Tuesday, September 23rd Great Misery Island, Massachusetts The chill breeze that was sweeping the Sound that morning- just like every other morning for the last twenty days- sent salt water spraying, peppering the stony shoreline with dark, damp marks. Overhead were clear skies, a fact for which the group assembled on the promontory might be thankful for, had they not known such weather to be practically guaranteed. After all, it was the first day of Sports Week for the students of Amphisbaena Boarding School for Girls and Boys... and the Greek god of thunder was apparently, as one of their number had eloquently put it, "TiVo-ing this shit". It hadn't taken long for them to discover that their P.E. teacher's idea of sports had been inspired in a large part by certain ancient Greek games, as well. This was likely due to the fact that their P.E. teacher was not only pals with Zeus, but had been at those games himself (and if you listened to the god tell it, had orchestrated its very conception). Every day for almost three weeks now, they'd been subjected to an hour of whatever struck his fancy: javelin throwing, team Frisbee, something called "long jumping" (which turned out to be exactly what it said on the tin), and (for a surprising and inexplicable change) an entire week of good old American baseball. Today, they stood in the field beyond what mortal eyes took to be the ruins of an old pump house, and what the very special teenagers who'd gathered there could see was in fact a fully equipped school gym. (That was just another little quirk of the island that had taken getting used to; sometimes, visitors and tourists would wander up from the beach or one of the hiking trails and be as oblivious to the demigod students and their teachers as if they were ghosts rather than immortals.) A long line had been drawn in the dirt, stretching the length of the clearing. "Look!" remarked a tall, thin-faced blond boy dressed in an orange-and-black trench coat and yellow sweater. His name was Taj Attar, and he was well-known even to the newest members of the student body for his particularly loud-colored clothing (among other things). Taj elbowed his nearest companion in the torso as he nodded at the line, eyes lighting up. "We're doing the foot race again this year." His companion probably didn't feel the blow too much, considering he was at present twice the size of a very large dog and in the shape of a stout, fur-covered lizard. It was another of Emrys Goch's bad days; the young demigod had gotten himself stuck in dragon form overnight, and as yet had not managed to change back. Whether this would affect his P.E. performance for better or worse was anyone's guess. Emrys rolled his shoulder in what looked like a shrug. "That's correct," announced the god Hermes- yes, that Hermes- as he hovered a good six inches over the dewy grass, looking down his nose at them from behind round spectacles. Rather than the toga one might expect from popular depictions, he was wearing a thoroughly mundane (if somewhat feminine) powder blue wool cardigan and khaki trousers. Tiny wings flapped at the heels of his spit-shined shoes, keeping him afloat. It was absolutely as ridiculous-looking as it sounded, but few students would dare to say it to the gym teacher's face. In addition to instructing P.E. and Poetry, he was a member of Amphisbaena's disciplinary board. No one wanted to have detention with Hermes. The god had probably been born with the Caduceus up his ass. He also loved to lecture. "Today we will celebrate one of the mortal traditions of old," Hermes continued, his voice crisp and clear and carrying. "The foot race was once held as a competition for the honor of being chosen by the gods. It is only fitting that you- you who come from gods, who would be gods in your own right- should uphold this rite for the opening ceremony of your 'Sports Week'. "At the signal, the race shall begin. You will run once around the circumference of the island-" Someone squawked loudly in protest. This was undoubtedly because Great Misery spanned over 80 acres of land. Taj remembered from a tourist brochure that the actual hiking trails made up two and a half miles alone. "-navigating any and all obstacles, and return here. You will be monitored to ensure that you compete in the spirit that the games are intended. For those of you who struggle to parse my meaning, allow me to clarify: no cheating will be tolerated. The first to return shall win today's prize." Those last words were sure to perk the new students' ears, if not those who'd been at Amphisbaena for over a year now. What sort of prize might be awarded by a god? A bone-shaking clap of thunder pealed down from the clear blue sky. Taj jumped as if it had been a gunshot. A split second later, he was patting Emrys anxiously on the shoulder. "Come on, come on, we have to get going or we'll be eating everyone's dirt!"