Every summer our mom drives us to our dad's house in Malibu so he can take us to camp. Sounds pretty normal doesn't it? Lots of kids have parents who are separated and millions go to summer camp – even special camps all the way across the country.
I wish. There is nothing normal about my life, and it's because of my dad; you see he's Apollo. Yeah, the golden haired god of the sun, of music, of poetry, of medicine and prophecy – he's a busy guy my dad. He's also got an eye for the ladies. Remember Daphne, Cassandra, Coronis, etc.? Well I'm happy to say my mom did a lot better than any of them. After Dad left her she embarked on a new career as priestess of Apollo, healer and seer. Since this is Southern California – land of fruit and nuts - she's done real well for herself and us. But at least she's not a phony like all the other gurus, channelers, and Neo-pagans kicking around L.A. I mean Dad is real – and tickled to death at having worshippers again - and Mom's powers are real too. She can cure diseases and see the future, a little farewell present from Dad. Like my brother Xander and me. My name is Laurel, after Dad's favorite tree.
Mom dropped us off around three in the afternoon and we went down the steps from the driveway to the back door. There's nothing ancient or Greek about Dad's beach house on the Malibu bluffs, it's all sharp angles and big plate glass windows looking west over the ocean. Our sister Helice was already there, sitting on the deck in a white bikini. Her mother is Manda Golden. Yeah, the Manda Golden, star of 'A Touch of Venus'. Manda's a demigoddess too, a daughter of Aphrodite and the only adult Half-Blood I've ever met. Of course she's gorgeous and so is Helice. I don't exactly crack mirrors but compared to her I'm an ugly duckling who will never make swan. Having different mothers we don't look anything alike – unfortunately – except we're all blonds and we all have golden hazel eyes.
Xander and I changed into bathing suits and we all went swimming from Dad's private beach. Then back up to the house where the fridge – as usual – was stocked with sodas and the freezer with ice cream. We got the goodies then settled down in the living room to watch Hephaestus TV – the cable channel of the gods – on Dad's flat-screen.
Switched on it was immediately filled with a close-up of Uncle Hephaestus' gargoyle like face with his mouth stretched in a wide grin, "Gotcha!" he crowed.
"Great, I love this show!" said Xander. Helice groaned. Gotcha is sort of divine Candid Camera but always with the same targets; Ares and Helice's grandmother Aphrodite. As you probably know if you know anything about mythology Ares and Aphrodite have been having an affair for about three thousand years now and Hephaestus, Aphrodite's husband, gets his revenge by arranging embarrassing traps for them. Helice closed her eyes. She really doesn't enjoy watching her grandmother being humiliated. Xander and I don't have a problem with it.
"Coming to you live from the Waterland Thrill-ride of Love. Ares and Aphrodite go boating!" Hephaestus yodeled. His face vanished to be replaced by water foaming into a concrete pool. A boat bobbed to the surface. It was one of those two person theme-park boats all pink and white and decorated with little hearts. It had had a canopy but the water had ripped it away leaving only bent poles and a few scraps of fabric.
There were two very wet people in it but - "That doesn't look like Ares and Aphrodite to me," I said.
Helice opened one eye, then both very wide. "Wait a minute, isn't that Annabeth?"
Annabeth is a girl from camp, counselor of Athena cabin. It was hard to be sure with wet hair plastered over a face distorted by screaming but it sure did look like her.
"Who's the guy?" Xander asked scooting closer to the screen for a better look.
Nobody knew. He and Annabeth clutched at each other, both screaming for all they were worth, as the little boat ricocheted through the 'Thrill-ride of Love' spinning in whirlpools, plunging over waterfalls and scraping paint at hairpin turns.
"Whoo-hoo!" said Xander.
"Oh no!" cried Helice.
I was with her. The end of the ride hove into sight and it was bad. The golden gates of love had been chained and padlocked and were further blocked by the smashed remains of two other boats. "They'll be killed!"
"Hephaestus won't let that happen," Xander said, but uncertainly.
Hephaestus is one of the nicer gods, despite his looks, but he couldn't be happy at having his trap tripped by a couple of Half-bloods and might not see fit to help them. Luckily they didn't need help. Annabeth and the boy unbuckled their seatbelts and stood shakily, holding on to each other for support. The boy I noticed had a familiar looking shield on his arm. Just as their boat hit the wreckage of the others they jumped right over the padlocked gates.
"They've overshot the pool!" yelled Xander.
Helice closed her eyes again and I was about to when something swooped down and grabbed them.
"You can look," said Xander.
"Who or what is that?" I demanded.
"A flying satyr?" Helice wondered.
All three of them continued falling towards the asphalt but slowly, spiraling like a crashing plane. They plowed into one of those plaster-board walls painted with cartoon characters with holes you can stick your face through. The satyr's head went right through the top hole but Annabeth and her boyfriend hit the wall and then the asphalt, luckily not hard enough to get hurt. We all breathed sighs of relief. Annabeth's kind of a know it all but she comes by it honestly, being a daughter of the goddess of wisdom, and she's a really good teacher. I've taken both her mythological history and knife fighting classes.
The angle of the picture changed suddenly and lights hit them as they extracted their flying satyr friend from the photo-board. "Hey, isn't that Grover?" Xander asked.
"Okay," I said. "They're doomed."
"Laurel," Helice gave me this shocked look. "That's not very nice!"
Before I could answer the boy on the screen shouted; "Show's over! Thank you! Good night!" All three of them waved and the scene switched to a puzzled looking Hephaestus. "Well…That wasn't quite the Gotcha! I had in mind but let's hear a round of applause for our pair of plucky Half-Bloods and their satyr companion. The studio audience obliged as Hephaestus beckoned to one of his automaton assistants. They whispered together for a moment then the god straightened up and waved the audience to silence. "Ah, yes. I'm told that our unexpected stars are Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena -"
"Knew it," said Helice.
"- satyr Grover Underwood -"
"Those kids are so dead," I said.
"- and Percy Jackson the son of Poseidon."
"Whaaa!" we all said together.
Lots of gods and goddesses have kids with mortals. So many that we Half-bloods even have a special training camp set up for us. But about sixty years ago the Big Three; Zeus, Hades and Poseidon, agreed not to have any more demigod children because of the trouble they cause – like World War II. We all knew Zeus broke his oath seventeen years ago. Now it looked like Poseidon had too.
"Great, just great," said Xander disgustedly.
"So that's what Zeus and Poseidon have been fighting about," I muttered. Things were pretty quiet out here on the west coast – well away from Olympus – but I'd read about the weird and violent weather in the northeast and more importantly I'd been having dreams about my grandfather Zeus and great uncle Poseidon at each other's throats.
"I wonder what they're doing away from camp," Helice frowned. And you know she had a good point there. Annabeth lives at Camp Half-Blood year round. Had she and Grover been sent to bring this Percy kid in? And if so what had Chiron been thinking? Seeing what had happened last time Grover was the last satyr to send!
"Maybe Dad'll know something," Xander looked at his watch. "He should be here soon."
We turned off the TV, threw the empty cans and ice cream wrappers in the recycle bin and changed into jeans and t-shirts then sat down at the dining room table to wait. Red sunlight streamed through the big windows as the orange sun dipped its toes in the Pacific. The swinging doors to the kitchen burst open and Dad ran lightly up the steps then stopped to beam us one of his whiter-than-white not quite maniacal smiles.
Being a Half-blood is not the greatest thing in the world, in fact most of the time it really sucks, but that doesn't mean we don't love our dad. As gods go Apollo is a really great father. He does right by our mothers, pays child support if it's needed and gives us the most terrific gifts; magic arrows, healing powers, musical instruments that can play three part harmonies, that sort of thing. Best of all he's available. I mean if you want to see him all you have to do is step outside and look up.
Being a god Apollo can look any way he wants to but for us he likes to look old enough to be a dad but not old. Tall and tanned with casually tousled blond hair and golden eyes – like the sun. He was wearing a yellow polo shirt, with a little sun on the chest instead of the usual logo, and khaki trousers and he had a pair of sunglasses shoved up on his forehead. "Well if it isn't my favorite son and daughters," he said like he always does, "ready for another thrilling summer at Camp Half-Blood?"
"Sure!" "Yeah," "I guess," we answered as usual, little knowing just how thrilling this summer was going to be.
"Great! Let's eat."
Here's something I bet you didn't know – the god of the sun, poetry, music, etc. is a terrific cook. Of course Dad could just snap his fingers and magic up a feast but he prefers to do it the mortal way – it's more creative. And I kind of suspect it's also one of his ways of spending quality time with his kids as of course we have to help.
"Dad," Xander said, waiting for the water to boil for the rice, "did you see 'Gotcha!' this afternoon?"
Dad went right on chopping chicken but I saw his face change. "Yeah, I caught it on my eta-pad. Ares must be getting smarter."
"So Poseidon's fallen off the wagon too and I'm guessing Zeus is steamed about it?" Xander went on.
Helice was shelling water chestnuts. "With all respect to our grandfather he's not exactly in a position to criticize is he?"
Dad sighed and stopped chopping. "There's more to it - unfortunately." He looked at me. "You've been dreaming haven't you?"
I nodded. Mom isn't the only one in our family with prophetic powers – unfortunately. "Something really bad has happened, something that's put Granddad and Uncle Poseidon at each other's throats."
"This is top secret info, kids," Dad warned. We nodded and he went on; "The master bolt is missing, it disappeared at the last council. Zeus has suspected Poseidon all along and thinks Percy's existence clinches it."
We all understood. One god cannot usurp another god's symbol of power. But a Half-blood hero can pretty much do anything he has the nerve to try. Poseidon could have snuck Percy into Olympus and had him steal the lightning bolt to end all lightning bolts.
Xander shook his head. "I don't believe it. I mean I know Granddad and Uncle Poseidon have a real sibling rivalry going but Uncle wouldn't cross the line like that, he just wouldn't." We'd met our great uncle Poseidon once and we'd liked him. He and Granddad both have serious tempers but deep down the two of them are just too responsible to upset things in such a major way. I mean a war between two of the top gods would be a disaster. It could ruin Olympus and waste western civilization. Neither Zeus nor Poseidon would risk that. They just wouldn't.
"I agree with you, Xander," Dad was saying. "But there's another possibility. My father has two brothers."
Hades? I gulped. Oh gods, that was possible. Hades has been angry and resentful ever since he got stuck with the underworld back at the beginning. In a way you couldn't blame him, I mean who wants to live surrounded by ghosts and zombies? He wouldn't care if the upper world was thrown into chaos. I mean the more people who die the better for him – right?
Helice was as pale as I felt - her tan had gone all tarnished. "You really think –" she couldn't finish.
Dad nodded, looking serious which is unusual for him. "I foresee the answer lies in the west. That's got to mean Hades –"
Just then the rice boiled over and we had to pay attention to our cooking again.