Disclaimer: I don't own Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Thalia's POV

Travis flipped the pages and read out, We Capture a Flag

The next few days I settled into a routine that felt almost normal, if you don't count the fact that I was getting lessons from satyrs, nymphs, and a centaur.

"I don't know, that sounds pretty normal to me," Connor said cheekily, trying to raise the mood.

Percy's still pale face shot him an amused yet exasperated look, making the room feel a little lighter.

Each morning I took Ancient Greek from Annabeth,

"Ugh, I still remember the headaches," Annabeth rubbed her temples. I rolled my eyes as she turned to Annabeth and said, "Keep the Tylenol nearby, mini-me, you're going to need it."

"I tried!" Percy whined, his face slowly returning to normal. I guess this witty banter was helping, and if wit was required, then I was required.

"Percy, you try lots of things, and I stress the word try," I smirked over at him. He stuck his tongue out at me and pointed at Travis. "Read older demon spawn!"

Travis and Connor faked hurt looks and Travis read while Connor stuck his nose into the air.

and we talked about the gods and goddesses in the present tense, which was kind of weird.

I discovered Annabeth was right

"Always am," both of the Annabeths chimed, then looked at each other with weirded out faces.

I snickered and said, "I guess Annabeth is so used to people never knowing what she's thinking," "Damn straight," Percy mumbled, "that she's a little freaked out that someone thinks like her," I finished, sending Percy a withering glare for interrupting me.

about my dyslexia: Ancient Greek wasn't that hard for me to read. At least, no harder than English.

"Oh, so just impossible," Nico drawled, rolling his eyes.

"Hey shut up Death Breath, how easy was it for you to learn to read Greek," Percy retorted.

Nico's mouth clamped shut, and Grover snickered next to him. "Dude, Nico, stop, you're so embarrassed you're gonna make me blush."

"He's definitely got you there," Chris grinned.

After a couple of mornings, I could stumble through a few lines of Homer without too much headache.

"Homer Simpson? I love that guy! D'OH!" Connor laughed.

Annabeth put her head in her hands, and I heard a muffled, "Why do I even bother."

I laughed and patted her on the back.

The rest of the day, I'd rotate through outdoor activities, looking for something I was good at. Chiron tried to teach me archery,

Oh. My. Gods. I clamped a hand over my mouth to prevent a very unladylike snort that was trying to force itself from my mouth. Annabeth was doing the same, and Nico's shoulders were already shaking with repressed laughter.

The knot in my throat was building, I wouldn't be able to hold it in much longer-

Then I heard a little blahahaha from Grover that set us all off. I'm not sure how long I laughed, but I know I saw a beet-red Percy through my tear-filled eyes. I laughed until my stomach hurt and my throat hurt and my cheeks hurt and it hurt to breath.

Then Nico snorted and we all went off again.

Eventually I stopped and wiped my tears of mirth from my face with Annabeth and Grover. Nico was still catching his breath, and I looked at Percy's red face and let out a strangled giggle (very unlike me).

It was silent except for my, Nico's, Grover's and Annabeth's heavy breathing and occasional giggle.

"What…was that?" Hermes looked extremely confused.

"Just-Percy- and and and- a bow- and it just- you know I," Nico was spluttering.

"Just read," I half-giggled to Travis.

but we found out pretty quick I wasn't any good with a bow and arrow.

That unladylike snort I had originally tried to repress came out, and we were quietly laughing again. Everyone looked over at us, but Annabeth shook her head and said, "No no, we've got, just keep going."

He didn't complain, even when he had to desnag a stray arrow out of his tail.

Nope.

Another round of laughing, except this time, many joined in, even Percy, but us original laughers were still laughing hardest.

Foot racing? No good either. The wood-nymph instructors left me in the dust. They told me not to worry about it. They'd had centuries of practice running away from lovesick gods.

The goddesses still chuckling abruptly stopped and glared at the male Olympians.

But still, it was a little humiliating to be slower than a tree.

"Well, only if you look at it that way," Silena said kindly, and Beckendorf looked at her smiling.

My face fell a little, remembering they were only together so shortly before they died. But after a second I smiled, remembering that they were in Elysium together, and would stay together for all eternity.

And wrestling? Forget it. Every time I got on the mat, Clarisse would pulverize me.

Clarisse smirked an ugly smirk worthy of her father.

"There's more where that came from, punk," she'd mumble in my ear.

The only thing I really excelled at was canoeing,

Grover snorted, "That's a surprise." Then he widened his eyes when he realized he said it out loud. "Oh, wait, oh man, I'm sorry, Perce," Percy waved it off and said, "Don't worry about it! The sooner you develop that backbone, the better."

Grover looked over at the younger him. "He's right, you know. Percy isn't always right, actually he's often not right-," "Hey!" "-but he's right about important things."

and that wasn't the kind of heroic skill people expected to see from the kid who had beaten the Minotaur.

"No it most certainly was not," Grover said.

Percy sent him a betrayed look. "What!" the satyr defended. "You said it first, and it was true!"

"It was," Annabeth agreed.

Percy threw up his hands exaggeratedly. "Why is everyone turning against me?"

"Oh, shut up, Kelp-For-Brains," I wacked him over the head with a pillow.

I knew the senior campers and counselors were watching me, trying to decide who my dad was, but they weren't having an easy time of it. I wasn't as strong as the Ares kids,

"You're stronger now that you have the Curse of Achilles," Nico said, and Percy nodded.

"Yes…about that," my father looked over. "We didn't exactly discuss this earlier. Now the note said that this curse works around that one. So do you get hurt here?"

"Let's test," Nico said, and then he whipped his sword and brought it down onto Percy.

Percy's arm stopped it with a clang! leaving his skin unblemished. He shoved off the sword and stood up, yelling, "What the hell, dick-biscuit, you could've chopped off my arm!"

Nico shrugged. "I was pretty sure the curse was still in place."

"'Pretty sure'? You better be certain next time, asshole!"

"Percy, calm down, the god of medicine is in the room with us."

"NO! I won't calm down! I have to relive so much shit! Do you know how many times I get hurt? A LOT, GODS DAMMIT! I have so much shit I have to relive, and I want to do so without any extra hellish thinkgs happening, ALRIGHT?" (1)

Percy's chest was heaving and I gaped at him. I wasn't sure what everyone else was doing, but I'm pretty sure they were gaping at him like me.

Now, Percy wasn't one to curse. In fact I've only heard him curse a few times, and that was in ancient Greek. I didn't know why hearing modern curse words in English was so weird, but it was.

Percy's breathing slowed and his shoulders slumped. I glanced over at the younger kids gaping at Percy. They were most probably appalled at the good natured, kind, Percy screaming in anger and using profanities (though I was sure they'd heard them, just because Percy was soft-tongued, doesn't mean some other older campers were).

My eyes flickered back over to Nico who was wide-eyed and pale…well…pale-r .

"Percy…I'm sorry, I-I-I-I-," Percy cut Nico off, "No, Nico, I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped. You're right; the note did say the Curse of Achilles hadn't been removed."

Percy slumped down into the seat next to Annabeth who still looked very shocked.

"Yes, well," Zeus cleared his throat, "I was just wondering when you got the curse."

Percy shrugged, and said, "I'll get it in the fifth-," he cut off suddenly and the blood drained from his face, and I could see the same happen to Nico. I suddenly realized that him receiving the curse would be in the books, and he'd told me how excruciating it was…I felt the blood drain from my face as well.

"Oh no!" Percy moaned, dropping his head into his hands. Annabeth put her shaking hand on his back and rubbed it comfortingly.

"Percy has to relive the Styx in the fifth book," Nico said quietly but everyone heard.

"Just read," Percy said miserably.

or as good at archery as the Apollo kids.

Despite how upset Percy was, I let out a strangled chuckle. Percy actually half-smiled ruefully at me, which made me feel a little better.

I didn't have Hephaestus's skill with metalwork

"That'd be Beckendorf, greatest metalworker I know," Percy said with a small smile. "Except you, of course, Lord Hephaestus," he amended quickly, but the blacksmithing god looked pleased with his son and smiled at him, who smiled back happily.

or—gods forbid— Dionysus's way with vine plants.

"Same to you, Pentagon."

"Oh com- that- that's not even name!"

Everyone chuckled.

Luke told me I might be a child of Hermes, a kind of jack-of-all-trades, master of none.

"Maybe not master," Chris nodded.

"But pretty damn good!" the Stolls chimed, receiving sharp smacks on the head from Katie for, "Language!"

Hermes smiled fondly at his son…I wished my dad would smile at me like that…wait…what?

But I got the feeling he was just trying to make me feel better. He really didn't know what to make of me either.

Despite all that, I liked camp. I got used to the morning fog over the beach, the smell of hot strawberry fields

Katie smiled and sighed happily, and Travis grinned at her, before blushing and elbowing his brother who was wiggling his eyebrows suggestively.

I nudged Annabeth, who nudged Percy, who nudged Nico, who nudged Grover and we all snickered at the poor, eldest Stoll brother. Well, Percy just kind of smiled.

in the afternoon, even the weird noises of monsters in the woods at night.

"You know, you're right, I hardly even notice those sounds at night," Annabeth nodded thoughtfully.

"Probably because you're overworking that ridiculously large brain of yours," I quipped and then dodged the small, mini-Annabeth arm that flew at my head.

I would eat dinner with cabin eleven, scrape part of my meal into the fire, and try to feel some connection to my real dad. Nothing came.

Poseidon frowned guiltily, but Percy smiled at his father.

Just that warm feeling I'd always had, like the memory of his smile. I tried not to think too much about my mom, but I kept wondering: if gods and monsters were real, if all this magical stuff was possible, surely there was some way to save her, to bring her back...

No way. Percy wouldn't do something so…stupid!

Then I though, wait. Yes he would, he's Percy. Percy doesn't do many stupid things…well…major stupid things anyways, but when he does, it's to save those he loves.

I started to understand Luke's bitterness and how he seemed to resent his father, Hermes.

Hermes' face fell at the reminder of Luke and the prophecy.

So okay, maybe gods had important things to do.

The gods (AN: when I say gods, I mean male and female. If I'm referring to just male gods, I'll say "male gaods") all nodded very haughtily.

But couldn't they call once in a while, or thunder, or something?

A lot of the gods weren't very haughty anymore. In fact, they looked a little abashed.

Dionysus could make Diet Coke appear out of thin air.

"Huh?" Mr. D grunted at his name, and after realizing it wasn't important, went back to his "California Wine Weekly."

Why couldn't my dad, whoever he was, make a phone appear?

"Yeah, yeah, ancient laws. You should really change those," Percy grumbled.

Thursday afternoon, three days after I'd arrived at Camp Half-Blood, I had my first sword-fighting lesson. Everybody from cabin eleven gathered in the big circular arena, where Luke would be our instructor.

"Ouch! Tough luck there, Perce," Chris winked.

"Yeah, that is rather unfortunate for you," Beckendorf agreed quietly.

We started with basic stabbing and slashing, using some straw-stuffed dummies in Greek armor. I guess I did okay. At least, I understood what I was supposed to do and my reflexes were good.

Grover snorted. "Percy, I was watching, you were doing better than some second and third year campers."

The problem was, I couldn't find a blade that felt right in my hands. Either they were too heavy, or too light, or too long.

"Riptide is the only blade for me," he said with a small smile.

Luke tried his best to fix me up, but he agreed that none of the practice blades seemed to work for me.

We moved on to dueling in pairs. Luke announced he would be my partner, since this was my first time.

"Good luck," one of the campers told me. "Luke's the best swordsman in the last three hundred years."

"Used to be," Annabeth corrected quietly with a sad smile.

"Maybe he'll go easy on me," I said.

The camper snorted.

Luke showed me thrusts and parries and shield blocks the hard way. With every swipe, I got a little more battered and bruised. "Keep your guard up, Percy," he'd say, then whap me in the ribs with the flat of his blade. "No, not that far up!"Whap!

"AH!" Percy jumped, making us all jump. He had his hand pressed against his chest. He rubbed his ribs and said, "Sorry. I haven't felt pain in a while, I guess it just…surprised me," he apologized sheepishly.

Travis looked at the book in disdain. "Go on," Percy encouraged softly.

"Lunge!"Whap!"Now, back!"Whap!

Percy winced with every whap, but didn't make any noise.

By the time he called a break, I was soaked in sweat. Everybody swarmed the drinks cooler. Luke poured ice water on his head, which looked like such a good idea, I did the same.

Percy seemed to sigh I relief. I knew the water probably fixed his bruises on his ribs, but a lot of people from the past seemed confused.

"Water heals him," I answered shortly, then sent Travis a look that sent him reading again.

Instantly, I felt better. Strength surged back into my arms. The sword didn't feel so awkward.

"Okay, everybody circle up!" Luke ordered. "If Percy doesn't mind, I want to give you a little demo."

Great, I thought. Let's all watch Percy get pounded.

"My favorite!" Nico said sarcastically. "Then again, by the time I came around, no one could really easily pound Percy."

Annabeth and I glared at him. "Hey! I said easily," Nico defended.

The Hermes guys gathered around. They were suppressing smiles. I figured they'd been in my shoes before and couldn't wait to see how Luke used me for a punching bag. He told everybody he was going to demonstrate a disarming technique: how to twist the enemy's blade with the flat of your own sword so that he had no choice but to drop his weapon.

"This is difficult," he stressed. "I've had it used against me. No laughing at Percy, now. Most swordsmen have to work years to master this technique."

"How long did it take you?" Katie asked.

"Umm, maybe, uh, a few weeks?" Percy said, more like a question than an answer.

He demonstrated the move on me in slow motion. Sure enough, the sword clattered out of my hand.

"Now in real time," he said, after I'd retrieved my weapon. "We keep sparring until one of us pulls it off. Ready, Percy?"

I nodded, and Luke came after me. Somehow, I kept him from getting a shot at the hilt of my sword. My senses opened up. I saw his attacks coming. I countered. I stepped forward and tried a thrust of my own. Luke deflected it easily, but I saw a change in his face. His eyes narrowed, and he started to press me with more force.

"Yes, yes, yes," Poseidon leaned forward in his seat anxiously.

The sword grew heavy in my hand. The balance wasn't right.

"Hold out, Prissy!" Clarisse growled, obviously enjoying the fighting that was finally taking place.

I knew it was only a matter of seconds before Luke took me down, so I figured, What the heck?

I tried the disarming maneuver.

My blade hit the base of Luke's and I twisted, putting my whole weight into a downward thrust.

Luke's sword rattled against the stones.

The tip of my blade was an inch from his undefended chest.

Ares let out a low whistle. "Not bad, kid," a praised. I was confused, until I remembered that Ares didn't hate Percy yet.

The other campers were silent.

Beckendorf let out a small snort. "I'm not surprised; you just beat the best swordsman we've had in a century as a first year, brand new camper.

I lowered my sword. "Um, sorry."

I snorted and said, "You would apologize."

For a moment, Luke was too stunned to speak.

"Sorry?" His scarred face broke into a grin. "By the gods, Percy, why are you sorry? Show me that again!"

"I can't," Percy shrugged.

I didn't want to. The short burst of manic energy had completely abandoned me. But Luke insisted.

This time, there was no contest. The moment our swords connected, Luke hit my hilt and sent my weapon skidding across the floor.

After a long pause, somebody in the audience said, "Beginner's luck?"

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..."

"A helluva lot more than that, that's for damn sure," Nico muttered.

Friday afternoon, I was sitting with Grover at the lake, resting from a near-death experience on the climbing wall.

"But it's so easy!" the Grovers said in unison.

"We're not all half-goat, Goat Boys," I said, making them blush.

Grover had scampered to the top like a mountain goat, but the lava had almost gotten me. My shirt had smoking holes in it. The hairs had been singed off my forearms.

We all looked towards Percy, but he seemed fine. "I guess it doesn't do damage when it's referred to as in the past," Annabeth guessed.

"Logical assumption," Athena agreed, leaving Annabeth to look at her mother very surprised and confused.

We sat on the pier, watching the naiads do underwater basket-weaving, until I got up the nerve to ask Grover how his conversation had gone with Mr. D.

His face turned a sickly shade of yellow.

"Fine," he said. "Just great."

"So your career's still on track?"

He glanced at me nervously. "Chiron t-told you I want a searcher's license?"

"Well... no." I had no idea what a searcher's license was, but it didn't seem like the right time to ask. "He just said you had big plans, you know ... and that you needed credit for completing a keeper's assignment. So did you get it?"

"Not yet," Percy winked at his friend.

Grover looked down at the naiads. "Mr. D suspended judgment. He said I hadn't failed or succeeded with you yet, so our fates were still tied together. If you got a quest and I went along to protect you, and we both came back alive, then maybe he'd consider the job complete."

My spirits lifted. "Well, that's not so bad, right?"

"Blaa-ha-ha! He might as well have transferred me to stable-cleaning duty. The chances of you getting a quest... and even if you did, why would you wantmealong?"

All futures and a few past people snorted. "Yeah, yeah," Grover waved them off. "At this point, I knew Percy was loyal, but not to the point of insanity."

"Of course I'd want you along!"

Grover stared glumly into the water. "Basket-weaving ... Must be nice to have a useful skill."

I tried to reassure him that he had lots of talents, but that just made him look more miserable. We talked about canoeing and swordplay for a while, then debated the pros and cons of the different gods. Finally, I asked him about the four empty cabins.

"Number eight, the silver one, belongs to Artemis," he said. "She vowed to be a maiden forever. So of course, no kids. The cabin is, you know, honorary. If she didn't have one, she'd be mad."

"And where my Huntresses stay," Lady (2)Artemis nodded at me smiling and I beamed back.

"Yeah, okay. But the other three, the ones at the end. Are those the Big Three?"

Grover tensed. We were getting close to a touchy subject. "No. One of them, number two, is Hera's," he said. "That's another honorary thing. She's the goddess of marriage, so of course she wouldn't go around having affairs with mortals.

"No," Hera glared at my father. "That would be my husband's job."

That's her husband's job.

Everyone laughed and Zeus glared at Grover who said, "Hey, Lady Hera said it first!"

When we say the Big Three, we mean the three powerful brothers, the sons of Kronos."

The room darkened with his name. "Yeah, ok, can we train the lights not to do that, we kinda throw that name around a lot in the next few years," I deadpanned.

Apollo rolled his eyes and snapped, lightening the room again.

"Zeus, Poseidon, Hades."

"Right. You know. After the great battle with the Titans, they took over the world from their dad and drew lots to decide who got what."

I heard Hades mumble something about, "Rigged," and, "Ungrateful younger brothers," leaving me with a clear idea of how Hades felt about this.

"Zeus got the sky," I remembered. "Poseidon the sea, Hades the Underworld."

"Uh-huh."

"But Hades doesn't have a cabin here."

"I should," Hades grumbled.

"You get one," Nico tells his father, who in turn almost smiles at his son.

"No. He doesn't have a throne on Olympus, either.

He sort of does his own thing down in the Underworld. If he did have a cabin here ..." Grover shuddered. "Well, it wouldn't be pleasant. Let's leave it at that."

Nico glared at Grover, who bleated and said, "Well sorry, I didn't know that you would make it so homey."

"But Zeus and Poseidon—they both had, like, a bazillion kids in the myths. Why are their cabins empty?"

Grover shifted his hooves uncomfortably.

"About sixty years ago, after World War II, the Big Three agreed they wouldn't sire any more heroes.

"Made for me, and I'm the only one who kept it," Hades grumbled.

Their children were just too powerful. They were affecting the course of human events too much, causingtoo much carnage. World War II, you know, that was basically a fight between the sons of Zeus and Poseidon on one side, and the sons of Hades on the other. The winning side, Zeus and Poseidon, made Hades swear an oath with them: no more affairs with mortal women. They all swore on the River Styx."

The room rumbled with thunder.

Thunder boomed.

I said, "That's the most serious oath you can make."

"Brilliant deduction, Sherlock," Nico snorted.

"Why thank you, Watson," Percy ruffled Nico's hair. Nico rolled his eyes and smacked the hand away.

Grover nodded.

"And the brothers kept their word—no kids?"

"No," Hera hissed at Zeus.

Grover's face darkened. "Seventeen years ago, Zeus fell off the wagon.

"Always does," Hera continued to glare at my father. I'm pretty sure if anyone else talked to him like this, it wouldn't have ended well. Connor obviously thought the same, because he whispered, "Whipped," with a chuckle.

Zeus whirled to glare at the Hermes boy, who squeaked and hid behind Silena. Hermes rolled his eyes. "Father, leave the boy be, he's harmless," but sent a sly wink at Connor.

There was this TV starlet with a big fluffy eighties hairdo—he just couldn't help himself.

When their child was born, a little girl named Thalia... well, the River Styx is serious about promises. Zeus himself got off easy because he's immortal, but he brought a terrible fate on his daughter."

"The little brat deserved it," Hera glared at me, and I could feel my face get red with anger. How dare she talk to me like that? Doesn't she understand?

I didn't realize I was on my feet until Hera demanded, "Sit down, insolent brat!"

"NO! Why can't you understand? I had no control over this situation. I didn't choose to be born! Maybe if you controlled your husband, then things like this wouldn't happen!"

My last words resonated throughout the silent room, and I realized what a terrible mistake I had made. Hera deserved to be told, and needed to understand, and what I said was true, but that didn't distract from the fact that I had pissed off the Queen of the Gods.

She rose from her throne and took one step towards me. Suddenly, Lady Artemis was a few steps in front of me. "Don't touch my lieutenant," she all but snarled. Hera's on mouth twisted into a snarl/grimace thing, and she took another step and raised her arm, before my father's voice rang out, "ENOUGH."

Hera glared at me before flaring out her dress and stalking back to her throne.

Lady Artemis turned to face me and stepped in close, speaking so only I could hear. "Listen my young lieutenant, I can tell you are wonderful for the Hunt, and I greatly admire your bravery, and what you said rings with great truth, therefore I will not chastise you, but will only warn you to be wary of our step-mother," she said very quickly while looking into my eyes with insistence and a bit of worry. I nodded dumbly and she spun on her heel and gracefully strode back to her throne.

I sat down feeling dazed. I stared at my knee, counting the threads in my jeans, feeling the burn of a goddess' glare on me.

"But that isn't fair. It wasn't the little girl's fault."

I snapped out of my daze and exclaimed, "Hey! I'm not little!"

"Yeah! She's fifteen and 364 days old," Nico mocked, then hid when he saw me glaring at him.

Grover hesitated. "Percy, children of the Big Three have powers greater than other half-bloods. They have a strong aura, a scent that attracts monsters. When Hades found out about the girl, he wasn't too happy about Zeus breaking his oath. Hades let the worst monsters out of Tartarus to torment Thalia.

Zeus glared at Hades, who glared back and said, "What? You would have done the same, if not worse."

Poseidon rolled his eyes and gestured for Travis to keep reading while the oldest and youngest of the Big Three glared at each other.

A satyr was assigned to be her keeper when she was twelve, but there was nothing the could do.

"Damn right!" Annabeth and I chimed, and then looked at each other and laughed.

He tried to escort her here with a couple of other half-bloods she'd befriended. They almost made it. They got all the way to the top of that hill."

He pointed across the valley, to the pine tree where I'd fought the minotaur. "All three Kindly Ones were after them, along with a horde of hellhounds. They were about to be overrun when Thalia told her satyr to take the other two half-bloods to safety while she held off the monsters.

I shuddered as I remembered the howling catching up, sending Luke and a young Annabeth ahead, fighting, getting surrounded, slashing, biting, screeching, changing-

I felt a small hand clasp mine tightly and looked at Annabeth, who seemed even worse off than me.

She was wounded and tired, and she didn't want to live like a hunted animal. The satyr didn't want to leave her, but he couldn't change her mind, and he had to protect the others. So Thalia made her final stand alone, at the top of that hill. As she died,

"Except she didn't!" Connor shouted cheerfully. I rolled my eyes. "No, I didn't," I agreed.

Zeus took pity on her. He turned her into that pine tree. Her spirit still helps protect the borders of the valley. That's why the hill is called Half-Blood Hill."

I stared at the pine in the distance.

The story made me feel hollow, and guilty too. A girl my age had sacrificed herself to save her friends. She had faced a whole army of monsters.

"You do it later, and with a larger army," I pointed out. "Yeah," Percy agreed quietly, "But I was invincible." He did have a point.

Next to that, my victory over the Minotaur didn't seem like much.

"You really shouldn't sell yourself so short," Annabeth admonished. Percy shrugged and said, "Well, at that point, I hadn't done much at all. I didn't even know I was Poseidon's son."

I wondered, if I'd acted differently, could I have saved my mother?

Percy smiled to himself. I guess it doesn't matter I thought. He gets her back anyways.

"Grover," I said, "Have heroes really gone on quests to the Underworld?"

Everyone turned to gape at Percy, who blushed.

"Sometimes," he said. "Orpheus. Hercules. Houdini."

"I'm always right there with you until you throw in those recent ones," Chris shook his head.

"And have they ever returned somebody from the dead?"

"They've tried," Hades said, pride coloring his voice.

"No. Never. Orpheus came close... Percy, you're not seriously thinking—"

"No," I lied.

"I was just wondering. So ... a satyr is always assigned to guard a demigod?"

Grover studied me warily. I hadn't persuaded him that I'd really dropped the Underworld idea.

"Of course not! I can read emotions, and with you, that might as well be reading your mind! You always make choices based on your emotions," Grover huffed.

"Not always. We go undercover to a lot of schools. We try to sniff out the half-bloods who have the makings of great heroes. If we find one with a very strong aura, like a child of the Big Three, we alert Chiron. He tries to keep an eye on them, since they could cause really huge problems."

"And problems I cause," Percy nodded, mostly to himself.

"And you found me. Chiron said you thought I might be something special."

Grover looked as if I'd just led him into a trap. "I didn't... Oh, listen, don't think like that. If youwereyou know—you'd nevereverbe allowed a quest, and I'd never get my license. You're probably a child of Hermes.

"Why me?" Hermes asked. He didn't seem angry, just curious. Grover seemed to quake at being asked a question from a god.

Grover seemed to roll his eyes at his younger self. "Because you and Lord Ares have the most populated cabins, and, no offence Lord Ares, Percy just isn't as mean and bloodthirsty as the other Ares kids," he explained.

Hermes and Ares nodded, though Ares didn't seem as though he understood what we were talking about.

Or maybe even one of the minor gods, like Nemesis, the god of revenge. Don't worry, okay?"

"Um. I think Nemesis is a goddess," Silena pointed out. Both Grovers blushed deeply.

I got the idea he was reassuring himself more than me.

That night after dinner, there was a lot more excitement than usual.

At last, it was time for capture the flag.

A cheer rose from the campers.

When the plates were cleared away, the conch horn sounded and we all stood at our tables.

Campers yelled and cheered as Annabeth and two of her siblings ran into the pavilion carrying a silk banner. It was about ten feet long, glistening gray, with a painting of a barn owl above an olive tree.

"Yeah!" both Annabeths cheered, and I saw something like pride in Athena's eyes.

From the opposite side of the pavilion, Clarisse and her buddies ran in with another banner, of identical size, but gaudy red, painted with a bloody spear and a boar's head.

"Yeah!" Clarisse and Ares yelled deeply.

I turned to Luke and yelled over the noise, "Those are the flags?"

I turned and looked at Percy like, seriously?

"I just wanted to make sure," he defended.

"Yeah."

"Ares and Athena always lead the teams?"

"Not always," he said. "But often."

"So, if another cabin captures one, what do you do— repaint the flag?"

He grinned. "You'll see. First we have to get one."

"Whose side are we on?"

He gave me a sly look, as if he knew something I didn't. The scar on his face made him look almost evil in the torchlight.

"Almost," Annabeth said very softly.

"We've made a temporary alliance with Athena. Tonight, we get the flag from Ares. Andyouare going to help."

The teams were announced. Athena had made an alliance with Apollo and Hermes, the two biggest cabins.Apparently, privileges had been traded—shower times, chore schedules, the best slots for activities—in order to win support.

"Well of course!" Travis interrupted himself. "We don't offer our services to just anyone!" Connor finished.

Ares had allied themselves with everybody else: Dionysus, Demeter, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus. From what I'd seen, Dionysus's kids were actually good athletes, but there were only two of them.

Only one I thought glumly.

Demeter's kids had the edge with nature skills and outdoor stuff but they weren't very aggressive.

Katie nodded. "That's true, we're not very aggressive."

Travis snorted. "Nu-uh, you beat Travis and I-," "Me and Travis," Annabeth corrected. "Me and Travis up all the time!" Connor whined. Katie narrowed her eyes and leaned closer to Connor before saying, "Well it's unfortunate you aren't on my team, then, isn't it," through gritted teeth.

Connor turned white and leaned as far away from the scary Demeter girl as possible.

Aphrodite's sons and daughters I wasn't too worried about.

Aphrodite glared a Percy, who smiled charmingly back.

They mostly sat out every activity and checked their reflections in the lake and did their hair and gossiped.

"Kid's right," Ares grunted. Aphrodite shifter her glare to her lover, then looked away, letting out a small, "Humph."

Ares will regret that later when he wants some quality time with the goddess of love.

Hephaestus's kids weren't pretty, and there were only four of them, but they were big and burly from working in the metal shop all day. They might be a problem.

Hephaestus nodded proudly, and Beckendorf said, "You bet we will."

That, of course, left Ares' cabin: a dozen of the biggest, ugliest, meanest kids on Long Island, or anywhere else on the planet.

Ares grinned, obviously unaware that he had royally pissed off his lover.

Chiron hammered his hoof on the marble.

"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, but may not be bound or gagged. No killing or maiming is allowed. I will serve as referee and battlefield medic. Arm yourselves!"

He spread his hands, and the tables were suddenly covered with equipment: helmets, bronze swords, spears, oxhide shields coated in metal.

"Whoa," I said. "We're really supposed to use these?"

"What else would we use?" Chris said confusedly.

"I didn't know we would actually fight," Percy explained, not looking at all pleased about the idea of fighting-and actually feeling the pain.

Luke looked at me as if I were crazy. "Unless you want to get skewered by your friends in cabin five. Here—Chiron thought these would fit. You'll be on border patrol."

My shield was the size of an NBA backboard, with a big caduceus in the middle. It weighed about a million pounds. I could have snowboarded on it fine,

I snapped my head around to glare at Percy, who was trying to smother a grin. "Never again," I hissed at him.

"What was I supposed to do? It was coming right at us!"

"I don't know, but not that!" I glared at him some more before looking straight and grumbling, "Stupid son of Poseidon, tackle me off a cliff and snowboard down a mountain on Aegis."

but I hoped nobody seriously expected me to run fast. My helmet, like all the helmets on Athena's side, had a blue horsehair plume on top. Ares and their allies had red plumes.

Annabeth yelled, "Blue team, forward!"

We cheered and shook our swords and followed her down the path to the south woods. The red team yelled taunts at us as they headed off toward the north.

I managed to catch up with Annabeth without tripping over my equipment. "Hey."

She kept marching.

"You completely blew me off, oh, how the heart hurts," Percy mimed his chest hurting, but I could see his white face. I knew he made jokes when he was nervous or scared.

"So what's the plan?" I asked. "Got any magic items you can loan me?"

Her hand drifted toward her pocket, as if she were afraid I'd stolen something.

"In my defense, you could've been a Hermes kid," Annabeth said smiling, but her eyes shown with worry.

"Just watch Clarisse's spear," she said. "You don't want that thing touching you. Otherwise, don't worry. We'll take the banner from Ares. Has Luke given you your job?"

"Border patrol, whatever that means."

"I think that's pretty self-explanatory," Katie said amusedly.

"It's easy. Stand by the creek, keep the reds away. Leave the rest to me. Athena always has a plan."

"That's your catch phrase, Wise Girl," Percy said with a smirk on his pale face. Annabeth rolled her eyes. "I guess I do say it a lot, huh?"

"Yes," all of the demigods except the Annabeths chimed.

She pushed ahead, leaving me in the dust.

"Okay," I mumbled. "Glad you wanted me on your team."

"OH!" Annabeth suddenly shouted, making many of us jump. "It's the plan where we put him and they come and the other he takes it and yeah!" she all but shouted at her older self.

Annabeth looked at her for a second. "Um…if I understand you right, then yes. That one."

It was a warm, sticky night. The woods were dark, with fireflies popping in and out of view.Annabeth stationed me next to a little creek that gurgled over some rocks, then she and the rest of the team scattered into the trees.

Standing there alone, with my big blue-feathered helmet and my huge shield, I felt like an idiot. The bronze sword, like all the swords I'd tried so far, seemed balanced wrong. The leather grip pulled on my hand like a bowling ball.

Percy absently rubbed his hand.

There was no way anybody would actually attack me, would they? I mean, Olympus had to have liability issues, right?

Percy snorted softly. "That would have made things easier."

Far away, the conch horn blew. I heard whoops and yells in the woods, the clanking of metal, kids fighting. A blue-plumed ally from Apollo raced past me like a deer, leaped through the creek, and disappeared into enemy territory.

Great, I thought. I'll miss all the fun, as usual.

"I changed my mind, I don't want any fun, some else take the fun, you can have it and keep it, no more fun for me," Percy rambled nervously.

Then I heard a sound that sent a chill up my spine, a low canine growl, somewhere close by.

I raised my shield instinctively; I had the feeling some thing was stalking me.

It tensed in the room, and lots of people were looking at Percy with worry.

Then the growling stopped. I felt the presence retreating.

On the other side of the creek, the underbrush exploded. Five Ares warriors came yelling and screaming out of the dark.

"I don't think that's any better," Chris said unhelpfully.

"Cream the punk!" Clarisse screamed.

Her ugly pig eyes glared through the slits of her helmet. She brandished a five-foot-long spear, its barbed metal tip flickering with red light. Her siblings had only the standard-issue bronze swords—not that that made me feel any better.

"Doesn't matter, I'll get you myself," Clarisse said, but not in her usual bloodthirsty way, more in an almost apologetic way.

They charged across the stream. There was no help in sight. I could run. Or I could defend myself against half the Ares cabin.

I managed to sidestep the first kid's swing, but these guys were not as stupid as the Minotaur.

"Though it's a close shave sometimes," Chris chuckled, then yelped when Clarisse smacked him over the head.

They surrounded me, and Clarisse thrust at me with her spear. My shield deflected the point, but I felt a painful tingling all over my body.

"Ah!" Percy yelped. "I hate electricity," he ground out through his teeth.

My hair stood on end. My shield arm went numb, and the air burned.

Electricity. Her stupid spear was electric.

I fell back.

Another Ares guy slammed me in the chest with the butt of his sword and I hit the dirt.

I heard the breath whoosh out of Percy.

They could've kicked me into jelly, but they were too busy laughing.

"Give him a haircut," Clarisse said. "Grab his hair."

I managed to get to my feet. I raised my sword, but Clarisse slammed it aside with her spear as sparks flew. Now both my arms felt numb.

"Gods damn it I hate your stupid spear," Percy growled. Clarisse hung her head.

"Oh, wow," Clarisse said. "I'm scared of this guy. Really scared."

"The flag is that way," I told her.

I wanted to sound angry, but I was afraid it didn't come out that way.

"Probably not," Percy chuckled painfully. No one else could talk, just stare at Percy in horror, except Travis, who seemed to be reading as fast as he could, trying to get through this.

"Yeah," one of her siblings said. "But see, we don't care about the flag. We care about a guy who made our cabin look stupid."

"You do that without my help," I told them.

"Why do you always make stupid jokes when your hurt?" Annabeth whispered. "Part of my charm," Percy winked.

It probably wasn't the smartest thing to say.

Two of them came at me. I backed up toward the creek,

tried to raise my shield, but Clarisse was too fast. Her spear stuck me straight in the ribs.

Percy made a strange noise that sounded something like, "Gssshzzzzzzz."

If I hadn't been wearing an armored breastplate, I would've been shish-kebabbed.

As it was, the electric point just about shocked my teeth out of my mouth. One of her cabinmates slashed his sword across my arm, leaving a good-size cut.

Percy let out another shout as blood started to pour down his arm. A large pile of white towels with little doves on them suddenly appeared in front of Annabeth, who wasted no time in wrapping it around Percy's arm.

I looked up at Aphrodite, who looked worried…and a little green, probably from Percy's blood.

Seeing my own blood made me dizzy—warm and cold at the same time.

"No maiming," I managed to say.

"Do you ever shut up," Annabeth mumbled while wrapping Percy's arm.

"Not usually," Percy grinned painfully.

"Oops," the guy said. "Guess I lost my dessert privilege."

He pushed me into the creek and I landed with a splash.

Percy sighed in relief and his color returned. His arm was still bleeding, but much more sluggishly. "Keep reading, I want my arm fixed," he ordered Travis.

They all laughed. I figured as soon as they were through being amused, I would die. But then something happened. The water seemed to wake up my senses, as if I'd just had a bag of my mom's double-espresso jelly beans.

Clarisse and her cabinmates came into the creek to get me, but I stood to meet them. I knew what to do. I swung the flat of my sword against the first guy's head and knocked his helmet clean off. I hit him so hard I could see his eyes vibrating as he crumpled into the water.

Ares looked almost admiringly at Percy, while Clarisse glared at him.

Ugly Number Two and Ugly Number Three came at me. I slammed one in the face with my shield and used my sword to shear off the other guy's horsehair plume. Both of them backed up quick. Ugly Number Four didn't look really anxious to attack, but Clarisse kept coming, the point of her spear crackling with energy. As soon as she thrust, I caught the shaft between the edge of my shield and my sword, and I snapped it like a twig.

"YOU BROKE MY SPEAR YOU-YOU-YOU," Clarisse spluttered, trying to find an insult.

"In my defense, you shocked the crap out of me. I'm a son of the water god, that hurts!"

"Ah!" she screamed. "You idiot! You corpse-breath worm!"

She probably would've said worse, but I smacked her between the eyes with my sword-butt and sent her stumbling backward out of the creek.

Then I heard yelling, elated screams, and I saw Luke racing toward the boundary line with the red team's banner lifted high. He was flanked by a couple of Hermes guys covering his retreat, and a few Apollos behind them, fighting off the Hephaestus kids.

The Ares folks got up, and Clarisse muttered a dazed curse.

"A trick!" she shouted. "It was a trick."

"Nicely spotted Clarisse," Annabeth quipped, laughing.

Clarisse glared at her and was about to yell, when Travis cut her off.

They staggered after Luke, but it was too late. Everybody converged on the creek as Luke ran across into friendly territory. Our side exploded into cheers. The red banner shimmered and turned to silver. The boar and spear were replaced with a huge caduceus, the symbol of cabin eleven. Everybody on the blue team picked up Luke and started carrying him around on their shoulders. Chiron cantered out from the woods and blew the conch horn.

The game was over. We'd won.

"And you just sound delighted," Katie said sarcastically.

"Yeah, well, I wasn't happy with a certain gray-eyed, blonde-haired girl," Percy shot Annabeth a look, who looked back at him innocently.

I was about to join the celebration when Annabeth's voice, right next to me in the creek, said, "Not bad, hero."

I looked, but she wasn't there.

"Yeah, that'd be the magic hat," I said. Annabeth's eyes widened in awe. "A cap of invisibility!" "Not as strong as Lord Hades'," Annabeth told her younger self, "But yeah, nobody can see you."

"Actually, nobody can see Nobody," Percy quipped, making Annabeth roll her eyes. "Don't spoil it Seaweed Brain!"

"Where the heck did you learn to fight like that?" she asked. The air shimmered, and she materialized, holding a Yankees baseball cap as if she'd just taken it off her head.

Annabeth looked mesmerized again.

I felt myself getting angry. I wasn't even fazed by the fact that she'd just been invisible. "You set me up," I said. "You put me here because you knew Clarisse would come after me, while you sent Luke around the flank. You had it all figured out."

"I was actually pretty surprised you figured it out so quickly," Annabeth said.

"Why? Percy's pretty dumb," Chris said.

Percy stared over and gestured to himself. "Hello? Right here!"

"Percy's not stupid," Annabeth corrected. (3) "He's pretty intelligent; he just does a few stupid things sometimes. And a lot of the time, he doesn't know an important piece of information and that slows him down."

It was silent for a minute while everyone thought about that. It was pretty true; Percy really wasn't stupid, even though some people act like he is.

Annabeth shrugged. "I told you. Athena always, always has a plan."

"A plan to get me pulverized."

"A plan nonetheless," Annabeth chuckled at Percy's outraged face.

"I came as fast as I could. I was about to jump in, but ..." She shrugged. "You didn't need help."

Then she noticed my wounded arm. "How did you do that?"

"He tripped and fell on a sword," Chris deadpanned. "What did you think happened?"

"Just wait," Annabeth glared at him.

"Sword cut," I said. "What do you think?"

"No. Itwasa sword cut. Look at it."

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.

We all watched in fascination as the same happened right in front of us.

"Can we keep going? I…want to get this next part over with," Percy said, looking nervous again.

"I—I don't get it," I said.

Annabeth was thinking hard.

"When aren't you," Nico rolled his eyes, then shrank back as two angry pairs of gray eyes glared at him.

I could almost see the gears turning. She looked down at my feet, then at Clarisse's broken spear, and said, "Step out of the water, Percy."

"What—"

"Just do it."

"Aww, but I like it there," Percy whined, but his voice sounded a little panicky and I was starting to worry. I never heard what happened the first time Percy played Capture the Flag, but I know that it was bad, because it was written on the list of "Worst Games of CTF in Camp Half-Blood" that hung in the Big House.

I came out of the creek and immediately felt bone tired. My arms started to go numb again. My adrenaline rush left me. I almost fell over, but Annabeth steadied me.

"Oh, Styx," she cursed. "This isnotgood. I didn't want... I assumed it would be Zeus..."

Zeus glared at Annabeth, but I spoke up and said, "Yeah that's pretty logical, I mean, Zeus seemed to be the only one that would break such an important oath."

My father actually shot me a betrayed look, before slumping back into his throne like a toddler.

Before I could ask what she meant, I heard that canine growl again, but much closer than before. A howl ripped through the forest.

My breath caught in my throat. Part of my brain, the instinct and huntress part, immediately speculated that it was a hellhound, but the other part, the Thalia part, was terrified of what might happen to Percy.

The campers' cheering died instantly. Chiron shouted something in Ancient Greek, which I would realize, only later, I had understood perfectly: "Stand ready!My bow!"

Annabeth drew her sword.

There on the rocks just above us was a black hound the size of a rhino, with lava-red eyes and fangs like daggers.

Poseidon looked so tense I thought he was going to snap.

It was looking straight at me.

The sea god let out a small whimper.

Nobody moved except Annabeth, who yelled, "Percy, run!"

She tried to step in front of me, but the hound was too fast. It leaped over her—an enormous shadow with teeth—and just as it hit me, as I stumbled backward and felt its razor-sharp claws ripping through my armor,

Percy screamed, though not very loudly, and slowly lifter his bloody shirt to show his destroyed chest. Annabeth and I both grabbed a towel to slow the blood gushing from him, and I barked, "Stoll! Read!"

there was a cascade of thwacking sounds, like forty pieces of paper being ripped one after the other. From the hounds neck sprouted a cluster of arrows. The monster fell dead at my feet.

Travis was reading so fast he was stumbling over some parts, but he kept reading as fast as his mouth would move.

By some miracle, I was still alive. I didn't want to look underneath the ruins of my shredded armor. My chest felt warm and wet, and I knew I was badly cut. Another second, and the monster would've turned me into a hundred pounds of delicatessen meat.

Chiron trotted up next to us, a bow in his hand, his face grim.

"Di immortales!" Annabeth said. "That's a hellhound from the Fields of Punishment. They don't... they're not supposed to..."

"Someone summoned it," Chiron said. "Someone inside the camp."

I heard Annabeth cursing quietly under her breath.

Luke came over, the banner in his hand forgotten, his moment of glory gone.

Clarisse yelled, "It's all Percy's fault! Percy summoned it!"

I think I saw Clarisse facepalm out of the corner of my eye. Good, I thought savagely while I pressed the towel to Percy's chest. Maybe this'll deflate her huge ego and she'll actually fight when she's supposed to during the Battle of Manhattan.

"Be quiet, child," Chiron told her.

We watched the body of the hellhound melt into shadow, soaking into the ground until it disappeared.

"You're wounded," Annabeth told me. "Quick, Percy, get in the water."

"I'm okay."

"Shut up and get in the water, Seaweed Brain," Annabeth mumbled.

Percy's eyes rolled over to her and gave her a cheeky grin on his pale face.

"No, you're not," she said. "Chiron, watch this."

I was too tired to argue. I stepped back into the creek, the whole camp gathering around me.

Percy sighed in relief and the blood slowed like last time.

Instantly, I felt better. I could feel the cuts on my chest closing up. Some of the campers gasped.

Percy sat up, back to his normal tan complexion. Then he looked down at his shirt. "Aww!" he whined. "Now my shirts all bloody," he pouted.

I heard Poseidon chuckle and saw Hestia wave her hand, making the blood clear off his shirt.

Percy looked up in surprise, and then nodded and said, "Thank you, Lady Hestia."

The young girl smiled back.

"Look, I—I don't know why," I said, trying to apologize. "I'm sorry..."

But they weren't watching my wounds heal. They were staring at something above my head.

"Percy," Annabeth said, pointing. "Um ..."

By the time I looked up, the sign was already fading, but I could still make out the hologram of green light, spinning and gleaming. A three-tipped spear: a trident.

Poseidon beamed at his son and Percy rolled his eyes a little, fiddling with his trident charm.

"Your father," Annabeth murmured. "This isreallynot good."

Poseidon's face fell. "Why not?"

"Well, with all due respect, Lord Poseidon, you and my mother aren't exactly the best of friends, and at this point, I was dying for a quest, and was told I'd get one when someone special arrived at the camp. I assumed it would be a child of Zeus, but since it was your son, I figured I would never get to go on the quest with him," Annabeth explained.

"Yeah, well, you did, and you sort of invited yourself," Percy said.

"Shut up, Seaweed Brain, you would've died the first hour of the quest without me."

"True enough, but still."

"It is determined," Chiron announced.

All around me, campers started kneeling, even the Ares cabin, though they didn't look happy about it.

"My father?" I asked, completely bewildered.

"Poseidon," said Chiron. "Earthshaker, Stormbringer, Father of Horses. Hail, Perseus Jackson, Son of the Sea God."

"He sounds really powerful when you say it like that," Grover said.

"Percy is powerful," I pointed out.

"One more chapter before lunch," Hera announced, glaring at me.

"I think I'll read," Percy said. Travis tossed him the book.

I Am Offered a Quest


1) So I know Percy seems kind of bipolar and he suddenly explodes and stuff, but I think he'd be pretty overwhelmed and his emotions would be all out of whack before he settled into a sort of relaxed, accepting state, kinda like he is towards the end. Oh, and he'll be cracking jokes while everyone's freaking out, because we all know that's what he'd do.

2) You may have noticed that Thalia calls every god by their name with no title in her head except Artemis, because Artemis is Thalia's Lady, and so she gives her that respect even in her head.

3) This one's more of an opinion. I hate hate hate reading fanfictions where Percy is displayed as a complete idiot. Because he's not. I even took some of annabeth's speech from "The Demigod Files" which means that that is what Rick says about Percy's intelligence. I just can't stand it when people make Percy really stupid, BECAUSE HE IS NOT.


WEEEEW! Done! That's 9500 words total, subtracting about 3500 words as the actual book, that gives me 600 OF MY OWN WORDS. HELL YEAH.

So, yeah, I'll get to work on the next chapter.

OH MY GOD I JUST RREALIZED I COMPLETELY LEFT RACHEL OUT OF THE WHOLE DAMN THING. GOD DAMN IT. I AM NOT REWRITING, SHE WAS JUST VERY QUIETLY OBSERVANT FOR THIS CHAPTER. , OKAY?

So, yeah, vote for who you want to join next my going to my profile and answering the poll, ok?

Till next time

-Schocker