Chapter no 3 – We Complain about Quests and Decorative

The Chalice of the Gods

“You have to do what?”

Annabeth and I sat on the fire escape outside my bedroom, our feet

dangling over 104th Street. Over the past few weeks, as summer wound down, the fire escape had become our happy place. And despite everything that had happened today, I was happy. It’s hard to be sad when I’m with Annabeth.

I filled her in on my first day at AHS: the classes, the headaches, the unplanned field trip to the bottom of the sea. Annabeth swung her legs—a nervous habit, like she wanted to kick away mosquitoes or pesky wind spirits.



“That’s ridiculous,” she said. “Maybe I can get my mom to write you a rec.”

Annabeth’s mom was Athena, goddess of wisdom, so a college rec from her probably would have gone a long way. Unfortunately, the few times we’d met, Athena had sized me up with her piercing gray eyes like I was a deepfake.

“Your mom doesn’t like me,” I said. “Besides, Poseidon was pretty clear. I have to do new quests for three gods. And the requests have to come from them.”


“That’s what I said.”

Annabeth fixed her gaze on the horizon, like she was looking for a solution way out in Yonkers. Do solutions come from Yonkers?

“We’ll figure it out,” she promised. “We’ve been through worse.”

I loved her confidence. And she was right. . . . We’d been through so much together already, it was hard to imagine anything we couldn’t face.

Occasionally, somebody would ask me if I’d ever dated anybody besides Annabeth, or if I’d ever thought about dating someone else. Honestly? The answer was no. When you’ve helped each other through Tartarus, the deepest and most horrifying place in the universe, and you’ve come out alive and stronger than you were to begin with . . . well, that isn’t a relationship you could ever replace, or should ever want to. Yeah, okay, so I wasn’t even eighteen yet. Still . . . no one knew me better, or put up with me more, or held me together as much as Annabeth, and I knew she could say the same about me—because if I were slacking as a boyfriend, she would let me know real quick.

“Maybe they’ll be small quests,” I said hopefully. “Like picking up garbage on the highway on Saturday or something. But this is an thing and not a we thing. I don’t want to drag you into it.”

“Hey.” She rested her hand on mine. “You’re not dragging me into anything. I’m going to help you get through high school and into college with me, whatever it takes.”




“So you’ll write my essays?” “Nice try.”

We sat in silence for a minute, our shoulders touching. We were both ADHD, but I could’ve stayed like that for hours, perfectly content, appreciating the way the afternoon sunlight glinted in Annabeth’s hair, or the way her pulse aligned with mine when we held hands.

Her blue T-shirt was emblazoned with the gold letters SODNYC. That sounded like an insult, but it was just the name of her new high school: School of Design, New York City.

I’d asked her about her first day already. After starting to tell me about her architecture teacher and first big homework assignment, she’d abruptly cut herself off with “It was fine. What about you?” I guess she knew I would have more to tell, more problems to solve.

That didn’t seem fair to me—not because she was wrong, but because I didn’t want to put her second. The thing about great problem-solvers is that they often don’t let others help them with their own stuff.

I was getting up my nerve to ask again, to make sure no gods or monsters had visited her during her day and given her quests, when my mom called from inside. “Hey, you two. Want to help with dinner?”

“Sure, Sally!” Annabeth pulled her legs up and climbed through the window. If there was anyone Annabeth liked helping more than me, it was my mom.

When we got to the kitchen, Paul was chopping garlic for the stir-fry. He wore an apron one of his students had given him for an end-of-year present. The quote on the front read “A RECIPE IS A STORY THAT ENDS WITH A GOOD MEAL.” —PAT CONROY.

I didn’t know who that was. Probably a literary person, since Paul taught literature. I liked the quote, though, because I liked good meals.

Annabeth grabbed a knife. “Dibs on the broccoli.”



Paul grinned at her. His salt-and-pepper hair had gotten a little longer and curlier over the summer, and he’d taken to shaving only every couple of days, so he looked, as my mom put it, “pleasantly roguish.”

“I cede the chopping board to the daughter of Athena,” he said with a little bow.

“Thank you, kind sir,” Annabeth said, equally formal. My mother laughed. “You two are adorable.”

Paul winked at Mom, then turned to heat up the wok. Ever since last spring, when Paul had tutored Annabeth in some impossible English project, the two of them had bonded over Shakespeare, of all things, so half the time when they talked to each other, they sounded like they were acting out scenes from Macbeth.

“Percy,” my mom said, “would you set the table?”

She didn’t really need to ask, since that was my usual job. Five mismatched pastel-colored plates. I got the blue one, always. Paper napkins. Forks. Glasses and a pitcher of tap water. Nothing fancy.

I appreciated having a simple ritual like this—something that did not involve monster-fighting, divine prophecies, or near-death experiences in the depths of the Underworld. Setting a table for dinner might sound boring to you, but when you have no downtime in your life ever . . . boring starts to sound pretty great.

My mom checked the rice cooker, then took a bowl of marinated tofu from the fridge. She hummed as she worked—some Nirvana song, I think. “Come as You Are”? From the glow on her face and the sparkle in her eyes, I could tell she was in a good place. She moved like she was floating, or about to burst into some dance moves. It made me smile just seeing her like that.



For too long, she’d been an overstressed, underemployed mom, heartbroken after her short affair with the god of the sea and constantly worried about me, her demigod child who’d been hounded by monsters since I was old enough to crawl.

Now she and Paul had a good life together. And if I felt a little sad about having one foot out the door just when things were getting better, hey, that wasn’t my mom’s or Paul’s fault. They did everything they could to include me. Besides, I wanted to go to college. If I had to choose between being with Annabeth and . . . well, anything, that was no choice at all.

Paul dropped a clove of garlic into the wok, which sizzled and steamed like a sneezing dragon. (And yes, I’ve seen dragons sneeze.) “I think we are ready, milady.”

“Incoming.” Annabeth dumped the stir-fry mixture into the oil just as our doorbell rang.

“I’ll get it,” I said, and ran to let in our fifth for dinner.

As soon as I opened the door, Grover Underwood shoved a basket of fruit into my hands. “I brought strawberries.” His nose quivered. “Is that tofu stir-fry?”

“Hello to you, too,” I said.

“I love tofu stir-fry!” Grover trotted around me and made a beeline for the kitchen, because Grover knows what’s good.

My best friend had allowed his appearance to go a little wild, which is saying something, since he is a satyr. His horns and his curly hair were having a race to see which could be taller. So far the horns were winning, but not by much. His goatish hindquarters had grown so shaggy he’d stopped wearing human pants to cover them, though he assured me that humans still saw them as pants through the obscuring magic of the Mist. If anyone looked at him strangely, Grover just said, “Athleisure-wear.”

He wore his standard orange Camp Half-Blood shirt, and still used specially fitted tennis shoes to cover his cloven feet, because hooves are noisy and hard for the Mist to cover up. I guess the explanation “athleisure-wear plus tap-dancing shoes” didn’t work so well.

My mom hugged Grover and gushed over the basket of strawberries as I put them on the kitchen counter.



“They smell wonderful!” she said. “Perfect dessert!” “Last crop of the summer,” Grover said wistfully.

He gave me a sad smile, like he was ruminating about how this had been my last summer at camp as well. Once demigods graduate high school, if we live that long, most of us transition out into the regular world. The thinking is that by then, we are strong enough to fend for ourselves, and monsters tend to leave us alone because we’re no longer such easy targets. That’s the theory, anyway. . . .

“Now we have to get ready for gourd season,” Grover continued with a sigh. “Don’t get me wrong. I love decorative gourds, but they’re not as tasty.”

My mom patted his shoulder. “We’ll make sure these berries don’t go to waste.”

The rice cooker chimed just as Paul turned off the burner on the stovetop and gave the steaming wok one last stir. “Who’s hungry?”

Everything tastes better when you’re eating with people you love. I remember each meal my friends and I shared in the galley on board the Argo II—even if we were mostly just chowing down on junk food between life-and-death battles. These days, at home, I tried to savor every dinner with my mom and Paul.

I spent most of my childhood moving from boarding school to boarding school, so I never had the whole family-dinner thing growing up. The few times I was home, back when my mom was married to Smelly Gabe Ugliano, supper together had never been appealing. The only thing worse than Gabe’s stink was the way he chewed with his mouth open.

My mom did her best. Everything she did was to protect me, including living with Gabe, whose stench threw monsters off my trail. Still . . . my rough past just made me appreciate these times even more.

We talked about my mom’s writing. After years of dreaming and struggling, her first novel was going to be published in the spring. She hadn’t made much money on the deal, but hey, a publisher had actually paid her for her writing! She was presently wavering between elation and extreme anxiety about what would happen when her book came out.

We also talked about Grover’s work on the Council of Cloven Elders, sending satyrs all over the world to check out catastrophes in the wilderness. The council had no shortage of problems to deal with these days.

Finally, I filled in Grover about my first day at school, and the three recommendation letters I was supposed to get from the gods.

A look of panic flashed across his face, but he suppressed it quickly. He sat up straighter and brushed some rice out of his goatee. “Well then, we’ll do these quests together!”



I tried not to show how relieved I was deep down. “Grover, you don’t have to—”

“Are you kidding?” He grinned at Annabeth. “A chance to do quests, just the three of us? Like old times? The Three Musketeers!”

“The Powerpuff Girls,” Annabeth suggested. “Shrek, Fiona, and Donkey,” I said.

“Wait a minute,” Grover said.

“I’m fine with this,” Annabeth said.

Paul raised his glass. “The monsters will never know what hit them. Just be careful, you three.”

“Oh, it’ll be fine,” Grover said, though his left eye twitched. “Besides, it always takes a while for word to get around among the gods. We’ve probably got weeks before the first request comes in!”

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