Chapter no 2 – My Dad Helps Out*

The Chalice of the Gods

You know you’ve been a demigod too long when you’re flushed out of your school straight into the Atlantic Ocean and you’re not even surprised.

I didn’t try to fight the current. I could breathe underwater, so that wasn’t an issue. I just sat in my blue plastic chair and rocketed through Poseidon’s Private Plumbing System™, powered by a five-billion-gallon tsunami. Faster than you could say, Well, that sucked, I erupted from the seafloor like I’d been coughed up by a mollusk.

As the sand cloud around me settled, I tried to get my bearings. My nautical senses told me I was about forty miles southeast of the Long Island coast, two hundred feet down; no big deal for a son of Poseidon, but, kids, don’t try this at home. A hundred yards in front of me, the continental shelf dropped into darkness. And right on the precipice stood a glittering palace: Poseidon’s summer villa.

As usual, my dad was remodeling. I guess when you’re immortal, you get tired of having the same crib for centuries. Poseidon always seemed to be gutting, renovating, or expanding. It helped that when it came to undersea building projects, he had pretty much infinite power and free labor.

A pair of blue whales was towing a marble column the size of an apartment building. Hammerhead sharks slathered grout between rows of coral brickwork with their fins and cephalofoils. Hundreds of merfolk darted here and there, all wearing bright yellow hard hats that matched their lamp-like eyes.

A couple of them waved at me as I swam through the worksite. A dolphin in a reflective safety vest gave me a high five.

I found my dad standing by a half-constructed infinity pool that looked over the abyss of the Hudson Canyon. I wasn’t sure what the point of an infinity pool was when you were already underwater, but I knew better than to ask. My dad was pretty chill most of the time, but you didn’t want to question his stylistic choices.

His clothes, for instance.

Some of the Greek gods I’d met liked to morph their appearance on a daily basis. They could do that, being, you know, gods. But Poseidon seemed to have settled on a look that worked for him, even if it didn’t work for anyone else.

Today, he wore rumpled cargo shorts that matched his Crocs and socks. His camp shirt looked like it had been targeted in a paintball war between Team Purple and Team Hello Kitty. His fishing cap was fringed with spinnerbait lures. In his hand, a Celestial bronze trident thrummed with power, making the water boil around its wicked points.

With his athletic frame, dark trimmed beard, and curly salt-and-pepper hair, you’d think he was maybe forty-five—until he turned to smile at you. Then you noticed the weathered lines of his face, like a well-worn mountainside, and the deep melancholy green of his eyes, and you could appreciate that this guy was older than most nations—powerful, ancient, and weighed down by a lot more than water pressure.

“Percy,” he said. “Hey.”

We have deep conversations like that.

His smile tightened. “How’s the new school?”

I bit back the urge to point out that I’d only made it through two classes before getting flushed into the sea. “So far it’s okay.”

I must not have sounded convincing, because my dad furrowed his bushy eyebrows. I imagined storm clouds forming along the Atlantic coast, boats rocking in angry swells. “If it’s not up to snuff, I’d be happy to send a tidal wave—”

“No, it’s cool,” I said hastily. “So, about these college rec letters . . .” Poseidon sighed. “Yes. Eudora volunteered to counsel you. She’s the

Nereid of gifts from the sea, you understand. Loves helping people. But perhaps she should have waited a bit before breaking the news. ”

In other words: Now he had to do it, and he didn’t like that.

If you’ve concluded that Poseidon is a “hands-off” type of parent, you win the chicken-dinner award. I didn’t even meet him until I was in middle school, when (purely by coincidence) he needed something from me.

But we get along okay now. I know he loves me in his own way. It’s just hard for gods to be close to their mortal offspring. We demigods don’t live long compared to the gods. To them, we’re sort of like gerbils. Gerbils who get killed a lot. Plus, Poseidon had a lot of other stuff going on: ruling the oceans; dealing with oil spills, hurricanes, and cranky sea monsters; remodeling his mansions.

“I just want to get into New Rome University,” I said. “Isn’t there any way you can . . . ?” I wriggled my fingers, trying to indicate godlike magic that could make problems disappear. Not that I’d ever seen such a thing. Gods are much better at magically creating problems than making them go away.

Poseidon combed his mustache with the tip of his trident. How he did that without cutting his face, I don’t know.

“Unfortunately,” he said, “those recommendation letters are the best I could do. They are the only way the Olympian Council will let you work off your debt.”

Communicating underwater is complicated. I was partly translating his words from whale-song hums and clicks and partly hearing his voice telepathically in my head, so I wasn’t sure I’d understood him.

“I haven’t got any student debt,” I said. “I haven’t even been accepted yet.”

“Not student debt,” Poseidon said. “This is the debt you owe for . . . existing.”

My heart sank. “You mean for being a child of one of the Big Three.

Your kid.”

Poseidon gazed into the distance, as if he’d just noticed something interesting in the abyss. I half expected him to shout, Look, shiny! and then disappear while my head was turned.

About seventy years ago, the Big Three gods—Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades—made a pact not to sire any more demigod children. We were too powerful and unpredictable. We tended to start major wars, instigate natural disasters, create bad sitcoms . . . whatever. Being gods, the Big Three still found ways to break the pact and not get in trouble. Instead, it was us demigod kids who suffered.

“I thought we’d moved past this,” I muttered. “I helped you guys fight the Titans—”

“I know,” my dad said. “And Gaea and the giants.” “I know.”


“My son.” The edge to his voice told me it would be best to stop listing my greatest hits. “If it were up to me, I would waive this ridiculous requirement altogether. Alas, someone”—he glanced up, someone being code for my unreasonable brother Zeus—“is a stickler for rules. You were never supposed to be born, so you are technically ineligible for New Rome University.”

I couldn’t believe this.

Also, I could totally believe this.

Just when I thought I might catch a break, I didn’t. The Olympian gods seemed to think I was their personal kickball.

I relaxed my jaw to keep from grinding my teeth. “So, three recommendation letters.”

Poseidon brightened. “Zeus wanted it to be twenty-five. I talked him down to three.”

He looked like he was waiting for something.

“Thank you,” I grumbled. “I don’t suppose you could write one for me?” “I’m your father. I would be biased.”

“Yeah, we wouldn’t want any bias.”

“I’m glad you understand. To earn each letter, you will have to undertake a new quest. All three will have to be completed before the application deadline of the winter solstice. Each time a god writes you a letter of recommendation, give it to Eudora, and she’ll put in your file.”

I tried to think of gods who might cut me some slack and give me simple quests. I’d helped lots of immortals over the years. The trick was coming up with some who would remember I had helped them—or even just remembered my name. “I guess I can ask Hermes. And Artemis . . . ?”

“Oh, you can’t go asking the gods. They’ll have to come to you. But don’t worry!” Poseidon looked really pleased with himself. “I took the liberty of putting your name on the Olympian quest board.”

“The what now?”

Poseidon snapped his fingers and a neon-yellow flyer appeared in his hands. It was an ad with my photo and this copy:



The bottom of the flyer was cut into little strips with my home address on each one.

The photo looked like it had been taken from inside my bathroom mirror, which raised a whole bunch of disturbing questions. My hair was wet. My eyes were half-closed. A toothbrush was sticking out of my mouth.

“You already posted this, didn’t you,” I said.

“It wasn’t a problem,” Poseidon assured me. “I had my sea sprites put them up all over Mount Olympus, too.”

“I am so . . .”

“Grateful.” His hand settled heavily on my shoulder. “I know. I also know you weren’t expecting this extra obstacle, but just think! Once you get into college, you should have a much easier life. Monsters hardly ever attack older demigods. You and your girlfriend . . .”


“Yes. You and Annabeth will be able to relax and enjoy yourselves.”

Poseidon straightened. “And now I think I hear my interior designer calling. We still haven’t decided whether the bathroom tile should be seafoam or aquamarine. Wonderful to see you again, Percy. Good luck with the quests!”

He thumped the base of his trident against the patio stones. The floor opened, and I was flushed right back through the ocean floor without even a plastic chair to sit in.

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