddies.The
televisionblaredESPN.Chipsandbeercanswerestrewnalloverthecarpet.
Hardlylookingup,hesaidaroundhiscigar,"So,you'rehome."
"Where'smymom?"
"Working,"hesaid."Yougotanycash?"
Thatwasit.NoWelcomeback.Goodtoseeyou.Howhasyourlifebeenthelast
sixmonths?
Gabehadputonweight.Helookedlikeatusklesswalrusinthrift-storeclothes.
He had about three hairs on his head, all combed over his bald scalp, as if that
madehimhandsomeorsomething.
HemanagedtheElectronicsMega-MartinQueens,buthestayedhomemostof
the time. I don't know why he hadn't been fired long before. He just kept on
collecting paychecks, spending the money on cigars that made me nauseous,
andonbeer,ofcourse.Alwaysbeer.WheneverIwashome,heexpectedmeto
providehisgamblingfunds.Hecalledthatour"guysecret."Meaning,ifItoldmy
mom,hewouldpunchmylightsout.
"Idon'thaveanycash,"Itoldhim.
Heraisedagreasyeyebrow.
Gabecouldsniffoutmoneylikeabloodhound,whichwassurprising,sincehis
ownsmellshould'vecoveredupeverythingelse.
"Youtookataxifromthebusstation,"hesaid.Probablypaidwithatwenty.Got
six,sevenbucksinchange.Somebodyexpectstoliveunderthisroof,heoughtto
carryhisownweight.AmIright,Eddie?"
Eddie, the super of the apartment building, looked at me with a twinge of
sympathy."Comeon,Gabe,"hesaid."Thekidjustgothere."
"AmIright?"Gaberepeated.
Eddie scowled into his bowl of pretzels. The other two guys passed gas in
harmony.
"Fine,"Isaid.Idugawadofdollarsoutofmypocketandthrewthemoneyonthe
table."Ihopeyoulose."
"Your report card came, brain boy!" he shouted after me. "I wouldn't act so
snooty!" I slammed the door to my room, which really wasn't my room. During
schoolmonths,itwasGabe's"study."Hedidn'tstudyanythinginthereexceptold
car magazines, but he loved shoving my stuff in the closet, leaving his muddy
bootsonmywindowsill,anddoinghisbesttomaketheplacesmelllikehisnasty
cologneandcigarsandstalebeer.
Idroppedmysuitcaseonthebed.Homesweethome.
Gabe's smell was almost worse than the nightmares about Mrs. Dodds, or the
soundofthatoldfruitlady'sshearssnippingtheyarn.
ButassoonasIthoughtthat,mylegsfeltweak.IrememberedGrover'slookof
panichowhe'dmademepromiseIwouldn'tgohomewithouthim.Asuddenchill
rolled through me. I felt like someonesomethingwas looking for me right now,
maybepoundingitswayupthestairs,growinglong,horribletalons.
ThenIheardmymom'svoice."Percy?"
Sheopenedthebedroomdoor,andmyfearsmelted.
My mother can make me feel good just by walking into the room. Her eyes
sparkleandchangecolorinthelight.Hersmileisaswarmasaquilt.She'sgota
fewgraystreaksmixedinwithherlongbrownhair,butIneverthinkofherasold.
Whenshelooksatme,it'slikeshe'sseeingallthegoodthingsaboutme,noneof
thebad.I'veneverheardherraisehervoiceorsayanunkindwordtoanyone,not
evenmeorGabe.
"Oh, Percy." She hugged me tight. "I can't believe it. You've grown since
Christmas!" Her red-white-and-blue Sweet on America uniform smelled like the
best things in the world: chocolate, licorice, and all the other stuff she sold at the
candyshopinGrandCentral.She'dbroughtmeahugebagof"freesamples,"the
wayshealwaysdidwhenIcamehome.Wesattogetherontheedgeofthebed.
WhileIattackedtheblueberrysourstrings,sheranherhandthroughmyhairand
demanded to know everything I hadn't put in my letters. She didn't mention
anythingaboutmygettingexpelled.Shedidn'tseemtocareaboutthat.ButwasI
okay?
Washerlittleboydoingallright?
Itoldhershewassmotheringme,andtolayoffandallthat,butsecretly,Iwas
really,reallygladtoseeher.
From the other room, Gabe yelled, "Hey, Sallyhow about some bean dip,
huh?"Igrittedmyteeth.
My mom is the nicest lady in the world. She should've been married to a
millionaire,nottosomejerklikeGabe.
Forhersake,ItriedtosoundupbeataboutmylastdaysatYancyAcademy.I
toldherIwasn'ttoodownabouttheexpulsion.I'dlastedalmostthewholeyearthis
time. I'd made some new friends. I'd done pretty well in Latin. And honestly, the
fightshadn'tbeenasbadastheheadmastersaid.IlikedYancyAcademy.Ireally
did.Iputsuchagoodspinontheyear,Ialmostconvincedmyself.Istartedchoking
up, thinking about Grover and Mr. Brunner. Even Nancy Bobofit suddenly didn't
seemsobad.
Untilthattriptothemuseum...
"What?"mymomasked.Hereyestuggedatmyconscience,tryingtopullout
thesecrets.
"Didsomethingscareyou?"
"No,Mom."
Ifeltbadlying.IwantedtotellheraboutMrs.Doddsandthethreeoldladieswith
theyarn,butIthoughtitwouldsoundstupid.
Shepursedherlips.SheknewIwasholdingback,butshedidn'tpushme.
"I have a surprise for you," she said. "We're going to the beach." My eyes
widened."Montauk?"
"Threenightssamecabin."
"When?"
Shesmiled."AssoonasIgetchanged."
Icouldn'tbelieveit.MymomandIhadn'tbeentoMontaukthelasttwosummers,
becauseGabesaidtherewasn'tenoughmoney.
Gabeappearedinthedoorwayandgrowled,"Beandip,Sally?Didn'tyouhear
me?"Iwantedtopunchhim,butImetmymom'seyesandIunderstoodshewas
offering me a deal: be nice to Gabe for a little while. Just until she was ready to
leaveforMontauk.Thenwewouldgetoutofhere.
"Iwasonmyway,honey,"shetoldGabe."Wewerejusttalkingaboutthetrip."
Gabe'seyesgotsmall."Thetrip?Youmeanyouwereseriousaboutthat?"
"Iknewit,"Imuttered."Hewon'tletusgo."
"Ofcoursehewill,"mymomsaidevenly."Yourstepfatherisjustworriedabout
money.That'sall.Besides,"sheadded,"Gabrielwon'thavetosettleforbeandip.
I'll make him enough seven-layer dip for the whole weekend. Guacamole. Sour
cream.Theworks."Gabesoftenedabit."Sothismoneyforyourtrip...itcomesout
ofyourclothesbudget,right?"
"Yes,honey,"mymothersaid.
"Andyouwon'ttakemycaranywherebutthereandback."
"We'llbeverycareful."
Gabescratchedhisdoublechin."Maybeifyouhurrywiththatseven-layerdip...
Andmaybeifthekidapologizesforinterruptingmypokergame."
MaybeifIkickyouinyoursoftspot,Ithought.Andmakeyousingsopranofora
week.Butmymom'seyeswarnedmenottomakehimmad.
Whydidsheputupwiththisguy?Iwantedtoscream.Whydidshecarewhathe
thought?
"I'm sorry," I muttered. "I'm really sorry I interrupted your incredibly important
pokergame.Pleasegobacktoitrightnow."
Gabe'seyesnarrowed.Histinybrainwasprobablytryingtodetectsarcasmin
mystatement.
"Yeah,whatever,"hedecided.
Hewentbacktohisgame.
"Thank you, Percy," my mom said. "Once we get to Montauk, we'll talk more
about...whateveryou'veforgottentotellme,okay?"
For a moment, I thought I saw anxiety in her eyesthe same fear I'd seen in
Groverduringthebusrideasifmymomtoofeltanoddchillintheair.
Butthenhersmilereturned,andIfiguredImusthavebeenmistaken.Sheruffled
myhairandwenttomakeGabehisseven-layerdip.
Anhourlaterwewerereadytoleave.
Gabetookabreakfromhispokergamelongenoughtowatchmelugmymom's
bagstothecar.Hekeptgripingandgroaningaboutlosinghercookingandmore
important,his'78
Camaroforthewholeweekend.
"Not a scratch on this car, brain boy," he warned me as I loaded the last bag.
"Notonelittlescratch."
Like I'd be the one driving. I was twelve. But that didn't matter to Gabe. If a
seagullsomuchaspoopedonhispaintjob,he'dfindawaytoblameme.
Watching him lumber back toward the apartment building, I got so mad I did
somethingIcan'texplain.AsGabereachedthedoorway,Imadethehandgesture
I'dseenGrovermakeonthebus,asortofwarding-off-evilgesture,aclawedhand
overmyheart,thenashovingmovementtowardGabe.Thescreendoorslammed
shutsoharditwhackedhiminthebuttandsenthimflyingupthestaircaseasifhe'd
beenshotfromacannon.Maybeitwasjustthewind,orsomefreakaccidentwith
thehinges,butIdidn'tstaylongenoughtofindout.IgotintheCamaroandtoldmy
momtosteponit.
Ourrentalcabinwasonthesouthshore,wayoutatthetipofLongIsland.Itwasa
littlepastelboxwithfadedcurtains,halfsunkenintothedunes.Therewasalways
sandinthesheetsandspidersinthecabinets,andmostofthetimetheseawas
toocoldtoswimin.Ilovedtheplace.
We'd been going there since I was a baby. My mom had been going even
longer.Sheneverexactlysaid,butIknewwhythebeachwasspecialtoher.Itwas
theplacewhereshe'dmetmydad.
AswegotclosertoMontauk,sheseemedtogrowyounger,yearsofworryand
workdisappearingfromherface.Hereyesturnedthecolorofthesea.
We got there at sunset, opened all the cabin's windows, and went through our
usual cleaning routine. We walked on the beach, fed blue corn chips to the
seagulls,andmunchedonbluejellybeans,bluesaltwatertaffy,andalltheother
free samples my mom had brought from work. I guess I should explain the blue
food.
See,Gabehadoncetoldmymomtherewasnosuchthing.Theyhadthisfight,
whichseemedlikeareallysmallthingatthetime.Buteversince,mymomwentout
of her way to eat blue. She baked blue birthday cakes. She mixed blueberry
smoothies.Sheboughtblue-corntortillachipsandbroughthomebluecandyfrom
theshop.Thisalongwithkeepinghermaidenname,Jackson,ratherthancalling
herselfMrs.Uglianowasproofthatshewasn'ttotallysuckeredbyGabe.Shedid
havearebelliousstreak,likeme.
Whenitgotdark,wemadeafire.Weroastedhotdogsandmarshmallows.Mom
told me stories about when she was a kid, back before her parents died in the
planecrash.Shetoldmeaboutthebooksshewantedtowritesomeday,whenshe
hadenoughmoneytoquitthecandyshop.
Eventually, I got up the nerve to ask about what was always on my mind
wheneverwecametoMontaukmyfather.Mom'seyeswentallmisty.Ifiguredshe
wouldtellmethesamethingsshealwaysdid,butInevergottiredofhearingthem.
"Hewaskind,Percy,"shesaid."Tall,handsome,andpowerful.Butgentle,too.
Youhavehisblackhair,youknow,andhisgreeneyes."
Mom fished a blue jelly bean out of her candy bag. "I wish he could see you,
Percy.Hewouldbesoproud."
Iwonderedhowshecouldsaythat.Whatwassogreataboutme?Adyslexic,
hyperactiveboywithaD+reportcard,kickedoutofschoolforthesixthtimeinsix
years.
"HowoldwasI?"Iasked."Imean...whenheleft?"Shewatchedtheflames."He
wasonlywithmeforonesummer,Percy.Righthereatthisbeach.Thiscabin."
"But...heknewmeasababy."
"No,honey.HeknewIwasexpectingababy,butheneversawyou.Hehadto
leavebeforeyouwereborn."
ItriedtosquarethatwiththefactthatIseemedtoremember...somethingabout
myfather.Awarmglow.Asmile.
I had always assumed he knew me as a baby. My mom had never said it
outright,butstill,I'dfeltitmustbetrue.Now,tobetoldthathe'dneverevenseenme
...Ifeltangryatmyfather.Maybeitwasstupid,butIresentedhimforgoingonthat
oceanvoyage,fornothavingthegutstomarrymymom.He'dleftus,andnowwe
werestuckwithSmellyGabe.
"Are you going to send me away again?" I asked her. "To another boarding
school?"Shepulledamarshmallowfromthefire.
"I don't know, honey." Her voice was heavy. "I think ... I think we'll have to do
something."
"Because you don't want me around?" I regretted the words as soon as they
wereout.Mymom'seyeswelledwithtears.Shetookmyhand,squeezedittight.
"Oh,Percy,no.IIhaveto,honey.Foryourowngood.Ihavetosendyouaway."
Her words reminded me of what Mr. Brunner had saidthat it was best for me to
leaveYancy.
"BecauseI'mnotnormal,"Isaid.
"Yousaythatasifit'sabadthing,Percy.Butyoudon'trealizehowimportantyou
are.IthoughtYancyAcademywouldbefarenoughaway.Ithoughtyou'dfinallybe
safe."
"Safefromwhat?"
She met my eyes, and a flood of memories came back to meall the weird,
scarythingsthathadeverhappenedtome,someofwhichI'dtriedtoforget.
During third grade, a man in a black trench coat had stalked me on the
playground. When the teachers threatened to call the police, he went away
growling,butnoonebelievedmewhenItoldthemthatunderhisbroad-brimmed
hat,themanonlyhadoneeye,rightinthemiddleofhishead.Beforethatareally
early memory. I was in preschool, and a teacher accidentally put me down for a
napinacotthatasnakehadslitheredinto.Mymomscreamedwhenshecameto
pickmeupandfoundmeplayingwithalimp,scalyropeI'dsomehowmanagedto
strangletodeathwithmymeatytoddlerhands.
In every single school, something creepy had happened, something unsafe,
andIwasforcedtomove.
I knew I should tell my mom about the old ladies at the fruit stand, and Mrs.
Doddsattheartmuseum,aboutmyweirdhallucinationthatIhadslicedmymath
teacherintodustwithasword.ButIcouldn'tmakemyselftellher.Ihadastrange
feelingthenewswouldendourtriptoMontauk,andIdidn'twantthat.
"I'vetriedtokeepyouasclosetomeasIcould,"mymomsaid."Theytoldme
thatwasamistake.Butthere'sonlyoneotheroption,Percytheplaceyourfather
wantedtosendyou.AndIjust...Ijustcan'tstandtodoit."
"Myfatherwantedmetogotoaspecialschool?"
"Notaschool,"shesaidsoftly."Asummercamp."Myheadwasspinning.Why
wouldmydadwhohadn'tevenstayedaroundlongenoughtoseemeborntalk
tomymomaboutasummercamp?Andifitwassoimportant,whyhadn'tsheever
mentioneditbefore?
"I'msorry,Percy,"shesaid,seeingthelookinmyeyes."ButIcan'ttalkaboutit.I
Icouldn'tsendyoutothatplace.Itmightmeansayinggood-byetoyouforgood."
"Forgood?Butifit'sonlyasummercamp..."
Sheturnedtowardthefire,andIknewfromherexpressionthatifIaskedherany
morequestionsshewouldstarttocry.
ThatnightIhadavividdream.
It was storming on the beach, and two beautiful animals, a white horse and a
golden eagle, were trying to kill each other at the edge of the surf. The eagle
swooped down and slashed the horse's muzzle with its huge talons. The horse
rearedupandkickedattheeagleswings.Astheyfought,thegroundrumbled,and
amonstrousvoicechuckledsomewherebeneaththeearth,goadingtheanimals
tofightharder.
Irantowardthem,knowingIhadtostopthemfromkillingeachother,butIwas
runninginslowmotion.IknewIwouldbetoolate.Isawtheeagledivedown,its
beakaimedatthehorse'swideeyes,andIscreamed,No!
Iwokewithastart.
Outside, it really was storming, the kind of storm that cracks trees and blows
down houses. There was no horse or eagle on the beach, just lightning making
falsedaylight,andtwenty-footwavespoundingtheduneslikeartillery.
With the next thunderclap, my mom woke. She sat up, eyes wide, and said,
"Hurricane."Iknewthatwascrazy.LongIslandneverseeshurricanesthisearlyin
thesummer.Buttheoceanseemedtohaveforgotten.Overtheroarofthewind,I
heardadistantbellow,anangry,torturedsoundthatmademyhairstandonend.
Then a much closer noise, like mallets in the sand. A desperate voice
someoneyelling,poundingonourcabindoor.
Mymothersprangoutofbedinhernightgownandthrewopenthelock.Grover
stoodframedinthedoorwayagainstabackdropofpouringrain.Buthewasn't...he
wasn'texactlyGrover.
"Searchingallnight,"hegasped."Whatwereyouthinking?"Mymotherlooked
atmeinterrornotscaredofGrover,butofwhyhe'dcome.
"Percy," she said, shouting to be heard over the rain. "What happened at
school?Whatdidn'tyoutellme?"
Iwasfrozen,lookingatGrover.Icouldn'tunderstandwhatIwasseeing.
"OZeukaialloitheoi!"heyelled."It'srightbehindme!Didn'tyoutellher?"Iwas
tooshockedtoregisterthathe'djustcursedinAncientGreek,andI'dunderstood
himperfectly.IwastooshockedtowonderhowGroverhadgottenherebyhimself
inthemiddleofthenight.BecauseGroverdidn'thavehispantsonandwherehis
legsshouldbe...wherehislegsshouldbe...
My mom looked at me sternly and talked in a tone she'd never used
before:"Percy.Tellmenow!"
Istammeredsomethingabouttheoldladiesatthefruitstand,andMrs.Dodds,
andmymomstaredatme,herfacedeathlypaleintheflashesoflightning.
Shegrabbedherpurse,tossedmemyrainjacket,andsaid,"Gettothecar.Both
of you.Go! " Grover ran for the Camarobut he wasn't running, exactly. He was
trotting,shakinghisshaggyhindquarters,andsuddenlyhisstoryaboutamuscular
disorderinhislegsmadesensetome.Iunderstoodhowhecouldrunsofastand
stilllimpwhenhewalked.Becausewherehisfeetshouldbe,therewerenofeet.
Therewereclovenhooves.
FOUR
MY MOTHER TEACHES ME BULLFIGHTING
Wetorethroughthenightalongdarkcountryroads.Windslammedagainstthe
Camaro. Rain lashed the windshield. I didnt know how my mom could see
anything,butshekeptherfootonthegas.
Everytimetherewasaflashoflightning,IlookedatGroversittingnexttomein
thebackseatandIwonderedifIdgoneinsane,orifhewaswearingsomekindof
shag-carpet pants. But, no, the smell was one I remembered from kindergarten
fieldtripstothepettingzoolanolin,likefromwool.Thesmellofawetbarnyard
animal.
AllIcouldthinktosaywas,So,youandmymom...knoweachother?
Groverseyesflittedtotherearviewmirror,thoughtherewerenocarsbehindus.
Not exactly, he said. I mean, weve never met in person. But she knew I was
watchingyou.
Watchingme?
Keepingtabsonyou.Makingsureyouwereokay.ButIwasntfakingbeingyour
friend,headdedhastily.Iamyourfriend.
Um...whatareyou,exactly?
Thatdoesntmatterrightnow.
Itdoesntmatter?Fromthewaistdown,mybestfriendisadonkey
Groverletoutasharp,throatyBlaa-ha-ha!
Idheardhimmakethatsoundbefore,butIdalwaysassumeditwasanervous
laugh.NowIrealizeditwasmoreofanirritatedbleat.
Goat!hecried.
What?
Imagoatfromthewaistdown.
Youjustsaiditdidntmatter.
Blaa-ha-ha! There are satyrs who would trample you underhoof for such an
insult!
Whoa.Wait.Satyrs.Youmeanlike...Mr.Brunnersmyths?
Were those old ladies at the fruit stand amyth, Percy? Was Mrs. Dodds a
myth?
SoyouadmittherewasaMrs.Dodds!
Ofcourse.
Thenwhy
The less you knew, the fewer monsters youd attract, Grover said, like that
shouldbeperfectlyobvious.WeputMistoverthehumanseyes.Wehopedyoud
thinktheKindlyOnewasahallucination.Butitwasnogood.Youstartedtorealize
whoyouare.
WhoIwaitaminute,whatdoyoumean?
The weird bellowing noise rose up again somewhere behind us, closer than
before.Whateverwaschasinguswasstillonourtrail.
Percy, my mom said, theres too much to explain and not enough time. We
havetogetyoutosafety.
Safetyfromwhat?Whosafterme?
Oh, nobody much, Grover said, obviously still miffed about the donkey
comment.JusttheLordoftheDeadandafewofhisblood-thirstiestminions.
Grover!
Sorry,Mrs.Jackson.Couldyoudrivefaster,please?
Itriedtowrapmymindaroundwhatwashappening,butIcouldntdoit.Iknew
thiswasntadream.Ihadnoimagination.Icouldneverdreamupsomethingthis
weird.
My mom made a hard left. We swerved onto a narrower road, racing past
darkenedfarmhousesandwoodedhillsandPICKYOUROWNSTRAWBERRIES
signsonwhitepicketfences.
Wherearewegoing?Iasked.
ThesummercampItoldyouabout.Mymothersvoicewastight;shewastrying
formysakenottobescared.Theplaceyourfatherwantedtosendyou.
Theplaceyoudidntwantmetogo.
Please, dear, my mother begged. This is hard enough. Try to understand.
Youreindanger.
Becausesomeoldladiescutyarn.
Those werent old ladies, Grover said. Those were the Fates. Do you know
what it meansthe fact they appeared in front of you? They only do that when
youreaboutto...whensomeonesabouttodie.
Whoa.Yousaidyou.
NoIdidnt.Isaidsomeone.
Youmeantyou.Asinme.
Imeantyou,likesomeone.Notyou,you.
Boys!mymomsaid.
She pulled the wheel hard to the right, and I got a glimpse of a figure shed
swervedtoavoidadarkflutteringshapenowlostbehindusinthestorm.
Whatwasthat?Iasked.
Were almost there, my mother said, ignoring my question. Another mile.
Please.Please.Please.
I didnt know wherethere was, but I found myself leaning forward in the car,
anticipating,wantingustoarrive.
Outside, nothing but rain and darknessthe kind of empty countryside you get
wayoutonthetipofLongIsland.IthoughtaboutMrs.Doddsandthemomentwhen
shedchangedintothethingwithpointedteethandleatherywings.Mylimbswent
numbfromdelayedshock.Shereallyhadntbeenhuman.Shedmeanttokillme.
ThenIthoughtaboutMr.Brunner...andtheswordhehadthrownme.BeforeI
could ask Grover about that, the hair rose on the back of my neck. There was a
blindingflash,ajaw-rattlingboom!,andourcarexploded.
Irememberfeelingweightless,likeIwasbeingcrushed,fried,andhoseddown
allatthesametime.
Ipeeledmyforeheadoffthebackofthedriversseatandsaid,Ow.
Percy!mymomshouted.
Imokay....
Itriedtoshakeoffthedaze.Iwasntdead.Thecarhadntreallyexploded.Wed
swerved into a ditch. Our drivers-side doors were wedged in the mud. The roof
hadcrackedopenlikeaneggshellandrainwaspouringin.
Lightning. That was the only explanation. Wed been blasted right off the road.
Nexttomeinthebackseatwasabigmotionlesslump.Grover!
Hewasslumpedover,bloodtricklingfromthesideofhismouth.Ishookhisfurry
hip,thinking,No!Evenifyouarehalfbarnyardanimal,youremybestfriendandI
dontwantyoutodie!
ThenhegroanedFood,andIknewtherewashope.
Percy,mymothersaid,wehaveto...Hervoicefaltered.
Ilookedback.Inaflashoflightning,throughthemud-spatteredrearwindshield,I
sawafigurelumberingtowardusontheshoulderoftheroad.Thesightofitmade
my skin crawl. It was a dark silhouette of a huge guy, like a football player. He
seemedtobeholdingablanketoverhishead.Histophalfwasbulkyandfuzzy.
Hisupraisedhandsmadeitlooklikehehadhorns.
Iswallowedhard.Whois
Percy,mymothersaid,deadlyserious.Getoutofthecar.
Mymotherthrewherselfagainstthedrivers-sidedoor.Itwasjammedshutinthe
mud. I tried mine. Stuck too. I looked up desperately at the hole in the roof. It
mightvebeenanexit,buttheedgesweresizzlingandsmoking.
Climb out the passengers side! my mother told me. Percyyou have to run.
Doyouseethatbigtree?
What?
Anotherflashoflightning,andthroughthesmokingholeintheroofIsawthetree
she meant: a huge, White House Christmas tree sized pine at the crest of the
nearesthill.
Thatsthepropertyline,mymomsaid.Getoverthathillandyoullseeabig
farmhouse down in the valley. Run and dont look back. Yell for help. Dont stop
untilyoureachthedoor.
Mom,yourecomingtoo.
Herfacewaspale,hereyesassadaswhenshelookedattheocean.
No!Ishouted.Youarecomingwithme.HelpmecarryGrover.
Food!Grovermoaned,alittlelouder.
The man with the blanket on his head kept coming toward us, making his
grunting, snorting noises. As he got closer, I realized hecouldnt be holding a
blanketoverhishead,becausehishandshugemeatyhandswereswingingat
hissides.Therewasnoblanket.Meaningthebulky,fuzzymassthatwastoobigto
behishead...washishead.Andthepointsthatlookedlikehorns...
He doesnt wantus,mymothertoldme.Hewantsyou.Besides,Icantcross
thepropertyline.
But...
Wedonthavetime,Percy.Go.Please.
Igotmad,thenmadatmymother,atGroverthegoat,atthethingwithhornsthat
waslumberingtowardusslowlyanddeliberatelylike,likeabull.
IclimbedacrossGroverandpushedthedooropenintotherain.Weregoing
together.Comeon,Mom.
Itoldyou
Mom!Iamnotleavingyou.HelpmewithGrover.
I didnt wait for her answer. I scrambled outside, dragging Grover from the car.
Hewassurprisinglylight,butIcouldnthavecarriedhimveryfarifmymomhadnt
cometomyaid.
Together, we draped Grovers arms over our shoulders and started stumbling
uphillthroughwetwaist-highgrass.
Glancing back, I got my first clear look at the monster. He was seven feet tall,
easy,hisarmsandlegslikesomethingfromthecoverofMuscleManmagazine
bulging biceps and triceps and a bunch of other ceps, all stuffed like baseballs
under vein-webbed skin. He wore no clothes except underwearI mean, bright
whiteFruitoftheLoomswhichwouldvelookedfunny,exceptthatthetophalfofhis
body was so scary. Coarse brown hair started at about his belly button and got
thickerasitreachedhisshoulders.
Hisneckwasamassofmuscleandfurleadinguptohisenormoushead,which
had a snout as long as my arm, snotty nostrils with a gleaming brass ring, cruel
black eyes, and hornsenormous black-and-white horns with points you just
couldntgetfromanelectricsharpener.
I recognized the monster, all right. He had been in one of the first stories Mr.
Brunnertoldus.Buthecouldntbereal.
Iblinkedtherainoutofmyeyes.Thats
Pasiphaesson,mymothersaid.IwishIdknownhowbadlytheywanttokill
you.
ButhestheMin
Dontsayhisname,shewarned.Nameshavepower.
Thepinetreewasstillwaytoofarahundredyardsuphillatleast.
Iglancedbehindmeagain.
The bull-man hunched over our car, looking in the windowsor not looking,
exactly.Morelikesnuffling,nuzzling.Iwasntsurewhyhebothered,sincewewere
onlyaboutfiftyfeetaway.
Food?Grovermoaned.
Shhh,Itoldhim.Mom,whatshedoing?Doesntheseeus?
Hissightandhearingareterrible,shesaid.Hegoesbysmell.Buthellfigure
outwherewearesoonenough.
Asifoncue,thebull-manbellowedinrage.HepickedupGabesCamarobythe
tornroof,thechassiscreakingandgroaning.Heraisedthecaroverhisheadand
threwitdowntheroad.Itslammedintothewetasphaltandskiddedinashowerof
sparksforabouthalfamilebeforecomingtoastop.Thegastankexploded.
Notascratch,IrememberedGabesaying.
Oops.
Percy,mymomsaid.Whenheseesus,hellcharge.Waituntilthelastsecond,
thenjumpoutofthewaydirectlysideways.Hecantchangedirectionsverywell
oncehescharging.Doyouunderstand?
Howdoyouknowallthis?
Ivebeenworriedaboutanattackforalongtime.Ishouldhaveexpectedthis.I
wasselfish,keepingyounearme.
Keepingmenearyou?But
Anotherbellowofrage,andthebull-manstartedtrompinguphill.
Hedsmelledus.
The pine tree was only a few more yards, but the hill was getting steeper and
slicker,andGroverwasntgettinganylighter.
Thebull-manclosedin.Anotherfewsecondsandhedbeontopofus.
My mother mustve been exhausted, but she shouldered Grover. Go, Percy!
Separate!RememberwhatIsaid.
Ididntwanttosplitup,butIhadthefeelingshewasrightitwasouronlychance.
Isprintedtotheleft,turned,andsawthecreaturebearingdownonme.Hisblack
eyesglowedwithhate.Hereekedlikerottenmeat.
Heloweredhisheadandcharged,thoserazor-sharphornsaimedstraightatmy
chest.
The fear in my stomach made me want to bolt, but that wouldnt work. I could
neveroutrunthisthing.SoIheldmyground,andatthelastmoment,Ijumpedtothe
side.
Thebull-manstormedpastlikeafreighttrain,thenbellowedwithfrustrationand
turned, but not toward me this time, toward my mother, who was setting Grover
downinthegrass.
Wedreachedthecrestofthehill.DowntheothersideIcouldseeavalley,just
asmymotherhadsaid,andthelightsofafarmhouseglowingyellowthroughthe
rain.Butthatwashalfamileaway.Wednevermakeit.
Thebull-mangrunted,pawingtheground.Hekepteyeingmymother,whowas
now retreating slowly downhill, back toward the road, trying to lead the monster
awayfromGrover.
Run,Percy!shetoldme.Icantgoanyfarther.Run!
But I just stood there, frozen in fear, as the monster charged her. She tried to
sidestep,asshedtoldmetodo,butthemonsterhadlearnedhislesson.Hishand
shotoutandgrabbedherbytheneckasshetriedtogetaway.Heliftedherasshe
struggled,kickingandpummelingtheair.
Mom!
Shecaughtmyeyes,managedtochokeoutonelastword:Go!
Then,withanangryroar,themonsterclosedhisfistsaroundmymothersneck,
andshedissolvedbeforemyeyes,meltingintolight,ashimmeringgoldenform,
asifshewereaholographicprojection.Ablindingflash,andshewassimply...
gone.
No!
Angerreplacedmyfear.Newfoundstrengthburnedinmylimbsthesamerush
ofenergyIdgottenwhenMrs.Doddsgrewtalons.
Thebull-manboredownonGrover,wholayhelplessinthegrass.Themonster
hunched over, snuffling my best friend, as if he were about to lift Grover up and
makehimdissolvetoo.
Icouldntallowthat.
Istrippedoffmyredrainjacket.
Hey!Iscreamed,wavingthejacket,runningtoonesideofthemonster.Hey,
stupid!Groundbeef!
Raaaarrrrr!Themonsterturnedtowardme,shakinghismeatyfists.
Ihadanideaastupididea,butbetterthannoideaatall.Iputmybacktothebig
pinetreeandwavedmyredjacketinfrontofthebull-man,thinkingIdjumpoutof
thewayatthelastmoment.
Butitdidnthappenlikethat.
Thebull-manchargedtoofast,hisarmsouttograbmewhicheverwayItriedto
dodge.
Timesloweddown.
Mylegstensed.Icouldntjumpsideways,soIleapedstraightup,kickingofffrom
thecreatureshead,usingitasaspringboard,turninginmidair,andlandingonhis
neck.
How did I do that? I didnt have time to figure it out. A millisecond later, the
monstersheadslammedintothetreeandtheimpactnearlyknockedmyteethout.
The bull-man staggered around, trying to shake me. I locked my arms around
hishornstokeepfrombeingthrown.Thunderandlightningwerestillgoingstrong.
Therainwasinmyeyes.Thesmellofrottenmeatburnedmynostrils.
The monster shook himself around and bucked like a rodeo bull. He should
havejustbackedupintothetreeandsmashedmeflat,butIwasstartingtorealize
thatthisthinghadonlyonegear:forward.
Meanwhile,Groverstartedgroaninginthegrass.Iwantedtoyellathimtoshut
up,butthewayIwasgettingtossedaround,ifIopenedmymouthIdbitemyown
tongueoff.
Food!Grovermoaned.
The bull-man wheeled toward him, pawed the ground again, and got ready to
charge.Ithoughtabouthowhehadsqueezedthelifeoutofmymother,madeher
disappear in a flash of light, and rage filled me like high-octane fuel. I got both
hands around one horn and I pulled backward with all my might. The monster
tensed,gaveasurprisedgrunt,thensnap!
Thebull-manscreamedandflungmethroughtheair.Ilandedflatonmybackin
thegrass.Myheadsmackedagainstarock.WhenIsatup,myvisionwasblurry,
butIhadahorninmyhands,araggedboneweaponthesizeofaknife.
Themonstercharged.
Without thinking, I rolled to one side and came up kneeling. As the monster
barreledpast,Idrovethebrokenhornstraightintohisside,rightupunderhisfurry
ribcage.
The bull-man roared in agony. He flailed, clawing at his chest, then began to
disintegratenotlikemymother,inaflashofgoldenlight,butlikecrumblingsand,
blownawayinchunksbythewind,thesamewayMrs.Doddshadburstapart.
Themonsterwasgone.
Therainhadstopped.Thestormstillrumbled,butonlyinthedistance.Ismelled
likelivestockandmykneeswereshaking.Myheadfeltlikeitwassplittingopen.I
was weak and scared and trembling with grief. Id just seen my mother vanish. I
wantedtoliedownandcry,buttherewasGrover,needingmyhelp,soImanaged
tohaulhimupandstaggerdownintothevalley,towardthelightsofthefarmhouse.
Iwascrying,callingformymother,butIheldontoGroverIwasntgoingtolethim
go.
The last thing I remember is collapsing on a wooden porch, looking up at a
ceiling fan circling above me, moths flying around a yellow light, and the stern
facesofafamiliar-lookingbeardedmanandaprettygirl,herblondhaircurledlike
aprincesss.Theybothlookeddownatme,andthegirlsaid,Hestheone.He
mustbe.
Silence,Annabeth,themansaid.Hesstillconscious.Bringhiminside.
FIVE
I PLAY PINOCHLE WITH A HORSE
Ihadweirddreamsfullofbarnyardanimals.Mostofthemwantedtokillme.The
restwantedfood.
Imustvewokenupseveraltimes,butwhatIheardandsawmadenosense,soI
justpassedoutagain.Irememberlyinginasoftbed,beingspoon-fedsomething
thattastedlikebutteredpopcorn,onlyitwaspudding.Thegirlwithcurlyblondhair
hoveredoverme,smirkingasshescrapeddripsoffmychinwiththespoon.
When she saw my eyes open, she asked, What will happen at the summer
solstice?
Imanagedtocroak,What?
She looked around, as if afraid someone would overhear. Whats going on?
Whatwasstolen?Weveonlygotafewweeks!
Imsorry,Imumbled,Idont...
Somebody knocked on the door, and the girl quickly filled my mouth with
pudding.
ThenexttimeIwokeup,thegirlwasgone.
Ahuskyblonddude,likeasurfer,stoodinthecornerofthebedroomkeeping
watchoverme.Hehadblueeyesatleastadozenofthemonhischeeks,his
forehead,thebacksofhishands.
***
When I finally came around for good, there was nothing weird about my
surroundings,exceptthattheywerenicerthanIwasusedto.Iwassittinginadeck
chaironahugeporch,gazingacrossameadowatgreenhillsinthedistance.The
breeze smelled like strawberries. There was a blanket over my legs, a pillow
behind my neck. All that was great, but my mouth felt like a scorpion had been
usingitforanest.Mytonguewasdryandnastyandeveryoneofmyteethhurt.
On the table next to me was a tall drink. It looked like iced apple juice, with a
greenstrawandapaperparasolstuckthroughamaraschinocherry.
MyhandwassoweakIalmostdroppedtheglassonceIgotmyfingersaround
it.
Careful,afamiliarvoicesaid.
Grover was leaning against the porch railing, looking like he hadnt slept in a
week. Under one arm, he cradled a shoe box. He was wearing blue jeans,
Conversehi-topsandabrightorangeT-shirtthatsaidCAMPHALF-BLOOD.Just
plainoldGrover.Notthegoatboy.
So maybe Id had a nightmare. Maybe my mom was okay. We were still on
vacation,andwedstoppedhereatthisbighouseforsomereason.And...
Yousavedmylife,Groversaid.I...well,theleastIcoulddo...Iwentbackto
thehill.Ithoughtyoumightwantthis.
Reverently,heplacedtheshoeboxinmylap.
Insidewasablack-and-whitebullshorn,thebasejaggedfrombeingbrokenoff,
thetipsplatteredwithdriedblood.
Ithadntbeenanightmare.
TheMinotaur,Isaid.
Um,Percy,itisntagoodidea
Thats what they call him in the Greek myths, isnt it? I demanded. The
Minotaur.Halfman,halfbull.
Grovershifteduncomfortably.Youvebeenoutfortwodays.Howmuchdoyou
remember?
Mymom.Isshereally...
Helookeddown.
I stared across the meadow. There were groves of trees, a winding stream,
acresofstrawberriesspreadoutunderthebluesky.Thevalleywassurrounded
byrollinghills,andthetallestone,directlyinfrontofus,wastheonewiththehuge
pinetreeontop.Eventhatlookedbeautifulinthesunlight.
My mother was gone. The whole world should be black and cold. Nothing
shouldlookbeautiful.
Imsorry,Groversniffled.Imafailure.ImImtheworstsatyrintheworld.
Hemoaned,stompinghisfootsoharditcameoff.Imean,theConversehi-top
cameoff.TheinsidewasfilledwithStyrofoam,exceptforahoof-shapedhole.
Oh,Styx!hemumbled.
Thunderrolledacrosstheclearsky.
Ashestruggledtogethishoofbackinthefakefoot,Ithought,Well,thatsettlesit.
Groverwasasatyr.IwasreadytobetthatifIshavedhiscurlybrownhair,Idfind
tinyhornsonhishead.ButIwastoomiserabletocarethatsatyrsexisted,oreven
minotaurs.
All that meant was my mom really had been squeezed into nothingness,
dissolvedintoyellowlight.
I was alone. An orphan. I would have to live with . . . Smelly Gabe? No. That
would never happen. I would live on the streets first. I would pretend I was
seventeenandjointhearmy.Iddosomething.
Groverwasstillsniffling.Thepoorkidpoorgoat,satyr,whateverlookedasif
heexpectedtobehit.
Isaid,Itwasntyourfault.
Yes,itwas.Iwassupposedtoprotectyou.
Didmymotheraskyoutoprotectme?
No.Butthatsmyjob.Imakeeper.Atleast...Iwas.
Butwhy...Isuddenlyfeltdizzy,myvisionswimming.
Dontstrainyourself,Groversaid.Here.
Hehelpedmeholdmyglassandputthestrawtomylips.
Irecoiledatthetaste,becauseIwasexpectingapplejuice.Itwasntthatatall.It
waschocolate-chipcookies.Liquidcookies.Andnotjustanycookiesmymoms
homemade blue chocolate-chip cookies, buttery and hot, with the chips still
melting. Drinking it, my whole body felt warm and good, full of energy. My grief
didntgoaway,butIfeltasifmymomhadjustbrushedherhandagainstmycheek,
givenmeacookiethewaysheusedtowhenIwassmall,andtoldmeeverything
wasgoingtobeokay.
Before I knew it, Id drained the glass. I stared into it, sure Id just had a warm
drink,buttheicecubeshadntevenmelted.
Wasitgood?Groverasked.
Inodded.
Whatdidittastelike?Hesoundedsowistful,Ifeltguilty.
Sorry,Isaid.Ishouldveletyoutaste.
Hiseyesgotwide.No!ThatsnotwhatImeant.Ijust...wondered.
Chocolate-chipcookies,Isaid.Mymoms.Homemade.
Hesighed.Andhowdoyoufeel?
LikeIcouldthrowNancyBobofitahundredyards.
Thats good, he said. Thats good. I dont think you could risk drinking any
moreofthatstuff.
Whatdoyoumean?
Hetooktheemptyglassfrommegingerly,asifitweredynamite,andsetitback
onthetable.Comeon.ChironandMr.Darewaiting.
Theporchwrappedallthewayaroundthefarmhouse.
My legs felt wobbly, trying to walk that far. Grover offered to carry the Minotaur
horn,butIheldontoit.Idpaidforthatsouvenirthehardway.Iwasntgoingtoletit
go.
Aswecamearoundtheoppositeendofthehouse,Icaughtmybreath.
WemustvebeenonthenorthshoreofLongIsland,becauseonthissideofthe
house,thevalleymarchedallthewayuptothewater,whichglitteredaboutamile
inthedistance.Betweenhereandthere,IsimplycouldntprocesseverythingIwas
seeing. The landscape was dotted with buildings that looked like ancient Greek
architecturean open-air pavilion, an amphitheater, a circular arenaexcept that
they all looked brand new, their white marble columns sparkling in the sun. In a
nearby sandpit, a dozen high school age kids and satyrs played volleyball.
Canoes glided across a small lake. Kids in bright orange T-shirts like Grovers
werechasingeachotheraroundaclusterofcabinsnestledinthewoods.Some
shot targets at an archery range. Others rode horses down a wooded trail, and,
unlessIwashallucinating,someoftheirhorseshadwings.
Down at the end of the porch, two men sat across from each other at a card
table. The blond-haired girl whod spoon-fed me popcorn-flavored pudding was
leaningontheporchrailnexttothem.
Themanfacingmewassmall,butporky.Hehadarednose,bigwateryeyes,
and curly hair so black it was almost purple. He looked like those paintings of
babyangelswhatdoyoucallthem,hubbubs?No,cherubs.Thatsit.Helooked
like a cherub whod turned middle-aged in a trailer park. He wore a tiger-pattern
Hawaiianshirt,andhewouldvefitrightinatoneofGabespokerparties,exceptI
gotthefeelingthisguycouldveout-gambledevenmystepfather.
ThatsMr.D,Grovermurmuredtome.Hesthecampdirector.Bepolite.The
girl,thatsAnnabethChase.Shesjustacamper,butshesbeenherelongerthan
justaboutanybody.AndyoualreadyknowChiron....
Hepointedattheguywhosebackwastome.
First, I realized he was sitting in the wheelchair. Then I recognized the tweed
jacket,thethinningbrownhair,thescragglybeard.
Mr.Brunner!Icried.
TheLatinteacherturnedandsmiledatme.Hiseyeshadthatmischievousglint
theysometimesgotinclasswhenhepulledapopquizandmadeallthemultiple
choiceanswersB.
Ah,good,Percy,hesaid.Nowwehavefourforpinochle.
HeofferedmeachairtotherightofMr.D,wholookedatmewithbloodshoteyes
and heaved a great sigh. Oh, I suppose I must say it. Welcome to Camp Half-
Blood.There.Now,dontexpectmetobegladtoseeyou.
Uh, thanks. I scooted a little farther away from him because, if there was one
thingIhadlearnedfromlivingwithGabe,itwashowtotellwhenanadulthasbeen
hittingthehappyjuice.IfMr.Dwasastrangertoalcohol,Iwasasatyr.
Annabeth?Mr.Brunnercalledtotheblondgirl.
ShecameforwardandMr.Brunnerintroducedus.Thisyoungladynursedyou
back to health, Percy. Annabeth, my dear, why dont you go check on Percys
bunk?Wellbeputtinghimincabinelevenfornow.
Annabethsaid,Sure,Chiron.
She was probably my age, maybe a couple of inches taller, and a whole lot
moreathleticlooking.Withherdeeptanandhercurlyblondhair,shewasalmost
exactly what I thought a stereotypical California girl would look like, except her
eyes ruined the image. They were startling gray, like storm clouds; pretty, but
intimidating,too,asifshewereanalyzingthebestwaytotakemedowninafight.
Sheglancedattheminotaurhorninmyhands,thenbackatme.Iimaginedshe
was going to say,You killed a minotaur! orWow, youre so awesome! or
somethinglikethat.
Insteadshesaid,Youdroolwhenyousleep.
Thenshesprintedoffdownthelawn,herblondhairflyingbehindher.
So,Isaid,anxioustochangethesubject.You,uh,workhere,Mr.Brunner?
NotMr.Brunner,theex Mr.Brunnersaid.Imafraidthatwasapseudonym.You
maycallmeChiron.
Okay.Totallyconfused,Ilookedatthedirector.AndMr.D...doesthatstand
forsomething?
Mr.Dstoppedshufflingthecards.HelookedatmelikeIdjustbelchedloudly.
Youngman,namesarepowerfulthings.Youdontjustgoaroundusingthemforno
reason.
Oh.Right.Sorry.
Imustsay,Percy,Chiron-Brunnerbrokein,Imgladtoseeyoualive.Itsbeen
alongtimesinceIvemadeahousecalltoapotentialcamper.IdhatetothinkIve
wastedmytime.
Housecall?
MyyearatYancyAcademy,toinstructyou.Wehavesatyrsatmostschools,of
course, keeping a lookout. But Grover alerted me as soon as he met you. He
sensed you were something special, so I decided to come upstate. I convinced
theotherLatinteacherto...ah,takealeaveofabsence.
Itriedtorememberthebeginningoftheschoolyear.Itseemedlikesolongago,
butIdidhaveafuzzymemoryoftherebeinganotherLatinteachermyfirstweekat
Yancy.Then,withoutexplanation,hehaddisappearedandMr.Brunnerhadtaken
theclass.
YoucametoYancyjusttoteachme?Iasked.
Chiron nodded. Honestly, I wasnt sure about you at first. We contacted your
mother,letherknowwewerekeepinganeyeonyouincaseyouwerereadyfor
Camp Half-Blood. But you still had so much to learn. Nevertheless, you made it
herealive,andthatsalwaysthefirsttest.
Grover,Mr.Dsaidimpatiently,areyouplayingornot?
Yes,sir!Grovertrembledashetookthefourthchair,thoughIdidntknowwhy
heshouldbesoafraidofapudgylittlemaninatiger-printHawaiianshirt.
Youdoknowhowtoplaypinochle?Mr.Deyedmesuspiciously.
Imafraidnot,Isaid.
Imafraidnot,sir,hesaid.
Sir,Irepeated.Iwaslikingthecampdirectorlessandless.
Well, he told me, it is, along with gladiator fighting and Pac-Man, one of the
greatestgameseverinventedbyhumans.Iwouldexpectallcivilizedyoungmen
toknowtherules.
Imsuretheboycanlearn,Chironsaid.
Please,Isaid,whatisthisplace?WhatamIdoinghere?Mr.BrunChironwhy
wouldyougotoYancyAcademyjusttoteachme?
Mr.Dsnorted.Iaskedthesamequestion.
Thecampdirectordealtthecards.Groverflinchedeverytimeonelandedinhis
pile.
Chironsmiledatmesympathetically,thewayheusedtoinLatinclass,asiftolet
meknowthatnomatterwhatmyaveragewas,Iwashisstarstudent.Heexpected
metohavetherightanswer.
Percy,hesaid.Didyourmothertellyounothing?
Shesaid...Irememberedhersadeyes,lookingoutoverthesea.Shetold
meshewasafraidtosendmehere,eventhoughmyfatherhadwantedherto.She
saidthatonceIwashere,Iprobablycouldntleave.Shewantedtokeepmeclose
toher.
Typical, Mr. D said. Thats how they usually get killed. Young man, are you
biddingornot?
What?Iasked.
Heexplained,impatiently,howyoubidinpinochle,andsoIdid.
Imafraidtherestoomuchtotell,Chironsaid.Imafraidourusualorientation
filmwontbesufficient.
Orientationfilm?Iasked.
No,Chirondecided.Well,Percy.YouknowyourfriendGroverisasatyr.You
knowhepointedtothehornintheshoeboxthatyouhavekilledtheMinotaur.
Nosmallfeat,either,lad.Whatyoumaynotknowisthatgreatpowersareatwork
inyourlife.GodstheforcesyoucalltheGreekgodsareverymuchalive.
Istaredattheothersaroundthetable.
I waited for somebody to yell,Not! But all I got was Mr. D yelling, Oh, a royal
marriage.Trick!Trick!Hecackledashetallieduphispoints.
Mr.D,Groveraskedtimidly,ifyourenotgoingtoeatit,couldIhaveyourDiet
Cokecan?
Eh?Oh,allright.
Groverbitahugeshardoutoftheemptyaluminumcanandcheweditmournfully.
Wait,ItoldChiron.YouretellingmetheressuchathingasGod.
Well, now, Chiron said. GodcapitalG, God. Thats a different matter
altogether.Weshantdealwiththemetaphysical.
Metaphysical?Butyouwerejusttalkingabout
Ah,gods,plural,asin,greatbeingsthatcontroltheforcesofnatureandhuman
endeavors:theimmortalgodsofOlympus.Thatsasmallermatter.
Smaller?
Yes,quite.ThegodswediscussedinLatinclass.
Zeus,Isaid.Hera.Apollo.Youmeanthem.
Andthereitwasagaindistantthunderonacloudlessday.
Young man, said Mr. D, I would really be less casual about throwing those
namesaround,ifIwereyou.
Buttheyrestories,Isaid.Theyremyths,toexplainlightningandtheseasons
andstuff.Theyrewhatpeoplebelievedbeforetherewasscience.
Science! Mr. D scoffed. And tell me, Perseus JacksonI flinched when he
said my real name, which I never told anybodywhat will people think of your
sciencetwothousandyearsfromnow?Mr.Dcontinued.Hmm?Theywillcallit
primitivemumbojumbo.Thatswhat.Oh,Ilovemortalstheyhaveabsolutelyno
senseofperspective.Theythinktheyvecomeso-o-ofar.Andhavethey,Chiron?
Lookatthisboyandtellme.
IwasntlikingMr.Dmuch,buttherewassomethingaboutthewayhecalledme
mortal,asif...hewasnt.Itwasenoughtoputalumpinmythroat,tosuggestwhy
Grover was dutifully minding his cards, chewing his soda can, and keeping his
mouthshut.
Percy, Chiron said, you may choose to believe or not, but the fact is that
immortalmeansimmortal.Canyouimaginethatforamoment,neverdying?Never
fading?Existing,justasyouare,foralltime?
Iwasabouttoanswer,offthetopofmyhead,thatitsoundedlikeaprettygood
deal,butthetoneofChironsvoicemademehesitate.
Youmean,whetherpeoplebelievedinyouornot,Isaid.
Exactly,Chironagreed.Ifyouwereagod,howwouldyoulikebeingcalleda
myth, an old story to explain lightning? What if I told you, Perseus Jackson, that
somedaypeoplewouldcallyouamyth,justcreatedtoexplainhowlittleboyscan
getoverlosingtheirmothers?
My heart pounded. He was trying to make me angry for some reason, but I
wasntgoingtolethim.Isaid,Iwouldntlikeit.ButIdontbelieveingods.
Oh,youdbetter,Mr.Dmurmured.Beforeoneofthemincineratesyou.
Groversaid,P-please,sir.Hesjustlosthismother.Hesinshock.
Aluckything,too,Mr.Dgrumbled,playingacard.BadenoughImconfinedto
thismiserablejob,workingwithboyswhodontevenbelieve!
Hewavedhishandandagobletappearedonthetable,asifthesunlighthad
bent, momentarily, and woven the air into glass. The goblet filled itself with red
wine.
Myjawdropped,butChironhardlylookedup.
Mr.D,hewarned,yourrestrictions.
Mr.Dlookedatthewineandfeignedsurprise.
Dearme.Helookedattheskyandyelled,Oldhabits!Sorry!
Morethunder.
Mr.Dwavedhishandagain,andthewineglasschangedintoafreshcanofDiet
Coke.Hesighedunhappily,poppedthetopofthesoda,andwentbacktohiscard
game.
Chironwinkedatme.Mr.Doffendedhisfatherawhileback,tookafancytoa
woodnymphwhohadbeendeclaredoff-limits.
A wood nymph, I repeated, still staring at the Diet Coke can like it was from
outerspace.
Yes, Mr. D confessed. Father loves to punish me. The first time, Prohibition.
Ghastly!Absolutelyhorridtenyears!Thesecondtimewell,shereallywaspretty,
and I couldnt stay awaythe second time, he sent me here. Half-Blood Hill.
Summer camp for brats like you. Be a better influence, he told me. Work with
youthsratherthantearingthemdown.Ha!Absolutelyunfair.
Mr.Dsoundedaboutsixyearsold,likeapoutinglittlekid.
And...Istammered,yourfatheris...
Diimmortales,Chiron,Mr.Dsaid.Ithoughtyoutaughtthisboythebasics.My
fatherisZeus,ofcourse.
I ran through D names from Greek mythology. Wine. The skin of a tiger. The
satyrsthatallseemedtoworkhere.ThewayGrovercringed,asifMr.Dwerehis
master.
YoureDionysus,Isaid.Thegodofwine.
Mr.Drolledhiseyes.Whatdotheysay,thesedays,Grover?Dothechildren
say,Well,duh!?
Y-yes,Mr.D.
Then,well,duh!PercyJackson.DidyouthinkIwasAphrodite,perhaps?
Youreagod.
Yes,child.
Agod.You.
Heturnedtolookatmestraighton,andIsawakindofpurplishfireinhiseyes,a
hintthatthiswhiny,plumplittlemanwasonlyshowingmethetiniestbitofhistrue
nature.Isawvisionsofgrapevineschokingunbelieverstodeath,drunkenwarriors
insane with battle lust, sailors screaming as their hands turned to flippers, their
faceselongatingintodolphinsnouts.IknewthatifIpushedhim,Mr.Dwouldshow
me worse things. He would plant a disease in my brain that would leave me
wearingastraitjacketinarubberroomfortherestofmylife.
Wouldyouliketotestme,child?hesaidquietly.
No.No,sir.
Thefirediedalittle.Heturnedbacktohiscardgame.IbelieveIwin.
Notquite,Mr.D,Chironsaid.Hesetdownastraight,talliedthepoints,andsaid,
Thegamegoestome.
IthoughtMr.DwasgoingtovaporizeChironrightoutofhiswheelchair,buthejust
sighedthroughhisnose,asifhewereusedtobeingbeatenbytheLatinteacher.
Hegotup,andGroverrose,too.
Imtired,Mr.Dsaid.IbelieveIlltakeanapbeforethesing-alongtonight.But
first, Grover, we need to talk,again,aboutyourless-than-perfectperformanceon
thisassignment.
Groversfacebeadedwithsweat.Y-yes,sir.
Mr.Dturnedtome.Cabineleven,PercyJackson.Andmindyourmanners.
Hesweptintothefarmhouse,Groverfollowingmiserably.
WillGroverbeokay?IaskedChiron.
Chironnodded,thoughhelookedabittroubled.OldDionysusisntreallymad.
Hejusthateshisjob.Hesbeen...ah,grounded,Iguessyouwouldsay,andhe
cantstandwaitinganothercenturybeforehesallowedtogobacktoOlympus.
MountOlympus,Isaid.Youretellingmetherereallyisapalacethere?
Wellnow,theresMountOlympusinGreece.Andthentheresthehomeofthe
gods, the convergence point of their powers, which did indeed used to be on
MountOlympus.ItsstillcalledMountOlympus,outofrespecttotheoldways,but
thepalacemoves,Percy,justasthegodsdo.
YoumeantheGreekgodsarehere?Like...inAmerica?
Well,certainly.ThegodsmovewiththeheartoftheWest.
Thewhat?
Comenow,Percy.WhatyoucallWesterncivilization.Doyouthinkitsjustan
abstract concept? No, its a living force. A collective consciousness that has
burnedbrightforthousandsofyears.Thegodsarepartofit.Youmightevensay
they are the source of it, or at least, they are tied so tightly to it that they couldnt
possibly fade, not unless all of Western civilization were obliterated. The fire
started in Greece. Then, as you well knowor as I hope you know, since you
passedmycoursetheheartofthefiremovedtoRome,andsodidthegods.Oh,
different names, perhaps Jupiter for Zeus, Venus for Aphrodite, and so onbut
thesameforces,thesamegods.
Andthentheydied.
Died?No.DidtheWestdie?Thegodssimplymoved,toGermany,toFrance,
toSpain,forawhile.Wherevertheflamewasbrightest,thegodswerethere.They
spentseveralcenturiesinEngland.Allyouneedtodoislookatthearchitecture.
People do not forget the gods. Every place theyve ruled, for the last three
thousandyears,youcanseetheminpaintings,instatues,onthemostimportant
buildings. And yes, Percy, of course they are now in your United States. Look at
yoursymbol,theeagleofZeus.LookatthestatueofPrometheusinRockefeller
Center,theGreekfacadesofyourgovernmentbuildingsinWashington.Idefyyou
to find any American city where the Olympians are not prominently displayed in
multipleplaces.Likeitornotandbelieveme,plentyofpeoplewerentveryfond
ofRome,eitherAmericaisnowtheheartoftheflame.Itisthegreatpowerofthe
West.AndsoOlympusishere.Andwearehere.
Itwasalltoomuch,especiallythefactthatIseemedtobeincludedinChirons
we,asifIwerepartofsomeclub.
Whoareyou,Chiron?Who...whoamI?
Chiron smiled. He shifted his weight as if he were going to get up out of his
wheelchair,butIknewthatwasimpossible.Hewasparalyzedfromthewaistdown.
Whoareyou?hemused.Well,thatsthequestionweallwantanswered,isnt
it?Butfornow,weshouldgetyouabunkincabineleven.Therewillbenewfriends
tomeet.Andplentyoftimeforlessonstomorrow.Besides,therewillbesmoresat
thecampfiretonight,andIsimplyadorechocolate.
Andthenhedidrisefromhiswheelchair.Buttherewassomethingoddaboutthe
wayhedidit.Hisblanketfellawayfromhislegs,butthelegsdidntmove.Hiswaist
kept getting longer, rising above his belt. At first, I thought he was wearing very
long,whitevelvetunderwear,butashekeptrisingoutofthechair,tallerthanany
man, I realized that the velvet underwear wasnt underwear; it was the front of an
animal, muscle and sinew under coarse white fur. And the wheelchair wasnt a
chair. It was some kind of container, an enormous box on wheels, and it mustve
beenmagic,becausetheresnowayitcouldveheldallofhim.Alegcameout,
long and knobby-kneed, with a huge polished hoof. Then another front leg, then
hindquarters,andthentheboxwasempty,nothingbutametalshellwithacouple
offakehumanlegsattached.
I stared at the horse who had just sprung from the wheelchair: a huge white
stallion. But where its neck should be was the upper body of my Latin teacher,
smoothlygraftedtothehorsestrunk.
What a relief, the centaur said. Id been cooped up in there so long, my
fetlocks had fallen asleep. Now, come, Percy Jackson. Lets meet the other
campers.
SIX
I BECOME SUPREME LORD OF THE BATHROOM
OnceIgotoverthefactthatmyLatinteacherwasahorse,wehadanicetour,
thoughIwascarefulnottowalkbehindhim.Iddonepooper-scooperpatrolinthe
Macys Thanksgiving Day Parade a few times, and, Im sorry, I did not trust
ChironsbackendthewayItrustedhisfront.
Wepassedthevolleyballpit.Severalofthecampersnudgedeachother.One
pointedtotheminotaurhornIwascarrying.Anothersaid,Thatshim.
Most of the campers were older than me. Their satyr friends were bigger than
Grover, all of them trotting around in orange CAMP HALF-BLOOD T-shirts, with
nothingelsetocovertheirbareshaggyhindquarters.Iwasntnormallyshy,butthe
waytheystaredatmemademeuncomfortable.Ifeltliketheywereexpectingme
todoafliporsomething.
Ilookedbackatthefarmhouse.ItwasalotbiggerthanIdrealizedfourstories
tall,skybluewithwhitetrim,likeanupscaleseasideresort.Iwascheckingoutthe
brasseagleweathervaneontopwhensomethingcaughtmyeye,ashadowinthe
uppermostwindowoftheatticgable.Somethinghadmovedthecurtain,justfora
second,andIgotthedistinctimpressionIwasbeingwatched.
Whatsupthere?IaskedChiron.
HelookedwhereIwaspointing,andhissmilefaded.Justtheattic.
Somebodylivesthere?
No,hesaidwithfinality.Notasinglelivingthing.
Igotthefeelinghewasbeingtruthful.ButIwasalsosuresomethinghadmoved
thatcurtain.
Comealong,Percy,Chironsaid,hislightheartedtonenowalittleforced.Lots
tosee.
Wewalkedthroughthestrawberryfields,wherecamperswerepickingbushels
ofberrieswhileasatyrplayedatuneonareedpipe.
ChirontoldmethecampgrewanicecropforexporttoNewYorkrestaurantsand
MountOlympus.Itpaysourexpenses,heexplained.Andthestrawberriestake
almostnoeffort.
HesaidMr.Dhadthiseffectonfruit-bearingplants:theyjustwentcrazywhenhe
wasaround.Itworkedbestwithwinegrapes,butMr.Dwasrestrictedfromgrowing
those,sotheygrewstrawberriesinstead.
I watched the satyr playing his pipe. His music was causing lines of bugs to
leave the strawberry patch in every direction, like refugees fleeing a fire. I
wonderedifGrovercouldworkthatkindofmagicwithmusic.Iwonderedifhewas
stillinsidethefarmhouse,gettingchewedoutbyMr.D.
Groverwontgetintoomuchtrouble,willhe?IaskedChiron.Imean...hewas
agoodprotector.Really.
Chiron sighed. He shed his tweed jacket and draped it over his horses back
like a saddle. Grover has big dreams, Percy. Perhaps bigger than are
reasonable. To reach his goal, he must first demonstrate great courage by
succeeding as a keeper, finding a new camper and bringing him safely to Half-
BloodHill.
Buthedidthat!
Imightagreewithyou,Chironsaid.Butitisnotmyplacetojudge.Dionysus
and the Council of Cloven Elders must decide. Im afraid they might not see this
assignmentasasuccess.Afterall,GroverlostyouinNewYork.Thentheresthe
unfortunate...ah...fateofyourmother.AndthefactthatGroverwasunconscious
whenyoudraggedhimoverthepropertyline.Thecouncilmightquestionwhether
thisshowsanycourageonGroverspart.
Iwantedtoprotest.NoneofwhathappenedwasGroversfault.Ialsofeltreally,
really guilty. If I hadnt given Grover the slip at the bus station, he might not have
gottenintrouble.
Hellgetasecondchance,wonthe?
Chironwinced.ImafraidthatwasGroverssecondchance,Percy.Thecouncil
wasnotanxioustogivehimanother,either,afterwhathappenedthefirsttime,five
yearsago.Olympusknows,Iadvisedhimtowaitlongerbeforetryingagain.Hes
stillsosmallforhisage....
Howoldishe?
Oh,twenty-eight.
What!Andhesinsixthgrade?
Satyrsmaturehalfasfastashumans,Percy.Groverhasbeentheequivalentof
amiddleschoolstudentforthepastsixyears.
Thatshorrible.
Quite, Chiron agreed. At any rate, Grover is a late bloomer, even by satyr
standards, and not yet very accomplished at woodland magic. Alas, he was
anxioustopursuehisdream.Perhapsnowhewillfindsomeothercareer....
Thatsnotfair,Isaid.Whathappenedthefirsttime?Wasitreallysobad?
Chironlookedawayquickly.Letsmovealong,shallwe?
ButIwasntquitereadytoletthesubjectdrop.Somethinghadoccurredtome
whenChirontalkedaboutmymothersfate,asifhewereintentionallyavoidingthe
worddeath.Thebeginningsofanideaatiny,hopefulfirestartedforminginmy
mind.
Chiron,Isaid.IfthegodsandOlympusandallthatarereal...
Yes,child?
DoesthatmeantheUnderworldisreal,too?
Chironsexpressiondarkened.
Yes, child. He paused, as if choosing his words carefully. There is a place
wherespiritsgoafterdeath.Butfornow...untilweknowmore...Iwouldurgeyou
toputthatoutofyourmind.
Whatdoyoumean,untilweknowmore?
Come,Percy.Letsseethewoods.
Aswegotcloser,Irealizedhowhugetheforestwas.Ittookupatleastaquarter
ofthevalley,withtreessotallandthick,youcouldimaginenobodyhadbeenin
theresincetheNativeAmericans.
Chironsaid,Thewoodsarestocked,ifyoucaretotryyourluck,butgoarmed.
Stockedwithwhat?Iasked.Armedwithwhat?
Youll see. Capture the flag is Friday night. Do you have your own sword and
shield?
Myown?
No,Chironsaid.Idontsupposeyoudo.Ithinkasizefivewilldo.Illvisitthe
armorylater.
I wanted to ask what kind of summer camp had an armory, but there was too
much else to think about, so the tour continued. We saw the archery range, the
canoeinglake,thestables(whichChirondidntseemtolikeverymuch),thejavelin
range, the sing-along amphitheater, and the arena where Chiron said they held
swordandspearfights.
Swordandspearfights?Iasked.
Cabinchallengesandallthat,heexplained.Notlethal.Usually.Oh,yes,and
theresthemesshall.
ChironpointedtoanoutdoorpavilionframedinwhiteGreciancolumnsonahill
overlookingthesea.Therewereadozenstonepicnictables.Noroof.Nowalls.
Whatdoyoudowhenitrains?Iasked.
ChironlookedatmeasifIdgonealittleweird.Westillhavetoeat,dontwe?I
decidedtodropthesubject.
Finally, he showed me the cabins. There were twelve of them, nestled in the
woodsbythelake.TheywerearrangedinaU,withtwoatthebaseandfiveina
row on either side. And they were without doubt the most bizarre collection of
buildingsIdeverseen.
Exceptforthefactthateachhadalargebrassnumberabovethedoor(oddson
theleftside,evensontheright),theylookedabsolutelynothingalike.Numbernine
hadsmokestacks,likeatinyfactory.Numberfourhadtomatovinesonthewalls
andaroofmadeoutofrealgrass.Sevenseemedtobemadeofsolidgold,which
gleamedsomuchinthesunlightitwasalmostimpossibletolookat.Theyallfaced
a commons area about the size of a soccer field, dotted with Greek statues,
fountains, flower beds, and a couple of basketball hoops (which were more my
speed).
Inthecenterofthefieldwasahugestone-linedfirepit.Eventhoughitwasawarm
afternoon, the hearth smoldered. A girl about nine years old was tending the
flames,pokingthecoalswithastick.
Thepairofcabinsattheheadofthefield,numbersoneandtwo,lookedlikehis-
and-hersmausoleums,bigwhitemarbleboxeswithheavycolumnsinfront.Cabin
one was the biggest and bulkiest of the twelve. Its polished bronze doors
shimmeredlikeahologram,sothatfromdifferentangleslightningboltsseemedto
streakacrossthem.Cabintwowasmoregracefulsomehow,withslimmercolumns
garlandedwithpomegranatesandflowers.Thewallswerecarvedwithimagesof
peacocks.
ZeusandHera?Iguessed.
Correct,Chironsaid.
Theircabinslookempty.
Severalofthecabinsare.Thatstrue.Nooneeverstaysinoneortwo.
Okay.Soeachcabinhadadifferentgod,likeamascot.
TwelvecabinsforthetwelveOlympians.Butwhywouldsomebeempty?
Istoppedinfrontofthefirstcabinontheleft,cabinthree.
Itwasnthighandmightylikecabinone,butlongandlowandsolid.Theouter
wallswereofroughgraystonestuddedwithpiecesofseashellandcoral,asifthe
slabshadbeenhewnstraightfromthebottomoftheoceanfloor.Ipeekedinside
theopendoorwayandChironsaid,Oh,Iwouldntdothat!
Beforehecouldpullmeback,Icaughtthesaltyscentoftheinterior,likethewind
on the shore at Montauk. The interior walls glowed like abalone. There were six
emptybunkbedswithsilksheetsturneddown.Buttherewasnosignanyonehad
eversleptthere.Theplacefeltsosadandlonely,IwasgladwhenChironputhis
handonmyshoulderandsaid,Comealong,Percy.
Mostoftheothercabinswerecrowdedwithcampers.
Number five was bright reda real nasty paint job, as if the color had been
splashedonwithbucketsandfists.Theroofwaslinedwithbarbedwire.Astuffed
wildboarsheadhungoverthedoorway,anditseyesseemedtofollowme.Inside
Icouldseeabunchofmean-lookingkids,bothgirlsandboys,armwrestlingand
arguing with each other while rock music blared. The loudest was a girl maybe
thirteen or fourteen. She wore a size XXXL CAMP HALFBLOOD T-shirt under a
camouflage jacket. She zeroed in on me and gave me an evil sneer. She
reminded me of Nancy Bobofit, though the camper girl was much bigger and
tougherlooking,andherhairwaslongandstringy,andbrowninsteadofred.
I kept walking, trying to stay clear of Chirons hooves. We havent seen any
othercentaurs,Iobserved.
No,saidChironsadly.Mykinsmenareawildandbarbaricfolk,Imafraid.You
mightencountertheminthewilderness,oratmajorsportingevents.Butyouwont
seeanyhere.
YousaidyournamewasChiron.Areyoureally...
Hesmileddownatme.TheChironfromthestories?TrainerofHerculesandall
that?Yes,Percy,Iam.
But,shouldntyoubedead?
Chiron paused, as if the question intrigued him. I honestly dont know about
shouldbe.Thetruthis,Icantbedead.Yousee,eonsagothegodsgrantedmy
wish.IcouldcontinuetheworkIloved.Icouldbeateacherofheroesaslongas
humanityneededme.Igainedmuchfromthatwish...andIgaveupmuch.ButIm
stillhere,soIcanonlyassumeImstillneeded.
Ithoughtaboutbeingateacherforthreethousandyears.Itwouldnthavemade
myTopTenThingstoWishForlist.
Doesntitevergetboring?
No,no,hesaid.Horriblydepressing,attimes,butneverboring.
Whydepressing?
Chironseemedtoturnhardofhearingagain.
Oh,look,hesaid.Annabethiswaitingforus.
***
The blond girl Id met at the Big House was reading a book in front of the last
cabinontheleft,numbereleven.
Whenwereachedher,shelookedmeovercritically,likeshewasstillthinking
abouthowmuchIdrooled.
Itriedtoseewhatshewasreading,butIcouldntmakeoutthetitle.Ithoughtmy
dyslexia was acting up. Then I realized the title wasnt even English. The letters
lookedGreektome.Imean,literallyGreek.Therewerepicturesoftemplesand
statuesanddifferentkindsofcolumns,likethoseinanarchitecturebook.
Annabeth,Chironsaid,Ihavemastersarcheryclassatnoon.Wouldyoutake
Percyfromhere?
Yes,sir.
Cabineleven,Chirontoldme,gesturingtowardthedoorway.Makeyourselfat
home.
Out of all the cabins, eleven looked the most like a regular old summer camp
cabin, with the emphasis onold. The threshold was worn down, the brown paint
peeling.Overthedoorwaywasoneofthosedoctorssymbols,awingedpolewith
twosnakeswrappedaroundit.Whatdidtheycallit...?Acaduceus.
Inside, it was packed with people, both boys and girls, way more than the
numberofbunkbeds.Sleepingbagswerespreadalloveronthefloor.Itlooked
likeagymwheretheRedCrosshadsetupanevacuationcenter.
Chirondidntgoin.Thedoorwastoolowforhim.Butwhenthecamperssawhim
theyallstoodandbowedrespectfully.
Well,then,Chironsaid.Goodluck,Percy.Illseeyouatdinner.
Hegallopedawaytowardthearcheryrange.
Istoodinthedoorway,lookingatthekids.Theywerentbowinganymore.They
werestaringatme,sizingmeup.Iknewthisroutine.Idgonethroughitatenough
schools.
Well?Annabethprompted.Goon.
SonaturallyItrippedcominginthedoorandmadeatotalfoolofmyself.There
weresomesnickersfromthecampers,butnoneofthemsaidanything.
Annabethannounced,PercyJackson,meetcabineleven.
Regularorundetermined?somebodyasked.
Ididntknowwhattosay,butAnnabethsaid,Undetermined.
Everybodygroaned.
A guy who was a little older than the rest came forward. Now, now, campers.
Thatswhatwereherefor.Welcome,Percy.Youcanhavethatspotonthefloor,
rightoverthere.
The guy was about nineteen, and he looked pretty cool. He was tall and
muscular,withshort-croppedsandyhairandafriendlysmile.Heworeanorange
tank top, cutoffs, sandals, and a leather necklace with five different-colored clay
beads.Theonlythingunsettlingabouthisappearancewasathickwhitescarthat
ranfromjustbeneathhisrighteyetohisjaw,likeanoldknifeslash.
This is Luke, Annabeth said, and her voice sounded different somehow. I
glancedoverandcouldveswornshewasblushing.Shesawmelooking,andher
expressionhardenedagain.Hesyourcounselorfornow.
Fornow?Iasked.
Youreundetermined,Lukeexplainedpatiently.Theydontknowwhatcabinto
putyouin,soyourehere.Cabineleventakesallnewcomers,allvisitors.Naturally,
wewould.Hermes,ourpatron,isthegodoftravelers.
Ilookedatthetinysectionoffloortheydgivenme.Ihadnothingtoputthereto
mark it as my own, no luggage, no clothes, no sleeping bag. Just the Minotaurs
horn. I thought about setting that down, but then I remembered that Hermes was
alsothegodofthieves.
I looked around at the campers faces, some sullen and suspicious, some
grinningstupidly,someeyeingmeasiftheywerewaitingforachancetopickmy
pockets.
HowlongwillIbehere?Iasked.
Goodquestion,Lukesaid.Untilyouredetermined.
Howlongwillthattake?
Thecampersalllaughed.
Comeon,Annabethtoldme.Illshowyouthevolleyballcourt.
Ivealreadyseenit.
Comeon.
Shegrabbedmywristanddraggedmeoutside.Icouldhearthekidsofcabin
elevenlaughingbehindme.
Whenwewereafewfeetaway,Annabethsaid,Jackson,youhavetodobetter
thanthat.
What?
Sherolledhereyesandmumbledunderherbreath,IcantbelieveIthoughtyou
weretheone.
Whatsyourproblem?Iwasgettingangrynow.AllIknowis,Ikillsomebullguy

Donttalklikethat!Annabethtoldme.Youknowhowmanykidsatthiscamp
wishtheydhadyourchance?
Togetkilled?
TofighttheMinotaur!Whatdoyouthinkwetrainfor?
Ishookmyhead.Look,ifthethingIfoughtreallywastheMinotaur,thesameone
inthestories...
Yes.
Thentheresonlyone.
Yes.
And he died, like, a gajillion years ago, right? Theseus killed him in the
labyrinth.So...
Monstersdontdie,Percy.Theycanbekilled.Buttheydontdie.
Oh,thanks.Thatclearsitup.
Theydonthavesouls,likeyouandme.Youcandispelthemforawhile,maybe
even for a whole lifetime if youre lucky. But they are primal forces. Chiron calls
themarchetypes.Eventually,theyre-form.
IthoughtaboutMrs.Dodds.YoumeanifIkilledone,accidentally,withasword

TheFur...Imean,yourmathteacher.Thatsright.Shesstilloutthere.Youjust
madehervery,verymad.
HowdidyouknowaboutMrs.Dodds?
Youtalkinyoursleep.
Youalmostcalledhersomething.AFury?TheyreHadestorturers,right?
Annabethglancednervouslyattheground,asifsheexpectedittoopenupand
swallowher.Youshouldntcallthembyname,evenhere.WecallthemtheKindly
Ones,ifwehavetospeakofthematall.
Look,isthereanythingwecansaywithoutitthundering?Isoundedwhiny,even
to myself, but right then I didnt care. Why do I have to stay in cabin eleven,
anyway? Why is everybody so crowded together? There are plenty of empty
bunksrightoverthere.
Ipointedtothefirstfewcabins,andAnnabethturnedpale.Youdontjustchoose
acabin,Percy.Itdependsonwhoyourparentsare.Or...yourparent.
Shestaredatme,waitingformetogetit.
My mom is Sally Jackson, I said. She works at the candy store in Grand
CentralStation.Atleast,sheusedto.
Im sorry about your mom, Percy. But thats not what I mean. Im talking about
yourotherparent.Yourdad.
Hesdead.Ineverknewhim.
Annabeth sighed. Clearly, shed had this conversation before with other kids.
Yourfathersnotdead,Percy.
Howcanyousaythat?Youknowhim?
No,ofcoursenot.
Thenhowcanyousay
BecauseIknowyou.Youwouldntbehereifyouwerentoneofus.
Youdontknowanythingaboutme.
No?Sheraisedaneyebrow.Ibetyoumovedaroundfromschooltoschool.I
betyouwerekickedoutofalotofthem.
How
Diagnosedwithdyslexia.ProbablyADHD,too.
Itriedtoswallowmyembarrassment.Whatdoesthathavetodowithanything?
Takentogether,itsalmostasuresign.Thelettersfloatoffthepagewhenyou
read, right? Thats because your mind is hardwired for ancient Greek. And the
ADHDyoure impulsive, cant sit still in the classroom. Thats your battlefield
reflexes.Inarealfight,theydkeepyoualive.Asfortheattentionproblems,thats
because you see too much, Percy, not too little. Your senses are better than a
regular mortals. Of course the teachers want you medicated. Most of them are
monsters.Theydontwantyouseeingthemforwhattheyare.
Yousoundlike...youwentthroughthesamething?
Mostofthekidsheredid.Ifyouwerentlikeus,youcouldnthavesurvivedthe
Minotaur,muchlesstheambrosiaandnectar.
Ambrosiaandnectar.
Thefoodanddrinkweweregivingyoutomakeyoubetter.Thatstuffwouldve
killed a normal kid. It wouldve turned your blood to fire and your bones to sand
andyoudbedead.Faceit.Youreahalf-blood.
Ahalf-blood.
IwasreelingwithsomanyquestionsIdidntknowwheretostart.
Thenahuskyvoiceyelled,Well!Anewbie!
Ilookedover.Thebiggirlfromtheuglyredcabinwassaunteringtowardus.She
had three other girls behind her, all big and ugly and mean looking like her, all
wearingcamojackets.
Clarisse, Annabeth sighed. Why dont you go polish your spear or
something?
Sure, Miss Princess, the big girl said. So I can run you through with it Friday
night.
Erreeskorakas!Annabethsaid,whichIsomehowunderstoodwasGreekfor
Gotothecrows!thoughIhadafeelingitwasaworsecursethanitsounded.You
dontstandachance.
Well pulverize you, Clarisse said, but her eye twitched. Perhaps she wasnt
sureshecouldfollowthroughonthethreat.Sheturnedtowardme.Whosthislittle
runt?
PercyJackson,Annabethsaid,meetClarisse,DaughterofAres.
Iblinked.Like...thewargod?
Clarissesneered.Yougotaproblemwiththat?
No,Isaid,recoveringmywits.Itexplainsthebadsmell.
Clarissegrowled.Wegotaninitiationceremonyfornewbies,Prissy.
Percy.
Whatever.Comeon,Illshowyou.
ClarisseAnnabethtriedtosay.
Stayoutofit,wisegirl.
Annabeth looked pained, but she did stay out of it, and I didnt really want her
help.Iwasthenewkid.Ihadtoearnmyownrep.
IhandedAnnabethmyminotaurhornandgotreadytofight,butbeforeIknewit,
Clarissehadmebytheneckandwasdraggingmetowardacinder-blockbuilding
thatIknewimmediatelywasthebathroom.
I was kicking and punching. Id been in plenty of fights before, but this big girl
Clarissehadhandslikeiron.Shedraggedmeintothegirlsbathroom.Therewas
alineoftoiletsononesideandalineofshowerstallsdowntheother.Itsmelled
just like any public bathroom, and I was thinkingas much as Icould think with
Clarisserippingmyhairoutthatifthisplacebelongedtothegods,theyshouldve
beenabletoaffordclassierjohns.
Clarissesfriendswerealllaughing,andIwastryingtofindthestrengthIdused
tofighttheMinotaur,butitjustwasntthere.
LikehesBigThreematerial,Clarissesaidasshepushedmetowardoneof
the toilets. Yeah, right. Minotaur probably fell over laughing, he was so stupid
looking.
Herfriendssnickered.
Annabethstoodinthecorner,watchingthroughherfingers.
Clarisse bent me over on my knees and started pushing my head toward the
toilet bowl. It reeked like rusted pipes and, well, like what goes into toilets. I
strainedtokeepmyheadup.Iwaslookingatthescummywater,thinking,Iwillnot
gointothat.Iwont.
Then something happened. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. I heard the
plumbingrumble,thepipesshudder.Clarissesgriponmyhairloosened.Water
shotoutofthetoilet,makinganarcstraightovermyhead,andthenextthingIknew,
IwassprawledonthebathroomtileswithClarissescreamingbehindme.
Iturnedjustaswaterblastedoutofthetoiletagain,hittingClarissestraightinthe
face so hard it pushed her down onto her butt. The water stayed on her like the
sprayfromafirehose,pushingherbackwardintoashowerstall.
Shestruggled,gasping,andherfriendsstartedcomingtowardher.Butthenthe
othertoiletsexploded,too,andsixmorestreamsoftoiletwaterblastedthemback.
Theshowersactedup,too,andtogetherallthefixturessprayedthecamouflage
girlsrightoutofthebathroom,spinningthemaroundlikepiecesofgarbagebeing
washedaway.
Assoonastheywereoutthedoor,Ifeltthetuginmygutlessen,andthewater
shutoffasquicklyasithadstarted.
The entire bathroom was flooded. Annabeth hadnt been spared. She was
drippingwet,butshehadntbeenpushedoutthedoor.Shewasstandinginexactly
thesameplace,staringatmeinshock.
IlookeddownandrealizedIwassittingintheonlydryspotinthewholeroom.
Therewasacircleofdryflooraroundme.Ididnthaveonedropofwateronmy
clothes.Nothing.
Istoodup,mylegsshaky.
Annabethsaid,Howdidyou...
Idontknow.
Wewalkedtothedoor.Outside,Clarisseandherfriendsweresprawledinthe
mud,andabunchofothercampershadgatheredaroundtogawk.Clarisseshair
was flattened across her face. Her camouflage jacket was sopping and she
smelledlikesewage.Shegavemealookofabsolutehatred.Youaredead,new
boy.Youaretotallydead.
Iprobablyshouldhaveletitgo,butIsaid,Youwanttogarglewithtoiletwater
again,Clarisse?Closeyourmouth.
Herfriendshadtoholdherback.Theydraggedhertowardcabinfive,whilethe
othercampersmadewaytoavoidherflailingfeet.
Annabethstaredatme.Icouldnttellwhethershewasjustgrossedoutorangry
atmefordousingher.
What?Idemanded.Whatareyouthinking?
Imthinking,shesaid,thatIwantyouonmyteamforcapturetheflag.
SEVEN
MY DINNER GOES UP IN SMOKE
Wordofthebathroomincidentspreadimmediately.WhereverIwent,campers
pointed at me and murmured something about toilet water. Or maybe they were
juststaringatAnnabeth,whowasstillprettymuchdrippingwet.
She showed me a few more places: the metal shop (where kids were forging
theirownswords),thearts-and-craftsroom(wheresatyrsweresandblastingagiant
marblestatueofagoat-man),andtheclimbingwall,whichactuallyconsistedoftwo
facing walls that shook violently, dropped boulders, sprayed lava, and clashed
togetherifyoudidntgettothetopfastenough.
Finallywereturnedtothecanoeinglake,wherethetrailledbacktothecabins.
Ivegottrainingtodo,Annabethsaidflatly.Dinnersatseven-thirty.Justfollow
yourcabintothemesshall.
Annabeth,Imsorryaboutthetoilets.
Whatever.
Itwasntmyfault.
Shelookedatmeskeptically,andIrealizeditwasmyfault.Idmadewatershoot
outofthebathroomfixtures.Ididntunderstandhow.Butthetoiletshadresponded
tome.Ihadbecomeonewiththeplumbing.
YouneedtotalktotheOracle,Annabethsaid.
Who?
Notwho.What.TheOracle.IllaskChiron.
I stared into the lake, wishing somebody would give me a straight answer for
once.
I wasnt expecting anybody to be looking back at me from the bottom, so my
heartskippedabeatwhenInoticedtwoteenagegirlssittingcross-leggedatthe
baseofthepier,abouttwentyfeetbelow.Theyworebluejeansandshimmering
green T-shirts, and their brown hair floated loose around their shoulders as
minnowsdartedinandout.TheysmiledandwavedasifIwerealong-lostfriend.
Ididntknowwhatelsetodo.Iwavedback.
Dontencouragethem,Annabethwarned.Naiadsareterribleflirts.
Naiads, I repeated, feeling completely overwhelmed. Thats it. I want to go
homenow.
Annabethfrowned.Dontyougetit,Percy?Youarehome.Thisistheonlysafe
placeonearthforkidslikeus.
Youmean,mentallydisturbedkids?
Imeannothuman.Nottotallyhuman,anyway.Half-human.
Half-humanandhalf-what?
Ithinkyouknow.
I didnt want to admit it, but I was afraid I did. I felt a tingling in my limbs, a
sensationIsometimesfeltwhenmymomtalkedaboutmydad.
God,Isaid.Half-god.
Annabethnodded.Yourfatherisntdead,Percy.HesoneoftheOlympians.
Thats...crazy.
Is it? Whats the most common thing gods did in the old stories? They ran
aroundfallinginlovewithhumansandhavingkidswiththem.Doyouthinktheyve
changedtheirhabitsinthelastfewmillennia?
But those are just I almost saidmyths again. Then I remembered Chirons
warningthatintwothousandyears,Imightbeconsideredamyth.Butifallthekids
herearehalf-gods
Demigods,Annabethsaid.Thatstheofficialterm.Orhalf-bloods.
Thenwhosyourdad?
Herhandstightenedaroundthepierrailing.IgotthefeelingIdjusttrespassed
onasensitivesubject.
MydadisaprofessoratWestPoint,shesaid.IhaventseenhimsinceIwas
verysmall.HeteachesAmericanhistory.
Heshuman.
What? You assume it has to be a male god who finds a human female
attractive?Howsexististhat?
Whosyourmom,then?
Cabinsix.
Meaning?
Annabethstraightened.Athena.Goddessofwisdomandbattle.
Okay,Ithought.Whynot?
Andmydad?
Undetermined,Annabethsaid,likeItoldyoubefore.Nobodyknows.
Exceptmymother.Sheknew.
Maybenot,Percy.Godsdontalwaysrevealtheiridentities.
Mydadwouldhave.Helovedher.
Annabethgavemeacautiouslook.Shedidntwanttoburstmybubble.Maybe
youre right. Maybe hell send a sign. Thats the only way to know for sure: your
fatherhastosendyouasignclaimingyouashisson.Sometimesithappens.
Youmeansometimesitdoesnt?
Annabeth ran her palm along the rail. The gods are busy. They have a lot of
kidsandtheydontalways...Well,sometimestheydontcareaboutus,Percy.
Theyignoreus.
I thought about some of the kids Id seen in the Hermes cabin, teenagers who
looked sullen and depressed, as if they were waiting for a call that would never
come.IdknownkidslikethatatYancyAcademy,shuffledofftoboardingschool
byrichparentswhodidnthavethetimetodealwiththem.Butgodsshouldbehave
better.
SoImstuckhere,Isaid.Thatsit?Fortherestofmylife?
Itdepends,Annabethsaid.Somecampersonlystaythesummer.Ifyourea
child of Aphrodite or Demeter, youre probably not a real powerful force. The
monstersmightignoreyou,soyoucangetbywithafewmonthsofsummertraining
and live in the mortal world the rest of the year. But for some of us, its too
dangeroustoleave.Wereyear-rounders.Inthemortalworld,weattractmonsters.
Theysenseus.Theycometochallengeus.Mostofthetime,theyllignoreusuntil
were old enough to cause troubleabout ten or eleven years old, but after that,
mostdemigodseithermaketheirwayhere,ortheygetkilledoff.Afewmanageto
survive in the outside world and become famous. Believe me, if I told you the
names, youd know them. Some dont even realize theyre demigods. But very,
veryfewarelikethat.
Somonsterscantgetinhere?
Annabethshookherhead.Notunlesstheyreintentionallystockedinthewoods
orspeciallysummonedbysomebodyontheinside.
Whywouldanybodywanttosummonamonster?
Practicefights.Practicaljokes.
Practicaljokes?
The point is, the borders are sealed to keep mortals and monsters out. From
theoutside,mortalslookintothevalleyandseenothingunusual,justastrawberry
farm.
So...youreayear-rounder?
Annabeth nodded. From under the collar of her T-shirt she pulled a leather
necklace with five clay beads of different colors. It was just like Lukes, except
Annabethsalsohadabiggoldringstrungonit,likeacollegering.
IvebeenheresinceIwasseven,shesaid.EveryAugust,onthelastdayof
summersession,yougetabeadforsurvivinganotheryear.Ivebeenherelonger
thanmostofthecounselors,andtheyreallincollege.
Whydidyoucomesoyoung?
Shetwistedtheringonhernecklace.Noneofyourbusiness.
Oh.Istoodthereforaminuteinuncomfortablesilence.So...Icouldjustwalk
outofhererightnowifIwantedto?
Itwouldbesuicide,butyoucould,withMr.DsorChironspermission.Butthey
wouldntgivepermissionuntiltheendofthesummersessionunless...
Unless?
Youweregrantedaquest.Butthathardlyeverhappens.Thelasttime...
Hervoicetrailedoff.Icouldtellfromhertonethatthelasttimehadntgonewell.
Backinthesickroom,Isaid,whenyouwerefeedingmethatstuff
Ambrosia.
Yeah.Youaskedmesomethingaboutthesummersolstice.
Annabethsshoulderstensed.Soyoudoknowsomething?
Well...no.Backatmyoldschool,IoverheardGroverandChirontalkingabout
it.Grovermentionedthesummersolstice.Hesaidsomethinglikewedidnthave
muchtime,becauseofthedeadline.Whatdidthatmean?
Sheclenchedherfists.IwishIknew.Chironandthesatyrs,theyknow,butthey
wonttellme.SomethingiswronginOlympus,somethingprettymajor.LasttimeI
wasthere,everythingseemedsonormal.
YouvebeentoOlympus?
Someofusyear-roundersLukeandClarisseandIandafewotherswetooka
fieldtripduringwintersolstice.Thatswhenthegodshavetheirbigannualcouncil.
But...howdidyougetthere?
TheLongIslandRailroad,ofcourse.YougetoffatPennStation.EmpireState
Building, special elevator to the six hundredth floor. She looked at me like she
wassureImustknowthisalready.YouareaNewYorker,right?
Oh, sure. As far as I knew, there were only a hundred and two floors in the
EmpireStateBuilding,butIdecidednottopointthatout.
Right after we visited, Annabeth continued, the weather got weird, as if the
gods had started fighting. A couple of times since, Ive overheard satyrs talking.
The best I can figure out is that something important was stolen. And if it isnt
returnedbysummersolstice,theresgoingtobetrouble.Whenyoucame,Iwas
hoping...ImeanAthenacangetalongwithjustaboutanybody,exceptforAres.
And of course shes got the rivalry with Poseidon. But, I mean, aside from that, I
thoughtwecouldworktogether.Ithoughtyoumightknowsomething.
I shook my head. I wished I could help her, but I felt too hungry and tired and
mentallyoverloadedtoaskanymorequestions.
Ivegottogetaquest,Annabethmutteredtoherself.Imnottooyoung.Ifthey
wouldjusttellmetheproblem...
I could smell barbecue smoke coming from somewhere nearby. Annabeth
mustveheardmystomachgrowl.Shetoldmetogoon,shedcatchmelater.Ileft
heronthepier,tracingherfingeracrosstherailasifdrawingabattleplan.
Back at cabin eleven, everybody was talking and horsing around, waiting for
dinner. For the first time, I noticed that a lot of the campers had similar features:
sharpnoses,upturnedeyebrows,mischievoussmiles.Theywerethekindofkids
thatteacherswouldpegastroublemakers.Thankfully,nobodypaidmuchattention
tomeasIwalkedovertomyspotonthefloorandploppeddownwithmyminotaur
horn.
Thecounselor,Luke,cameover.HehadtheHermesfamilyresemblance,too.It
wasmarredbythatscaronhisrightcheek,buthissmilewasintact.
Foundyouasleepingbag,hesaid.Andhere,Istoleyousometoiletriesfrom
thecampstore.
Icouldnttellifhewaskiddingaboutthestealingpart.
Isaid,Thanks.
No prob. Luke sat next to me, pushed his back against the wall. Tough first
day?
Idontbelonghere,Isaid.Idontevenbelieveingods.
Yeah,hesaid.Thatshowweallstarted.Onceyoustartbelievinginthem?It
doesntgetanyeasier.
The bitterness in his voice surprised me, because Luke seemed like a pretty
easygoingguy.Helookedlikehecouldhandlejustaboutanything.
SoyourdadisHermes?Iasked.
Hepulledaswitchbladeoutofhisbackpocket,andforasecondIthoughthe
wasgoingtogutme,buthejustscrapedthemudoffthesoleofhissandal.Yeah.
Hermes.
Thewing-footedmessengerguy.
Thats him. Messengers. Medicine. Travelers, merchants, thieves. Anybody
who uses the roads. Thats why youre here, enjoying cabin elevens hospitality.
Hermesisntpickyaboutwhohesponsors.
IfiguredLukedidntmeantocallmeanobody.Hejusthadalotonhismind.
Youevermeetyourdad?Iasked.
Once.
Iwaited,thinkingthatifhewantedtotellme,hedtellme.Apparently,hedidnt.I
wonderedifthestoryhadanythingtodowithhowhegothisscar.
Luke looked up and managed a smile. Dont worry about it, Percy. The
campershere,theyremostlygoodpeople.Afterall,wereextendedfamily,right?
Wetakecareofeachother.
HeseemedtounderstandhowlostIfelt,andIwasgratefulforthat,becausean
older guy like himeven if he was a counselorshouldve steered clear of an
uncoolmiddle-schoolerlikeme.ButLukehadwelcomedmeintothecabin.Hed
evenstolenmesometoiletries,whichwasthenicestthinganybodyhaddonefor
meallday.
Idecidedtoaskhimmylastbigquestion,theonethathadbeenbotheringmeall
afternoon. Clarisse, from Ares, was joking about me being Big Three material.
ThenAnnabeth...twice,shesaidImightbetheone.ShesaidIshouldtalktothe
Oracle.Whatwasthatallabout?
Lukefoldedhisknife.Ihateprophecies.
Whatdoyoumean?
His face twitched around the scar. Lets just say I messed things up for
everybody else. The last two years, ever since my trip to the Garden of the
Hesperideswentsour,Chironhasntallowedanymorequests.Annabethsbeen
dyingtogetoutintotheworld.ShepesteredChironsomuchhefinallytoldherhe
alreadyknewherfate.HedhadaprophecyfromtheOracle.Hewouldnttellher
the whole thing, but he said Annabeth wasnt destined to go on a quest yet. She
hadtowaituntil...somebodyspecialcametothecamp.
Somebodyspecial?
Dontworryaboutit,kid,Lukesaid.Annabethwantstothinkeverynewcamper
who comes through here is the omen shes been waiting for. Now, come on, its
dinnertime.
Themomenthesaidit,ahornblewinthedistance.Somehow,Iknewitwasa
conchshell,eventhoughIdneverheardonebefore.
Lukeyelled,Eleven,fallin!
Thewholecabin,abouttwentyofus,filedintothecommonsyard.Welinedupin
order of seniority, so of course I was dead last. Campers came from the other
cabins, too, except for the three empty cabins at the end, and cabin eight, which
hadlookednormalinthedaytime,butwasnowstartingtoglowsilverasthesun
wentdown.
We marched up the hill to the mess hall pavilion. Satyrs joined us from the
meadow.Naiadsemergedfromthecanoeinglake.Afewothergirlscameoutof
the woods and when I say out of the woods, I meanstraight out of the woods. I
sawonegirl,aboutnineortenyearsold,meltfromthesideofamapletreeand
comeskippingupthehill.
Inall,thereweremaybeahundredcampers,afewdozensatyrs,andadozen
assortedwoodnymphsandnaiads.
Atthepavilion,torchesblazedaroundthemarblecolumns.Acentralfireburned
inabronzebrazierthesizeofabathtub.Eachcabinhaditsowntable,coveredin
white cloth trimmed in purple. Four of the tables were empty, but cabin elevens
waswayovercrowded.Ihadtosqueezeontotheedgeofabenchwithhalfmybutt
hangingoff.
IsawGroversittingattabletwelvewithMr.D,afewsatyrs,andacoupleofplump
blondboyswholookedjustlikeMr.D.Chironstoodtooneside,thepicnictable
beingwaytoosmallforacentaur.
Annabethsatattablesixwithabunchofserious-lookingathletickids,allwithher
grayeyesandhoney-blondhair.
Clarisse sat behind me at Aress table. Shed apparently gotten over being
hoseddown,becauseshewaslaughingandbelchingrightalongsideherfriends.
Finally, Chiron pounded his hoof against the marble floor of the pavilion, and
everybodyfellsilent.Heraisedaglass.Tothegods!
Everybodyelseraisedtheirglasses.Tothegods!
Woodnymphscameforwardwithplattersoffood:grapes,apples,strawberries,
cheese, fresh bread, and yes, barbecue! My glass was empty, but Luke said,
Speaktoit.Whateveryouwantnonalcoholic,ofcourse.
Isaid,CherryCoke.
Theglassfilledwithsparklingcaramelliquid.
ThenIhadanidea.BlueCherryCoke.
Thesodaturnedaviolentshadeofcobalt.
Itookacautioussip.Perfect.
Idrankatoasttomymother.
Shesnotgone,Itoldmyself.Notpermanently,anyway.ShesintheUnderworld.
Andifthatsarealplace,thensomeday...
Hereyougo,Percy,Lukesaid,handingmeaplatterofsmokedbrisket.
I loaded my plate and was about to take a big bite when I noticed everybody
getting up, carrying their plates toward the fire in the center of the pavilion. I
wonderediftheyweregoingfordessertorsomething.
Comeon,Luketoldme.
As I got closer, I saw that everyone was taking a portion of their meal and
droppingitintothefire,theripeststrawberry,thejuiciestsliceofbeef,thewarmest,
mostbutteryroll.
Lukemurmuredinmyear,Burntofferingsforthegods.Theylikethesmell.
Yourekidding.
Hislookwarnedmenottotakethislightly,butIcouldnthelpwonderingwhyan
immortal,all-powerfulbeingwouldlikethesmellofburningfood.
Luke approached the fire, bowed his head, and tossed in a cluster of fat red
grapes.Hermes.
Iwasnext.
IwishedIknewwhatgodsnametosay.
Finally,Imadeasilentplea.Whoeveryouare,tellme.Please.
Iscrapedabigsliceofbrisketintotheflames.
WhenIcaughtawhiffofthesmoke,Ididntgag.
Itsmellednothinglikeburningfood.Itsmelledofhotchocolateandfresh-baked
brownies, hamburgers on the grill and wildflowers, and a hundred other good
things that shouldnt have gone well together, but did. I could almost believe the
godscouldliveoffthatsmoke.
When everybody had returned to their seats and finished eating their meals,
Chironpoundedhishoofagainforourattention.
Mr.Dgotupwithahugesigh.Yes,IsupposeIdbettersayhellotoallyoubrats.
Well,hello.Ouractivitiesdirector,Chiron,saysthenextcapturetheflagisFriday.
Cabinfivepresentlyholdsthelaurels.
AbunchofuglycheeringrosefromtheArestable.
Personally, Mr. D continued, I couldnt care less, but congratulations. Also, I
shouldtellyouthatwehaveanewcampertoday.PeterJohnson.
Chironmurmuredsomething.
Er,PercyJackson,Mr.Dcorrected.Thatsright.Hurrah,andallthat.Nowrun
alongtoyoursillycampfire.Goon.
Everybody cheered. We all headed down toward the amphitheater, where
Apollos cabin led a sing-along. We sang camp songs about the gods and ate
smoresandjokedaround,andthefunnythingwas,Ididntfeelthatanyonewas
staringatmeanymore.IfeltthatIwashome.
Laterintheevening,whenthesparksfromthecampfirewerecurlingintoastarry
sky,theconchhornblewagain,andweallfiledbacktoourcabins.Ididntrealize
howexhaustedIwasuntilIcollapsedonmyborrowedsleepingbag.
MyfingerscurledaroundtheMinotaurshorn.Ithoughtaboutmymom,butIhad
goodthoughts:hersmile,thebedtimestoriesshewouldreadmewhenIwasakid,
thewayshewouldtellmenottoletthebedbugsbite.
WhenIclosedmyeyes,Ifellasleepinstantly.
ThatwasmyfirstdayatCampHalf-Blood.
IwishIdknownhowbrieflyIwouldgettoenjoymynewhome.
EIGHT
WE CAPTURE A FLAG
ThenextfewdaysIsettledintoaroutinethatfeltalmostnormal,ifyoudontcount
thefactthatIwasgettinglessonsfromsatyrs,nymphs,andacentaur.
Each morning I took Ancient Greek from Annabeth, and we talked about the
godsandgoddessesinthepresenttense,whichwaskindofweird.Idiscovered
Annabeth was right about my dyslexia: Ancient Greek wasnt that hard for me to
read.Atleast,noharderthanEnglish.Afteracoupleofmornings,Icouldstumble
throughafewlinesofHomerwithouttoomuchheadache.
Therestoftheday,Idrotatethroughoutdooractivities,lookingforsomethingI
wasgoodat.Chirontriedtoteachmearchery,butwefoundoutprettyquickIwasnt
anygoodwithabowandarrow.Hedidntcomplain,evenwhenhehadtodesnag
astrayarrowoutofhistail.
Foot racing? No good either. The wood-nymph instructors left me in the dust.
Theytoldmenottoworryaboutit.Theydhadcenturiesofpracticerunningaway
fromlovesickgods.Butstill,itwasalittlehumiliatingtobeslowerthanatree.
And wrestling? Forget it. Every time I got on the mat, Clarisse would pulverize
me.
Theresmorewherethatcamefrom,punk,shedmumbleinmyear.
The only thing I really excelled at was canoeing, and that wasnt the kind of
heroicskillpeopleexpectedtoseefromthekidwhohadbeatentheMinotaur.
Iknewtheseniorcampersandcounselorswerewatchingme,tryingtodecide
whomydadwas,buttheywerenthavinganeasytimeofit.Iwasntasstrongas
theAreskids,orasgoodatarcheryastheApollokids.IdidnthaveHephaestuss
skillwithmetalworkorgodsforbidDionysusswaywithvineplants.Luketoldme
ImightbeachildofHermes,akindofjack-of-all-trades,masterofnone.ButIgot
thefeelinghewasjusttryingtomakemefeelbetter.Hereallydidntknowwhatto
makeofmeeither.
Despiteallthat,Ilikedcamp.Igotusedtothemorningfogoverthebeach,the
smellofhotstrawberryfieldsintheafternoon,eventheweirdnoisesofmonstersin
the woods at night. I would eat dinner with cabin eleven, scrape part of my meal
intothefire,andtrytofeelsomeconnectiontomyrealdad.Nothingcame.Justthat
warm feeling Id always had, like the memory of his smile. I tried not to think too
muchaboutmymom,butIkeptwondering:ifgodsandmonsterswerereal,ifall
this magical stuff was possible, surely there was some way to save her, to bring
herback....
IstartedtounderstandLukesbitternessandhowheseemedtoresenthisfather,
Hermes.Sookay,maybegodshadimportantthingstodo.Butcouldnttheycall
onceinawhile,orthunder,orsomething?DionysuscouldmakeDietCokeappear
outofthinair.Whycouldntmydad,whoeverhewas,makeaphoneappear?
Thursday afternoon, three days after Id arrived at Camp Half-Blood, I had my
first sword-fighting lesson. Everybody from cabin eleven gathered in the big
circulararena,whereLukewouldbeourinstructor.
Westartedwithbasicstabbingandslashing,usingsomestraw-stuffeddummies
inGreekarmor.IguessIdidokay.Atleast,IunderstoodwhatIwassupposedto
doandmyreflexesweregood.
The problem was, I couldnt find a blade that felt right in my hands. Either they
were too heavy, or too light, or too long. Luke tried his best to fix me up, but he
agreedthatnoneofthepracticebladesseemedtoworkforme.
We moved on to dueling in pairs. Luke announced he would be my partner,
sincethiswasmyfirsttime.
Goodluck,oneofthecamperstoldme.Lukesthebestswordsmaninthelast
threehundredyears.
Maybehellgoeasyonme,Isaid.
Thecampersnorted.
Lukeshowedmethrustsandparriesandshieldblocksthehardway.Withevery
swipe,Igotalittlemorebatteredandbruised.Keepyourguardup,Percy,hed
say,thenwhapmeintheribswiththeflatofhisblade.No,notthatfarup!Whap!
Lunge!Whap!Now,back!Whap!
Bythetimehecalledabreak,Iwassoakedinsweat.Everybodyswarmedthe
drinkscooler.Lukepouredicewateronhishead,whichlookedlikesuchagood
idea,Ididthesame.
Instantly,Ifeltbetter.Strengthsurgedbackintomyarms.Thesworddidntfeelso
awkward.
Okay,everybodycircleup!Lukeordered.IfPercydoesntmind,Iwanttogive
youalittledemo.
Great,Ithought.LetsallwatchPercygetpounded.
The Hermes guys gathered around. They were suppressing smiles. I figured
theydbeeninmyshoesbeforeandcouldntwaittoseehowLukeusedmefora
punching bag. He told everybody he was going to demonstrate a disarming
technique:howtotwisttheenemysbladewiththeflatofyourownswordsothathe
hadnochoicebuttodrophisweapon.
Thisisdifficult,hestressed.Ivehaditusedagainstme.NolaughingatPercy,
now.Mostswordsmenhavetoworkyearstomasterthistechnique.
He demonstrated the move on me in slow motion. Sure enough, the sword
clatteredoutofmyhand.
Nowinrealtime,hesaid,afterIdretrievedmyweapon.Wekeepsparringuntil
oneofuspullsitoff.Ready,Percy?
Inodded,andLukecameafterme.Somehow,Ikepthimfromgettingashotat
thehiltofmysword.Mysensesopenedup.Isawhisattackscoming.Icountered.I
steppedforwardandtriedathrustofmyown.Lukedeflectediteasily,butIsawa
changeinhisface.Hiseyesnarrowed,andhestartedtopressmewithmoreforce.
Theswordgrewheavyinmyhand.Thebalancewasntright.Iknewitwasonlya
matterofsecondsbeforeLuketookmedown,soIfigured,Whattheheck?
Itriedthedisarmingmaneuver.
My blade hit the base of Lukes and I twisted, putting my whole weight into a
downwardthrust.
Clang.
Lukesswordrattledagainstthestones.Thetipofmybladewasaninchfromhis
undefendedchest.
Theothercampersweresilent.
Iloweredmysword.Um,sorry.
Foramoment,Lukewastoostunnedtospeak.
Sorry? His scarred face broke into a grin. By the gods, Percy, why are you
sorry?Showmethatagain!
Ididntwantto.Theshortburstofmanicenergyhadcompletelyabandonedme.
ButLukeinsisted.
Thistime,therewasnocontest.Themomentourswordsconnected,Lukehitmy
hiltandsentmyweaponskiddingacrossthefloor.
Afteralongpause,somebodyintheaudiencesaid,Beginnersluck?
Luke wiped the sweat off his brow. He appraised at me with an entirely new
interest. Maybe, he said. But I wonder what Percy could do with a balanced
sword....
Fridayafternoon,IwassittingwithGroveratthelake,restingfromanear-death
experienceontheclimbingwall.Groverhadscamperedtothetoplikeamountain
goat,butthelavahadalmostgottenme.Myshirthadsmokingholesinit.Thehairs
hadbeensingedoffmyforearms.
We sat on the pier, watching the naiads do underwater basket-weaving, until I
gotupthenervetoaskGroverhowhisconversationhadgonewithMr.D.
Hisfaceturnedasicklyshadeofyellow.
Fine,hesaid.Justgreat.
Soyourcareersstillontrack?
Heglancedatmenervously.Chiront-toldyouIwantasearcherslicense?
Well...no.Ihadnoideawhatasearcherslicensewas,butitdidntseemlike
therighttimetoask.Hejustsaidyouhadbigplans,youknow...andthatyou
neededcreditforcompletingakeepersassignment.Sodidyougetit?
Groverlookeddownatthenaiads.Mr.Dsuspendedjudgment.HesaidIhadnt
failedorsucceededwithyouyet,soourfateswerestilltiedtogether.Ifyougota
questandIwentalongtoprotectyou,andwebothcamebackalive,thenmaybe
hedconsiderthejobcomplete.
Myspiritslifted.Well,thatsnotsobad,right?
Blaa-ha-ha!Hemightaswellhavetransferredmetostable-cleaningduty.The
chances of you getting a quest . . . and even if you did, why would you wantme
along?
OfcourseIdwantyoualong!
Groverstaredglumlyintothewater.Basket-weaving...Mustbenicetohavea
usefulskill.
Itriedtoreassurehimthathehadlotsoftalents,butthatjustmadehimlookmore
miserable.Wetalkedaboutcanoeingandswordplayforawhile,thendebatedthe
pros and cons of the different gods. Finally, I asked him about the four empty
cabins.
Numbereight,thesilverone,belongstoArtemis,hesaid.Shevowedtobea
maiden forever. So of course, no kids. The cabin is, you know, honorary. If she
didnthaveone,shedbemad.
Yeah,okay.Buttheotherthree,theonesattheend.ArethosetheBigThree?
Grover tensed. We were getting close to a touchy subject. No. One of them,
numbertwo,isHeras,hesaid.Thatsanotherhonorarything.Shesthegoddess
ofmarriage,soofcourseshewouldntgoaroundhavingaffairswithmortals.Thats
her husbands job. When we say the Big Three, we mean the three powerful
brothers,thesonsofKronos.
Zeus,Poseidon,Hades.
Right.Youknow.AfterthegreatbattlewiththeTitans,theytookovertheworld
fromtheirdadanddrewlotstodecidewhogotwhat.
Zeusgotthesky,Iremembered.Poseidonthesea,HadestheUnderworld.
Uh-huh.
ButHadesdoesnthaveacabinhere.
No.HedoesnthaveathroneonOlympus,either.Hesortofdoeshisownthing
downintheUnderworld.Ifhedidhaveacabinhere...Grovershuddered.Well,it
wouldntbepleasant.Letsleaveitatthat.
ButZeusandPoseidontheybothhad,like,abazillionkidsinthemyths.Why
aretheircabinsempty?
Grover shifted his hooves uncomfortably. About sixty years ago, after World
War II, the Big Three agreed they wouldnt sire any more heroes. Their children
werejusttoopowerful.Theywereaffectingthecourseofhumaneventstoomuch,
causing too much carnage. World War II, you know, that was basically a fight
betweenthesonsofZeusandPoseidonononeside,andthesonsofHadeson
theother.Thewinningside,ZeusandPoseidon,madeHadesswearanoathwith
them:nomoreaffairswithmortalwomen.TheyallsworeontheRiverStyx.
Thunderboomed.
Isaid,Thatsthemostseriousoathyoucanmake.
Grovernodded.
Andthebrotherskepttheirwordnokids?
Groversfacedarkened.Seventeenyearsago,Zeusfelloffthewagon.There
was this TV starlet with a big fluffy eighties hairdohe just couldnt help himself.
When their child was born, a little girl named Thalia . . . well, the River Styx is
seriousaboutpromises.Zeushimselfgotoffeasybecausehesimmortal,buthe
broughtaterriblefateonhisdaughter.
Butthatisntfair!Itwasntthelittlegirlsfault.
Grover hesitated. Percy, children of the Big Three have powers greater than
otherhalf-bloods.Theyhaveastrongaura,ascentthatattractsmonsters.When
Hadesfoundoutaboutthegirl,hewasnttoohappyaboutZeusbreakinghisoath.
Hades let the worst monsters out of Tartarus to torment Thalia. A satyr was
assignedtobeherkeeperwhenshewastwelve,buttherewasnothinghecould
do.Hetriedtoescortherherewithacoupleofotherhalf-bloodsshedbefriended.
Theyalmostmadeit.Theygotallthewaytothetopofthathill.
Hepointedacrossthevalley,tothepinetreewhereIdfoughttheminotaur.All
three Kindly Ones were after them, along with a hoard of hellhounds. They were
abouttobeoverrunwhenThaliatoldhersatyrtotaketheothertwohalf-bloodsto
safetywhilesheheldoffthemonsters.Shewaswoundedandtired,andshedidnt
wanttolivelikeahuntedanimal.Thesatyrdidntwanttoleaveher,buthecouldnt
changehermind,andhehadtoprotecttheothers.SoThaliamadeherfinalstand
alone,atthetopofthathill.Asshedied,Zeustookpityonher.Heturnedherinto
thatpinetree.Herspiritstillhelpsprotectthebordersofthevalley.Thatswhythe
hilliscalledHalf-BloodHill.
Istaredatthepineinthedistance.
The story made me feel hollow, and guilty too. A girl my age had sacrificed
herselftosaveherfriends.Shehadfacedawholearmyofmonsters.Nexttothat,
my victory over the Minotaur didnt seem like much. I wondered, if Id acted
differently,couldIhavesavedmymother?
Grover,Isaid,haveheroesreallygoneonqueststotheUnderworld?
Sometimes,hesaid.Orpheus.Hercules.Houdini.
Andhavetheyeverreturnedsomebodyfromthedead?
No.Never.Orpheuscameclose....Percy,yourenotseriouslythinking
No,Ilied.Iwasjustwondering.So...asatyrisalwaysassignedtoguarda
demigod?
Grover studied me warily. I hadnt persuaded him that Id really dropped the
Underworldidea.Notalways.Wegoundercovertoalotofschools.Wetrytosniff
outthehalf-bloodswhohavethemakingsofgreatheroes.Ifwefindonewithavery
strongaura,likeachildoftheBigThree,wealertChiron.Hetriestokeepaneye
onthem,sincetheycouldcausereallyhugeproblems.
Andyoufoundme.ChironsaidyouthoughtImightbesomethingspecial.
GroverlookedasifIdjustledhimintoatrap.Ididnt...Oh,listen,dontthinklike
that.Ifyouwereyouknowyoudnevereverbeallowedaquest,andIdneverget
mylicense.YoureprobablyachildofHermes.Ormaybeevenoneoftheminor
gods,likeNemesis,thegodofrevenge.Dontworry,okay?
Igottheideahewasreassuringhimselfmorethanme.
Thatnightafterdinner,therewasalotmoreexcitementthanusual.
Atlast,itwastimeforcapturetheflag.
Whentheplateswereclearedaway,theconchhornsoundedandweallstood
atourtables.
CampersyelledandcheeredasAnnabethandtwoofhersiblingsranintothe
pavilion carrying a silk banner. It was about ten feet long, glistening gray, with a
paintingofabarnowlaboveanolivetree.Fromtheoppositesideofthepavilion,
Clarisse and her buddies ran in with another banner, of identical size, but gaudy
red,paintedwithabloodyspearandaboarshead.
IturnedtoLukeandyelledoverthenoise,Thosearetheflags?
Yeah.
AresandAthenaalwaysleadtheteams?
Notalways,hesaid.Butoften.
So,ifanothercabincapturesone,whatdoyoudorepainttheflag?
Hegrinned.Youllsee.Firstwehavetogetone.
Whosesideareweon?
Hegavemeaslylook,asifheknewsomethingIdidnt.Thescaronhisface
madehimlookalmostevilinthetorchlight.Wevemadeatemporaryalliancewith
Athena.Tonight,wegettheflagfromAres.Andyouaregoingtohelp.
The teams were announced. Athena had made an alliance with Apollo and
Hermes,thetwobiggestcabins.Apparently,privilegeshadbeentradedshower
times,choreschedules,thebestslotsforactivitiesinordertowinsupport.
Areshadalliedthemselveswitheverybodyelse:Dionysus,Demeter,Aphrodite,
andHephaestus.FromwhatIdseen,Dionysusskidswereactuallygoodathletes,
buttherewereonlytwoofthem.Demeterskidshadtheedgewithnatureskillsand
outdoorstuff,buttheywerentveryaggressive.AphroditessonsanddaughtersI
wasnt too worried about. They mostly sat out every activity and checked their
reflectionsinthelakeanddidtheirhairandgossiped.Hephaestusskidswerent
pretty,andtherewereonlyfourofthem,buttheywerebigandburlyfromworkingin
themetalshopallday.Theymightbeaproblem.That,ofcourse,leftAresscabin:
adozenofthebiggest,ugliest,meanestkidsonLongIsland,oranywhereelseon
theplanet.
Chironhammeredhishoofonthemarble.
Heroes! he announced. You know the rules. The creek is the boundary line.
The entire forest is fair game. All magic items are allowed. The banner must be
prominently displayed, and have no more than two guards. Prisoners may be
disarmed,butmaynotbeboundorgagged.Nokillingormaimingisallowed.Iwill
serveasrefereeandbattlefieldmedic.Armyourselves!
He spread his hands, and the tables were suddenly covered with equipment:
helmets,bronzeswords,spears,oxhideshieldscoatedinmetal.
Whoa,Isaid.Werereallysupposedtousethese?
LukelookedatmeasifIwerecrazy.Unlessyouwanttogetskeweredbyyour
friends in cabin five. HereChiron thought these would fit. Youll be on border
patrol.
MyshieldwasthesizeofanNBAbackboard,withabigcaduceusinthemiddle.
Itweighedaboutamillionpounds.Icouldhavesnowboardedonitfine,butIhoped
nobody seriously expected me to run fast. My helmet, like all the helmets on
Athenas side, had a blue horsehair plume on top. Ares and their allies had red
plumes.
Annabethyelled,Blueteam,forward!
Wecheeredandshookourswordsandfollowedherdownthepathtothesouth
woods.Theredteamyelledtauntsatusastheyheadedofftowardthenorth.
ImanagedtocatchupwithAnnabethwithouttrippingovermyequipment.Hey.
Shekeptmarching.
Sowhatstheplan?Iasked.Gotanymagicitemsyoucanloanme?
Herhanddriftedtowardherpocket,asifshewereafraidIdstolensomething.
JustwatchClarissesspear,shesaid.Youdontwantthatthingtouchingyou.
Otherwise,dontworry.WelltakethebannerfromAres.HasLukegivenyouyour
job?
Borderpatrol,whateverthatmeans.
Itseasy.Standbythecreek,keeptheredsaway.Leavetheresttome.Athena
alwayshasaplan.
Shepushedahead,leavingmeinthedust.
Okay,Imumbled.Gladyouwantedmeonyourteam.
Itwasawarm,stickynight.Thewoodsweredark,withfirefliespoppinginandout
ofview.Annabethstationedmenexttoalittlecreekthatgurgledoversomerocks,
thensheandtherestoftheteamscatteredintothetrees.
Standingtherealone,withmybigblue-featheredhelmetandmyhugeshield,I
felt like an idiot. The bronze sword, like all the swords Id tried so far, seemed
balancedwrong.Theleathergrippulledonmyhandlikeabowlingball.
There was no way anybody would actually attack me, would they? I mean,
Olympushadtohaveliabilityissues,right?
Far away, the conch horn blew. I heard whoops and yells in the woods, the
clankingofmetal,kidsfighting.Ablue-plumedallyfromApolloracedpastmelike
adeer,leapedthroughthecreek,anddisappearedintoenemyterritory.
Great,Ithought.Illmissallthefun,asusual.
Then I heard a sound that sent a chill up my spine, a low canine growl,
somewherecloseby.
Iraisedmyshieldinstinctively;Ihadthefeelingsomethingwasstalkingme.
Thenthegrowlingstopped.Ifeltthepresenceretreating.
On the other side of the creek, the underbrush exploded. Five Ares warriors
cameyellingandscreamingoutofthedark.
Creamthepunk!Clarissescreamed.
Heruglypigeyesglaredthroughtheslitsofherhelmet.Shebrandishedafive-
foot-longspear,itsbarbedmetaltipflickeringwithredlight.Hersiblingshadonly
thestandard-issuebronzeswordsnotthatthatmademefeelanybetter.
They charged across the stream. There was no help in sight. I could run. Or I
coulddefendmyselfagainsthalftheArescabin.
Imanagedtosidestepthefirstkidsswing,buttheseguyswerenotasstupidthe
Minotaur.Theysurroundedme,andClarissethrustatmewithherspear.Myshield
deflectedthepoint,butIfeltapainfultinglingallovermybody.Myhairstoodon
end.Myshieldarmwentnumb,andtheairburned.
Electricity.Herstupidspearwaselectric.Ifellback.
AnotherAresguyslammedmeinthechestwiththebuttofhisswordandIhitthe
dirt.
Theycouldvekickedmeintojelly,buttheyweretoobusylaughing.
Givehimahaircut,Clarissesaid.Grabhishair.
Imanagedtogettomyfeet.Iraisedmysword,butClarisseslammeditaside
withherspearassparksflew.Nowbothmyarmsfeltnumb.
Oh,wow,Clarissesaid.Imscaredofthisguy.Reallyscared.
Theflagisthatway,Itoldher.Iwantedtosoundangry,butIwasafraiditdidnt
comeoutthatway.
Yeah,oneofhersiblingssaid.Butsee,wedontcareabouttheflag.Wecare
aboutaguywhomadeourcabinlookstupid.
Youdothatwithoutmyhelp,Itoldthem.Itprobablywasntthesmartestthingto
say.
Twoofthemcameatme.Ibackeduptowardthecreek,triedtoraisemyshield,
but Clarisse was too fast. Her spear stuck me straight in the ribs. If I hadnt been
wearinganarmoredbreastplate,Iwouldvebeenshish-ke-babbed.Asitwas,the
electricpointjustaboutshockedmyteethoutofmymouth.Oneofhercabinmates
slashedhisswordacrossmyarm,leavingagood-sizecut.
Seeingmyownbloodmademedizzywarmandcoldatthesametime.
Nomaiming,Imanagedtosay.
Oops,theguysaid.GuessIlostmydessertprivilege.
He pushed me into the creek and I landed with a splash. They all laughed. I
figured as soon as they were through being amused, I would die. But then
somethinghappened.Thewaterseemedtowakeupmysenses,asifIdjusthad
abagofmymomsdouble-espressojellybeans.
Clarisseandhercabinmatescameintothecreektogetme,butIstoodtomeet
them.Iknewwhattodo.Iswungtheflatofmyswordagainstthefirstguyshead
andknockedhishelmetcleanoff.IhithimsohardIcouldseehiseyesvibratingas
hecrumpledintothewater.
UglyNumberTwoandUglyNumberThreecameatme.Islammedoneinthe
face with my shield and used my sword to shear off the other guys horsehair
plume.Bothofthembackedupquick.UglyNumberFourdidntlookreallyanxious
toattack,butClarissekeptcoming,thepointofherspearcracklingwithenergy.As
soonasshethrust,Icaughttheshaftbetweentheedgeofmyshieldandmysword,
andIsnappeditlikeatwig.
Ah!shescreamed.Youidiot!Youcorpse-breathworm!
Sheprobablywouldvesaidworse,butIsmackedherbetweentheeyeswithmy
sword-buttandsentherstumblingbackwardoutofthecreek.
Then I heard yelling, elated screams, and I saw Luke racing toward the
boundarylinewiththeredteamsbannerliftedhigh.Hewasflankedbyacoupleof
Hermesguyscoveringhisretreat,andafewApollosbehindthem,fightingoffthe
Hephaestuskids.TheAresfolksgotup,andClarissemutteredadazedcurse.
Atrick!sheshouted.Itwasatrick.
They staggered after Luke, but it was too late. Everybody converged on the
creekasLukeranacrossintofriendlyterritory.Oursideexplodedintocheers.The
red banner shimmered and turned to silver. The boar and spear were replaced
withahugecaduceus,thesymbolofcabineleven.Everybodyontheblueteam
picked up Luke and started carrying him around on their shoulders. Chiron
canteredoutfromthewoodsandblewtheconchhorn.
Thegamewasover.Wedwon.
IwasabouttojointhecelebrationwhenAnnabethsvoice,rightnexttomeinthe
creek,said,Notbad,hero.
Ilooked,butshewasntthere.
Wheretheheckdidyoulearntofightlikethat?sheasked.Theairshimmered,
andshematerialized,holdingaYankeesbaseballcapasifshedjusttakenitoff
herhead.
I felt myself getting angry. I wasnt even fazed by the fact that shed just been
invisible. You set me up, I said. You put me here because you knew Clarisse
wouldcomeafterme,whileyousentLukearoundtheflank.Youhaditallfigured
out.
Annabethshrugged.Itoldyou.Athenaalways,alwayshasaplan.
Aplantogetmepulverized.
IcameasfastasIcould.Iwasabouttojumpin,but...Sheshrugged.You
didntneedhelp.
Thenshenoticedmywoundedarm.Howdidyoudothat?
Swordcut,Isaid.Whatdoyouthink?
No.Itwasaswordcut.Lookatit.
The blood was gone. Where the huge cut had been, there was a long white
scratch, and even that was fading. As I watched, it turned into a small scar, and
disappeared.
IIdontgetit,Isaid.
Annabeth was thinking hard. I could almost see the gears turning. She looked
downatmyfeet,thenatClarissesbrokenspear,andsaid,Stepoutofthewater,
Percy.
What
Justdoit.
Icameoutofthecreekandimmediatelyfeltbonetired.Myarmsstartedtogo
numbagain.Myadrenalinerushleftme.Ialmostfellover,butAnnabethsteadied
me.
Oh,Styx,shecursed.Thisisnotgood.Ididntwant...Iassumeditwouldbe
Zeus....
Before I could ask what she meant, I heard that canine growl again, but much
closerthanbefore.Ahowlrippedthroughtheforest.
The campers cheering died instantly. Chiron shouted something in Ancient
Greek,whichIwouldrealize,onlylater,Ihadunderstoodperfectly:Stand ready!
Mybow!
Annabethdrewhersword.
There on the rocks just above us was a black hound the size of a rhino, with
lava-redeyesandfangslikedaggers.
Itwaslookingstraightatme.
NobodymovedexceptAnnabeth,whoyelled,Percy,run!
Shetriedtostepinfrontofme,butthehoundwastoofast.Itleapedoverheran
enormousshadowwithteethandjustasithitme,asIstumbledbackwardandfelt
itsrazor-sharpclawsrippingthroughmyarmor,therewasacascadeofthwacking
sounds, like forty pieces of paper being ripped one after the other. From the
houndsnecksproutedaclusterofarrows.Themonsterfelldeadatmyfeet.
Bysomemiracle,Iwasstillalive.Ididntwanttolookunderneaththeruinsofmy
shreddedarmor.Mychestfeltwarmandwet,andIknewIwasbadlycut.Another
second, and the monster wouldve turned me into a hundred pounds of
delicatessenmeat.
Chirontrottedupnexttous,abowinhishand,hisfacegrim.
Di immortales! Annabeth said. Thats a hellhound from the Fields of
Punishment.Theydont...theyrenotsupposedto...
Someonesummonedit,Chironsaid.Someoneinsidethecamp.
Lukecameover,thebannerinhishandforgotten,hismomentofglorygone.
Clarisseyelled,ItsallPercysfault!Percysummonedit!
Bequiet,child,Chirontoldher.
Wewatchedthebodyofthehellhoundmeltintoshadow,soakingintotheground
untilitdisappeared.
Yourewounded,Annabethtoldme.Quick,Percy,getinthewater.
Imokay.
No,yourenot,shesaid.Chiron,watchthis.
Iwastootiredtoargue.Isteppedbackintothecreek,thewholecampgathering
aroundme.
Instantly, I felt better. I could feel the cuts on my chest closing up. Some of the
campersgasped.
Look,IIdontknowwhy,Isaid,tryingtoapologize.Imsorry....
But they werent watching my wounds heal. They were staring at something
abovemyhead.
Percy,Annabethsaid,pointing.Um...
BythetimeIlookedup,thesignwasalreadyfading,butIcouldstillmakeoutthe
hologramofgreenlight,spinningandgleaming.Athree-tippedspear:atrident.
Yourfather,Annabethmurmured.Thisisreallynotgood.
Itisdetermined,Chironannounced.
Allaroundme,campersstartedkneeling,eventheArescabin,thoughtheydidnt
lookhappyaboutit.
Myfather?Iasked,completelybewildered.
Poseidon, said Chiron. Earthshaker, Stormbringer, Father of Horses. Hail,
PerseusJackson,SonoftheSeaGod.
NINE
I AM OFFERED A QUEST
Thenextmorning,Chironmovedmetocabinthree.
I didnt have to share with anybody. I had plenty of room for all my stuff: the
Minotaurshorn,onesetofspareclothes,andatoiletrybag.Igottositatmyown
dinnertable,pickallmyownactivities,calllightsoutwheneverIfeltlikeit,andnot
listentoanybodyelse.
AndIwasabsolutelymiserable.
JustwhenIdstartedtofeelaccepted,tofeelIhadahomeincabinelevenandI
mightbeanormalkidorasnormalasyoucanbewhenyoureahalf-bloodId
beenseparatedoutasifIhadsomeraredisease.
Nobodymentionedthehellhound,butIgotthefeelingtheywerealltalkingabout
itbehindmyback.Theattackhadscaredeverybody.Itsenttwomessages:one,
thatIwasthesonoftheSeaGod;andtwo,monsterswouldstopatnothingtokill
me.Theycouldeveninvadeacampthathadalwaysbeenconsideredsafe.
Theothercamperssteeredclearofmeasmuchaspossible.Cabinelevenwas
toonervoustohaveswordclasswithmeafterwhatIddonetotheAresfolksinthe
woods,somylessonswithLukebecameone-on-one.Hepushedmeharderthan
ever,andwasntafraidtobruisemeupintheprocess.
Youre going to need all the training you can get, he promised, as we were
workingwithswordsandflamingtorches.Nowletstrythatviper-beheadingstrike
again.Fiftymorerepetitions.
Annabeth still taught me Greek in the mornings, but she seemed distracted.
EverytimeIsaidsomething,shescowledatme,asifIdjustpokedherbetween
theeyes.
Afterlessons,shewouldwalkawaymutteringtoherself:Quest...Poseidon?...
Dirtyrotten...Gottomakeaplan...
EvenClarissekeptherdistance,thoughhervenomouslooksmadeitclearshe
wanted to kill me for breaking her magic spear. I wished she would just yell or
punchmeorsomething.Idrathergetintofightseverydaythanbeignored.
I knew somebody at camp resented me, because one night I came into my
cabinandfoundamortalnewspaperdroppedinsidethedoorway,acopyofthe
NewYorkDailyNews,openedtotheMetropage.Thearticletookmealmostan
hourtoread,becausetheangrierIgot,themorethewordsfloatedaroundonthe
page.

BOYANDMOTHERSTILLMISSINGAFTERFREAKCARACCIDENT
BYEILEENSMYTHE

Sally Jackson and son Percy are still missing one week after their
mysterious disappearance. The familys badly burned 78 Camaro was
discoveredlastSaturdayonanorthLongIslandroadwiththeroofripped
offandthefrontaxlebroken.Thecarhadflippedandskiddedforseveral
hundredfeetbeforeexploding.
MotherandsonhadgoneforaweekendvacationtoMontauk,butleft
hastily, under mysterious circumstances. Small traces of blood were
foundinthecarandnearthesceneofthewreck,buttherewerenoother
signs of the missing Jacksons. Residents in the rural area reported
seeingnothingunusualaroundthetimeoftheaccident.
Ms.Jacksonshusband,GabeUgliano,claimsthathisstepson,Percy
Jackson, is a troubled child who has been kicked out of numerous
boardingschoolsandhasexpressedviolenttendenciesinthepast.
Police would not say whether son Percy is a suspect in his mothers
disappearance, but they have not ruled out foul play. Below are recent
picturesofSallyJacksonandPercy.Policeurgeanyonewithinformation
tocallthefollowingtoll-freecrime-stoppershotline.
Thephonenumberwascircledinblackmarker.
Iwaddedupthepaperandthrewitaway,thenfloppeddowninmybunkbedin
themiddleofmyemptycabin.
Lightsout,Itoldmyselfmiserably.
Thatnight,Ihadmyworstdreamyet.Iwasrunningalongthebeachinastorm.
This time, there was a city behind me. Not New York. The sprawl was different:
buildingsspreadfartherapart,palmtreesandlowhillsinthedistance.
Aboutahundredyardsdownthesurf,twomenwerefighting.Theylookedlike
TVwrestlers,muscular,withbeardsandlonghair.BothworeflowingGreektunics,
onetrimmedinblue,theotheringreen.Theygrappledwitheachother,wrestled,
kickedandhead-butted,andeverytimetheyconnected,lightningflashed,thesky
grewdarker,andthewindrose.
Ihadtostopthem.Ididntknowwhy.ButtheharderIran,themorethewindblew
meback,untilIwasrunninginplace,myheelsdigginguselesslyinthesand.
Overtheroarofthestorm,Icouldheartheblue-robedoneyellingatthegreen-
robedone,Giveitback!Giveitback!Likeakindergartnerfightingoveratoy.
Thewavesgotbigger,crashingintothebeach,sprayingmewithsalt.
Iyelled,Stopit!Stopfighting!
The ground shook. Laughter came from somewhere under the earth, and a
voicesodeepandevilitturnedmybloodtoice.
Comedown,littlehero,thevoicecrooned.Comedown!
Thesandsplitbeneathme,openingupacrevicestraightdowntothecenterof
theearth.Myfeetslipped,anddarknessswallowedme.
Iwokeup,sureIwasfalling.
Iwasstillinbedincabinthree.Mybodytoldmeitwasmorning,butitwasdark
outside,andthunderrolledacrossthehills.Astormwasbrewing.Ihadntdreamed
that.
Iheardacloppingsoundatthedoor,ahoofknockingonthethreshold.
Comein?
Grovertrottedinside,lookingworried.Mr.Dwantstoseeyou.
Why?
Hewantstokill...Imean,Idbetterlethimtellyou.
Nervously,Igotdressedandfollowed,surethatIwasinhugetrouble.
Fordays,IdbeenhalfexpectingasummonstotheBigHouse.NowthatIwas
declaredasonofPoseidon,oneoftheBigThreegodswhowerentsupposedto
have kids, I figured it was a crime for me just to be alive. The other gods had
probablybeendebatingthebestwaytopunishmeforexisting,andnowMr.Dwas
readytodelivertheirverdict.
OverLongIslandSound,theskylookedlikeinksoupcomingtoaboil.Ahazy
curtain of rain was coming in our direction. I asked Grover if we needed an
umbrella.
No,hesaid.Itneverrainshereunlesswewantitto.
Ipointedatthestorm.Whattheheckisthat,then?
Heglanceduneasilyatthesky.Itllpassaroundus.Badweatheralwaysdoes.
I realized he was right. In the week Id been here, it had never even been
overcast. The few rain clouds Id seen had skirted right around the edges of the
valley.
Butthisstorm...thisonewashuge.
Atthevolleyballpit,thekidsfromApolloscabinwereplayingamorninggame
againstthesatyrs.Dionysusstwinswerewalkingaroundinthestrawberryfields,
making the plants grow. Everybody was going about their normal business, but
theylookedtense.Theykepttheireyesonthestorm.
GroverandIwalkeduptothefrontporchoftheBigHouse.Dionysussatatthe
pinochletableinhistiger-stripedHawaiianshirtwithhisDietCoke,justashehad
on my first day. Chiron sat across the table in his fake wheelchair. They were
playingagainstinvisibleopponentstwosetsofcardshoveringintheair.
Well,well,Mr.Dsaidwithoutlookingup.Ourlittlecelebrity.
Iwaited.
Come closer, Mr. D said. And dont expect me to kowtow to you, mortal, just
becauseoldBarnacle-Beardisyourfather.
Anetoflightningflashedacrosstheclouds.Thundershookthewindowsofthe
house.
Blah,blah,blah,Dionysussaid.
Chironfeignedinterestinhispinochlecards.Grovercoweredbytherailing,his
hoovescloppingbackandforth.
If I had my way, Dionysus said, I would cause your molecules to erupt in
flames. Wed sweep up the ashes and be done with a lot of trouble. But Chiron
seemstofeelthiswouldbeagainstmymissionatthiscursedcamp:tokeepyou
littlebratssafefromharm.
Spontaneouscombustionisaformofharm,Mr.D,Chironputin.
Nonsense,Dionysussaid.Boywouldntfeelathing.
Nevertheless, Ive agreed to restrain myself. Im thinking of turning you into a
dolphininstead,sendingyoubacktoyourfather.
Mr.DChironwarned.
Oh, all right, Dionysus relented. Theres one more option. But its deadly
foolishness.Dionysusrose,andtheinvisibleplayerscardsdroppedtothetable.
Im off to Olympus for the emergency meeting. If the boy is still here when I get
back, Ill turn him into an Atlantic bottlenose. Do you understand? And Perseus
Jackson,ifyoureatallsmart,youllseethatsamuchmoresensiblechoicethan
whatChironfeelsyoumustdo.
Dionysuspickedupaplayingcard,twistedit,anditbecameaplasticrectangle.
Acreditcard?No.Asecuritypass.
Hesnappedhisfingers.
Theairseemedtofoldandbendaroundhim.Hebecameahologram,thena
wind,thenhewasgone,leavingonlythesmelloffresh-pressedgrapeslingering
behind.
Chironsmiledatme,buthelookedtiredandstrained.Sit,Percy,please.And
Grover.
Wedid.
Chironlaidhiscardsonthetable,awinninghandhehadntgottentouse.
Tellme,Percy,hesaid.Whatdidyoumakeofthehellhound?
Justhearingthenamemademeshudder.
Chiron probably wanted me to say,Heck, it was nothing. I eat hellhounds for
breakfast.ButIdidntfeellikelying.
Itscaredme,Isaid.Ifyouhadntshotit,Idbedead.
Youllmeetworse,Percy.Farworse,beforeyouredone.
Done...withwhat?
Yourquest,ofcourse.Willyouacceptit?
IglancedatGrover,whowascrossinghisfingers.
Um,sir,Isaid,youhaventtoldmewhatitisyet.
Chirongrimaced.Well,thatsthehardpart,thedetails.
Thunder rumbled across the valley. The storm clouds had now reached the
edgeofthebeach.AsfarasIcouldsee,theskyandtheseawereboilingtogether.
Poseidon and Zeus, I said. Theyre fighting over something valuable . . .
somethingthatwasstolen,arentthey?
ChironandGroverexchangedlooks.
Chironsatforwardinhiswheelchair.Howdidyouknowthat?
My face felt hot. I wished I hadnt opened my big mouth. The weather since
Christmashasbeenweird,liketheseaandtheskyarefighting.ThenItalkedto
Annabeth, and shed overheard something about a theft. And . . . Ive also been
havingthesedreams.
Iknewit,Groversaid.
Hush,satyr,Chironordered.
Butitishisquest!Groverseyeswerebrightwithexcitement.Itmustbe!
OnlytheOraclecandetermine.Chironstrokedhisbristlybeard.Nevertheless,
Percy, you are correct. Your father and Zeus are having their worst quarrel in
centuries.
Theyarefightingoversomethingvaluablethatwasstolen.
Tobeprecise:alightningbolt.
Ilaughednervously.Awhat?
Do not take this lightly, Chiron warned. Im not talking about some tinfoil-
covered zigzag youd see in a second-grade play. Im talking about a two-foot-
longcylinderofhigh-gradecelestialbronze,cappedonbothendswithgod-level
explosives.
Oh.
Zeuss master bolt, Chiron said, getting worked up now. The symbol of his
power,fromwhichallotherlightningboltsarepatterned.Thefirstweaponmadeby
theCyclopesforthewaragainsttheTitans,theboltthatsheeredthetopoffMount
Etna and hurled Kronos from his throne; the master bolt, which packs enough
powertomakemortalhydrogenbombslooklikefirecrackers.
Anditsmissing?
Stolen,Chironsaid.
Bywho?
Bywhom,Chironcorrected.Onceateacher,alwaysateacher.Byyou.
Mymouthfellopen.
At leastChiron held up a handthats what Zeus thinks. During the winter
solstice,atthelastcouncilofthegods,ZeusandPoseidonhadanargument.The
usual nonsense: Mother Rhea always liked you best, Air disasters are more
spectacularthanseadisasters,etcetera.Afterward,Zeusrealizedhismasterbolt
was missing, taken from the throne room under his very nose. He immediately
blamed Poseidon. Now, a god cannot usurp another gods symbol of power
directlythat is forbidden by the most ancient of divine laws. But Zeus believes
yourfatherconvincedahumanherototakeit.
ButIdidnt
Patience and listen, child, Chiron said. Zeus has good reason to be
suspicious. The forges of the Cyclopes are under the ocean, which gives
Poseidonsomeinfluenceoverthemakersofhisbrotherslightning.Zeusbelieves
Poseidonhastakenthemasterbolt,andisnowsecretlyhavingtheCyclopesbuild
anarsenalofillegalcopies,whichmightbeusedtotoppleZeusfromhisthrone.
TheonlythingZeuswasntsureaboutwaswhichheroPoseidonusedtostealthe
bolt. Now Poseidon has openly claimed you as his son. You were in New York
over the winter holidays. You could easily have snuck into Olympus. Zeus
believeshehasfoundhisthief.
ButIveneverevenbeentoOlympus!Zeusiscrazy!
ChironandGroverglancednervouslyatthesky.Thecloudsdidntseemtobe
parting around us, as Grover had promised. They were rolling straight over our
valley,sealingusinlikeacoffinlid.
Er,Percy...?Groversaid.Wedontusethec-wordtodescribetheLordofthe
Sky.
Perhapsparanoid, Chiron suggested. Then again, Poseidon has tried to
unseatZeusbefore.Ibelievethatwasquestionthirty-eightonyourfinalexam....
Helookedatmeasifheactuallyexpectedmetorememberquestionthirty-eight.
Howcouldanyoneaccusemeofstealingagodsweapon?Icouldntevensteal
asliceofpizzafromGabespokerpartywithoutgettingbusted.Chironwaswaiting
forananswer.
Something about a golden net? I guessed. Poseidon and Hera and a few
othergods...they,like,trappedZeusandwouldntlethimoutuntilhepromisedto
beabetterruler,right?
Correct,Chironsaid.AndZeushasnevertrustedPoseidonsince.Ofcourse,
Poseidondeniesstealingthemasterbolt.Hetookgreatoffenseattheaccusation.
Thetwohavebeenarguingbackandforthformonths,threateningwar.Andnow,
youvecomealongtheproverbiallaststraw.
ButImjustakid!
Percy, Grover cut in, if you were Zeus, and you already thought your brother
wasplottingtooverthrowyou,thenyourbrothersuddenlyadmittedhehadbroken
the sacred oath he took after World War II, that hes fathered a new mortal hero
whomightbeusedasaweaponagainstyou....Wouldntthatputatwistinyour
toga?
But I didnt do anything. Poseidonmy dadhe didnt really have this master
boltstolen,didhe?
Chiron sighed. Most thinking observers would agree that thievery is not
Poseidonsstyle.ButtheSeaGodistooproudtotryconvincingZeusofthat.Zeus
hasdemandedthatPoseidonreturntheboltbythesummersolstice.ThatsJune
twenty-first,tendaysfromnow.Poseidonwantsanapologyforbeingcalledathief
bythesamedate.Ihopedthatdiplomacymightprevail,thatHeraorDemeteror
Hestia would make the two brothers see sense. But your arrival has inflamed
Zeuss temper. Now neither god will back down. Unless someone intervenes,
unlessthemasterboltisfoundandreturnedtoZeusbeforethesolstice,therewill
bewar.Anddoyouknowwhatafull-fledgedwarwouldlooklike,Percy?
Bad?Iguessed.
Imagine the world in chaos. Nature at war with itself. Olympians forced to
choosesidesbetweenZeusandPoseidon.Destruction.Carnage.Millionsdead.
Western civilization turned into a battleground so big it will make the Trojan War
looklikeawater-balloonfight.
Bad,Irepeated.
Andyou,PercyJackson,wouldbethefirsttofeelZeusswrath.
It started to rain. Volleyball players stopped their game and stared in stunned
silenceatthesky.
IhadbroughtthisstormtoHalf-BloodHill.Zeuswaspunishingthewholecamp
becauseofme.Iwasfurious.
SoIhavetofindthestupidbolt,Isaid.AndreturnittoZeus.
What better peace offering, Chiron said, than to have the son of Poseidon
returnZeussproperty?
IfPoseidondoesnthaveit,whereisthething?
IbelieveIknow.Chironsexpressionwasgrim.PartofaprophecyIhadyears
ago...well,someofthelinesmakesensetome,now.ButbeforeIcansaymore,
youmustofficiallytakeupthequest.YoumustseekthecounseloftheOracle.
Whycantyoutellmewheretheboltisbeforehand?
BecauseifIdid,youwouldbetooafraidtoacceptthechallenge.
Iswallowed.Goodreason.
Youagreethen?
IlookedatGrover,whonoddedencouragingly.
Easyforhim.IwastheoneZeuswantedtokill.
Allright,Isaid.Itsbetterthanbeingturnedintoadolphin.
Then its time you consulted the Oracle, Chiron said. Go upstairs, Percy
Jackson,totheattic.Whenyoucomebackdown,assumingyourestillsane,we
willtalkmore.
Fourflightsup,thestairsendedunderagreentrapdoor.
I pulled the cord. The door swung down, and a wooden ladder clattered into
place.
Thewarmairfromabovesmelledlikemildewandrottenwoodandsomething
else...asmellIrememberedfrombiologyclass.Reptiles.Thesmellofsnakes.
Iheldmybreathandclimbed.
The attic was filled with Greek hero junk: armor stands covered in cobwebs;
once-bright shields pitted with rust; old leather steamer trunks plastered with
stickerssayingITHAKA,CIRCESISLE,andLANDOFTHEAMAZONS.Onelong
table was stacked with glass jars filled with pickledthingssevered hairy claws,
hugeyelloweyes,variousotherpartsofmonsters.Adustymountedtrophyonthe
walllookedlikeagiantsnakeshead,butwithhornsandafullsetofsharksteeth.
Theplaqueread,HYDRAHEAD#1,WOODSTOCK,N.Y.,1969.
By the window, sitting on a wooden tripod stool, was the most gruesome
mementoofall:amummy.Notthewrapped-in-clothkind,butahumanfemalebody
shriveledtoahusk.Sheworeatie-dyedsundress,lotsofbeadednecklaces,and
aheadbandoverlongblackhair.Theskinofherfacewasthinandleatheryover
her skull, and her eyes were glassy white slits, as if the real eyes had been
replacedbymarbles;shedbeendeadalong,longtime.
Looking at her sent chills up my back. And that was before she sat up on her
stool and opened her mouth. A green mist poured from the mummys mouth,
coiling over the floor in thick tendrils, hissing like twenty thousand snakes. I
stumbledovermyselftryingtogettothetrapdoor,butitslammedshut.Insidemy
head,Iheardavoice,slitheringintooneearandcoilingaroundmybrain:Iamthe
spiritofDelphi,speakerofthepropheciesofPhoebusApollo,slayerofthemighty
Python.Approach,seeker,andask.
Iwantedtosay,Nothanks,wrongdoor,justlookingforthebathroom.ButIforced
myselftotakeadeepbreath.
The mummy wasnt alive. She was some kind of gruesome receptacle for
somethingelse,thepowerthatwasnowswirlingaroundmeinthegreenmist.But
its presence didnt feel evil, like my demonic math teacher Mrs. Dodds or the
Minotaur. It felt more like the Three Fates Id seen knitting the yarn outside the
highwayfruitstand:ancient,powerful,anddefinitelynothuman.Butnotparticularly
interestedinkillingme,either.
Igotupthecouragetoask,Whatismydestiny?
Themistswirledmorethickly,collectingrightinfrontofmeandaroundthetable
withthepickledmonster-partjars.Suddenlytherewerefourmensittingaroundthe
table, playing cards. Their faces became clearer. It was Smelly Gabe and his
buddies.
My fists clenched, though I knew this poker party couldnt be real. It was an
illusion,madeoutofmist.
GabeturnedtowardmeandspokeintheraspingvoiceoftheOracle:Youshall
gowest,andfacethegodwhohasturned.
Hisbuddyontherightlookedupandsaidinthesamevoice:Youshallfindwhat
wasstolen,andseeitsafelyreturned.
Theguyontheleftthrewintwopokerchips,thensaid:Youshallbebetrayedby
onewhocallsyouafriend.
Finally,Eddie,ourbuildingsuper,deliveredtheworstlineofall:Andyoushallfail
tosavewhatmattersmost,intheend.
Thefiguresbegantodissolve.AtfirstIwastoostunnedtosayanything,butas
the mist retreated, coiling into a huge green serpent and slithering back into the
mouthofthemummy,Icried,Wait!Whatdoyoumean?Whatfriend?WhatwillIfail
tosave?
The tail of the mist snake disappeared into the mummys mouth. She reclined
backagainstthewall.Hermouthclosedtight,asifithadntbeenopeninahundred
years.Theatticwassilentagain,abandoned,nothingbutaroomfullofmementos.
I got the feeling that I could stand here until I had cobwebs, too, and I wouldnt
learnanythingelse.
MyaudiencewiththeOraclewasover.
Well?Chironaskedme.
Islumpedintoachairatthepinochletable.ShesaidIwouldretrievewhatwas
stolen.
Groversatforward,chewingexcitedlyontheremainsofaDietCokecan.Thats
great!
WhatdidtheOraclesayexactly?Chironpressed.Thisisimportant.
Myearswerestilltinglingfromthereptilianvoice.She...shesaidIwouldgo
westandfaceagodwhohadturned.Iwouldretrievewhatwasstolenandseeit
safelyreturned.
Iknewit,Groversaid.
Chirondidntlooksatisfied.Anythingelse?
Ididntwanttotellhim.
Whatfriendwouldbetrayme?Ididnthavethatmany.
And the last lineI would fail to save what mattered most. What kind of Oracle
wouldsendmeonaquestandtellme,Oh,bytheway,youllfail.
HowcouldIconfessthat?
No,Isaid.Thatsaboutit.
He studied my face. Very well, Percy. But know this: the Oracles words often
havedoublemeanings.Dontdwellonthemtoomuch.Thetruthisnotalwaysclear
untileventscometopass.
IgotthefeelingheknewIwasholdingbacksomethingbad,andhewastryingto
makemefeelbetter.
Okay,Isaid,anxioustochangetopics.SowheredoIgo?Whosthisgodin
thewest?
Ah, think, Percy, Chiron said. If Zeus and Poseidon weaken each other in a
war,whostandstogain?
Somebodyelsewhowantstotakeover?Iguessed.
Yes,quite.Someonewhoharborsagrudge,whohasbeenunhappywithhislot
sincetheworldwasdividedeonsago,whosekingdomwouldgrowpowerfulwith
thedeathsofmillions.Someonewhohateshisbrothersforforcinghimintoanoath
tohavenomorechildren,anoaththatbothofthemhavenowbroken.
I thought about my dreams, the evil voice that had spoken from under the
ground.Hades.
Chironnodded.TheLordoftheDeadistheonlypossibility.
AscrapofaluminumdribbledoutofGroversmouth.Whoa,wait.Wh-what?
AFurycameafterPercy,Chironremindedhim.Shewatchedtheyoungman
until she was sure of his identity, then tried to kill him. Furies obey only one lord:
Hades.
Yes, butbut Hades hatesallheroes,Groverprotested.Especiallyifhehas
foundoutPercyisasonofPoseidon....
A hellhound got into the forest, Chiron continued. Those can only be
summoned from the Fields of Punishment, and it had to be summoned by
someone within the camp. Hades must have a spy here. He must suspect
PoseidonwilltrytousePercytoclearhisname.Hadeswouldverymuchliketokill
thisyounghalf-bloodbeforehecantakeonthequest.
Great,Imuttered.Thatstwomajorgodswhowanttokillme.
But a quest to . . . Grover swallowed. I mean, couldnt the master bolt be in
someplacelikeMaine?Mainesverynicethistimeofyear.
Hadessentaminiontostealthemasterbolt,Chironinsisted.Hehiditinthe
Underworld,knowingfullwellthatZeuswouldblamePoseidon.Idontpretendto
understandtheLordoftheDeadsmotivesperfectly,orwhyhechosethistimeto
start a war, but one thing is certain. Percy must go to the Underworld, find the
masterbolt,andrevealthetruth.
Astrangefireburnedinmystomach.Theweirdestthingwas:itwasntfear.Itwas
anticipation.Thedesireforrevenge.Hadeshadtriedtokillmethreetimessofar,
with the Fury, the Minotaur, and the hellhound. It was his fault my mother had
disappearedinaflashoflight.Nowhewastryingtoframemeandmydadfora
theftwehadntcommitted.
Iwasreadytotakehimon.
Besides,ifmymotherwasintheUnderworld...
Whoa, boy, said the small part of my brain that was still sane. Youre a kid.
Hadesisagod.
Groverwastrembling.Hedstartedeatingpinochlecardslikepotatochips.
The poor guy needed to complete a quest with me so he could get his
searchers license, whatever that was, but how could I ask him to do this quest,
especiallywhentheOraclesaidIwasdestinedtofail?Thiswassuicide.
Look,ifweknowitsHades,ItoldChiron,whycantwejusttelltheothergods?
ZeusorPoseidoncouldgodowntotheUnderworldandbustsomeheads.
Suspecting and knowing are not the same, Chiron said. Besides, even if the
othergodssuspectHadesandIimaginePoseidondoestheycouldntretrieve
the bolt themselves. Gods cannot cross each others territories except by
invitation. That is another ancient rule. Heroes, on the other hand, have certain
privileges. They can go anywhere, challenge anyone, as long as theyre bold
enoughandstrongenoughtodoit.Nogodcanbeheldresponsibleforaheros
actions.Whydoyouthinkthegodsalwaysoperatethroughhumans?
YouresayingImbeingused.
Im saying its no accident Poseidon has claimed you now. Its a very risky
gamble,buthesinadesperatesituation.Heneedsyou.
Mydadneedsme.
Emotions rolled around inside me like bits of glass in a kaleidoscope. I didnt
knowwhethertofeelresentfulorgratefulorhappyorangry.Poseidonhadignored
mefortwelveyears.Nowsuddenlyheneededme.
IlookedatChiron.YouveknownIwasPoseidonssonallalong,haventyou?
Ihadmysuspicions.AsIsaid...IvespokentotheOracle,too.
I got the feeling there was a lot he wasnt telling me about his prophecy, but I
decided I couldnt worry about that right now. After all, I was holding back
informationtoo.
So let me get this straight, I said. Im supposed go to the Underworld and
confronttheLordoftheDead.
Check,Chironsaid.
Findthemostpowerfulweaponintheuniverse.
Check.
AndgetitbacktoOlympusbeforethesummersolstice,intendays.
Thatsaboutright.
IlookedatGrover,whogulpeddowntheaceofhearts.
DidImentionthatMaineisverynicethistimeofyear?heaskedweakly.
Youdonthavetogo,Itoldhim.Icantaskthatofyou.
Oh . . . He shifted his hooves. No . . . its just that satyrs and underground
places...well...
Hetookadeepbreath,thenstood,brushingtheshreddedcardsandaluminum
bitsoffhisT-shirt.Yousavedmylife,Percy.If...ifyoureseriousaboutwanting
mealong,Iwontletyoudown.
IfeltsorelievedIwantedtocry,thoughIdidntthinkthatwouldbeveryheroic.
GroverwastheonlyfriendIdeverhadforlongerthanafewmonths.Iwasntsure
whatgoodasatyrcoulddoagainsttheforcesofthedead,butIfeltbetterknowing
hedbewithme.
All the way, G-man. I turned to Chiron. So where do we go? The Oracle just
saidtogowest.
TheentrancetotheUnderworldisalwaysinthewest.Itmovesfromagetoage,
justlikeOlympus.Rightnow,ofcourse,itsinAmerica.
Where?
Chironlookedsurprised.Ithoughtthatwouldbeobviousenough.Theentrance
totheUnderworldisinLosAngeles.
Oh,Isaid.Naturally.Sowejustgetonaplane
No!Grovershrieked.Percy,whatareyouthinking?Haveyoueverbeenona
planeinyourlife?
Ishookmyhead,feelingembarrassed.Mymomhadnevertakenmeanywhere
byplane.Shedalwayssaidwedidnthavethemoney.Besides,herparentshad
diedinaplanecrash.
Percy, think, Chiron said. You are the son of the Sea God. Your fathers
bitterestrivalisZeus,LordoftheSky.Yourmotherknewbetterthantotrustyouin
anairplane.YouwouldbeinZeussdomain.Youwouldnevercomedownagain
alive.
Overhead,lightningcrackled.Thunderboomed.
Okay,Isaid,determinednottolookatthestorm.So,Illtraveloverland.
Thats right, Chiron said. Two companions may accompany you. Grover is
one.Theotherhasalreadyvolunteered,ifyouwillacceptherhelp.
Gee,Isaid,feigningsurprise.Whoelsewouldbestupidenoughtovolunteer
foraquestlikethis?
TheairshimmeredbehindChiron.
Annabethbecamevisible,stuffingherYankeescapintoherbackpocket.
Ivebeenwaitingalongtimeforaquest,seaweedbrain,shesaid.Athenais
no fan of Poseidon, but if youre going to save the world, Im the best person to
keepyoufrommessingup.
Ifyoudosaysoyourself,Isaid.Isupposeyouhaveaplan,wisegirl?
Hercheekscolored.Doyouwantmyhelpornot?
Thetruthwas,Idid.IneededallthehelpIcouldget.
Atrio,Isaid.Thatllwork.
Excellent, Chiron said. This afternoon, we can take you as far as the bus
terminalinManhattan.Afterthat,youareonyourown.
Lightning flashed. Rain poured down on the meadows that were never
supposedtohaveviolentweather.
Notimetowaste,Chironsaid.Ithinkyoushouldallgetpacking.
TEN
I RUIN A PERFECTLY GOOD BUS
Itdidnttakemelongtopack.IdecidedtoleavetheMinotaurhorninmycabin,
which left me only an extra change of clothes and a toothbrush to stuff in a
backpackGroverhadfoundforme.
The camp store loaned me one hundred dollars in mortal money and twenty
golden drachmas. These coins were as big as Girl Scout cookies and had
images of various Greek gods stamped on one side and the Empire State
Buildingontheother.Theancientmortaldrachmashadbeensilver,Chirontoldus,
butOlympiansneverusedlessthanpuregold.Chironsaidthecoinsmightcomein
handy for non-mortal transactionswhatever that meant. He gave Annabeth and
me each a canteen of nectar and a Ziploc bag full of ambrosia squares, to be
used only in emergencies, if we were seriously hurt. It was god food, Chiron
remindedus.Itwouldcureusofalmostanyinjury,butitwaslethaltomortals.Too
muchofitwouldmakeahalf-bloodvery,veryfeverish.Anoverdosewouldburnus
up,literally.
AnnabethwasbringinghermagicYankeescap,whichshetoldmehadbeena
twelfth-birthday present from her mom. She carried a book on famous classical
architecture, written in Ancient Greek, to read when she got bored, and a long
bronzeknife,hiddeninhershirtsleeve.Iwassuretheknifewouldgetusbustedthe
firsttimewewentthroughametaldetector.
Grover wore his fake feet and his pants to pass as human. He wore a green
rasta-stylecap,becausewhenitrainedhiscurlyhairflattenedandyoucouldjust
seethetipsofhishorns.Hisbrightorangebackpackwasfullofscrapmetaland
apples to snack on. In his pocket was a set of reed pipes his daddy goat had
carvedforhim,eventhoughheonlyknewtwosongs:MozartsPianoConcertono.
12 and Hilary Duff s So Yesterday, both of which sounded pretty bad on reed
pipes.
Wewavedgood-byetotheothercampers,tookonelastlookatthestrawberry
fields,theocean,andtheBigHouse,thenhikedupHalf-BloodHilltothetallpine
treethatusedtobeThalia,daughterofZeus.
Chironwaswaitingforusinhiswheelchair.NexttohimstoodthesurferdudeId
seenwhenIwasrecoveringinthesickroom.AccordingtoGrover,theguywasthe
campsheadofsecurity.Hesupposedlyhadeyesalloverhisbodysohecould
never be surprised. Today, though, he was wearing a chauffeurs uniform, so I
couldonlyseeextrapeepersonhishands,faceandneck.
ThisisArgus,Chirontoldme.Hewilldriveyouintothecity,and,er,well,keep
aneyeonthings.
Iheardfootstepsbehindus.
Lukecamerunningupthehill,carryingapairofbasketballshoes.
Hey!hepanted.GladIcaughtyou.
Annabethblushed,thewayshealwaysdidwhenLukewasaround.
Justwantedtosaygoodluck,Luketoldme.AndIthought...um,maybeyou
couldusethese.
He handed me the sneakers, which looked pretty normal. They even smelled
kindofnormal.
Lukesaid,Maia!
White birds wings sprouted out of the heels, startling me so much, I dropped
them. The shoes flapped around on the ground until the wings folded up and
disappeared.
Awesome!Groversaid.
Lukesmiled.ThoseservedmewellwhenIwasonmyquest.GiftfromDad.Of
course,Idontusethemmuchthesedays....Hisexpressionturnedsad.
Ididntknowwhattosay.ItwascoolenoughthatLukehadcometosaygood-
bye.Idbeenafraidhemightresentmeforgettingsomuchattentionthelastfew
days.Butherehewasgivingmeamagicgift....Itmademeblushalmostasmuch
asAnnabeth.
Hey,man,Isaid.Thanks.
Listen,Percy...Lukelookeduncomfortable.Alotofhopesareridingonyou.
Sojust...killsomemonstersforme,okay?
We shook hands. Luke patted Grovers head between his horns, then gave a
good-byehugtoAnnabeth,wholookedlikeshemightpassout.
AfterLukewasgone,Itoldher,Yourehyperventilating.
Amnot.
Youlethimcapturetheflaginsteadofyou,didntyou?
Oh...whydoIwanttogoanywherewithyou,Percy?
Shestompeddowntheothersideofthehill,whereawhiteSUVwaitedonthe
shoulderoftheroad.Argusfollowed,jinglinghiscarkeys.
Ipickeduptheflyingshoesandhadasuddenbadfeeling.IlookedatChiron.I
wontbeabletousethese,willI?
Heshookhishead.Lukemeantwell,Percy.Buttakingtotheair...thatwould
notbewiseforyou.
Inodded,disappointed,butthenIgotanidea.Hey,Grover.Youwantamagic
item?
Hiseyeslitup.Me?
Prettysoonwedlacedthesneakersoverhisfakefeet,andtheworldsfirstflying
goatboywasreadyforlaunch.
Maia!heshouted.
He got off the ground okay, but then fell over sideways so his backpack
draggedthroughthegrass.Thewingedshoeskeptbuckingupanddownliketiny
broncos.
Practice,Chironcalledafterhim.Youjustneedpractice!
Aaaaa! Grover went flying sideways down the hill like a possessed lawn
mower,headingtowardthevan.
Before I could follow, Chiron caught my arm. I should have trained you better,
Percy, he said. If only I had more time. Hercules, Jasonthey all got more
training.
Thatsokay.Ijustwish
IstoppedmyselfbecauseIwasabouttosoundlikeabrat.Iwaswishingmydad
had given me a cool magic item to help on the quest, something as good as
Lukesflyingshoes,orAnnabethsinvisiblecap.
WhatamIthinking?Chironcried.Icantletyougetawaywithoutthis.
He pulled a pen from his coat pocket and handed it to me. It was an ordinary
disposableballpoint,blackink,removablecap.Probablycostthirtycents.
Gee,Isaid.Thanks.
Percy,thatsagiftfromyourfather.Ivekeptitforyears,notknowingyouwere
whoIwaswaitingfor.Buttheprophecyiscleartomenow.Youaretheone.
IrememberedthefieldtriptotheMetropolitanMuseumofArt,whenIdvaporized
Mrs.Dodds.Chironhadthrownmeapenthatturnedintoasword.Couldthisbe...
?
I took off the cap, and the pen grew longer and heavier in my hand. In half a
second,Iheldashimmeringbronzeswordwithadouble-edgedblade,aleather-
wrapped grip, and a flat hilt riveted with gold studs. It was the first weapon that
actuallyfeltbalancedinmyhand.
Theswordhasalongandtragichistorythatweneednotgointo,Chirontold
me.ItsnameisAnaklusmos.
Riptide,Itranslated,surprisedtheAncientGreekcamesoeasily.
Useitonlyforemergencies,Chironsaid,andonlyagainstmonsters.Nohero
should harm mortals unless absolutely necessary, of course, but this sword
wouldntharmtheminanycase.
I looked at the wickedly sharp blade. What do you mean it wouldnt harm
mortals?Howcoulditnot?
Theswordiscelestialbronze.ForgedbytheCyclopes,temperedintheheartof
MountEtna,cooledintheRiverLethe.Itsdeadlytomonsters,toanycreaturefrom
the Underworld, provided they dont kill you first. But the blade will pass through
mortalslikeanillusion.Theysimplyarenotimportantenoughforthebladetokill.
And I should warn you: as a demigod, you can be killed by either celestial or
normalweapons.Youaretwiceasvulnerable.
Goodtoknow.
Nowrecapthepen.
ItouchedthepencaptotheswordtipandinstantlyRiptideshranktoaballpoint
pen again. I tucked it in my pocket, a little nervous, because I was famous for
losingpensatschool.
Youcant,Chironsaid.
Cantwhat?
Losethepen,hesaid.Itisenchanted.Itwillalwaysreappearinyourpocket.
Tryit.
I was wary, but I threw the pen as far as I could down the hill and watched it
disappearinthegrass.
Itmaytakeafewmoments,Chirontoldme.Nowcheckyourpocket.
Sureenough,thepenwasthere.
Okay,thatsextremelycool,Iadmitted.Butwhatifamortalseesmepullingout
asword?
Chironsmiled.Mistisapowerfulthing,Percy.
Mist?
Yes. ReadThe Iliad. Its full of references to the stuff. Whenever divine or
monstrouselementsmixwiththemortalworld,theygenerateMist,whichobscures
thevisionofhumans.Youwillseethingsjustastheyare,beingahalf-blood,but
humans will interpret things quite differently. Remarkable, really, the lengths to
whichhumanswillgotofitthingsintotheirversionofreality.
IputRiptidebackinmypocket.
Forthefirsttime,thequestfeltreal.IwasactuallyleavingHalf-BloodHill.Iwas
heading west with no adult supervision, no backup plan, not even a cell phone.
(Chironsaidcellphonesweretraceablebymonsters;ifweusedone,itwouldbe
worsethansendingupaflare.)Ihadnoweaponstrongerthanaswordtofightoff
monstersandreachtheLandoftheDead.
Chiron...Isaid.Whenyousaythegodsareimmortal...Imean,therewasa
timebeforethem,right?
Four ages before them, actually. The Time of the Titans was the Fourth Age,
sometimescalledtheGoldenAge,whichisdefinitelyamisnomer.This,thetimeof
WesterncivilizationandtheruleofZeus,istheFifthAge.
Sowhatwasitlike...beforethegods?
Chironpursedhislips.EvenIamnotoldenoughtorememberthat,child,butI
knowitwasatimeofdarknessandsavageryformortals.Kronos,thelordofthe
Titans,calledhisreigntheGoldenAgebecausemenlivedinnocentandfreeofall
knowledge.Butthatwasmerepropaganda.TheTitankingcarednothingforyour
kind except as appetizers or a source of cheap entertainment. It was only in the
earlyreignofLordZeus,whenPrometheusthegoodTitanbroughtfiretomankind,
thatyourspeciesbegantoprogress,andeventhenPrometheuswasbrandeda
radical thinker. Zeus punished him severely, as you may recall. Of course,
eventuallythegodswarmedtohumans,andWesterncivilizationwasborn.
Butthegodscantdienow,right?Imean,aslongasWesterncivilizationisalive,
theyrealive.So...evenifIfailed,nothingcouldhappensobaditwouldmessup
everything,right?
Chiron gave me a melancholy smile. No one knows how long the Age of the
West will last, Percy. The gods are immortal, yes. But then, so were the Titans.
Theystillexist,lockedawayintheirvariousprisons,forcedtoendureendlesspain
andpunishment,reducedinpower,butstillverymuchalive.MaytheFatesforbid
thatthegodsshouldeversuffersuchadoom,orthatweshouldeverreturntothe
darknessandchaosofthepast.Allwecando,child,isfollowourdestiny.
Ourdestiny...assumingweknowwhatthatis.
Relax,Chirontoldme.Keepaclearhead.Andremember,youmaybeabout
topreventthebiggestwarinhumanhistory.
Relax,Isaid.Imveryrelaxed.
WhenIgottothebottomofthehill,Ilookedback.Underthepinetreethatused
to be Thalia, daughter of Zeus, Chiron was now standing in full horse-man form,
holding his bow high in salute. Just your typical summer-camp send-off by your
typicalcentaur.
***
ArgusdroveusoutofthecountrysideandintowesternLongIsland.Itfeltweirdto
be on a highway again, Annabeth and Grover sitting next to me as if we were
normalcarpoolers.AftertwoweeksatHalf-BloodHill,therealworldseemedlikea
fantasy. I found myself staring at every McDonalds, every kid in the back of his
parentscar,everybillboardandshoppingmall.
Sofarsogood,ItoldAnnabeth.Tenmilesandnotasinglemonster.
Shegavemeanirritatedlook.Itsbadlucktotalkthatway,seaweedbrain.
Remindmeagainwhydoyouhatemesomuch?
Idonthateyou.
Couldvefooledme.
Shefoldedhercapofinvisibility.Look...werejustnotsupposedtogetalong,
okay?Ourparentsarerivals.
Why?
She sighed. How many reasons do you want? One time my mom caught
Poseidon with his girlfriend in Athenas temple, which ishugely disrespectful.
Anothertime,AthenaandPoseidoncompetedtobethepatrongodforthecityof
Athens. Your dad created some stupid saltwater spring for his gift. My mom
createdtheolivetree.Thepeoplesawthathergiftwasbetter,sotheynamedthe
cityafterher.
Theymustreallylikeolives.
Oh,forgetit.
Now,ifshedinventedpizzathatIcouldunderstand.
Isaid,forgetit!
Inthefrontseat,Argussmiled.Hedidntsayanything,butoneblueeyeonthe
backofhisneckwinkedatme.
Traffic slowed us down in Queens. By the time we got into Manhattan it was
sunsetandstartingtorain.
ArgusdroppedusattheGreyhoundStationontheUpperEastSide,notfarfrom
my mom and Gabes apartment. Taped to a mailbox was a soggy flyer with my
pictureonit:HAVEYOUSEENTHISBOY?
IrippeditdownbeforeAnnabethandGrovercouldnotice.
Argusunloadedourbags,madesurewegotourbustickets,thendroveaway,
theeyeonthebackofhishandopeningtowatchusashepulledoutoftheparking
lot.
IthoughtabouthowcloseIwastomyoldapartment.Onanormalday,mymom
wouldbehomefromthecandystorebynow.SmellyGabewasprobablyupthere
rightnow,playingpoker,notevenmissingher.
Grover shouldered his backpack. He gazed down the street in the direction I
waslooking.Youwanttoknowwhyshemarriedhim,Percy?
Istaredathim.Wereyoureadingmymindorsomething?
Justyouremotions.Heshrugged.GuessIforgottotellyousatyrscandothat.
Youwerethinkingaboutyourmomandyourstepdad,right?
Inodded,wonderingwhatelseGrovermightveforgottentotellme.
Your mom married Gabe foryou, Grover told me. You call him Smelly, but
youvegotnoidea.Theguyhasthisaura....Yuck.Icansmellhimfromhere.Ican
smelltracesofhimonyou,andyouhaventbeennearhimforaweek.
Thanks,Isaid.Wheresthenearestshower?
Youshouldbegrateful,Percy.Yourstepfathersmellssorepulsivelyhumanhe
could mask the presence of any demigod. As soon as I took a whiff inside his
Camaro,Iknew:Gabehasbeencoveringyourscentforyears.Ifyouhadntlived
with him every summer, you probably wouldve been found by monsters a long
time ago. Your mom stayed with him to protect you. She was a smart lady. She
mustvelovedyoualottoputupwiththatguyifthatmakesyoufeelanybetter.
It didnt, but I forced myself not to show it. Ill see her again, I thought. She isnt
gone.
IwonderedifGrovercouldstillreadmyemotions,mixedupastheywere.Iwas
gladheandAnnabethwerewithme,butIfeltguiltythatIhadntbeenstraightwith
them.IhadnttoldthemtherealreasonIdsaidyestothiscrazyquest.
The truth was, I didnt care about retrieving Zeuss lightning bolt, or saving the
world, or even helping my father out of trouble. The more I thought about it, I
resented Poseidon for never visiting me, never helping my mom, never even
sendingalousychild-supportcheck.Hedonlyclaimedmebecauseheneededa
jobdone.
AllIcaredaboutwasmymom.Hadeshadtakenherunfairly,andHadeswas
goingtogiveherback.
Youwillbebetrayedbyonewhocallsyouafriend,theOraclewhisperedinmy
mind.Youwillfailtosavewhatmattersmostintheend.
Shutup,Itoldit.
Therainkeptcomingdown.
WegotrestlesswaitingforthebusanddecidedtoplaysomeHackySackwith
oneofGroversapples.Annabethwasunbelievable.Shecouldbouncetheapple
offherknee,herelbow,hershoulder,whatever.Iwasnttoobadmyself.
ThegameendedwhenItossedtheappletowardGroveranditgottoocloseto
hismouth.Inonemegagoatbite,ourHackySackdisappearedcore,stem,and
all.
Grover blushed. He tried to apologize, but Annabeth and I were too busy
crackingup.
Finally the bus came. As we stood in line to board, Grover started looking
around, sniffing the air like he smelled his favorite school cafeteria delicacy
enchiladas.
Whatisit?Iasked.
Idontknow,hesaidtensely.Maybeitsnothing.
ButIcouldtellitwasntnothing.Istartedlookingovermyshoulder,too.
Iwasrelievedwhenwefinallygotonboardandfoundseatstogetherintheback
ofthebus.Westowedourbackpacks.AnnabethkeptslappingherYankeescap
nervouslyagainstherthigh.
As the last passengers got on, Annabeth clamped her hand onto my knee.
Percy.
Anoldladyhadjustboardedthebus.Sheworeacrumpledvelvetdress,lace
gloves,andashapelessorange-knithatthatshadowedherface,andshecarried
abigpaisleypurse.Whenshetiltedherheadup,herblackeyesglittered,andmy
heartskippedabeat.
ItwasMrs.Dodds.Older,morewithered,butdefinitelythesameevilface.
Iscruncheddowninmyseat.
Behindhercametwomoreoldladies:oneinagreenhat,oneinapurplehat.
Otherwise they looked exactly like Mrs. Doddssame gnarled hands, paisley
handbags,wrinkledvelvetdresses.Tripletdemongrandmothers.
They sat in the front row, right behind the driver. The two on the aisle crossed
theirlegsoverthewalkway,makinganX.Itwascasualenough,butitsentaclear
message:nobodyleaves.
The bus pulled out of the station, and we headed through the slick streets of
Manhattan. She didnt stay dead long, I said, trying to keep my voice from
quivering.Ithoughtyousaidtheycouldbedispelledforalifetime.
Isaidifyourelucky,Annabethsaid.Youreobviouslynot.
Allthreeofthem,Groverwhimpered.Diimmortales!
Itsokay,Annabethsaid,obviouslythinkinghard.TheFuries.Thethreeworst
monsters from the Underworld. No problem. No problem. Well just slip out the
windows.
Theydontopen,Grovermoaned.
Abackexit?shesuggested.
Therewasntone.Eveniftherehadbeen,itwouldnthavehelped.Bythattime,
wewereonNinthAvenue,headingfortheLincolnTunnel.
Theywontattackuswithwitnessesaround,Isaid.Willthey?
Mortalsdonthavegoodeyes,Annabethremindedme.Theirbrainscanonly
processwhattheyseethroughtheMist.
Theyllseethreeoldladieskillingus,wontthey?
Shethoughtaboutit.Hardtosay.Butwecantcountonmortalsforhelp.Maybe
anemergencyexitintheroof...?
We hit the Lincoln Tunnel, and the bus went dark except for the running lights
downtheaisle.Itwaseerilyquietwithoutthesoundoftherain.
Mrs.Doddsgotup.Inaflatvoice,asifshedrehearsedit,sheannouncedtothe
wholebus:Ineedtousetherest-room.
SodoI,saidthesecondsister.
SodoI,saidthethirdsister.
Theyallstartedcomingdowntheaisle.
Ivegotit,Annabethsaid.Percy,takemyhat.
What?
Youretheonetheywant.Turninvisibleandgouptheaisle.Letthempassyou.
Maybeyoucangettothefrontandgetaway.
Butyouguys
Theresanoutsidechancetheymightnotnoticeus,Annabethsaid.Yourea
sonofoneoftheBigThree.Yoursmellmightbeoverpowering.
Icantjustleaveyou.
Dontworryaboutus,Groversaid.Go!
Myhandstrembled.Ifeltlikeacoward,butItooktheYankeescapandputiton.
WhenIlookeddown,mybodywasntthereanymore.
Istartedcreepinguptheaisle.Imanagedtogetuptenrows,thenduckintoan
emptyseatjustastheFurieswalkedpast.
Mrs.Doddsstopped,sniffing,andlookedstraightatme.Myheartwaspounding.
Apparentlyshedidntseeanything.Sheandhersisterskeptgoing.
Iwasfree.Imadeittothefrontofthebus.WewerealmostthroughtheLincoln
Tunnelnow.IwasabouttopresstheemergencystopbuttonwhenIheardhideous
wailingfromthebackrow.
Theoldladieswerenotoldladiesanymore.TheirfaceswerestillthesameI
guess those couldnt get any uglier but their bodies had shriveled into leathery
brownhagbodieswithbatswingsandhandsandfeetlikegargoyleclaws.Their
handbagshadturnedintofierywhips.
The Furies surrounded Grover and Annabeth, lashing their whips, hissing:
Whereisit?Where?
Theotherpeopleonthebuswerescreaming,coweringintheirseats.Theysaw
something,allright.
Hesnothere!Annabethyelled.Hesgone!
TheFuriesraisedtheirwhips.
Annabethdrewherbronzeknife.Grovergrabbedatincanfromhissnackbag
andpreparedtothrowit.
What I did next was so impulsive and dangerous I shouldve been named
ADHDposterchildoftheyear.
Thebusdriverwasdistracted,tryingtoseewhatwasgoingoninhisrearview
mirror.
Stillinvisible,Igrabbedthewheelfromhimandjerkedittotheleft.Everybody
howledastheywerethrowntotheright,andIheardwhatIhopedwasthesoundof
threeFuriessmashingagainstthewindows.
Hey!thedriveryelled.Heywhoa!
We wrestled for the wheel. The bus slammed against the side of the tunnel,
grindingmetal,throwingsparksamilebehindus.
WecareenedoutoftheLincolnTunnelandbackintotherainstorm,peopleand
monsterstossedaroundthebus,carsplowedasidelikebowlingpins.
Somehowthedriverfoundanexit.Weshotoffthehighway,throughhalfadozen
traffic lights, and ended up barreling down one of those New Jersey rural roads
where you cant believe theres so much nothing right across the river from New
York. There were woods to our left, the Hudson River to our right, and the driver
seemedtobeveeringtowardtheriver.
Anothergreatidea:Ihittheemergencybrake.
Thebuswailed,spunafullcircleonthewetasphalt,andcrashedintothetrees.
Theemergencylightscameon.Thedoorflewopen.Thebusdriverwasthefirst
one out, the passengers yelling as they stampeded after him. I stepped into the
driversseatandletthempass.
The Furies regained their balance. They lashed their whips at Annabeth while
shewavedherknifeandyelledinAncientGreek,tellingthemtobackoff.Grover
threwtincans.
Ilookedattheopendoorway.Iwasfreetogo,butIcouldntleavemyfriends.I
tookofftheinvisiblecap.Hey!
The Furies turned, baring their yellow fangs at me, and the exit suddenly
seemedlikeanexcellentidea.Mrs.Doddsstalkeduptheaisle,justassheused
todoinclass,abouttodelivermyF mathtest.Everytimesheflickedherwhip,red
flamesdancedalongthebarbedleather.
Hertwouglysistershoppedontopoftheseatsoneithersideofherandcrawled
towardmelikehugenastylizards.
Perseus Jackson, Mrs. Dodds said, in an accent that was definitely from
somewhere farther south than Georgia. You have offended the gods. You shall
die.
Ilikedyoubetterasamathteacher,Itoldher.
Shegrowled.
Annabeth and Grover moved up behind the Furies cautiously, looking for an
opening.
Itooktheballpointpenoutofmypocketanduncappedit.Riptideelongatedinto
ashimmeringdouble-edgedsword.
TheFurieshesitated.
Mrs. Dodds had felt Riptides blade before. She obviously didnt like seeing it
again.
Submitnow,shehissed.Andyouwillnotsuffereternaltorment.
Nicetry,Itoldher.
Percy,lookout!Annabethcried.
Mrs.DoddslashedherwhiparoundmyswordhandwhiletheFuriesontheeither
sidelungedatme.
My hand felt like it was wrapped in molten lead, but I managed not to drop
Riptide.IstucktheFuryontheleftwithitshilt,sendinghertopplingbackwardintoa
seat.IturnedandslicedtheFuryontheright.Assoonasthebladeconnectedwith
her neck, she screamed and exploded into dust. Annabeth got Mrs. Dodds in a
wrestlersholdandyankedherbackwardwhileGroverrippedthewhipoutofher
hands.
Ow!heyelled.Ow!Hot!Hot!
TheFuryIdhilt-slammedcameatmeagain,talonsready,butIswungRiptide
andshebrokeopenlikeapiata.
Mrs.DoddswastryingtogetAnnabethoffherback.Shekicked,clawed,hissed
and bit, but Annabeth held on while Grover got Mrs. Doddss legs tied up in her
ownwhip.Finallytheybothshovedherbackwardintotheaisle.Mrs.Doddstriedto
getup,butshedidnthaveroomtoflapherbatwings,soshekeptfallingdown.
Zeuswilldestroyyou!shepromised.Hadeswillhaveyoursoul!
Braccasmeasvescimini!Iyelled.
IwasntsurewheretheLatincamefrom.IthinkitmeantEatmypants!
Thundershookthebus.Thehairroseonthebackofmyneck.
Getout!Annabethyelledatme.Now!Ididntneedanyencouragement.
We rushed outside and found the other passengers wandering around in a
daze,arguingwiththedriver,orrunningaroundincirclesyelling,Weregoingto
die! A Hawaiianshirted tourist with a camera snapped my photograph before I
couldrecapmysword.
Ourbags!Groverrealized.Weleftour
BOOOOOM!
The windows of the bus exploded as the passengers ran for cover. Lightning
shredded a huge crater in the roof, but an angry wail from inside told me Mrs.
Doddswasnotyetdead.
Run! Annabeth said. Shes calling for reinforcements! We have to get out of
here!
Weplungedintothewoodsastherainpoureddown,thebusinflamesbehind
us,andnothingbutdarknessahead.
ELEVEN
WE VISIT THE GARDEN GNOME EMPORIUM
In a way, its nice to know there are Greek gods out there, because you have
somebody to blame when things go wrong. For instance, when youre walking
away from a bus thats just been attacked by monster hags and blown up by
lightning,anditsrainingontopofeverythingelse,mostpeoplemightthinkthats
just really bad luck; when youre a half-blood, you understand that some divine
forcereallyistryingtomessupyourday.
Sotherewewere,AnnabethandGroverandI,walkingthroughthewoodsalong
theNewJerseyriverbank,theglowofNewYorkCitymakingthenightskyyellow
behindus,andthesmelloftheHudsonreekinginournoses.
Groverwasshiveringandbraying,hisbiggoateyesturnedslit-pupiledandfull
ofterror.ThreeKindlyOnes.Allthreeatonce.
Iwasprettymuchinshockmyself.Theexplosionofbuswindowsstillranginmy
ears.ButAnnabethkeptpullingusalong,saying:Comeon!Thefartherawaywe
get,thebetter.
All our money was back there, I reminded her. Our food and clothes.
Everything.
Well,maybeifyouhadntdecidedtojumpintothefight
Whatdidyouwantmetodo?Letyougetkilled?
Youdidntneedtoprotectme,Percy.Iwouldvebeenfine.
Slicedlikesandwichbread,Groverputin,butfine.
Shutup,goatboy,saidAnnabeth.
Groverbrayedmournfully.Tincans...aperfectlygoodbagoftincans.
Wesloshedacrossmushyground,throughnastytwistedtreesthatsmelledlike
sourlaundry.
After a few minutes, Annabeth fell into line next to me. Look, I . . . Her voice
faltered.Iappreciateyourcomingbackforus,okay?Thatwasreallybrave.
Wereateam,right?
Shewassilentforafewmoresteps.Itsjustthatifyoudied...asidefromthe
factthatitwouldreallysuckforyou,itwouldmeanthequestwasover.Thismaybe
myonlychancetoseetherealworld.
Thethunderstormhadfinallyletup.Thecityglowfadedbehindus,leavingusin
almost total darkness. I couldnt see anything of Annabeth except a glint of her
blondhair.
YouhaventleftCampHalf-Bloodsinceyouwereseven?Iaskedher.
No...onlyshortfieldtrips.Mydad
Thehistoryprofessor.
Yeah. It didnt work out for me living at home. I mean, Camp Half-Bloodis my
home.Shewasrushingherwordsoutnow,asifshewereafraidsomebodymight
trytostopher.Atcampyoutrainandtrain.Andthatsallcoolandeverything,but
the real world is where the monsters are. Thats where you learn whether youre
anygoodornot.
IfIdidntknowbetter,IcouldveswornIhearddoubtinhervoice.
Youreprettygoodwiththatknife,Isaid.
Youthinkso?
Anybodywhocanpiggyback-rideaFuryisokaybyme.
Icouldntreallysee,butIthoughtshemightvesmiled.
Youknow,shesaid,maybeIshouldtellyou...Somethingfunnybackonthe
bus...
Whatever she wanted to say was interrupted by a shrilltoot-toot-toot, like the
soundofanowlbeingtortured.
Hey, my reed pipes still work! Grover cried. If I could just remember a find
pathsong,wecouldgetoutofthesewoods!
Hepuffedoutafewnotes,butthetunestillsoundedsuspiciouslylikeHilaryDuff.
Insteadoffindingapath,Iimmediatelyslammedintoatreeandgotanice-size
knotonmyhead.
AddtothelistofsuperpowersIdidnothave:infraredvision.
Aftertrippingandcursingandgenerallyfeelingmiserableforanothermileorso,
Istartedtoseelightupahead:thecolorsofaneonsign.Icouldsmellfood.Fried,
greasy,excellentfood.IrealizedIhadnteatenanythingunhealthysinceIdarrived
at Half-Blood Hill, where we lived on grapes, bread, cheese, and extra-lean-cut
nymph-preparedbarbecue.Thisboyneededadoublecheeseburger.
WekeptwalkinguntilIsawadesertedtwo-laneroadthroughthetrees.Onthe
othersidewasaclosed-downgasstation,atatteredbillboardfora1990smovie,
and one open business, which was the source of the neon light and the good
smell.
Itwasntafast-foodrestaurantlikeIdhoped.Itwasoneofthoseweirdroadside
curioshopsthatselllawnflamingosandwoodenIndiansandcementgrizzlybears
and stuff like that. The main building was a long, low warehouse, surrounded by
acresofstatuary.Theneonsignabovethegatewasimpossibleformetoread,
because if theres anything worse for my dyslexia than regular English, its red
cursiveneonEnglish.
Tome,itlookedlike:ATNYUMESGDERANGOMENMEPROUIM.
Whattheheckdoesthatsay?Iasked.
Idontknow,Annabethsaid.
Shelovedreadingsomuch,Idforgottenshewasdyslexic,too.
Grovertranslated:AuntyEmsGardenGnomeEmporium.
Flanking the entrance, as advertised, were two cement garden gnomes, ugly
bearded little runts, smiling and waving, as if they were about to get their picture
taken.
Icrossedthestreet,followingthesmellofthehamburgers.
Hey...Groverwarned.
Thelightsareoninside,Annabethsaid.Maybeitsopen.
Snackbar,Isaidwistfully.
Snackbar,sheagreed.
Areyoutwocrazy?Groversaid.Thisplaceisweird.
Weignoredhim.
The front lot was a forest of statues: cement animals, cement children, even a
cementsatyrplayingthepipes,whichgaveGroverthecreeps.
Bla-ha-ha!hebleated.LookslikemyUncleFerdinand!
Westoppedatthewarehousedoor.
Dontknock,Groverpleaded.Ismellmonsters.
Your nose is clogged up from the Furies, Annabeth told him. All I smell is
burgers.Arentyouhungry?
Meat!hesaidscornfully.Imavegetarian.
Youeatcheeseenchiladasandaluminumcans,Iremindedhim.
Thosearevegetables.Comeon.Letsleave.Thesestatuesare...lookingat
me.
Then the door creaked open, and standing in front of us was a tall Middle
Easternwomanatleast,IassumedshewasMiddleEastern,becausesheworea
long black gown that covered everything but her hands, and her head was
completelyveiled.Hereyesglintedbehindacurtainofblackgauze,butthatwas
about all I could make out. Her coffee-colored hands looked old, but well-
manicuredandelegant,soIimaginedshewasagrandmotherwhohadoncebeen
abeautifullady.
HeraccentsoundedvaguelyMiddleEastern,too.Shesaid,Children,itistoo
latetobeoutallalone.Whereareyourparents?
Theyre...um...Annabethstartedtosay.
Wereorphans,Isaid.
Orphans? the woman said. The word sounded alien in her mouth. But, my
dears!Surelynot!
We got separated from our caravan, I said. Our circus caravan. The
ringmaster told us to meet him at the gas station if we got lost, but he may have
forgotten, or maybe he meant a different gas station. Anyway, were lost. Is that
foodIsmell?
Oh,mydears,thewomansaid.Youmustcomein,poorchildren.IamAunty
Em. Go straight through to the back of the warehouse, please. There is a dining
area.
Wethankedherandwentinside.
Annabethmutteredtome,Circuscaravan?
Alwayshaveastrategy,right?
Yourheadisfullofkelp.
The warehouse was filled with more statuespeople in all different poses,
wearing all different outfits and with different expressions on their faces. I was
thinkingyoudhavetohaveaprettyhugegardentofitevenoneofthesestatues,
becausetheywerealllife-size.Butmostly,Iwasthinkingaboutfood.
Go ahead, call me an idiot for walking into a strange ladys shop like that just
because I was hungry, but I do impulsive stuff sometimes. Plus, youve never
smelled Aunty Ems burgers. The aroma was like laughing gas in the dentists
chairit made everything else go away. I barely noticed Grovers nervous
whimpers,orthewaythestatueseyesseemedtofollowme,orthefactthatAunty
Emhadlockedthedoorbehindus.
AllIcaredaboutwasfindingthediningarea.Andsureenough,thereitwasatthe
back of the warehouse, a fast-food counter with a grill, a soda fountain, a pretzel
heater, and a nacho cheese dispenser. Everything you could want, plus a few
steelpicnictablesoutfront.
Please,sitdown,AuntyEmsaid.
Awesome,Isaid.
Um,Groversaidreluctantly,wedonthaveanymoney,maam.
BeforeIcouldjabhimintheribs,AuntyEmsaid,No,no,children.Nomoney.
Thisisaspecialcase,yes?Itismytreat,forsuchniceorphans.
Thankyou,maam,Annabethsaid.
AuntyEmstiffened,asifAnnabethhaddonesomethingwrong,butthentheold
womanrelaxedjustasquickly,soIfigureditmustvebeenmyimagination.
Quiteallright,Annabeth,shesaid.Youhavesuchbeautifulgrayeyes,child.
Only later did I wonder how she knew Annabeths name, even though we had
neverintroducedourselves.
Ourhostessdisappearedbehindthesnackcounterandstartedcooking.Before
we knew it, shed brought us plastic trays heaped with double cheeseburgers,
vanillashakes,andXXLservingsofFrenchfries.
IwashalfwaythroughmyburgerbeforeIrememberedtobreathe.
Annabethslurpedhershake.
Groverpickedatthefries,andeyedthetrayswaxedpaperlinerasifhemight
goforthat,buthestilllookedtoonervoustoeat.
Whatsthathissingnoise?heasked.
Ilistened,butdidnthearanything.Annabethshookherhead.
Hissing? Aunty Em asked. Perhaps you hear the deep-fryer oil. You have
keenears,Grover.
Itakevitamins.Formyears.
Thatsadmirable,shesaid.Butplease,relax.
Aunty Em ate nothing. She hadnt taken off her headdress, even to cook, and
nowshesatforwardandinterlacedherfingersandwatcheduseat.Itwasalittle
unsettling, having someone stare at me when I couldnt see her face, but I was
feelingsatisfiedaftertheburger,andalittlesleepy,andIfiguredtheleastIcould
dowastrytomakesmalltalkwithourhostess.
So,yousellgnomes,Isaid,tryingtosoundinterested.
Oh, yes, Aunty Em said. And animals. And people. Anything for the garden.
Customorders.Statuaryisverypopular,youknow.
Alotofbusinessonthisroad?
Notsomuch,no.Sincethehighwaywasbuilt...mostcars,theydonotgothis
waynow.ImustcherisheverycustomerIget.
Mynecktingled,asifsomebodyelsewaslookingatme.Iturned,butitwasjust
astatueofayounggirlholdinganEasterbasket.Thedetailwasincredible,much
betterthanyouseeinmostgardenstatues.Butsomethingwaswrongwithherface.
Itlookedasifshewerestartled,oreventerrified.
Ah,AuntyEmsaidsadly.Younoticesomeofmycreationsdonotturnoutwell.
Theyaremarred.Theydonotsell.Thefaceisthehardesttogetright.Alwaysthe
face.
Youmakethesestatuesyourself?Iasked.
Oh,yes.Onceuponatime,Ihadtwosisterstohelpmeinthebusiness,butthey
have passed on, and Aunty Em is alone. I have only my statues. This is why I
makethem,yousee.Theyaremycompany.Thesadnessinhervoicesounded
sodeepandsorealthatIcouldnthelpfeelingsorryforher.
Annabethhadstoppedeating.Shesatforwardandsaid,Twosisters?
Its a terrible story, Aunty Em said. Not one for children, really. You see,
Annabeth,abadwomanwasjealousofme,longago,whenIwasyoung.Ihada..
. a boyfriend, you know, and this bad woman was determined to break us apart.
She caused a terrible accident. My sisters stayed by me. They shared my bad
fortuneaslongastheycould,buteventuallytheypassedon.Theyfadedaway.I
alonehavesurvived,butataprice.Suchaprice.
I wasnt sure what she meant, but I felt bad for her. My eyelids kept getting
heavier,myfullstomachmakingmesleepy.Pooroldlady.Whowouldwanttohurt
somebodysonice?
Percy?Annabethwasshakingmetogetmyattention.
Maybeweshouldgo.Imean,theringmasterwillbewaiting.
Shesoundedtense.Iwasntsurewhy.Groverwaseatingthewaxedpaperoff
thetraynow,butifAuntyEmfoundthatstrange,shedidntsayanything.
Suchbeautifulgrayeyes,AuntyEmtoldAnnabethagain.My,yes,ithasbeen
alongtimesinceIveseengrayeyeslikethose.
She reached out as if to stroke Annabeths cheek, but Annabeth stood up
abruptly.
Wereallyshouldgo.
Yes! Grover swallowed his waxed paper and stood up. The ringmaster is
waiting!Right!
Ididntwanttoleave.Ifeltfullandcontent.AuntyEmwassonice.Iwantedtostay
withherawhile.
Please, dears, Aunty Em pleaded. I so rarely get to be with children. Before
yougo,wontyouatleastsitforapose?
Apose?Annabethaskedwarily.
Aphotograph.Iwilluseittomodelanewstatueset.Childrenaresopopular,
yousee.Everyoneloveschildren.
Annabethshiftedherweightfromfoottofoot.Idontthinkwecan,maam.Come
on,Percy
Surewecan,Isaid.IwasirritatedwithAnnabethforbeingsobossy,sorudeto
anoldladywhodjustfedusforfree.Itsjustaphoto,Annabeth.Whatstheharm?
Yes,Annabeth,thewomanpurred.Noharm.
IcouldtellAnnabethdidntlikeit,butsheallowedAuntyEmtoleadusbackout
thefrontdoor,intothegardenofstatues.
AuntyEmdirectedustoaparkbenchnexttothestonesatyr.Now,shesaid,Ill
justpositionyoucorrectly.Theyounggirlinthemiddle,Ithink,andthetwoyoung
gentlemenoneitherside.
Notmuchlightforaphoto,Iremarked.
Oh,enough,AuntyEmsaid.Enoughforustoseeeachother,yes?
Wheresyourcamera?Groverasked.
Aunty Em stepped back, as if to admire the shot. Now, the face is the most
difficult.Canyousmileformeplease,everyone?Alargesmile?
Groverglancedatthecementsatyrnexttohim,andmumbled,Thatsuredoes
looklikeUncleFerdinand.
Grover,AuntyEmchastised,lookthisway,dear.
Shestillhadnocamerainherhands.
PercyAnnabethsaid.
Some instinct warned me to listen to Annabeth, but I was fighting the sleepy
feeling,thecomfortablelullthatcamefromthefoodandtheoldladysvoice.
Iwilljustbeamoment,AuntyEmsaid.Youknow,Icantseeyouverywellin
thiscursedveil....
Percy,somethingswrong,Annabethinsisted.
Wrong?AuntyEmsaid,reachinguptoundothewraparoundherhead.Notat
all,dear.Ihavesuchnoblecompanytonight.Whatcouldbewrong?
ThatisUncleFerdinand!Grovergasped.
Lookawayfromher!Annabethshouted.ShewhippedherYankeescaponto
her head and vanished. Her invisible hands pushed Grover and me both off the
bench.
Iwasontheground,lookingatAuntEmssandaledfeet.
I could hear Grover scrambling off in one direction, Annabeth in another. But I
wastoodazedtomove.
ThenIheardastrange,raspingsoundaboveme.MyeyesrosetoAuntyEms
hands,whichhadturnedgnarledandwarty,withsharpbronzetalonsforfingernails.
Ialmostlookedhigher,butsomewhereofftomyleftAnnabethscreamed,No!
Dont!
More raspingthe sound of tiny snakes, right above me, from . . . from about
whereAuntyEmsheadwouldbe.
Run! Grover bleated. I heard him racing across the gravel, yelling,Maia! to
kick-starthisflyingsneakers.
I couldnt move. I stared at Aunty Ems gnarled claws, and tried to fight the
groggytrancetheoldwomanhadputmein.
Suchapitytodestroyahandsomeyoungface,shetoldmesoothingly.Stay
withme,Percy.Allyouhavetodoislookup.
I fought the urge to obey. Instead I looked to one side and saw one of those
glassspherespeopleputingardensagazingball.IcouldseeAuntyEmsdark
reflectionintheorangeglass;herheaddresswasgone,revealingherfaceasa
shimmeringpalecircle.Herhairwasmoving,writhinglikeserpents.
AuntyEm.
AuntyM.
HowcouldIhavebeensostupid?
Think,Itoldmyself.HowdidMedusadieinthemyth?
ButIcouldntthink.SomethingtoldmethatinthemythMedusahadbeenasleep
when she was attacked by my namesake, Perseus. She wasnt anywhere near
asleepnow.Ifshewanted,shecouldtakethosetalonsrightnowandrakeopen
myface.
TheGray-EyedOnedidthistome,Percy,Medusasaid,andshedidntsound
anythinglikeamonster.Hervoiceinvitedmetolookup,tosympathizewithapoor
old grandmother. Annabeths mother, the cursed Athena, turned me from a
beautifulwomanintothis.
Dontlistentoher!Annabethsvoiceshouted,somewhereinthestatuary.Run,
Percy!
Silence!Medusasnarled.Thenhervoicemodulatedbacktoacomfortingpurr.
You see why I must destroy the girl, Percy. She is my enemys daughter. I shall
crushherstatuetodust.Butyou,dearPercy,youneednotsuffer.
No,Imuttered.Itriedtomakemylegsmove.
Doyoureallywanttohelpthegods?Medusaasked.Doyouunderstandwhat
awaits you on this foolish quest, Percy? What will happen if you reach the
Underworld?DonotbeapawnoftheOlympians,mydear.Youwouldbebetteroff
asastatue.Lesspain.Lesspain.
Percy! Behind me, I heard a buzzing sound, like a two-hundred-pound
hummingbirdinanosedive.Groveryelled,Duck!
Iturned,andtherehewasinthenightsky,flyinginfromtwelveoclockwithhis
wingedshoesfluttering,Grover,holdingatreebranchthesizeofabaseballbat.
Hiseyeswereshuttight,hisheadtwitchedfromsidetoside.Hewasnavigatingby
earsandnosealone.
Duck!heyelledagain.Illgether!
Thatfinallyjoltedmeintoaction.KnowingGrover,IwassurehedmissMedusa
andnailme.Idovetooneside.
Thwack!
AtfirstIfigureditwasthesoundofGroverhittingatree.ThenMedusaroaredwith
rage.
Youmiserablesatyr,shesnarled.Illaddyoutomycollection!
ThatwasforUncleFerdinand!Groveryelledback.
I scrambled away and hid in the statuary while Grover swooped down for
anotherpass.
Ker-whack!
Arrgh!Medusayelled,hersnake-hairhissingandspitting.
Rightnexttome,Annabethsvoicesaid,Percy!
Ijumpedsohighmyfeetnearlyclearedagardengnome.Jeez!Dontdothat!
Annabeth took off her Yankees cap and became visible. You have to cut her
headoff.
What?Areyoucrazy?Letsgetoutofhere.
Medusaisamenace.Shesevil.Idkillhermyself,but...Annabethswallowed,
as if she were about to make a difficult admission. But youve got the better
weapon.Besides,Idnevergetclosetoher.Shedslicemetobitsbecauseofmy
mother.Youyouvegotachance.
What?Icant
Look,doyouwantherturningmoreinnocentpeopleintostatues?
She pointed to a pair of statue lovers, a man and a woman with their arms
aroundeachother,turnedtostonebythemonster.
Annabeth grabbed a green gazing ball from a nearby pedestal. A polished
shieldwouldbebetter.Shestudiedthespherecritically.Theconvexitywillcause
somedistortion.Thereflectionssizeshouldbeoffbyafactorof
WouldyouspeakEnglish?
Iam!Shetossedmetheglassball.Justlookatherintheglass.Neverlookat
herdirectly.
Hey,guys!Groveryelledsomewhereaboveus.Ithinkshesunconscious!
Roooaaarrr!
Maybenot,Grovercorrected.Hewentinforanotherpasswiththetreebranch.
Hurry,Annabethtoldme.Groversgotagreatnose,buthelleventuallycrash.
Itookoutmypenanduncappedit.ThebronzebladeofRiptideelongatedinmy
hand.
IfollowedthehissingandspittingsoundsofMedusashair.
I kept my eyes locked on the gazing ball so I would only glimpse Medusas
reflection,nottherealthing.Then,inthegreentintedglass,Isawher.
Groverwascominginforanotherturnatbat,butthistimeheflewalittletoolow.
Medusagrabbedthestickandpulledhimoffcourse.Hetumbledthroughtheair
andcrashedintothearmsofastonegrizzlybearwithapainfulUmmphh!
MedusawasabouttolungeathimwhenIyelled,Hey!
Iadvancedonher,whichwasnteasy,holdingaswordandaglassball.Ifshe
charged,Idhaveahardtimedefendingmyself.
Butsheletmeapproachtwentyfeet,tenfeet.
I could see the reflection of her face now. Surely it wasnt reallythat ugly. The
greenswirlsofthegazingballmustbedistortingit,makingitlookworse.
Youwouldntharmanoldwoman,Percy,shecrooned.Iknowyouwouldnt.
I hesitated, fascinated by the face I saw reflected in the glassthe eyes that
seemedtoburnstraightthroughthegreentint,makingmyarmsgoweak.
Fromthecementgrizzly,Grovermoaned,Percy,dontlistentoher!
Medusacackled.Toolate.
Shelungedatmewithhertalons.
I slashed up with my sword, heard a sickeningshlock!, then a hiss like wind
rushingoutofacavernthesoundofamonsterdisintegrating.
Somethingfelltothegroundnexttomyfoot.Ittookallmywillpowernottolook.I
couldfeelwarmoozesoakingintomysock,littledyingsnakeheadstuggingatmy
shoelaces.
Oh,yuck,Groversaid.Hiseyeswerestilltightlyclosed,butIguesshecould
hearthethinggurglingandsteaming.Mega-yuck.
Annabeth came up next to me, her eyes fixed on the sky. She was holding
Medusasblackveil.Shesaid,Dontmove.
Very, very carefully, without looking down, she knelt and draped the monsters
headinblackcloth,thenpickeditup.Itwasstilldrippinggreenjuice.
Areyouokay?sheaskedme,hervoicetrembling.
Yeah,Idecided,thoughIfeltlikethrowingupmydoublecheeseburger.Why
didnt...whydidnttheheadevaporate?
Onceyouseverit,itbecomesaspoilofwar,shesaid.Sameasyourminotaur
horn.Butdontunwrapthehead.Itcanstillpetrifyyou.
Grovermoanedasheclimbeddownfromthegrizzlystatue.Hehadabigwelton
his forehead. His green rasta cap hung from one of his little goat horns, and his
fake feet had been knocked off his hooves. The magic sneakers were flying
aimlesslyaroundhishead.
TheRedBaron,Isaid.Goodjob,man.
Hemanagedabashfulgrin.Thatreallywasnotfun,though.Well,thehitting-her-
with-a-stickpart,thatwasfun.Butcrashingintoaconcretebear?Notfun.
Hesnatchedhisshoesoutoftheair.Irecappedmysword.Together,thethree
ofusstumbledbacktothewarehouse.
Wefoundsomeoldplasticgrocerybagsbehindthesnackcounteranddouble-
wrappedMedusashead.Weploppeditonthetablewherewedeatendinnerand
sataroundit,tooexhaustedtospeak.
FinallyIsaid,SowehaveAthenatothankforthismonster?
Annabethflashedmeanirritatedlook.Yourdad,actually.Dontyouremember?
MedusawasPoseidonsgirlfriend.Theydecidedtomeetinmymotherstemple.
ThatswhyAthenaturnedherintoamonster.Medusaandhertwosisterswhohad
helped her get into the temple, they became the three gorgons. Thats why
Medusawantedtoslicemeup,butshewantedtopreserveyouasanicestatue.
Shesstillsweetonyourdad.Youprobablyremindedherofhim.
Myfacewasburning.Oh,sonowitsmyfaultwemetMedusa.
Annabethstraightened.Inabadimitationofmyvoice,shesaid:Itsjustaphoto,
Annabeth.Whatstheharm?
Forgetit,Isaid.Youreimpossible.
Youreinsufferable.
Youre
Hey! Grover interrupted. You two are giving me a migraine, and satyrs dont
evengetmigraines.Whatarewegoingtodowiththehead?
Istaredatthething.Onelittlesnakewashangingoutofaholeintheplastic.The
wordsprintedonthesideofthebagsaid:WEAPPRECIATEYOURBUSINESS!
Iwasangry,notjustwithAnnabethorhermom,butwithallthegodsforthiswhole
quest,forgettingusblownofftheroadandintwomajorfightstheveryfirstdayout
from camp. At this rate, wed never make it to L.A. alive, much less before the
summersolstice.
WhathadMedusasaid?
Do not be a pawn of the Olympians, my dear. You would be better off as a
statue.
Igotup.Illbeback.
Percy,Annabethcalledafterme.Whatareyou
IsearchedthebackofthewarehouseuntilIfoundMedusasoffice.Heraccount
book showed her six most recent sales, all shipments to the Underworld to
decorate Hades and Persephones garden. According to one freight bill, the
Underworlds billing address was DOA Recording Studios, West Hollywood,
California.Ifoldedupthebillandstuffeditinmypocket.
In the cash register I found twenty dollars, a few golden drachmas, and some
packingslipsforHermesOvernightExpress,eachwithalittleleatherbagattached
forcoins.IrummagedaroundtherestoftheofficeuntilIfoundtheright-sizebox.
I went back to the picnic table, packed up Medusas head, and filled out a
deliveryslip:

TheGods
MountOlympus
600thFloor,
EmpireStateBuilding
NewYork,NY
Withbestwishes,
PERCYJACKSON

Theyrenotgoingtolikethat,Groverwarned.Theyllthinkyoureimpertinent.
Ipouredsomegoldendrachmasinthepouch.AssoonasIclosedit,therewas
asoundlikeacashregister.Thepackagefloatedoffthetableanddisappeared
withapop!
Iamimpertinent,Isaid.
IlookedatAnnabeth,daringhertocriticize.
Shedidnt.SheseemedresignedtothefactthatIhadamajortalentfortickingoff
thegods.Comeon,shemuttered.Weneedanewplan.
TWELVE
WE GET ADVICE FROM A POODLE
Wewereprettymiserablethatnight.
Wecampedoutinthewoods,ahundredyardsfromthemainroad,inamarshy
clearing that local kids had obviously been using for parties. The ground was
litteredwithflattenedsodacansandfast-foodwrappers.
We'dtakensomefoodandblanketsfromAuntyEm's,butwedidn'tdarelighta
fire to dry our damp clothes. The Furies and Medusa had provided enough
excitementforoneday.Wedidn'twanttoattractanythingelse.
Wedecidedtosleepinshifts.Ivolunteeredtotakefirstwatch.
Annabethcurledupontheblanketsandwassnoringassoonasherheadhitthe
ground.Groverflutteredwithhisflyingshoestothelowestboughofatree,puthis
backtothetrunk,andstaredatthenightsky.
"Goaheadandsleep,"Itoldhim."I'llwakeyouifthere'strouble."Henodded,
butstilldidn'tclosehiseyes."Itmakesmesad,Percy."
"Whatdoes?Thefactthatyousignedupforthisstupidquest?"
"No.Thismakesmesad."Hepointedatallthegarbageontheground."Andthe
sky.Youcan'tevenseethestars.They'vepollutedthesky.Thisisaterribletime
tobeasatyr."
"Oh,yeah.Iguessyou'dbeanenvironmentalist."
He glared at me. "Only a human wouldn't be. Your species is clogging up the
worldsofast...ah,nevermind.It'suselesstolectureahuman.Attheratethingsare
going,I'llneverfindPan."
"Pam?Likethecookingspray?"
"Pan!"hecriedindignantly."P-A-N.ThegreatgodPan!WhatdoyouthinkIwant
asearcher'slicensefor?"
A strange breeze rustled through the clearing, temporarily overpowering the
stinkoftrashandmuck.Itbroughtthesmellofberriesandwildflowersandclean
rainwater,thingsthatmight'veoncebeeninthesewoods.SuddenlyIwasnostalgic
forsomethingI'dneverknown.
"Tellmeaboutthesearch,"Isaid.
Groverlookedatmecautiously,asifhewereafraidIwasjustmakingfun.
"TheGodofWildPlacesdisappearedtwothousandyearsago,"hetoldme."A
sailoroffthecoastofEphesosheardamysteriousvoicecryingoutfromtheshore,
'Tell them that the great god Pan has died!' When humans heard the news, they
believedit.They'vebeenpillagingPan'skingdomeversince.Butforthesatyrs,
Panwasourlordandmaster.Heprotectedusandthewildplacesoftheearth.We
refusetobelievethathedied.Ineverygeneration,thebravestsatyrspledgetheir
livestofindingPan.Theysearchtheearth,exploringallthewildestplaces,hoping
tofindwhereheishidden,andwakehimfromhissleep."
"Andyouwanttobeasearcher."
"It's my life's dream," he said. "My father was a searcher. And my Uncle
Ferdinand...thestatueyousawbackthere"
"Oh,right,sorry."
Grovershookhishead."UncleFerdinandknewtherisks.Sodidmydad.ButI'll
succeed.I'llbethefirstsearchertoreturnalive."
"Hangonthefirst?"
Grovertookhisreedpipesoutofhispocket."Nosearcherhasevercomeback.
Oncetheysetout,theydisappear.They'reneverseenaliveagain."
"Notonceintwothousandyears?"
"No."
"Andyourdad?Youhavenoideawhathappenedtohim?"
"None."
"Butyoustillwanttogo,"Isaid,amazed."Imean,youreallythinkyou'llbethe
onetofindPan?"
"Ihavetobelievethat,Percy.Everysearcherdoes.It'stheonlythingthatkeeps
usfromdespairwhenwelookatwhathumanshavedonetotheworld.Ihaveto
believePancanstillbeawakened."
IstaredattheorangehazeoftheskyandtriedtounderstandhowGrovercould
pursueadreamthatseemedsohopeless.Thenagain,wasIanybetter?
"How are we going to get into the Underworld?" I asked him. "I mean, what
chancedowehaveagainstagod?"
"Idon'tknow,"headmitted."ButbackatMedusa's,whenyouweresearchingher
office?
Annabethwastellingme"
"Oh,Iforgot.Annabethwillhaveaplanallfiguredout."
"Don'tbesohardonher,Percy.She'shadatoughlife,butshe'sagoodperson.
Afterall,sheforgaveme...."Hisvoicefaltered.
"What do you mean?" I asked. "Forgave you for what?" Suddenly, Grover
seemedveryinterestedinplayingnotesonhispipes.
"Waitaminute,"Isaid."Yourfirstkeeperjobwasfiveyearsago.Annabethhas
been at camp five years. She wasn't ... I mean, your first assignment that went
wrong"
"I can't talk about it," Grover said, and his quivering lower lip suggested he'd
startcryingifIpressedhim."ButasIwassaying,backatMedusa's,Annabethand
Iagreedthere'ssomethingstrangegoingonwiththisquest.Somethingisn'twhatit
seems."
"Well,duh.I'mgettingblamedforstealingathunderboltthatHadestook."
"That's not what I mean," Grover said. "The FurThe Kindly Ones were sort of
holdingback.LikeMrs.DoddsatYancyAcademy...whydidshewaitsolongtotry
to kill you? Then on the bus, they just weren't as aggressive as they could've
been."
"Theyseemedplentyaggressivetome."
Grovershookhishead."Theywerescreechingatus:'Whereisit?Where?'"
"Askingaboutme,"Isaid.
"Maybe...butAnnabethandI,webothgotthefeelingtheyweren'taskingabout
aperson.Theysaid'Whereisit?'Theyseemedtobeaskingaboutanobject."
"Thatdoesn'tmakesense."
"I know. But if we've misunderstood something about this quest, and we only
haveninedaystofindthemasterbolt...."Helookedatmelikehewashopingfor
answers,butIdidn'thaveany.IthoughtaboutwhatMedusahadsaid:Iwasbeing
used by the gods. What lay ahead of me was worse than petrification. "I haven't
beenstraightwithyou,"1toldGrover."Idon'tcareaboutthemasterbolt.Iagreed
togototheUnderworldsoIcouldbringbackmymother."Groverblewasoftnote
onhispipes."Iknowthat,Percy.Butareyousurethat'stheonlyreason?"
"I'mnotdoingittohelpmyfather.Hedoesn'tcareaboutme.Idon'tcareabout
him."Grovergazeddownfromhistreebranch."Look,Percy,I'mnotassmartas
Annabeth.I'mnotasbraveasyou.ButI'mprettygoodatreadingemotions.You're
gladyourdadisalive.Youfeelgoodthathe'sclaimedyou,andpartofyouwants
to make him proud. That's why you mailed Medusa's head to Olympus. You
wantedhimtonoticewhatyou'ddone."
"Yeah? Well maybe satyr emotions work differently than human emotions.
Becauseyou'rewrong.Idon'tcarewhathethinks."
Groverpulledhisfeetupontothebranch."Okay,Percy.Whatever."
"Besides, I haven't done anything worth bragging about. We barely got out of
NewYorkandwe'restuckherewithnomoneyandnowaywest."
Grover looked at the night sky, like he was thinking about that problem. "How
aboutItakefirstwatch,huh?Yougetsomesleep."
I wanted to protest, but he started to play Mozart, soft and sweet, and I turned
away,myeyesstinging.AfterafewbarsofPianoConcertono.12,Iwasasleep.
Inmydreams,Istoodinadarkcavernbeforeagapingpit.Graymistcreatures
churnedallaroundme,whisperingragsofsmokethatIsomehowknewwerethe
spirits of the dead. They tugged at my clothes, trying to pull me back, but I felt
compelledtowalkforwardtotheveryedgeofthechasm.
Lookingdownmademedizzy.
The pit yawned so wide and was so completely black, I knew it must be
bottomless. Yet I had a feeling that something was trying to rise from the abyss,
somethinghugeandevil.Thelittlehero,anamusedvoiceechoedfardowninthe
darkness.Tooweak,tooyoung,butperhapsyouwilldo.
The voice felt ancientcold and heavy. It wrapped around me like sheets of
lead.Theyhavemisledyou,boy, it said.Barter with me. I will give you what you
want.Ashimmeringimagehoveredoverthevoid:mymother,frozenatthemoment
she'd dissolved in a shower of gold. Her face was distorted with pain, as if the
Minotaur were still squeezing her neck. Her eyes looked directly at me,
pleading:Go!
Itriedtocryout,butmyvoicewouldn'twork.
Coldlaughterechoedfromthechasm.
Aninvisibleforcepulledmeforward.ItwoulddragmeintothepitunlessIstood
firm.Help me rise, boy. The voice became hungrier.Bring me the bolt. Strike a
blowagainstthetreacherousgods!
Thespiritsofthedeadwhisperedaroundme,No!Wake!
Theimageofmymotherbegantofade.Thethinginthepittighteneditsunseen
griparoundme.
I realized it wasn't interested in pulling me in. It was using me to pull
itselfout.Good,itmurmured.Good.
Wake!thedeadwhispered.Wake!
Someonewasshakingme.
Myeyesopened,anditwasdaylight.
"Well,"Annabethsaid,"thezombielives."
I was trembling from the dream. I could still feel the grip of the chasm monster
aroundmychest."HowlongwasIasleep?"
"Longenoughformetocookbreakfast."Annabethtossedmeabagofnacho-
flavoredcornchipsfromAuntyEm'ssnackbar."AndGroverwentexploring.Look,
hefoundafriend."Myeyeshadtroublefocusing.
Groverwassittingcross-leggedonablanketwithsomethingfuzzyinhislap,a
dirty,unnaturallypinkstuffedanimal.
No.Itwasn'tastuffedanimal.Itwasapinkpoodle.
The poodle yapped at me suspiciously. Grover said, "No, he's not." I blinked.
"Areyou...talkingtothatthing?"
Thepoodlegrowled.
"Thisthing,"Groverwarned,"isourticketwest.Benicetohim."
"Youcantalktoanimals?"
Groverignoredthequestion."Percy,meetGladiola.Gladiola,Percy."Istaredat
Annabeth,figuringshe'dcrackupatthispracticaljoketheywereplayingonme,
butshelookeddeadlyserious.
"I'mnotsayinghellotoapinkpoodle,"Isaid."Forgetit."
"Percy,"Annabethsaid."Isaidhellotothepoodle.Yousayhellotothepoodle."
Thepoodlegrowled.
Isaidhellotothepoodle.
Groverexplainedthathe'dcomeacrossGladiolainthewoodsandthey'dstruck
upaconversation.Thepoodlehadrunawayfromarichlocalfamily,who'dposted
a$200rewardforhisreturn.Gladioladidn'treallywanttogobacktohisfamily,but
hewaswillingtoifitmeanthelpingGrover.
"HowdoesGladiolaknowaboutthereward?"Iasked.
"Hereadthesigns,"Groversaid."Duh."
"Ofcourse,"Isaid."Sillyme."
"SoweturninGladiola,"Annabethexplainedinherbeststrategyvoice,"weget
money,andwebuyticketstoLosAngeles.Simple."
I thought about my dreamthe whispering voices of the dead, the thing in the
chasm,andmymother'sface,shimmeringasitdissolvedintogold.Allthatmight
bewaitingformeintheWest.
"Notanotherbus,"Isaidwarily.
"No,"Annabethagreed.
Shepointeddownhill,towardtraintracksIhadn'tbeenabletoseelastnightin
thedark.
"There's an Amtrak station half a mile that way. According to Gladiola, the
westboundtrainleavesatnoon."
THIRTEEN
I PLUNGE TO MY DEATH
WespenttwodaysontheAmtraktrain,headingwestthroughhills,overrivers,
pastamberwavesofgrain.
Wewerentattackedonce,butIdidntrelax.Ifeltthatweweretravelingaroundin
adisplaycase,beingwatchedfromaboveandmaybefrombelow,thatsomething
waswaitingfortherightopportunity.
Itriedtokeepalowprofilebecausemynameandpictureweresplatteredover
the front pages of several East Coast newspapers. TheTrenton Register-News
showedaphototakenbyatouristasIgotofftheGreyhoundbus.Ihadawildlook
inmyeyes.Myswordwasametallicblurinmyhands.Itmightvebeenabaseball
batoralacrossestick.
Thepicturescaptionread:
Twelve-year-old Percy Jackson, wanted for questioning in the Long Island
disappearanceofhismothertwoweeksago,isshownherefleeingfromthebus
whereheaccostedseveralelderlyfemalepassengers.Thebusexplodedonan
east New Jersey roadside shortly after Jackson fled the scene. Based on
eyewitness accounts, police believe the boy may be traveling with two teenage
accomplices. His stepfather, Gabe Ugliano, has offered a cash reward for
informationleadingtohiscapture.
Dont worry, Annabeth told me. Mortal police could never find us. But she
didntsoundsosure.
TherestofthedayIspentalternatelypacingthelengthofthetrain(becauseI
hadareallyhardtimesittingstill)orlookingoutthewindows.
Once,Ispottedafamilyofcentaursgallopingacrossawheatfield,bowsatthe
ready,astheyhuntedlunch.Thelittleboycentaur,whowasthesizeofasecond-
graderonapony,caughtmyeyeandwaved.Ilookedaroundthepassengercar,
butnobodyelsehadnoticed.Theadultridersallhadtheirfacesburiedinlaptop
computersormagazines.
Anothertime,towardevening,Isawsomethinghugemovingthroughthewoods.I
couldve sworn it was a lion, except that lions dont live wild in America, and this
thing was the size of a Hummer. Its fur glinted gold in the evening light. Then it
leapedthroughthetreesandwasgone.
Our reward money for returning Gladiola the poodle had only been enough to
purchaseticketsasfarasDenver.Wecouldntgetberthsinthesleepercar,sowe
dozedinourseats.Myneckgotstiff.Itriednottodroolinmysleep,sinceAnnabeth
wassittingrightnexttome.
Groverkeptsnoringandbleatingandwakingmeup.Once,heshuffledaround
andhisfakefootfelloff.AnnabethandIhadtostickitbackonbeforeanyofthe
otherpassengersnoticed.
So,Annabethaskedme,oncewedgottenGroverssneakerreadjusted.Who
wantsyourhelp?
Whatdoyoumean?
Whenyouwereasleepjustnow,youmumbled,Iwonthelpyou.Whowereyou
dreamingabout?
Iwasreluctanttosayanything.ItwasthesecondtimeIddreamedabouttheevil
voicefromthepit.ButitbotheredmesomuchIfinallytoldher.
Annabethwasquietforalongtime.ThatdoesntsoundlikeHades.Healways
appearsonablackthrone,andheneverlaughs.
Heofferedmymotherintrade.Whoelsecoulddothat?
Iguess...ifhemeant,HelpmerisefromtheUnderworld.Ifhewantswarwith
theOlympians.Butwhyaskyoutobringhimthemasterboltifhealreadyhasit?
Ishookmyhead,wishingIknewtheanswer.IthoughtaboutwhatGroverhadtold
me,thattheFuriesonthebusseemedtohavebeenlookingforsomething.
Whereisit?Where?
Maybe Grover sensed my emotions. He snorted in his sleep, muttered
somethingaboutvegetables,andturnedhishead.
Annabeth readjusted his cap so it covered his horns. Percy, you cant barter
withHades.Youknowthat,right?Hesdeceitful,heartless,andgreedy.Idontcare
ifhisKindlyOneswerentasaggressivethistime
Thistime?Iasked.Youmeanyouverunintothembefore?
Herhandcreptuptohernecklace.Shefingeredaglazedwhitebeadpainted
withtheimageofapinetree,oneofherclayend-of-summertokens.Letsjustsay
IvegotnolovefortheLordoftheDead.Youcantbetemptedtomakeadealfor
yourmom.
Whatwouldyoudoifitwasyourdad?
Thatseasy,shesaid.Idleavehimtorot.
Yourenotserious?
Annabethsgrayeyesfixedonme.Sheworethesameexpressionshedwornin
the woods at camp, the moment she drew her sword against the hellhound. My
dadsresentedmesincethedayIwasborn,Percy,shesaid.Heneverwanteda
baby. When he got me, he asked Athena to take me back and raise me on
Olympus because he was too busy with his work. She wasnt happy about that.
Shetoldhimheroeshadtoberaisedbytheirmortalparent.
Buthow...Imean,Iguessyouwerentborninahospital....
I appeared on my fathers doorstep, in a golden cradle, carried down from
OlympusbyZephyrtheWestWind.Youdthinkmydadwouldrememberthatasa
miracle, right? Like, maybe hed take some digital photos or something. But he
always talked about my arrival as if it were the most inconvenient thing that had
ever happened to him. When I was five he got married and totally forgot about
Athena.Hegotaregularmortalwife,andhadtworegularmortalkids,andtriedto
pretendIdidntexist.
I stared out the train window. The lights of a sleeping town were drifting by. I
wantedtomakeAnnabethfeelbetter,butIdidntknowhow.
Mymommarriedareallyawfulguy,Itoldher.Groversaidshedidittoprotect
me, to hide me in the scent of a human family. Maybe thats what your dad was
thinking.
Annabethkeptworryingathernecklace.Shewaspinchingthegoldcollegering
that hung with the beads. It occurred to me that the ring must be her fathers. I
wonderedwhysheworeitifshehatedhimsomuch.
Hedoesntcareaboutme,shesaid.Hiswifemystepmomtreatedmelikea
freak. She wouldnt let me play with her children. My dad went along with her.
Wheneversomethingdangeroushappenedyouknow,somethingwithmonsters
theywouldbothlookatmeresentfully,like,Howdareyouputourfamilyatrisk.
Finally,Itookthehint.Iwasntwanted.Iranaway.
Howoldwereyou?
SameageaswhenIstartedcamp.Seven.
But...youcouldnthavegottenallthewaytoHalf-BloodHillbyyourself.
Not alone, no. Athena watched over me, guided me toward help. I made a
coupleofunexpectedfriendswhotookcareofme,forashorttime,anyway.
Iwantedtoaskwhathappened,butAnnabethseemedlostinsadmemories.So
IlistenedtothesoundofGroversnoringandgazedoutthetrainwindowsasthe
darkfieldsofOhioracedby.
Towardtheendofourseconddayonthetrain,June13,eightdaysbeforethe
summersolstice,wepassedthroughsomegoldenhillsandovertheMississippi
RiverintoSt.Louis.
AnnabethcranedhernecktoseetheGatewayArch,whichlookedtomelikea
hugeshoppingbaghandlestuckonthecity.
Iwanttodothat,shesighed.
What?Iasked.
Buildsomethinglikethat.YoueverseetheParthenon,Percy?
Onlyinpictures.
Someday, Im going to see it in person. Im going to build the greatest
monumenttothegods,ever.Somethingthatlllastathousandyears.
Ilaughed.You?Anarchitect?
Idontknowwhy,butIfounditfunny.JusttheideaofAnnabethtryingtositquietly
anddrawallday.
Her cheeks flushed. Yes, an architect. Athena expects her children to create
things,notjusttearthemdown,likeacertaingodofearthquakesIcouldmention.
IwatchedthechurningbrownwateroftheMississippibelow.
Sorry,Annabethsaid.Thatwasmean.
Cantweworktogetheralittle?Ipleaded.Imean,didntAthenaandPoseidon
evercooperate?
Annabethhadtothinkaboutit.Iguess...thechariot,shesaidtentatively.My
mominventedit,butPoseidoncreatedhorsesoutofthecrestsofwaves.Sothey
hadtoworktogethertomakeitcomplete.
Thenwecancooperate,too.Right?
We rode into the city, Annabeth watching as the Arch disappeared behind a
hotel.
Isuppose,shesaidatlast.
WepulledintotheAmtrakstationdowntown.Theintercomtolduswedhavea
three-hourlayoverbeforedepartingforDenver.
Groverstretched.Beforehewasevenfullyawake,hesaid,Food.
Comeon,goatboy,Annabethsaid.Sightseeing.
Sightseeing?
TheGatewayArch,shesaid.Thismaybemyonlychancetoridetothetop.
Areyoucomingornot?
GroverandIexchangedlooks.
Iwantedtosayno,butIfiguredthatifAnnabethwasgoing,wecouldntverywell
lethergoalone.
Grovershrugged.Aslongastheresasnackbarwithoutmonsters.
TheArchwasaboutamilefromthetrainstation.Lateinthedaythelinestogetin
werentthatlong.Wethreadedourwaythroughtheundergroundmuseum,looking
at covered wagons and other junk from the 1800s. It wasnt all that thrilling, but
AnnabethkepttellingusinterestingfactsabouthowtheArchwasbuilt,andGrover
keptpassingmejellybeans,soIwasokay.
Ikeptlookingaround,though,attheotherpeopleinline.Yousmellanything?I
murmuredtoGrover.
Hetookhisnoseoutofthejelly-beanbaglongenoughtosniff.Underground,
he said distastefully. Underground air always smells like monsters. Probably
doesntmeananything.
Butsomethingfeltwrongtome.Ihadafeelingweshouldntbehere.
Guys,Isaid.Youknowthegodssymbolsofpower?
Annabethhadbeeninthemiddleofreadingabouttheconstructionequipment
usedtobuildtheArch,butshelookedover.Yeah?
Well,Hade
Grover cleared his throat. Were in a public place. . . . You mean, our friend
downstairs?
Um, right, I said. Our friendway downstairs. Doesnt he have a hat like
Annabeths?
You mean the Helm of Darkness, Annabeth said. Yeah, thats his symbol of
power.Isawitnexttohisseatduringthewintersolsticecouncilmeeting.
Hewasthere?Iasked.
Shenodded.ItstheonlytimehesallowedtovisitOlympusthedarkestdayof
the year. But his helm is a lot more powerful than my invisibility hat, if what Ive
heardistrue....
Itallowshimtobecomedarkness,Groverconfirmed.Hecanmeltintoshadow
orpassthroughwalls.Hecantbetouched,orseen,orheard.Andhecanradiate
fear so intense it can drive you insane or stop your heart. Why do you think all
rationalcreaturesfearthedark?
Butthen...howdoweknowhesnothererightnow,watchingus?Iasked.
AnnabethandGroverexchangedlooks.
Wedont,Groversaid.
Thanks,thatmakesmefeelalotbetter,Isaid.Gotanybluejellybeansleft?
IdalmostmasteredmyjumpynerveswhenIsawthetinylittleelevatorcarwe
weregoingtoridetothetopoftheArch,andIknewIwasintrouble.Ihateconfined
places.Theymakemenuts.
Wegotshoehornedintothecarwiththisbigfatladyandherdog,aChihuahua
with a rhinestone collar. I figured maybe the dog was a seeing-eye Chihuahua,
becausenoneoftheguardssaidawordaboutit.
Westartedgoingup,insidetheArch.Idneverbeeninanelevatorthatwentina
curve,andmystomachwasnttoohappyaboutit.
Noparents?thefatladyaskedus.
She had beady eyes; pointy, coffee-stained teeth; a floppy denim hat, and a
denimdressthatbulgedsomuch,shelookedlikeablue-jeanblimp.
Theyrebelow,Annabethtoldher.Scaredofheights.
Oh,thepoordarlings.
TheChihuahuagrowled.Thewomansaid,Now,now,sonny.Behave.Thedog
hadbeadyeyeslikeitsowner,intelligentandvicious.
Isaid,Sonny.Isthathisname?
No,theladytoldme.
Shesmiled,asifthatclearedeverythingup.
At the top of the Arch, the observation deck reminded me of a tin can with
carpeting.Rowsoftinywindowslookedoutoverthecityononesideandtheriver
ontheother.Theviewwasokay,butiftheresanythingIlikelessthanaconfined
space, its a confined space six hundred feet in the air. I was ready to go pretty
quick.
Annabethkepttalkingaboutstructuralsupports,andhowshewouldvemadethe
windowsbigger,anddesignedasee-throughfloor.Sheprobablycouldvestayed
up there for hours, but luckily for me the park ranger announced that the
observationdeckwouldbeclosinginafewminutes.
I steered Grover and Annabeth toward the exit, loaded them into the elevator,
and I was about to get in myself when I realized there were already two other
touristsinside.Noroomforme.
Theparkrangersaid,Nextcar,sir.
Wellgetout,Annabethsaid.Wellwaitwithyou.
Butthatwasgoingtomesseverybodyupandtakeevenmoretime,soIsaid,
Naw,itsokay.Illseeyouguysatthebottom.
GroverandAnnabethbothlookednervous,buttheylettheelevatordoorslide
shut.Theircardisappeareddowntheramp.
Nowtheonlypeopleleftontheobservationdeckwereme,alittleboywithhis
parents,theparkranger,andthefatladywithherChihuahua.
I smiled uneasily at the fat lady. She smiled back, her forked tongue flickering
betweenherteeth.
Waitaminute.
Forkedtongue?
Before I could decide if Id really seen that, her Chihuahua jumped down and
startedyappingatme.
Now,now,sonny,theladysaid.Doesthislooklikeagoodtime?Wehaveall
thesenicepeoplehere.
Doggie!saidthelittleboy.Look,adoggie!
Hisparentspulledhimback.
TheChihuahuabaredhisteethatme,foamdrippingfromhisblacklips.
Well,son,thefatladysighed.Ifyouinsist.
Ice started forming in my stomach. Um, did you just call that Chihuahua your
son?
Chimera,dear,thefatladycorrected.NotaChihuahua.Itsaneasymistaketo
make.
Sherolledupherdenimsleeves,revealingthattheskinofherarmswasscaly
and green. When she smiled, I saw that her teeth were fangs. The pupils of her
eyesweresidewaysslits,likeareptiles.
TheChihuahuabarkedlouder,andwitheachbark,itgrew.Firsttothesizeofa
Doberman,thentoalion.Thebarkbecamearoar.
Thelittleboyscreamed.Hisparentspulledhimbacktowardtheexit,straightinto
theparkranger,whostood,paralyzed,gapingatthemonster.
TheChimerawasnowsotallitsbackrubbedagainsttheroof.Ithadtheheadof
a lion with a blood-caked mane, the body and hooves of a giant goat, and a
serpent for a tail, a ten-foot-long diamondback growing right out of its shaggy
behind. The rhinestone dog collar still hung around its neck, and the plate-sized
dog tag was now easy to read: CHIMERARABID, FIRE-BREATHING,
POISONOUSIFFOUND,PLEASECALLTARTARUSEXT.954.
IrealizedIhadntevenuncappedmysword.Myhandswerenumb.Iwastenfeet
away from the Chimeras bloody maw, and I knew that as soon as I moved, the
creaturewouldlunge.
Thesnakeladymadeahissingnoisethatmightvebeenlaughter.Behonored,
PercyJackson.LordZeusrarelyallowsmetotestaherowithoneofmybrood.For
IamtheMotherofMonsters,theterribleEchidna!
Istaredather.AllIcouldthinktosaywas:Isntthatakindofanteater?
Shehowled,herreptilianfaceturningbrownandgreenwithrage.Ihateitwhen
peoplesaythat!IhateAustralia!Namingthatridiculousanimalafterme.Forthat,
PercyJackson,mysonshalldestroyyou!
The Chimera charged, its lion teeth gnashing. I managed to leap aside and
dodgethebite.
Iendedupnexttothefamilyandtheparkranger,whowereallscreamingnow,
tryingtopryopentheemergencyexitdoors.
I couldnt let them get hurt. I uncapped my sword, ran to the other side of the
deck,andyelled,Hey,Chihuahua!
TheChimeraturnedfasterthanIwouldvethoughtpossible.
Before I could swing my sword, it opened its mouth, emitting a stench like the
worldslargestbarbecuepit,andshotacolumnofflamestraightatme.
I dove through the explosion. The carpet burst into flames; the heat was so
intense,itnearlysearedoffmyeyebrows.
WhereIhadbeenstandingamomentbeforewasaraggedholeinthesideof
theArch,withmeltedmetalsteamingaroundtheedges.
Great,Ithought.Wejustblowtorchedanationalmonument.
Riptide was now a shining bronze blade in my hands, and as the Chimera
turned,Islashedatitsneck.
That was my fatal mistake. The blade sparked harmlessly off the dog collar. I
tried to regain my balance, but I was so worried about defending myself against
the fiery lions mouth, I completely forgot about the serpent tail until it whipped
aroundandsankitsfangsintomycalf.
Mywholelegwasonfire.ItriedtojabRiptideintotheChimerasmouth,butthe
serpenttailwrappedaroundmyanklesandpulledmeoffbalance,andmyblade
flew out of my hand, spinning out of the hole in the Arch and down toward the
MississippiRiver.
Imanagedtogettomyfeet,butIknewIhadlost.Iwasweaponless.Icouldfeel
deadly poison racing up to my chest. I remembered Chiron saying that
Anaklusmoswouldalwaysreturntome,buttherewasnopeninmypocket.Maybe
ithadfallentoofaraway.Maybeitonlyreturnedwhenitwasinpenform.Ididnt
know,andIwasntgoingtolivelongenoughtofigureitout.
I backed into the hole in the wall. The Chimera advanced, growling, smoke
curlingfromitslips.Thesnakelady,Echidna,cackled.Theydontmakeheroes
liketheyusedto,eh,son?
Themonstergrowled.ItseemedinnohurrytofinishmeoffnowthatIwasbeaten.
Iglancedattheparkrangerandthefamily.Thelittleboywashidingbehindhis
fatherslegs.Ihadtoprotectthesepeople.Icouldntjust...die.Itriedtothink,but
my whole body was on fire. My head felt dizzy. I had no sword. I was facing a
massive,fire-breathingmonsteranditsmother.AndIwasscared.
There was no place else to go, so I stepped to the edge of the hole. Far, far
below,theriverglittered.
IfIdied,wouldthemonstersgoaway?Wouldtheyleavethehumansalone?
If you are the son of Poseidon, Echidna hissed, you would not fear water.
Jump, Percy Jackson. Show me that water will not harm you. Jump and retrieve
yoursword.Proveyourbloodline.
Yeah,right,Ithought.Idreadsomewherethatjumpingintowaterfromacouple
ofstoriesupwaslikejumpingontosolidasphalt.Fromhere,Idsplatteronimpact.
TheChimerasmouthglowedred,heatingupforanotherblast.
Youhavenofaith,Echidnatoldme.Youdonottrustthegods.Icannotblame
you,littlecoward.Betteryoudienow.Thegodsarefaithless.Thepoisonisinyour
heart.
Shewasright:Iwasdying.Icouldfeelmybreathslowingdown.Nobodycould
saveme,noteventhegods.
Ibackedupandlookeddownatthewater.Irememberedthewarmglowofmy
fatherssmilewhenIwasababy.Hemusthaveseenme.Hemusthavevisitedme
whenIwasinmycradle.
Irememberedtheswirlinggreentridentthathadappearedabovemyheadthe
nightofcapturetheflag,whenPoseidonhadclaimedmeashisson.
Butthiswasntthesea.ThiswastheMississippi,deadcenteroftheUSA.There
wasnoSeaGodhere.
Die, faithless one, Echidna rasped, and the Chimera sent a column of flame
towardmyface.
Father,helpme,Iprayed.
I turned and jumped. My clothes on fire, poison coursing through my veins, I
plummetedtowardtheriver.
FOURTEEN
I BECOME A KNOWN FUGITIVE
IdlovetotellyouIhadsomedeeprevelationonmywaydown,thatIcameto
termswithmyownmortality,laughedinthefaceofdeath,etcetera.
Thetruth?Myonlythoughtwas:Aaaaggghhhhh!
Theriverracedtowardmeatthespeedofatruck.Windrippedthebreathfrom
mylungs.Steeplesandskyscrapersandbridgestumbledinandoutofmyvision.
Andthen:Flaaa-boooom!
Awhiteoutofbubbles.Isankthroughthemurk,surethatIwasabouttoendup
embeddedinahundredfeetofmudandlostforever.
Butmyimpactwiththewaterhadnthurt.Iwasfallingslowlynow,bubblestrickling
upthroughmyfingers.Isettledontheriverbottomsoundlessly.Acatfishthesizeof
mystepfatherlurchedawayintothegloom.Cloudsofsiltanddisgustinggarbage
beerbottles,oldshoes,plasticbagsswirledupallaroundme.
Atthatpoint,Irealizedafewthings:first,Ihadnotbeenflattenedintoapancake.I
had not been barbecued. I couldnt even feel the Chimera poison boiling in my
veinsanymore.Iwasalive,whichwasgood.
Secondrealization:Iwasntwet.Imean,Icouldfeelthecoolnessofthewater.I
couldseewherethefireonmyclotheshadbeenquenched.ButwhenItouchedmy
ownshirt,itfeltperfectlydry.
Ilookedatthegarbagefloatingbyandsnatchedanoldcigarettelighter.
Noway,Ithought.
Iflickedthelighter.Itsparked.Atinyflameappeared,rightthereatthebottomof
theMississippi.
I grabbed a soggy hamburger wrapper out of the current and immediately the
paperturneddry.Ilititwithnoproblem.AssoonasIletitgo,theflamessputtered
out.Thewrapperturnedbackintoaslimyrag.Weird.
But the strangest thought occurred to me only last: I was breathing. I was
underwater,andIwasbreathingnormally.
Istoodup,thigh-deepinmud.Mylegsfeltshaky.Myhandstrembled.Ishouldve
been dead. The fact that I wasnt seemed like . . . well, a miracle. I imagined a
womans voice, a voice that sounded a bit like my mother:Percy, what do you
say?
Um . . . thanks. Underwater, I sounded like I did on recordings, like a much
olderkid.Thankyou...Father.
No response. Just the dark drift of garbage downriver, the enormous catfish
glidingby,theflashofsunsetonthewaterssurfacefarabove,turningeverything
thecolorofbutterscotch.
WhyhadPoseidonsavedme?ThemoreIthoughtaboutit,themoreashamedI
felt.SoIdgottenluckyafewtimesbefore.AgainstathingliketheChimera,Ihad
never stood a chance. Those poor people in the Arch were probably toast. I
couldntprotectthem.Iwasnohero.MaybeIshouldjuststaydownherewiththe
catfish,jointhebottomfeeders.
Fump-fump-fump.Ariverboatspaddlewheelchurnedaboveme,swirlingthesilt
around.
There,notfivefeetinfrontofme,wasmysword,itsgleamingbronzehiltsticking
upinthemud.
Iheardthatwomansvoiceagain:Percy,takethesword.Yourfatherbelievesin
you.Thistime,Iknewthevoicewasntinmyhead.Iwasntimaginingit.Herwords
seemedtocomefromeverywhere,ripplingthroughthewaterlikedolphinsonar.
Whereareyou?Icalledaloud.
Then,throughthegloom,Isawherawomanthecolorofthewater,aghostinthe
current,floatingjustabovethesword.Shehadlongbillowinghair,andhereyes,
barelyvisible,weregreenlikemine.
Alumpformedinmythroat.Isaid,Mom?
No, child, only a messenger, though your mothers fate is not as hopeless as
youbelieve.GotothebeachinSantaMonica.
What?
It is your fathers will. Before you descend into the Underworld, you must go to
SantaMonica.Please,Percy,Icannotstaylong.Theriverhereistoofoulformy
presence.
But...Iwassurethiswomanwasmymother,oravisionofher,anyway.Who
howdidyou
TherewassomuchIwantedtoask,thewordsjammedupinmythroat.
Icannotstay,braveone,thewomansaid.Shereachedout,andIfeltthecurrent
brushmyfacelikeacaress.YoumustgotoSantaMonica!And,Percy,donottrust
thegifts....
Hervoicefaded.
Gifts?Iasked.Whatgifts?Wait!
She made one more attempt to speak, but the sound was gone. Her image
meltedaway.Ifitwasmymother,Ihadlostheragain.
Ifeltlikedrowningmyself.Theonlyproblem:Iwasimmunetodrowning.
Yourfatherbelievesinyou,shehadsaid.
Shedalsocalledmebrave...unlessshewastalkingtothecatfish.
IwadedtowardRiptideandgrabbeditbythehilt.TheChimeramightstillbeup
therewithitssnaky,fatmother,waitingtofinishmeoff.Attheveryleast,themortal
policewouldbearriving,tryingtofigureoutwhohadblownaholeintheArch.Ifthey
foundme,theydhavesomequestions.
Icappedmysword,stucktheballpointpeninmypocket.Thankyou,Father,I
saidagaintothedarkwater.
ThenIkickedupthroughthemuckandswamforthesurface.
IcameashorenexttoafloatingMcDonalds.
Ablockaway,everyemergencyvehicleinSt.LouiswassurroundingtheArch.
Police helicopters circled overhead. The crowd of onlookers reminded me of
TimesSquareonNewYearsEve.
Alittlegirlsaid,Mama!Thatboywalkedoutoftheriver.
Thatsnice,dear,hermothersaid,craninghernecktowatchtheambulances.
Buthesdry!
Thatsnice,dear.
A news lady was talking for the camera: Probably not a terrorist attack, were
told, but its still very early in the investigation. The damage, as you can see, is
veryserious.Weretryingtogettosomeofthesurvivors,toquestionthemabout
eyewitnessreportsofsomeonefallingfromtheArch.
Survivors.Ifeltasurgeofrelief.Maybetheparkrangerandthatfamilymadeit
outsafely.IhopedAnnabethandGroverwereokay.
Itriedtopushthroughthecrowdtoseewhatwasgoingoninsidethepoliceline.
...anadolescentboy,anotherreporterwassaying.ChannelFivehaslearned
thatsurveillancecamerasshowanadolescentboygoingwildontheobservation
deck, somehow setting off this freak explosion. Hard to believe, John, but thats
whatwerehearing.Again,noconfirmedfatalities...
Ibackedaway,tryingtokeepmyheaddown.Ihadtogoalongwayaroundthe
policeperimeter.Uniformedofficersandnewsreporterswereeverywhere.
IdalmostlosthopeofeverfindingAnnabethandGroverwhenafamiliarvoice
bleated,Perrr-cy!
IturnedandgottackledbyGroversbearhugorgoathug.Hesaid,Wethought
youdgonetoHadesthehardway!
Annabethstoodbehindhim,tryingtolookangry,butevensheseemedrelieved
toseeme.Wecantleaveyoualoneforfiveminutes!Whathappened?
Isortoffell.
Percy!Sixhundredandthirtyfeet?
Behind us, a cop shouted, Gangway! The crowd parted, and a couple of
paramedics hustled out, rolling a woman on a stretcher. I recognized her
immediately as the mother of the little boy whod been on the observation deck.
Shewassaying,Andthenthishugedog,thishugefire-breathingChihuahua
Okay, maam, the paramedic said. Just calm down. Your family is fine. The
medicationisstartingtokickin.
Imnotcrazy!Thisboyjumpedoutoftheholeandthemonsterdisappeared.
Thenshesawme.Thereheis!Thatstheboy!
IturnedquicklyandpulledAnnabethandGroverafterme.Wedisappearedinto
thecrowd.
Whatsgoingon?Annabethdemanded.WasshetalkingabouttheChihuahua
ontheelevator?
I told them the whole story of the Chimera, Echidna, my high-dive act, and the
underwaterladysmessage.
Whoa,saidGrover.WevegottogetyoutoSantaMonica!Youcantignorea
summonsfromyourdad.
Before Annabeth could respond, we passed another reporter doing a news
break,andIalmostfrozeinmytrackswhenhesaid,PercyJackson.Thatsright,
Dan. Channel Twelve has learned that the boy who may have caused this
explosion fits the description of a young man wanted by authorities for a serious
NewJerseybusaccidentthreedaysago.Andtheboyisbelievedtobetraveling
west.Forourviewersathome,hereisaphotoofPercyJackson.
Weduckedaroundthenewsvanandslippedintoanalley.
Firstthingsfirst,ItoldGrover.Wevegottogetoutoftown!
Somehow,wemadeitbacktotheAmtrakstationwithoutgettingspotted.Wegot
on board the train just before it pulled out for Denver. The train trundled west as
darknessfell,policelightsstillpulsingagainsttheSt.Louisskylinebehindus.
FIFTEEN
A GOD BUYS US CHEESEBURGERS
Thenextafternoon,June14,sevendaysbeforethesolstice,ourtrainrolledinto
Denver. We hadnt eaten since the night before in the dining car, somewhere in
Kansas.WehadnttakenashowersinceHalf-BloodHill,andIwassurethatwas
obvious.
LetstrytocontactChiron,Annabethsaid.Iwanttotellhimaboutyourtalkwith
theriverspirit.
Wecantusephones,right?
Imnottalkingaboutphones.
Wewanderedthroughdowntownforabouthalfanhour,thoughIwasntsurewhat
Annabeth was looking for. The air was dry and hot, which felt weird after the
humidityofSt.Louis.Everywhereweturned,theRockyMountainsseemedtobe
staringatme,likeatidalwaveabouttocrashintothecity.
Finally we found an empty do-it-yourself car wash. We veered toward the stall
farthest from the street, keeping our eyes open for patrol cars. We were three
adolescentshangingoutatacarwashwithoutacar;anycopworthhisdoughnuts
wouldfigurewewereuptonogood.
Whatexactlyarewedoing?Iasked,asGrovertookoutthespraygun.
Itsseventy-fivecents,hegrumbled.Iveonlygottwoquartersleft.Annabeth?
Dontlookatme,shesaid.Thediningcarwipedmeout.
IfishedoutmylastbitofchangeandpassedGroveraquarter,whichleftmetwo
nickelsandonedrachmafromMedusasplace.
Excellent, Grover said. We could do it with a spray bottle, of course, but the
connectionisntasgood,andmyarmgetstiredofpumping.
Whatareyoutalkingabout?
HefedinthequartersandsettheknobtoFINEMIST.I-Ming.
Instantmessaging?
Iris-messaging, Annabeth corrected. The rainbow goddess Iris carries
messagesforthegods.Ifyouknowhowtoask,andshesnottoobusy,shelldo
thesameforhalf-bloods.
Yousummonthegoddesswithaspraygun?
Grover pointed the nozzle in the air and water hissed out in a thick white mist.
Unlessyouknowaneasierwaytomakearainbow.
Sureenough,lateafternoonlightfilteredthroughthevaporandbrokeintocolors.
Annabethheldherpalmouttome.Drachma,please.
Ihandeditover.
Sheraisedthecoinoverherhead.Ogoddess,acceptouroffering.
Shethrewthedrachmaintotherainbow.Itdisappearedinagoldenshimmer.
Half-BloodHill,Annabethrequested.
Foramoment,nothinghappened.
Then I was looking through the mist at strawberry fields, and the Long Island
Soundinthedistance.WeseemedtobeontheporchoftheBigHouse.Standing
withhisbacktousattherailingwasasandy-hairedguyinshortsandanorange
tank top. He was holding a bronze sword and seemed to be staring intently at
somethingdowninthemeadow.
Luke!Icalled.
He turned, eyes wide. I could swear he was standing three feet in front of me
throughascreenofmist,exceptIcouldonlyseethepartofhimthatappearedin
therainbow.
Percy! His scarred face broke into a grin. Is that Annabeth, too? Thank the
gods!Areyouguysokay?
Were...uh...fine,Annabethstammered.Shewasmadlystraighteningher
dirty T-shirt, trying to comb the loose hair out of her face. We thoughtChironI
mean
Hesdownatthecabins.Lukessmilefaded.Werehavingsomeissueswith
thecampers.Listen,iseverythingcoolwithyou?IsGroverallright?
Imrighthere,Grovercalled.Heheldthenozzleouttoonesideandstepped
intoLukeslineofvision.Whatkindofissues?
JustthenabigLincolnContinentalpulledintothecarwashwithitsstereoturned
to maximum hip-hop. As the car slid into the next stall, the bass from the
subwoofersvibratedsomuch,itshookthepavement.
Chironhadtowhatsthatnoise?Lukeyelled.
Ill take care of it! Annabeth yelled back, looking very relieved to have an
excusetogetoutofsight.Grover,comeon!
What?Groversaid.But
GivePercythenozzleandcomeon!sheordered.
Grover muttered something about girls being harder to understand than the
OracleatDelphi,thenhehandedmethespraygunandfollowedAnnabeth.
IreadjustedthehosesoIcouldkeeptherainbowgoingandstillseeLuke.
Chironhadtobreakupafight,Lukeshoutedtomeoverthemusic.Thingsare
pretty tense here, Percy. Word leaked out about the Zeus Poseidon standoff.
Were still not sure howprobably the same scumbag who summoned the
hellhound. Now the campers are starting to take sides. Its shaping up like the
Trojan War all over again. Aphrodite, Ares, and Apollo are backing Poseidon,
moreorless.AthenaisbackingZeus.
I shuddered to think that Clarisses cabin would ever be on my dads side for
anything.Inthenextstall,IheardAnnabethandsomeguyarguingwitheachother,
thenthemusicsvolumedecreaseddrastically.
Sowhatsyourstatus?Lukeaskedme.Chironwillbesorryhemissedyou.
Itoldhimprettymucheverything,includingmydreams.Itfeltsogoodtoseehim,
tofeellikeIwasbackatcampevenforafewminutes,thatIdidntrealizehowlongI
hadtalkeduntilthebeeperwentoffonthespraymachine,andIrealizedIonlyhad
onemoreminutebeforethewatershutoff.
IwishIcouldbethere,Luketoldme.Wecanthelpmuchfromhere,Imafraid,
butlisten...ithadtobeHadeswhotookthemasterbolt.HewasthereatOlympus
atthewintersolstice.Iwaschaperoningafieldtripandwesawhim.
ButChironsaidthegodscanttakeeachothersmagicitemsdirectly.
Thats true, Luke said, looking troubled. Still . . . Hades has the helm of
darkness. How could anybody else sneak into the throne room and steal the
masterbolt?Youdhavetobeinvisible.
Wewerebothsilent,untilLukeseemedtorealizewhathedsaid.
Oh, hey, he protested. I didnt mean Annabeth. She and I have known each
otherforever.Shewouldnever...Imean,sheslikealittlesistertome.
I wondered if Annabeth would like that description. In the stall next to us, the
musicstoppedcompletely.Amanscreamedinterror,cardoorsslammed,andthe
Lincolnpeeledoutofthecarwash.
Youdbettergoseewhatthatwas,Lukesaid.Listen,areyouwearingtheflying
shoes?IllfeelbetterifIknowtheyvedoneyousomegood.
Oh . . . uh, yeah! I tried not to sound like a guilty liar. Yeah, theyve come in
handy.
Really?Hegrinned.Theyfitandeverything?
Thewatershutoff.Themiststartedtoevaporate.
Well, take care of yourself out there in Denver, Luke called, his voice getting
fainter. And tell Grover itll be better this time! Nobody will get turned into a pine
treeifhejust
Butthemistwasgone,andLukesimagefadedtonothing.Iwasaloneinawet,
emptycarwashstall.
AnnabethandGrovercamearoundthecorner,laughing,butstoppedwhenthey
saw my face. Annabeths smile faded. What happened, Percy? What did Luke
say?
Notmuch,Ilied,mystomachfeelingasemptyasaBigThreecabin.Comeon,
letsfindsomedinner.
A few minutes later, we were sitting at a booth in a gleaming chrome diner. All
aroundus,familieswereeatingburgersanddrinkingmaltsandsodas.
Finallythewaitresscameover.Sheraisedhereyebrowskeptically.Well?
Isaid,We,um,wanttoorderdinner.
Youkidshavemoneytopayforit?
Groverslowerlipquivered.Iwasafraidhewouldstartbleating,orworse,start
eatingthelinoleum.Annabethlookedreadytopassoutfromhunger.
I was trying to think up a sob story for the waitress when a rumble shook the
wholebuilding;amotorcyclethesizeofababyelephanthadpulleduptothecurb.
Allconversationinthedinerstopped.Themotorcyclesheadlightglaredred.Its
gas tank had flames painted on it, and a shotgun holster riveted to either side,
completewithshotguns.Theseatwasleatherbutleatherthatlookedlike...well,
Caucasianhumanskin.
The guy on the bike wouldve made pro wrestlers run for Mama. He was
dressedinaredmuscleshirtandblackjeansandablackleatherduster,witha
huntingknifestrappedtohisthigh.Heworeredwraparoundshades,andhehad
thecruelest,mostbrutalfaceIdeverseenhandsome,Iguess,butwickedwith
anoilyblackcrewcutandcheeksthatwerescarredfrommany,manyfights.The
weirdthingwas,IfeltlikeIdseenhisfacesomewherebefore.
Ashewalkedintothediner,ahot,drywindblewthroughtheplace.Allthepeople
rose, as if they were hypnotized, but the biker waved his hand dismissively and
theyallsatdownagain.Everybodywentbacktotheirconversations.Thewaitress
blinked, as if somebody had just pressed the rewind button on her brain. She
askedusagain,Youkidshavemoneytopayforit?
Thebikersaid,Itsonme.Heslidintoourbooth,whichwaswaytoosmallfor
him,andcrowdedAnnabethagainstthewindow.
He looked up at the waitress, who was gaping at him, and said, Are you still
here?
Hepointedather,andshestiffened.Sheturnedasifshedbeenspunaround,
thenmarchedbacktowardthekitchen.
Thebikerlookedatme.Icouldntseehiseyesbehindtheredshades,butbad
feelingsstartedboilinginmystomach.Anger,resentment,bitterness.Iwantedtohit
awall.Iwantedtopickafightwithsomebody.Whodidthisguythinkhewas?
Hegavemeawickedgrin.SoyoureoldSeaweedskid,huh?
Ishouldvebeensurprised,orscared,butinsteadIfeltlikeIwaslookingatmy
stepdad,Gabe.Iwantedtoripthisguysheadoff.Whatsittoyou?
Annabethseyesflashedmeawarning.Percy,thisis
Thebikerraisedhishand.
Sokay,hesaid.Idontmindalittleattitude.Longasyourememberwhosthe
boss.YouknowwhoIam,littlecousin?
Thenitstruckmewhythisguylookedfamiliar.Hehadthesamevicioussneer
assomeofthekidsatCampHalf-Blood,theonesfromcabinfive.
YoureClarissesdad,Isaid.Ares,godofwar.
Ares grinned and took off his shades. Where his eyes shouldve been, there
was only fire, empty sockets glowing with miniature nuclear explosions. Thats
right,punk.IheardyoubrokeClarissesspear.
Shewasaskingforit.
Probably.Thatscool.Idontfightmykidsfights,youknow?WhatImhereforI
heardyouwereintown.Igotalittlepropositionforyou.
Thewaitresscamebackwithheapingtraysoffoodcheeseburgers,fries,onion
rings,andchocolateshakes.
Areshandedherafewgolddrachmas.
Shelookednervouslyatthecoins.But,thesearent...
Ares pulled out his huge knife and started cleaning his fingernails. Problem,
sweetheart?
Thewaitressswallowed,thenleftwiththegold.
Youcantdothat,ItoldAres.Youcantjustthreatenpeoplewithaknife.
Ares laughed. Are you kidding? I love this country. Best place since Sparta.
Dontyoucarryaweapon,punk?Youshould.Dangerousworldoutthere.Which
bringsmetomyproposition.Ineedyoutodomeafavor.
WhatfavorcouldIdoforagod?
Something a god doesnt have time to do himself. Its nothing much. I left my
shieldatanabandonedwaterparkhereintown.Iwasgoingonalittle...datewith
mygirlfriend.Wewereinterrupted.Ileftmyshieldbehind.Iwantyoutofetchitfor
me.
Whydontyougobackandgetityourself?
Thefireinhiseyesocketsglowedalittlehotter.
WhydontIturnyouintoprairiedogandrunyouoverwithmyHarley?BecauseI
dont feel like it. A god is giving you an opportunity to prove yourself, Percy
Jackson.Willyouproveyourselfacoward?Heleanedforward.Ormaybeyou
onlyfightwhentheresarivertodiveinto,soyourdaddycanprotectyou.
Iwantedtopunchthisguy,butsomehow,Iknewhewaswaitingforthat.Aress
powerwascausingmyanger.HedloveitifIattacked.Ididntwanttogivehimthe
satisfaction.
Werenotinterested,Isaid.Wevealreadygotaquest.
Aress fiery eyes made me see things I didnt want to seeblood and smoke
andcorpsesonthebattlefield.Iknowallaboutyourquest,punk.Whenthatitem
wasfirststolen,Zeussenthisbestoutlookingforit:Apollo,Athena,Artemis,and
me,naturally.IfIcouldntsniffoutaweaponthatpowerful...Helickedhislips,asif
theverythoughtofthemasterboltmadehimhungry.Well...ifIcouldntfindit,you
gotnohope.Nevertheless,Imtryingtogiveyouthebenefitofthedoubt.Yourdad
and I go way back. After all, Im the one who told him my suspicions about old
CorpseBreath.
YoutoldhimHadesstolethebolt?
Sure.Framingsomebodytostartawar.Oldesttrickinthebook.Irecognizedit
immediately.Inaway,yougotmetothankforyourlittlequest.
Thanks,Igrumbled.
Hey,Imagenerousguy.Justdomylittlejob,andIllhelpyouonyourway.Ill
arrangearidewestforyouandyourfriends.
Weredoingfineonourown.
Yeah,right.Nomoney.Nowheels.Nocluewhatyoureupagainst.Helpmeout,
andmaybeIlltellyousomethingyouneedtoknow.Somethingaboutyourmom.
Mymom?
Hegrinned.Thatgotyourattention.ThewaterparkisamilewestonDelancy.
Youcantmissit.LookfortheTunnelofLoveride.
Whatinterruptedyourdate?Iasked.Somethingscareyouoff?
Aresbaredhisteeth,butIdseenhisthreateninglookbeforeonClarisse.There
wassomethingfalseaboutit,almostlikehewasnervous.
Youreluckyyoumetme,punk,andnotoneoftheotherOlympians.Theyrenot
asforgivingofrudenessasIam.Illmeetyoubackherewhenyouredone.Dont
disappointme.
AfterthatImusthavefainted,orfallenintoatrance,becausewhenIopenedmy
eyes again, Ares was gone. I mightve thought the conversation had been a
dream,butAnnabethandGroversexpressionstoldmeotherwise.
Notgood,Groversaid.Aressoughtyouout,Percy.Thisisnotgood.
Istaredoutthewindow.Themotorcyclehaddisappeared.
DidAresreallyknowsomethingaboutmymom,orwashejustplayingwithme?
Nowthathewasgone,alltheangerhaddrainedoutofme.IrealizedAresmust
love to mess with peoples emotions. That was his powercranking up the
passionssobadly,theycloudedyourabilitytothink.
Itsprobablysomekindoftrick,Isaid.ForgetAres.Letsjustgo.
Wecant,Annabethsaid.Look,IhateAresasmuchasanybody,butyoudont
ignore the gods unless you want serious bad fortune. He wasnt kidding about
turningyouintoarodent.
Ilookeddownatmycheeseburger,whichsuddenlydidntseemsoappetizing.
Whydoesheneedus?
Maybeitsaproblemthatrequiresbrains,Annabethsaid.Areshasstrength.
Thatsallhehas.Evenstrengthhastobowtowisdomsometimes.
Butthiswaterpark...heactedalmostscared.Whatwouldmakeawargodrun
awaylikethat?
AnnabethandGroverglancednervouslyateachother.
Annabethsaid,Imafraidwellhavetofindout.

Thesunwassinkingbehindthemountainsbythetimewefoundthewaterpark.
Judgingfromthesign,itoncehadbeencalledWATERLAND,butnowsomeofthe
lettersweresmashedout,soitreadWATRAD.
The main gate was padlocked and topped with barbed wire. Inside, huge dry
waterslidesandtubesandpipescurledeverywhere,leadingtoemptypools.Old
ticketsandadvertisementsflutteredaroundtheasphalt.Withnightcomingon,the
placelookedsadandcreepy.
IfAresbringshisgirlfriendhereforadate,Isaid,staringupatthebarbedwire,
Idhatetoseewhatshelookslike.
Percy,Annabethwarned.Bemorerespectful.
Why?IthoughtyouhatedAres.
Hesstillagod.Andhisgirlfriendisverytemperamental.
Youdontwanttoinsultherlooks,Groveradded.Whoisshe?Echidna?
No,Aphrodite,Groversaid,alittledreamily.
Goddessoflove.
Ithoughtshewasmarriedtosomebody,Isaid.
Hephaestus.
Whats your point? he asked. Oh. I suddenly felt the need to change the
subject.
Sohowdowegetin?
Maia!Groversshoessproutedwings.
Heflewoverthefence,didanunintendedsomersaultinmidair,thenstumbledto
a landing on the opposite side. He dusted off his jeans, as if hed planned the
wholething.Youguyscoming?
Annabeth and I had to climb the old-fashioned way, holding down the barbed
wireforeachotheraswecrawledoverthetop.
The shadows grew long as we walked through the park, checking out the
attractions.TherewasAnkleBiterIsland,HeadOverWedgie,andDude,Wheres
MySwimsuit?
Nomonsterscametogetus.Nothingmadetheslightestnoise.
We found a souvenir shop that had been left open. Merchandise still lined the
shelves:snowglobes,pencils,postcards,andracksof
Clothes,Annabethsaid.Freshclothes.
Yeah,Isaid.Butyoucantjust
Watchme.
She snatched an entire row of stuff of the racks and disappeared into the
changingroom.AfewminuteslatershecameoutinWaterlandflower-printshorts,
a big red Waterland T-shirt, and commemorative Waterland surf shoes. A
Waterland backpack was slung over her shoulder, obviously stuffed with more
goodies.
What the heck. Grover shrugged. Soon, all three of us were decked out like
walkingadvertisementsforthedefunctthemepark.
WecontinuedsearchingfortheTunnelofLove.Igotthefeelingthatthewhole
parkwasholdingitsbreath.SoAresandAphrodite,Isaid,tokeepmymindoff
thegrowingdark,theyhaveathinggoing?
Thatsoldgossip,Percy,Annabethtoldme.Threethousand-year-oldgossip.
WhataboutAphroditeshusband?
Well,youknow,shesaid.Hephaestus.Theblacksmith.Hewascrippledwhen
hewasababy,thrownoffMountOlympusbyZeus.Soheisntexactlyhandsome.
Cleverwithhishands,andall,butAphroditeisntintobrainsandtalent,youknow?
Shelikesbikers.
Whatever.
Hephaestusknows?
Ohsure,Annabethsaid.Hecaughtthemtogetheronce.Imean,literallycaught
them, in a golden net, and invited all the gods to come and laugh at them.
Hephaestusisalwaystryingtoembarrassthem.Thatswhytheymeetinout-of-the-
wayplaces,like...
Shestopped,lookingstraightahead.Likethat.
Infrontofuswasanemptypoolthatwouldvebeenawesomeforskateboarding.
Itwasatleastfiftyyardsacrossandshapedlikeabowl.
Aroundtherim,adozenbronzestatuesofCupidstoodguardwithwingsspread
and bows ready to fire. On the opposite side from us, a tunnel opened up,
probably where the water flowed into when the pool was full. The sign above it
read, THRILL RIDE O LOVE: THIS IS NOT YOUR PARENTS TUNNEL OF
LOVE!
Grovercrepttowardtheedge.Guys,look.
Maroonedatthebottomofthepoolwasapinkand-whitetwo-seaterboatwitha
canopyoverthetopandlittleheartspaintedalloverit.Intheleftseat,glintinginthe
fadinglight,wasAressshield,apolishedcircleofbronze.
Thisistooeasy,Isaid.Sowejustwalkdownthereandgetit?
AnnabethranherfingersalongthebaseofthenearestCupidstatue.
TheresaGreeklettercarvedhere,shesaid.Eta.Iwonder...
Grover,Isaid,yousmellanymonsters?
Hesniffedthewind.Nothing.
Nothinglike, in-the-Arch-and-you-didnt-smell-Echidna nothing, or really
nothing?
Groverlookedhurt.Itoldyou,thatwasunderground.
Okay,Imsorry.Itookadeepbreath.Imgoingdownthere.
Illgowithyou.Groverdidntsoundtooenthusiastic,butIgotthefeelinghewas
tryingtomakeupforwhathadhappenedinSt.Louis.
No,Itoldhim.Iwantyoutostayuptopwiththeflyingshoes.YouretheRed
Baron, a flying ace, remember? Ill be counting on you for backup, in case
somethinggoeswrong.
Groverpuffeduphischestalittle.Sure.Butwhatcouldgowrong?
Idontknow.Justafeeling.Annabeth,comewithme
Areyoukidding?ShelookedatmeasifIdjustdroppedfromthemoon.Her
cheekswerebrightred.
Whatstheproblemnow?Idemanded.
Me,gowithyoutothe...theThrillRideofLove?Howembarrassingisthat?
Whatifsomebodysawme?
Whosgoingtoseeyou?Butmyfacewasburningnow,too.Leaveittoagirlto
makeeverythingcomplicated.Fine,Itoldher.Illdoitmyself.ButwhenIstarted
down the side of the pool, she followed me, muttering about how boys always
messedthingsup.
Wereachedtheboat.Theshieldwasproppedononeseat,andnexttoitwasa
ladys silk scarf. I tried to imagine Ares and Aphrodite here, a couple of gods
meeting in a junked-out amusement-park ride. Why? Then I noticed something I
hadntseenfromuptop:mirrorsallthewayaroundtherimofthepool,facingthis
spot.Wecouldseeourselvesnomatterwhichdirectionwelooked.Thatmustbeit.
WhileAresandAphroditeweresmoochingwitheachothertheycouldlookattheir
favoritepeople:themselves.
I picked up the scarf. It shimmered pink, and the perfume was indescribable
rose,ormountainlaurel.Somethinggood.Ismiled,alittledreamy,andwasabout
to rub the scarf against my cheek when Annabeth ripped it out of my hand and
stuffeditinherpocket.Oh,noyoudont.Stayawayfromthatlovemagic.
What?
Justgettheshield,SeaweedBrain,andletsgetoutofhere.
The moment I touched the shield, I knew we were in trouble. My hand broke
through something that had been connecting it to the dashboard. A cobweb, I
thought,butthenIlookedatastrandofitonmypalmandsawitwassomekindof
metalfilament,sofineitwasalmostinvisible.Atripwire.
Wait,Annabethsaid.
Toolate.
TheresanotherGreekletteronthesideoftheboat,anotherEta.Thisisatrap.
Noise erupted all around us, of a million gears grinding, as if the whole pool
wereturningintoonegiantmachine.
Groveryelled,Guys!
Up on the rim, the Cupid statues were drawing their bows into firing position.
Before I could suggest taking cover, they shot, but not at us. They fired at each
other,acrosstherimofthepool.Silkycablestrailedfromthearrows,arcingover
thepoolandanchoringwheretheylandedtoformahugegoldenasterisk.Then
smaller metallic threads started weaving together magically between the main
strands,makinganet.
Wehavetogetout,Isaid.
Duh!Annabethsaid.
Igrabbedtheshieldandweran,butgoinguptheslopeofthepoolwasnotas
easyasgoingdown.
Comeon!Grovershouted.
Hewastryingtoholdopenasectionofthenetforus,butwhereverhetouchedit,
thegoldenthreadsstartedtowraparoundhishands.
TheCupidsheadspoppedopen.Outcamevideocameras.Spotlightsroseup
all around the pool, blinding us with illumination, and a loudspeaker voice
boomed:LivetoOlympusinoneminute...Fifty-nineseconds,fifty-eight...
Hephaestus!Annabethscreamed.Imsostupid!EtaisH.Hemadethistrap
tocatchhiswifewithAres.NowweregoingtobebroadcastlivetoOlympusand
looklikeabsolutefools!
Wedalmostmadeittotherimwhentherowofmirrorsopenedlikehatchesand
thousandsoftinymetallic...thingspouredout.
Annabethscreamed.
It was an army of wind-up creepy-crawlies: bronze-gear bodies, spindly legs,
littlepincermouths,allscuttlingtowardusinawaveofclacking,whirringmetal.
Spiders!Annabethsaid.Spspaaaah!
Id never seen her like this before. She fell backward in terror and almost got
overwhelmedbythespiderrobotsbeforeIpulledherupanddraggedherback
towardtheboat.
The things were coming out from all around the rim now, millions of them,
floodingtowardthecenterofthepool,completelysurroundingus.Itoldmyselfthey
probablywerentprogrammedtokill,justcorralusandbiteusandmakeuslook
stupid.Thenagain,thiswasatrapmeantforgods.Andwewerentgods.
AnnabethandIclimbedintotheboat.Istartedkickingawaythespidersasthey
swarmedaboard.IyelledatAnnabethtohelpme,butshewastooparalyzedtodo
muchmorethanscream.
Thirty,twenty-nine,calledtheloudspeaker.
Thespidersstartedspittingoutstrandsofmetalthread,tryingtotieusdown.The
strandswereeasyenoughtobreakatfirst,butthereweresomanyofthem,andthe
spidersjustkeptcoming.IkickedoneawayfromAnnabethsleganditspincers
tookachunkoutofmynewsurfshoe.
Groverhoveredabovethepoolinhisflyingsneakers,tryingtopullthenetloose,
butitwouldntbudge.
Think,Itoldmyself.Think.
The Tunnel of Love entrance was under the net. We could use it as an exit,
exceptthatitwasblockedbyamillionrobotspiders.
Fifteen,fourteen,theloudspeakercalled.
Water,Ithought.Wheredoestherideswatercomefrom?
Then I saw them: huge water pipes behind the mirrors, where the spiders had
come from. And up above the net, next to one of the Cupids, a glass-windowed
booththatmustbethecontrollersstation.
Grover!Iyelled.Getintothatbooth!Findtheonswitch!
But
Doit!Itwasacrazyhope,butitwasouronlychance.Thespiderswereallover
theprowoftheboatnow.Annabethwasscreamingherheadoff.Ihadtogetusout
ofthere.
Groverwasinthecontrollersboothnow,slammingawayatthebuttons.
Five,four
Groverlookedupatmehopelessly,raisinghishands.Hewaslettingmeknow
thathedpushedeverybutton,butstillnothingwashappening.
Iclosedmyeyesandthoughtaboutwaves,rushingwater,theMississippiRiver.
Ifeltafamiliartuginmygut.ItriedtoimaginethatIwasdraggingtheoceanallthe
waytoDenver.
Two,one,zero!
Water exploded out of the pipes. It roared into the pool, sweeping away the
spiders.IpulledAnnabethintotheseatnexttomeandfastenedherseatbeltjust
asthetidalwaveslammedintoourboat,overthetop,whiskingthespidersaway
and dousing us completely, but not capsizing us. The boat turned, lifted in the
flood,andspunincirclesaroundthewhirlpool.
Thewaterwasfullofshort-circuitingspiders,someofthemsmashingagainstthe
poolsconcretewallwithsuchforcetheyburst.
Spotlightsglareddownatus.TheCupid-camswererolling,livetoOlympus.
ButIcouldonlyconcentrateoncontrollingtheboat.Iwilledittoridethecurrent,to
keep away from the wall. Maybe it was my imagination, but the boat seemed to
respond. At least, it didnt break into a million pieces. We spun around one last
time, the water level now almost high enough to shred us against the metal net.
Then the boats nose turned toward the tunnel and we rocketed through into the
darkness.
Annabeth and I held tight, both of us screaming as the boat shot curls and
hugged corners and took forty-fivedegree plunges past pictures of Romeo and
JulietandabunchofotherValentinesDaystuff.
Thenwewereoutofthetunnel,thenightairwhistlingthroughourhairastheboat
barreledstraighttowardtheexit.
Iftheridehadbeeninworkingorder,wewouldvesailedoffarampbetweenthe
goldenGatesofLoveandsplasheddownsafelyintheexitpool.Buttherewasa
problem.TheGatesofLovewerechained.Twoboatsthathadbeenwashedout
ofthetunnelbeforeuswerenowpiledagainstthebarricadeonesubmerged,the
othercrackedinhalf.
Unfastenyourseatbelt,IyelledtoAnnabeth.
Areyoucrazy?
Unlessyouwanttogetsmashedtodeath.IstrappedAressshieldtomyarm.
Weregoingtohavetojumpforit.Myideawassimpleandinsane.Astheboat
struck, we would use its force like a springboard to jump the gate. Id heard of
peoplesurvivingcarcrashesthatway,gettingthrownthirtyorfortyfeetawayfrom
anaccident.Withluck,wewouldlandinthepool.
Annabethseemedtounderstand.Shegrippedmyhandasthegatesgotcloser.
Onmymark,Isaid.
No!Onmymark!
What?
Simplephysics!sheyelled.Forcetimesthetrajectoryangle
Fine!Ishouted.Onyourmark!
Shehesitated...hesitated...thenyelled,Now!
Crack!
Annabeth was right. If wed jumped when I thought we shouldve, we wouldve
crashedintothegates.Shegotusmaximumlift.
Unfortunately,thatwasalittlemorethanweneeded.Ourboatsmashedintothe
pileupandwewerethrownintotheair,straightoverthegates,overthepool,and
downtowardsolidasphalt.
Somethinggrabbedmefrombehind.
Annabethyelled,Ouch!
Grover!
Inmidair,hehadgrabbedmebytheshirt,andAnnabethbythearm,andwas
tryingtopullusoutofacrashlanding,butAnnabethandIhadallthemomentum.
Youretooheavy!Groversaid.Weregoingdown!
Wespiraledtowardtheground,Groverdoinghisbesttoslowthefall.
We smashed into a photo-board, Grovers head going straight into the hole
wheretouristswouldputtheirfaces,pretendingtobeNoo-NootheFriendlyWhale.
AnnabethandItumbledtotheground,bangedupbutalive.Aressshieldwasstill
onmyarm.
Once we caught our breath, Annabeth and I got Grover out of the photo-board
andthankedhimforsavingourlives.IlookedbackattheThrillRideofLove.The
waterwassubsiding.Ourboathadbeensmashedtopiecesagainstthegates.
A hundred yards away, at the entrance pool, the Cupids were still filming. The
statues had swiveled so that their cameras were trained straight on us, the
spotlightsinourfaces.
Showsover!Iyelled.Thankyou!Goodnight!
TheCupidsturnedbacktotheiroriginalpositions.Thelightsshutoff.Thepark
wentquietanddarkagain,exceptforthegentletrickleofwaterintotheThrillRide
ofLovesexitpool.IwonderedifOlympushadgonetoacommercialbreak,orif
ourratingshadbeenanygood.
I hated being teased. I hated being tricked. And I had plenty of experience
handlingbullieswholikedtodothatstufftome.Iheftedtheshieldonmyarmand
turnedtomyfriends.WeneedtohavealittletalkwithAres.
SIXTEEN
WE TAKE A ZEBRA TO VEGAS
Thewargodwaswaitingforusinthedinerparkinglot.
Well,well,hesaid.Youdidntgetyourselfkilled.
Youknewitwasatrap,Isaid.
Aresgavemeawickedgrin.Betthatcrippledblacksmithwassurprisedwhen
henettedacoupleofstupidkids.YoulookedgoodonTV.
Ishovedhisshieldathim.Youreajerk.
AnnabethandGrovercaughttheirbreath.
Aresgrabbedtheshieldandspunitintheairlikepizzadough.Itchangedform,
meltingintoabulletproofvest.Heslungitacrosshisback.
See that truck over there? He pointed to an eighteen-wheeler parked across
thestreetfromthediner.Thatsyourride.TakeyoustraighttoL.A.,withonestopin
Vegas.
Theeighteen-wheelerhadasignontheback,whichIcouldreadonlybecauseit
wasreverse-printedwhiteonblack,agoodcombinationfordyslexia:KINDNESS
INTERNATIONAL: HUMANE ZOO TRANSPORT. WARNING: LIVE WILD
ANIMALS.
Isaid,Yourekidding.
Aressnappedhisfingers.Thebackdoorofthetruckunlatched.Freeridewest,
punk.Stopcomplaining.Andheresalittlesomethingfordoingthejob.
Heslungabluenylonbackpackoffhishandlebarsandtossedittome.
Insidewerefreshclothesforallofus,twentybucksincash,apouchfullofgolden
drachmas,andabagofDoubleStufOreos.
Isaid,Idontwantyourlousy
Thankyou,LordAres,Groverinterrupted,givingmehisbestred-alertwarning
look.Thanksalot.
Igrittedmyteeth.Itwasprobablyadeadlyinsulttorefusesomethingfromagod,
butIdidntwantanythingthatAreshadtouched.Reluctantly,Islungthebackpack
overmyshoulder.Iknewmyangerwasbeingcausedbythewargodspresence,
butIwasstillitchingtopunchhiminthenose.HeremindedmeofeverybullyId
everfaced:NancyBobofit,Clarisse,SmellyGabe,sarcasticteacherseveryjerk
whodcalledmestupidinschoolorlaughedatmewhenIdgottenexpelled.
I looked back at the diner, which had only a couple of customers now. The
waitresswhodservedusdinnerwaswatchingnervouslyoutthewindow,likeshe
wasafraidAresmighthurtus.Shedraggedthefrycookoutfromthekitchentosee.
She said something to him. He nodded, held up a little disposable camera and
snappedapictureofus.
Great,Ithought.Wellmakethepapersagaintomorrow.
I imagined the headline: TWELVE-YEAR-OLD OUTLAW BEATS UP
DEFENSELESSBIKER.
You owe me one more thing, I told Ares, trying to keep my voice level. You
promisedmeinformationaboutmymother.
Yousureyoucanhandlethenews?Hekick-startedhismotorcycle.Shesnot
dead.
Thegroundseemedtospinbeneathme.Whatdoyoumean?
ImeanshewastakenawayfromtheMinotaurbeforeshecoulddie.Shewas
turnedintoashowerofgold,right?Thatsmetamorphosis.Notdeath.Shesbeing
kept.
Kept.Why?
You need to study war, punk. Hostages. You take somebody to control
somebodyelse.
Nobodyscontrollingme.
Helaughed.Ohyeah?Seeyouaround,kid.
I balled up my fists. Youre pretty smug, Lord Ares, for a guy who runs from
Cupidstatues.
Behindhissunglasses,fireglowed.Ifeltahotwindinmyhair.Wellmeetagain,
PercyJackson.Nexttimeyoureinafight,watchyourback.
HerevvedhisHarley,thenroaredoffdownDelancyStreet.
Annabethsaid,Thatwasnotsmart,Percy.
Idontcare.
Youdontwantagodasyourenemy.Especiallynotthatgod.
Hey,guys,Groversaid.Ihatetointerrupt,but...
Hepointedtowardthediner.Attheregister,thelasttwocustomerswerepaying
theircheck,twomeninidenticalblackcoveralls,withawhitelogoontheirbacks
thatmatchedtheoneontheKINDNESSINTERNATIONALtruck.
Ifweretakingthezooexpress,Groversaid,weneedtohurry.
Ididntlikeit,butwehadnobetteroption.Besides,IdseenenoughofDenver.
Weranacrossthestreetandclimbedinthebackofthebigrig,closingthedoors
behindus.
Thefirstthingthathitmewasthesmell.Itwasliketheworldsbiggestpanofkitty
litter.
ThetrailerwasdarkinsideuntilIuncappedAnaklusmos.Thebladecastafaint
bronzelightoveraverysadscene.Sittinginarowoffilthymetalcageswerethree
ofthemostpatheticzooanimalsIdeverbeheld:azebra,amalealbinolion,and
someweirdantelopethingIdidntknowthenamefor.
Someonehadthrownthelionasackofturnips,whichheobviouslydidntwantto
eat.ThezebraandtheantelopehadeachgottenaStyrofoamtrayofhamburger
meat.Thezebrasmanewasmattedwithchewinggum,likesomebodyhadbeen
spittingonitintheirsparetime.Theantelopehadastupidsilverbirthdayballoon
tiedtooneofhishornsthatreadOVERTHEHILL!
Apparently,nobodyhadwantedtogetcloseenoughtotheliontomesswithhim,
butthepoorthingwaspacingaroundonsoiledblankets,inaspacewaytoosmall
for him, panting from the stuffy heat of the trailer. He had flies buzzing around his
pinkeyesandhisribsshowedthroughhiswhitefur.
Thisiskindness?Groveryelled.Humanezootransport?
He probably wouldve gone right back outside to beat up the truckers with his
reed pipes, and I wouldve helped him, but just then the trucks engine roared to
life,thetrailerstartedshaking,andwewereforcedtositdownorfalldown.
We huddled in the corner on some mildewed feed sacks, trying to ignore the
smellandtheheatandtheflies.Grovertalkedtotheanimalsinaseriesofgoat
bleats, but they just stared at him sadly. Annabeth was in favor of breaking the
cagesandfreeingthemonthespot,butIpointedoutitwouldntdomuchgooduntil
thetruckstoppedmoving.Besides,Ihadafeelingwemightlookalotbettertothe
lionthanthoseturnips.
I found a water jug and refilled their bowls, then used Anaklusmos to drag the
mismatchedfoodoutoftheircages.Igavethemeattothelionandtheturnipsto
thezebraandtheantelope.
Grover calmed the antelope down, while Annabeth used her knife to cut the
balloonoffhishorn.Shewantedtocutthegumoutofthezebrasmane,too,butwe
decidedthatwouldbetooriskywiththetruckbumpingaround.WetoldGroverto
promise the animals wed help them more in the morning, then we settled in for
night.
Grover curled up on a turnip sack; Annabeth opened our bag of Double Stuf
Oreosandnibbledononehalfheartedly;Itriedtocheermyselfupbyconcentrating
onthefactthatwewerehalfwaytoLosAngeles.Halfwaytoourdestination.Itwas
onlyJunefourteenth.Thesolsticewasntuntilthetwenty-first.Wecouldmakeitin
plentyoftime.
Ontheotherhand,Ihadnoideawhattoexpectnext.Thegodskepttoyingwith
me. At least Hephaestus had the decency to be honest about ithed put up
camerasandadvertisedmeasentertainment.Butevenwhenthecameraswerent
rolling,Ihadafeelingmyquestwasbeingwatched.Iwasasourceofamusement
forthegods.
Hey,Annabethsaid,Imsorryforfreakingoutbackatthewaterpark,Percy.
Thatsokay.
Itsjust...Sheshuddered.Spiders.
Because of the Arachne story, I guessed. She got turned into a spider for
challengingyourmomtoaweavingcontest,right?
Annabeth nodded. Arachnes children have been taking revenge on the
childrenofAthenaeversince.Iftheresaspiderwithinamileofme,itllfindme.I
hatethecreepylittlethings.Anyway,Ioweyou.
Wereateam,remember?Isaid.Besides,Groverdidthefancyflying.
Ithoughthewasasleep,buthemumbledfromthecorner,Iwasprettyamazing,
wasntI?
AnnabethandIlaughed.
She pulled apart an Oreo, handed me half. In the Iris message . . . did Luke
reallysaynothing?
I munched my cookie and thought about how to answer. The conversation via
rainbow had bothered me all evening. Luke said you and he go way back. He
alsosaidGroverwouldntfailthistime.Nobodywouldturnintoapinetree.
Inthedimbronzelightoftheswordblade,itwashardtoreadtheirexpressions.
Groverletoutamournfulbray.
Ishouldvetoldyouthetruthfromthebeginning.Hisvoicetrembled.Ithoughtif
youknewwhatafailureIwas,youwouldntwantmealong.
YouwerethesatyrwhotriedtorescueThalia,thedaughterofZeus.
Henoddedglumly.
And the other two half-bloods Thalia befriended, the ones who got safely to
camp...IlookedatAnnabeth.ThatwasyouandLuke,wasntit?
SheputdownherOreo,uneaten.Likeyousaid,Percy,aseven-year-oldhalf-
bloodwouldnthavemadeitveryfaralone.Athenaguidedmetowardhelp.Thalia
was twelve. Luke was fourteen. Theyd both run away from home, like me. They
werehappytotakemewiththem.Theywere...amazingmonster-fighters,even
withouttraining.WetravelednorthfromVirginiawithoutanyrealplans,fendingoff
monstersforabouttwoweeksbeforeGroverfoundus.
IwassupposedtoescortThaliatocamp,hesaid,sniffling.OnlyThalia.Ihad
strict orders from Chiron: dont do anything that would slow down the rescue. We
knew Hades was after her, see, but I couldnt just leave Luke and Annabeth by
themselves.Ithought...IthoughtIcouldleadallthreeofthemtosafety.Itwasmy
fault the Kindly Ones caught up with us. I froze. I got scared on the way back to
campandtooksomewrongturns.IfIdjustbeenalittlequicker...
Stopit,Annabethsaid.Nooneblamesyou.Thaliadidntblameyoueither.
Shesacrificedherselftosaveus,hesaidmiserably.Herdeathwasmyfault.
TheCouncilofClovenElderssaidso.
Because you wouldnt leave two other half-bloods behind? I said. Thats not
fair.
Percys right, Annabeth said. I wouldnt be here today if it werent for you,
Grover.NeitherwouldLuke.Wedontcarewhatthecouncilsays.
Groverkeptsnifflinginthedark.Itsjustmyluck.Imthelamestsatyrever,andI
findthetwomostpowerfulhalf-bloodsofthecentury,ThaliaandPercy.
Yourenotlame,Annabethinsisted.Youvegotmorecouragethananysatyr
Iveevermet.NameoneotherwhowoulddaregototheUnderworld.IbetPercyis
reallygladyourehererightnow.
Shekickedmeintheshin.
Yeah,Isaid,whichIwouldvedoneevenwithoutthekick.Itsnotluckthatyou
found Thalia and me, Grover. Youve got the biggest heart of any satyr ever.
Youreanaturalsearcher.ThatswhyyoullbetheonewhofindsPan.
I heard a deep, satisfied sigh. I waited for Grover to say something, but his
breathingonlygotheavier.Whenthesoundturnedtosnoring,Irealizedhedfallen
sleep.
Howdoeshedothat?Imarveled.
Idontknow,Annabethsaid.Butthatwasreallyanicethingyoutoldhim.
Imeantit.
We rode in silence for a few miles, bumping around on the feed sacks. The
zebramunchedaturnip.Thelionlickedthelastofthehamburgermeatoffhislips
andlookedatmehopefully.
Annabethrubbedhernecklacelikeshewasthinkingdeep,strategicthoughts.
Thatpine-treebead,Isaid.Isthatfromyourfirstyear?
Shelooked.Shehadntrealizedwhatshewasdoing.
Yeah,shesaid.EveryAugust,thecounselorspickthemostimportanteventof
the summer, and they paint it on that years beads. Ive got Thalias pine tree, a
Greektriremeonfire,acentaurinapromdressnowthatwasaweirdsummer....
Andthecollegeringisyourfathers?
ThatsnoneofyourShestoppedherself.Yeah.Yeah,itis.
Youdonthavetotellme.
No...itsokay.Shetookashakybreath.Mydadsentittomefoldedupina
letter,twosummersago.Theringwas,like,hismainkeepsakefromAthena.He
wouldnt have gotten through his doctoral program at Harvard without her. . . .
Thatsalongstory.Anyway,hesaidhewantedmetohaveit.Heapologizedfor
beingajerk,saidhelovedmeandmissedme.Hewantedmetocomehomeand
livewithhim.
Thatdoesntsoundsobad.
Yeah,well...theproblemwas,Ibelievedhim.Itriedtogohomeforthatschool
year, but my stepmom was the same as ever. She didnt want her kids put in
dangerbylivingwithafreak.Monstersattacked.Weargued.Monstersattacked.
Weargued.Ididntevenmakeitthroughwinterbreak.IcalledChironandcame
rightbacktoCampHalf-Blood.
Youthinkyoullevertrylivingwithyourdadagain?
Shewouldntmeetmyeyes.Please.Imnotintoself-inflictedpain.
Youshouldntgiveup,Itoldher.Youshouldwritehimaletterorsomething.
Thanksfortheadvice,shesaidcoldly,butmyfathersmadehischoiceabout
whohewantstolivewith.
Wepassedanotherfewmilesofsilence.
Soifthegodsfight,Isaid,willthingslineupthewaytheydidwiththeTrojan
War?WillitbeAthenaversusPoseidon?
She put her head against the backpack Ares had given us, and closed her
eyes.Idontknowwhatmymomwilldo.IjustknowIllfightnexttoyou.
Why?
Becauseyouremyfriend,SeaweedBrain.Anymorestupidquestions?
Icouldntthinkofananswerforthat.FortunatelyIdidnthaveto.Annabethwas
asleep.
I had trouble following her example, with Grover snoring and an albino lion
staringhungrilyatme,buteventuallyIclosedmyeyes.
***
MynightmarestartedoutassomethingIddreamedamilliontimesbefore:Iwas
beingforcedtotakeastandardizedtestwhilewearingastraitjacket.Alltheother
kids were going out to recess, and the teacher kept saying,Come on, Percy.
Yourenotstupid,areyou?Pickupyourpencil.
Thenthedreamstrayedfromtheusual.
I looked over at the next desk and saw a girl sitting there, also wearing a
straitjacket. She was my age, with unruly black, punk-style hair, dark eyeliner
around her stormy green eyes, and freckles across her nose. Somehow, I knew
whoshewas.ShewasThalia,daughterofZeus.
Shestruggledagainstthestraitjacket,glaredatmeinfrustration,andsnapped,
Well,SeaweedBrain?Oneofushastogetoutofhere.
Shes right, my dream-self thought. Im going back to that cavern. Im going to
giveHadesapieceofmymind.
The straitjacket melted off me. I fell through the classroom floor. The teachers
voicechangeduntilitwascoldandevil,echoingfromthedepthsofagreatchasm.
PercyJackson,itsaid.Yes,theexchangewentwell,Isee.
Iwasbackinthedarkcavern,spiritsofthedeaddriftingaroundme.Unseenin
the pit, the monstrous thing was speaking, but this time it wasnt addressing me.
Thenumbingpowerofitsvoiceseemeddirectedsomewhereelse.
Andhesuspectsnothing?itasked.
Anothervoice,oneIalmostrecognized,answeredatmyshoulder.Nothing,my
lord.Heisasignorantastherest.
Ilookedover,butnoonewasthere.Thespeakerwasinvisible.
Deceptionupondeception,thethinginthepitmusedaloud.Excellent.
Truly,mylord,saidthevoicenexttome,youarewell-namedtheCrookedOne.
Butwasitreallynecessary?IcouldhavebroughtyouwhatIstoledirectly
You?themonstersaidinscorn.Youhavealreadyshownyourlimits.Youwould
havefailedmecompletelyhadInotintervened.
But,mylord
Peace, little servant. Our six months have bought us much. Zeuss anger has
grown.Poseidonhasplayedhismostdesperatecard.Nowweshalluseitagainst
him. Shortly you shall have the reward you wish, and your revenge. As soon as
bothitemsaredeliveredintomyhands...butwait.Heishere.
What?Theinvisibleservantsuddenlysoundedtense.Yousummonedhim,my
lord?
No.Thefullforceofthemonstersattentionwasnowpouringoverme,freezing
meinplace.Blasthisfathersbloodheistoochangeable,toounpredictable.The
boybroughthimselfhither.
Impossible!theservantcried.
For a weakling such as you, perhaps, the voice snarled. Then its cold power
turned back on me.So . . . you wish to dream of your quest, young half-blood?
ThenIwilloblige.
Thescenechanged.
Iwasstandinginavastthroneroomwithblackmarblewallsandbronzefloors.
Theempty,horridthronewasmadefromhumanbonesfusedtogether.Standingat
the foot of the dais was my mother, frozen in shimmering golden light, her arms
outstretched.
Itriedtosteptowardher,butmylegswouldntmove.Ireachedforher,onlyto
realizethatmyhandswerewitheringtobones.GrinningskeletonsinGreekarmor
crowded around me, draping me with silk robes, wreathing my head with laurels
thatsmokedwithChimerapoison,burningintomyscalp.
Theevilvoicebegantolaugh.Hail,theconqueringhero!
Iwokewithastart.
Grover was shaking my shoulder. The trucks stopped, he said. We think
theyrecomingtocheckontheanimals.
Hide!Annabethhissed.
Shehaditeasy.Shejustputonhermagiccapanddisappeared.GroverandI
hadtodivebehindfeedsacksandhopewelookedliketurnips.
Thetrailerdoorscreakedopen.Sunlightandheatpouredin.
Man!oneofthetruckerssaid,wavinghishandinfrontofhisuglynose.IwishI
hauledappliances.Heclimbedinsideandpouredsomewaterfromajugintothe
animalsdishes.
Youhot,bigboy?heaskedthelion,thensplashedtherestofthebucketrightin
thelionsface.
Thelionroaredinindignation.
Yeah,yeah,yeah,themansaid.
Nexttome,undertheturnipsacks,Grovertensed.Forapeace-lovingherbivore,
helookeddownrightmurderous.
The trucker threw the antelope a squashed-looking Happy Meal bag. He
smirkedatthezebra.Howyadoin,Stripes?Leastwellbegettingridofyou this
stop.Youlikemagicshows?Youregonnalovethisone.Theyregonnasawyou
inhalf!
Thezebra,wild-eyedwithfear,lookedstraightatme.
Therewasnosound,butasclearasday,Ihearditsay:Freeme,lord.Please.
Iwastoostunnedtoreact.
Therewasaloudknock,knock,knockonthesideofthetrailer.
Thetruckerinsidewithusyelled,Whatdoyouwant,Eddie?
A voice outsideit mustve been Eddiesshouted back, Maurice? Whatd ya
say?
Whatareyoubangingfor?
Knock,knock,knock.
Outside,Eddieyelled,Whatbanging?
Our guy Maurice rolled his eyes and went back outside, cursing at Eddie for
beinganidiot.
Asecondlater,Annabethappearednexttome.Shemustvedonethebanging
togetMauriceoutofthetrailer.Shesaid,Thistransportbusinesscantbelegal.
Nokidding,Groversaid.Hepaused,asiflistening.Thelionsaystheseguys
areanimalsmugglers!
Thatsright,thezebrasvoicesaidinmymind.
Weve got to free them! Grover said. He and Annabeth both looked at me,
waitingformylead.
Id heard the zebra talk, but not the lion. Why? Maybe it was another learning
disability . . . I could only understand zebras? Then I thought: horses. What had
AnnabethsaidaboutPoseidoncreatinghorses?Wasazebracloseenoughtoa
horse?WasthatwhyIcouldunderstandit?
Thezebrasaid,Openmycage,lord.Please.Illbefineafterthat.
Outside,EddieandMauricewerestillyellingateachother,butIknewtheydbe
coming inside to torment the animals again any minute. I grabbed Riptide and
slashedthelockoffthezebrascage.
Thezebraburstout.Itturnedtomeandbowed.Thankyou,lord.
Grover held up his hands and said something to the zebra in goat talk, like a
blessing.
Just as Maurice was poking his head back inside to check out the noise, the
zebraleapedoverhimandintothestreet.Therewasyellingandscreamingand
cars honking. We rushed to the doors of the trailer in time to see the zebra
galloping down a wide boulevard lined with hotels and casinos and neon signs.
WedjustreleasedazebrainLasVegas.
MauriceandEddieranafterit,withafewpolicemenrunningafterthem,shouting,
Hey!Youneedapermitforthat!
Nowwouldbeagoodtimetoleave,Annabethsaid.
Theotheranimalsfirst,Groversaid.
Icutthelockswithmysword.Groverraisedhishandsandspokethesamegoat-
blessinghedusedforthezebra.
Goodluck,Itoldtheanimals.Theantelopeandthelionburstoutoftheircages
andwentofftogetherintothestreets.
Some tourists screamed. Most just backed off and took pictures, probably
thinkingitwassomekindofstuntbyoneofthecasinos.
Willtheanimalsbeokay?IaskedGrover.Imean,thedesertandall
Dontworry,hesaid.Iplacedasatyrssanctuaryonthem.
Meaning?
Meaningtheyllreachthewildsafely,hesaid.Theyllfindwater,food,shade,
whatevertheyneeduntiltheyfindasafeplacetolive.
Whycantyouplaceablessinglikethatonus?Iasked.
Itonlyworksonwildanimals.
SoitwouldonlyaffectPercy,Annabethreasoned.
Hey!Iprotested.
Kidding,shesaid.Comeon.Letsgetoutofthisfilthytruck.
We stumbled out into the desert afternoon. It was a hundred and ten degrees,
easy, and we mustve looked like deep-fried vagrants, but everybody was too
interestedinthewildanimalstopayusmuchattention.
WepassedtheMonteCarloandtheMGM.Wepassedpyramids,apirateship,
and the Statue of Liberty, which was a pretty small replica, but still made me
homesick.
Iwasntsurewhatwewerelookingfor.Maybejustaplacetogetoutoftheheat
forafewminutes,findasandwichandaglassoflemonade,makeanewplanfor
gettingwest.
Wemusthavetakenawrongturn,becausewefoundourselvesatadeadend,
standing in front of the Lotus Hotel and Casino. The entrance was a huge neon
flower, the petals lighting up and blinking. No one was going in or out, but the
glittering chrome doors were open, spilling out air-conditioning that smelled like
flowerslotusblossom,maybe.Idneversmelledone,soIwasntsure.
Thedoormansmiledatus.Hey,kids.Youlooktired.Youwanttocomeinand
sitdown?
Idlearnedtobesuspicious,thelastweekorso.Ifiguredanybodymightbea
monsteroragod.Youjustcouldnttell.Butthisguywasnormal.Onelookathim,
and I could see. Besides, I was so relieved to hear somebody who sounded
sympatheticthatInoddedandsaidwedlovetocomein.Inside,wetookonelook
around,andGroversaid,Whoa.
Thewholelobbywasagiantgameroom.AndImnottalkingaboutcheesyold
Pac-Man games or slot machines. There was an indoor waterslide snaking
aroundtheglasselevator,whichwentstraightupatleastfortyfloors.Therewasa
climbing wall on the side of one building, and an indoor bungee-jumping bridge.
There were virtual-reality suits with working laser guns. And hundreds of video
games,eachonethesizeofawidescreenTV.Basically,younameit,thisplace
hadit.Therewereafewotherkidsplaying,butnotthatmany.Nowaitingforanyof
thegames.Therewerewaitressesandsnackbarsallaround,servingeverykind
offoodyoucanimagine.
Hey!abellhopsaid.AtleastIguessedhewasabellhop.Heworeawhite-and-
yellow Hawaiian shirt with lotus designs, shorts, and flip-flops. Welcome to the
LotusCasino.Heresyourroomkey.
Istammered,Um,but...
No,no,hesaid,laughing.Thebillstakencareof.Noextracharges,notips.
Justgoonuptothetopfloor,room4001.Ifyouneedanything,likeextrabubbles
forthehottub,orskeettargetsfortheshootingrange,orwhatever,justcallthefront
desk.HereareyourLotusCashcards.Theyworkintherestaurantsandonallthe
gamesandrides.
Hehandeduseachagreenplasticcreditcard.
I knew there must be some mistake. Obviously he thought we were some
millionaireskids.ButItookthecardandsaid,Howmuchisonhere?
Hiseyebrowsknittogether.Whatdoyoumean?
Imean,whendoesitrunoutofcash?
Helaughed.Oh,youremakingajoke.Hey,thatscool.Enjoyyourstay.
Wetooktheelevatorupstairsandcheckedoutourroom.Itwasasuitewiththree
separatebedroomsandabarstockedwithcandy,sodas,andchips.Ahotlineto
room service. Fluffy towels and water beds with feather pillows. A big-screen
televisionwithsatelliteandhigh-speedInternet.Thebalconyhaditsownhottub,
and sure enough, there was a skeet-shooting machine and a shotgun, so you
couldlaunchclaypigeonsrightoutovertheLasVegasskylineandplugthemwith
yourgun.Ididntseehowthatcouldbelegal,butIthoughtitwasprettycool.The
viewovertheStripandthedesertwasamazing,thoughIdoubtedwedeverfind
timetolookattheviewwitharoomlikethis.
Oh,goodness,Annabethsaid.Thisplaceis...
Sweet,Groversaid.Absolutelysweet.
Therewereclothesinthecloset,andtheyfitme.Ifrowned,thinkingthatthiswas
alittlestrange.
IthrewAressbackpackinthetrashcan.Wouldntneedthatanymore.Whenwe
left,Icouldjustchargeanewoneatthehotelstore.
I took a shower, which felt awesome after a week of grimy travel. I changed
clothes,ateabagofchips,drankthreeCokes,andcameoutfeelingbetterthanI
hadinalongtime.Inthebackofmymind,somesmallproblemkeptnaggingme.
Idhadadreamorsomething...Ineededtotalktomyfriends.ButIwassureit
couldwait.
I came out of the bedroom and found that Annabeth and Grover had also
showered and changed clothes. Grover was eating potato chips to his hearts
content,whileAnnabethcrankeduptheNationalGeographicChannel.
All those stations, I told her, and you turn on National Geographic. Are you
insane?
Itsinteresting.
Ifeelgood,Groversaid.Ilovethisplace.
Withouthisevenrealizingit,thewingssproutedoutofhisshoesandliftedhima
footofftheground,thenbackdownagain.
Sowhatnow?Annabethasked.Sleep?
Grover and I looked at each other and grinned. We both held up our green
plasticLotusCashcards.
Playtime,Isaid.
IcouldntrememberthelasttimeIhadsomuchfun.Icamefromarelativelypoor
family.OurideaofasplurgewaseatingoutatBurgerKingandrentingavideo.A
five-starVegashotel?Forgetit.
Ibungee-jumpedthelobbyfiveorsixtimes,didthewaterslide,snowboardedthe
artificialskislope,andplayedvirtual-realitylasertagandFBIsharpshooter.Isaw
Groverafewtimes,goingfromgametogame.Hereallylikedthereversehunter
thingwherethedeergooutandshoottherednecks.IsawAnnabethplayingtrivia
gamesandotherbrainiacstuff.Theyhadthishuge3-Dsimgamewhereyoubuild
your own city, and you could actually see the holographic buildings rise on the
displayboard.Ididntthinkmuchofit,butAnnabethlovedit.
ImnotsurewhenIfirstrealizedsomethingwaswrong.
Probably,itwaswhenInoticedtheguystandingnexttomeatVRsharpshooters.
Hewasaboutthirteen,Iguess,buthisclotheswereweird.Ithoughthewassome
Elvisimpersonatorsson.Heworebell-bottomjeansandaredT-shirtwithblack
piping, and his hair was permed and gelled like a New Jersey girls on
homecomingnight.
Weplayedagameofsharpshooterstogetherandhesaid,Groovy,man.Been
heretwoweeks,andthegameskeepgettingbetterandbetter.
Groovy?
Later,whileweweretalking,Isaidsomethingwassick,andhelookedatme
kindofstartled,asifhedneverheardthewordusedthatwaybefore.
HesaidhisnamewasDarrin,butassoonasIstartedaskinghimquestionshe
gotboredwithmeandstartedtogobacktothecomputerscreen.
Isaid,Hey,Darrin?
What?
Whatyearisit?
Hefrownedatme.Inthegame?
No.Inreallife.
Hehadtothinkaboutit.1977.
No,Isaid,gettingalittlescared.Really.
Hey,man.Badvibes.Igotagamehappening.
Afterthathetotallyignoredme.
Istartedtalkingtopeople,andIfounditwasnteasy.TheyweregluedtotheTV
screen,orthevideogame,ortheirfood,orwhatever.Ifoundaguywhotoldmeit
was1985.Anotherguytoldmeitwas1993.Theyallclaimedtheyhadntbeenin
hereverylong,afewdays,afewweeksatmost.Theydidntreallyknowandthey
didntcare.
Thenitoccurredtome:howlonghadIbeenhere?Itseemedlikeonlyacouple
ofhours,butwasit?
Itriedtorememberwhywewerehere.WeweregoingtoLosAngeles.Wewere
supposedtofindtheentrancetotheUnderworld.Mymother...forascarysecond,
Ihadtroublerememberinghername.Sally.SallyJackson.Ihadtofindher.Ihadto
stopHadesfromcausingWorldWarIII.
IfoundAnnabethstillbuildinghercity.
Comeon,Itoldher.Wevegottogetoutofhere.
Noresponse.
Ishookher.Annabeth?
Shelookedup,annoyed.What?
Weneedtoleave.
Leave?Whatareyoutalkingabout?Ivejustgotthetowers
Thisplaceisatrap.
ShedidntresponduntilIshookheragain.What?
Listen.TheUnderworld.Ourquest!
Oh,comeon,Percy.Justafewmoreminutes.
Annabeth, there are people here from 1977. Kids who have never aged. You
checkin,andyoustayforever.
So?sheasked.Canyouimagineabetterplace?
Igrabbedherwristandyankedherawayfromthegame.
Hey!Shescreamedandhitme,butnobodyelseevenbotheredlookingatus.
Theyweretoobusy.
Imadeherlookdirectlyinmyeyes.Isaid,Spiders.Large,hairyspiders.
Thatjarredher.Hervisioncleared.Ohmygods,shesaid.Howlonghavewe

Idontknow,butwevegottofindGrover.
Wewentsearching,andfoundhimstillplayingVirtualDeerHunter.
Grover!webothshouted.
Hesaid,Die,human!Die,sillypollutingnastyperson!
Grover!
He turned the plastic gun on me and started clicking, as if I were just another
imagefromthescreen.
I looked at Annabeth, and together we took Grover by the arms and dragged
himaway.Hisflyingshoessprangtolifeandstartedtugginghislegsintheother
directionasheshouted,No!Ijustgottoanewlevel!No!
TheLotusbellhophurrieduptous.Well,now,areyoureadyforyourplatinum
cards?
Wereleaving,Itoldhim.
Suchashame,hesaid,andIgotthefeelingthathereallymeantit,thatwedbe
breakinghisheartifwewent.Wejustaddedanentirenewfloorfullofgamesfor
platinum-cardmembers.
Heheldoutthecards,andIwantedone.IknewthatifItookone,Idneverleave.
Idstayhere,happyforever,playinggamesforever,andsoonIdforgetmymom,
andmyquest,andmaybeevenmyownname.Idbeplayingvirtualriflemanwith
groovyDiscoDarrinforever.
Groverreachedforthecard,butAnnabethyankedbackhisarmandsaid,No,
thanks.
Wewalkedtowardthedoor,andaswedid,thesmellofthefoodandthesounds
of the games seemed to get more and more inviting. I thought about our room
upstairs.Wecouldjuststaythenight,sleepinarealbedforonce....
ThenweburstthroughthedoorsoftheLotusCasinoandrandownthesidewalk.
It felt like afternoon, about the same time of day wed gone into the casino, but
somethingwaswrong.Theweatherhadcompletelychanged.Itwasstormy,with
heatlightningflashingoutinthedesert.
Aress backpack was slung over my shoulder, which was odd, because I was
sure I had thrown it in the trash can in room 4001, but at the moment I had other
problemstoworryabout.
Irantothenearestnewspaperstandandreadtheyearfirst.Thankthegods,it
was the same year it had been when we went in. Then I noticed the date: June
twentieth.
WehadbeenintheLotusCasinoforfivedays.
We had only one day left until the summer solstice. One day to complete our
quest.
SEVENTEEN
WE SHOP FOR WATER BEDS
ItwasAnnabethsidea.
SheloadedusintothebackofaVegastaxiasifweactuallyhadmoney,and
toldthedriver,LosAngeles,please.
Thecabbiechewedhiscigarandsizedusup.Thatsthreehundredmiles.For
that,yougottapayupfront.
Youacceptcasinodebitcards?Annabethasked.
He shrugged. Some of em. Same as credit cards. I gotta swipe em through
first.
AnnabethhandedhimhergreenLotusCashcard.
Helookedatitskeptically.
Swipeit,Annabethinvited.
Hedid.
Hismetermachinestartedrattling.Thelightsflashed.Finallyaninfinitysymbol
cameupnexttothedollarsign.
The cigar fell out of the drivers mouth. He looked back at us, his eyes wide.
WheretoinLosAngeles...uh,YourHighness?
TheSantaMonicaPier.Annabethsatupalittlestraighter.Icouldtellsheliked
theYourHighnessthing.Getustherefast,andyoucankeepthechange.
Maybesheshouldnthavetoldhimthat.
Thecabsspeedometerneverdippedbelowninety-fivethewholewaythrough
theMojaveDesert.
Ontheroad,wehadplentyoftimetotalk.ItoldAnnabethandGroveraboutmy
latestdream,butthedetailsgotsketchierthemoreItriedtorememberthem.The
LotusCasinoseemedtohaveshort-circuitedmymemory.Icouldntrecallwhatthe
invisibleservantsvoicehadsoundedlike,thoughIwassureitwassomebodyI
knew.Theservanthadcalledthemonsterinthepitsomethingotherthanmylord.
..somespecialnameortitle....
The Silent One? Annabeth suggested. The Rich One? Both of those are
nicknamesforHades.
Maybe...Isaid,thoughneithersoundedquiteright.
ThatthroneroomsoundslikeHadess,Groversaid.Thatsthewayitsusually
described.
Ishookmyhead.Somethingswrong.Thethroneroomwasntthemainpartof
thedream.Andthatvoicefromthepit...Idontknow.Itjustdidntfeellikeagods
voice.
Annabethseyeswidened.
What?Iasked.
Oh...nothing.IwasjustNo,ithastobeHades.Maybehesentthisthief,this
invisibleperson,togetthemasterbolt,andsomethingwentwrong
Likewhat?
IIdontknow,shesaid.ButifhestoleZeusssymbolofpowerfromOlympus,
andthegodswerehuntinghim,Imean,alotofthingscouldgowrong.Sothisthief
hadtohidethebolt,orhelostitsomehow.Anyway,hefailedtobringittoHades.
Thatswhatthevoicesaidinyourdream,right?Theguyfailed.Thatwouldexplain
whattheFuriesweresearchingforwhentheycameafterusonthebus.Maybethey
thoughtwehadretrievedthebolt.
Iwasntsurewhatwaswrongwithher.Shelookedpale.
But if Id already retrieved the bolt, I said, why would I be traveling to the
Underworld?
TothreatenHades,Groversuggested.Tobribeorblackmailhimintogetting
yourmomback.
Iwhistled.Youhaveevilthoughtsforagoat.
Why,thankyou.
Butthethinginthepitsaiditwaswaitingfortwoitems,Isaid.Ifthemasterboltis
one,whatstheother?
Grovershookhishead,clearlymystified.
Annabethwaslookingatmeasifsheknewmynextquestion,andwassilently
willingmenottoaskit.
Youhaveanideawhatmightbeinthatpit,dontyou?Iaskedher.Imean,ifit
isntHades?
Percy . . . lets not talk about it. Because if it isnt Hades . . . No. It has to be
Hades.
Wastelandrolledby.WepassedasignthatsaidCALIFORNIASTATELINE,12
MILES.
IgotthefeelingIwasmissingonesimple,criticalpieceofinformation.Itwaslike
when I stared at a common word I should know, but I couldnt make sense of it
because one or two letters were floating around. The more I thought about my
quest, the more I was sure that confronting Hades wasnt the real answer. There
wassomethingelsegoingon,somethingevenmoredangerous.
Theproblemwas:wewerehurtlingtowardtheUnderworldatninety-fivemilesan
hour,bettingthatHadeshadthemasterbolt.Ifwegotthereandfoundoutwewere
wrong, we wouldnt have time to correct ourselves. The solstice deadline would
passandwarwouldbegin.
TheanswerisintheUnderworld,Annabethassuredme.Yousawspiritsofthe
dead,Percy.Theresonlyoneplacethatcouldbe.Weredoingtherightthing.
Shetriedtoboostourmoralebysuggestingcleverstrategiesforgettingintothe
Land of the Dead, but my heart wasnt in it. There were just too many unknown
factors.Itwaslikecrammingforatestwithoutknowingthesubject.Andbelieveme,
Iddonethatenoughtimes.
The cab sped west. Every gust of wind through Death Valley sounded like a
spirit of the dead. Every time the brakes hissed on an eighteen-wheeler, it
remindedmeofEchidnasreptilianvoice.
Atsunset,thetaxidroppedusatthebeachinSantaMonica.Itlookedexactlythe
way L.A. beaches do in the movies, only it smelled worse. There were carnival
ridesliningthePier,palmtreesliningthesidewalks,homelessguyssleepinginthe
sanddunes,andsurferdudeswaitingfortheperfectwave.
Grover,Annabeth,andIwalkeddowntotheedgeofthesurf.
Whatnow?Annabethasked.
The Pacific was turning gold in the setting sun. I thought about how long it had
beensinceIdstoodonthebeachatMontauk,ontheoppositesideofthecountry,
lookingoutatadifferentsea.
How could there be a god who could control all that? What did my science
teacherusedtosaytwo-thirdsoftheearthssurfacewascoveredinwater?How
couldIbethesonofsomeonethatpowerful?
Isteppedintothesurf.
Percy?Annabethsaid.Whatareyoudoing?
Ikeptwalking,uptomywaist,thenmychest.
Shecalledafterme,Youknowhowpollutedthatwateris?Therereallkindsof
toxic
Thatswhenmyheadwentunder.
Iheldmybreathatfirst.Itsdifficulttointentionallyinhalewater.FinallyIcouldnt
standitanymore.Igasped.Sureenough,Icouldbreathenormally.
I walked down into the shoals. I shouldnt have been able to see through the
murk, but somehow I could tell where everything was. I could sense the rolling
textureofthebottom.Icouldmakeoutsand-dollarcoloniesdottingthesandbars.I
couldevenseethecurrents,warmandcoldstreamsswirlingtogether.
I felt something rub against my leg. I looked down and almost shot out of the
water like a ballistic missile. Sliding along beside me was a five-foot-long mako
shark.
Butthethingwasntattacking.Itwasnuzzlingme.Heelinglikeadog.Tentatively,
Itoucheditsdorsalfin.Itbuckedalittle,asifinvitingmetoholdtighter.Igrabbed
thefinwithbothhands.Ittookoff,pullingmealong.Thesharkcarriedmedowninto
the darkness. It deposited me at the edge of the ocean proper, where the sand
bankdroppedoffintoahugechasm.ItwaslikestandingontherimoftheGrand
Canyon at midnight, not being able to see much, but knowing the void was right
there.
The surface shimmered maybe a hundred and fifty feet above. I knew I
shouldvebeencrushedbythepressure.Thenagain,Ishouldnthavebeenable
to breathe. I wondered if there was a limit to how deep I could go, if I could sink
straighttothebottomofthePacific.
Then I saw something glimmering in the darkness below, growing bigger and
brighter as it rose toward me. A womans voice, like my mothers, called: Percy
Jackson.
As she got closer, her shape became clearer. She had flowing black hair, a
dress made of green silk. Light flickered around her, and her eyes were so
distractinglybeautifulIhardlynoticedthestallion-sizedseahorseshewasriding.
She dismounted. The sea horse and the mako shark whisked off and started
playingsomethingthatlookedliketag.Theunderwaterladysmiledatme.Youve
comefar,PercyJackson.Welldone.
Iwasntquitesurewhattodo,soIbowed.Yourethewomanwhospoketomein
theMississippiRiver.
Yes, child. I am a Nereid, a spirit of the sea. It was not easy to appear so far
upriver,butthenaiads,myfreshwatercousins,helpedsustainmylifeforce.They
honorLordPoseidon,thoughtheydonotserveinhiscourt.
And...youserveinPoseidonscourt?
Shenodded.IthasbeenmanyyearssinceachildoftheSeaGodhasbeen
born.Wehavewatchedyouwithgreatinterest.
Suddenly I remembered faces in the waves off Montauk Beach when I was a
littleboy,reflectionsofsmilingwomen.Likesomanyoftheweirdthingsinmylife,
Idnevergivenitmuchthoughtbefore.
If my father is so interested in me, I said, why isnt he here? Why doesnt he
speaktome?
Acoldcurrentroseoutofthedepths.
DonotjudgetheLordoftheSeatooharshly,theNereidtoldme.Hestandsat
the brink of an unwanted war. He has much to occupy his time. Besides, he is
forbiddentohelpyoudirectly.Thegodsmaynotshowsuchfavoritism.
Eventotheirownchildren?
Especiallytothem.Thegodscanworkbyindirectinfluenceonly.ThatiswhyI
giveyouawarning,andagift.
Sheheldoutherhand.Threewhitepearlsflashedinherpalm.
IknowyoujourneytoHadessrealm,shesaid.Fewmortalshaveeverdone
this and survived: Orpheus, who had great music skill; Hercules, who had great
strength; Houdini, who could escape even the depths of Tartarus. Do you have
thesetalents?
Um...no,maam.
Ah,butyouhavesomethingelse,Percy.Youhavegiftsyouhaveonlybegunto
know. The oracles have foretold a great and terrible future for you, should you
survivetomanhood.Poseidonwouldnothaveyoudiebeforeyourtime.Therefore
takethese,andwhenyouareinneed,smashapearlatyourfeet.
Whatwillhappen?
That,shesaid,dependsontheneed.Butremember:whatbelongstothesea
willalwaysreturntothesea.
Whataboutthewarning?
Hereyesflickeredwithgreenlight.Gowithwhatyourhearttellsyou,oryouwill
loseall.Hadesfeedsondoubtandhopelessness.Hewilltrickyouifhecan,make
youmistrustyourownjudgment.Onceyouareinhisrealm,hewillneverwillinglylet
youleave.Keepfaith.Goodluck,PercyJackson.
Shesummonedherseahorseandrodetowardthevoid.
Wait!Icalled.Attheriver,yousaidnottotrustthegifts.Whatgifts?
Good-bye,younghero,shecalledback,hervoicefadingintothedepths.You
must listen to your heart. She became a speck of glowing green, and then she
wasgone.
I wanted to follow her down into the darkness. I wanted to see the court of
Poseidon.ButIlookedupatthesunsetdarkeningonthesurface.Myfriendswere
waiting.Wehadsolittletime....
Ikickedupwardtowardtheshore.
When I reached the beach, my clothes dried instantly. I told Grover and
Annabethwhathadhappened,andshowedthemthepearls.
Annabethgrimaced.Nogiftcomeswithoutaprice.
Theywerefree.
No. She shook her head. There is no such thing as a free lunch. Thats an
ancient Greek saying that translated pretty well into American. There will be a
price.Youwait.
Onthathappythought,weturnedourbacksonthesea.
With some spare change from Aress backpack, we took the bus into West
Hollywood.IshowedthedrivertheUnderworldaddressslipIdtakenfromAunty
EmsGardenGnomeEmporium,buthedneverheardofDOARecordingStudios.
You remind me of somebody I saw on TV, he told me. You a child actor or
something?
Uh...Imastuntdouble...foralotofchildactors.
Oh!Thatexplainsit.
Wethankedhimandgotoffquicklyatthenextstop.
We wandered for miles on foot, looking for DOA. Nobody seemed to know
whereitwas.Itdidntappearinthephonebook.
Twice,weduckedintoalleystoavoidcopcars.
Ifrozeinfrontofanappliance-storewindowbecauseatelevisionwasplayingan
interviewwithsomebodywholookedveryfamiliarmystepdad,SmellyGabe.He
wastalkingtoBarbaraWaltersImean,asifheweresomekindofhugecelebrity.
She was interviewing him in our apartment, in the middle of a poker game, and
therewasayoungblondladysittingnexttohim,pattinghishand.
A fake tear glistened on his cheek. He was saying, Honest, Ms. Walters, if it
wasnt for Sugar here, my grief counselor, Id be a wreck. My stepson took
everything I cared about. My wife . . . my Camaro . . . IIm sorry. I have trouble
talkingaboutit.
Thereyouhaveit,America.BarbaraWaltersturnedtothecamera.Amantorn
apart. An adolescent boy with serious issues. Let me show you, again, the last
knownphotoofthistroubledyoungfugitive,takenaweekagoinDenver.
Thescreencuttoagrainyshotofme,Annabeth,andGroverstandingoutside
theColoradodiner,talkingtoAres.
Whoaretheotherchildreninthisphoto?BarbaraWaltersaskeddramatically.
Whoisthemanwiththem?IsPercyJacksonadelinquent,aterrorist,orperhaps
thebrainwashedvictimofafrighteningnewcult?Whenwecomeback,wechatwith
aleadingchildpsychologist.Staytuned,America.
Cmon,Grovertoldme.HehauledmeawaybeforeIcouldpunchaholeinthe
appliance-storewindow.
It got dark, and hungry-looking characters started coming out on the streets to
play.Now,dontgetmewrong.ImaNewYorker.Idontscareeasy.ButL.A.hada
totallydifferentfeelfromNewYork.Backhome,everythingseemedclose.Itdidnt
matterhowbigthecitywas,youcouldgetanywherewithoutgettinglost.Thestreet
patternandthesubwaymadesense.Therewasasystemtohowthingsworked.A
kidcouldbesafeaslongashewasntstupid.
L.A.wasntlikethat.Itwasspreadout,chaotic,hardtomovearound.Itreminded
meofAres.ItwasntenoughforL.A.tobebig;ithadtoproveitwasbigbybeing
loud and strange and difficult to navigate, too. I didnt know how we were ever
goingtofindtheentrancetotheUnderworldbytomorrow,thesummersolstice.
Wewalkedpastgangbangers,bums,andstreethawkers,wholookedatuslike
theyweretryingtofigureifwewereworththetroubleofmugging.
Aswehurriedpassedtheentranceofanalley,avoicefromthedarknesssaid,
Hey,you.
Likeanidiot,Istopped.
BeforeIknewit,weweresurrounded.Agangofkidshadcircledus.Sixofthem
in allwhite kids with expensive clothes and mean faces. Like the kids at Yancy
Academy:richbratsplayingatbeingbadboys.
Instinctively,IuncappedRiptide.
Whentheswordappearedoutofnowhere,thekidsbackedoff,buttheirleader
was either really stupid or really brave, because he kept coming at me with a
switchblade.
Imadethemistakeofswinging.
Thekidyelped.Buthemustvebeenonehundredpercentmortal,becausethe
bladepassedharmlesslyrightthroughhischest.Helookeddown.Whatthe...
I figured I had about three seconds before his shock turned to anger. Run! I
screamedatAnnabethandGrover.
We pushed two kids out of the way and raced down the street, not knowing
whereweweregoing.Weturnedasharpcorner.
There!Annabethshouted.
Only one store on the block looked open, its windows glaring with neon. The
signabovethedoorsaidsomethinglikeCRSTUYSWATREBDEALPACE.
CrustysWaterBedPalace?Grovertranslated.
ItdidntsoundlikeaplaceIdevergoexceptinanemergency,butthisdefinitely
qualified.
Weburstthroughthedoors,ranbehindawaterbed,andducked.Asplitsecond
later,thegangkidsranpastoutside.
Ithinkwelostthem,Groverpanted.
Avoicebehindusboomed,Lostwho?
Wealljumped.
Standingbehinduswasaguywholookedlikearaptorinaleisuresuit.Hewas
at least seven feet tall, with absolutely no hair. He had gray, leathery skin, thick-
liddedeyes,andacold,reptiliansmile.Hemovedtowardusslowly,butIgotthe
feelinghecouldmovefastifheneededto.
HissuitmightvecomefromtheLotusCasino.Itbelongedbackintheseventies,
big-time. The shirt was silk paisley, unbuttoned halfway down his hairless chest.
Thelapelsonhisvelvetjacketwereaswideaslandingstrips.Thesilverchains
aroundhisneckIcouldntevencountthem.
ImCrusty,hesaid,withatartar-yellowsmile.
Iresistedtheurgetosay,Yes,youare.
Sorrytobargein,Itoldhim.Wewerejust,um,browsing.
You mean hiding from those no-good kids, he grumbled. They hang around
everynight.Igetalotofpeopleinhere,thankstothem.Say,youwanttolookata
waterbed?
I was about to sayNo, thanks, when he put a huge paw on my shoulder and
steeredmedeeperintotheshowroom.
Therewaseverykindofwaterbedyoucouldimagine:differentkindsofwood,
differentpatternsofsheets;queen-size,king-size,emperor-of-the-universe-size.
Thisismymostpopularmodel.Crustyspreadhishandsproudlyoverabed
coveredwithblacksatinsheets,withbuilt-inLavaLampsontheheadboard.The
mattressvibrated,soitlookedlikeoil-flavoredJell-O.
Million-handmassage,Crustytoldus.Goon,tryitout.Shoot,takeanap.Idont
care.Nobusinesstoday,anyway.
Um,Isaid,Idontthink...
Million-handmassage!Grovercried,anddovein.Oh,youguys!Thisiscool.
Hmm,Crustysaid,strokinghisleatherychin.Almost,almost.
Almostwhat?Iasked.
HelookedatAnnabeth.Domeafavorandtrythisoneoverhere,honey.Might
fit.
Annabethsaid,Butwhat
HepattedherreassuringlyontheshoulderandledherovertotheSafariDeluxe
model with teakwood lions carved into the frame and a leopard-patterned
comforter.WhenAnnabethdidntwanttoliedown,Crustypushedher.
Hey!sheprotested.
Crustysnappedhisfingers.Ergo!
Ropessprangfromthesidesofthebed,lashingaroundAnnabeth,holdingher
tothemattress.
Grover tried to get up, but ropes sprang from his black-satin bed, too, and
lashedhimdown.
N-not c-c-cool! he yelled, his voice vibrating from the million-hand massage.
N-notc-coola-atall!
ThegiantlookedatAnnabeth,thenturnedtowardmeandgrinned.Almost,darn
it.
Itriedtostepaway,buthishandshotoutandclampedaroundthebackofmy
neck.Whoa,kid.Dontworry.Wellfindyouoneinasec.
Letmyfriendsgo.
Oh,sureIwill.ButIgottomakethemfit,first.
Whatdoyoumean?
Allthebedsareexactlysixfeet,see?Yourfriendsaretooshort.Gottomake
themfit.
AnnabethandGroverkeptstruggling.
Cantstandimperfectmeasurements,Crustymuttered.Ergo!
A new set of ropes leaped out from the top and bottom of the beds, wrapping
around Grover and Annabeths ankles, then around their armpits. The ropes
startedtightening,pullingmyfriendsfrombothends.
Dont worry, Crusty told me. These are stretching jobs. Maybe three extra
inchesontheirspines.Theymightevenlive.Nowwhydontwefindabedyoulike,
huh?
Percy!Groveryelled.
My mind was racing. I knew I couldnt take on this giant water-bed salesman
alone.HewouldsnapmyneckbeforeIevergotmyswordout.
YourrealnamesnotCrusty,isit?Iasked.
Legally,itsProcrustes,headmitted.
The Stretcher, I said. I remembered the story: the giant whod tried to kill
TheseuswithexcesshospitalityonhiswaytoAthens.
Yeah, the salesman said. But who can pronounceProcrustes? Bad for
business.NowCrusty,anybodycansaythat.
Youreright.Itsgotagoodringtoit.
Hiseyeslitup.Youthinkso?
Oh,absolutely,Isaid.Andtheworkmanshiponthesebeds?Fabulous!
Hegrinnedhugely,buthisfingersdidntloosenonmyneck.Itellmycustomers
that. Every time. Nobody bothers to look at the workmanship. How many built-in
LavaLampheadboardshaveyouseen?
Nottoomany.
Thatsright!
Percy!Annabethyelled.Whatareyoudoing?
Dontmindher,ItoldProcrustes.Shesimpossible.
The giant laughed. All my customers are. Never six feet exactly. So
inconsiderate.Andthentheycomplainaboutthefitting.
Whatdoyoudoiftheyrelongerthansixfeet?
Oh,thathappensallthetime.Itsasimplefix.
Heletgoofmyneck,butbeforeIcouldreact,hereachedbehindanearbysales
deskandbroughtoutahugedouble-bladedbrassaxe.Hesaid,Ijustcenterthe
subjectasbestIcanandlopoffwhateverhangsoveroneitherend.
Ah,Isaid,swallowinghard.Sensible.
Imsogladtocomeacrossanintelligentcustomer!
The ropes were really stretching my friends now. Annabeth was turning pale.
Grovermadegurglingsounds,likeastrangledgoose.
So,Crusty...Isaid,tryingtokeepmyvoicelight.Iglancedatthesalestagon
the valentine-shaped Honeymoon Special. Does this one really have dynamic
stabilizerstostopwavemotion?
Absolutely.Tryitout.
Yeah,maybeIwill.Butwoulditworkevenforabigguylikeyou?Nowavesat
all?
Guaranteed.
Noway.
Way.
Showme.
Hesatdowneagerlyonthebed,pattedthemattress.Nowaves.See?
Isnappedmyfingers.Ergo.
RopeslashedaroundCrustyandflattenedhimagainstthemattress.
Hey!heyelled.
Centerhimjustright,Isaid.
Theropesreadjustedthemselvesatmycommand.Crustyswholeheadstuck
outthetop.Hisfeetstuckoutthebottom.
No!hesaid.Wait!Thisisjustademo.
IuncappedRiptide.Afewsimpleadjustments...
IhadnoqualmsaboutwhatIwasabouttodo.IfCrustywerehuman,Icouldnt
hurthimanyway.Ifhewasamonster,hedeservedtoturnintodustforawhile.
Youdriveahardbargain,hetoldme.Illgiveyouthirtypercentoffonselected
floormodels!
IthinkIllstartwiththetop.Iraisedmysword.
Nomoneydown!Nointerestforsixmonths!
Iswungthesword.Crustystoppedmakingoffers.
Icuttheropesontheotherbeds.AnnabethandGrovergottotheirfeet,groaning
andwincingandcursingmealot.
Youlooktaller,Isaid.
Veryfunny,Annabethsaid.Befasternexttime.
I looked at the bulletin board behind Crustys sales desk. There was an
advertisement for Hermes Delivery Service, and another for the All-New
Compendium of L.A. Area MonstersThe only Monstrous Yellow Pages youll
ever need! Under that, a bright orange flier for DOA Recording Studios, offering
commissions for heroes souls. We are always looking for new talent! DOAs
addresswasrightunderneathwithamap.
Comeon,Itoldmyfriends.
Giveusaminute,Grovercomplained.Wewerealmoststretchedtodeath!
ThenyourereadyfortheUnderworld,Isaid.Itsonlyablockfromhere.
EIGHTEEN
ANNABETH DOES OBEDIENCE SCHOOL
We stood in the shadows of Valencia Boulevard, looking up at gold letters
etchedinblackmarble:DOARECORDINGSTUDIOS.
Underneath, stenciled on the glass doors: NO SOLICITORS. NO LOITERING.
NOLIVING.
Itwasalmostmidnight,butthelobbywasbrightlylitandfullofpeople.Behindthe
securitydesksatatough-lookingguardwithsunglassesandanearpiece.
Iturnedtomyfriends.Okay.Youremembertheplan.
Theplan,Grovergulped.Yeah.Ilovetheplan.
Annabethsaid,Whathappensiftheplandoesntwork?
Dontthinknegative.
Right, she said. Were entering the Land of the Dead, and I shouldnt think
negative.
Itookthepearlsoutofmypocket,thethreemilkyspherestheNereidhadgiven
meinSantaMonica.Theydidntseemlikemuchofabackupincasesomething
wentwrong.
Annabethputherhandonmyshoulder.Imsorry,Percy.Youreright,wellmake
it.Itllbefine.
ShegaveGroveranudge.
Oh,right!hechimedin.Wegotthisfar.Wellfindthemasterboltandsaveyour
mom.Noproblem.
I looked at them both, and felt really grateful. Only a few minutes before, Id
almostgottenthemstretchedtodeathondeluxewaterbeds,andnowtheywere
tryingtobebraveformysake,tryingtomakemefeelbetter.
Islippedthepearlsbackinmypocket.LetswhupsomeUnderworldbutt.
WewalkedinsidetheDOAlobby.
Muzakplayedsoftlyonhiddenspeakers.Thecarpetandwallsweresteelgray.
Pencilcactusesgrewinthecornerslikeskeletonhands.Thefurniturewasblack
leather,andeveryseatwastaken.Therewerepeoplesittingoncouches,people
standing up, people staring out the windows or waiting for the elevator. Nobody
moved,ortalked,ordidmuchofanything.Outofthecornerofmyeye,Icouldsee
them all just fine, but if I focused on any one of them in particular, they started
looking...transparent.Icouldseerightthroughtheirbodies.
Thesecurityguardsdeskwasaraisedpodium,sowehadtolookupathim.
He was tall and elegant, with chocolate-colored skin and bleached-blond hair
shaved military style. He wore tortoiseshell shades and a silk Italian suit that
matchedhishair.Ablackrosewaspinnedtohislapelunderasilvernametag.
Ireadthenametag,thenlookedathiminbewilderment.YournameisChiron?
He leaned across the desk. I couldnt see anything in his glasses except my
ownreflection,buthissmilewassweetandcold,likeapythons,rightbeforeiteats
you.
Whatapreciousyounglad.HehadastrangeaccentBritish,maybe,butalso
asifhehadlearnedEnglishasasecondlanguage.Tellme,mate,doIlooklikea
centaur?
N-no.
Sir,headdedsmoothly.
Sir,Isaid.
Hepinchedthenametagandranhisfingerundertheletters.Canyoureadthis,
mate?ItsaysC-H-A-R-O-N.Sayitwithme:CARE-ON.
Charon.
Amazing!Now:Mr.Charon.
Mr.Charon,Isaid.
Well done. He sat back. Ihate being confused with that old horse-man. And
now,howmayIhelpyoulittledeadones?
His question caught in my stomach like a fastball. I looked at Annabeth for
support.
WewanttogotheUnderworld,shesaid.
Charonsmouthtwitched.Well,thatsrefreshing.
Itis?sheasked.
Straightforward and honest. No screaming. No There must be a mistake, Mr.
Charon.Helookedusover.Howdidyoudie,then?
InudgedGrover.
Oh,hesaid.Um...drowned...inthebathtub.
Allthreeofyou?Charonasked.
Wenodded.
Bigbathtub.Charonlookedmildlyimpressed.Idontsupposeyouhavecoins
for passage. Normally, with adults, you see, I could charge your American
Express,oraddtheferrypricetoyourlastcablebill.Butwithchildren...alas,you
neverdieprepared.Supposeyoullhavetotakeaseatforafewcenturies.
Oh,butwehavecoins.Isetthreegoldendrachmasonthecounter,partofthe
stashIdfoundinCrustysofficedesk.
Well, now . . . Charon moistened his lips. Real drachmas. Real golden
drachmas.Ihaventseenthesein...
Hisfingershoveredgreedilyoverthecoins.
Weweresoclose.
ThenCharonlookedatme.Thatcoldstarebehindhisglassesseemedtobore
a hole through my chest. Here now, he said. You couldnt read my name
correctly.Areyoudyslexic,lad?
No,Isaid.Imdead.
Charon leaned forward and took a sniff. Youre not dead. I shouldve known.
Youreagodling.
WehavetogettotheUnderworld,Iinsisted.
Charonmadeagrowlingsounddeepinhisthroat.
Immediately, all the people in the waiting room got up and started pacing,
agitated, lighting cigarettes, running hands through their hair, or checking their
wristwatches.
Leavewhileyoucan,Charontoldus.IlljusttaketheseandforgetIsawyou.
Hestartedtogoforthecoins,butIsnatchedthemback.
Noservice,notip.ItriedtosoundbraverthanIfelt.
Charon growled againa deep, blood-chilling sound. The spirits of the dead
startedpoundingontheelevatordoors.
Itsashame,too,Isighed.Wehadmoretooffer.
IhelduptheentirebagfromCrustysstash.Itookoutafistfulofdrachmasandlet
thecoinsspillthroughmyfingers.
Charons growl changed into something more like a lions purr. Do you think I
canbebought,godling?Eh...justoutofcuriosity,howmuchhaveyougotthere?
Alot,Isaid.IbetHadesdoesntpayyouwellenoughforsuchhardwork.
Oh,youdontknowthehalfofit.Howwouldyouliketobabysitthesespiritsall
day? Always Please dont let me be dead or Please let me across for free. I
havent had a pay raise in three thousand years. Do you imagine suits like this
comecheap?
Youdeservebetter,Iagreed.Alittleappreciation.Respect.Goodpay.
Witheachword,Istackedanothergoldcoinonthecounter.
Charon glanced down at his silk Italian jacket, as if imagining himself in
something even better. I must say, lad, youre making some sense now. Just a
little.
I stacked another few coins. I could mention a pay raise while Im talking to
Hades.
Hesighed.Theboatsalmostfull,anyway.Imightaswelladdyouthreeandbe
off.
Hestood,scoopedupourmoney,andsaid,Comealong.
We pushed through the crowd of waiting spirits, who started grabbing at our
clothes like the wind, their voices whispering things I couldnt make out. Charon
shovedthemoutoftheway,grumbling,Freeloaders.
Heescortedusintotheelevator,whichwasalreadycrowdedwithsoulsofthe
dead,eachoneholdingagreenboardingpass.Charongrabbedtwospiritswho
weretryingtogetonwithusandpushedthembackintothelobby.
Right.Now,noonegetanyideaswhileImgone,heannouncedtothewaiting
room.Andifanyonemovesthedialoffmyeasy-listeningstationagain,Illmake
sureyourehereforanotherthousandyears.Understand?
He shut the doors. He put a key card into a slot in the elevator panel and we
startedtodescend.
Whathappenstothespiritswaitinginthelobby?Annabethasked.
Nothing,Charonsaid.
Forhowlong?
Forever,oruntilImfeelinggenerous.
Oh,shesaid.Thats...fair.
Charon raised an eyebrow. Whoever said death was fair, young miss? Wait
untilitsyourturn.Youlldiesoonenough,whereyouregoing.
Wellgetoutalive,Isaid.
Ha.
Igotasuddendizzyfeeling.Wewerentgoingdownanymore,butforward.The
airturnedmisty.Spiritsaroundmestartedchangingshape.Theirmodernclothes
flickered,turningintograyhoodedrobes.Theflooroftheelevatorbeganswaying.
Iblinkedhard.WhenIopenedmyeyes,CharonscreamyItaliansuithadbeen
replaced by a long black robe. His tortoiseshell glasses were gone. Where his
eyesshouldvebeenwereemptysocketslikeAresseyes,exceptCharonswere
totallydark,fullofnightanddeathanddespair.
Hesawmelooking,andsaid,Well?
Nothing,Imanaged.
Ithoughthewasgrinning,butthatwasntit.Thefleshofhisfacewasbecoming
transparent,lettingmeseestraightthroughtohisskull.
Thefloorkeptswaying.
Groversaid,IthinkImgettingseasick.
When I blinked again, the elevator wasnt an elevator anymore. We were
standing in a wooden barge. Charon was poling us across a dark, oily river,
swirling with bones, dead fish, and other, stranger thingsplastic dolls, crushed
carnations,soggydiplomaswithgiltedges.
TheRiverStyx,Annabethmurmured.Itsso...
Polluted, Charon said. For thousands of years, you humans have been
throwing in everything as you come acrosshopes, dreams, wishes that never
cametrue.Irresponsiblewastemanagement,ifyouaskme.
Mistcurledoffthefilthywater.Aboveus,almostlostinthegloom,wasaceilingof
stalactites.Ahead,thefarshoreglimmeredwithgreenishlight,thecolorofpoison.
Panicclosedupmythroat.WhatwasIdoinghere?Thesepeoplearoundme...
theyweredead.
Annabethgrabbedholdofmyhand.Undernormalcircumstances,thiswouldve
embarrassed me, but I understood how she felt. She wanted reassurance that
somebodyelsewasaliveonthisboat.
Ifoundmyselfmutteringaprayer,thoughIwasntquitesurewhoIwasprayingto.
Downhere,onlyonegodmattered,andhewastheoneIhadcometoconfront.
The shoreline of the Underworld came into view. Craggy rocks and black
volcanicsandstretchedinlandaboutahundredyardstothebaseofahighstone
wall,whichmarchedoffineitherdirectionasfaraswecouldsee.Asoundcame
fromsomewherenearbyinthegreengloom,echoingoffthestonesthehowlofa
largeanimal.
Old Three-Face is hungry, Charon said. His smile turned skeletal in the
greenishlight.Badluckforyou,godlings.
Thebottomofourboatslidontotheblacksand.Thedeadbegantodisembark.
Awomanholdingalittlegirlshand.Anoldmanandanoldwomanhobblingalong
arminarm.AboynoolderthanIwas,shufflingsilentlyalonginhisgrayrobe.
Charon said, Id wish you luck, mate, but there isnt any down here. Mind you,
dontforgettomentionmypayraise.
Hecountedourgoldencoinsintohispouch,thentookuphispole.Hewarbled
somethingthatsoundedlikeaBarryManilowsongasheferriedtheemptybarge
backacrosstheriver.
Wefollowedthespiritsupawell-wornpath.
Im not sure what I was expectingPearly Gates, or a big black portcullis, or
something.ButtheentrancetotheUnderworldlookedlikeacrossbetweenairport
securityandtheJerseyTurnpike.
Therewerethreeseparateentrancesunderonehugeblackarchwaythatsaid
YOUARENOWENTERINGEREBUS.Eachentrancehadapass-throughmetal
detector with security cameras mounted on top. Beyond this were tollbooths
mannedbyblack-robedghoulslikeCharon.
Thehowlingofthehungryanimalwasreallyloudnow,butIcouldntseewhereit
wascomingfrom.Thethree-headeddog,Cerberus,whowassupposedtoguard
Hadessdoor,wasnowheretobeseen.
The dead queued up in the three lines, two marked ATTENDANT ON DUTY,
and one marked EZ DEATH. The EZ DEATH line was moving right along. The
othertwowerecrawling.
Whatdoyoufigure?IaskedAnnabeth.
The fast line must go straight to the Asphodel Fields, she said. No contest.
Theydontwanttoriskjudgmentfromthecourt,becauseitmightgoagainstthem.
Theresacourtfordeadpeople?
Yeah. Three judges. They switch around who sits on the bench. King Minos,
ThomasJefferson,Shakespearepeoplelikethat.Sometimestheylookatalife
anddecidethatpersonneedsaspecialrewardtheFieldsofElysium.Sometimes
theydecideonpunishment.Butmostpeople,well,theyjustlived.Nothingspecial,
goodorbad.SotheygototheAsphodelFields.
Anddowhat?
Groversaid,ImaginestandinginawheatfieldinKansas.Forever.
Harsh,Isaid.
Notasharshasthat,Grovermuttered.Look.
Acoupleofblack-robbedghoulshadpulledasideonespiritandwerefrisking
himatthesecuritydesk.Thefaceofthedeadmanlookedvaguelyfamiliar.
Hesthatpreacherwhomadethenews,remember?Groverasked.
Oh,yeah.Ididremembernow.WedseenhimonTVacoupleoftimesatthe
YancyAcademydorm.HewasthisannoyingtelevangelistfromupstateNewYork
whodraisedmillionsofdollarsfororphanagesandthengotcaughtspendingthe
moneyonstuffforhismansion,likegold-platedtoiletseats,andanindoorputt-putt
golfcourse.HeddiedinapolicechasewhenhisLamborghinifortheLordwent
offacliff.
Isaid,Whatretheydoingtohim?
SpecialpunishmentfromHades,Groverguessed.Thereallybadpeopleget
hispersonalattentionassoonastheyarrive.TheFurtheKindlyOneswillsetup
aneternaltortureforhim.
The thought of the Furies made me shudder. I realized I was in their home
territorynow.OldMrs.Doddswouldbelickingherlipswithanticipation.
Butifhesapreacher,Isaid,andhebelievesinadifferenthell....
Grover shrugged. Who says hes seeing this place the way were seeing it?
Humansseewhattheywanttosee.Youreverystubborner,persistent,thatway.
Wegotclosertothegates.Thehowlingwassoloudnowitshookthegroundat
myfeet,butIstillcouldntfigureoutwhereitwascomingfrom.
Then,aboutfiftyfeetinfrontofus,thegreenmistshimmered.Standingjustwhere
thepathsplitintothreelaneswasanenormousshadowymonster.
I hadnt seen it before because it was half transparent, like the dead. Until it
moved, it blended with whatever was behind it. Only its eyes and teeth looked
solid.Anditwasstaringstraightatme.
Myjawhungopen.AllIcouldthinktosaywas,HesaRottweiler.
Id always imagined Cerberus as a big black mastiff. But he was obviously a
purebred Rottweiler, except of course that he was twice the size of a woolly
mammoth,mostlyinvisible,andhadthreeheads.
The dead walked right up to himno fear at all. The ATTENDANT ON DUTY
linespartedoneithersideofhim.TheEZDEATHspiritswalkedrightbetweenhis
frontpawsandunderhisbelly,whichtheycoulddowithoutevencrouching.
Imstartingtoseehimbetter,Imuttered.Whyisthat?
I think . . . Annabeth moistened her lips. Im afraid its because were getting
closertobeingdead.
Thedogsmiddleheadcranedtowardus.Itsniffedtheairandgrowled.
Itcansmelltheliving,Isaid.
Butthatsokay,Groversaid,tremblingnexttome.Becausewehaveaplan.
Right,Annabethsaid.Idneverheardhervoicesoundquitesosmall.Aplan.
Wemovedtowardthemonster.
Themiddleheadsnarledatus,thenbarkedsoloudmyeyeballsrattled.
Canyouunderstandit?IaskedGrover.
Ohyeah,hesaid.Icanunderstandit.
Whatsitsaying?
Idontthinkhumanshaveafour-letterwordthattranslates,exactly.
ItookthebigstickoutofmybackpackabedpostIdbrokenoffCrustysSafari
Deluxe floor model. I held it up, and tried to channel happy dog thoughts toward
CerberusAlpocommercials,cutelittlepuppies,firehydrants.Itriedtosmile,likeI
wasntabouttodie.
Hey,BigFella,Icalledup.Ibettheydontplaywithyoumuch.
GROWWWLLLL!
Goodboy,Isaidweakly.
Iwavedthestick.Thedogsmiddleheadfollowedthemovement.Theothertwo
headstrainedtheireyesonme,completelyignoringthespirits.IhadCerberuss
undividedattention.Iwasntsurethatwasagoodthing.
Fetch! I threw the stick into the gloom, a good solid throw. I heard it goker-
splooshintheRiverStyx.
Cerberusglaredatme,unimpressed.Hiseyeswerebalefulandcold.
Somuchfortheplan.
Cerberuswasnowmakinganewkindofgrowl,deeperdowninhisthreethroats.
Um,Groversaid.Percy?
Yeah?
Ijustthoughtyoudwanttoknow.
Yeah?
Cerberus?Hessayingwevegottensecondstopraytothegodofourchoice.
Afterthat...well...heshungry.
Wait!Annabethsaid.Shestartedriflingthroughherpack.
Uh-oh,Ithought.
Fiveseconds,Groversaid.Dowerunnow?
Annabeth produced a red rubber ball the size of a grapefruit. It was labeled
WATERLAND, DENVER, CO. Before I could stop her, she raised the ball and
marchedstraightuptoCerberus.
Sheshouted,Seetheball?Youwanttheball,Cerberus?Sit!
Cerberuslookedasstunnedaswewere.
Allthreeofhisheadscockedsideways.Sixnostrilsdilated.
Sit!Annabethcalledagain.
IwassurethatanymomentshewouldbecometheworldslargestMilkbonedog
biscuit.
Butinstead,Cerberuslickedhisthreesetsoflips,shiftedonhishaunches,and
sat,immediatelycrushingadozenspiritswhodbeenpassingunderneathhimin
theEZDEATHline.Thespiritsmademuffledhissesastheydissipated,liketheair
letoutoftires.
Annabethsaid,Goodboy!
ShethrewCerberustheball.
Hecaughtitinhismiddlemouth.Itwasbarelybigenoughforhimtochew,and
theotherheadsstartedsnappingatthemiddle,tryingtogetthenewtoy.
Dropit!Annabethordered.
Cerberuss heads stopped fighting and looked at her. The ball was wedged
betweentwoofhisteethlikeatinypieceofgum.Hemadealoud,scarywhimper,
thendroppedtheball,nowslimyandbittennearlyinhalf,atAnnabethsfeet.
Goodboy.Shepickeduptheball,ignoringthemonsterspitalloverit.
Sheturnedtowardus.Gonow.EZDEATHlineitsfaster.
Isaid,But
Now!Sheordered,inthesametoneshewasusingonthedog.
GroverandIinchedforwardwarily.
Cerberusstartedtogrowl.
Stay!Annabethorderedthemonster.Ifyouwanttheball,stay!
Cerberuswhimpered,buthestayedwherehewas.
Whataboutyou?IaskedAnnabethaswepassedher.
IknowwhatImdoing,Percy,shemuttered.Atleast,Imprettysure....
GroverandIwalkedbetweenthemonsterslegs.
Please,Annabeth,Iprayed.Donttellhimtositagain.
Wemadeitthrough.Cerberuswasntanylessscary-lookingfromtheback.
Annabethsaid,Gooddog!
Sheheldupthetatteredredball,andprobablycametothesameconclusionI
didifsherewardedCerberus,theredbenothingleftforanothertrick.
Shethrewtheballanyway.Themonstersleftmouthimmediatelysnatcheditup,
onlytobeattackedbythemiddlehead,whiletherightheadmoanedinprotest.
Whilethemonsterwasdistracted,Annabethwalkedbrisklyunderitsbellyand
joinedusatthemetaldetector.
Howdidyoudothat?Iaskedher,amazed.
Obedience school, she said breathlessly, and I was surprised to see there
weretearsinhereyes.WhenIwaslittle,atmydadshouse,wehadaDoberman..
..
Nevermindthat,Groversaid,tuggingatmyshirt.Comeon!
We were about to bolt through the EZ DEATH line when Cerberus moaned
pitifullyfromallthreemouths.Annabethstopped.
Sheturnedtofacethedog,whichhaddoneaone-eightytolookatus.
Cerberuspantedexpectantly,thetinyredballinpiecesinapuddleofdroolatits
feet.
Goodboy,Annabethsaid,buthervoicesoundedmelancholyanduncertain.
Themonstersheadsturnedsideways,asifworriedabouther.
Ill bring you another ball soon, Annabeth promised faintly. Would you like
that?
Themonsterwhimpered.IdidntneedtospeakdogtoknowCerberuswasstill
waitingfortheball.
Gooddog.Illcomevisityousoon.IIpromise.Annabethturnedtous.Lets
go.
Grover and I pushed through the metal detector, which immediately screamed
andsetoffflashingredlights.Unauthorizedpossessions!Magicdetected!
Cerberusstartedtobark.
WeburstthroughtheEZDEATHgate,whichstartedevenmorealarmsblaring,
andracedintotheUnderworld.
A few minutes later, we were hiding, out of breath, in the rotten trunk of an
immense black tree as security ghouls scuttled past, yelling for backup from the
Furies.
Grovermurmured,Well,Percy,whathavewelearnedtoday?
Thatthree-headeddogspreferredrubberballsoversticks?
No,Grovertoldme.Wevelearnedthatyourplansreally,reallybite!
Iwasntsureaboutthat.IthoughtmaybeAnnabethandIhadbothhadtheright
idea. Even here in the Underworld, everybodyeven monstersneeded a little
attentiononceinawhile.
Ithoughtaboutthataswewaitedfortheghoulstopass.Ipretendednottosee
Annabeth wipe a tear from her cheek as she listened to the mournful keening of
Cerberusinthedistance,longingforhisnewfriend.
NINETEEN
WE FIND OUT THE TRUTH, SORT OF
Imaginethelargestconcertcrowdyouveeverseen,afootballfieldpackedwith
amillionfans.
Nowimagineafieldamilliontimesthatbig,packedwithpeople,andimagine
theelectricityhasgoneout,andthereisnonoise,nolight,nobeachballbouncing
around over the crowd. Something tragic has happened backstage. Whispering
massesofpeoplearejustmillingaroundintheshadows,waitingforaconcertthat
willneverstart.
Ifyoucanpicturethat,youhaveaprettygoodideawhattheFieldsofAsphodel
looked like. The black grass had been trampled by eons of dead feet. A warm,
moistwindblewlikethebreathofaswamp.BlacktreesGrovertoldmetheywere
poplarsgrewinclumpshereandthere.
The cavern ceiling was so high above us it mightve been a bank of storm
clouds, except for the stalactites, which glowed faint gray and looked wickedly
pointed.Itriednottoimaginetheydfallonusatanymoment,butdottedaroundthe
fields were several that had fallen and impaled themselves in the black grass. I
guess the dead didnt have to worry about little hazards like being speared by
stalactitesthesizeofboosterrockets.
Annabeth, Grover, and I tried to blend into the crowd, keeping an eye out for
security ghouls. I couldnt help looking for familiar faces among the spirits of
Asphodel, but the dead are hard to look at. Their faces shimmer. They all look
slightlyangryorconfused.Theywillcomeuptoyouandspeak,buttheirvoices
soundlikechatter,likebatstwittering.Oncetheyrealizeyoucantunderstandthem,
theyfrownandmoveaway.
Thedeadarentscary.Theyrejustsad.
We crept along, following the line of new arrivals that snaked from the main
gatestowardablack-tentedpavilionwithabannerthatread:

JUDGMENTSFORELYSIUMANDETERNALDAMNATION
Welcome,NewlyDeceased!

Outthebackofthetentcametwomuchsmallerlines.
Totheleft,spiritsflankedbysecurityghoulsweremarcheddownarockypath
towardtheFieldsofPunishment,whichglowedandsmokedinthedistance,avast,
cracked wasteland with rivers of lava and minefields and miles of barbed wire
separating the different torture areas. Even from far away, I could see people
being chased by hellhounds, burned at the stake, forced to run naked through
cactuspatchesorlistentooperamusic.Icouldjustmakeoutatinyhill,withtheant-
sizefigureofSisyphusstrugglingtomovehisbouldertothetop.AndIsawworse
tortures,toothingsIdontwanttodescribe.
The line coming from the right side of the judgment pavilion was much better.
Thisoneleddowntowardasmallvalleysurroundedbywallsagatedcommunity,
which seemed to be the only happy part of the Underworld. Beyond the security
gate were neighborhoods of beautiful houses from every time period in history,
Roman villas and medieval castles and Victorian mansions. Silver and gold
flowers bloomed on the lawns. The grass rippled in rainbow colors. I could hear
laughterandsmellbarbecuecooking.
Elysium.
Inthemiddleofthatvalleywasaglitteringbluelake,withthreesmallislandslike
a vacation resort in the Bahamas. The Isles of the Blest, for people who had
chosentoberebornthreetimes,andthreetimesachievedElysium.ImmediatelyI
knewthatswhereIwantedtogowhenIdied.
Thats what its all about, Annabeth said, like she was reading my thoughts.
Thatstheplaceforheroes.
ButIthoughtofhowfewpeopletherewereinElysium,howtinyitwascompared
to the Fields of Asphodel or even the Fields of Punishment. So few people did
goodintheirlives.Itwasdepressing.
WeleftthejudgmentpavilionandmoveddeeperintotheAsphodelFields.Itgot
darker.Thecolorsfadedfromourclothes.Thecrowdsofchatteringspiritsbegan
tothin.
Afterafewmilesofwalking,webegantohearafamiliarscreechinthedistance.
Looming on the horizon was a palace of glittering black obsidian. Above the
parapetsswirledthreedarkbatlikecreatures:theFuries.Igotthefeelingtheywere
waitingforus.
Isupposeitstoolatetoturnback,Groversaidwistfully.
Wellbeokay.Itriedtosoundconfident.
Maybe we should search some of the other places first, Grover suggested.
Like,Elysium,forinstance...
Comeon,goatboy.Annabethgrabbedhisarm.
Groveryelped.Hissneakerssproutedwingsandhislegsshotforward,pulling
himawayfromAnnabeth.Helandedflatonhisbackinthegrass.
Grover,Annabethchided.Stopmessingaround.
ButIdidnt
Heyelpedagain.Hisshoeswereflappinglikecrazynow.Theylevitatedoffthe
groundandstarteddragginghimawayfromus.
Maia!heyelled,butthemagicwordseemedtohavenoeffect.Maia,already!
Nine-one-one!Help!
I got over being stunned and made a grab for Grovers hand, but too late. He
waspickingupspeed,skiddingdownhilllikeabobsled.
Weranafterhim.
Annabethshouted,Untietheshoes!
Itwasasmartidea,butIguessitsnotsoeasywhenyourshoesarepullingyou
alongfeetfirstatfullspeed.Grovertriedtositup,buthecouldntgetclosetothe
laces.
Wekeptafterhim,tryingtokeephiminsightashezippedbetweenthelegsof
spiritswhochatteredathiminannoyance.
I was sure Grover was going to barrel straight through the gates of Hadess
palace,buthisshoesveeredsharplytotherightanddraggedhimintheopposite
direction.
Theslopegotsteeper.Groverpickedupspeed.AnnabethandIhadtosprintto
keep up. The cavern walls narrowed on either side, and I realized wed entered
somekindofsidetunnel.Noblackgrassortreesnow,justrockunderfoot,andthe
dimlightofthestalactitesabove.
Grover!Iyelled,myvoiceechoing.Holdontosomething!
What?heyelledback.
Hewasgrabbingatgravel,buttherewasnothingbigenoughtoslowhimdown.
Thetunnelgotdarkerandcolder.Thehairsonmyarmsbristled.Itsmelledevil
downhere.ItmademethinkofthingsIshouldntevenknowaboutbloodspilled
onanancientstonealtar,thefoulbreathofamurderer.
ThenIsawwhatwasaheadofus,andIstoppeddeadinmytracks.
Thetunnelwidenedintoahugedarkcavern,andinthemiddlewasachasmthe
sizeofacityblock.
Groverwasslidingstraighttowardtheedge.
Comeon,Percy!Annabethyelled,tuggingatmywrist.
Butthats
I know! she shouted. The place you described in your dream! But Grovers
goingtofallifwedontcatchhim.Shewasright,ofcourse.Groverspredicament
gotmemovingagain.
Hewasyelling,clawingattheground,butthewingedshoeskeptdragginghim
towardthepit,anditdidntlooklikewecouldpossiblygettohimintime.
Whatsavedhimwerehishooves.
Theflyingsneakershadalwaysbeenaloosefitonhim,andfinallyGroverhita
bigrockandtheleftshoecameflyingoff.Itspedintothedarkness,downintothe
chasm.Therightshoekepttugginghimalong,butnotasfast.Groverwasableto
slowhimselfdownbygrabbingontothebigrockandusingitlikeananchor.
He was ten feet from the edge of the pit when we caught him and hauled him
back up the slope. The other winged shoe tugged itself off, circled around us
angrilyandkickedourheadsinprotestbeforeflyingoffintothechasmtojoinits
twin.
We all collapsed, exhausted, on the obsidian gravel. My limbs felt like lead.
Evenmybackpackseemedheavier,asifsomebodyhadfilleditwithrocks.
Grover was scratched up pretty bad. His hands were bleeding. His eyes had
goneslit-pupiled,goatstyle,thewaytheydidwheneverhewasterrified.
Idontknowhow...hepanted.Ididnt...
Wait,Isaid.Listen.
Iheardsomethingadeepwhisperinthedarkness.
Anotherfewseconds,andAnnabethsaid,Percy,thisplace
Shh.Istood.
The sound was getting louder, a muttering, evil voice from far, far below us.
Comingfromthepit.
Groversatup.Whwhatsthatnoise?
Annabethheardittoo,now.Icouldseeitinhereyes.Tartarus.Theentranceto
Tartarus.
IuncappedAnaklusmos.
The bronze sword expanded, gleaming in the darkness, and the evil voice
seemedtofalter,justforamoment,beforeresumingitschant.
I could almost make out words now, ancient, ancient words, older even than
Greek.Asif...
Magic,Isaid.
Wehavetogetoutofhere,Annabethsaid.
Together,wedraggedGrovertohishoovesandstartedbackupthetunnel.My
legswouldntmovefastenough.Mybackpackweighedmedown.Thevoicegot
louderandangrierbehindus,andwebrokeintoarun.
Notamomenttoosoon.
Acoldblastofwindpulledatourbacks,asiftheentirepitwereinhaling.Fora
terrifying moment, I lost ground, my feet slipping in the gravel. If wed been any
closertotheedge,wewouldvebeensuckedin.
Wekeptstrugglingforward,andfinallyreachedthetopofthetunnel,wherethe
cavernwidenedoutintotheFieldsofAsphodel.Thewinddied.Awailofoutrage
echoedfromdeepinthetunnel.Somethingwasnothappywedgottenaway.
Whatwasthat?Groverpanted,whenwedcollapsedintherelativesafetyofa
blackpoplargrove.OneofHadesspets?
Annabeth and I looked at each other. I could tell she was nursing an idea,
probably the same one shed gotten during the taxi ride to L.A., but she was too
scaredtoshareit.Thatwasenoughtoterrifyme.
Icappedmysword,putthepenbackinmypocket.Letskeepgoing.Ilooked
atGrover.Canyouwalk?
Heswallowed.Yeah,sure.Ineverlikedthoseshoes,anyway.
Hetriedtosoundbraveaboutit,buthewastremblingasbadlyasAnnabethand
I were. Whatever was in that pit was nobodys pet. It was unspeakably old and
powerful.EvenEchidnahadntgivenmethatfeeling.Iwasalmostrelievedtoturn
mybackonthattunnelandheadtowardthepalaceofHades.
Almost.
TheFuriescircledtheparapets,highinthegloom.Theouterwallsofthefortress
glitteredblack,andthetwostory-tallbronzegatesstoodwideopen.
Upclose,Isawthattheengravingsonthegateswerescenesofdeath.Some
werefrommoderntimesanatomicbombexplodingoveracity,atrenchfilledwith
gas mask wearing soldiers, a line of African famine victims waiting with empty
bowlsbutallofthemlookedasiftheydbeenetchedintothebronzethousandsof
yearsago.IwonderedifIwaslookingatpropheciesthathadcometrue.
Inside the courtyard was the strangest garden Id ever seen. Multicolored
mushrooms, poisonous shrubs, and weird luminous plants grew without sunlight.
Preciousjewelsmadeupforthelackofflowers,pilesofrubiesasbigasmyfist,
clumps of raw diamonds. Standing here and there like frozen party guests were
Medusas garden statues petrified children, satyrs, and centaursall smiling
grotesquely.
Inthecenterofthegardenwasanorchardofpomegranatetrees,theirorange
blooms neon bright in the dark. The garden of Persephone, Annabeth said.
Keepwalking.
Iunderstoodwhyshewantedtomoveon.Thetartsmellofthosepomegranates
was almost overwhelming. I had a sudden desire to eat them, but then I
rememberedthestoryofPersephone.OnebiteofUnderworldfood,andwewould
neverbeabletoleave.IpulledGroverawaytokeephimfrompickingabigjuicy
one.
Wewalkedupthestepsofthepalace,betweenblackcolumns,throughablack
marbleportico,andintothehouseofHades.Theentryhallhadapolishedbronze
floor,whichseemedtoboilinthereflectedtorchlight.Therewasnoceiling,justthe
cavernroof,farabove.Iguesstheyneverhadtoworryaboutraindownhere.
Every side doorway was guarded by a skeleton in military gear. Some wore
Greek armor, some British redcoat uniforms, some camouflage with tattered
Americanflagsontheshoulders.TheycarriedspearsormusketsorM-16s.None
ofthembotheredus,buttheirholloweyesocketsfollowedusaswewalkeddown
thehall,towardthebigsetofdoorsattheoppositeend.
TwoU.S.Marineskeletonsguardedthedoors.Theygrinneddownatus,rocket-
propelledgrenadelaunchersheldacrosstheirchests.
You know, Grover mumbled, I bet Hades doesnt have trouble with door-to-
doorsalesmen.
Mybackpackweighedatonnow.Icouldntfigureoutwhy.Iwantedtoopenit,
checktoseeifIhadsomehowpickedupastraybowlingball,butthiswasntthe
time.
Well,guys,Isaid.Isupposeweshould...knock?
A hot wind blew down the corridor, and the doors swung open. The guards
steppedaside.
Iguessthatmeansentrez-vous,Annabethsaid.
The room inside looked just like in my dream, except this time the throne of
Hadeswasoccupied.
HewasthethirdgodIdmet,butthefirstwhoreallystruckmeasgodlike.
Hewasatleasttenfeettall,foronething,anddressedinblacksilkrobesanda
crownofbraidedgold.Hisskinwasalbinowhite,hishairshoulder-lengthandjet
black. He wasnt bulked up like Ares, but he radiated power. He lounged on his
throneoffusedhumanbones,lookinglithe,graceful,anddangerousasapanther.
Iimmediatelyfeltlikeheshouldbegivingtheorders.HeknewmorethanIdid.
Heshouldbemymaster.ThenItoldmyselftosnapoutofit.
Hadess aura was affecting me, just as Aress had. The Lord of the Dead
resembledpicturesIdseenofAdolphHitler,orNapoleon,ortheterroristleaders
whodirectsuicidebombers.Hadeshadthesameintenseeyes,thesamekindof
mesmerizing,evilcharisma.
Youarebravetocomehere,SonofPoseidon,hesaidinanoilyvoice.After
what you have done to me, very brave indeed. Or perhaps you are simply very
foolish.
Numbnesscreptintomyjoints,temptingmetoliedownandjusttakealittlenap
atHadessfeet.Curluphereandsleepforever.
I fought the feeling and stepped forward. I knew what I had to say. Lord and
Uncle,Icomewithtworequests.
Hades raised an eyebrow. When he sat forward in his throne, shadowy faces
appearedinthefoldsofhisblackrobes,facesoftorment,asifthegarmentwere
stitched of trapped souls from the Fields of Punishment, trying to get out. The
ADHDpartofmewondered,off-task,whethertherestofhisclothesweremadethe
sameway.Whathorriblethingswouldyouhavetodoinyourlifetogetwoveninto
Hadessunderwear?
Only two requests? Hades said. Arrogant child. As if you have not already
takenenough.Speak,then.Itamusesmenottostrikeyoudeadyet.
Iswallowed.ThiswasgoingaboutaswellasIdfeared.
I glanced at the empty, smaller throne next to Hadess. It was shaped like a
black flower, gilded with gold. I wished Queen Persephone were here. I recalled
somethinginthemythsabouthowshecouldcalmherhusbandsmoods.Butitwas
summer. Of course, Persephone would be above in the world of light with her
mother, the goddess of agriculture, Demeter. Her visits, not the tilt of the planet,
createtheseasons.
Annabethclearedherthroat.Herfingerproddedmeintheback.
LordHades,Isaid.Look,sir,therecantbeawaramongthegods.Itwouldbe
...bad.
Reallybad,Groveraddedhelpfully.
ReturnZeussmasterbolttome,Isaid.Please,sir.LetmecarryittoOlympus.
Hadesseyesgrewdangerouslybright.Youdarekeepupthispretense,after
whatyouhavedone?
Iglancedbackatmyfriends.TheylookedasconfusedasIwas.
Um...Uncle,Isaid.Youkeepsayingafterwhatyouvedone.Whatexactly
haveIdone?
Thethroneroomshookwithatremorsostrong,theyprobablyfeltitupstairsin
Los Angeles. Debris fell from the cavern ceiling. Doors burst open all along the
walls,andskeletalwarriorsmarchedin,hundredsofthem,fromeverytimeperiod
andnationinWesterncivilization.Theylinedtheperimeteroftheroom,blocking
theexits.
Hadesbellowed,DoyouthinkIwantwar,godling?
Iwantedtosay,Well,theseguysdontlooklikepeaceactivists.ButIthoughtthat
mightbeadangerousanswer.
You are the Lord of the Dead, I said carefully. A war would expand your
kingdom,right?
Atypicalthingformybrotherstosay!DoyouthinkIneedmoresubjects?Did
younotseethesprawloftheAsphodelFields?
Well...
Have you any idea how much my kingdom has swollen in this past century
alone,howmanysubdivisionsIvehadtoopen?
Iopenedmymouthtorespond,butHadeswasonarollnow.
Moresecurityghouls,hemoaned.Trafficproblemsatthejudgmentpavilion.
Doubleovertimeforthestaff.Iusedtobearichgod,PercyJackson.Icontrolall
thepreciousmetalsundertheearth.Butmyexpenses!
Charon wants a pay raise, I blurted, just remembering the fact. As soon as I
saidit,IwishedIcouldsewupmymouth.
Dont get me started on Charon! Hades yelled. Hes been impossible ever
sincehediscoveredItaliansuits!Problemseverywhere,andIvegottohandleall
of them personally. The commute time alone from the palace to the gates is
enoughtodrivemeinsane!Andthedeadjustkeeparriving.No,godling.Ineedno
helpgettingsubjects!Ididnotaskforthiswar.
ButyoutookZeussmasterbolt.
Lies! More rumbling. Hades rose from his throne, towering to the height of a
footballgoalpost.YourfathermayfoolZeus,boy,butIamnotsostupid.Iseehis
plan.
Hisplan?
Youwerethethiefonthewintersolstice,hesaid.Yourfatherthoughttokeep
youhislittlesecret.HedirectedyouintothethroneroomonOlympus.Youtookthe
master boltand my helm. Had I not sent my Fury to discover you at Yancy
Academy, Poseidon might have succeeded in hiding his scheme to start a war.
Butnowyouhavebeenforcedintotheopen.YouwillbeexposedasPoseidons
thief,andIwillhavemyhelmback!
But...Annabethspoke.Icouldtellhermindwasgoingamillionmilesanhour.
LordHades,yourhelmofdarknessismissing,too?
Donotplayinnocentwithme,girl.Youandthesatyrhavebeenhelpingthishero
coming here to threaten me in Poseidons name, no doubtto bring me an
ultimatum.DoesPoseidonthinkIcanbeblackmailedintosupportinghim?
No!Isaid.PoseidondidntIdidnt
I have said nothing of the helms disappearance, Hades snarled, because I
had no illusions that anyone on Olympus would offer me the slightest justice, the
slightesthelp.Icanillaffordforwordtogetoutthatmymostpowerfulweaponof
fear is missing. So I searched for you myself, and when it was clear you were
comingtometodeliveryourthreat,Ididnottrytostopyou.
Youdidnttrytostopus?But
Return my helm now, or I will stop death, Hades threatened. That is my
counterproposal.Iwillopentheearthandhavethedeadpourbackintotheworld.I
willmakeyourlandsanightmare.Andyou,PercyJacksonyourskeletonwilllead
myarmyoutofHades.
Theskeletalsoldiersalltookonestepforward,makingtheirweaponsready.
Atthatpoint,Iprobablyshouldhavebeenterrified.Thestrangethingwas,Ifelt
offended. Nothing gets me angrier than being accused of something I didnt do.
Ivehadalotofexperiencewiththat.
YoureasbadasZeus,Isaid.YouthinkIstolefromyou?Thatswhyyousent
theFuriesafterme?
Ofcourse,Hadessaid.
Andtheothermonsters?
Hadescurledhislip.Ihadnothingtodowiththem.Iwantednoquickdeathfor
youIwantedyoubroughtbeforemealivesoyoumightfaceeverytortureinthe
FieldsofPunishment.WhydoyouthinkIletyouentermykingdomsoeasily?
Easily?
Returnmyproperty!
ButIdonthaveyourhelm.Icameforthemasterbolt.
Whichyoualreadypossess!Hadesshouted.Youcameherewithit,littlefool,
thinkingyoucouldyouthreatenme!
ButIdidnt!
Openyourpack,then.
Ahorriblefeelingstruckme.Theweightinmybackpack,likeabowlingball.It
couldntbe....
I slung it off my shoulder and unzipped it. Inside was a two-foot-long metal
cylinder,spikedonbothends,hummingwithenergy.
Percy,Annabethsaid.How
IIdontknow.Idontunderstand.
Youheroesarealwaysthesame,Hadessaid.Yourpridemakesyoufoolish,
thinkingyoucouldbringsuchaweaponbeforeme.IdidnotaskforZeussmaster
bolt,butsinceitishere,youwillyieldittome.Iamsureitwillmakeanexcellent
bargainingtool.Andnow...myhelm.Whereisit?
Iwasspeechless.Ihadnohelm.Ihadnoideahowthemasterbolthadgotten
intomybackpack.IwantedtothinkHadeswaspullingsomekindoftrick.Hades
was the bad guy. But suddenly the world turned sideways. I realized Id been
playedwith.Zeus,Poseidon,andHadeshadbeensetateachothersthroatsby
someone else. The master bolt had been in the backpack, and Id gotten the
backpackfrom...
LordHades,wait,Isaid.Thisisallamistake.
Amistake?Hadesroared.
Theskeletonsaimedtheirweapons.Fromhighabove,therewasaflutteringof
leatherywings,andthethreeFuriesswoopeddowntoperchonthebackoftheir
mastersthrone.TheonewithMrs.Doddssfacegrinnedatmeeagerlyandflicked
herwhip.
Thereisnomistake,Hadessaid.IknowwhyyouhavecomeIknowthereal
reasonyoubroughtthebolt.Youcametobargainforher.
Hadesloosedaballofgoldfirefromhispalm.Itexplodedonthestepsinfrontof
me,andtherewasmymother,frozeninashowerofgold,justasshewasatthe
momentwhentheMinotaurbegantosqueezehertodeath.
Icouldntspeak.Ireachedouttotouchher,butthelightwasashotasabonfire.
Yes,Hadessaidwithsatisfaction.Itookher.Iknew,PercyJackson,thatyou
wouldcometobargainwithmeeventually.Returnmyhelm,andperhapsIwilllet
her go. She is not dead, you know. Not yet. But if you displease me, that will
change.
Ithoughtaboutthepearlsinmypocket.Maybetheycouldgetmeoutofthis.IfI
couldjustgetmymomfree...
Ah,thepearls,Hadessaid,andmybloodfroze.Yes,mybrotherandhislittle
tricks.Bringthemforth,PercyJackson.
Myhandmovedagainstmywillandbroughtoutthepearls.
Onlythree,Hadessaid.Whatashame.Youdorealizeeachonlyprotectsa
singleperson.Trytotakeyourmother,then,littlegodling.Andwhichofyourfriends
willyouleavebehindtospendeternitywithme?Goon.Choose.Orgivemethe
backpackandacceptmyterms.
IlookedatAnnabethandGrover.Theirfacesweregrim.
Weweretricked,Itoldthem.Setup.
Yes,butwhy?Annabethasked.Andthevoiceinthepit
Idontknowyet,Isaid.ButIintendtoask.
Decide,boy!Hadesyelled.
Percy.Groverputhishandonmyshoulder.Youcantgivehimthebolt.
Iknowthat.
Leavemehere,hesaid.Usethethirdpearlonyourmom.
No!
Imasatyr,Groversaid.Wedonthavesoulslikehumansdo.Hecantorture
me until I die, but he wont get me forever. Ill just be reincarnated as a flower or
something.Itsthebestway.
No. Annabeth drew her bronze knife. You two go on. Grover, you have to
protect Percy. You have to get your searchers license and start your quest for
Pan.Gethismomoutofhere.Illcoveryou.Iplantogodownfighting.
Noway,Groversaid.Imstayingbehind.
Thinkagain,goatboy,Annabethsaid.
Stopit,bothofyou!Ifeltlikemyheartwasbeingrippedintwo.Theyhadboth
beenwithmethroughsomuch.IrememberedGroverdive-bombingMedusainthe
statue garden, and Annabeth saving us from Cerberus; wed survived
Hephaestuss Waterland ride, the St. Louis Arch, the Lotus Casino. I had spent
thousandsofmilesworriedthatIdbebetrayedbyafriend,butthesefriendswould
neverdothat.Theyhaddonenothingbutsaveme,overandover,andnowthey
wantedtosacrificetheirlivesformymom.
Iknowwhattodo,Isaid.Takethese.
Ihandedthemeachapearl.
Annabethsaid,But,Percy...
Iturnedandfacedmymother.Idesperatelywantedtosacrificemyselfanduse
thelastpearlonher,butIknewwhatshewouldsay.Shewouldneverallowit.Ihad
togettheboltbacktoOlympusandtellZeusthetruth.Ihadtostopthewar.She
wouldneverforgivemeifIsavedherinstead.Ithoughtabouttheprophecymade
atHalf-BloodHill,whatseemedlikeamillionyearsago.Youwillfailtosavewhat
mattersmostintheend.
Imsorry,Itoldher.Illbeback.Illfindaway.
ThesmuglookonHadessfacefaded.Hesaid,Godling...?
Illfindyourhelm,Uncle,Itoldhim.Illreturnit.RememberaboutCharonspay
raise.
Donotdefyme
And it wouldnt hurt to play with Cerberus once in a while. He likes red rubber
balls.
PercyJackson,youwillnot
Ishouted,Now,guys!
Wesmashedthepearlsatourfeet.Forascarymoment,nothinghappened.
Hadesyelled,Destroythem!
The army of skeletons rushed forward, swords out, guns clicking to full
automatic.TheFurieslunged,theirwhipsburstingintoflame.
Justastheskeletonsopenedfire,thepearlfragmentsatmyfeetexplodedwitha
burst of green light and a gust of fresh sea wind. I was encased in a milky white
sphere,whichwasstartingtofloatofftheground.
Annabeth and Grover were right behind me. Spears and bullets sparked
harmlesslyoffthepearlbubblesaswefloatedup.Hadesyelledwithsuchrage,
theentirefortressshookandIknewitwasnotgoingtobeapeacefulnightinL.A.
Lookup!Groveryelled.Weregoingtocrash!
Sure enough, we were racing right toward the stalactites, which I figured would
popourbubblesandskewerus.
Howdoyoucontrolthesethings?Annabethshouted.
Idontthinkyoudo!Ishoutedback.
Wescreamedasthebubblesslammedintotheceilingand...Darkness.
Werewedead?
No,Icouldstillfeeltheracingsensation.Weweregoingup,rightthroughsolid
rock as easily as an air bubble in water. That was the power of the pearls, I
realizedWhatbelongstotheseawillalwaysreturntothesea.
For a few moments, I couldnt see anything outside the smooth walls of my
sphere, then my pearl broke through on the ocean floor. The two other milky
spheres,AnnabethandGrover,keptpacewithmeaswesoaredupwardthrough
thewater.Andker-blam!
Weexplodedonthesurface,inthemiddleoftheSantaMonicaBay,knockinga
surferoffhisboardwithanindignant,Dude!
I grabbed Grover and hauled him over to a life buoy. I caught Annabeth and
draggedherovertoo.Acurioussharkwascirclingus,agreatwhiteabouteleven
feetlong.
Isaid,Beatit.
Thesharkturnedandracedaway.
Thesurferscreamedsomethingaboutbadmushroomsandpaddledawayfrom
usasfastashecould.
Somehow,Iknewwhattimeitwas:earlymorning,June21,thedayofthesummer
solstice.
In the distance, Los Angeles was on fire, plumes of smoke rising from
neighborhoods all over the city. There had been an earthquake, all right, and it
was Hadess fault. He was probably sending an army of the dead after me right
now.
Butatthemoment,theUnderworldwasntmybiggestproblem.
Ihadtogettoshore.IhadtogetZeussthunderboltbacktoOlympus.Mostofall,
Ihadtohaveaseriousconversationwiththegodwhodtrickedme.
TWENTY
I BATTLE MY JERK RELATIVE
ACoastGuardboatpickedusup,buttheyweretoobusytokeepusforlong,or
towonderhowthreekidsinstreetclotheshadgottenoutintothemiddleofthebay.
Therewasadisastertomopup.Theirradioswerejammedwithdistresscalls.
TheydroppedusoffattheSantaMonicaPierwithtowelsaroundourshoulders
andwaterbottlesthatsaidIMAJUNIORCOASTGUARD!andspedofftosave
morepeople.
Our clothes were sopping wet, even mine. When the Coast Guard boat had
appeared, Id silently prayed they wouldnt pick me out of the water and find me
perfectly dry, which mightve raised some eyebrows. So Id willed myself to get
soaked.Sureenough,myusualwaterproofmagichadabandonedme.Iwasalso
barefoot,becauseIdgivenmyshoestoGrover.BettertheCoastGuardwonder
whyoneofuswasbarefootthanwonderwhyoneofushadhooves.
After reaching dry land, we stumbled down the beach, watching the city burn
againstabeautifulsunrise.IfeltasifIdjustcomebackfromthedeadwhichIhad.
MybackpackwasheavywithZeussmasterbolt.Myheartwasevenheavierfrom
seeingmymother.
Idontbelieveit,Annabethsaid.Wewentallthatway
Itwasatrick,Isaid.AstrategyworthyofAthena.
Hey,shewarned.
Yougetit,dontyou?
Shedroppedhereyes,herangerfading.Yeah.Igetit.
Well,Idont!Grovercomplained.Wouldsomebody
Percy...Annabethsaid.Imsorryaboutyourmother.Imsosorry....
Ipretendednottohearher.IfItalkedaboutmymother,Iwasgoingtostartcrying
likealittlekid.
Theprophecywasright,Isaid.Youshallgowestandfacethegodwhohas
turned. But it wasnt Hades. Hades didnt want war among the Big Three.
Someoneelsepulledoffthetheft.SomeonestoleZeussmasterbolt,andHadess
helm, and framed me because Im Poseidons kid. Poseidon will get blamed by
bothsides.Bysundowntoday,therewillbeathree-waywar.AndIllhavecaused
it.
Grover shook his head, mystified. But who would be that sneaky? Who would
wantwarthatbad?
Istoppedinmytracks,lookingdownthebeach.Gee,letmethink.
Therehewas,waitingforus,inhisblackleatherdusterandhissunglasses,an
aluminumbaseballbatproppedonhisshoulder.Hismotorcyclerumbledbeside
him,itsheadlightturningthesandred.
Hey, kid, Ares said, seeming genuinely pleased to see me. You were
supposedtodie.
Youtrickedme,Isaid.Youstolethehelmandthemasterbolt.
Aresgrinned.Well,now,Ididntstealthempersonally.Godstakingeachothers
symbolsofpowerthatsabigno-no.Butyourenottheonlyherointheworldwho
canrunerrands.
Whodidyouuse?Clarisse?Shewasthereatthewintersolstice.
The idea seemed to amuse him. Doesnt matter. The point is, kid, youre
impeding the war effort. See, youve got to die in the Underworld. Then Old
Seaweed will be mad at Hades for killing you. Corpse Breath will have Zeuss
masterbolt,soZeusllbemadathim.AndHadesisstilllookingforthis...
Fromhispockethetookoutaskicapthekindbankrobberswearandplaced
it between the handlebars of his bike. Immediately, the cap transformed into an
elaboratebronzewarhelmet.
Thehelmofdarkness,Grovergasped.
Exactly, Ares said. Now where was I? Oh yeah, Hades will be mad at both
ZeusandPoseidon,becausehedoesntknowwhotookthis.Prettysoon,wegota
nicelittlethree-wayslugfestgoing.
Buttheyreyourfamily!Annabethprotested.
Ares shrugged. Best kind of war. Always the bloodiest. Nothing like watching
yourrelativesfight,Ialwayssay.
YougavemethebackpackinDenver,Isaid.Themasterboltwasintherethe
wholetime.
Yesandno,Aressaid.Itsprobablytoocomplicatedforyourlittlemortalbrain
tofollow,butthebackpackisthemasterboltssheath,justmorphedabit.Thebolt
is connected to it, sort of like that sword you got, kid. It always returns to your
pocket,right?
IwasntsurehowAresknewaboutthat,butIguessagodofwarhadtomakeit
hisbusinesstoknowaboutweapons.
Anyway,Arescontinued,Itinkeredwiththemagicabit,sotheboltwouldonly
returntothesheathonceyoureachedtheUnderworld.YougetclosetoHades....
Bingo,yougotmail.Ifyoudiedalongthewaynoloss.Istillhadtheweapon.
But why not just keep the master bolt for yourself ? I said. Why send it to
Hades?
Aresgotatwitchinhisjaw.Foramoment,itwasalmostasifhewerelisteningto
another voice, deep inside his head. Why didnt I . . . yeah . . . with that kind of
firepower...
Heheldthetranceforonesecond...twoseconds....
IexchangednervouslookswithAnnabeth.
Aress face cleared. I didnt want the trouble. Better to have you caught
redhanded,holdingthething.
Yourelying,Isaid.SendingthebolttotheUnderworldwasntyouridea,was
it?
Ofcourseitwas!Smokedriftedupfromhissunglasses,asiftheywereaboutto
catchfire.
Youdidntorderthetheft,Iguessed.Someoneelsesentaherotostealthetwo
items. Then, when Zeus sent you to hunt him down, you caught the thief. But you
didntturnhimovertoZeus.Somethingconvincedyoutolethimgo.
You kept the items until another hero could come along and complete the
delivery.Thatthinginthepitisorderingyouaround.
Iamthegodofwar!Itakeordersfromnoone!Idonthavedreams!
Ihesitated.Whosaidanythingaboutdreams?
Areslookedagitated,buthetriedtocoveritwithasmirk.
Letsgetbacktotheproblemathand,kid.Yourealive.Icanthaveyoutaking
thatbolttoOlympus.Youjustmightgetthosehardheadedidiotstolistentoyou.So
Ivegottokillyou.Nothingpersonal.
Hesnappedhisfingers.Thesandexplodedathisfeetandoutchargedawild
boar, even larger and uglier than the one whose head hung above the door of
cabinsevenatCampHalf-Blood.Thebeastpawedthesand,glaringatmewith
beadyeyesasitlowereditsrazor-sharptusksandwaitedforthecommandtokill.
Isteppedintothesurf.Fightmeyourself,Ares.
Helaughed,butIheardalittleedgetohislaughter...anuneasiness.Youve
onlygotonetalent,kid,runningaway.YouranfromtheChimera.Youranfromthe
Underworld.Youdonthavewhatittakes.
Scared?
In your adolescent dreams. But his sunglasses were starting to melt from the
heatofhiseyes.Nodirectinvolvement.Sorry,kid.Yourenotatmylevel.
Annabethsaid,Percy,run!
Thegiantboarcharged.
ButIwasdonerunningfrommonsters.OrHades,orAres,oranybody.
Astheboarrushedme,Iuncappedmypenandsidestepped.Riptideappeared
inmyhands.Islashedupward.Theboarsseveredrighttuskfellatmyfeet,while
thedisorientedanimalchargedintothesea.
Ishouted,Wave!
Immediately,awavesurgedupfromnowhereandengulfedtheboar,wrapping
around it like a blanket. The beast squealed once in terror. Then it was gone,
swallowedbythesea.
IturnedbacktoAres.Areyougoingtofightmenow?Iasked.Orareyougoing
tohidebehindanotherpetpig?
Aressfacewaspurplewithrage.Watchit,kid.Icouldturnyouinto
A cockroach, I said. Or a tapeworm. Yeah, Im sure. Thatd save you from
gettingyourgodlyhidewhipped,wouldntit?
Flamesdancedalongthetopofhisglasses.Oh,man,youarereallyaskingto
besmashedintoagreasespot.
IfIlose,turnmeintoanythingyouwant.Takethebolt.IfIwin,thehelmandthe
boltaremineandyouhavetogoaway.
Aressneered.
Heswungthebaseballbatoffhisshoulder.Howwouldyouliketogetsmashed:
classicormodern?
Ishowedhimmysword.
Thatscool,deadboy,hesaid.Classicitis.Thebaseballbatchangedintoa
huge,two-handedsword.Thehiltwasalargesilverskullwitharubyinitsmouth.
Percy,Annabethsaid.Dontdothis.Hesagod.
Hesacoward,Itoldher.
Sheswallowed.Wearthis,atleast.Forluck.
Shetookoffhernecklace,withherfiveyearsworthofcampbeadsandthering
fromherfather,andtieditaroundmyneck.
Reconciliation,shesaid.AthenaandPoseidontogether.
Myfacefeltalittlewarm,butImanagedasmile.Thanks.
Andtakethis,Groversaid.Hehandedmeaflattenedtincanthathedprobably
beensavinginhispocketforathousandmiles.Thesatyrsstandbehindyou.
Grover...Idontknowwhattosay.
Hepattedmeontheshoulder.Istuffedthetincaninmybackpocket.
Youalldonesayinggood-bye?Arescametowardme,hisblackleatherduster
trailingbehindhim,hisswordglintinglikefireinthesunrise.Ivebeenfightingfor
eternity,kid.MystrengthisunlimitedandIcannotdie.Whathaveyougot?
Asmallerego,Ithought,butIsaidnothing.Ikeptmyfeetinthesurf,backinginto
thewateruptomyankles.IthoughtbacktowhatAnnabethhadsaidattheDenver
diner,solongago:Areshasstrength.Thatsallhehas.Evenstrengthhastobow
towisdomsometimes.
Hecleaveddownwardatmyhead,butIwasntthere.
My body thought for me. The water seemed to push me into the air and I
catapulted over him, slashing as I came down. But Ares was just as quick. He
twisted,andthestrikethatshouldvecaughthimdirectlyinthespinewasdeflected
offtheendofhisswordhilt.
Hegrinned.Notbad,notbad.
HeslashedagainandIwasforcedtojumpontodryland.Itriedtosidestep,to
getbacktothewater,butAresseemedtoknowwhatIwanted.Heoutmaneuvered
me, pressing so hard I had to put all my concentration on not getting sliced into
pieces.Ikeptbackingawayfromthesurf.Icouldntfindanyopeningstoattack.His
swordhadareachseveralfeetlongerthanAnaklusmos.
Getinclose,Lukehadtoldmeonce,backinourswordclass.Whenyouvegot
theshorterblade,getinclose.
Isteppedinsidewithathrust,butAreswaswaitingforthat.Heknockedmyblade
outofmyhandsandkickedmeinthechest.Iwentairbornetwenty,maybethirty
feet.IwouldvebrokenmybackifIhadntcrashedintothesoftsandofadune.
Percy!Annabethyelled.Cops!
Iwasseeingdouble.Mychestfeltlikeithadjustbeenhitwithabatteringram,but
Imanagedtogettomyfeet.
IcouldntlookawayfromAresforfearhedslicemeinhalf,butoutofthecorner
of my eye I saw red lights flashing on the shoreline boulevard. Car doors were
slamming.
There,officer!somebodyyelled.See?
Agruffcopvoice:LookslikethatkidonTV...whattheheck...
Thatguysarmed,anothercopsaid.Callforbackup.
IrolledtoonesideasAressbladeslashedthesand.
Iranformysword,scoopeditup,andlaunchedaswipeatAressface,onlyto
findmybladedeflectedagain.
AresseemedtoknowexactlywhatIwasgoingtodothemomentbeforeIdidit.
Isteppedbacktowardthesurf,forcinghimtofollow.
Admitit,kid,Aressaid.Yougotnohope.Imjusttoyingwithyou.
My senses were working overtime. I now understood what Annabeth had said
about ADHD keeping you alive in battle. I was wide awake, noticing every little
detail.
IcouldseewhereAreswastensing.Icouldtellwhichwayhewouldstrike.Atthe
same time, I was aware of Annabeth and Grover, thirty feet to my left. I saw a
second cop car pulling up, siren wailing. Spectators, people who had been
wanderingthestreetsbecauseoftheearthquake,werestartingtogather.Among
thecrowd,IthoughtIsawafewwhowerewalkingwiththestrange,trottinggaitof
disguisedsatyrs.Therewereshimmeringformsofspirits,too,asifthedeadhad
risen from Hades to watch the battle. I heard the flap of leathery wings circling
somewhereabove.
Moresirens.
Isteppedfartherintothewater,butAreswasfast.Thetipofhisbladerippedmy
sleeveandgrazedmyforearm.
Apolicevoiceonamegaphonesaid,Droptheguns!Setthemontheground.
Now!
Guns?
IlookedatAressweapon,anditseemedtobeflickering;sometimesitlooked
like a shotgun, sometimes a two-handed sword. I didnt know what the humans
wereseeinginmyhands,butIwasprettysureitwouldntmakethemlikeme.
Ares turned to glare at our spectators, which gave me a moment to breathe.
There were five police cars now, and a line of officers crouching behind them,
pistolstrainedonus.
Thisisaprivatematter!Aresbellowed.Begone!
He swept his hand, and a wall of red flame rolled across the patrol cars. The
policebarelyhadtimetodiveforcoverbeforetheirvehiclesexploded.Thecrowd
behindthemscattered,screaming.
Aresroaredwithlaughter.Now,littlehero.Letsaddyoutothebarbecue.
Heslashed.Ideflectedhisblade.Igotcloseenoughtostrike,triedtofakehim
outwithafeint,butmyblowwasknockedaside.Thewaveswerehittingmeinthe
backnow.Areswasuptohisthighs,wadinginafterme.
I felt the rhythm of the sea, the waves growing larger as the tide rolled in, and
suddenlyIhadanidea.Littlewaves,Ithought.Andthewaterbehindmeseemedto
recede.Iwasholdingbackthetidebyforceofwill,buttensionwasbuilding,like
carbonationbehindacork.
Ares came toward, grinning confidently. I lowered my blade, as if I were too
exhaustedtogoon.Waitforit,Itoldthesea.Thepressurenowwasalmostlifting
me off my feet. Ares raised his sword. I released the tide and jumped, rocketing
straightoverAresonawave.
A six-foot wall of water smashed him full in the face, leaving him cursing and
sputtering with a mouth full of seaweed. I landed behind him with a splash and
feintedtowardhishead,asIddonebefore.Heturnedintimetoraisehissword,
butthistimehewasdisoriented,hedidntanticipatethetrick.Ichangeddirection,
lungedtotheside,andstabbedRiptidestraightdownintothewater,sendingthe
pointthroughthegodsheel.
TheroarthatfollowedmadeHadessearthquakelooklikeaminorevent.The
veryseawasblastedbackfromAres,leavingawetcircleofsandfiftyfeetwide.
Ichor,thegoldenbloodofthegods,flowedfromagashinthewargodsboot.
The expression on his face was beyond hatred. It was pain, shock, complete
disbeliefthathedbeenwounded.
Helimpedtowardme,mutteringancientGreekcurses.
Somethingstoppedhim.
It was as if a cloud covered the sun, but worse. Light faded. Sound and color
drained away. A cold, heavy presence passed over the beach, slowing time,
droppingthetemperaturetofreezing,andmakingmefeellikelifewashopeless,
fightingwasuseless.
Thedarknesslifted.
Areslookedstunned.
Policecarswereburningbehindus.Thecrowdofspectatorshadfled.Annabeth
and Grover stood on the beach, in shock, watching the water flood back around
Aressfeet,hisglowinggoldenichordissipatinginthetide.
Aresloweredhissword.
Youhavemadeanenemy,godling,hetoldme.Youhavesealedyourfate.
Everytimeyouraiseyourbladeinbattle,everytimeyouhopeforsuccess,youwill
feelmycurse.Beware,PerseusJackson.Beware.
Hisbodybegantoglow.
Percy!Annabethshouted.Dontwatch!
IturnedawayasthegodAresrevealedhistrueimmortalform.Isomehowknew
thatifIlooked,Iwoulddisintegrateintoashes.
Thelightdied.
I looked back. Ares was gone. The tide rolled out to reveal Hadess bronze
helmofdarkness.Ipickeditupandwalkedtowardmyfriends.
ButbeforeIgotthere,Iheardtheflappingofleatherywings.Threeevil-looking
grandmotherswithlacehatsandfierywhipsdrifteddownfromtheskyandlanded
infrontofme.
The middle Fury, the one who had been Mrs. Dodds, stepped forward. Her
fangs were bared, but for once she didnt look threatening. She looked more
disappointed,asifshedbeenplanningtohavemeforsupper,buthaddecidedI
mightgiveherindigestion.
Wesawthewholething,shehissed.So...ittrulywasnotyou?
Itossedherthehelmet,whichshecaughtinsurprise.
ReturnthattoLordHades,Isaid.Tellhimthetruth.Tellhimtocalloffthewar.
Shehesitated,thenranaforkedtongueoverhergreen,leatherylips.Livewell,
PercyJackson.Becomeatruehero.
Becauseifyoudonot,ifyouevercomeintomyclutchesagain...
She cackled, savoring the idea. Then she and her sisters rose on their bats
wings,flutteredintothesmoke-filledsky,anddisappeared.
IjoinedGroverandAnnabeth,whowerestaringatmeinamazement.Percy...
Groversaid.Thatwassoincredibly...
Terrifying, said Annabeth. Cool! Grover corrected. I didnt feel terrified. I
certainlydidntfeelcool.Iwastiredandsoreandcompletelydrainedofenergy.
Didyouguysfeelthat...whateveritwas?Iasked.Theybothnoddeduneasily.
MustvebeentheFuriesoverhead,Groversaid.ButIwasntsosure.Something
hadstoppedAresfromkillingme,andwhatevercoulddothatwasalotstronger
thantheFuries.
I looked at Annabeth, and an understanding passed between us. I knew now
whatwasinthatpit,whathadspokenfromtheentranceofTartarus.
IreclaimedmybackpackfromGroverandlookedinside.Themasterboltwas
stillthere.SuchasmallthingtoalmostcauseWorldWarIII.
WehavetogetbacktoNewYork,Isaid.Bytonight.
Thatsimpossible,Annabethsaid,unlesswe
Fly, I agreed. She stared at me. Fly, like, in an airplane, which you were
warnednevertodolestZeusstrikeyououtofthesky,andcarryingaweaponthat
hasmoredestructivepowerthananuclearbomb?
Yeah,Isaid.Prettymuchexactlylikethat.Comeon.
TWENTYONE
I SETTLE MY TAB
Its funny how humans can wrap their mind around things and fit them into their
versionofreality.Chironhadtoldmethatlongago.Asusual,Ididntappreciatehis
wisdomuntilmuchlater.
AccordingtotheL.A.news,theexplosionattheSantaMonicabeachhadbeen
causedwhenacrazykidnapperfiredashotgunatapolicecar.Heaccidentallyhit
agasmainthathadrupturedduringtheearthquake.
This crazy kidnapper (a.k.a. Ares) was the same man who had abducted me
andtwootheradolescentsinNewYorkandbroughtusacrosscountryonaten-
dayodysseyofterror.
PoorlittlePercyJacksonwasntaninternationalcriminalafterall.Hedcauseda
commotiononthatGreyhoundbusinNewJerseytryingtogetawayfromhiscaptor
(andafterward,witnesseswouldevensweartheyhadseentheleather-cladman
onthebusWhydidntIrememberhimbefore?).Thecrazymanhadcausedthe
explosion in the St. Louis Arch. After all, no kid couldve done that. A concerned
waitressinDenverhadseenthemanthreateninghisabducteesoutsideherdiner,
gotten a friend to take a photo, and notified the police. Finally, brave Percy
Jackson(Iwasbeginningtolikethiskid)hadstolenagunfromhiscaptorinLos
Angeles and battled him shotgun-to-rifle on the beach. Police had arrived just in
time.Butinthespectacularexplosion,fivepolicecarshadbeendestroyedandthe
captor had fled. No fatalities had occurred. Percy Jackson and his two friends
weresafelyinpolicecustody.
The reporters fed us this whole story. We just nodded and acted tearful and
exhausted(whichwasnthard),andplayedvictimizedkidsforthecameras.
AllIwant,Isaid,chokingbackmytears,istoseemylovingstepfatheragain.
EverytimeIsawhimonTV,callingmeadelinquentpunk,Iknew...somehow...
wewouldbeokay.AndIknowhellwanttorewardeachandeverypersoninthis
beautifulcityofLosAngeleswithafreemajorappliancefromhisstore.Heresthe
phonenumber.Thepoliceandreportersweresomovedthattheypassedaround
thehatandraisedmoneyforthreeticketsonthenextplanetoNewYork.
I knew there was no choice but to fly. I hoped Zeus would cut me some slack,
considering the circumstances. But it was still hard to force myself on board the
flight.
Takeoff was a nightmare. Every spot of turbulence was scarier than a Greek
monster.Ididntunclenchmyhandsfromthearmrestsuntilwetoucheddownsafely
at La Guardia. The local press was waiting for us outside security, but we
managedtoevadethemthankstoAnnabeth,wholuredthemawayinherinvisible
Yankees cap, shouting, Theyre over by the frozen yogurt! Come on!, then
rejoinedusatbaggageclaim.
We split up at the taxi stand. I told Annabeth and Grover to get back to Half-
Blood Hill and let Chiron know what had happened. They protested, and it was
hardtoletthemgoafterallwedbeenthrough,butIknewIhadtodothislastpartof
thequestbymyself.Ifthingswentwrong,ifthegodsdidntbelieveme...Iwanted
AnnabethandGrovertosurvivetotellChironthetruth.
IhoppedinataxiandheadedintoManhattan.
Thirtyminuteslater,IwalkedintothelobbyoftheEmpireStateBuilding.
I must have looked like a homeless kid, with my tattered clothes and my
scraped-upface.Ihadntsleptinatleasttwenty-fourhours.
Iwentuptotheguardatthefrontdeskandsaid,Sixhundredthfloor.
Hewasreadingahugebookwithapictureofawizardonthefront.Iwasntmuch
intofantasy,butthebookmustvebeengood,becausetheguardtookawhileto
lookup.Nosuchfloor,kiddo.
IneedanaudiencewithZeus.
Hegavemeavacantsmile.Sorry?
Youheardme.
Iwasabouttodecidethisguywasjustaregularmortal,andIdbetterrunforit
before he called the straitjacket patrol, when he said, No appointment, no
audience,kiddo.LordZeusdoesntseeanyoneunannounced.
Oh,Ithinkhellmakeanexception.Islippedoffmybackpackandunzippedthe
top.
Theguardlookedinsideatthemetalcylinder,notgettingwhatitwasforafew
seconds.Thenhisfacewentpale.Thatisnt...
Yes,itis,Ipromised.Youwantmetakeitoutand
No!No!Hescrambledoutofhisseat,fumbledaroundhisdeskforakeycard,
thenhandedittome.Insertthisinthesecurityslot.Makesurenobodyelseisinthe
elevatorwithyou.
Ididashetoldme.Assoonastheelevatordoorsclosed,Islippedthekeyinto
theslot.Thecarddisappearedandanewbuttonappearedontheconsole,ared
onethatsaid600.Ipresseditandwaited,andwaited.Muzakplayed.Raindrops
keepfallingonmyhead....Finally,ding.Thedoorsslidopen.Isteppedoutand
almosthadaheartattack.
Iwasstandingonanarrowstonewalkwayinthemiddleoftheair.Belowmewas
Manhattan,fromtheheightofanairplane.Infrontofme,whitemarblestepswound
up the spine of a cloud, into the sky. My eyes followed the stairway to its end,
wheremybrainjustcouldnotacceptwhatIsaw.
Lookagain,mybrainsaid.
Werelooking,myeyesinsisted.Itsreallythere.
Fromthetopofthecloudsrosethedecapitatedpeakofamountain,itssummit
covered with snow. Clinging to the mountainside were dozens of multileveled
palacesacityofmansionsallwithwhite-columnedporticos,gildedterraces,and
bronzebraziersglowingwithathousandfires.
Roadswoundcrazilyuptothepeak,wherethelargestpalacegleamedagainst
the snow. Precariously perched gardens bloomed with olive trees and
rosebushes.Icouldmakeoutanopen-airmarketfilledwithcolorfultents,astone
amphitheaterbuiltononesideofthemountain,ahippodromeandacoliseumon
the other. It was an Ancient Greek city, except it wasnt in ruins. It was new, and
clean,andcolorful,thewayAthensmustvelookedtwenty-fivehundredyearsago.
Thisplacecantbehere,Itoldmyself.ThetipofamountainhangingoverNew
York City like a billion-ton asteroid? How could something like that be anchored
above the Empire State Building, in plain sight of millions of people, and not get
noticed?
Buthereitwas.AndhereIwas.
MytripthroughOlympuswasadaze.Ipassedsomegigglingwoodnymphswho
threw olives at me from their garden. Hawkers in the market offered to sell me
ambrosiaon-a-stick,andanewshield,andagenuineglitter-weavereplicaofthe
Golden Fleece, as seen on Hephaestus-TV. The nine muses were tuning their
instruments for a concert in the park while a small crowd gatheredsatyrs and
naiads and a bunch of good-looking teenagers who mightve been minor gods
and goddesses. Nobody seemed worried about an impending civil war. In fact,
everybodyseemedinafestivemood.Severalofthemturnedtowatchmepass,
andwhisperedtothemselves.
I climbed the main road, toward the big palace at the peak. It was a reverse
copyofthepalaceintheUnderworld.
There,everythinghadbeenblackandbronze.Here,everythingglitteredwhite
andsilver.
I realized Hades mustve built his palace to resemble this one. He wasnt
welcomedinOlympusexceptonthewintersolstice,sohedbuilthisownOlympus
underground.Despitemybadexperiencewithhim,Ifeltalittlesorryfortheguy.To
bebanishedfromthisplaceseemedreallyunfair.Itwouldmakeanybodybitter.
Stepsleduptoacentralcourtyard.Pastthat,thethroneroom.
Roomreallyisnttherightword.TheplacemadeGrandCentralStationlooklike
abroomcloset.Massivecolumnsrosetoadomedceiling,whichwasgildedwith
movingconstellations.
Twelvethrones,builtforbeingsthesizeofHades,werearrangedinaninverted
U,justlikethecabinsatCampHalf-Blood.Anenormousfirecrackledinthecentral
hearthpit.Thethroneswereemptyexceptfortwoattheend:theheadthroneonthe
right, and the one to its immediate left. I didnt have to be told who the two gods
were that were sitting there, waiting for me to approach. I came toward them, my
legstrembling.
Thegodswereingianthumanform,asHadeshadbeen,butIcouldbarelylook
atthemwithoutfeelingatingle,asifmybodywerestartingtoburn.Zeus,theLordof
the Gods, wore a dark blue pinstriped suit. He sat on a simple throne of solid
platinum. He had a well-trimmed beard, marbled gray and black like a storm
cloud.Hisfacewasproudandhandsomeandgrim,hiseyesrainygray.
AsIgotnearertohim,theaircrackledandsmelledofozone.
Thegodsittingnexttohimwashisbrother,withoutadoubt,buthewasdressed
very differently. He reminded me of a beachcomber from Key West. He wore
leathersandals,khakiBermudashorts,andaTommyBahamashirtwithcoconuts
andparrotsalloverit.Hisskinwasdeeplytanned,hishandsscarredlikeanold-
timefishermans.Hishairwasblack,likemine.Hisfacehadthatsamebrooding
look that had always gotten me branded a rebel. But his eyes, sea-green like
mine,weresurroundedbysun-crinklesthattoldmehesmiledalot,too.
Histhronewasadeep-seafishermanschair.Itwasthesimpleswivelingkind,
withablackleatherseatandabuilt-inholsterforafishingpole.Insteadofapole,
theholsterheldabronzetrident,flickeringwithgreenlightaroundthetips.
The gods werent moving or speaking, but there was tension in the air, as if
theydjustfinishedanargument.
I approached the fishermans throne and knelt at his feet. Father. I dared not
lookup.Myheartwasracing.Icouldfeeltheenergyemanatingfromthetwogods.
IfIsaidthewrongthing,Ihadnodoubttheycouldblastmeintodust.
Tomyleft,Zeusspoke.Shouldyounotaddressthemasterofthishousefirst,
boy?
Ikeptmyheaddown,andwaited.
Peace, brother, Poseidon finally said. His voice stirred my oldest memories:
thatwarmglowIrememberedasababy,thesensationofthisgodshandonmy
forehead.Theboydeferstohisfather.Thisisonlyright.
Youstillclaimhimthen?Zeusasked,menacingly.Youclaimthischildwhom
yousiredagainstoursacredoath?
Ihaveadmittedmywrongdoing,Poseidonsaid.NowIwouldhearhimspeak.
Wrongdoing.
Alumpwelledupinmythroat.WasthatallIwas?Awrongdoing?Theresultofa
godsmistake?
I have spared him once already, Zeus grumbled. Daring to fly through my
domain...pah!Ishouldhaveblastedhimoutoftheskyforhisimpudence.
And risk destroying your own master bolt? Poseidon asked calmly. Let us
hearhimout,brother.
Zeusgrumbledsomemore.Ishalllisten,hedecided.ThenIshallmakeupmy
mindwhetherornottocastthisboydownfromOlympus.
Perseus,Poseidonsaid.Lookatme.
Idid,andIwasntsurewhatIsawinhisface.Therewasnoclearsignofloveor
approval.Nothingtoencourageme.Itwaslikelookingattheocean:somedays,
you could tell what mood it was in. Most days, though, it was unreadable,
mysterious.
IgotthefeelingPoseidonreallydidntknowwhattothinkofme.Hedidntknow
whetherhewashappytohavemeasasonornot.Inastrangeway,Iwasgladthat
Poseidonwassodistant.Ifhedtriedtoapologize,ortoldmehelovedme,oreven
smiled,itwouldvefeltfake.Likeahumandad,makingsomelameexcusefornot
beingaround.Icouldlivewiththat.Afterall,Iwasntsureabouthimyet,either.
AddressLordZeus,boy,Poseidontoldme.Tellhimyourstory.
SoItoldZeuseverything,justasithadhappened.Itookoutthemetalcylinder,
whichbegansparkingintheSkyGodspresence,andlaiditathisfeet.
Therewasalongsilence,brokenonlybythecrackleofthehearthfire.
Zeus opened his palm. The lightning bolt flew into it. As he closed his fist, the
metallicpointsflaredwithelectricity,untilhewasholdingwhatlookedmorelikethe
classic thunderbolt, a twenty-foot javelin of arcing, hissing energy that made the
hairsonmyscalprise.
I sense the boy tells the truth, Zeus muttered. But that Ares would do such a
thing...itismostunlikehim.
Heisproudandimpulsive,Poseidonsaid.Itrunsinthefamily.
Lord?Iasked.
Theybothsaid,Yes?
Aresdidntactalone.Someoneelsesomethingelsecameupwiththeidea.
I described my dreams, and the feeling Id had on the beach, that momentary
breath of evil that had seemed to stop the world, and made Ares back off from
killingme.
Inthedreams,Isaid,thevoicetoldmetobringthebolttotheUnderworld.Ares
hintedthathedbeenhavingdreams,too.Ithinkhewasbeingused,justasIwas,
tostartawar.
YouareaccusingHades,afterall?Zeusasked.
No,Isaid.Imean,LordZeus,IvebeeninthepresenceofHades.Thisfeeling
onthebeachwasdifferent.ItwasthesamethingIfeltwhenIgotclosetothatpit.
ThatwastheentrancetoTartarus,wasntit?Somethingpowerfulandevilisstirring
downthere...somethingevenolderthanthegods.
PoseidonandZeuslookedateachother.Theyhadaquick,intensediscussion
inAncientGreek.Ionlycaughtoneword.Father.
Poseidonmadesomekindofsuggestion,butZeuscuthimoff.Poseidontriedto
argue.Zeushelduphishandangrily.Wewillspeakofthisnomore,Zeussaid.I
mustgopersonallytopurifythisthunderboltinthewatersofLemnos,toremovethe
humantaintfromitsmetal.
Heroseandlookedatme.Hisexpressionsoftenedjustafractionofadegree.
You have done me a service, boy. Few heroes could have accomplished as
much.
Ihadhelp,sir,Isaid.GroverUnderwoodandAnnabethChase
To show you my thanks, I shall spare your life. I do not trust you, Perseus
Jackson.IdonotlikewhatyourarrivalmeansforthefutureofOlympus.Butforthe
sakeofpeaceinthefamily,Ishallletyoulive.
Um...thankyou,sir.
Donotpresumetoflyagain.DonotletmefindyouherewhenIreturn.Otherwise
youshalltastethisbolt.Anditshallbeyourlastsensation.
Thundershookthepalace.Withablindingflashoflightning,Zeuswasgone.
Iwasaloneinthethroneroomwithmyfather.
Youruncle,Poseidonsighed,hasalwayshadaflairfordramaticexits.Ithink
hewouldvedonewellasthegodoftheater.
Anuncomfortablesilence.
Sir,Isaid,whatwasinthatpit?
Poseidonregardedme.Haveyounotguessed?
Kronos,Isaid.ThekingoftheTitans.
Even in the throne room of Olympus, far away from Tartarus, the nameKronos
darkenedtheroom,madethehearthfireseemnotquitesowarmonmyback.
Poseidongrippedhistrident.IntheFirstWar,Percy,ZeuscutourfatherKronos
intoathousandpieces,justasKronoshaddonetohisownfather,Ouranos.Zeus
cast Kronoss remains into the darkest pit of Tartarus. The Titan army was
scattered,theirmountainfortressonEtnadestroyed,theirmonstrousalliesdriven
to the farthest corners of the earth. And yet Titans cannot die, any more than we
gods can. Whatever is left of Kronos is still alive in some hideous way, still
consciousinhiseternalpain,stillhungeringforpower.
Heshealing,Isaid.Hescomingback.
Poseidonshookhishead.Fromtimetotime,overtheeons,Kronoshasstirred.
He enters mens nightmares and breathes evil thoughts. He wakens restless
monstersfromthedepths.Buttosuggesthecouldrisefromthepitisanotherthing.
Thatswhatheintends,Father.Thatswhathesaid.
Poseidonwassilentforalongtime.
LordZeushascloseddiscussiononthismatter.HewillnotallowtalkofKronos.
Youhavecompletedyourquest,child.Thatisallyouneedtodo.
ButIstoppedmyself.Arguingwoulddonogood.Itwouldverypossiblyanger
theonlygodwhoIhadonmyside.As...asyouwish,Father.
A faint smile played on his lips. Obedience does not come naturally to you,
doesit?
No...sir.
I must take some blame for that, I suppose. The sea does not like to be
restrained.Herosetohisfullheightandtookuphistrident.Thenheshimmered
andbecamethesizeofaregularman,standingdirectlyinfrontofme.Youmust
go,child.Butfirst,knowthatyourmotherhasreturned.
Istaredathim,completelystunned.Mymother?
Youwillfindherathome.Hadessentherwhenyourecoveredhishelm.Even
theLordofDeathpayshisdebts.
Myheartwaspounding.Icouldntbelieveit.Doyou...wouldyou...
IwantedtoaskifPoseidonwouldcomewithmetoseeher,butthenIrealized
thatwasridiculous.IimaginedloadingtheGodoftheSeaintoataxiandtakinghim
totheUpperEastSide.Ifhedwantedtoseemymomalltheseyears,hewould
have.AndtherewasSmellyGabetothinkabout.
Poseidons eyes took on a little sadness. When you return home, Percy, you
mustmakeanimportantchoice.Youwillfindapackagewaitinginyourroom.
Apackage?
Youwillunderstandwhenyouseeit.Noonecanchooseyourpath,Percy.You
mustdecide.
Inodded,thoughIdidntknowwhathemeant.
Yourmotherisaqueenamongwomen,Poseidonsaidwistfully.Ihadnotmet
suchamortalwomaninathousandyears.Still...Iamsorryyouwereborn,child.I
have brought you a heros fate, and a heros fate is never happy. It is never
anythingbuttragic.
I tried not to feel hurt. Here was my own dad, telling me he was sorry Id been
born.Idontmind,Father.
Notyet,perhaps,hesaid.Notyet.Butitwasanunforgivablemistakeonmy
part.
Illleaveyouthen.Ibowedawkwardly.IIwontbotheryouagain.
Iwasfivestepsawaywhenhecalled,Perseus.
Iturned.
There was a different light in his eyes, a fiery kind of pride. You did well,
Perseus. Do not misunderstand me. Whatever else you do, know that you are
mine.YouareatruesonoftheSeaGod.
As I walked back through the city of the gods, conversations stopped. The
musespausedtheirconcert.Peopleandsatyrsandnaiadsallturnedtowardme,
theirfacesfilledwithrespectandgratitude,andasIpassed,theyknelt,asifIwere
somekindofhero.
***
Fifteenminuteslater,stillinatrance,IwasbackonthestreetsofManhattan.
Icaughtataxitomymomsapartment,rangthedoorbell,andthereshewasmy
beautiful mother, smelling of peppermint and licorice, the weariness and worry
evaporatingfromherfaceassoonasshesawme.
Percy!Oh,thankgoodness.Oh,mybaby.
Shecrushedtheairrightoutofme.Westoodinthehallwayasshecriedandran
herhandsthroughmyhair.
Illadmititmyeyeswerealittlemisty,too.Iwasshaking,Iwassorelievedto
seeher.
She told me shed just appeared at the apartment that morning, scaring Gabe
halfoutofhiswits.ShedidntrememberanythingsincetheMinotaur,andcouldnt
believeitwhenGabetoldherIwasawantedcriminal,travelingacrossthecountry,
blowing up national monuments. Shed been going out of her mind with worry all
day because she hadnt heard the news. Gabe had forced her to go into work,
sayingshehadamonthssalarytomakeupandshedbettergetstarted.
Iswallowedbackmyangerandtoldhermyownstory.Itriedtomakeitsound
lessscarythanithadbeen,butthatwasnteasy.Iwasjustgettingtothefightwith
Ares when Gabes voice interrupted from the living room. Hey, Sally! That meat
loafdoneyetorwhat?
Sheclosedhereyes.Heisntgoingtobehappytoseeyou,Percy.Thestore
got half a million phone calls today from Los Angeles . . . something about free
appliances.
Oh,yeah.Aboutthat...
Shemanagedaweaksmile.Justdontmakehimangrier,allright?Comeon.
InthemonthIdbeengone,theapartmenthadturnedintoGabeland.Garbage
was ankle deep on the carpet. The sofa had been reupholstered in beer cans.
Dirtysocksandunderwearhungoffthelampshades.
Gabeandthreeofhisbiggoonyfriendswereplayingpokeratthetable.
When Gabe saw me, his cigar dropped out of his mouth. His face got redder
thanlava.Yougotnervecominghere,youlittlepunk.Ithoughtthepolice
Hesnotafugitiveafterall,mymominterjected.Isntthatwonderful,Gabe?
Gabe looked back and forth between us. He didnt seem to think my
homecomingwassowonderful.
BadenoughIhadtogivebackyourlifeinsurancemoney,Sally,hegrowled.
Getmethephone.Illcallthecops.
Gabe,no!
Heraisedhiseyebrows.Didyoujustsayno?YouthinkImgonnaputupwith
thispunkagain?IcanstillpresschargesagainsthimforruiningmyCamaro.
But
Heraisedhishand,andmymotherflinched.
For the first time, I realized something. Gabe had hit my mother. I didnt know
when,orhowmuch.ButIwassureheddoneit.Maybeithadbeengoingonfor
years,whenIwasntaround.
A balloon of anger started expanding in my chest. I came toward Gabe,
instinctivelytakingmypenoutofmypocket.
Hejustlaughed.What,punk?Yougonnawriteonme?Youtouchme,andyou
aregoingtojailforever,youunderstand?
Hey,Gabe,hisfriendEddieinterrupted.Hesjustakid.
Gabelookedathimresentfullyandmimickedinafalsettovoice:Justakid.
Hisotherfriendslaughedlikeidiots.
Illbenicetoyou,punk.Gabeshowedmehistobacco-stainedteeth.Illgive
youfiveminutestogetyourstuffandclearout.Afterthat,Icallthepolice.
Gabe!mymotherpleaded.
Heranaway,Gabetoldher.Lethimstaygone.
IwasitchingtouncapRiptide,butevenifIdid,thebladewouldnthurthumans.
AndGabe,bytheloosestdefinition,washuman.
Mymothertookmyarm.Please,Percy.Comeon.Wellgotoyourroom.
Iletherpullmeaway,myhandsstilltremblingwithrage.
My room had been completely filled with Gabes junk. There were stacks of
used car batteries, a rotting bouquet of sympathy flowers with a card from
somebodywhodseenhisBarbaraWaltersinterview.
Gabeisjustupset,honey,mymothertoldme.Illtalktohimlater.Imsureitwill
workout.
Mom,itllneverworkout.NotaslongasGabeshere.
Shewrungherhandsnervously.Ican...Illtakeyoutoworkwithmefortherest
ofthesummer.Inthefall,maybetheresanotherboardingschool
Mom.
Sheloweredhereyes.Imtrying,Percy.Ijust...Ineedsometime.
Apackageappearedonmybed.Atleast,Icouldveswornithadntbeentherea
momentbefore.
It was a battered cardboard box about the right size to fit a basketball. The
addressonthemailingslipwasinmyownhandwriting:

TheGods
MountOlympus
600thFloor,
EmpireStateBuilding
NewYork,NY
Withbestwishes,
PERCYJACKSON

Overthetopinblackmarker,inamansclear,boldprint,wastheaddressofour
apartment,andthewords:RETURNTOSENDER.
SuddenlyIunderstoodwhatPoseidonhadtoldmeonOlympus.
Apackage.Adecision.
Whateverelseyoudo,knowthatyouaremine.YouareatruesonoftheSea
God.
Ilookedatmymother.Mom,doyouwantGabegone?
Percy,itisntthatsimple.I
Mom,justtellme.Thatjerkhasbeenhittingyou.Doyouwanthimgoneornot?
She hesitated, then nodded almost imperceptibly. Yes, Percy. I do. And Im
tryingtogetupmycouragetotellhim.Butyoucantdothisforme.Youcantsolve
myproblems.
Ilookedatthebox.
Icould solve her problem. I wanted to slice that package open, plop it on the
pokertable,andtakeoutwhatwasinside.Icouldstartmyveryownstatuegarden,
rightthereinthelivingroom.
Thats what a Greek hero would do in the stories, I thought. Thats what Gabe
deserves.
Butaherosstoryalwaysendedintragedy.Poseidonhadtoldmethat.
IrememberedtheUnderworld.IthoughtaboutGabesspiritdriftingforeverinthe
Fields of Asphodel, or condemned to some hideous torture behind the barbed
wireoftheFieldsofPunishmentaneternalpokergame,sittinguptohiswaistin
boiling oil listening to opera music. Did I have the right to send someone there?
EvenGabe?
Amonthago,Iwouldnthavehesitated.Now...
Icandoit,Itoldmymom.Onelookinsidethisbox,andhellneverbotheryou
again.
She glanced at the package, and seemed to understand immediately. No,
Percy,shesaid,steppingaway.Youcant.
Poseidoncalledyouaqueen,Itoldher.Hesaidhehadntmetawomanlike
youinathousandyears.
Hercheeksflushed.Percy
Youdeservebetterthanthis,Mom.Youshouldgotocollege,getyourdegree.
Youcanwriteyournovel,meetaniceguymaybe,liveinanicehouse.Youdont
needtoprotectmeanymorebystayingwithGabe.Letmegetridofhim.
Shewipedatearoffhercheek.Yousoundsomuchlikeyourfather,shesaid.
He offered to stop the tide for me once. He offered to build me a palace at the
bottomofthesea.Hethoughthecouldsolveallmyproblemswithawaveofhis
hand.
Whatswrongwiththat?
Hermulticoloredeyesseemedtosearchinsideme.Ithinkyouknow,Percy.I
think youre enough like me to understand. If my life is going to mean anything, I
havetoliveitmyself.Icantletagodtakecareofme...ormyson.Ihaveto...
findthecourageonmyown.Yourquesthasremindedmeofthat.
We listened to the sound of poker chips and swearing, ESPN from the living
roomtelevision.
Illleavethebox,Isaid.Ifhethreatensyou...
Shelookedpale,butshenodded.Wherewillyougo,Percy?
Half-BloodHill.
Forthesummer...orforever?
Iguessthatdepends.
Welockedeyes,andIsensedthatwehadanagreement.
Wewouldseehowthingsstoodattheendofthesummer.
Shekissedmyforehead.Youllbeahero,Percy.Youllbethegreatestofall.
Itookonelastlookaroundmybedroom.IhadafeelingIdneverseeitagain.
ThenIwalkedwithmymothertothefrontdoor.
Leavingsosoon,punk?Gabecalledafterme.Goodriddance.
Ihadonelasttwingeofdoubt.HowcouldIturndowntheperfectchancetotake
revengeonhim?Iwasleavingherewithoutsavingmymother.
Hey,Sally,heyelled.Whataboutthatmeatloaf,huh?
A steely look of anger flared in my mothers eyes, and I thought, just maybe, I
wasleavingheringoodhandsafterall.Herown.
Themeatloafiscomingrightup,dear,shetoldGabe.Meatloafsurprise.
Shelookedatme,andwinked.
ThelastthingIsawasthedoorswungclosedwasmymotherstaringatGabe,
asifshewerecontemplatinghowhewouldlookasagardenstatue.
TWENTYTWO
THE PROPHECY COMES TRUE
We were the first heroes to return alive to Half-Blood Hill since Luke, so of
courseeverybodytreatedusasifwedwonsomereality-TVcontest.Accordingto
camptradition,weworelaurelwreathstoabigfeastpreparedinourhonor,then
ledaprocessiondowntothebonfire,wherewegottoburntheburialshroudsour
cabinshadmadeforusinourabsence.
AnnabethsshroudwassobeautifulgraysilkwithembroideredowlsItoldherit
seemedashamenottoburyherinit.Shepunchedmeandtoldmetoshutup.
BeingthesonofPoseidon,Ididnthaveanycabinmates,sotheArescabinhad
volunteered to make my shroud. Theyd taken an old bedsheet and painted
smileyfaceswithXed-outeyesaroundtheborder,andthewordLOSERpainted
reallybiginthemiddle.
Itwasfuntoburn.
AsApolloscabinledthesing-alongandpassedoutsmores,Iwassurrounded
by my old Hermes cabinmates, Annabeths friends from Athena, and Grovers
satyrbuddies,whowereadmiringthebrand-newsearcherslicensehedreceived
fromtheCouncilofClovenElders.ThecouncilhadcalledGroversperformance
onthequestBravetothepointofindigestion.Horns-and-whiskersaboveanything
wehaveseeninthepast.
The only ones not in a party mood were Clarisse and her cabinmates, whose
poisonouslookstoldmetheydneverforgivemefordisgracingtheirdad.
Thatwasokaywithme.
EvenDionysusswelcome-homespeechwasntenoughtodampenmyspirits.
Yes, yes, so the little brat didnt get himself killed and now hell have an even
biggerhead.Well,huzzahforthat.Inotherannouncements,therewillbenocanoe
racesthisSaturday....
I moved back into cabin three, but it didnt feel so lonely anymore. I had my
friends to train with during the day. At night, I lay awake and listened to the sea,
knowingmyfatherwasoutthere.Maybehewasntquitesureaboutmeyet,maybe
hehadntevenwantedmeborn,buthewaswatching.Andsofar,hewasproudof
whatIddone.
Asformymother,shehadachanceatanewlife.HerletterarrivedaweekafterI
got back to camp. She told me Gabe had left mysteriouslydisappeared off the
faceoftheplanet,infact.Shedreportedhimmissingtothepolice,butshehada
funnyfeelingtheywouldneverfindhim.
On a completely unrelated subject, shed sold her first life-size concrete
sculpture,entitledThePokerPlayer,toacollector,throughanartgalleryinSoho.
Shedgottensomuchmoneyforit,shedputadepositdownonanewapartment
andmadeapaymentonherfirstsemesterstuitionatNYU.TheSohogallerywas
clamoring for more of her work, which they called a huge step forward in super-
uglyneorealism.
Butdontworry,mymomwrote.Imdonewithsculpture.Ivedisposedofthatbox
oftoolsyouleftme.Itstimeformetoturntowriting.
Atthebottom,shewroteaP.S.:Percy,Ivefoundagoodprivateschoolherein
thecity.Iveputadepositdowntoholdyouaspot,incaseyouwanttoenrollfor
seventh grade. You could live at home. But if you want to go year-round at Half-
BloodHill,Illunderstand.
I folded the note carefully and set it on my bedside table. Every night before I
wenttosleep,Ireaditagain,andItriedtodecidehowtoanswerher.
On the Fourth of July, the whole camp gathered at the beach for a fireworks
displaybycabinnine.BeingHephaestusskids,theywerentgoingtosettlefora
few lame red-white-and-blue explosions. Theyd anchored a barge offshore and
loaded it with rockets the size of Patriot missiles. According to Annabeth, whod
seen the show before, the blasts would be sequenced so tightly theyd look like
frames of animation across the sky. The finale was supposed to be a couple of
hundred-foot-tallSpartanwarriorswhowouldcrackletolifeabovetheocean,fight
abattle,thenexplodeintoamillioncolors.
AsAnnabethandIwerespreadingapicnicblanket,Grovershoweduptotellus
good-bye.HewasdressedinhisusualjeansandT-shirtandsneakers,butinthe
lastfewweekshedstartedtolookolder,almosthigh-schoolage.Hisgoateehad
gottenthicker.Hedputonweight.Hishornshadgrownatleastaninch,sohenow
hadtowearhisrastacapallthetimetopassashuman.
Imoff,hesaid.Ijustcametosay...well,youknow.
Itriedtofeelhappyforhim.Afterall,itwasnteverydayasatyrgotpermissionto
go look for the great god Pan. But it was hard saying good-bye. Id only known
Groverayear,yethewasmyoldestfriend.
Annabethgavehimahug.Shetoldhimtokeephisfakefeeton.
Iaskedhimwherehewasgoingtosearchfirst.
Kind of a secret, he said, looking embarrassed. I wish you could come with
me,guys,buthumansandPan...
Weunderstand,Annabethsaid.Yougotenoughtincansforthetrip?
Yeah.
Andyourememberedyourreedpipes?
Jeez,Annabeth,hegrumbled.Yourelikeanoldmamagoat.
Buthedidntreallysoundannoyed.
He gripped his walking stick and slung a backpack over his shoulder. He
lookedlikeanyhitchhikeryoumightseeonanAmericanhighwaynothinglikethe
littleruntyboyIusedtodefendfrombulliesatYancyAcademy.
Well,hesaid,wishmeluck.
HegaveAnnabethanotherhug.Heclappedmeontheshoulder,thenheaded
backthroughthedunes.
Fireworksexplodedtolifeoverhead:HerculeskillingtheNemeanlion,Artemis
chasing the boar, George Washington (who, by the way, was a son of Athena)
crossingtheDelaware.
Hey,Grover,Icalled.
Heturnedattheedgeofthewoods.
WhereveryouregoingIhopetheymakegoodenchiladas.
Grovergrinned,andthenhewasgone,thetreesclosingaroundhim.
Wellseehimagain,Annabethsaid.
I tried to believe it. The fact that no searcher had ever come back in two
thousandyears...well,Idecidednottothinkaboutthat.Groverwouldbethefirst.
Hehadtobe.
Julypassed.
I spent my days devising new strategies for capture-the-flag and making
allianceswiththeothercabinstokeepthebanneroutofAresshands.Igottothe
topoftheclimbingwallforthefirsttimewithoutgettingscorchedbylava.
Fromtimetotime,IdwalkpasttheBigHouse,glanceupattheatticwindows,
andthinkabouttheOracle.Itriedtoconvincemyselfthatitsprophecyhadcometo
completion.
Youshallgowest,andfacethegodwhohasturned.
Been there, done thateven though the traitor god had turned out to be Ares
ratherthanHades.
Youshallfindwhatwasstolen,andseeitsafereturned.
Check.Onemasterboltdelivered.OnehelmofdarknessbackonHadessoily
head.
Youshallbebetrayedbyonewhocallsyouafriend.
Thislinestillbotheredme.Areshadpretendedtobemyfriend,thenbetrayed
me.ThatmustbewhattheOraclemeant....
Andyoushallfailtosavewhatmattersmost,intheend.
Ihad failed to save my mom, but only because Id let her save herself, and I
knewthatwastherightthing.
SowhywasIstilluneasy?
Thelastnightofthesummersessioncamealltooquickly.
Thecampershadonelastmealtogether.Weburnedpartofourdinnerforthe
gods.Atthebonfire,theseniorcounselorsawardedtheend-of-summerbeads.
Igotmyownleathernecklace,andwhenIsawthebeadformyfirstsummer,I
wasgladthefirelightcoveredmyblushing.Thedesignwaspitchblack,withasea-
greentridentshimmeringinthecenter.
Thechoicewasunanimous,Lukeannounced.Thisbeadcommemoratesthe
firstSonoftheSeaGodatthiscamp,andthequestheundertookintothedarkest
partoftheUnderworldtostopawar!
Theentirecampgottotheirfeetandcheered.EvenAresscabinfeltobligedto
stand. Athenas cabin steered Annabeth to the front so she could share in the
applause.
ImnotsureIdeverfeltashappyorsadasIdidatthatmoment.Idfinallyfound
afamily,peoplewhocaredaboutmeandthoughtIddonesomethingright.Andin
themorning,mostofthemwouldbeleavingfortheyear.
***
The next morning, I found a form letter on my bedside table. I knew Dionysus
mustvefilleditout,becausehestubbornlyinsistedongettingmynamewrong:

DearPeterJohnson,
IfyouintendtostayatCampHalf-Bloodyear-round,youmustinformthe
BigHousebynoontoday.Ifyoudonotannounceyourintentions,wewill
assumeyouhavevacatedyourcabinordiedahorribledeath.Cleaning
harpies will begin work at sundown. They will be authorized to eat any
unregisteredcampers.Allpersonalarticlesleftbehindwillbeincinerated
inthelavapit.
Haveaniceday!
Mr.D(Dionysus)
CampDirector,OlympianCouncil#12

Thats another thing about ADHD. Deadlines just arent real to me until Im
staringoneintheface.Summerwasover,andIstillhadntansweredmymother,or
thecamp,aboutwhetherIdbestaying.NowIhadonlyafewhourstodecide.
The decision should have been easy. I mean, nine months of hero training or
ninemonthsofsittinginaclassroomduh.
Buttherewasmymomtoconsider.Forthefirsttime,Ihadthechancetolivewith
herforawholeyear,withoutGabe.Ihadachancebeathomeandknockaround
thecityinmyfreetime.IrememberedwhatAnnabethhadsaidsolongagoonour
quest:Therealworldiswherethemonstersare.Thatswhereyoulearnwhether
youreanygoodornot.
I thought about the fate of Thalia, daughter of Zeus. I wondered how many
monsterswouldattackmeifIleftHalf-BloodHill.IfIstayedinoneplaceforawhole
schoolyear,withoutChironormyfriendsaroundtohelpme,wouldmymotherandI
evensurviveuntilthenextsummer?Thatwasassumingthespellingtestsandfive-
paragraphessaysdidntkillme.IdecidedIdgodowntothearenaanddosome
swordpractice.Maybethatwouldclearmyhead.
Thecampgroundsweremostlydeserted,shimmeringintheAugustheat.Allthe
campers were in their cabins packing up, or running around with brooms and
mops,gettingreadyforfinalinspection.ArguswashelpingsomeoftheAphrodite
kids haul their Gucci suitcases and makeup kits over the hill, where the camps
shuttlebuswouldbewaitingtotakethemtotheairport.
Dontthinkaboutleavingyet,Itoldmyself.Justtrain.
Igottothesword-fightersarenaandfoundthatLukehadhadthesameidea.His
gymbagwasploppedattheedgeofthestage.Hewasworkingsolo,whalingon
battledummieswithaswordIdneverseenbefore.Itmustvebeenaregularsteel
blade, because he was slashing the dummies heads right off, stabbing through
theirstraw-stuffedguts.Hisorangecounselorsshirtwasdrippingwithsweat.His
expression was so intense, his life mightve really been in danger. I watched,
fascinated,ashedisemboweledthewholerowofdummies,hackingofflimbsand
basicallyreducingthemtoapileofstrawandarmor.
Theywereonlydummies,butIstillcouldnthelpbeingawedbyLukesskill.The
guywasanincrediblefighter.Itmademewonder,again,howhepossiblycouldve
failedathisquest.
Finally,hesawme,andstoppedmid-swing.Percy.
Um,sorry,Isaid,embarrassed.Ijust
Itsokay,hesaid,loweringhissword.Justdoingsomelast-minutepractice.
Thosedummieswontbebotheringanybodyanymore.
Lukeshrugged.Webuildnewoneseverysummer.
Nowthathisswordwasntswirlingaround,Icouldseesomethingoddaboutit.
Thebladewastwodifferenttypesofmetaloneedgebronze,theothersteel.
Lukenoticedmelookingatit.Oh,this?Newtoy.ThisisBackbiter.
Backbiter?
Luke turned the blade in the light so it glinted wickedly. One side is celestial
bronze.Theotheristemperedsteel.Worksonmortalsandimmortalsboth.
I thought about what Chiron had told me when I started my questthat a hero
shouldneverharmmortalsunlessabsolutelynecessary.
Ididntknowtheycouldmakeweaponslikethat.
Theyprobablycant,Lukeagreed.Itsoneofakind.
He gave me a tiny smile, then slid the sword into its scabbard. Listen, I was
goingtocomelookingforyou.
Whatdoyousaywegodowntothewoodsonelasttime,lookforsomethingto
fight?
I dont know why I hesitated. I shouldve felt relieved that Luke was being so
friendly.EversinceIdgottenbackfromthequest,hedbeenactingalittledistant.I
wasafraidhemightresentmeforalltheattentionIdgotten.
Youthinkitsagoodidea?Iasked.Imean
Aw, come on. He rummaged in his gym bag and pulled out a six-pack of
Cokes.Drinksareonme.
IstaredattheCokes,wonderingwheretheheckhedgottenthem.Therewere
noregularmortalsodasatthecampstore.Nowaytosmuggletheminunlessyou
talkedtoasatyr,maybe.
Of course, the magic dinner goblets would fill with anything you want, but it just
didnttastethesameasarealCoke,straightoutofthecan.
Sugarandcaffeine.Mywillpowercrumbled.
Sure,Idecided.Whynot?
Wewalkeddowntothewoodsandkickedaroundforsomekindofmonsterto
fight,butitwastoohot.Allthemonsterswithanysensemustvebeentakingsiestas
intheirnicecoolcaves.
WefoundashadyspotbythecreekwhereIdbrokenClarissesspearduring
my first capture the flag game. We sat on a big rock, drank our Cokes, and
watchedthesunlightinthewoods.
AfterawhileLukesaid,Youmissbeingonaquest?
Withmonstersattackingmeeverythreefeet?Areyoukidding?
Lukeraisedaneyebrow.
Yeah,Imissit,Iadmitted.You?
Ashadowpassedoverhisface.
I was used to hearing from the girls how good-looking Luke was, but at the
moment,helookedweary,andangry,andnotatallhandsome.Hisblondhairwas
gray in the sunlight. The scar on his face looked deeper than usual. I could
imaginehimasanoldman.
IvelivedatHalf-BloodHillyear-roundsinceIwasfourteen,hetoldme.Ever
sinceThalia...well,youknow.Itrained,andtrained,andtrained.Inevergottobe
anormalteenager,outthereintherealworld.Thentheythrewmeonequest,and
whenIcameback,itwaslike,Okay,ridesover.Haveanicelife.
HecrumpledhisCokecanandthrewintothecreek,whichreallyshockedme.
OneofthefirstthingsyoulearnatCampHalf-Bloodis:Dontlitter.Youllhearfrom
thenymphsandthenaiads.Theyllgeteven.Youllcrawlintobedonenightand
findyoursheetsfilledwithcentipedesandmud.
The heck with laurel wreaths, Luke said. Im not going to end up like those
dustytrophiesintheBigHouseattic.
Youmakeitsoundlikeyoureleaving.
Luke gave me a twisted smile. Oh, Im leaving, all right, Percy. I brought you
downheretosaygood-bye.
Hesnappedhisfingers.Asmallfireburnedaholeinthegroundatmyfeet.Out
crawledsomethingglisteningblack,aboutthesizeofmyhand.Ascorpion.
Istartedtogoformypen.
Iwouldnt,Lukecautioned.Pitscorpionscanjumpuptofifteenfeet.Itsstinger
canpiercerightthroughyourclothes.Youllbedeadinsixtyseconds.
Luke,what
Thenithitme.
Youwillbebetrayedbyonewhocallsyouafriend.
You,Isaid.
Hestoodcalmlyandbrushedoffhisjeans.
The scorpion paid him no attention. It kept its beady black eyes on me,
clampingitspincersasitcrawledontomyshoe.
I saw a lot out there in the world, Percy, Luke said. Didnt you feel itthe
darkness gathering, the monsters growing stronger? Didnt you realize how
useless it all is? All the heroicsbeing pawns of the gods. They shouldve been
overthrownthousandsofyearsago,buttheyvehungon,thankstoushalf-bloods.
Icouldntbelievethiswashappening.
Luke...youretalkingaboutourparents,Isaid.
Helaughed.Thatssupposedtomakemelovethem?TheirpreciousWestern
civilization is a disease, Percy. Its killing the world. The only way to stop it is to
burnittotheground,startoverwithsomethingmorehonest.
YoureascrazyasAres.
His eyes flared. Ares is a fool. He never realized the true master he was
serving.IfIhadtime,Percy,Icouldexplain.ButImafraidyouwontlivethatlong.
Thescorpioncrawledontomypantsleg.
Therehadtobeawayoutofthis.Ineededtimetothink.
Kronos,Isaid.Thatswhoyouserve.
Theairgotcolder.
Youshouldbecarefulwithnames,Lukewarned.
Kronosgotyoutostealthemasterboltandthehelm.Hespoketoyouinyour
dreams.
Lukeseyetwitched.Hespoketoyou,too,Percy.Youshouldvelistened.
Hesbrainwashingyou,Luke.
Yourewrong.Heshowedmethatmytalentsarebeingwasted.Youknowwhat
my quest was two years ago, Percy? My father, Hermes, wanted me to steal a
goldenapplefromtheGardenoftheHesperidesandreturnittoOlympus.Afterall
thetrainingIddone,thatwasthebesthecouldthinkup.
Thatsnotaneasyquest,Isaid.Herculesdidit.
Exactly,Lukesaid.Wheresthegloryinrepeatingwhatothershavedone?All
thegodsknowhowtodoisreplaytheirpast.Myheartwasntinit.Thedragonin
thegardengavemethishepointedangrilyathisscarandwhenIcameback,
all I got was pity. I wanted to pull Olympus down stone by stone right then, but I
bidedmytime.IbegantodreamofKronos.Heconvincedmetostealsomething
worthwhile,somethingnoherohadeverhadthecouragetotake.Whenwewenton
thatwinter-solsticefieldtrip,whiletheothercamperswereasleep,Isnuckintothe
throne room and took Zeuss master bolt right from his chair. Hadess helm of
darkness, too. You wouldnt believe how easy it was. The Olympians are so
arrogant;theyneverdreamedsomeonewoulddarestealfromthem.Theirsecurity
ishorrible.IwashalfwayacrossNewJerseybeforeIheardthestormsrumbling,
andIknewtheyddiscoveredmytheft.
Thescorpionwassittingonmykneenow,staringatmewithitsglitteringeyes.I
triedtokeepmyvoicelevel.SowhydidntyoubringtheitemstoKronos?
Lukes smile wavered. I . . . I got overconfident. Zeus sent out his sons and
daughters to find the stolen bolt Artemis, Apollo, my father, Hermes. But it was
Ares who caught me. I could have beaten him, but I wasnt careful enough. He
disarmedme,tooktheitemsofpower,threatenedtoreturnthemtoOlympusand
burnmealive.ThenKronossvoicecametomeandtoldmewhattosay.Iputthe
ideainAressheadaboutagreatwarbetweenthegods.Isaidallhehadtodo
washidetheitemsawayforawhileandwatchtheothersfight.Aresgotawicked
gleaminhiseyes.Iknewhewashooked.Heletmego,andIreturnedtoOlympus
beforeanyonenoticedmyabsence.Lukedrewhisnewsword.Heranhisthumb
down the flat of the blade, as if he were hypnotized by its beauty. Afterward, the
LordoftheTitans...h-hepunishedmewithnightmares.Isworenottofailagain.
Back at Camp Half-Blood, in my dreams, I was told that a second hero would
arrive,onewhocouldbetrickedintotakingtheboltandthehelmtherestoftheway
fromAresdowntoTartarus.
Yousummonedthehellhound,thatnightintheforest.
We had to make Chiron think the camp wasnt safe for you, so he would start
you on your quest. We had to confirm his fears that Hades was after you. And it
worked.
Theflyingshoeswerecursed,Isaid.Theyweresupposedtodragmeandthe
backpackintoTartarus.
And they would have, if youd been wearing them. But you gave them to the
satyr,whichwasntpartoftheplan.Grovermessesupeverythinghetouches.He
evenconfusedthecurse.
Luke looked down at the scorpion, which was now sitting on my thigh. You
should have died in Tartarus, Percy. But dont worry, Ill leave you with my little
friendtosetthingsright.
Thaliagaveherlifetosaveyou,Isaid,grittingmyteeth.Andthisishowyou
repayher?
Dont speak of Thalia! he shouted. The godslet her die! Thats one of the
manythingstheywillpayfor.
Yourebeingused,Luke.YouandAresboth.DontlistentoKronos.
Ive been used? Lukes voice turned shrill. Look at yourself. What has your
dad ever done for you? Kronos will rise. Youve only delayed his plans. He will
casttheOlympiansintoTartarusanddrivehumanitybacktotheircaves.Allexcept
thestrongesttheoneswhoservehim.
Calloffthebug,Isaid.Ifyouresostrong,fightmeyourself.
Luke smiled. Nice try, Percy. But Im not Ares. You cant bait me. My lord is
waiting,andhesgotplentyofquestsformetoundertake.
Luke
Good-bye,Percy.ThereisanewGoldenAgecoming.Youwontbepartofit.
Heslashedhisswordinanarcanddisappearedinarippleofdarkness.
Thescorpionlunged.
Iswatteditawaywithmyhandanduncappedmysword.Thethingjumpedatme
andIcutitinhalfinmidair.
IwasabouttocongratulatemyselfuntilIlookeddownatmyhand.Mypalmhad
a huge red welt, oozing and smoking with yellow guck. The thing had gotten me
afterall.
My ears pounded. My vision went foggy. The water, I thought. It healed me
before.
I stumbled to the creek and submerged my hand, but nothing seemed to
happen. The poison was too strong. My vision was getting dark. I could barely
standup.
Sixtyseconds,Lukehadtoldme.
Ihadtogetbacktocamp.IfIcollapsedouthere,mybodywouldbedinnerfora
monster.Nobodywouldeverknowwhathadhappened.
My legs felt like lead. My forehead was burning. I stumbled toward the camp,
andthenymphsstirredfromtheirtrees.
Help,Icroaked.Please...
Two of them took my arms, pulling me along. I remember making it to the
clearing,acounselorshoutingforhelp,acentaurblowingaconchhorn.
Theneverythingwentblack.
***
Iwokewithadrinkingstrawinmymouth.Iwassippingsomethingthattastedlike
liquidchocolate-chipcookies.Nectar.
Iopenedmyeyes.
I was propped up in bed in the sickroom of the Big House, my right hand
bandagedlikeaclub.Argusstoodguardinthecorner.Annabethsatnexttome,
holdingmynectarglassanddabbingawashclothonmyforehead.
Hereweareagain,Isaid.
You idiot, Annabeth said, which is how I knew she was overjoyed to see me
conscious. You were green and turning gray when we found you. If it werent for
Chironshealing...
Now, now, Chirons voice said. Percys constitution deserves some of the
credit.
He was sitting near the foot of my bed in human form, which was why I hadnt
noticedhimyet.Hislowerhalfwasmagicallycompactedintothewheelchair,his
upper half dressed in a coat and tie. He smiled, but his face looked weary and
pale,thewayitdidwhenhedbeenupallnightgradingLatinpapers.
Howareyoufeeling?heasked.
Likemyinsideshavebeenfrozen,thenmicrowaved.
Apt,consideringthatwaspitscorpionvenom.Nowyoumusttellme,ifyoucan,
exactlywhathappened.
Betweensipsofnectar,Itoldthemthestory.
Theroomwasquietforalongtime.
IcantbelievethatLuke...Annabethsvoicefaltered.Herexpressionturned
angry and sad. Yes. Yes, Ican believe it. May the gods curse him. . . . He was
neverthesameafterhisquest.
ThismustbereportedtoOlympus,Chironmurmured.Iwillgoatonce.
Lukeisoutthererightnow,Isaid.Ihavetogoafterhim.
Chironshookhishead.No,Percy.Thegods
WonteventalkaboutKronos,Isnapped.Zeusdeclaredthematterclosed!
Percy,Iknowthisishard.Butyoumustnotrushoutforvengeance.Youarent
ready.
Ididntlikeit,butpartofmesuspectedChironwasright.Onelookatmyhand,
and I knew I wasnt going to be sword fighting any time soon. Chiron . . . your
prophecy from the Oracle . . . it was about Kronos, wasnt it? Was I in it? And
Annabeth?
Chironglancednervouslyattheceiling.Percy,itisntmyplace
Youvebeenorderednottotalktomeaboutit,haventyou?
Hiseyesweresympathetic,butsad.Youwillbeagreathero,child.Iwilldomy
besttoprepareyou.ButifImrightaboutthepathaheadofyou...
Thunderboomedoverhead,rattlingthewindows.
Allright!Chironshouted.Fine!
Hesighedinfrustration.Thegodshavetheirreasons,Percy.Knowingtoomuch
ofyourfutureisneveragoodthing.
Wecantjustsitbackanddonothing,Isaid.
Wewillnotsitback,Chironpromised.Butyoumustbecareful.Kronoswants
you to come unraveled. He wants your life disrupted, your thoughts clouded with
fear and anger. Do not give him what he wants. Train patiently. Your time will
come.
AssumingIlivethatlong.
Chironputhishandonmyankle.Youllhavetotrustme,Percy.Youwilllive.But
first you must decide your path for the coming year. I cannot tell you the right
choice....Igotthefeelingthathehadaverydefiniteopinion,anditwastakingall
hiswillpowernottoadviseme.ButyoumustdecidewhethertostayatCampHalf-
Bloodyear-round,orreturntothemortalworldforseventhgradeandbeasummer
camper. Think on that. When I get back from Olympus, you must tell me your
decision.
Iwantedtoprotest.Iwantedtoaskhimmorequestions.Buthisexpressiontold
metherecouldbenomorediscussion;hehadsaidasmuchashecould.
IllbebackassoonasIcan,Chironpromised.Arguswillwatchoveryou.
HeglancedatAnnabeth.Oh,and,mydear...wheneveryoureready,theyre
here.
Whoshere?Iasked.
Nobodyanswered.
Chiron rolled himself out of the room. I heard the wheels of his chair clunk
carefullydownthefrontsteps,twoatatime.
Annabethstudiedtheiceinmydrink.
Whatswrong?Iaskedher.
Nothing. She set the glass on the table. I . . . just took your advice about
something.You...um...needanything?
Yeah.Helpmeup.Iwanttogooutside.
Percy,thatisntagoodidea.
Islidmylegsoutofbed.AnnabethcaughtmebeforeIcouldcrumpletothefloor.
Awaveofnausearolledoverme.
Annabethsaid,Itoldyou...
Imfine,Iinsisted.IdidntwanttolieinbedlikeaninvalidwhileLukewasout
thereplanningtodestroytheWesternworld.
I managed a step forward. Then another, still leaning heavily on Annabeth.
Argusfollowedusoutside,buthekepthisdistance.
Bythetimewereachedtheporch,myfacewasbeadedwithsweat.Mystomach
hadtwistedintoknots.ButIhadmanagedtomakeitallthewaytotherailing.
Itwasdusk.Thecamplookedcompletelydeserted.Thecabinsweredarkand
thevolleyballpitsilent.Nocanoescutthesurfaceofthelake.Beyondthewoods
andthestrawberryfields,theLongIslandSoundglitteredinthelastlightofthesun.
Whatareyougoingtodo?Annabethaskedme.
Idontknow.
I told her I got the feeling Chiron wanted me to stay year-round, to put in more
individualtrainingtime,butIwasntsurethatswhatIwanted.IadmittedIdfeelbad
aboutleavingheralone,though,withonlyClarisseforcompany....
Annabethpursedherlips,thensaidquietly,Imgoinghomefortheyear,Percy.
Istaredather.Youmean,toyourdads?
ShepointedtowardthecrestofHalf-BloodHill.NexttoThaliaspinetree,atthe
veryedgeofthecampsmagicalboundaries,afamilystoodsilhouettedtwolittle
children,awoman,andatallmanwithblondhair.Theyseemedtobewaiting.The
manwasholdingabackpackthatlookedliketheoneAnnabethhadgottenfrom
WaterlandinDenver.
Iwrotehimaletterwhenwegotback,Annabethsaid.Justlikeyousuggested.
Itoldhim...Iwassorry.Idcomehomefortheschoolyearifhestillwantedme.He
wrotebackimmediately.Wedecided...wedgiveitanothertry.
Thattookguts.
She pursed her lips. You wont try anything stupid during the school year, will
you?Atleast...notwithoutsendingmeanIris-message?
Imanagedasmile.Iwontgolookingfortrouble.Iusuallydonthaveto.
WhenIgetbacknextsummer,shesaid,wellhuntdownLuke.Wellaskfora
quest,butifwedontgetapproval,wellsneakoffanddoitanyway.Agreed?
SoundslikeaplanworthyofAthena.
Sheheldoutherhand.Ishookit.
Takecare,SeaweedBrain,Annabethtoldme.Keepyoureyesopen.
Youtoo,WiseGirl.
Iwatchedherwalkupthehillandjoinherfamily.Shegaveherfatheranawkward
hugandlookedbackatthevalleyonelasttime.ShetouchedThaliaspinetree,
thenallowedherselftobeleadoverthecrestandintothemortalworld.
Forthefirsttimeatcamp,Ifelttrulyalone.IlookedoutatLongIslandSoundandI
rememberedmyfathersaying,Theseadoesnotliketoberestrained.
Imademydecision.
Iwondered,ifPoseidonwerewatching,wouldheapproveofmychoice?
Ill be back next summer, I promised him. Ill survive until then. After all, I am
yourson.IaskedArgustotakemedowntocabinthree,soIcouldpackmybags
forhome.
ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
Withouttheassistanceofnumerousvalianthelpers,Iwouldhavebeenslainby
monstersmanytimesoverasIendeavoredtobringthisstorytoprint.Thanksto
my elder son, Haley Michael, who heard the story first; my younger son, Patrick
John, who at the age of six is the levelheaded one in the family; and my wife,
Becky,whoputsupwithmymanylonghoursatCampHalf-Blood.Thanksalsoto
mycadreofmiddle-schoolbetatesters:TravisStoll,cleverandquickasHermes;
C. C. Kellogg, beloved as Athena; Allison Bauer, clear-eyed as Artemis the
Huntress; and Mrs. Margaret Floyd, the wise and kindly seer of middle-school
English. My appreciation also to Professor Egbert J. Bakker, classicist
extraordinaire;NancyGallt,agentsummacumlaude;JonathanBurnham,Jennifer
Besser,andSarahHughesforbelievinginPercy.
Don' t miss the exciting new series The Kane Chronicles,
by Rick Riordan
Weonlyhaveafewhours,solistencarefully.
Ifyourehearingthisstory,yourealreadyindanger.SadieandImightbeyour
onlychance.
Go to the school. Find the locker. I wont tell you which school or which locker,
becauseifyouretherightperson,youllfindit.Thecombinationis13/32/33.Bythe
timeyoufinishlistening,youllknowwhatthosenumbersmean.Justrememberthe
storywereabouttotellyouisntcompleteyet.Howitendswilldependonyou.
The most important thing: when you open the package and find whats inside,
dont keep it longer than a week. Sure, itll be tempting. I mean, it will grant you
almostunlimitedpower.Butifyoupossessittoolong,itwillconsumeyou.Learnits
secretsquicklyandpassiton.Hideitforthenextperson,thewaySadieandIdid
foryou.Thenbepreparedforyourlifetogetveryinteresting.
Okay,Sadieistellingmetostopstallingandgetonwiththestory.Fine.Iguessit
startedinLondon,thenightourdadblewuptheBritishMuseum.

MynameisCarterKane.Imfourteenandmyhomeisasuitcase.
YouthinkImkidding?SinceIwaseightyearsold,mydadandIhavetraveled
theworld.IwasborninL.A.butmydadsanarchaeologist,sohisworktakeshim
allover.MostlywegotoEgypt,sincethatshisspecialty.Gointoabookstore,find
abookaboutEgypt,theresaprettygoodchanceitwaswrittenbyDr.JuliusKane.
You want to know how Egyptians pulled the brains out of mummies, or built the
pyramids, or cursed King Tuts tomb? My dad is your man. Of course, there are
otherreasonsmydadmovedaroundsomuch,butIdidntknowhissecretback
then.
I didnt go to school. My dad homeschooled me, if you can call it home
schoolingwhenyoudonthaveahome.Hesortoftaughtmewhateverhethought
wasimportant,soIlearnedalotaboutEgyptandbasketballstatsandmydads
favoritemusicians.Ireadalot,tooprettymuchanythingIcouldgetmyhandson,
from dads history books to fantasy novelsbecause I spent a lot of time sitting
aroundinhotelsandairportsanddigsitesinforeigncountrieswhereIdidntknow
anybody.Mydadwasalwaystellingmetoputthebookdownandplaysomeball.
Youevertrytostartagameofpick-upbasketballinAswan,Egypt?Itsnoteasy.
Anyway, my dad trained me early to keep all my possessions in a single
suitcase that fits in an airplanes overhead compartment. My dad packed the
same way, except he was allowed an extra workbag for his archaeology tools.
Rulenumberone:Iwasnotallowedtolookinhisworkbag.ThatsaruleInever
brokeuntilthedayoftheexplosion.

It happened on Christmas Eve. We were in London for visitation day with my


sister,Sadie.
See,Dadsonlyallowedtwodaysayearwithheroneinthewinter,oneinthe
summerbecauseourgrandparentshatehim.Afterourmomdied,herparents(our
grandparents)hadthisbigcourtbattlewithDad.Aftersixlawyers,twofistfights,and
anearfatalattackwithaspatula(dontask),theywontherighttokeepSadiewith
theminEngland.Shewasonlysix,twoyearsyoungerthanme,andtheycouldnt
keepusbothatleastthatwastheirexcusefornottakingme.SoSadiewasraised
asaBritishschoolkid,andItraveledaroundwithmydad.WeonlysawSadietwice
ayear,whichwasfinewithme.
[Shutup,Sadie.YesImgettingtothatpart.]
Soanyway,mydadandIhadjustflownintoHeathrowafteracoupleofdelays.It
wasadrizzly,coldafternoon.Thewholetaxirideintothecity,mydadseemedkind
ofnervous.
Now,mydadisabigguy.Youwouldntthinkanythingcouldmakehimnervous.
He has dark brown skin like mine, piercing brown eyes, a bald head, and a
goatee,sohelookslikeabuffevilscientist.Thatafternoonheworehiscashmere
wintercoatandhisbestbrownsuit,theoneheusedforpubliclectures.Usuallyhe
exudes so much confidence that he dominates any room he walks into, but
sometimeslike that afternoonI saw another side to him that I didnt really
understand.Hekeptlookingoverhisshoulderlikewewerebeinghunted.
Dad?IsaidasweweregettingofftheA-40.Whatswrong?
No sign of them, he muttered. Then he mustve realized hed spoken aloud,
becausehelookedatmekindofstartled.Nothing,Carter.Everythingsfine.
Which bothered me because my dads a terrible liar. I always knew when he
washidingsomething,butIalsoknewnoamountofpesteringwouldgetthetruth
out of him. He was probably trying to protect me, though from what I didnt know.
SometimesIwonderedifhehadsomedarksecretinhispast,someoldenemy
following him, maybe; but the idea seemed ridiculous. Dad was just an
archaeologist.
Theotherthingthattroubledme:Dadwasclutchinghisworkbag.Usuallywhen
hedoesthat,itmeanswereindanger.Likethetimegunmenstormedourhotelin
Cairo.Iheardshotscomingfromthelobbyandrandownstairstocheckonmydad.
By the time I got there, he was just calmly zipping up his workbag while three
unconsciousgunmenhungbytheirfeetfromthechandelier,theirrobesfallingover
their heads so you could see their boxer shorts. Dad claimed not to have
witnessed anything, and in the end the police blamed a freak chandelier
malfunction.
Anothertime,wegotcaughtinariotinParis.Mydadfoundthenearestparked
car, pushed me into the backseat, and told me to stay down. I pressed myself
againstthefloorboardsandkeptmyeyesshuttight.IcouldhearDadinthedrivers
seat,rummaginginhisbag,mumblingsomethingtohimselfwhilethemobyelled
anddestroyedthingsoutside.Afewminuteslaterhetoldmeitwassafetogetup.
Every other car on the block had been overturned and set on fire. Our car had
been freshly washed and polished, and several twenty-euro notes had been
tuckedunderthewindshieldwipers.
Anyway,Idcometorespectthebag.Itwasourgoodluckcharm.Butwhenmy
dadkeptitclose,itmeantweweregoingtoneedgoodluck.
Wedrovethroughthecitycenter,headingeasttowardmygrandparentsflat.We
passedthegoldengatesofBuckinghamPalace,thebigstonecolumninTrafalgar
Square. London is a pretty cool place, but after youve traveled for so long, all
cities start to blend together. Other kids I meet sometimes say, Wow, youre so
luckyyougettotravelsomuch.Butitsnotlikewespendourtimesightseeingor
havealotofmoneytotravelinstyle.Wevestayedinsomeprettyroughplaces,
andwehardlyeverstayanywherelongerthanafewdays.Mostofthetimeitfeels
likewerefugitivesratherthantourists.
Imean,youwouldntthinkmydadsworkwasdangerous.Hedoeslectureson
topicslikeCanEgyptianMagicReallyKillYou?andFavoritePunishmentsinthe
Egyptian Underworld and other stuff most people wouldnt care about. But like I
said, theres that other side to him. Hes always very cautious, checking every
hotel room before he lets me walk into it. Hell dart into a museum to see some
artifacts, take a few notes, and rush out again like hes afraid to be caught on
securitycameras.
OnetimewhenIwasyounger,weracedacrosstheCharlesdeGaulleairportto
catchalast-minuteflight,andDaddidntrelaxuntiltheplanewasofftheground,I
askedhimpointblankwhathewasrunningfrom,andhelookedatmelikeIdjust
pulledthepinoutofagrenade.ForasecondIwasscaredhemightactuallytell
methetruth.Thenhesaid,Carter,itsnothing.Asifnothingwerethemostterrible
thingintheworld.
Afterthat,Idecidedmaybeitwasbetternottoaskquestions.

My grandparents, the Fausts, lived in a housing development near Canary


Wharf,rightonthebanksoftheRiverThames.Thetaxiletusoffatthecurb,and
mydadaskedthedrivertowait.
WewerehalfwayupthewalkwhenDadfroze.Heturnedandlookedbehindus.
What?Iasked.
ThenIsawthemaninthetrenchcoat.Hewasacrossthestreet,leaningagainst
abigdeadtree.Hewasbarrelshaped,withskinthecolorofroastedcoffee.His
coat and black pinstriped suit looked expensive. He had long braided hair and
woreablackfedorapulleddownlowoverhisdarkroundglasses.Hereminded
meofajazzmusician,thekindmydadwouldalwaysdragmetoseeinconcert.
EventhoughIcouldntseehiseyes,Igottheimpressionhewaswatchingus.He
mightvebeenanoldfriendorcolleagueofDads.Nomatterwherewewent,Dad
wasalwaysrunningintopeopleheknew.Butitdidseemstrangethattheguywas
waitinghere,outsidemygrandparents.Andhedidntlookhappy.
Carter,mydadsaid,goonahead.
But
Getyoursister.Illmeetyoubackatthetaxi.
Hecrossedthestreettowardthemaninthetrenchcoat,whichleftmewithtwo
choices:followmydadandseewhatwasgoingon,ordowhatIwastold.
Idecidedontheslightlylessdangerouspath.Iwenttoretrievemysister.

BeforeIcouldevenknock,Sadieopenedthedoor.
Lateasusual,shesaid.
She was holding her cat, Muffin, whod been a going away gift from Dad six
yearsbefore.Muffinneverseemedtogetolderorbigger.Shehadfuzzyyellow-
and-blackfurlikeaminiatureleopard,alertyelloweyes,andpointyearsthatwere
tootallforherhead.AsilverEgyptianpendantdangledfromhercollar.Shedidnt
look anything like a muffin, but Sadie had been little when she named her, so I
guessyouhavetocuthersomeslack.
Sadiehadntchangedmucheithersincelastsummer.
[AsImrecordingthis,shesstandingnexttome,glaring,soIguessIdbetterbe
carefulhowIdescribeher.]
Youwouldneverguessshesmysister.Firstofall,shedbeenlivinginEngland
solong,shehasaBritishaccent.Second,shetakesafterourmom,whowaswhite,
soSadiesskinismuchlighterthanmine.Shehasstraightcaramel-coloredhair,
not exactly blond but not brown, which she usually dyes with streaks of bright
colors. That day it had red streaks down the left side. Her eyes are blue. Im
serious.Blueeyes,justlikeourmoms.Shesonlytwelve,butshesexactlyastall
asme,whichisreallyannoying.Shewaschewinggumasusual,dressedforher
day out with Dad in battered jeans, a leather jacket, and combat boots, like she
was going to a concert and was hoping to stomp on some people. She had
headphonesdanglingaroundherneckincaseweboredher.
[Okay,shedidnthitme,soIguessIdidanokayjobofdescribingher.]
Ourplanewaslate,Itoldher.
Shepoppedabubble,rubbedMuffinshead,andtossedthecatinside.Gran,
goingout!
From somewhere in the house, Grandma Faust muttered something I couldnt
makeout,probablyDontletthemin!
SadieclosedthedoorandregardedmeasifIwereadeadmousehercathad
justdraggedin.So,hereyouareagain.
Yep.
Comeon,then.Shesighed.Letsgetonwithit.
Thatsthewayshewas.NoHi,howyoubeenthelastsixmonths?Sogladto
seeyou!oranything.Butthatwasokaywithme.Whenyouonlyseeeachother
twiceayear,itslikeyouredistantcousinsratherthansiblings.Wehadabsolutely
nothingincommonexceptourparents.
Wetrudgeddownthesteps.Iwasthinkinghowshesmelledlikeacombination
ofoldpeopleshouseandbubblegumwhenshestoppedsoabruptly,Iraninto
her.
Whosthat?sheasked.
Id almost forgotten about the dude in the trench coat. He and my dad were
standingacrossthestreetnexttothebigtree,havingwhatlookedlikeaserious
argument.DadsbackwasturnedsoIcouldntseehisface,buthegesturedwith
hishandslikehedoeswhenhesagitated.Theotherguyscowledandshookhis
head.
Dunno,Isaid.Hewastherewhenwepulledup.
Helooksfamiliar.Sadiefrownedlikeshewastryingtoremember.Comeon.
Dadwantsustowaitinthecab,Isaid,eventhoughIknewitwasnouse.Sadie
wasalreadyonthemove.
Insteadofgoingstraightacrossthestreet,shedashedupthesidewalkforhalfa
block,duckingbehindcars,thencrossedtotheoppositesideandcrouchedunder
alowstonewall.Shestartedsneakingtowardourdad.Ididnthavemuchchoice
buttofollowherexample,butitmademefeelkindofstupid.
SixyearsinEngland,Imuttered,andshethinksshesJamesBond.
Sadieswattedmewithoutlookingbackandkeptcreepingforward.
Acouplemorestepsandwewererightbehindthebigdeadtree.Icouldhear
mydadontheotherside,saying,haveto,Amos.Youknowitstherightthing.
No, said the other man, who mustve been Amos. His voice was deep and
evenveryinsistent.HisaccentwasAmerican.IfIdontstopyou,Julius,theywill.
ThePerAnkhisshadowingyou.
SadieturnedtomeandmouthedthewordsPerwhat?
Ishookmyhead,justasmystified.Letsgetoutofhere,Iwhispered,becauseI
figured wed be spotted any minute and get in serious trouble. Sadie, of course,
ignoredme.
Theydontknowmyplan,myfatherwassaying.Bythetimetheyfigureitout
And the children? Amos asked. The hairs stood up on the back of my neck.
Whataboutthem?
Ive made arrangements to protect them, my dad said. Besides, if I dont do
this,wereallindanger.Now,backoff.
Icant,Julius.
Thenitsaduelyouwant?Dadstoneturneddeadlyserious.Younevercould
beatme,Amos.
IhadntseenmydadgetviolentsincetheGreatSpatulaIncident,andIwasnt
anxious to see a repeat ofthat, but the two men seemed to be edging toward a
fight.
BeforeIcouldreact,Sadiepoppedupandshouted,Dad!
Helookedsurprisedwhenshetackle-huggedhim,butnotnearlyassurprised
astheotherguy,Amos.Hebackedupsoquickly,hetrippedoverhisowntrench
coat.
Hedtakenoffhisglasses.IcouldnthelpthinkingthatSadiewasright.Hedid
lookfamiliarlikeaverydistantmemory.
IImustbegoing,hemuttered.Hestraightenedhisfedoraandlumbereddown
theroad.
Ourdadwatchedhimgo.HekeptonearmprotectivelyaroundSadieandone
hand inside the workbag slung over his shoulder. Finally, when Amos
disappearedaroundthecorner,Dadrelaxed.Hetookhishandoutofthebagand
smiledatSadie.Hello,sweetheart.
Sadiepushedawayfromhimandcrossedherarms.Oh,nowitssweetheart,is
it?Yourelate.VisitationDaysnearlyover!Andwhatwasthatabout?WhosAmos,
andwhatsthePerAnkh?
Dad stiffened. He glanced at me like he was wondering how much wed
overheard.
Its nothing, he said, trying to sound upbeat. I have a wonderful evening
planned.WhodlikeaprivatetouroftheBritishMuseum?

SadieslumpedinthebackofthetaxibetweenDadandme.
I cant believe it, she grumbled. One evening together, and you want to do
research.
Dad tried for a smile. Sweetheart, itll be fun. The curator of the Egyptian
collectionpersonallyinvited
Right, big surprise. Sadie blew a strand of red-streaked hair out of her face.
ChristmasEve,andweregoingtoseesomemoldyoldrelicsfromEgypt.Doyou
everthinkaboutanythingelse?
Daddidntgetmad.HenevergetsmadatSadie.Hejuststaredoutthewindow
atthedarkeningskyandtherain.
Yes,hesaidquietly.Ido.
Whenever Dad got quiet like that and stared off into nowhere, I knew he was
thinkingaboutourmom.Thelastfewmonths,ithadbeenhappeningalot.Idwalk
into our hotel room and find him with his cell phone in his hands, Moms picture
smiling up at him from the screenher hair tucked under a headscarf, her blue
eyesstartlinglybrightagainstthedesertbackdrop.
Orwedbeatsomedigsite.IdseeDadstaringatthehorizon,andIdknowhe
was remembering how hed met hertwo young scientists in the Valley of the
Kings, on a dig to discover a lost tomb. Dad was an Egyptologist. Mom was an
anthropologistlookingforancientDNA.Hedtoldmethestoryathousandtimes.
Our taxi snaked its way along the banks of the Thames. Just past Waterloo
Bridge,mydadtensed.
Driver,hesaid.Stophereamoment.
ThecabbiepulledoverontheVictoriaEmbankment.
Whatisit,Dad?Iasked.
Hegotoutofthecablikehehadntheardme.WhenSadieandIjoinedhimon
thesidewalk,hewasstaringupatCleopatrasNeedle.
In case youve never seen it: the Needle is an obelisk, not a needle, and it
doesnt have anything to do with Cleopatra. I guess the British just thought the
name sounded cool when they brought it to London. Its about seventy feet tall,
whichwouldvebeenreallyimpressivebackinAncientEgypt,butontheThames,
withallthetallbuildingsaround,itlookssmallandsad.Youcoulddriverightbyit
andnotevenrealizeyoudjustpassedsomethingthatwasathousandyearsolder
thanthecityofLondon.
God.Sadiewalkedaroundinafrustratedcircle.Dowehavetostopforevery
monument?
My dad stared at the top of the obelisk. I had to see it again, he murmured.
Whereithappened...
Afreezingwindblewofftheriver.Iwantedtogetbackinthecab,butmydadwas
reallystartingtoworryme.Idneverseenhimsodistracted.
What,Dad?Iasked.Whathappenedhere?
ThelastplaceIsawher.
Sadiestoppedpacing.Shescowledatmeuncertainly,thenbackatDad.Hang
on.DoyoumeanMum?
DadbrushedSadieshairbehindherear,andshewassosurprised,shedidnt
evenpushhimaway.
Ifeltliketherainhadfrozenmesolid.Momsdeathhadalwaysbeenaforbidden
subject. I knew shed died in an accident in London. I knew my grandparents
blamedmydad.Butnoonewouldevertellusthedetails.Idgivenupaskingmy
dad,partlybecauseitmadehimsosad,partlybecauseheabsolutelyrefusedto
tell me anything. When youre older was all he would say, which was the most
frustratingresponseever.
Youre telling us she died here, I said. At Cleopatras Needle? What
happened?
Heloweredhishead.
Dad!Sadieprotested.Igopastthiseveryday,andyoumeantosayallthis
timeandIdidntevenknow?
Doyoustillhaveyourcat?Dadaskedher,whichseemedlikeareallystupid
question.
Of course Ive still got the cat! she said. What does that have to do with
anything?
Andyouramulet?
Sadieshandwenttoherneck.Whenwewerelittle,rightbeforeSadiewentto
livewithourgrandparents,DadhadgivenusbothEgyptianamulets.Minewasan
EyeofHorus,whichwasapopularprotectionsymbolinAncientEgypt.
Infactmydadsaysthemodernpharmacistssymbol, ,isasimplifiedversionof
theEyeofHorus,becausemedicineissupposedtoprotectyou.
Anyway, I always wore my amulet under my shirt, but I figured Sadie wouldve
losthersorthrownitaway.
To my surprise, she nodded. Course I have it, Dad, but dont change the
subject.GransalwaysgoingonabouthowyoucausedMumsdeath.Thatsnot
true,isit?
Wewaited.Foronce,SadieandIwantedexactlythesamethingthetruth.
Thenightyourmotherdied,myfatherstarted,hereattheNeedle
A sudden flash illuminated the embankment. I turned, half blind, and just for a
moment I glimpsed two figures: a tall pale man with a forked beard and wearing
cream-colored robes, and a coppery-skinned girl in dark blue robes and a
headscarfthekindofclothesIdseenhundredsoftimesinEgypt.Theywerejust
standingtheresidebyside,nottwentyfeetaway,watchingus.Thenthelightfaded.
The figures melted into a fuzzy afterimage. When my eyes readjusted to the
darkness,theyweregone.
Um...Sadiesaidnervously.Didyoujustseethat?
Getinthecab,mydadsaid,pushingustowardthecurb.Wereoutoftime.
Fromthatpointon,Dadclammedup.
This isnt the place to talk, he said, glancing behind us. Hed promised the
cabbieanextratenpoundsifhegotustothemuseuminunderfiveminutes,and
thecabbiewasdoinghisbest.
Dad,Itried,thosepeopleattheriver
And the other bloke, Amos, Sadie said. Are they Egyptian police or
something?
Look, both of you, Dad said, Im going to need your help tonight. I know its
hard,butyouhavetobepatient.Illexplaineverything,Ipromise,afterwegettothe
museum.Imgoingtomakeeverythingrightagain.
Whatdoyoumean?Sadieinsisted.Makewhatright?
Dadsexpressionwasmorethansad.Itwasalmostguilty.Withachill,Ithought
aboutwhatSadiehadsaid:aboutourgrandparentsblaminghimforMomsdeath.
Thatcouldntbewhathewastalkingabout,couldit?
ThecabbieswervedontoGreatRussellStreetandscreechedtoahaltinfrontof
themuseumsmaingates.
Justfollowmylead,Dadtoldus.Whenwemeetthecurator,actnormal.
IwasthinkingthatSadieneveractednormal,butIdecidednottosaythat.
Weclimbedoutofthecab.IgotourluggagewhileDadpaidthedriverwithabig
wadofcash.Thenhedidsomethingstrange.Hethrewahandfulofsmallobjects
intothebackseattheylookedlikestones,butitwastoodarkformetobesure.
Keepdriving,hetoldthecabbie.TakeustoChelsea.
Thatmadenosensesincewewerealreadyoutofthecab,butthedriversped
off. I glanced at Dad, then back at the cab, and before it turned the corner and
disappeared in the dark, I caught a weird glimpse of three passengers in the
backseat:amanandtwokids.
I blinked. There was no way the cab couldve picked up another fare so fast.
Dad
Londoncabsdontstayemptyverylong,hesaidmatter-of-factly.Comealong,
kids.
He marched off through the wrought iron gates. For a second, Sadie and I
hesitated.
Carter,whatisgoingon?
Ishookmyhead.ImnotsureIwanttoknow.
Well, stay out here in the cold if you want, butIm not leaving without an
explanation.Sheturnedandmarchedafterourdad.
Lookingbackonit,Ishouldverun.IshouldvedraggedSadieoutofthereand
gottenasfarawayaspossible.InsteadIfollowedherthroughthegates.

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