Wednesday, 16 May 2012

The Lightning Thief - Chapter 6

Chapter 6

 Once I got over the fact that my Latin teacher was a horse, we had a nice tour, though I was careful not
to walk behind him. I'd done pooper-scooper patrol in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade a few
times, and, I'm sorry, I did not trust Chiron's back end the way I trusted his front.
 We passed the volleyball pit. Several of the campers nudged each other. One pointed to the minotaur
horn I was carrying. Another said, "That's him."
 Most of the campers were older than me. Their satyr friends were bigger than Grover, all of them
trotting around in orange CAMP HALF-BLOOD T-shirts, with nothing else to  cover their bare shaggy
hindquarters. I wasn't normally shy, but the way they stared at me made me uncomfortable. I felt like they
were expecting me to do a flip or something.
 I looked back at the farmhouse. It was a lot bigger than I'd realized—four stories tall, sky blue with
white trim, like an upscale seaside resort. I was checking out the brass eagle weather vane on top when
something caught my eye, a shadow in the uppermost window of the attic gable. Something had moved
the curtain, just for a second, and I got the distinct impression I was being watched.
 "What's up there?" I asked Chiron.
 He looked where I was pointing, and his smile faded. "Just the attic."
 "Somebody lives there?"
 "No," he said with finality. "Not a single living thing."
 I got the feeling he was being truthful. But I was also sure something had moved that curtain.
 "Come along, Percy," Chiron said, his lighthearted tone now a little forced. "Lots to see."
 We walked through the strawberry fields, where campers were picking bushels of berries while a satyr
played a tune on a reed pipe.
 Chiron told me the camp grew a nice crop for export to New York restaurants and Mount Olympus. "It
pays our expenses," he explained. "And the strawberries take almost no effort."
 He said Mr. D had this effect on fruit-bearing plants: they just went crazy when he was around. It
worked best with wine grapes, but Mr. D was restricted from growing those, so they grew strawberries
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 I watched the satyr playing his pipe. His music was causing lines of bugs to leave the strawberry patch in
every direction, like refugees fleeing a fire. I wondered if Grover could work that kind of magic with
music. I wondered if he was still inside the farmhouse, getting chewed out by Mr. D.
 "Grover won't get in too much trouble, will he?" I asked Chiron. "I mean ... he was a good protector.
 Chiron sighed. He shed his tweed jacket and draped it over his horses back like a saddle. "Grover has
big dreams, Percy. Perhaps bigger than are reasonable. To reach his goal, he must first demonstrate great
courage by succeeding as a keeper, finding a new camper and bringing him safely to Half-Blood Hill."
 "But he did that!"
 "I might agree with you," Chiron said. "But it is not my place to judge. Dionysus and the Council of
Cloven Elders must decide. I'm afraid they might not see this assignment as a success. After all, Grover
lost you in New York. Then there's the unfortunate ... ah ... fate of your mother. And the fact that Grover
was unconscious when you dragged him over the property line. The council might question whether this
shows any courage on Grover's part."
 I wanted to protest. None of what happened was Grover's fault. I also felt really, really guilty. If I hadn't
given Grover the slip at the bus station, he might not have gotten in trouble.
 "He'll get a second chance, won't he?"
 Chiron winced. "I'm afraid that was Grover's second chance, Percy. The council was not anxious to give
him another, either, after what happened the first time, five years ago. Olympus knows, I advised him to
wait longer before trying again. He's still so small for his age... ."
 "How old is he?"
 "Oh, twenty-eight."
 "What! And he's in sixth grade?"
 "Satyrs mature half as fast as humans, Percy. Grover has been the equivalent of a middle school student
for the past six years."
 "That's horrible."
 "Quite," Chiron agreed. "At any rate, Grover is a late bloomer, even by satyr standards, and not yet very
accom-plished at woodland magic. Alas, he was anxious to pursue his dream. Perhaps now he will find
some other career... ."
 "That's not fair," I said. "What happened the first time? Was it really so bad?"
 Chiron looked away quickly. "Let's move along, shall we?"
 But I wasn't quite ready to let the subject drop. Something had occurred to me when Chiron talked
about my mother's fate, as if he were intentionally avoiding the word death. The beginnings of an idea—a
tiny, hopeful fire—started forming in my mind.
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 "Chiron," I said. "If the gods and Olympus and all that are real ..."
 "Yes, child?"
 "Does that mean the Underworld is real, too?"
 Chiron's expression darkened.
 "Yes, child." He paused, as if choosing his words care-fully. "There is a place where spirits go after
death. But for now ... until we know more ...  I would urge you to put that out of your mind."
 "What do you mean, 'until we know more'?"
 "Come, Percy. Let's see the woods."
 As we got closer, I realized how huge the forest was. It took up at least a quarter of the valley, with
trees so tall and thick, you could imagine nobody had been in there since the Native Americans.
 Chiron said, "The woods are stocked, if you care to try your luck, but go armed."
 "Stocked with what?" I asked. "Armed with what?"
 "You'll see. Capture the flag is Friday night. Do you have your own sword and shield?"
 "My own—?"
 "No," Chiron said. "I don't suppose you do. I think a size five will do. I'll visit the armory later."
 I wanted to ask what kind of summer camp had an armory, but there was too much else to think about,
so the tour continued. We saw the archery range, the canoeing lake, the stables (which Chiron didn't
seem to like very much), the javelin range, the sing-along amphitheater, and the arena where Chiron said
they held sword and spear fights.
 "Sword and spear fights?" I asked.
 "Cabin challenges and all that," he explained. "Not lethal. Usually. Oh, yes, and there's the mess hall."
 Chiron pointed to an outdoor pavilion framed in white Grecian columns on a hill overlooking the sea.
There were a dozen stone picnic tables. No roof. No walls.
 "What do you do when it rains?" I asked.
 Chiron looked at me as if I'd gone a little weird. "We still have to eat, don't we?" I decided to drop the
 Finally, he showed me the cabins. There were twelve of them, nestled in the woods by the lake. They
were arranged in a U, with two at the base and five in a row on either side. And they were without doubt
the most bizarre collection of buildings I'd ever seen.
 Except for the fact that each had a large brass number above the door (odds on the left side, evens on
the right), they looked absolutely nothing alike. Number nine had smokestacks, like a tiny factory.
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Number four had tomato vines on the walls and a roof made out of real grass. Seven seemed to be made
of solid gold, which gleamed so much in the sunlight it was almost impossible to look at. They all faced a
commons area about the size of a soccer field, dot-ted with Greek statues, fountains, flower beds, and a
couple of basketball hoops (which were more my speed).
 In the center of the field was a huge stone-lined firepit. Even though it was a warm afternoon, the hearth
smol-dered. A girl about nine years old was tending the flames, poking the coals with a stick.
 The pair of cabins at the head of the field, numbers one and two, looked like his-and-hers mausoleums,
big white marble boxes with heavy columns in front. Cabin one was the biggest and bulkiest of the
twelve. Its polished bronze doors shimmered like a hologram, so that from different angles lightning bolts
seemed to streak across them. Cabin two was more graceful somehow, with slimmer columns garlanded
with pomegranates and flowers. The walls were carved with images of peacocks.
 "Zeus and Hera?" I guessed.
 "Correct," Chiron said.
 "Their cabins look empty."
 "Several of the cabins are. That's true. No one ever stays in one or two."
 Okay. So each cabin had a different god, like a mascot. Twelve cabins for the twelve Olympians. But
why would some be empty?
 I stopped in front of the first cabin on the left, cabin three.
 It wasn't high and mighty like cabin one, but long and low and solid. The outer walls were of rough gray
stone studded with pieces of seashell and coral, as if the slabs had been hewn straight from the bottom of
the ocean floor. I peeked inside the open doorway and Chiron said, "Oh, I wouldn't do that!"
 Before he could pull me back, I caught the salty scent of the interior, like the wind on the shore at
Montauk. The interior walls glowed like abalone. There were six empty bunk beds with silk sheets turned
down. But there was no sign anyone had ever slept there. The place felt so sad and lonely, I was glad
when Chiron put his hand on my shoulder and said, "Come along, Percy."
 Most of the other cabins were crowded with campers.
 Number five was bright red—a real nasty paint job, as if the color had been splashed on with buckets
and fists. The roof was lined with barbed wire. A stuffed wild boar's head hung over the doorway, and its
eyes seemed to follow me. Inside I could see a bunch of mean-looking kids, both girls and boys, arm
wrestling and arguing with each other while rock music blared. The loudest was a girl maybe thirteen or
fourteen. She wore a size XXXL CAMP HALF-BLOOD T-shirt under a camouflage jacket. She
zeroed in on me and gave me an evil sneer. She reminded me of Nancy Bobofit, though the camper girl
was much bigger and tougher looking, and her hair was long and stringy, and brown instead of red.
 I kept walking, trying to stay clear of Chiron's hooves. "We haven't seen any other centaurs," I
 "No," said Chiron sadly. "My kinsmen are a wild and barbaric folk, I'm afraid. You might encounter
them in the wilderness, or at major sporting events. But you won't see any here."
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 "You said your name was Chiron. Are you really ..."
 He smiled down at me. "The  Chiron from the stories? Trainer of Hercules and all that? Yes, Percy, I
 "But, shouldn't you be dead?"
 Chiron paused, as if the question intrigued him. "I hon-estly don't know aboutshould  be. The truth is, I
can't  be dead. You see, eons ago the gods granted my wish. I could con-tinue the work I loved. I could
be a teacher of heroes as long as humanity needed me. I gained much from that wish ... and I gave up
much. But I'm still here, so I can only assume I'm still needed."
 I thought about being a teacher for three thousand years. It wouldn't have made my Top Ten Things to
Wish For list.
 "Doesn't it ever get boring?"
 "No, no," he said. "Horribly depressing, at times, but never boring."
 "Why depressing?"
 Chiron seemed to turn hard of hearing again.
 "Oh, look," he said. "Annabeth is waiting for us."
 * * *
 The blond girl I'd met at the Big House was reading a book in front of the last cabin on the left, number
 When we reached her, she looked me over critically, like she was still thinking about how much I
 I tried to see what she was reading, but I couldn't make out the title. I thought my dyslexia was acting
up. Then I realized the title wasn't even English. The letters looked Greek to me. I mean, literally Greek.
There were pictures of temples and statues and different kinds of columns, like those in an architecture
 "Annabeth," Chiron said, "I have masters' archery class at noon. Would you take Percy from here?"
 "Yes, sir."
 "Cabin eleven," Chiron told me, gesturing toward the doorway. "Make yourself at home."
 Out of all the cabins, eleven looked the most like a reg-ular old summer camp cabin, with the emphasis
on old.  The threshold was worn down, the brown paint peeling. Over the doorway was one of those
doctor's symbols, a winged pole with two snakes wrapped around it. What did they call it... ? A
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 Inside, it was packed with people, both boys and girls, way more than the number of bunk beds.
Sleeping bags were spread all over on the floor. It looked like a gym where the Red Cross had set up an
evacuation center.
 Chiron didn't go in. The door was too low for him. But when the campers saw him they all stood and
bowed respectfully.
 "Well, then," Chiron said. "Good luck, Percy. I'll see you at dinner."
 He galloped away toward the archery range.
 I stood in the doorway, looking at the kids. They weren't bowing anymore. They were staring at me,
sizing me up. I knew this routine. I'd gone through it at enough schools.
 "Well?" Annabeth prompted. "Go on."
 So naturally I tripped coming in the door and made a total fool of myself. There were some snickers
from the campers, but none of them said anything.
 Annabeth announced, "Percy Jackson, meet cabin eleven.
 "Regular or undetermined?" somebody asked.
 I didn't know what to say, but Annabeth said, "Undetermined."
 Everybody groaned.
 A guy who was a little older than the rest came forward. "Now, now, campers. That's what we're here
for. Welcome, Percy. You can have that spot on the floor, right over there."
 The guy was about nineteen, and he looked pretty cool. He was tall and muscular, with short-cropped
sandy hair and a friendly smile. He wore an orange tank top, cutoffs, sandals, and a leather necklace with
five different-colored clay beads. The only thing unsettling about his appearance was a thick white scar
that ran from just beneath his right eye to his jaw, like an old knife slash.
 "This is Luke," Annabeth said, and her voice sounded different somehow. I glanced over and could've
sworn she was blushing. She saw me looking, and her expression hard-ened again. "He's your counselor
for now."
 "For now?" I asked.
 "You're undetermined," Luke explained patiently. "They don't know what cabin to put you in, so you're
here. Cabin eleven takes all newcomers, all visitors. Naturally, we would. Hermes, our patron, is the god
of travelers."
 I looked at the tiny section of floor they'd given me. I had nothing to put there to mark it as my own, no
luggage, no clothes, no sleeping bag. Just the Minotaur's horn. I thought about setting that down, but then
I remembered that Hermes was also the god of thieves.
 I looked around at the campers' faces, some sullen and suspicious, some grinning stupidly, some eyeing
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me as if they were waiting for a chance to pick my pockets.
 "How long will I be here?" I asked.
 "Good question," Luke said. "Until you're determined."
 "How long will that take?"
 The campers all laughed.
 "Come on," Annabeth told me. "I'll show you the vol-leyball court."
 "I've already seen it."
 "Come on." She grabbed my wrist and dragged me outside. I could hear the kids of cabin eleven
laughing behind me.
 When we were a few feet away, Annabeth said, "Jackson, you have to do better than that."
 She rolled her eyes and mumbled under her breath, "I can't believe I thought you were the one."
 "What's your problem?" I was getting angry now. "All I know is, I kill some bull guy—"
 "Don't talk like that!" Annabeth told me. "You know how many kids at this camp wish they'd had your
 "To get killed?"
 "To fight the Minotaur! What do you think we train for?"
 I shook my head. "Look, if the thing I fought really was the Minotaur, the same one in the stories ..."
 "Then there's only one."
 "And he died, like, a gajillion years ago, right? Theseus killed him in the labyrinth. So ..."
 "Monsters don't die, Percy. They can be killed. But they don't die."
 "Oh, thanks. That clears it up."
 "They don't have souls, like you and me. You can dispel them for a while, maybe even for a whole
lifetime if you're lucky. But they are primal forces. Chiron calls them arche-types. Eventually, they
 I thought about Mrs. Dodds. "You mean if I killed one, accidentally, with a sword—"
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 "The Fur ... I mean, your math teacher. That's right. She's still out there. You just made her very, very
 "How did you know about Mrs. Dodds?"
 "You talk in your sleep."
 "You almost called her something. A Fury? They're Hades' torturers, right?"
 Annabeth glanced nervously at the ground, as if she expectedit  to open up and swallow her. "You
shouldn't call them by name, even here. We call them the Kindly Ones, if we have to speak of them at
 "Look, is there anything we can say without it thunder-ing?" I sounded whiny, even to myself, but right
then I didn't care. "Why do I have to stay in cabin eleven, anyway? Why is everybody so crowded
together? There are plenty of empty bunks right over there."
 I pointed to the first few cabins, and Annabeth turned pale. "You don't just choose a cabin, Percy. It
depends on who your parents are. Or ... your parent."
 She stared at me, waiting for me to get it.
 "My mom is Sally Jackson," I said. "She works at the candy store in Grand Central Station. At least, she
used to."
 "I'm sorry about your mom, Percy. But that's not what I mean. I'm talking about your other parent. Your
 "He's dead. I never knew him."
 Annabeth sighed. Clearly, she'd had this conversation before with other kids. "Your father's not dead,
 "How can you say that? You know him?"
 "No, of course not."
 "Then how can you say—"
 "Because I know you.  You wouldn't be here if you weren't one of us."
 "You don't know anything about me."
 "No?" She raised an eyebrow. "I bet you moved around from school to school. I bet you were kicked
out of a lot of them."
 "Diagnosed with dyslexia. Probably ADHD, too."
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 I tried to swallow my embarrassment. "What does that have to do with anything?"
 "Taken together, it's almost a sure sign. The letters float off the page when you read, right? That's
because your mind is hardwired for ancient Greek. And the ADHD—you're impulsive, can't sit still in the
classroom. That's your battle-field reflexes. In a real fight, they'd keep you alive. As for the attention
problems, that's because you see too much, Percy, not too little. Your senses are better than a regular
mortal's. Of course the teachers want you medicated. Most of them are monsters. They don't want you
seeing them for what they are."
 "You sound like ... you went through the same thing?"
 "Most of the kids here did. If you weren't like us, you couldn't have survived the Minotaur, much less the
ambrosia and nectar."
 "Ambrosia and nectar."
 "The food and drink we were giving you to make you better. That stuff would've killed a normal kid. It
would've turned your blood to fire and your bones to sand and you'd be dead. Face it. You're a
 A half-blood.
 I was reeling with so many questions I didn't know where to start.
 Then a husky voice yelled, "Well! A newbie!"
 I looked over. The big girl from the ugly red cabin was sauntering toward us. She had three other girls
behind her, all big and ugly and mean looking like her, all wearing camo jackets.
 "Clarisse," Annabeth sighed. "Why don't you go polish your spear or something?"
 "Sure, Miss Princess," the big girl said. "So I can run you through with it Friday night."
 ''Erre es korakas!" Annabeth said, which I somehow under-stood was Greek for 'Go to the crows!'
though I had a feel-ing it was a worse curse than it sounded. "You don't stand a chance."
 "We'll pulverize you," Clarisse said, but her eye twitched. Perhaps she wasn't sure she could follow
through on the threat. She turned toward me. "Who's this little runt?"
 "Percy Jackson," Annabeth said, "meet Clarisse, Daughter of Ares."
 I blinked. "Like ... the war god?"
 Clarisse sneered. "You got a problem with that?"
 "No," I said, recovering my wits. "It explains the bad smell."
 Clarisse growled. "We got an initiation ceremony for newbies, Prissy."
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 "Whatever. Come on, I'll show you."
 "Clarisse—" Annabeth tried to say.
 "Stay out of it, wise girl."
 Annabeth looked pained, but she did stay out of it, and I didn't really want her help. I was the new kid. I
had to earn my own rep.
 I handed Annabeth my minotaur horn and got ready to fight, but before I knew it, Clarisse had me by
the neck and was dragging me toward a cinder-block building that I knew immediately was the
 I was kicking and punching. I'd been in plenty of fights before, but this big girl Clarisse had hands like
iron. She dragged me into the girls' bathroom. There was a line of toilets on one side and a line of shower
stalls down the other. It smelled just like any public bathroom, and I was thinking—as much as I could
think with Clarisse ripping my hair out—that if this place belonged to the gods, they should've been able
to afford classier johns.
 Clarisse's friends were all laughing, and I was trying to find the strength I'd used to fight the Minotaur,
but it just wasn't there.
 "Like he's 'Big Three' material," Clarisse said as she pushed me toward one of the toilets. "Yeah, right.
Minotaur probably fell over laughing, he was so stupid looking."
 Her friends snickered.
 Annabeth stood in the corner, watching through her fingers.
 Clarisse bent me over on my knees and started pushing my head toward the toilet bowl. It reeked like
rusted pipes and, well, like what goes into toilets. I strained to keep my head up. I was looking at the
scummy water, thinking, I will not go into that. I won't.
 Then something happened. I felt a tug in the pit of my stomach. I heard the plumbing rumble, the pipes
shudder. Clarisse's grip on my hair loosened. Water shot out of the toilet, making an arc straight over my
head, and the next thing I knew, I was sprawled on the bathroom tiles with Clarisse screaming behind
 I turned just as water blasted out of the toilet again, hit-ting Clarisse straight in the face so hard it pushed
her down onto her butt. The water stayed on her like the spray from a fire hose, pushing her backward
into a shower stall.
 She struggled, gasping, and her friends started coming toward her. But then the other toilets exploded,
too, and six more streams of toilet water blasted them back. The show-ers acted up, too, and together all
the fixtures sprayed the camouflage girls right out of the bathroom, spinning them around like pieces of
garbage being washed away.
 As soon as they were out the door, I felt the tug in my gut lessen, and the water shut off as quickly as it
had started.
 The entire bathroom was flooded. Annabeth hadn't been spared. She was dripping wet, but she hadn't
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been pushed out the door. She was standing in exactly the same place, staring at me in shock.
 I looked down and realized I was sitting in the only dry spot in the whole room. There was a circle of
dry floor around me. I didn't have one drop of water on my clothes. Nothing.
 I stood up, my legs shaky.
 Annabeth said, "How did you ..."
 "I don't know."
 We walked to the door. Outside, Clarisse and her friends were sprawled in the mud, and a bunch of
other campers had gathered around to gawk. Clarisse's hair was flattened across her face. Her
camouflage jacket was sop-ping and she smelled like sewage. She gave me a look of absolute hatred.
"You are dead, new boy. You are totally dead."
 I probably should have let it go, but I said, "You want to gargle with toilet water again, Clarisse? Close
your mouth."
 Her friends had to hold her back. They dragged her toward cabin five, while the other campers made
way to avoid her flailing feet.
 Annabeth stared at me. I couldn't tell whether she was just grossed out or angry at me for dousing her.
 "What?" I demanded. "What are you thinking?"
 "I'm thinking," she said, "that I want you on my team for capture the flag."


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