Study Guide

The Lightning Thief Chapter 20

By Rick Riordan

"I Battle My Jerk Relative"

A Coast Guard boat picked us up, but they were too busy to keep us for long, or to wonder how three kids in street clothes had gotten out into the middle of the bay. There was a disaster to mop up. Their radios were jammed with distress calls.


  • They stumble onto the Santa Monica Beach at sunrise, while Los Angeles burns behind them.
  • They walk for miles on the beach discussing what has just happened.
  • Percy realizes that someone other than Hades stole both the master bolt and the helm of darkness and framed Percy because his dad is Poseidon:

    Poseidon will get blamed by both sides. By sundown today, there will be a three-way war. And I'll have caused it. (20.13)

  • In the distance, they see Ares on his motorcycle with a baseball bat, waiting for them.
  • Percy accuses him of stealing the helm of darkness and the master bolt.
  • Ares tells him he got someone else to steal the symbols of power, but he won't say who. He tells Percy that he's messing up his strategy for igniting a war: Percy was supposed to die, causing Poseidon to get really ticked off. Hades is supposed to have Zeus's master bolt, causing Zeus to get really mad at him. And Hades would still be looking for his helm of darkness, which, doggonit, Ares just happens to have with him.
  • The backpack Ares gave them in Denver was enchanted. It is the master bolt's sheaf. So, just as Riptide always finds its way back into Percy's pocket, the master bolt would find its way into Percy's backpack as soon as he made it into the underworld.
  • Ares looks like he's listening to another voice somewhere – he is momentarily distracted.
  • Percy guesses that Ares didn't orchestrate the stealing of either symbol of power. Instead, he was sent by Zeus to find the thief. When he found the theft, he decided to let the thief go scot free so that he could sit back, relax, and watch the war begin.
  • Percy guesses that Ares is taking orders from the voice in the pit, in Tartarus.
  • Ares is super-offended by this – he doesn't take orders from anyone but himself. And he doesn't have dreams.
  • Whoa, whoa, whoa. Who said anything about dreams?
  • Ares is busted. He's definitely been having dreams like Percy's been having dreams – vivid ones in which an evil voice tells him what to do.
  • Ares sets a wild boar on Percy, but Percy lops its horn off and makes a wave crash upon it and pull it into the ocean.
  • Ares and Percy start fighting one-on-one. It's a really tough battle. Percy tries to use his sea powers to his advantage, but Ares makes this hard, keeping Percy away from the water.
  • Onlookers arrive. Instead of seeing a god and demi-god fighting with swords, they see a tough-looking dude and a young adolescent boy shooting at one another.
  • The police arrive in huge numbers.
  • Ares sets their police cars on fire, and the crowd disperses.
  • Finally, Percy backs into the water, telling the waves to hold and build pressure. Which they do.
  • Then Percy releases a huge wave on Ares's head, throwing him off kilter.
  • Percy stabs Riptide into Ares's ankle, causing his golden blood (ichor) to flow.
  • Ares curses Percy before he leaves.
  • As he leaves, Ares shows his true immortal self, and they look away.
  • The helm of darkness is left in the surf.
  • The Furies arrive on the scene – they have watched the whole fight go down.
  • They realize that Percy is not the thief after all.
  • Percy gives them the helm of darkness and asks them to return it to Hades.
  • Mrs. Dobbs/Fury tells Percy, "Live well, Percy Jackson. Become a true hero. Because if you do not, if you ever come in my clutches again…" (20.126).
  • Percy, Annabeth, and Grover briefly celebrate.
  • Then, they decide they'll have to fly back to New York in order to make their deadline. That means flying through Zeus's territory.
  • Ruh-roh.

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