The Last Olympian – Chapter 2: I MEET SOME FISHY RELATIVES

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Chapter 2

I MEET SOME FISHY

RELATIVES

Demigod dreams suck. 

  The thing is, theyre never just dreams. Theyve got to be visions, omens, and all that other mystical stuff that makes my brain hurt. 

  I dreamed I was in a dark palace at the top of a mountain. Unfortunately, I recognized it: the palace of the Titans on top of Mount Othrys, otherwise known as Mount Tamalpais, in California. The main pavilion was open to the night, ringed with black Greek columns and statues of the Titans. Torchlight glowed against the black marble floor. In the center of the room, an armored giant struggled under the weight of a swirling funnel cloud—Atlas, holding up the sky. 

  Two other giant men stood nearby over a bronze brazier, studying images in the flames. 

  “Quite an explosion,” one said. He wore black armor studded with silver dots like a starry night. His face was covered in a war helm with a rams horn curling on either side. 

  “It doesnt matter,” the other said. This Titan was dressed in gold robes, with golden eyes like Kronos. His entire body glowed. He reminded me of Apollo, God of the Sun, except the Titans light was harsher, and his expression crueler. “The gods have answered the challenge. Soon they will be destroyed. “

  The images in the fire were hard to make out: storms, buildings crumbling, mortals screaming in terror. 

  “I will go east to marshal our forces,” the golden Titan said. “Krios, you shall remain and guard Mount Othrys. “

  The ram horn dude grunted. “I always get the stupid jobs. Lord of the South. Lord of Constellations. Now I get to babysit Atlas while you have all the fun. “

  Under the whirlwind of clouds, Atlas bellowed in agony, “Let me out, curse you! I am your greatest warrior. Take my burden so I may fight!”

  “Quiet!” the golden Titan roared. “You had your chance, Atlas. You failed. Kronos likes you just where you are. As for you, Krios, do your duty. “

  “And if you need more warriors?” Krios asked. “Our treacherous nephew in the tuxedo will not do you much good in a fight. “

  The golden Titan laughed. “Dont worry about him. Besides, the gods can barely handle our first little challenge. They have no idea how many others we have in store. Mark my words, in a few days time, Olympus will be in ruins, and we will meet here again to celebrate the dawn of the Sixth Age!”

  The golden Titan erupted into flames and disappeared. 

  “Oh, sure,” Krios grumbled. “He gets to erupt into flames. I get to wear these stupid rams horns. “

  The scene shifted. Now I was outside the pavilion, hiding in the shadows of a Greek column. A boy stood next to me, eavesdropping on the Titans. He had dark silky hair, pale skin, and dark clothes—my friend Nico di Angelo, the son of Hades. 

He looked straight at me, his expression grim. “You see, Percy?” he whispered. “Youre running out of time. Do you really think you can beat them without my plan?”

  His words washed over me as cold as the ocean floor, and my dreams went black. 

  “Percy?” a deep voice said. 

  My head felt like it had been microwaved in aluminum foil. I opened my eyes and saw a large shadowy figure looming over me. 

  “Beckendorf?” I asked hopefully. 

  “No, brother. “

  My eyes refocused. I was looking at a Cyclops—a misshapen face, ratty brown hair, one big brown eye full of concern. “Tyson?”

  My brother broke into a toothy grin. “Yay! Your brain works!”

  I wasnt so sure. My body felt weightless and cold. My voice sounded wrong. I could hear Tyson, but it was more like I was hearing vibrations inside my skull, not the regular sounds. 

  I sat up, and a gossamer sheet floated away. I was on a bed made of silky woven kelp, in a room paneled with abalone shell. Glowing pearls the size of basketballs floated around the ceiling, providing light. I was under water. 

  Now, being the son of Poseidon and all, I was okay with this. I can breathe underwater just fine, and my clothes dont even get wet unless I want them to. But it was still a bit of a shock when a hammerhead shark drifted through the bedroom window, regarded me, and then swam calmly out the opposite side of the room. 

  “Where—”

  “Daddys palace,” Tyson said. 

  Under different circumstances, I wouldve been excited. Id never visited Poseidons realm, and Id been dreaming about it for years. But my head hurt. My shirt was still speckled with burn marks from the explosion. My arm and leg wounds had healed—just being in the ocean can do that for me, given enough time—but I still felt like Id been trampled by a Laistrygonian soccer team in cleats. 

  “How long—”

  “We found you last night,” Tyson said, “sinking through the water. “

  “The Princess Andromeda?”

  “Went ka-boom,” Tyson confirmed. 

  “Beckendorf was on board. Did you find . . . “

  Tysons face darkened. “No sign of him. I am sorry, brother. “

  I stared out the window into deep blue water. Beckendorf was supposed to go to college in the fall. He had a girlfriend, lots of friends, his whole life ahead of him. He couldnt be gone. Maybe hed made it off the ship like I had. Maybe hed jumped over the side . . . and what? He couldnt have survived a hundred-foot fall into the water like I could. He couldnt have put enough distance between himself and the explosion. 

  I knew in my gut he was dead. Hed sacrificed himself to take out the Princess Andromeda, and I had abandoned him. 

  I thought about my dream: the Titans discussing the explosion as if it didnt matter, Nico di Angelo warning me that I would never beat Kronos without following his plan—a dangerous idea Id been avoiding for more than a year. 

  A distant blast shook the room. Green light blazed outside, turning the whole sea as bright as noon. 

  “What was that?” I asked. 

  Tyson looked worried. “Daddy will explain. Come, he is blowing up monsters. “

  The palace might have been the most amazing place Id ever seen if it hadnt been in the process of getting destroyed. We swam to the end of a long hallway and shot upward on a geyser. As we rose over the rooftops I caught my breath—well, if you can catch your breath underwater. 

  The palace was as big as the city on Mount Olympus, with wide courtyards, gardens, and columned pavilions. The gardens were sculpted with coral colonies and glowing sea plants. Twenty or thirty buildings were made of abalone, white but gleaming with rainbow colors. Fish and octopi darted in and out of the windows. The paths were lined with glowing pearls like Christmas lights. 

  The main courtyard was filled with warriors—mermen with fish tails from the waist down and human bodies from the waist up, except their skin was blue, which Id never known before. Some were tending the wounded. Some were sharpening spears and swords. One passed us, swimming in a hurry. His eyes were bright green, like that stuff they put in glo-sticks, and his teeth were shark teeth. They dont show you stuff like that in The Little Mermaid. 

  Outside the main courtyard stood large fortifications—towers, walls, and antisiege weapons—but most of these had been smashed to ruins. Others were blazing with a strange green light that I knew well—Greek fire, which can burn even underwater. 

  Beyond this, the sea floor stretched into gloom. I could see battles raging—flashes of energy, explosions, the glint of armies clashing. A regular human wouldve found it too dark to see. Heck, a regular human wouldve been crushed by the pressure and frozen by the cold. Even my heat-sensitive eyes couldnt make out exactly what was going on. 

  At the edge of the palace complex, a temple with a red coral roof exploded, sending fire and debris streaming in slow motion across the farthest gardens. Out of the darkness above, an enormous form appeared—a squid larger than any skyscraper. It was surrounded by a glittering cloud of dust—at least I thought it was dust, until I realized it was a swarm of mermen trying to attack the monster. The squid descended on the palace and swatted its tentacles, smashing a whole column of warriors. Then a brilliant arc of blue light shot from the rooftop of one of the tallest buildings. The light hit the giant squid, and the monster dissolved like food coloring in water. 

  “Daddy,” Tyson said, pointing to where the light had come from. 

  “He did that?” I suddenly felt more hopeful. My dad had unbelievable powers. He was the god of the sea. He could deal with this attack, right? Maybe hed let me help. 

  “Have you been in the fight?” I asked Tyson in awe. “Like bashing heads with your awesome Cyclops strength and stuff?”

  Tyson pouted, and immediately I knew Id asked a bad question, “I have been . . . fixing weapons,” he mumbled. “Come. Lets go find Daddy. “

  I know this might sound weird to people with, like, regular parents, but Id only seen my dad four or five times in my life, and never for more than a few minutes. The Greek gods dont exactly show up for their kids basketball games. Still, I thought I would recognize Poseidon on sight. 

  I was wrong. 

  The roof of the temple was a big open deck that had been set up as a command center. A mosaic on the floor showed an exact map of the palace grounds and the surrounding ocean, but the mosaic moved. Colored stone tiles representing different armies and sea monsters shifted around as the forces changed position. Buildings that collapsed in real life also collapsed in the picture. 

  Standing around the mosaic, grimly studying the battle, was a strange assortment of warriors, but none of them looked like my dad. I was searching for a big guy with a good tan and a black beard, wearing Bermuda shorts and a Hawaiian shirt. 

  There was nobody like that. One guy was a merman with two fish tails instead of one. His skin was green, his armor studded with pearls. His black hair was tied in a ponytail, and he looked young—though its hard to tell with non-humans. They could be a thousand years old or three. Standing next to him was an old man with a bushy white beard and gray hair. His battle armor seemed to weigh him down. He had green eyes and smile wrinkles around his eyes, but he wasnt smiling now. He was studying the map and leaning on a large metal staff. To his right stood a beautiful woman in green armor with flowing black hair and strange little horns like crab claws. And there was a dolphin—just a regular dolphin, but it was staring at the map intently. 

  “Delphin,” the old man said. “Send Palaemon and his legion of sharks to the western front. We have to neutralize those leviathans. “

  The dolphin spoke in a chattering voice, but I could understand it in my mind: Yes, lord! It sped away. 

  I looked in dismay at Tyson, then back at the old man. 

  It didnt seem possible, but . . . “Dad?” I asked. 

  The old man looked up. I recognized the twinkle in his eyes, but his face . . . he looked like hed aged forty years. 

  “Hello, Percy. “

  “What—what happened to you?”

  Tyson nudged me. He was shaking his head so hard I was afraid it would fall off, but Poseidon didnt look offended. 

  “Its all right, Tyson,” he said. “Percy, excuse my appearance. The war has been hard on me. “

  “But youre immortal,” I said quietly. “You can look . . . any way you want. “

  “I reflect the state of my realm,” he said. “And right now that state is quite grim. Percy, I should introduce you—Im afraid you just missed my lieutenant Delphin, God of the Dolphins. This is my, er, wife, Amphitrite. My dear—”

  The lady in green armor stared at me coldly, then crossed her arms and said, “Excuse me, my lord. I am needed in the battle. “

  She swam away. 

  I felt pretty awkward, but I guess I couldnt blame her. Id never thought about it much, but my dad had an immortal wife. All his romances with mortals, including with my mom . . . well, Amphitrite probably didnt like that much. 

  Poseidon cleared his throat. “Yes, well . . . and this is my son Triton. Er, my other son. “

  “Your son and heir,” the green dude corrected. His double fish tails swished back and forth. He smiled at me, but there was no friendliness in his eyes. “Hello, Perseus Jackson. Come to help at last?”

  He acted like I was late or lazy. If you can blush underwater, I probably did. 

  “Tell me what to do,” I said. 

  Triton smiled like that was a cute suggestion—like I was a slightly amusing dog that had barked for him or something. He turned to Poseidon. “I will see to the front line, Father. Dont worry. I will not fail. “

  He nodded politely to Tyson. How come I didnt get that much respect? Then he shot off into the water. 

  Poseidon sighed. He raised his staff, and it changed into his regular weapon—a huge three-pointed trident. The tip glowed with blue light, and the water around it boiled with energy. 

  “Im sorry about that,” he told me. 

  A huge sea serpent appeared from above us and spiraled down toward the roof. It was bright orange with a fanged mouth big enough to swallow a gymnasium. 

  Hardly looking up, Poseidon pointed his trident at the beast and zapped it with blue energy. Ka-boom! The monster burst into a million goldfish, which all swam off in terror. 

  “My family is anxious,” Poseidon continued as if nothing had happened. “The battle against Oceanus is going poorly. “

  He pointed to the edge of the mosaic. With the butt of his trident he tapped the image of a merman larger than the rest, with the horns of a bull. He appeared to be riding a chariot pulled by crawfish, and instead of a sword he wielded a live serpent. 

  “Oceanus,” I said, trying to remember. “The Titan of the sea?”

  Poseidon nodded. “He was neutral in the first war of gods and Titans. But Kronos has convinced him to fight. This is . . . well, its not a good sign. Oceanus would not commit unless he was sure he could pick the winning side. “

  “He looks stupid,” I said, trying to sound upbeat. “I mean, who fights with a snake?”

  “Daddy will tie it in knots,” Tyson said firmly. 

  Poseidon smiled, but he looked weary. “I appreciate your faith. We have been at war almost a year now. My powers are taxed. And still he finds new forces to throw at me—sea monsters so ancient I had forgotten about them. ”

I heard an explosion in the distance. About half a mile away, a mountain of coral disintegrated under the weight of two giant creatures. I could dimly make out their shapes. One was a lobster. The other was a giant humanoid like a Cyclops, but he was surrounded by a flurry of limbs. At first I thought he wearing a bunch of giant octopi. Then I realized they were his own arms—a hundred flailing, fighting arms. 

  “Briares!” I said. 

  I was happy to see him, but he looked like he was fighting for his life. He was the last of his kind—a Hundred-Handed One, cousin of the Cyclopes. Wed saved him from Kronoss prison last summer, and I knew hed come to help Poseidon, but I hadnt heard of him since. 

  “He fights well,” Poseidon said. “I wish we had a whole army like him, but he is the only one. “

  I watched as Briares bellowed in rage and picked up the lobster, which thrashed and snapped its pincers. He threw it off the coral mountain, and the lobster disappeared into the darkness. Briares swam after it, his hundred arms spinning like the blades of a motorboat. 

  “Percy, we may not have much time,” my dad said. “Tell me of your mission. Did you see Kronos?”

  I told him everything, though my voice choked up when I explained about Beckendorf. I looked down at the courtyards below and saw hundreds of wounded mermen lying on makeshift cots. I saw rows of coral mounds that mustve been hastily made graves. I realized Beckendorf wasnt the first death. He was only one of hundreds, maybe thousands. Id never felt so angry and helpless. 

  Poseidon stroked his beard. “Percy, Beckendorf chose a heroic death. You bear no blame for that. Kronoss army will be in disarray. Many were destroyed. “

  “But we didnt kill him, did we?”

  As I said it, I knew it was a naive hope. We might blow up his ship and disintegrate his monsters, but a Titan lord wouldnt be so easy to kill. 

  “No,” Poseidon admitted. “But youve bought our side some time. “

  “There were demigods on that ship,” I said, thinking of the kid Id seen in the stairwell. Somehow Id allowed myself to concentrate on the monsters and Kronos. Id convinced myself that destroying their ship was all right because they were evil, they were sailing to attack my city, and besides, they couldnt really be permanently killed. Monsters just vaporized and re-formed eventually. But demigods . . . 

  Poseidon put his hand on my shoulder. “Percy, there were only a few demigod warriors aboard that ship, and they all chose to battle for Kronos. Perhaps some heeded your warning and escaped. If they did not . . . they chose their path. “

  “They were brainwashed!” I said. “Now theyre dead and Kronos is still alive. Thats supposed to make me feel better?”

  I glared at the mosaic—little tile explosions destroying tile monsters. It seemed so easy when it was just a picture. 

  Tyson put his arm around me. If anybody else had tried that, I wouldve pushed him away, but Tyson was too big and stubborn. He hugged me whether I wanted it or not. “Not your fault, brother. Kronos does not explode good. Next time we will use a big stick. “

  “Percy,” my father said. “Beckendorfs sacrifice wasnt in vain. You have scattered the invasion force. New York will be safe for a time, which frees the other Olympians to deal with the bigger threat. “

  “The bigger threat?” I thought about what the golden Titan had said in my dream: The gods have answered the challenge. Soon they will be destroyed. 

  A shadow passed over my fathers face. “Youve had enough sorrow for one day. Ask Chiron when you return to camp. “

  “Return to camp? But youre in trouble here. I want to help!”

  “You cant, Percy. Your job is elsewhere. “

  I couldnt believe I was hearing this. I looked at Tyson for backup. 

  My brother chewed his lip. “Daddy . . . Percy can fight with a sword. He is good. “

  “I know that,” Poseidon said gently. 

  “Dad, I can help,” I said. “I know I can. Youre not going to hold out here much longer. “

  A fireball launched into the sky from behind the enemy lines. I thought Poseidon would deflect it or something, but it landed on the outer corner of the yard and exploded, sending mermen tumbling through the water. Poseidon winced as if hed just been stabbed. 

  “Return to camp,” he insisted. “And tell Chiron it is time. “

  “For what?”

  “You must hear the prophecy. The entire prophecy. “

  I didnt need to ask him which prophecy. Id been hearing about the “Great Prophecy” for years, but nobody would ever tell me the whole thing. All I knew was that I was supposed to make a decision that would decide the fate of the world—but no pressure. 

  “What if this is the decision?” I said. “Staying here to light, or leaving? What if I leave and you . . . “

  I couldnt say die. Gods werent supposed to die, but Id seen it happen. Even if they didnt die, they could be reduced to nearly nothing, exiled, imprisoned in the depths of Tartarus like Kronos had been. 

  “Percy, you must go,” Poseidon insisted. “I dont know what your final decision will be, but your fight lies in the world above. If nothing else, you must warn your friends at camp. Kronos knew your plans. You have a spy. We will hold here. We have no choice. “

  Tyson gripped my hand desperately. “I will miss you, brother!”

  Watching us, our father seemed to age another ten years. “Tyson, you have work to do as well, my son. They need you in the armory. “

  Tyson pouted some more. 

  “I will go,” he sniffled. He hugged me so hard he almost cracked my ribs. “Percy, be careful! Do not let monsters kill you dead!”

  I tried to nod confidently, but it was too much for the big guy. He sobbed and swam awaytoward the armory, where his cousins were fixing spears and swords. 

  “You should let him fight,” I told my father. “He hates being stuck in the armory. Cant you tell?”

  Poseidon shook his head. “It is bad enough I must send you into danger. Tyson is too young. I must protect him. “

  “You should trust him,” I said. “Not try to protect him. “

  Poseidons eyes flared. I thought Id gone too far, but then he looked down at the mosaic and his shoulders sagged. On the tiles, the mermaid guy in the crawfish chariot was coming closer to the palace. 

  “Oceanus approaches,” my father said. “I must meet him in battle. “

  Id never been scared for a god before, but I didnt see how my dad could face this Titan and win. 

  “I will hold,” Poseidon promised. “I will not give up my domain. Just tell me, Percy, do you still have the birthday gift I gave you last summer?”

  I nodded and pulled out my camp necklace. It had a bead for every summer Id been at Camp Half-Blood, but since last year Id also kept a sand dollar on the cord. My father had given it to me for my fifteenth birthday. Hed told me I would know when to “spend it,” but so far I hadnt figured out what he meant. All I knew was that it didnt fit the vending machines in the school cafeteria. 

  “The time is coming,” he promised. “With luck, I will see you for your birthday next week, and we will have a proper celebration. “

  He smiled, and for a moment I saw the old light in his eyes. 

  Then the entire sea grew dark in front of us, like an inky storm was rolling in. Thunder crackled, which shouldve been impossible underwater. A huge icy presence was approaching. I sensed a wave of fear roll through the armies below us. 

  “I must assume my true godly form,” Poseidon said. “Go—and good luck, my son. “

  I wanted to encourage him, to hug him or something, but knew better than to stick around. When a god assumes his true form, the power is so great that any mortal looking on him will disintegrate. 

  “Good-bye, Father,” I managed. 

  Then I turned away. I willed the ocean currents to aid me. Water swirled around me, and I shot toward the surface at speeds that wouldve caused any normal human to pop like a balloon. 

  When I looked back, all I could see were flashes of green and blue as my father fought the Titan, and the sea itself was torn apart by the two armies. 

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