Camp Half-Blood Confidentialpart #2.5 of The Trials of Apollo Series by Rick Riordan / Fantasy / Young Adult
To all campers, past and present
Praise me, demigods!
I made you this helpful film.
Trust me. It’s awesome.
—Haiku by Apollo introducing his orientation film Welcome to Camp Half-Blood
Hey, everybody. Percy Jackson here. You might know me as the guy who helped save the world from total destruction—twice, but who’s counting? I like to think of myself as just another Greek demigod lucky enough to have found Camp Half-Blood.
If you can read this, then surprise! You’re probably a demigod too. That’s because only demigods—and a few special mortals, like my mom and Rachel Elizabeth Dare—can read what’s actually written here. To everyone else, this book is called The Complete History of Pavement and it’s about…well, that should be obvious. You can thank the Mist for that choice of topic.
So, demigod, chances are you’re making your way to camp with your satyr guide. Or maybe you’ve already arrived and are reading this with the hope that it’ll calm your nerves. I’d say there’s a fifty-fifty chance of that happening.
But I’m getting off topic. (I do that. I have ADHD. Bet you know what that’s like.) What I’m supposed to do is explain the story behind this book.
A few months ago, Chiron—he’s the immortal centaur who’s also our camp activities director—was called away to rescue two unclaimed demigods and their satyr guide. (The satyr had gotten himself into a sticky situation. It took him days to get his fur clean.) Anyway, Argus, our resident security guard and part-time chauffeur, drove Chiron on this mission because, well, can you imagine a centaur driving an SUV? (You can? Hmm. Maybe you’re a child of Hypnos and saw it in a dream.) Our camp director, Mr. D (aka Dionysus, the god of wine), was MIA, so that left us demigods on our own.
“Don’t destroy Half-Blood while we’re gone,” was Chiron’s parting instruction. Argus pointed two fingers at his eyes and then at us. This took a few minutes since he has one hundred eyes, but we got the message—be good, or else.
We went about our usual routines—combat practice, volleyball practice, archery practice, strawberry-picking practice (don’t ask), lava-wall-climbing practice….You’ll find we practice a lot here. We would have spent the evening in the usual way, too, with a campfire sing-along, if not for an offhand comment Nico di Angelo dropped at dinner. We were talking about what changes each of us would make if we ran the camp, and Nico said:
“First thing I’d do is make sure the poor newbie demigods don’t have to suffer through the orientation film.”
All conversation stopped. “What orientation film?” Will Solace asked.
Nico looked puzzled. “You know….” He glanced side to side, clearly uncomfortable with everybody watching him. Finally he cleared his throat and sang in a warbly voice to the tune of “The Hokey Pokey”: “It lets the demigods in! It shuts the monsters out! It keeps the half-bloods safe, but turns mortals all about! It’s Misty, and it’s magic, and it makes me want to shout: the border is all about!” He punctuated the last line of the song with some halfhearted claps.
We stared at him in stunned silence.
“Nico.” Will patted his boyfriend’s arm. “You’re scaring the other campers.”
“More than usual,” Julia Feingold muttered under her breath.
“Oh, come on,” Nico protested. “You’ve all heard that annoying song, right? It’s from Welcome to Camp Half-Blood.”
“The orientation film,” Nico added.
We shared a group shrug.
Nico groaned. “You mean I just sang in public and…I’m the only one who’s ever seen that stupid film?”
“So far, anyway,” said Connor Stoll. He leaned forward, a mischievous glint in his eyes. “Where, exactly, did you see this cinematic masterpiece?”
“Chiron’s office in the Big House,” Nico replied.
Connor pushed back from the table and stood up.
“Where are you going?” Will asked.
“Chiron’s office in the Big House.”
Annabeth Chase—my awesome girlfriend, a daughter of Athena—frowned suspiciously. “Connor…Chiron’s office is locked.”
“Is it?” Connor laced his fingers together and cracked his knuckles. “We’ll see about that.” He turned to Harley, the oddly muscular eight-year-old son of Hephaestus. “Want to come with? I might need help with the projector.”
“A projectile! Yes!” Harley pumped his fist.
“A projector,” Connor corrected. “And you can’t make it do anything but show the movie. No exploding upgrades. No turning it into a killer robot.”
“Aww…” Harley scowled in disappointment, but he followed Connor to the Big House.
I glanced at Nico. “Now look what you’ve started.”
He snorted. “This is my fault? What do you want me to do—stop them?”
“Stop them?” I grinned. “Nah, man. I think we should get some popcorn ready.”
An hour later, we gathered in the amphitheater to watch Welcome to Camp Half-Blood. Connor and Harley had successfully set up the screen and projector without any killer-robot-exploding mishaps, which I appreciated. I figured the movie would be a typical orientation flick—a monotone voiceover; a tour of the campgrounds; happy demigods going about their business, trying to pretend the cameras didn’t exist. Then the opening credits rolled.
“Uh-oh,” Will muttered. “This is going to be…interesting.”
It turned out the creative genius behind the movie was Will’s dad—the god Apollo, which meant this was not going to be a typical orientation flick. No, as we soon found out, Apollo had written, directed, produced, hosted, and starred in…a variety show.
For those of you who don’t know what a variety show is, imagine a talent show on steroids, complete with canned laughter, prerecorded applause, and an extra-large helping of hokeyness. For the next hour, we cringe-watched as Apollo and our demigod predecessors performed in song-and-dance numbers, recited poetry, acted in comedy sketches, and harmonized in a musical group called the Lyre Choir. Naturally, Apollo featured prominently in most of the acts. The one of him Hula-Hooping shirtless while satyrs capered around with long rainbow ribbons on sticks…you can’t unsee that kind of thing. I’m seriously considering asking Hera to purge it from my memory.
(Okay, not really. I am not going through that again.)
Still, I get what Apollo was going for. Each number highlighted something important about Camp Half-Blood—the cabins, the training arenas, the Big House, et cetera, et cetera. The trouble is, Apollo didn’t seem to know much about the camp. According to Valentina Diaz’s assessment of the hairstyles and fashions, the movie dated from the 1950s, so maybe the film accurately depicted what Camp Half-Blood was like back then. If so, yikes. Take it from me: a lot has changed in sixty years.
That’s where Camp Half-Blood Confidential comes in. After seeing Apollo’s film, we decided we really had to take action. We needed to offer our incoming demigods something better for orientation. And so—BOOM. You hold in your hands the definitive guide to life here at our beloved Greek demigod training facility. It’s written for demigods by demigods, which means you get the inside, behind-the-scenes scoop on just about everything. You’ll get the lay of the land, too, thanks to descriptions of sites written by Pete, a geyser god with a flair for selling it like it is. Oh, the stories we’ll tell and the secrets you’ll learn…though I promise you, I will not sing and dance with a Hula-Hoop.
One last thing: we wouldn’t dream of completely depriving you of the Welcome to Camp Half-Blood movie experience. So we’ve included some choice excerpts from the film throughout the book—annotated by yours truly. Enjoy the show! (Cue maniacal laughter.)
SCENE: Darkness. Suddenly, a single spotlight illuminates Apollo standing on the front porch of the Big House. The house is a bold red color, a stark contrast to the short white chiton Apollo wears. He clears his throat and speaks.
APOLLO: A poem by Apollo, recited dramatically by…Apollo:
O, Immortal Chiron,
Centaur wise and true,
Trainer of our heroes,
Just remember who taught you.
—The opening scene of Welcome to Camp Half-Blood
I was just a young centaur, living alone in a cave on Mount Pelion, when I first met Lord Apollo. He literally dropped in out of the sky, which nearly gave me a heart attack. It wasn’t every day an A-list divinity with perfect teeth and glowing golden robes appeared on my hillside.
“You’re Kronos’s son, right?” Apollo pulled up a boulder and sat down. “My dad is Zeus! He’s Kronos’s son too. So I guess that makes you my uncle. How weird is that?”
“Ah…yes, Lord Apollo.” I tried to control the twitching in my withers. “Very weird indeed.” I noticed the sky was darkening even though it was only noon. “Not to be critical, O Great One, but shouldn’t you be driving the sun chariot right now?”
He shrugged. “Actually, I put it in park for a few minutes because Artemis is up there doing her lunar-eclipse thing.” He scratched his fashionably stubbled chin. “Or is it solar? I can never keep them straight.” Suddenly he jumped from his boulder as if he’d had a marvelous idea. “But that’s not important! I remember what I came down here to ask you. I’ve never ridden a centaur before. Mind taking me for a spin around the block?”
He put his fingers to his temples and intoned, “I predict you’re going to say yes.”
FYI, centaurs hate being taken for a ride, either literally or metaphorically. Nevertheless, I managed a forced smile. “I would be…delighted. Yes.”
“Oh, yeah!” Apollo crowed triumphantly. “Who has two thumbs and the gift of prophecy?” He jerked his thumbs at himself. “This god!”
As it turned out, giving Apollo a centaur-back ride was the smartest thing I ever did. Unlike others of my kind, I didn’t belong to a specific tribe. I was a loner…and, sometimes, lonely. We bonded during that ride. I found that Apollo could be quite charming one-on-one, when he wasn’t trying to impress his adoring throngs of fans. When we got back to the cave, he said something that changed my life.
“Uncle Chiron, I’ve decided to teach you some stuff.”
Perhaps he found the idea amusing: a nephew teaching his uncle. Or maybe, being the god of prophecy, he suspected I had an important role to play in the future of Olympus. Whatever the reason, he chose to share his knowledge with me.
At first, he showed me simple things, like how to nock an arrow—“Aim the pointy end away from your body”—and how to bandage a gushing battle wound. He taught me to make a lyre, play a number of hits like “Stairway to Olympus” and “Burnt-Offering Smoke on the Water,” and even compose my own lyrics. Once, in an effort to refine my poetry skills, he sent me on a quest to find a rhyme for arugula so that he could finish an ode to a mixed-green salad. The best I could do was pergola. Apollo called my effort an “ode fail”—the ancient precursor to today’s “epic fail”—but he continued to work with me.
The lessons went on for a year. Then one day, Apollo showed up at the doorway of my cave with a half-dozen young demigods. “You know all that stuff I taught you?” he asked me. “It’s time to pay it forward! I’d like you to meet Achilles, Aeneas, Jason, Atalanta, Asclepius, and Percy—”
“It’s Perseus, sir,” said one of the young men.
“Whatever!” Apollo grinned with delight. “Chiron, teach them everything I showed you. Y’all have fun!” Then he vanished.
I turned to the youngsters. They frowned at me. The one named Achilles drew his sword.
“Apollo expects us to learn from a centaur?” he demanded. “Centaurs are wild barbarians, worse than the Trojans!”
“Hey, shut up,” said Aeneas.
“Gentlemen and lady,” I interceded. “I assure you I am a different sort of centaur. Allow me to teach you, and I promise I will not make you participate in any crude centaur behavior like butting heads to the death or wearing drink helmets.”
Atalanta looked a little disappointed. “Butting heads to the death sounds fun…but I guess I can give your teachings a try.”
We got down to business.
First, I assessed their combat skills. Aeneas performed surprisingly well for a son of Aphrodite; I expected him to be a lover, not a fighter, and yet he actually knew how to use his sword as a sword rather than as a fashion accessory. The other demigods had some work to do. Atalanta seemed to think all training matches had to be fought to the death. She also referred to her classmates as dirty, stupid men, which made team-building difficult. Achilles spent his entire time in combat defending his right heel, an unusual maneuver that baffled me until I found out about his childhood dip in the River Styx. I tried to tell the boy to wear ironshod boots rather than sandals, but he simply wouldn’t listen. As for Asclepius, in one-on-one melees he had an off-putting habit of darting in and feeling his opponent’s forehead for signs of fever.
Next I tested my pupils for ingenuity. I handed out random materials and instructed them to improvise potentially lifesaving objects. “This ancient skill is known as MacGyvering,” I told them. Sadly, none of my inaugural group of students was a child of Hephaestus, so no one did very well with this assignment. When I hinted to Perseus that he could hammer and polish his Celestial bronze to make a mirrored shield, he rolled his eyes and scoffed, “What would I ever use that for?”
Likewise, most failed miserably with musical composition. Only Jason came up with something memorable: a mesmerizing stomp-stomp CLAP rhythm that so stirred the blood we adopted it as our prebattle beat. (You can still hear that stomp-stomp CLAP rhythm pounded out at athletic competitions today, along with the chant “We will, we will…ROCK YOU!”)
It was clear that the demigods had a lot to learn. But I didn’t mind. As we sang together by the campfire that first night, I felt as if I finally had a tribe of my own.
I taught the six demigods everything I knew. Then I sent them out into the world, where they fulfilled their destinies as heroes. Triple-threat Atalanta earned fame as a fleet-footed sprinter, a sure-shot huntress, and the only female Argonaut. Jason and his crew sailed into legend by securing the Golden Fleece and impressing the populace with myriad seafaring adventures. Achilles and Aeneas became mighty warriors—though, sadly, they fought on opposite sides in the Trojan War. (Spoiler alert: Achilles and Greece won, but Achilles was killed when he forgot to defend his heel.) Perseus discovered that a mirrored shield was useful after all when he faced a certain snake-headed gorgon, and as for Asclepius, he became the greatest medical mind in ancient history. Their heroic deeds live on in the memories of mortals to this day.
So I must have done something right.
More demigods regularly arrived at Mount Pelion, and I trained them all. Word of my success spread. When my cave was no longer large enough, I built a one-of-a-kind full-immersion training facility in the foothills of Mount Olympus. I named it Camp Half-Blood because it was dedicated to training the half-divine children of mortals and deities. I also opened the doors to many other species, such as satyrs, pegasi, and harpies.
The satyrs arrived en masse with this note from Apollo:
I predict that in the future, demigods won’t be able to find Camp Half-Blood on their own. The world will simply be too large, too populous, and too dangerous. When that time comes, send satyrs to track down your prospective students. Satyrs can find anything. They recently located a herd of cattle Hermes stole from me that even I couldn’t find. Trust me: you need seekers, and they’re the goats for the job.
The first Camp Half-Blood was modest—just an open-air arena for combat practice, a courtyard for meetings and dining, and a large stone building with sleeping quarters. The building made an impression on at least one camper, who exclaimed, “Now that’s a big house!” when she saw it. The name stuck, and forever after our headquarters has been called the Big House.
The demigods lived together in the Big House at first, but with more campers coming each year, space became tight. Fights broke out. Demigods, it seemed, inherited rivalries as well as gifts from their godly parents. To keep the peace, I divided them into family groups and told them to design and build cabins that honored their godly parents. Thankfully, the bickering died down to a quiet roar after that.
As Apollo had once turned over teaching duties to me, I turned over some of the training to experienced campers. I meant for them to pass along their knowledge of fighting and survival skills. And they did, but they also passed along family feuds, closely guarded secrets, and hazing traditions. When the Hephaestus cabin almost burned down the dryads’ forest during a late-night game of truth or dare (“Dare: blow up this amphora”), I asked Argus the Hundred-Eyed to join our staff as security guard.
At the time, Argus was recovering from a near-death experience. On Hera’s orders, Hermes had brained him with a rock while Argus was guarding a white heifer—who was actually Io, Zeus’s latest, er, lady friend. Hera saved Argus by turning him into a peacock. He eventually morphed back into his original form and jumped at the chance to come to Camp Half-Blood. Good thing he did, too, for without him, we might not have detected the first major threat to our existence: a monstrous horde that almost wiped Camp Half-Blood off the map.
“Whole bunch coming,” Argus reported late one night. “Nasty ones.” (Even back then, he didn’t waste words. Having an eye in the middle of your tongue makes talking uncomfortable, not to mention eating hot soup.)
We’d had random monster attacks before. We’d always fended them off. But this attack was different. It was an organized effort—I never discovered who organized it, though I have my suspicions—and it was huge.
Hundreds of monsters—nasty ones indeed—swarmed the camp from every corner. I sounded the conch horn to raise the alarm, grabbed my bow and quiver, and galloped into the courtyard. “This is not a drill, people!” I cried. Demigods surged out of their cabins to face the greatest challenge of their young lives. Win, and Camp Half-Blood would endure. Lose, and the camp, along with countless lives, would be lost forever.
Fighting raged through the night. The demigods battled bravely and with skill, destroying monsters with swords, spears, arrows, and other weapons. But we were far outnumbered. I feared Camp Half-Blood was doomed.
Then, just as rosy-fingered dawn peeked over the horizon, a new battle cry sounded in the distance. Former campers who had learned of our desperate plight now came charging to our aid. As one, we attacked our enemies with renewed vigor. We cut down one monster after another until their dusty remains blanketed the ground. Those we didn’t send to Tartarus fled back into the wilds.
I had never been prouder of my campers, old and new. Nor had I ever been more ashamed of myself.
You see, I knew that so many demigods living in one place was like an all-you-can-kill buffet for monsters. Yet I had convinced myself that our campers needed no other protection than the skills we taught them. My pride had nearly been our destruction, but I learned my lesson. I immediately sent an Iris-message to Olympus asking for help. The gods heard our plea. The next day, a magical border settled over and around the grounds—a barrier that would both conceal the camp from unfriendly eyes and repel future attacks.
The camp has changed locations over the millennia, always grounding itself near the seat of Olympus as the gods move from one dominant nation to another. Thousands of demigods have called Camp Half-Blood home since that long-ago battle. You might know some of their names: Arthur. Merlin. Guinevere. Charlemagne. Joan of Arc. Napoleon. George Washington. Harriet Tubman. Madame Curie. Frank Lloyd Wright. Amelia Earhart. And many more demigods, still living, who have asked that I not reveal their identities. New names are added to the list each summer, and more still will join the ranks in the centuries ahead.
That is my hope, at least. For the demigods of the past, present, and future are more than just campers to me. They make my immortal life worth living. They are my tribe.
SCENE: A background choir of demigod a cappella singers stands on stage. They’re dressed in classic 1950s doo-wop attire—black suits, white shirts, skinny ties. Apollo, similarly attired except that his tie is gold, takes center stage. He faces the singers and strums a chord on his lyre. He points to the boys.
BOYS [singing]: Doooooooooo!
[Apollo points to the girls]
GIRLS [harmonizing]: Waaaaaaaaaaa!
[Apollo points to himself]
APOLLO [spit-singing]: Ppppppppp!
[Apollo waves his arm]