The next afternoon, June 14, seven days before the solstice, our train rolled into Denver. We hadn't eaten since the night before in the dining car, somewhere in Kansas. We hadn't taken a shower since Half-Blood Hill, and I was sure that was obvious.
They call home to Half-Blood Hill via a spray hose in a do-it-your-self carwash. It's called Iris-messaging: "the rainbow goddess Iris carries messages for the gods. If you know how to ask, and she's not too busy, she'll do the same for half-bloods" (15.15).
Luke answers the Iris message, saying that Chiron is busy with the campers. Camp Half-Blood is having issues
A car pulls into the next stall, blasting music so that they can't really hear Luke.
Percy talks to Luke and learns that the campers have all taken sides in the brewing war between Zeus and Poseidon. The camp is a mess. "Aphrodite, Ares, and Apollo are backing Poseidon, more or less. Athena is backing Zeus" (15.39).
Percy tells Luke everything that's happened so far.
Luke accuses Hades of stealing the master bolt, guessing that Hades used his helm of darkness to make himself invisible as he stole it.
The water runs out and the Iris message fades.
Percy, Annabeth, and Grover go to a diner – the poor kids are starving.
A big, and we mean BIG, mean-looking biker dude roles into the diner.
He sits right down in Percy, Annabeth, and Grover's booth and rudely orders the waitress around.
Percy is super-annoyed and angered by this dude.
We learn that this is Ares, the god of war.
Ares has a favor to ask of Percy and company – he left his shield in the Tunnel of Love ride at a local water park. He needs them to get it for him, as a way of proving themselves to him.
Percy is very saucy with Ares. He doesn't like the god one bit.
But Ares promises to get them a ride to Los Angeles if they successfully retrieve his shield.
So, off they go to Waterland, the run-down water park down the road.
The sun is setting.
They jump the padlocked fence and make their way through the park, past different rides, trying to find the Tunnel of Love.
Grover tells Percy to be more respectful when talking about Ares and his girlfriend. Ares's girlfriend is Aphrodite, goddess of love. And she is married to Hephaestus.
Annabeth steals some clothes and knickknacks from the water park store.
They find the Tunnel of Love ride, which is basically like a tunnel that leads to an empty pool. Surrounding the pool are statues of cupid.
In the middle of the empty pool is "a pink-and-white two-seater boat with a canopy over the top and little hearts painted all over it" (15.152).
Ares's sword is right there in the boat, but when Percy grabs it, he breaks a cobweb-like substance. A trip-wire!
The whole thing is a trap.
The cupids start shooting arrows of rope across the rim of the pool. Percy and Annabeth are trapped inside the pool.
The cupid heads pop off, revealing cameras.
A voice over a loudspeaker tells them they will be filmed live for Mount Olympus in one minute.
Metallic spiders start pouring into the pool. Annabeth is deathly afraid of spiders.
Percy uses his water powers to pump the water into the pool and propel him and Annabeth on the boat toward the exit.
Using Annabeth's knowledge of physics, they catapult over the fence blocking the exit.
Phew! Shield is intact
Turns out Aphrodite's jealous husband, Hephaestus, tried to catch her and her boyfriend, Ares, in the acting of cheating on him. He's always trying to trap them and humiliate them in front of Mount Olympus.
The cupid cameras are still filming Percy, Annabeth, and Grover.
Percy yells at them, and they shut off.
Percy is really angry at Ares. He hates being used and being embarrassed like that.