1 Where it All Started

Look, I did not want to be a Demigod.

If you're reading this because you think you might be one, my advice is: close this book right now. Believe whatever lie your mom or dad told you about your birth, and try to lead a normal life.

Being a Demigod is dangerous. It's scary. Most of the time, it gets you killed in painful, nasty ways.

If you're a normal kid, reading this because you think it's fiction, great.

Read on. I envy you for being able to believe that none of this ever happened.

But if you recognize yourself in these pages—if you feel something stirring inside—stop reading immediately. You might be one of us. And once you know that, it's only a matter of time before they sense it too, and they'll come for you.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

My name is Zoe Autumn.

I'm twelve years old. Until a few months ago, I was a boarding student at Chivers, a private school for troubled kids.

Am I a troubled kid?

Yeah. You could say that.

I could start at any point in my short miserable life to prove it, but things really started going bad last July, when our seventh-grade class took a field trip to Felix—twenty-eight mental-case kids and two teachers on a yellow school bus, heading to the the Local Art Museum to look at old, useless pieces of art. If you can call drawing some lines with a paintbrush art.

I know—it sounds like torture. Most Chivers field trips were.

But Ms. Sybil, our English teacher, was leading this trip, so I had hopes.

Ms. Sybil was this middle-aged woman in a motorized wheelchair. She had lush red hair and high cheekbones. She also had startling green eyes and a navy jacket which always smelled like chocolate. You wouldn't think she'd be cool, but she told stories and jokes and let us play games in class. She also had this awesome collection of robotic toys, so she was the only teacher whose class didn't put me to sleep.

I hoped the trip would be okay. At least, I hoped that for once I wouldn't get in trouble.

Boy, was I wrong.

See, bad things happen to me on field trips. Like at my sixth-grade school, when we went to the Ross 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. And before that, at my fifth-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. And the time before that...Well, you get the idea.

This trip, I was determined to be good.

All the way into the city, I put up with Frostine Diablo, the blond, kleptomaniac girl, hitting my best friend Ember in the back of the back of the head with chunks of chewed bubblegum. Ember was an easy target. She was scrawny. She cried when she got frustrated. She must've been held back several grades, because she was the only seventh grader with a lot of pigmentation. Ember had a note excusing her from PE for the rest of her life because she had some kind of muscular disease in her hands. She moved her arm funnily, like every movement hurt her, but don't let that fool you. You should've seen her eat when it was pizza day in the cafeteria.

Anyway, Frostine Diablo was throwing wads of bubblegum that stuck in her long, curly, brown hair and she knew I couldn't do anything back to her because I was already on probation. The headmaster had threatened me with death by in-school suspension if anything bad, embarrassing, or even mildly entertaining happened on this trip.

"I'm going to kill her," I mumbled.

Ember tried to calm me down. "It's okay. I like bubble gum."

She dodged another piece of Frostine's gum

That's it." I started to get up, but Ember pulled me back to my seat.

"You're already on probation," she reminded me. "You know who'll get blamed if anything happens."

Looking back on it, I wish I'd decked Frostine Diablo right then and there.

In-school suspension would've been nothing compared to the mess I was I was to get myself into.

Ms. Sybil led the museum tour.

She rode up front in his wheelchair, guiding us through the big echoey galleries, past marble statues and glass cases full of really boring and useless pieces of art.

I couldn't understand why this stuff was even called art.

She gathered us around an abstract painting and how the meaning behind it was deep. She told us about the colours in the painting. I was trying to listen to what she had to say, because it was kind of interesting, but everybody around me was talking, and every time I told them to shut up, the other teacher chaperone, Mr. Blitz, would give me the evil eye.

Mr. Blitz was this little math teacher from Armenia who always wore a purple rasta cap and a leather jacket even though he was fifty years old. He looked mean enough to ride a Harley right into your locker. He had come to Chivers halfway through the year, when our last math teacher had a nervous breakdown.

From his first day, Mr. Blitz loved Frostine Diablo and figured I was devil spawn. He would point his crooked finger at me and say, "Now, honey," real sweet, and I knew I was going to get after-school detention for a month.

One time, after he'd made me erase answers out of old math workbooks until midnight, I told Ember I didn't think Mr. Blitz was human. She looked at me, real serious, and said, "You're absolutely right."

Ms. Sybil kept talking about abstract paintings.

Finally, Frostine Diablo snickered something about the woman in the painting, and I turned around and said, "Will you shut up?"

It came out louder than I meant it to.

The whole group laughed. Ms. Sybil stopped her story.

"Ms. Autumn," she said, "Did you have a comment?"

My face was totally red. I said, "No, ma'am."

Ms. Sybil pointed to one of the statues beside the painting "Perhaps you'll tell us what this statue represents?"

I looked at the statue, and felt a flush of relief, because I actually recognized it. "That Hecate. She is the goddess of magic, witchcraft, the night, moon, ghosts and necromancy. She is the only child of the Titanes Perses and Asteria from whom she received her power over heaven, earth, and sea"

"Yes," Ms. Sybil said, obviously not satisfied.

"And what is she doing?"

"Well..." I racked my brain to remember.

"Hecate is blessing three humans with the gift of magic."

"And why is she doing that?"

"The humans had an unusual ability to know a person's magic, like they were attracted to it, so she blessed them, they became wizards and witches."

Behind me, Frostine Diablo mumbled to a friend, "Like we're going to use this in real life. Like it's going to say on our job applications, 'Please explain why Hecate blessed the three humans.'"

"And why, Ms. Autumn," Sybil said, "to paraphrase Miss Diablo's excellent question, does this matter in real life?"

"Busted," Ember muttered.

"Shut up," Frostine hissed, her face even brighter red than Ms. Sybil's hair.

At least Frostine got packed, too. Ms. Sybil was the only one who ever caught her saying anything wrong. She had radar ears.

I thought about her question, and shrugged. "I don't know, ma'am."

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