Percy’s next grand quest begins exactly where you would expect: the guidance counselor’s office! Catch up with Seaweed Brain as he navigates his greatest challenge yet: the college admissions process, in this exclusive chapter excerpt of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Chalice of the Gods.
Look, I didn’t want to be a high school senior.
I was hoping my dad could write me a note:
Please excuse Percy Jackson from school forever and just give him the diploma.
I figured I’d earned that much after battling gods and monsters since I was twelve years old. I’d saved the world . . . three times? Four? I’ve lost count. You don’t need the details. I’m not sure I even remember them at this point.
Maybe you’re thinking, But wow! You’re the son of a Greek god! That must be amazing!
Honest truth? Most of the time, being a demigod blows chunks. Anybody who tells you different is trying to recruit you for a quest.
So there I was, stumbling down the hallway on my first morning of classes at a new high school—again—after losing my entire junior year because of magical amnesia (don’t ask). My textbooks were spilling out of my arms, and I had no idea where to find my third-period English class. Math and biology had already melted my brain. I wasn’t sure how I was going to make it to the end of the day.
Then a voice crackled over the loudspeaker: “Percy Jackson, please report to the counselor’s office.”
At least none of the other students knew me yet. Nobody looked at me and laughed. I just turned, all casual like, and meandered back toward the administration wing.
Alternative High is housed in a former elementary school in Queens. That means kiddie-sized desks and no lockers, so you have to carry all your stuff from class to class. Down every hall, I could find cheery reminders of the school’s former childhood—smudges of finger paint on the walls, unicorn stickers peeling off the fire extinguishers, the occasional ghostly whiff of fruit juice and graham crackers.
AHS takes anybody who needs to finish their high school career. It doesn’t matter if you are coming back from juvie, or have severe learning differences, or happen to be a demigod with really bad luck. It is also the only school in the New York area that would admit me for my senior year and help me make up all the course credit I’d lost as a junior.
On the bright side, it has a swim team and an Olympic-sized pool (no idea why), so my stepdad, Paul Blofis, thought it might be a good fit for me. I promised him I’d try.
I’d also promised my girlfriend, Annabeth. The plan was that I’d graduate on time so we could go to college together. I didn’t want to disappoint her. The idea of her going off to California without me kept me up at night. . . .
I found the counselor’s office in what must’ve once been the school infirmary. I deduced that from a painting on the wall of a sad purple frog with a thermometer in its mouth.
“Mr. Jackson! Come in!”
The guidance counselor came around her desk, ready to shake my hand. Then she realized I had six thousand pounds of textbooks in my arms.
“Oh, just put those down anywhere,” she said. “Please, have a seat!”
She gestured to a blue plastic chair about a foot too low for me. Sitting in it, I was eye level with the jar of Jolly Ranchers on her desk.
“So!” The counselor beamed at me from her comfy-looking, adult-sized chair. Her bottle-thick glasses made her eyes swim. Her gray hair was curled into scalloped rows that reminded me of an oyster bed. “How are you settling in?”
“The chair’s a little short.”
“I mean at school.”
“Well, I’ve only had two classes—”
“Have you started on your college applications?”
“I just got here.”
“Exactly! We’re already behind!”
I glanced at the purple frog, who looked as miserable as I felt. “Look, Ms.—”
“Call me Eudora,” she said cheerfully. “Now, let’s see what brochures we have.”
She rummaged through her desk. “Poly Tech. BU. NYU. ASU. FU. No, no, no.”
I wanted to stop her. My temples were throbbing. My ADHD was pinging around under my skin like billiard balls. I couldn’t think about college today.
“Ma’am, I appreciate your help,” I said. “But, really, I’ve kinda already got a plan. If I can just get through this year—”
“Yes, New Rome University,” she said, still digging through her desk drawer. “But the mortal counselor doesn’t seem to have a brochure.”
My ears popped. I tasted salt water in the back of my throat. “The mortal counselor?”
My hand drifted toward the pocket of my jeans, where I kept my favorite weapon: a deadly ballpoint pen. This wouldn’t have been the first time I’d had to defend myself from an attack at school. You’d be amazed how many teachers, administrators, and other school staff are monsters in disguise. Or maybe you wouldn’t be amazed.
“Who are you?” I asked.
She sat up and smiled. “I told you. I’m Eudora.”
I studied her more closely. Her curled hair was in fact a bed of oysters. Her dress shimmered like a jellyfish membrane.
It’s weird how the Mist works. Even for demigods, who see supernatural stuff all the time, you have to concentrate to pierce the barrier between the human world and the godly one. Otherwise, the Mist just kind of plasters over what you see, making ogres look like pedestrians or a giant drakon look like the N train. (And believe me, it’s embarrassing trying to board a drakon when one rampages into the Astoria Boulevard station.)
“What did you do with the regular counselor?” I asked.
Eudora waved her hand dismissively. “Oh, don’t worry about her. She couldn’t help you with New Rome. That’s why I’m here!”
Something about her tone made me feel . . . not reassured, exactly, but at least not personally threatened. Maybe she only ate other guidance counselors.
Her presence felt familiar, too—the salty tingle in my nostrils, the pressure in my ears as if I were a thousand feet underwater. I realized I’d encountered someone like her before, when I was twelve years old, at the bottom of the Mississippi River.
“You’re a sea spirit,” I said. “A Nereid.”
Eudora chuckled. “Yes, of course, Percy. Did you think I was a dryad?”
“So . . . my father sent you?”
She raised an eyebrow, as if she was starting to worry I might be a bit slow on the uptake. Weirdly, I get that look a lot.
“Yes, dear. Poseidon. Your father? My boss? Now, I’m sorry I can’t find a brochure, but I know you’ll need all the usual human requirements for New Rome University: test scores, official transcripts, and an up-to-date psychoeducational evaluation. Those aren’t a problem.”
“They aren’t?” After all I’d been through, it might’ve been too early to judge on that last one.
“But you’ll also need a few, ah, special entry requirements.”
The taste of salt water got sharper in my mouth.
“What special requirements?”
“Has anyone talked to you about divine recommendation letters?”
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