Mr. D’s real name is Dionysus. The god of wine. Zeus appointed him director of Camp Half-Blood to dry out for a hundred years—a punishment for chasing some off-limits wood nymph.
Next to him, where Chiron usually sat (or stood, in centaur form), was someone I’d never seen before—a pale, horribly thin man in a threadbare orange prisoner’s jumpsuit. The number over his pocket read 0001. He had blue shadows under his eyes, dirty fingernails, and badly cut gray hair, like his last haircut had been done with a weed whacker. He stared at me; his eyes made me nervous. He looked … fractured. Angry and frustrated and hungry all at the same time.
“This boy,” Dionysus told him, “you need to watch. Poseidon’s child, you know.”
“Ah!” the prisoner said. “That one.”
His tone made it obvious that he and Dionysus had already discussed me at length.
“I am Tantalus,” the prisoner said, smiling coldly. “On special assignment here until, well, until my Lord Dionysus decides otherwise. And you, Perseus Jackson, I do expect you to refrain from causing any more trouble.”
“Trouble?” I demanded.
Dionysus snapped his fingers. A newspaper appeared on the table—the front page of today’s New York Post, There was my yearbook picture from Meriwether Prep. It was hard for me to make out the headline, but I had a pretty good guess what it said. Something like: Thirteen-Year-Old Lunatic Torches Gymnasium.
“Yes, trouble,” Tantalus said with satisfaction. “You caused plenty of it last summer, I understand.”
I was too mad to speak. Like it was my fault the gods had almost gotten into a civil war?
A satyr inched forward nervously and set a plate of barbecue in front of Tantalus. The new activities director licked his lips. He looked at his empty goblet and said, “Root beer. Barq’s special stock. 1967.”
The glass filled itself with foamy soda. Tantalus stretched out his hand hesitantly, as if he were afraid the goblet was hot.
“Go on, then, old fellow,” Dionysus said, a strange sparkle in his eyes. “Perhaps now it will work.”
Tantalus grabbed for the glass, but it scooted away before he could touch it. A few drops of root beer spilled, and Tantalus tried to dab them up with his fingers, but the drops rolled away like quicksilver before he could touch them. He growled and turned toward the plate of barbecue. He picked up a fork and tried to stab a piece of brisket, but the plate skittered down the table and flew off the end, straight into the coals of the brazier.
“Blast!” Tantalus muttered.
“Ah, well,” Dionysus said, his voice dripping with false sympathy. “Perhaps a few more days.
Believe me, old chap, working at this camp will be torture enough. I’m sure your old curse will fade eventually.”
“Eventually,” muttered Tantalus, staring at Dionysus’s Diet Coke. “Do you have any idea how dry one’s throat gets after three thousand years?”
“You’re that spirit from the Fields of Punishment,” I said. “The one who stands in the lake with the fruit tree hanging over you, but you can’t eat or drink.”
Tantalus sneered at me. “A real scholar, aren’t you, boy?”
“You must’ve done something really horrible when you were alive,” I said, mildly impressed.
“What was it?”
Tantalus’s eyes narrowed. Behind him, the satyrs were shaking their heads vigorously, trying to warn me.
“I’ll be watching you, Percy Jackson,” Tantalus said. “I don’t want any problems at my camp.”
”Your camp has problems already … sir.”
“Oh, go sit down, Johnson,” Dionysus sighed. “I believe that table over there is yours—the one where no one else ever wants to sit.”
My face was burning, but I knew better than to talk back. Dionysus was an overgrown brat, but he was an immortal, superpowerful overgrown brat. I said, “Come on, Tyson.”
“Oh, no,” Tantalus said. “The monster stays here. We must decide what to do with it.”
“Him,” I snapped. “His name is Tyson.”
The new activities director raised an eyebrow.
“Tyson saved the camp,” I insisted. “He pounded those bronze bulls. Otherwise they would’ve burned down this whole place.”
“Yes,” Tantalus sighed, “and what a pity that would’ve been.”
“Leave us,” Tantalus ordered, “while we decide this creature’s fate.”
Tyson looked at me with fear in his one big eye, but I knew I couldn’t disobey a direct order from the camp directors. Not openly, anyway.
“I’ll be right over here, big guy,” I promised. “Don’t worry. We’ll find you a good place to sleep tonight.”
Tyson nodded. “I believe you. You are my friend.”
Which made me feel a whole lot guiltier.
I trudged over to the Poseidon table and slumped onto the bench. A wood nymph brought me a plate of Olympian olive-and-pepperoni pizza, but I wasn’t hungry. I’d been almost killed twice today. I’d managed to end my school year with a complete disaster. Camp Half-Blood was in serious trouble and Chiron had told me not to do anything about it.
I didn’t feel very thankful, but I took my dinner, as was customary, up to the bronze brazier and scraped part of it into the flames.
“Poseidon,” I murmured, “accept my offering.”
And send me some help while you’re at it, I prayed silently. Please.
The smoke from the burning pizza changed into something fragrant—the smell of a clean sea breeze with wild-flowers mixed in—but I had no idea if that meant my father was really listening.
I went back to my seat. I didn’t think things could get much worse. But then Tantalus had one of the satyrs blow the conch horn to get our attention for announcements.
“Yes, well,” Tantalus said, once the talking had died down. “Another fine meal! Or so I am told.” As he spoke, he inched his hand toward his refilled dinner plate, as if maybe the food wouldn’t notice what he was doing, but it did. It shot away down the table as soon as he got within six inches.
“And here on my first day of authority,” he continued, “I’d like to say what a pleasant form of punishment it is to be here. Over the course of the summer, I hope to torture, er, interact with each and every one of you children. You all look good enough to eat.”
Dionysus clapped politely, leading to some halfhearted applause from the satyrs. Tyson was still standing at the head table, looking uncomfortable, but every time he tried to scoot out of the limelight, Tantalus pulled him back.
“And now some changes!” Tantalus gave the campers a crooked smile. “We are reinstituting the chariot races!”
Murmuring broke out at all the tables—excitement, fear, disbelief.
“Now I know,” Tantalus continued, raising his voice, “that these races were discontinued some years ago due to, ah, technical problems.”
“Three deaths and twenty-six mutilations,” someone at the Apollo table called.
“Yes, yes!” Tantalus said. “But I know that you will all join me in welcoming the return of this camp tradition. Golden laurels will go to the winning charioteers each month. Teams may register in the morning! The first race will be held in three days time. We will release you from most of your regular activities to prepare your chariots and choose your horses. Oh, and did I mention, the victorious team’s cabin will have no chores for the month in which they win?”
An explosion of excited conversation—no KP for a whole month? No stable cleaning? Was he serious?
Then the last person I expected to object did so.
“But, sir!” Clarisse said. She looked nervous, but she stood up to speak from the Ares table.
Some of the campers snickered when they saw the YOU MOO, GIRL! sign on her back. “What about patrol duty? I mean, if we drop everything to ready our chariots—”
“Ah, the hero of the day,” Tantalus exclaimed. “Brave Clarisse, who single-handedly bested the bronze bulls!”
Clarisse blinked, then blushed. “Um, I didn’t—”
“And modest, too.” Tantalus grinned. “Not to worry, my dear! This is a summer camp. We are here to enjoy ourselves, yes?”
“But the tree—”
“And now,” Tantalus said, as several of Clarisse’s cabin mates pulled her back into her seat, “before we proceed to the campfire and sing-along, one slight housekeeping issue. Percy Jackson and Annabeth Chase have seen fit, for some reason, to bring this here.” Tantalus waved a hand toward Tyson.
Uneasy murmuring spread among the campers. A lot of sideways looks at me. I wanted to kill Tantalus.
“Now, of course,” he said, “Cyclopes have a reputation for being bloodthirsty monsters with a very small brain capacity. Under normal circumstances, I would release this beast into the woods and have you hunt it down with torches and pointed sticks. But who knows? Perhaps this Cyclops is not as horrible as most of its brethren. Until it proves worthy of destruction, we need a place to keep it! I’ve thought about the stables, but that will make the horses nervous. Hermes’s cabin, possibly?”
Silence at the Hermes table. Travis and Connor Stoll developed a sudden interest in the tablecloth. I couldn’t blame them. The Hermes cabin was always full to bursting. There was no way they could take in a six-foot-three Cyclops.
“Come now,” Tantalus chided. “The monster may be able to do some menial chores. Any suggestions as to where such a beast should be kenneled?”
Suddenly everybody gasped.
Tantalus scooted away from Tyson in surprise. All I could do was stare in disbelief at the brilliant green light that was about to change my life—a dazzling holographic image that had appeared above Tyson’s head.
With a sickening twist in my stomach, I remembered what Annabeth had said about Cyclopes, They’re the children of nature spirits and gods … Well, one god in particular, usually …
Swirling over Tyson was a glowing green trident—the same symbol that had appeared above me the day Poseidon had claimed me as his son.
There was a moment of awed silence.
Being claimed was a rare event. Some campers waited in vain for it their whole lives. When I’d been claimed by Poseidon last summer, everyone had reverently knelt. But now, they followed Tantalus’s lead, and Tantalus roared with laughter. “Well! I think we know where to put the beast now. By the gods, I can see the family resemblance!”
Everybody laughed except Annabeth and a few of my other friends.
Tyson didn’t seem to notice. He was too mystified, trying to swat the glowing trident that was now fading over his head. He was too innocent to understand how much they were making fun of him, how cruel people were.
But I got it.
I had a new cabin mate. I had a monster for a half-brother.
Chapter Six: Demon Pigeons Attack
The next few days were torture, just like Tantalus wanted.
First there was Tyson moving into the Poseidon cabin, giggling to himself every fifteen seconds and saying, “Percy is my brother?” like he’d just won the lottery.