When I was growing up, I'd always wondered what my dad was like.

I don't know if I'd go far enough to classify it under that big, overarching umbrella of daddy issues, but there was definitely a marked impact on my early life due to the lack of parental guidance from that camp- mainly in the academic regard.

I feel like that was confusing. Or, well, not confusing, but, like, the way I said it- you know what? Let me put that in better terms: I didn't care about school.

Dyslexia and ADHD made it hard enough to focus, and then I got to watch all the other kids get picked up by their moms and dads.

Me? I got to catch the A-train back home with the bums and urchins of the world, and hide in my room while Smelly Gabe yelled at the television for inordinate amounts of time, or had poker tournaments that lasted for hours.

Imagine trying to do homework while a bunch of lowlifes thrash the place, scream loudly, and make passing remarks about your mom. Yeah.

No exaggeration, either, this was an everyday occurrence. For a guy who apparently owned a store, he was home a lot. Like, a frighteningly large amount of time. Looking back, I honestly don't even know if I ever saw him work, or if it was just an elaborate lie.

Beats me. He's a pigeon now, so I think we can call it even. He's probably out there in the Brooklyn streets doing the two things he loves the most- eating fast food out of the wrapper and urinating freely.

My point being, though, the whole idea of school started leaving a sour taste in my mouth the moment I was old enough to understand what I was missing out on: my own disabilities made being even average seem impossible, and seeing all the kids that got spoiled and pampered by their parents reminded me of another thing I desperately wanted but couldn't have.

Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not blaming my childhood lack of focus completely on external factors- that would just be deflection. I didn't just wake up one day, remember that I didn't have a dad, and start lashing out at people like a crazy person.

It was slow. Gradual. And, again, while a lot of it was external stuff, some of it was on me, too.

That's why, even at the ripe age of twelve, I had the rap sheet of someone you'd expect to be a few years older: detentions, suspensions, fights- although, looking back, I'm not too sure how much of that was truly on me.

Like at my fifth-grade school, when we went to the Saratoga battlefield, I had this accident with a Revolutionary War cannon. I wasn't aiming for the school bus, but of course, I got expelled anyway.

Now, I want you to think, really think, about how plausible it really is for a little kid to somehow arm, aim, and fire a cannon that hasn't been actively used in centuries. All in a way that explodes a school bus.

And before that, at my fourth-grade school, when we took a behind-the-scenes tour of the Marine World shark pool, I sort of hit the wrong lever on the catwalk and our class took an unplanned swim. Again, would a shark pool really have a singular master level to drop a catwalk? Especially when the catwalk was mainly used for the workers themselves to cut across the pool?

Level with me. That's weird, right? Knowing what I know now, it seems almost inevitable that there was something messing with me back then- before I even knew it.

The central theme, of that, I guess, was to show you that weird things have always happened to me, whether I wanted them to, or not.

That's why, when our chariot was swallowed whole by a river of chocolate ice cream, I was a little bit mad at myself for not expecting it.

Confused? Probably. Let's back up.

The morning started easy enough. After my hellish training session with Poseidon- seriously, who would've thought that the Lord of All Seas would be a slavedriver- I walked over to the dining hall for some much-needed breakfast.

MJ, who was nibbling on a piece of toast and reading a book, brightened up when she saw me. "Percy!"

She greeted me with a kiss, though her nose wrinkled when I sat down next to her. As she pushed a plate of toast, bacon, and eggs toward me, she said, "You smell like a zoo."

"I feel like I got run over by a zoo," I grumbled, shaking my head. A turtle covered in silverware floated next to me. I grabbed a fork and knife off his shell and thanked him with a pat on the head, "The man made me lift whales for practice, MJ. Whales!"

MJ scratched the turtle, who swam over to her next, on the chin, "I'm more surprised you lifted a whale at all. How much does a whale even weigh? 100 tons?"

"It was a baby one, so 50? I think. Besides, I wasn't able to do it without pulling out some big stuff. But yeah, I eventually started hefting that thing up and down," I said with a grimace, the muscles in my arm twisted painfully as I tried reaching for a slice of toast.

It wiggled and slipped past my fingers, hopping over to the side of the table. It shifted from side to side, ambling down the edge, caking it in butter, and eventually just straight-up vanishing.


MJ and I both recoiled as a piece of paper exploded into existence in front of us, the front page covered in sprawling letters:



My plate twisted, transforming into a gigantic protein shaker with an incredibly thick-looking liquid inside of it. I popped the top open and took a whiff, gagging at the smell. "This doesn't feel like a vacation at all."

"What's he putting you through the wringer for?" MJ asked curiously, giving me a comforting smile as she rubbed my back. In spite of the situation, I felt myself relax a little.

"I think he wants me to learn how to punch above my weight," I said between sips of the shake. It tasted rancid, and the texture was frighteningly inconsistent. At times, it felt like a viscous, gooey substance, and other times, it felt like water. "I'm pretty strong by demigod standards and stuff, but most of my opponents are a cut above that level. Preparing my body to handle harsher conditions will let me hang around there a bit more, apparently."

"Huh," MJ said eloquently, smoothing a curl out of her hair. I noticed she'd shifted her seat a bit after getting a whiff of the protein shake. "Well, are you excited about the tournament, at least? That starts today, right?"

"Yep. Thanks for reminding me, actually, I'm supposed to bring you to the dressing room after I eat and take a shower, and we're all supposed to get nice and dressed for the opening ceremony."

"Where is this thing, anyway? I would've thought Atlantis would be picked to host it. You guys are, like, the city down here, right?"

"More or less. Everywhere else is a small town or colony, but I think in the interest of fairness, they picked a neutral area. Some underwater island, or something."

"I'll look into it. I'm sure someone around here knows a thing or two about it. God knows I'm bored. Besides, If they really cared about fairness, you probably wouldn't be competing," MJ pointed out with a smirk. She bumped my shoulder with hers. "Be honest. Are you even worried about this thing, or is this just another thing on the list to check off before we go back to tanning on the camp shore?"

"Nah. Not really," I replied truthfully, placing the empty cup on the table, just for it to slowly refill again. "I'm pretty confident in my ability to take on anything that isn't an Olympian. I'm not even expecting it to last beyond a week- it already kind of feels like kind of a formality, seeing as my dad's the only real deity of power left."

MJ's eyes lit up with understanding, "Ah, he wants you to be one of those bleeding-heart types, right? One of those figures everyone rallies behind. Easier than going through, one-by-one, and making them see reason."

"Again, we have most of the population right here in Atlantis, so I don't even see how that's a factor," I reiterated. I'd thought about this a few times in the past week, and only one theory seemed to be plausible, "Part of me thinks my dad wants to send a message."

"A message?"

"Yeah. It's one thing if your heir wins a tournament, and it's a completely different thing if he runs circles around the competition. As much as my dad talks about wanting to be seen as this venerable leader, a part of me thinks he wants to remind everyone how serious he is- and there's no better way to do that than to take everyone else's hopes and dreams and make them watch as they're cut down. One of those, 'Imagine what I can do if my son just ran through your strongest warrior' type things."

"Morbid," MJ commented plainly. "But probably true. Your dad, respectfully, tends to switch back and forth between moods."

"Like the seas," I reminded her with a tap on her head. She smiled back at me brightly and slapped my hand. "Friendly one moment, and deadly the next."

Once breakfast was had, and we were adequately cleaned and dressed, we assembled in a royal carriage and took off for the island.

We sat three on one side and two on the other- with me, Triton, and MJ facing my dad and Amphitrite.

We settled in and began taking off- and, before I could even think about it, I was sound asleep.

Though, after the long training session I'd had earlier in the morning and my lack of sleep throughout the night before, could you really blame me?

I'd already felt like a dead man walking, and the mixture of the darkness of the ocean, MJ's warm body, and the gentle swaying of the carriage was enough to push me completely off the edge and into Dreamville.

To my surprise, instead of instantly waking up, my eyes opened, and I found myself back in the palace I'd been in after my scuffle with Oceanus- the place where I saw all those alternate versions of myself, and trained with Heket.

Speaking of frog-deity…

"It's a pleasure to see you doing well, Percy," Heket said warmly, spreading out her arms. Dozens upon dozens of hieroglyphs spun to life around her, Eyes of Horus, wiggling snakes- everything you could imagine. Not the worst greeting I've gotten from a goddess. "Welcome back."

"Heket," I said, returning her pleasant welcome. "It's a pleasure to be back. Though I must admit, I didn't consciously come back."

"That was my doing," Heket said, her smile fading slightly. The black kohl on her eyes glimmered in the direct light, sparkling like firecrackers. "We need to have a talk."

Of course, we do, "Ah. About?"

"I believe you underwent a life-threatening injury recently?" Heket didn't waste any time, which, as always, I appreciated.

"Yes. Close-call at the hands of a few Titans." Our conversation defaulted back to the manner of speaking she'd trained me in- the method of avoiding verbal traps. Egyptian gods were far tricker than Greek ones, and even with her, I didn't want to find myself in some sort of hole with no way out. "Why do you ask?"

Heket raised her hand, muttering something that was too quiet for me to hear. Her finger slowly brightened with fire- each fingertip covered in different kinds of fire, matching the colors of mana I'd seen in Aphrodite's x-ray of me. "This is why. Do you remember what I told you when we first met? The reason I'd been resurrected?"

"To help me understand my powers. To comprehend them, at least."

"Precisely. I had to run interference for some time there after your near-miss, but I knew you'd have questions. As such, I got enough leeway to show you this much," Heket raised her hand as my lips moved to ask a question. "Dear pupil, I cannot fully answer your questions, you know this. Please. Let me show you what I can and draw your own conclusions. First, allow me to augment your vision."

She snapped the fingers on her outstretched hand, and my menu appeared in front of me, blazing in a bright red color.






[LVL]: 64 (15,600/70,000)

[HP]: 73,000/73,000 (BOOSTED)

[SP]: 48,000/48,000

[MP]: 90,000/90,000 (BOOSTED)


[STR]: 98 (+5)

[VIT]: 27

[DEX]: 86 (+5)

[INT]: 66

[CHA]: 51 (+5)

[WIS]: 38

[LUC]: 38

[SP]: 60

[PP]: 18

[$]: 5000USD, 530D

|| Son of the legendary God of the Seas and Sally Jackson, Percy is the current [Child of Prophecy]. Despite his murky past, Percy is ready to take on his future with determination. ||

|| The title [SON OF POSEIDON] permanently grants 1000 [MP] and boosts the rate of mana regeneration. ||

|| The title [HESTIA'S FAVORED] permanently regenerates your health by 30% and increases by a factor of 5% for every 1000 [HP] below half! ||

|| The title [ECHIDNA'S BANE] allows the user to be immune to all poison! ||

|| The title [GODSLAYER] grants the user double EXP when involved in a fight with a deity! This effect scales, doubling for every immortal opponent and tripling for every Olympian! ||

|| The title [HERA'S BLESSING] allows its user to trespass on sacred grounds and feel ambient divine energy! ||

|| The title [DIVINE CONSULTANT] doubles the [EXP] gained by doing a quest given to you by any deity! ||

Slowly, right next to it, a cyclone of hieroglyphs spun, spinning around each other in a carousel-like manner, as if presenting themselves to me one by one. As whatever hieroglyph was just shown cycled backward, it dissolved into a smattering of letters. By the end, the air in front of me was covered in golden, gleaming letters.






For your discovery!

The words churned downward, twisting into the font I'd become so familiar with in the past year:


How are you supposed to fight what you don't know? With the SCOUT-ER, never fear being left in the dark!

Heket has gifted you the SCOUT-ER, a passive ability that automatically derives what parts of your ability are needed the most in any given situation, compartmentalizing the rest and decluttering your vision.


Like magic, pebbles of red and blue started stacking in the bottom left of my vision, a white 73,000 and a white 90,000 topping the piles off with a flourish. They weren't big enough to hinder the rest of my vision, but they weren't so small that I'd have to worry about straining my eyes to find them, either.

In the bottom right of my vision, two razors cut out a small black square, where a small image of Riptide appeared. Next to it, in a smaller square, Malice spawned, with its tip sparking electricity.

On the top of my vision, a small compass appeared, and before I could even comment on how annoying it was, it disappeared into the background, being replaced by a small black diamond.

A thin black line drew itself outward, originating from both sides of the diamond. At its end, a 15,600 pinged.

I blinked a few times, heavily disoriented. "Heket?"

Heket said nothing, twirling her hand as a shabti with half of a left hand melted out of the ground, stumbling toward me. Cries echoed throughout the room as the servant lunged toward me.

Immediately, the square with Riptide grew larger. Right above the box, small letters read Recommended Weapon: Riptide.

As Riptide sprang to life in my hands, more images flooded the left side of my screen, ranging from lightning bolts to a caricature of the Grim Reaper, to an ominous-looking skull and crossbones, to an image of a stick figure guy being covered in white light. Dozens more sprawled out behind them, hidden from view.

My skills and perks, I realized, before remembering that I was technically still mid-fight.

The shabti moved toward me. As it heaved and sputtered, red spots began illuminating some of its body- the shoulders, kneecaps. Even random parts of its chest were pinging at me. Was the Game telling me what to attack?

I dismantled it with ease. I made sure to make an extra effort to hit the highlighted areas, and like clockwork, the shabti was gone before it could even begin to enjoy its tortured existence.

As it made its last cries and exploded, I finally grasped the full extent of what Heket had just done- she'd upgraded my HUD.

If I'd been confused before, I was positively beside myself when she flicked her fingers again, this time, summoning two silhouettes of red and white.

"The sources of mana," I remembered, the breath catching in my throat. "Red and white. So you're…"

"Green, correct," Heket commented, pursing her lips. "These…well, these entities are the other sources of mana currently feeding into you."

"What? How?"

"I can't tell you fully. But, I trust you're familiar with the concept of matter- that is, how it can never be truly destroyed? Only changed?" Heket paused, waiting for my affirmative nod. "That, on some level, is how your ability works. As your interpreter, I wait for your command, such as, oh, I don't know…"

The Game appeared to my left again, this time, blurring through my skills like a pinwheel. Heket eventually made it stop on Pyrokinetic.


Burns your inner flames…releases your inner beast…

(Active): Gain the ability to burn the flames inside your body like a furnace to increase your physical abilities with thermal energy! Continued use results in an upwards curve of mana usage in exchange for power.

(Active II): Your flames seep into opponents through prolonged exposure.

- Poison DMG (per second) = (.5 X WIS) + (.3 X STR)!

(Passive) Boost your own flame abilities exponentially!

[Warning:] Your emotional state will be subject to higher degrees of manipulation as you use this power for an elongated period of time!


This time, at the bottom, there was a small insignia, too. It looked like a lion or something, and it roared at me when my eyes roved over it.

"Right," Heket said, nodding to herself as she read the description. "You choose something on this list, like this Pyrokinetic, and I'm given the command to supply your body with the capability to handle it."

She waved her hand, and a gigantic box of marbles appeared in front of me. They were round and shiny, and twice the size of your average gumball. They ranged in all kinds of colors and shapes- chrome, clear, red, blue. Some looked round, others square. A few of them were even the size of stars.

She rustled the box, clearly looking for something. My eyes were drawn to the bouncing marbles- some of them were even glowing! Eventually, she procured a forest green one that looked similar to the color of my fire.

"And then, I do this," Heket explained, drawing hieroglyphs into the ground in a circular pattern. Eventually, when she was done, she took the marble and smalled it into the ground as hard as she could. With a roaring noise, the marble belched out a ghostly visage of a green lion, before disappearing into the air. "And just like that, you get the ability to harness that power. The catch, though…"

The box's lid snapped back on itself, and heavy chains sprouted out from each side, splintering together like vines in the center of the front, merging into a heavy padlock. Heket looked nonplussed by this occurrence as if magic boxes automatically locking themselves was an everyday thing in my head.

"...is that I can only do it once for every command you give."

"So, my perk points let you choose the marble," I surmised, to which she nodded. "What is the marble?"

"Godly essence," Heket said bluntly, gesturing back to the floating visages. "That box, somehow, is full of echoes of other gods. Other immortals."

A wave of nausea made me shiver. I had this weird feeling of disgust, not unlike the feeling I'd had when I'd initially learned about what Aphrodite was doing to me, "Gods? With a capital S? Are you telling me that the Game is just…other gods? Using me as a host?"

"No. If anything, you're the one using them," Heket corrected me, pulling the two visages forward with a pulling motion. "These marbles seem to hold very faint echoes of their power- the catch being that more you use these powers, the more essence you draw from the gods themselves. When you had the close encounter, that brush with death, two of your skills, in particular, began working in overdrive to protect your body from certain death."

"Heavenly Trigger and Godly Constitution," I guessed. "Those are the only two skills I remember using right before I died. Or, well, almost died."

"Precisely. As a result, the level of essence you draw for those skills grew exponentially. Now, if you can imagine how much you were unconsciously drawing while you were being healed…"

"Oh, Zeus."

"Yes. Zeus," Heket said almost mockingly. Oops. Forgot about that whole rivalry thing, there, for a second, "If you healed more naturally, the effect wouldn't have been so immediate. Aphrodite, though, chose to intervene in your life once more. For better or for worse, she sped up both of the processes exponentially, and, in an unfortunate twist of fate, you drew so much power from those gods that echoes of them currently remain here, even now. Look for yourself."

I turned my attention back to the swirling masses of mana. Though they couldn't say or even do anything, the Game still recognized them all the same- [Sekhmet] and [Osiris].

"Holy shit," I swore loudly. "What does this mean? Am I going to have versions of Os- of those two walking around in my head soon? Forget versions, if I get strong enough, will their real bodies be transported in here?"

"It's hard to say."

"That's assuring," I groaned, pacing around. Slowly, ideas started forming in my head. Theories from before were hardening into fact, bolstered by Heket's admission. "So you're just the interface. The power comes from other gods, whose essence- or parts of it, anyway- are trapped in that box."


"And just how many of them are there?" I jabbed my thumb toward the box. "Are they all Egyptian? Greek? Or is there something else in there, too?"

"There are forces at play here which you can't fully understand yet," Heket said in response. She gave me a tired smile, "As such, I'm sorry, but I can't answer your question. You're welcome to draw conclusions as you please, but as per my oath, I've revealed all that I'm allowed to reveal."

"I get it," I replied automatically, even though I didn't fully understand what was happening.

What I could understand, though, was that there was something huge moving in the background.

I mean, think about it. There was something powerful enough out there to capture miniature essences of the gods and force Heket to convert that into power for me.

Me- that was the part that kept bringing me up short- my involvement in this. Don't get me wrong, there were a lot of questions bouncing around in my head, but the main two ones, for sure, were who and why me?

"So, Heavenly Trigger comes from Sekhmet, and Godly Constitution comes from Osiris," I tried to say casually, failing horribly. "Good, uh, good to know. Is there any way you can tell me where the rest of them come from?"

"That is something you can uncover for yourself, with time and practice," Heket said evasively. "As you saw with Pyrokinetic, when you summon enough essence of one of the gods, all of their corresponding skills seem to upgrade."

"So, level up the skills. Got it."

"That's all the time we have for today," Heket said, turning her back to me as one of the images in the hall pulsed. A foot stepped through, just as my body started waking up, pulling me away. "Take care."

"Yeah. You too," I managed to say before I woke up with a gasp.

I felt like I'd been asleep forever.

MJ, who began whispering to me the moment I woke up, told me we'd veered out of the Gulf of Mexico and were making excellent time for our destination of Pavlopetri.

The Game pinged, a small passage in the bottom right of my screen telling me that Pavlopetri was once a bustling town on the coast of Greece, that, in a freak storm, completely submerged underwater.

"It's located between the islet of Pavlopetri and the Pounta coast of Laconia, on the Peloponnese peninsula in southern Greece," She recited, reading from a journal. "Interesting. Apparently, there was some occupation by the–"

"You know, it isn't polite to have a private conversation when there are others around," Amphitrite, who was sitting in front of MJ, said coldly. She'd been glaring at MJ pretty heavily last night, and today was really no different.

I still felt weird around Amphritite- she'd done some pretty weird stuff around me last year, and that was before Aphrodite had hijacked her body and tried to make a move on me. Thankfully, this time around, my dad and Triton were here, too.

So, that probably took the possibility of her making a move on me out of the equation…right?

"Yes, of course, my deepest apologies, my lady," MJ replied diplomatically, a hint of red barely visible on her cheeks. I had to squash the rush of anger that surged through my body, "I will endeavor to avoid such transgressions in the future."

"Bah, lay off her, mom," Triton rose to MJ's defense before I could. "Stop being such a bitch about it."

Amphitrite's nostrils flared, "I'm not speaking to you."

'"Yeah, I'm cool with that. You didn't want to speak to me the last few millennia, either," Triton retorted instantly. For good measure, he added, "Cunt."

"Triton is correct, dear," Poseidon jumped in, too, though he said dear with some added venom. "Mary-Jane is my esteemed guest and my heir's significant other. You would do well to remember that."

"I'm sorry, my lord," Amphitrite all but snarled. "I would hate for your guest to feel unwelcome in the slightest."

"Then it isn't me you should be apologizing to," Poseidon nodded toward MJ. The tips of his trident, which were previously unlit, began slowly seeping out green energy.

"How very foolish of me," Amphitrite said through gritted teeth, turning to MJ. "I seem to have forgotten my place- as the Queen, it is my duty to make all of my husband's guests feel welcome. My deepest apologies, mortal, for having offended my lord through my actions toward you."

"I, um, that's fine, your highness," MJ said meekly. I put my arm around her shoulder for comfort, and she leaned back into my chest with an almost inaudible sigh of relief.

Amphitrite's face, if possible, soured even more until we made eye contact. Then, of course, she mustered as sweet of a smile as possible, "Are you excited for the tournament, Perseus?"

"I'm looking forward to the opportunity to meet some of my fellow princes and represent our wonderful city to the best of my ability," I said, carefully relaying our rehearsed message. Now since we weren't within the wards of Atlantis, I wanted to make it a point of being as respectful as possible.

As you probably know, respect isn't something that comes naturally to me.

"Excellent. I, for one, will be monitoring your performance closely. I have always believed in your potential as a prince- I daresay, you might have the most potential out of any of the royal candidates I've seen. I'm certain you remember our very conversation in this chariot, after all," She nodded. Her fingers rose up to idly play with her pearl necklace. "After your defeat of my father, that sentiment has only grown. A budding warrior achieved something the Lord of the Seas had been aiming to do for centuries."

Wow. In one sentence, she managed to get as close as you can get to respectfully dissing someone without outright insulting them, aiming the backhanded compliment at my father and Triton.

Poseidon just rolled his eyes and leaned back into his seat, and Triton, without looking up from his book, launched another, "Cunt."

"Thanks for the praise, kind of," I said after a few moments. The lights of Atlantis had faded long ago, and now, the only illumination in the chariot was a jar of glow-in-the-dark sea urchins that were hanging from the top of it.

"You're very welcome."

I felt MJ's hand tighten around my knee. The awkwardness of the encounter hadn't gone past her, and I could tell she was curious.

Despite being together for half of a year, there were some things I still hadn't told MJ- things she hadn't bothered caring about. Again, one of the reasons I liked what we had so much was because I could be myself around her.

I didn't have to worry about being forced to tell her anything. I didn't have to pretend to be someone or something else. She saw past all those facades to the real me- the one underneath all of the flair.

And that meant something to me. Why wouldn't it?

In the grand scheme of things, almost everyone else I've met since leaving Yancy has liked me for something out of my control.

Aphrodite got obsessed with me because she saw me as the answer to all her questions, this mystical hero who could save her from big bad Ares and teach her how to love again.

Half of the gods and goddesses I've met know I'm the chosen one. Most of the demigods like me because of what I've done for them, for the camp. Even half of my friends at school are just people who think I'm good at basketball.

Not that I'm saying you have to have this deep, earth-melting connection with someone to want to be friends with them. Those are all valid reasons to like someone, of course, but I think you're beginning to see my point.

Sometimes, I just want to be liked for me. Not for the stuff I can do in battle, or how high I can jump, but just for me.

And MJ gives me that and then some. She doesn't care about all that other stuff. If I woke up tomorrow and wasn't the chosen one, or all of a sudden, I didn't like basketball, she'd be right here. Right by my side.

"You've been smiling at me for, like, five minutes," MJ mumbled, waving her hand in front of my face. "Are you not on your A-Game for this, Jackson?"

"Nope," I quipped. "Just thinking about how much I like you."

That got a big smile out of her, and a big cough out of Amphritie. Thankfully, before another unpleasant situation could arise, we arrived at our destination.

The lost city of Pavlopetri rose in front of us, not looking like the sunken, ruined city I'd been picturing in my mind's eye when MJ described its history to me, though it might've been better if it was.

Two horribly maintained, cracking marble columns rose high, framing a glinting arch that read: καλωσορίσατε πρίγκιπες.

Welcome, princes.

I didn't feel so welcome.

Our chariot passed through the gates. In a lot of ways, Pavlopetri reminded me of your stereotypical town from one of those Wild West movies.

The ground was covered with what looked like manure.

Our chariot heaved and groaned a few times, the wheels bouncing in and out of the massive ruts already laid bare before us- we clearly weren't the first family to get here. Based on how deep the tracks were, if anything, we were one of the last ones.

Most buildings were a single story tall, and honestly, most of the ones up front looked like various kinds of stores and whatnot. Huddled groups of residents, human and inhuman, bipedal and tailed watched our chariot pass through their town with wide eyes.

Just how run down was this place?

Even the three-story City Hall, which stuck out like a sore thumb amongst the other, tinier buildings looked like it had been horribly forsaken. The wood was warping and splintering. The paint was cracking and staining.

Just before I could voice my opinion, the town changed.

Yeah, changed. I still can't think of a better way to put it.

Out of nowhere, the chariot swerved, sinking into the mud. The wheels stopped moving and snapped in half, the cabin yanking downward jarringly.

MJ yelped and grabbed me. Almost on instinct, I raised my hand and began throwing my senses out toward the mud, grasping for any bit of moisture to manipulate. To my surprise, there was none.

I turned, in a panic, to my dad, who just waved his hand at me dismissively. In fact, he seemed rather excited. "Ah! The people of Pavlopetri never do cease to amaze, do they, Triton?"

"The ruse gets better every time," Triton agreed, sticking his finger in the mud and licking it. "Yeah, it's what I thought: chocolate ice cream."

"Hey!" I said, waving my hand at him. "Care to tell the two mortals here what's happening?"

"Not really. Oh, look, there's a chocolate chip!"

AN: Well, I'll let you guys react to that chapter as you will.

A few things:

I've gotten a few reviews about the verbiage around the "Multiple Pairings," part of the story's description. Namely, some reviewers have mentioned that it seems to be a misleading sentence. I'd like to get some more opinions on that, if possible.

See, I choose to tag the story with that to indicate that Percy will have multiple pairings throughout this story. I say that to ensure that new readers don't just start reading the story expecting a Percy/Aphrodite lovefest, and to make sure current readers know that nothing is set in stone.

Don't worry- the pairings poll is still up. I check it every week. Though, I should be honest: I already know where this story is headed. I know exactly who Percy is going to end up with, how he's going to end up there, and all that good stuff. I just like seeing where people think this is going, or where they want it to go.

Another thing: I wanted to take another moment to thank everyone who supports this story. I swear, I do one of these every time I come back from a hiatus of some sort, but you guys make it hard not to.

We're top 15 all-time. That's crazy. And, last time I checked, about 10 follows away from 14.

I want to reiterate that this story is far from over, and the best is only yet to come. Thank you for your support, and have a happy fourth weekend to my fellow Americans.

- Maroon