Chapter no 29 -I Teeter on the Precipice of Mount Brunch

The Chalice of the Gods

Is there anything more terrifying than brunch?

It’s an abomination among meals, a Frankenstein hybrid of clashing food

choices. It evokes nightmares of soft jazz bands, kids in itchy dress clothes, ladies in strange hats, lipstick smears on champagne glasses, and the smell of croque monsieur. I am sorry. I don’t eat food with a name that translates as Mr. Crunchy.

Even the word brunch gives me the willies. (See, I almost said heebie-jeebies, but we don’t use that term anymore in this household.) Brunch is the most non-elegant term for something that is supposed to be elegant. It’s like saying, Let’s get all dressed up and go to a quack-splat. Like . . . why?

But now I had found something even worse than a mortal brunch: a brunch among the gods. On a Monday morning, no less. And during regular breakfast hours, but, oh, no, they had to make it a brunch anyway.

Also, Zeus was having his mom over? I’d never met Rhea, the Titan queen, and I wasn’t anxious to find out what the gods served her for her special morning meal. Probably poached demigod on toast with demigod-tear mimosas.

I hefted the chalice of the gods. “I don’t suppose we can send this Hermes Express?”

Annabeth frowned. “Percy . . .”

“Don’t they have one-hour delivery in Manhattan?” “Ganymede needs it now. And you have to bring it. It’s—”

“My job.” I sighed. I was familiar with the rules of quest completion, which included white-glove delivery by the demigod in charge. It was looking increasingly unlikely that I would make it to school in time for my first-period quiz.

“Fine,” I said. “Any suggestions on how I can sneak into Olympus and infiltrate a godly brunch?”

“Um, actually?” Grover blinked like what he was about to say would be painful for me to hear. “I might have an idea.”

The easy part was getting a taxi uptown. Normally I wouldn’t have sprung for a cab, but after Grover and I said good-bye to Annabeth, it seemed like the fastest way to get to the Empire State Building, and also the fastest way to avoid Annabeth’s wrath.

With great reluctance, she had lent me her New York Yankees cap. She never does that. The invisibility hat was a gift from her mom, so borrowing it just wasn’t something you did without a really good reason. It would’ve been like me letting another demigod use Riptide in a fight. Nope.

But when Grover pleaded that it was the only way, Annabeth had handed it over. She glared at me and said, “You will bring it back. Good luck. Don’t die.” Then she ran off to start her school day, since her campus was only a couple of blocks away.

In the cab, Grover tapped his hooves nervously on the floorboard as he explained the rest of his plan. I wasn’t too worried about the cabdriver listening in, because this was New York. A plan to break into Mount Olympus was not the craziest thing any cabbie would hear on any given day. Also, Grover had insisted on bringing the Hula-Hoop in the cab with us, and I had a giant chalice in my lap, so we were already unreliable narrators.

“A cloud nymph,” I said, just to make sure I’d heard him correctly. “Yeah.” He glanced behind us, though as far as I could tell, we weren’t

being followed.

“Is this the same nymph who gave you the info on Washington Square Park?” I asked.

“No, no. But cloud nymphs, man . . . they’re like school secretaries. They know everyone and everything. This one, Naomi—she’s been dating Maron for the past few months. She works in the kitchens of Zeus’s palace. If you can get to the side entrance, she should be able to slip you inside.”

I shivered. Maron was one of Grover’s fellow Cloven Council elders—a nice enough goat dude, but he was only slightly below Gary on the weird-

old-man spectrum. The idea of him having a dating profile on Satyr-er was not something I wanted to ponder.

I curled Annabeth’s hat between my hands. “I don’t suppose the invisibility cap will fool the gods?”

“Not likely,” Grover said. “The cap is to fool any spirits or minor gods you might come across. As long as you’re not waving your arms and screaming in their faces, you should be invisible to them. But the Olympians themselves? You’d need Hades’s helm of darkness for that. The best Annabeth’s cap might do is make you look, I don’t know, unimportant?”

“Perfect,” I grumbled. I wasn’t sure how Grover knew this much about Annabeth’s hat, but since he was telling me bad news, I figured he was probably right on target. “So I get to the side door of the palace kitchen as fast as possible.”

“You do the special knock.”

Shave and a haircut,” I said. “Because that is a knock no one would ever use.”

“When Naomi opens the door, tell her Grover sent you. And you need her help.”

“Okay . . .” Why were my hands trembling? Oh, right, I’d just had a wrestling match with Old Age. I was exhausted. Also, I was about to sneak into an Olympus palace uninvited, where several major gods were founding members of the We Hate Percy Jackson Club. “Then I just have to figure out how to get the cup to Ganymede.”


We pulled up in front of the Empire State Building. Wow, that was disappointingly fast. Looking at the black marble entrance, which I’d gone through too many times, I suddenly thought of another problem.

“What about the sentry guy at the front desk?” I asked. “He’s not going to let me go up to Olympus unannounced. Will the Yankees cap work on him?”

“Definitely not,” Grover said. “You’ll need a distraction. That’s me.”

He paid the cabbie and got out with his Hula-Hoop. I scooted out after him, lugging the chalice.

“When I start doing my thing,” Grover continued, “you slip around to the elevator banks and get to the six hundredth floor. Come on!”

I wasn’t sure what Grover’s “thing” was, but we’d been friends long enough that I figured I would know when the time was right. Grover could

be super distracting when he wanted to be . . . and I was an expert on getting distracted.

I put on Annabeth’s cap. Even after I adjusted it to the biggest size, it didn’t fit my big head, but it still seemed to do its job. I looked down at my body and saw a vague smoky outline where Percy Jackson used to be. Suddenly I felt like I had termites swarming all over my skin. Annabeth had never told me that her hat generated a bad case of the creepy-crawlies. No wonder she only used it when she had to. Leave it to Athena to make a magical gift with a built-in disincentive.

Inside, the lobby was mostly empty. Ever since they’d moved the tourist lines over to the West 34th Street entrance a few years ago, the Fifth Avenue entrance was a lot calmer, and today it was too early for much foot traffic. The usual guards stood by the doors. A few office workers stumbled toward the elevators, but that was it.

The dark marble walls were probably supposed to feel majestic and grand, but they always reminded me too much of Mount Othrys, the Titans’ headquarters. All that gloomy stone closed in on me, weighing on my chest like a hug from Gary. I wondered if the Olympians had designed the building’s lobby that way on purpose, so when you got to the magical six hundredth floor and stepped out into the clouds, you would be dazzled by the gleaming towers and temples of Olympus. That seemed like a Zeus thing to do. See how much prettier we are? We must be the good guys!

To the right of the main reception desk, the sentry guy I’d dealt with before was kicking back, reading a book as usual. His appearance never seemed to change, and he always read really thick novels. To me, those were two indications that he might not be human.

His security-card lanyard dangled from the arm of his chair. I knew from past experience that I’d need the card to access the special god-evator, but even invisible, even if Grover provided a distraction, I didn’t see how I could grab it without the sentry guy noticing.

Then Grover stepped into the middle of the lobby and did his thing.

He pulled out his panpipes, yelled “Hey, folks!” and began to hula-hoop. I knew satyrs could climb and caper. I did not know they were absolute demons at the Hula-Hoop. Grover shook his wool-maker. The sacred hoop of Ganymede lit up, flashing and sparkling as Grover moved it up and down his body, looping it around one leg, then the other. He put his panpipes to his

lips and blasted out the chorus of “Get Lucky.”

The regular security guards’ mouths fell open. A commuter dropped a full cup of coffee on the floor. The sentry guy put down his book and rose from his chair.

Then I remembered I was supposed to be using this moment to do something other than stare at Grover.

As the sentry guy came around the reception desk, telling Grover, “Sir, you can’t perform in here,” I skirted around the edge of the lobby, cradling the chalice under one arm like a football. I grabbed the key card and made a dash for the elevators.

I mashed the Up button. I waited for what seemed like forever, sure that the sentry would chase me down, or alarms would go off and vicious harpies would appear to drag me to the dungeon. (Does the Empire State Building have a dungeon? Probably, right?)

Finally, the black-and-silver doors slid open. I slipped inside, inserted my stolen card, and hit the button for the six hundredth floor. Up I went, to the allegedly soothing sounds of “I Got You, Babe.”

I hoped Grover would be okay. I wasn’t sure what the penalty was for playing “Get Lucky” while hula-hooping in the Empire State Building’s lobby, but it was probably severe. Annabeth and Grover had done their best to help me. Now it was up to me. I couldn’t fail after all we’d been through. Could I?

The doors opened with a cheerful ding! that seemed to say, Why, yes, you absolutely can fail! Have a nice day!

I stepped out onto the floating stone bridge that connected the elevator bank to the city of Olympus. There it stood, just as I remembered: a severed mountaintop wreathed in clouds, domed palaces and terraced gardens carved into its steep sides—an entire unearthly city floating over Midtown like Nothing to see here; move along.

The chalice grew heavier in my arms. It seemed to tug me forward, as if sensing thirsty gods who needed a refill. I hoped I wasn’t going to have a Frodo moment, where I got to the threshold of Mount Brunch with my magic item and then, instead of handing it over, became visible, yelled Ha-ha! The cup is mine! and drank the immortality-flavored Kool-Aid.

Zeus would probably make me the minor god of canapés. Annabeth would be so mad.

I shook off that thought.

Somewhere below in the mortal world, church bells were chiming, marking the hour of eight o’clock. That was an ungodly early hour for brunch, so I figured it was exactly when the gods would have it. I had to hurry. I took off down the path, leaping over gaps in the stone bridge and praying I could get the chalice to Ganymede before Zeus called for a round of demigod-tear mimosas.

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