Chapter-by-Chapter Summary & Commentary

by Nicole Silvester

This chapter is a free excerpt from Quicklet on Rick Riordan's The Lightning Thief.

You shall go west, and face the god who has turned.

You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned.

You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend.

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You shall go west, and face the god who has turned.

You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned.

You shall be betrayed by one who calls you a friend.

And you shall fails to save what matters most, in the end.

Chapter 1: I Accidentally Vaporize My Pre-algebra Teacher

Percy Jackson, a boarding student at Yancy Academy for troubled kids, is on a field trip with his class to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to look at ancient Greek Art. The Lightning Thief is full of clues about Percy’s nature and the events of Greek mythology, which make it doubly fun for anyone who knows a little Greek myth. The first hint about Percy is his name: Perseus was a hero in Greek myth who performed a number of courageous deeds. The trip to the art museum holds another clue, because the class is looking at ancient Greek artifacts and gets a lecture on myth and history.

An incident with a bully at school, Nancy Bobofit, ends up with her soaking wet in a fountain, and Percy not sure how it happened. This incident is the reader’s first clue that Percy has a connection to Poseidon. Poseidon is god of the sea, and thus has control over water, so when the water saves Percy it shows it recognizes him as connected to it.

Percy finds himself in trouble with Mrs. Dodds, the pre-algebra teacher. Mrs. Dodds is not what she seems, and she turns into a winged monster. She is not just any monster, either, but a Fury, a creature of vengeance sent by Hades, god of the Underworld. The Latin teacher appears and gives Percy a pen that turns into a sword, and Percy ends up disintegrating Mrs. Dodds into powder.

When Percy returns to the group, no one knows who he’s talking about when he asks about Mrs. Dodds. This is when Percy really begins to realize that something strange is going on. His memory and that of everyone else do not match, and only Grover seems to have any notion about what Percy saw. But Grover will not admit to knowing anything.

Chapter 2: Three Old ladies Knit The Socks of Death

Percy returns to school confused and unhappy, and when he snaps at another teacher, he is expelled. Again. Getting mad at a teacher seems like a pretty minor incident, but it’s one of many that have added up for Percy over the school year.

Percy overhears his best friend Grover and Mr. Brunner the Latin teacher talking about him. Grover says he’s failed in his duties. Percy is sure that something is going on, but instead of confronting his teacher, he pretends not to hear anything. He has never been able to trust a teacher before, so he thinks he can find out more by keeping quiet and listening.

When summer break arrives, Percy and Grover take the Greyhound bus together back to New York, and the bus breaks down. When they get off the bus, they see across the street three old ladies knitting. Grover gets very agitated and makes Percy promise to walk home with him. The old ladies hardly seem like a threat, but they give Percy the willies, too, especially when one of them gets out a big pair of scissors and cuts the yarn. That’s because they are not any little old ladies, but the Fates, three deities who spin and weave—or knit—the fabric of people’s lives. When they cut the thread, it means the end of a life. They are predicting Percy’s death.

Chapter 3: Grover Unexpectedly Loses His Pants

Percy gets home to find his stepfather “Smelly Gabe” having a poker party and not pleased to see him. But his mom has a surprise: she’s going to take him to spend some time at the beach. The very cabin they’ll be staying in is where Percy’s mom met his dad, and they always have a good time there. His mom is sad, because she misses his dad—whom Percy believes is dead—but she is also happy to remember him. Percy’s enjoyment of the beach is another hint about his connection to the water. The sea belongs to Poseidon, after all.

During the night, a hurricane blows in, even though it’s early in the year for them. This one is especially strong. Grover appears at the door and implies it is not a natural hurricane at all but one caused by Zeus, the god of the sky and lightning. But Percy is unable to focus on that—he’s too distracted by the fact that his best friend has turned out to be a goat-legged satyr, a creature straight out of Greek myth.

Chapter 4: My Mother Teaches Me Bullfighting

Percy, his mom, and Grover flee the beach in Smelly Gabe’s car. They head for the summer camp that Percy’s dad had wanted him to go to from the beginning. The storm is definitely not natural, and the car is forced into the ditch by a direct hit from a lightning bolt. Where the Furies were sent by Hades, the storm and the creature it hides, were almost certainly sent by Zeus. That means Percy has two major gods out to get him. It not only means he is in trouble, it also means he’s important, because why else would the gods bother?

There is a monster after them, a huge minotaur. Percy’s mom tells him to run for the boundary of the summer camp, where he’ll be safe. Percy refuses to leave Grover or his mother behind. The summer camp is a kind of sanctuary, though Percy’s mom says she will be unable to cross the boundary. She is mortal, human, and the sanctuary is not for her. Percy is already showing his heroic nature, because while a hero may do great deeds, they are not a real hero if they sacrifice friends and family to save themselves.

Before he can do anything about it, the minotaur grabs Percy’s mother and chokes her. The fact that Percy’s mom disappears—kind of like the way a monster does when it is defeated—and does not simply die, like a mortal woman should, will be important later. That she vanishes in a shower of gold is a reference to a Greek myth in which Zeus snuck in to visit a beautiful woman by disguising himself as a shower of gold.

Now Percy has to fight the minotaur to save Grover. He uses his red jacket as if fighting a bull and is able to run the minotaur into a tree, pull off one of its horns, and stab it. He and Grover stagger over the boundary of the camp to the house and collapse. The minotaur is a significant monster in Greek myth, and having it be one of the first monsters Percy faces means he is well on his way to becoming a hero.

Chapter 5: I Play Pinochle With A Horse

While drifting in and out of consciousness, Percy learns that something is going to happen at the summer solstice. When he comes to at last, he learns he is at Camp Half-Blood. He drinks ambrosia, a beverage made for the gods, to will help cure him. The solstices were important for ancient people because they were times of year clearly based on astronomical events, and were thus relatively easy to determine with precision. They were also the shortest and longest days of the year, and had symbolic significance. The summer solstice is usually on June 21st, though it can also be on the 20th or the 22nd, depending on the year, and the winter solstice is around December 21st.

Percy meets Mr. D, the camp director, who is actually Dionysus, Greek god of wine. He also meets Annabeth, a camper, and finds out that his Latin teacher is actually the centaur Chiron, the only civilized centaur in Greek myth, and teacher of some of the biggest half-divine heroes. They all play cards while they tell Percy a little more about the camp. Dionysus, as god of wine, was always getting drunk. In myth, it got him in trouble a lot. In The Lightning Thief, it got him in enough trouble that he is punished by having to run the camp for half-blood kids, when he does not really like children.

Chapter 6: I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom

Chiron gives Percy a tour of the camp, which has twelve cabins, one for each of the Greek Olympian gods. Though there were twelve Olympian gods—that is, the main gods who lived on or had thrones on Mount Olympus—there were also a whole bunch of minor gods in Greek mythology. Even many of the creatures we think of as monsters were considered to be minor deities.

Annabeth is assigned to finish the tour and show Percy where he will be staying. He is assigned to cabin 11 because it is dedicated to Hermes, god of travellers. All “undetermined” kids stay there at first. “Undetermined” means no one knows which god was a kid’s mother or father. A lot of the kids in cabin 11 will remain undetermined forever, because the gods do not always acknowledge their children. Hermes is also the god of thieves, which is why Luke—the leader of cabin 11—steals items for Percy to use.

Percy learns that when a monster, like the minotaur, is killed, it doesn’t actually die. Because they are primal forces without souls, they will eventually re-form. This is significant, because it means the even when he kills a monster, it might not stay dead. It might just get mad, like Mrs. Dodds the Fury. But it also means that when he kills mythological creatures, Percy is not murdering sentient beings, because they’re not really dead, exactly.

Annabeth tells him that most half-blood kids have dyslexia, ADHD, and difficulty not getting kicked out of school. The reasons half-divine kids have learning disabilities have to do with the fact they perceive the world differently from fully mortal kids, but their brains don’t know how to interpret the differences in what they see.

He meets Clarisse, a daughter of Ares, god of war, who decides he needs to be “initiated” by having his head dunked in the toilet. Instead of the intended dunking, though, the water in the plumbing seems to respond to Percy’s need. It blasts Clarisse and her cronies out of the bathroom, leaving Percy dry. This time, the water doesn’t just help him without him understanding why. Percy remembers how the fountain helped him with Nancy at the art museum, and consciously tries to manipulate it. He still doesn’t really get why it works, or how to control it, but he has definitely made progress.

Chapter 7: My Dinner Goes Up in Smoke

Annabeth explains that Percy is the son of a god, because he still hasn’t figured it out. Of course, many readers will not only have figured out by now that Percy is half-god, but they may also have figured out which god is his dad. Annabeth’s mother Athena is the goddess of wisdom. She was the patron god of the city of Athens, and though she has a long-standing rivalry with Poseidon, they have also worked together in the past: such as when Athena invented the chariot, Poseidon invented horses to pull it.

Annabeth explains that while she and a few other kids were at Olympus for the gods’ annual council at the winter solstice, something important was stolen, and if it isn’t returned by the summer solstice there will be big trouble. The kids do not get to leave camp often—especially the ones who live there full-time—but they do sometimes get to go on field trips to Olympus. The winter solstice was the date for a lot of important festivals in the ancient world, both in Greece and elsewhere. It is no mistake that the major Christian holiday is right around the same time.

Luke explains that his own failure as his quest has meant that Chiron will not allow any other kids to go on quests anymore. He will not say exactly how he failed, and this becomes an important detail later on. It is even more important that he thinks of his failure as being a very big deal. It seems that despite the ban on quests, Annabeth is destined to go on one when “somebody special” arrives in camp. She thinks Percy might be that person. Annabeth’s “somebody special” would be the son or daughter of one of the Big Three gods—Zeus, Hades, or Poseidon—except those three have promised not to have any more half-mortal children.

Chapter 8: We Capture A Flag

Percy settles into the camp routine, trying to figure out what he’s good at. He is not good at much besides canoeing, though he shows promise at sword-fighting, except he cannot find a sword with the right balance. Both the canoeing and the sword fighting are important hints about Percy. He’s good at canoeing because it is a water sport, and he has an affinity for water. And he does especially well with sword-fighting after he dumps a bucket of water over his head—it suddenly brings him more energy, speed, and skill. It is also important that he can’t find the right balance in a sword. He will gain his destined sword soon, but in the meantime, no other will quite work for him.

Percy learns from Grover that after World War II it was decided that the children of the Big Three were too powerful. Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades agreed not to have any more children with mortal women, but Zeus broke the promise years ago, and his daughter met a terrible fate. Several of the major historical figures involved in WWII were supposed to be the children of the Big Three gods, and that is why that war was so much bigger and more horrific than any before it. In order to prevent something like the from happening again, the gods had to stop creating such strong characters. But that also means the world was without any major heroes, too.

After dinner, the cabins gather to play capture the flag. Clarisse and her friends mob Percy and he fights them off long enough for his team to win the game. Then he gets attacked by a hellhound. Chiron kills it, but suddenly a symbol appears over Percy’s head. A trident. Poseidon has claimed him as his son. The creek water heals Percy’s wounds—both those he got from Clarisse and her friends, and those he got from the hellhound. By this time, it would be glaringly obvious to Chiron and the other kids that Percy is the son of Poseidon, so they almost don’t need Poseidon’s sign above Percy’s head. That sign, though, also means that Percy has been officially acknowledged by his father, which is more significant than simply being known to be Poseidon’s son.

Chapter 9: I Am Offered A Quest

As the son of Poseidon, Percy is moved to cabin 3, where he is all alone. The other campers start to avoid him. He dreams about two men fighting on the beach. They are Zeus and Poseidon, and Percy wants them to stop fighting. For the major gods to fight would be disastrous, both for the divine world and for the mortal world. He wakes up to a storm sent, of course, by Zeus to show his displeasure.

Mr D. calls Percy in to see him, and tell him that Zeus’ lightning bolt, the most powerful weapon in the universe, has been stolen, and Zeus thinks Percy stole it. Percy is naturally flabbergasted that anyone could think he stole the lightning. After all, at the time it happened, he didn’t even know he was a half-blood, let alone the son of Poseidon. From Zeus’ point of view, the logic makes sense—Poseidon kept his son hidden until he could sneak in and steal the lightning—but of course, Percy did not actually do it.

Chiron sends Percy into the attic to meet with the Oracle who is not a living being, but a force of prophecy that speaks through a mummified corpse. It tells Percy he will go west to face a god, find the stolen item and return it, be betrayed by a friend, and fail to save what matters most. When he returns to talk to Chiron, Percy does not tell him about the last two parts of the prophecy. He is unable to bring himself to tell the others because he does not want his friends to think he doesn’t trust them, and he does not want anyone to know that he is taking on the quest to gain a chance to save his mother, not to stop a war between gods.

Chiron explains that he believes Hades had the lightning stolen in order to start a war between the gods. He is the most likely culprit, because as god of the dead, he rules over those who have died. War will bring him lots of new subjects. So Percy is given a quest to travel to the Underworld, via its entrance in Los Angeles, and confront Hades. Grover and Annabeth will go with him.

Chapter 10: I Ruin A Perfectly Good Bus

Just before they leave, Luke gives Percy a pair of winged shoes that were given to him by his father Hermes. Chiron says that because Zeus is after them and he is the god of the air, it would be a bad idea for Percy to use them, so he gives them to Grover. In Greek myth, Hermes had a pair of winged shoes that he used in his role as messenger of the gods. These shoes have an important role later in the story, when we find out it is a very good thing that Percy didn’t keep them. Chiron gives Percy the ballpoint pen that turns into a sword. It is, indirectly, a gift from Poseidon, and unlike every other sword he has tried, the balance is perfect.

While they wait for the bus, Grover tells Percy that his mom married Smelly Gabe to protect him, because his smell made it harder for monsters to smell Percy. Percy begins to see that he was not always sent away to school because his family did not want him around, but because his mother has been trying to protect him his whole life, and sacrificed her own happiness to do so.

They get on the bus, but watch in dismay as three old ladies—Furies in disguise—get on and block their way out. A lot of things come in threes, especially in Greek myth, and the Furies are no exception. “Mrs. Dodds” is back, not dead after all. Once they get going the Furies attack and the bus crashes, but the friends manage to escape. Though the Furies are definitely after them, they don’t seem to be trying as hard as they could be. Instead, they appear to be searching for something. The bus explodes which leaves them in the woods with no money or supplies.

Chapter 11: We Visit The Garden Gnome Emporium

They make their way through the woods and come across a place called “Aunty Em’s Garden Gnome Emporium,” which wafts out a smell of hamburgers. The woman who answers the door is heavily veiled, but she invites them in and feeds them. All around are creepy, lifelike, concrete statues. The bad guys in myth have all sorts of ways of tempting the heroes into danger—offering food and shelter when the hero is lost and hungry is a time-honoured way of getting a hero to let their guard down.

The food makes them sleepy and they almost fall into Medusa’s clutches, to be turned to stone, but they realize what’s happening just in time. “Aunty Em” turns out to be a Gorgon, veiled to hide her hair of snakes and her deadly gaze. In myth, she has two sisters, but her sisters are gone, leaving her alone to try to fill her loneliness with the “statues”. Grover uses the winged shoes to attack her, and Percy is able to cut off her head. Though her body turns to dust, her head remains as a trophy.

Percy boxes up the head and addresses it to the gods on Mount Olympus. It is Percy’s way of telling the gods to bug off. He uses the Hermes messenger service, a sort of magical mailing system that he found set up in Medusa’s shop.

Chapter 12: We Get Advice From A Poodle

Lost in the woods again, Grover tells Percy about Pan, god of nature, who has been missing for two thousand years. It is his goal to complete the quest so he can get a searcher’s license to go look for Pan. Although Pan is not an Olympian god, and came to be considered a minor deity, he is actually one of the oldest gods in Greek myth. Pan was around long before people started telling stories about the Olympians. He is a primal nature spirit, and the word “panic” is derived from his name, because people tend to get scared when they’re lost in the woods.

That night, Percy dreams of a pit. A voice in the pit tries to bargain with him, to exchange his mother’s life—because she was snatched away from death just as the minotaur was about to strangle her—in exchange for Zeus’ lightning. Percy’s dream is not just a dream. Someone in the pit is trying to get him to do its evil work. Someone very, very old and very, very nasty.

In the morning, Grover finds a pink-dyed poodle that has run away from its owners. The owners have posted a reward for enough money to get the friends train tickets west. In The Lightning Thief, satyrs can talk to all animals, and nearly all animals trust them because they are creatures of nature. The poodle does not really care about Percy’s quest, but it is willing to return to its unhappy home to help Grover.

Chapter 13: I Plunge To My Death

The reward money is enough to get them all tickets as far as Denver. On the train, while Grover sleeps, Annabeth tells Percy about her dad, who she never wants to see again. Because all half-blood kids are supposed to be raised by their mortal parents, Annabeth was deposited on her father’s doorstep as a baby. He is a busy professional, and he started a new life with a wife and two other kids when Annabeth was a child. She has never felt like she fit in with her family, and she has been at Camp Half-Blood full-time since she was seven.

When the train stops over in St. Louis, they decide to go see the Gateway Arch, because Annabeth wants to be an architect. Athena was not just goddess of wisdom, but also of a number of civic and creative arts, and she expects her children to pursue useful and creative careers. Throughout The Lightning Thief we see Annabeth reading books on ancient Greek architecture.

Percy gets separated from the others at the top of the arch. A woman and her dog turn into the monsters Echidna and Chimera. Percy’s only escape, to save both himself and the humans trapped there with him, is to jump from the arch into the river below. Percy expects to die when he falls into the river, because hitting water from that height is just like hitting a solid surface.

Chapter 14: I Become A Known Fugitive

Because he is the son of the sea god, Percy survives hitting the water. Falling from that height should be like hitting the ground, but even though the river is not the sea, it is still water, and it makes sure that Percy is not only not harmed, but protected. In fact, he can even breathe, and his clothes are dry.

Under the water, Percy meets a woman he at first thinks is the ghost of his mother. But she is a water spirit sent by Poseidon to let Percy know that not all the gods are against him. She tells Percy to go to the Santa Monica pier when he gets to Los Angeles, before he heads for the Underworld.

The confusion of police cars and ambulances that swarm the Gateway Arch actually helps Percy stay unnoticed when he climbs out of the river and goes in search of Annabeth and Grover. He finds his friends and they make it back to the train just in time.

Chapter 15: A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers

In Denver, they decide to try to contact Chiron, which they do my using the spray from a car-wash to create a rainbow. Annabeth and Grover refer to it as IMing, but it stands for “Iris Messaging” rather than “Instant Messaging.” Iris is the goddess of the rainbow and was a messenger for the gods. Chiron isn’t there, so they talk to Luke.

While the friends are sitting in a diner wondering how to pay for some food, a biker drives up on a motorcycle. He is Ares, god of war, and he buys them all dinner. But he wants a favor in return. He wants Percy to fetch his shield from an old waterpark, and he says he has information to give them in return. Although the friends wonder why Ares can’t just go get the shield himself, they agree because they need his help. Without it, they would be stranded in Denver with no money, no food, and no way to get to LA by the solstice.

They go to the waterpark and find the shield, but it turns out that Ares had been there with Aphrodite, and Aphrodite’s husband Hephaestus had set a trap for them. There are many stories in Greek myth about Ares and Aphrodite sneaking around behind Hephaestus’ back. Hephaestus is god of smiths and very good at making things, so he was always setting clever traps to humiliate Ares and Aphrodite in front of the other gods. Working together, the three friends are able to escape the trap with the shield.

Chapter 16: We Take A Zebra To Vegas

When they return the shield to Ares, he shows them how they can hitch a ride in the back of a semi trailer that will take them all the way to Los Angeles, with a stop in Las Vegas. Of course, Ares does not make it easy for them—he just unlocks the back of the truck so they can get in. They still have to sneak past the truckers and stow away.

Ares also gives Percy a backpack with fresh clothes and money. Percy wants to throw it away, but he knows it is usually a bad idea to offend a god. The information Ares promised Percy is that his mother is not dead, she was snatched away just before she died, to hold as a hostage.

Though Percy has already had other hints that his mother is still alive, Ares’ information confirms it. He will not have to win her back from the dead, but he will still have to rescue her. And it is too bad Percy didn’t listen to his urge to throw away the backpack, especially after the water spirit warmed him not to trust gifts.

The semi is hauling some very dejected-looking zoo animals. While they travel, Annabeth tells Percy about her own arrival in camp with Zeus’ daughter. Thalia was nearly killed and had to be turned into a tree to save her. It was Grover’s first assignment to bring someone to camp, and though he was able to get Annbeth and Luke safely there, he was supposed to be protecting Thalia. He refused to leave the other two behind, but it made him fail his assignment.

When the trailer stops in Las Vegas, Percy frees the zebra—because it is closely related to a horse and Poseidon is also the god of horses, Percy can understand it. They also free the lion and the antelope. It is enough of a distraction that the friends can get away without being caught by the truckers. Grover is able to use some satyr magic to make sure the animals will find a safe place to live.

They end up at the Lotus Hotel, where they are welcomed and everything is free. Percy only realizes that it’s not simply a really nice place to stay and rest when he meets a boy who says he arrived there in the 1970s. When he questions other guests, he finds they all think they have only been there for a few days, when they actually arrived over decades. When they leave, the friends find they only have one more day before the solstice.

Chapter 17: We Shop For Water Beds

The friends are able to use their debit card from the Lotus Hotel to take a taxi the whole 300 miles to Los Angeles. Following the message from the woman Percy met in St. Louis, they go to a beach. Percy walks into the water and meets the woman again. She is a nereid, a sea-nymph, and she gives him three pearls that can be used in the greatest need. Percy is disappointed that his father can’t deliver the message in person, but the gods are not supposed to show favoritism, at least not obviously.

Fleeing a gang of tough kids, the friends end up in a waterbed store. Crusty, the proprietor, is actually a rather nasty character from Greek myth, and he traps Grover and Annabeth in two of the beds. Then he tries to stretch them to fit. Percy tricks the salesman into sitting on one of his own beds, and is therefore able to save his friends. That Percy uses Crusty’s own tricks against him shows that Percy is clever as well as strong—an important trait for a hero.

Chapter 18: Annabeth Does Obedience School

The entrance to the Underworld is at the DOA Recording Studios. “DOA” stands for “Dead On Arrival,” which is course exactly what people usually are when they get to the Underworld. With money from the waterbed saleman’s store, they bribe the security guard to let them in and take them across the river Styx, even though they’re not dead. The guard is the ferryman Charon, a name Percy at first confuses with Chiron, but of course they are not the same. In Greek myth, it was customary to pay the ferryman with a gold coin—that is one reason gold coins were used as funeral items placed on dead bodies.

The next obstacle they have to pass is the giant three-headed dog Cerberus. In The Lightning Thief, Cerberus is a giant three-headed Rottweiler, and the friends discover that, although he’s a legendary beast, he is also very much a dog and he wants to make friends and play just like any other dog. Annabeth feels bad having to leave him behind, alone again.

Chapter 19: We Find Out The Truth, Sort Of

Once in the Underworld, the friends find it crowded with the shades of the dead. They aim for the palace of Hades, but suddenly Grover’s flying shoes begin to drag him away and they have to run after him. Perhaps the shoes were one of the gifts that the nereid warned Percy about; they definitely give an indication of which friend it is that betrayed him.

They manage to grab Grover and get the shoes off him just before he’s dragged into the pit of Tartarus—the same place Percy dreamed of, with the evil voice. The only reason Grover is saved is because his feet are goat’s feet and the shoes are mostly filled with styrofoam inserts, so the shoes come off his feet fairly easily. It is a very good thing Percy was not wearing them, because he would never have been able to get them off in time.

Once in the palace, they discover that Hades does not have the lightning bolt. In fact, it is in the backpack Percy is carrying—the one Ares gave him in exchange for recovering his shield. Ares had the lightning bolt stolen, and put it in the backpack to frame Percy. Hades accuses Percy of stealing his Helm of Darkness, which is also missing. And now that the lightning bolt is in his realm, the god of the Underworld would happily make use of it, especially if it will get him his helm back. Hades thinks Percy has come to bargain for his mother, whom Hades holds hostage.

Percy knows he has to flee the Underworld and get the bolt of Zeus safely back to Olympus. But he has four people—himself, Grover, Annabeth, and his mother—to save, and only three pearls. Knowing what his mother would want him to do, Percy gives a pearl each to Grover and Annabeth and the three friends escape to the surface. Percy would rather save his mother and his friends than himself, but he also feels his responsibility as a hero. He know Hades is unlikely to kill his mother outright, so he chooses to leave her behind for now—at least he now knows for certain that she isn’t dead.

Chapter 20: I Battle My Jerk Relative

Ares is waiting for them on the beach. They’ve ruined his plan, which would have left Percy dead in the underworld, and Zeus’ lightning in Hades’ possession, causing both Poseidon and Zeus to attack Hades, and starting a war. It appears that Ares is behind the whole scheme, which makes sense since he is the god of war and starting a war would be good fun for him. But we’ve seen over and over how things are very often not what they seem when dealing with the ancient Greek gods.

Percy is forced to fight Ares, but having the sea nearby helps and Percy is able to wound Ares. Fortunately, like many bad guys, Ares isn’t shy about boasting about how great his plan was and how it would have worked perfectly if not for the hero’s meddling. Hades’ Furies witness the whole fight, and now know that it was Ares who tried to start a war. They take the helm to return it to Hades and give him the news. Percy knows, though, that even though Ares orchestrated the plot, he is not ultimately who was behind the plan.

Chapter 21: I Settle My Tab

Percy, Annabeth, and Grover now have to get back to New York immediately. The only way to get there in time is to fly, which would put them in Zeus’ power. But they have to risk it.

Luckily, the Mist has been working all along, changing the perceptions of mortals who encounter mythological beings. The world has changed from seeing Percy as a villainous teenaged boy who ruined his family’s life to viewing him as a heroic boy who was kidnapped by a nasty biker and eventually faced down his captor. A collection goes around and raises enough money to get the three friends plane tickets back to New York.

When they arrive, Annabeth and Grover head for camp to let Chiron know what has happened, while Percy goes to the palace of the gods via the Empire State Building. Though of course the Empire State Building isn’t really 600 floors tall, it’s the 600th floor button that Percy pushes to get to Olympus—after convincing the guard that he really should be allowed to go there.

Zeus and Poseidon are waiting for Percy, who returns the lightning and explains everything that has happened. He is careful to mention that someone else was manipulating Ares—someone very old and angry. Kronos, the Titan father of the gods, wants to return to the world. Poseidon finally acknowledges Percy in person, and though it cannot make up for a lifetime of not having a father, it still feels good. However, Zeus refuses to even talk about Kronos. He is grateful that Percy foiled Ares’ plan, but that is all.

Percy then returns home to find his mother has been returned, and the head of Medusa is waiting in his room, still in the box he mailed it to Olympus in. Instead of dealing with Smelly Gabe himself, he gives Medusa’s head to his mother so she can decide what to do for herself.

Percy wants to turn Gabe to stone, but he realizes that just as he had to work out his own problems and go on his own quest, his mother needs to take back control of her life.

Chapter 22: The Prophecy Comes True

Percy returns to Camp Half-Blood for the rest of the summer. He gets a letter from his mother about a new school he could go to while living at home, now that Smelly Gabe has “vanished,” unless he decides to stay at the camp full-time. By completing the quest, Percy not only saved the world from a war between gods, but he fixed a lot of the problems in his own life, and gave his mother the means to fix hers. That’s the thing about quests: they often have good results beyond the obvious ones.

Grover gets his searcher’s license and sets off on his quest to find Pan. Even though no satyr has ever returned from a search for Pan, Grover believes he will be the one to succeed. And since he helped Percy complete his quest and proved he has the making of a hero himself, he might just be right.

Before making his final decision about whether or not to stay, Percy decides to have one more sword-fighting practice. He finds Luke using a new sword—one that can kill both mortals and immortals. They go into the woods to take a break and Luke sets a scorpion on Percy. He reveals that he is the friend who betrayed Percy. Though readers probably figured out that it was Luke a long time ago, Percy refused to believe ill of a friend—even when he had the prophecy to tell him to be cautious. And even though it puts him in danger, his willingness to believe in his friends is one of Percy’s best qualities.

The scorpion almost kills Percy, but he makes it to help. When he recovers, he finds out that Annabeth has decided to make another attempt to get along with her father and stepmother for the school year. Percy decides to go home and live with his mother, too. Percy’s quest resulted in positive effects not only for himself, his mother, and Grover, but also for Annabeth, who never thought she would want to be re-united with her family. And that, really, is the most important outcome of heroic deeds: not saving the world, but helping your friends.

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