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The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories About Mythic Heroes is an anthology of short stories written by Rick Riordan and the other Rick Riordan Presents authors (Roshani Chokshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Carlos Hernandez, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda, and Graci Kim) which center around both characters from their previous books, and new heroes.

Development

On his Tower of Nero tour in October 2020, Rick Riordan announced[1] that he and the Rick Riordan Presents authors would be writing short mythology-based stories in an anthology focusing on the theme of heroes; later, on January 24 2021, Rick Riordan publicly revealed[2] the official title, and said that his short story would focus on Irish mythology and be titled, "My Life as a Child Outlaw".

On March 4, 2021, Becky Riordan revealed the cover-in-progress on Twitter.[3]

On March 5, 2021, Kwame Mbalia posted on Twitter about his upcoming projects, and retweeted a responder to tell them that Cursed Carnival would be an anthology where we would learn more about Gum Baby; he also revealed her middle initials.[4] Later that day, he also Tweeted two pics -- one of the cover, and one of the start of his story -- which revealed the name of his short story: The Gum Baby Files.[5]

On March 25, 2021, J.C. Cervantes posted on Instagram a picture of the cover and the first page of her story, showing it was titled 'The Cave of Doom', and in the caption she said she was excited to revisit Zane's world and create a bridge to Ren's spinoff, Lords of Night.[6] On her story, she posted a picture of the cover and wrote the name of Brooks besides the hawk.

On April 8, 2021, Graci Kim retweeted[7] an image ReadRiordan had posted[8] about an hour earlier of the finalized Cursed Carnival cover, and added that her story would be titled "My Night at the Gifted Carnival" and would be set one year before The Last Fallen Star, acting almost like an origin story for Riley Oh.

On April 12, an interview on Color the Shelves with Graci Kim was published[9] in which she revealed that her story would be about Riley and Hattie going to the Gifted Carnival, a magical fair that only comes once a year, and the two girls finding themselves in a race against time to save the innocent children at the carnival from the evil grips of an egg ghost, despite Riley wanting to lay low.

Synopsis

Best-selling author Rick Riordan presents ten new stories--including one of his own--about beloved heroes that sprang from the imaginations of some of the best middle grade authors working today.

A cave monster . . . an abandoned demon . . . a ghost who wants to erase history . . . a killer commandant . . . These are just some of the challenges confronting the young heroes in this highly entertaining anthology. All but one of the heroes previously starred in a popular book from Rick Riordan Presents.

You'll be reunited with Aru Shah, Zane Obispo, Min the fox spirit, Sal and Gabi, Tristan Strong, Nizhoni Begay, Paola Santiago, Sikander Aziz, and Riley Oh. Who is the new hero? Read Rick Riordan's short story to find out!

Ten bestselling and award-winning middle grade authors contributed to this collection: Roshani Chokshi, J.C. Cervantes, Yoon Ha Lee, Carlos Hernandez, Kwame Mbalia, Rebecca Roanhorse, Tehlor Kay Mejia, Sarwat Chadda, Graci Kim, and Rick Riordan, who also served as the editor.

The cultures represented by these own-voices stories are: Indian, Mesoamerican, Korean, Cuban, Black American, African, Navajo, Mexican, Mesopotamian, and Celtic.

There's something for everyone in this collection of fast-paced and funny adventure stories that show what it takes to be a hero in any time, setting, and universe.

Plot

Calamity Juice (by Carlos Hernandez)

Sal Vidon

As Sal Vidón and Gabi Real are performing a skit they created for Mrs. Waked's class, The Malta Falcon, they are called by Principal Torres to hallway C3. They rush to meet her immediately and complain about a foul smell along the way. When they reach their destination, they find the hallway covered in rainbow mush. Sal goes to take a closer look, knowing exactly what it is.[10] They relaxed and fell into another universe. Gabi accidentally lands in the chicken universe forcing Sal get her to the one he is in. The floor is covered in rainbow sludge filled with calamitrons. Suddenly, Yasmany Robles cries out saying that he understands and loves this universe. They find Yasmany covered in rainbow sludge and Principal Torres tells the pair she found Yasmany like this and asks them to help. Sal and Gabi manage to clear the hallway and help Yasmany up. He explains how he saw multiple versions of himself, with one being driven to ballet class by his mother, something she would never do. Yasmany explains how he a colorful zebra approach Gladis Machado, with another Gladis riding it. The horse then vomited the substance all over Gladys and he went to help, but the zebra barfed on him and he watched as one Gladis fell through the floor and the one riding the zebra hang on for dear life when it bucked. Yasmany then points to a scarf, the one Sal made last fall. Sal realizes Gladis is in danger, and they go to speak to Vorágine.

They head the first-floor bathroom and Sal wipes off some of the left-over vomit and drops it into Vorágine. It analyzes the sample and says it is from the Chicken Universe and the zebra in question is a unicorn. Yasmany mentions he saw that the horse had a horn as Gabi berates him for withholding it. When Principal Torres mentions Gadis always gets picked up by her father at three forty, two hours from then. They decide to head to the Chicken Universe, with Yasmany joining them, and Sal uses an app to call Gladis in the other universe. However, an alternate Principal Torres picks up and says something in Spanish. Principal Torres angrily translates that she called them devils as she demands what happened to Gladis. The two Gloria Torreses have a shouting match in rapid fire Spanish, with only Vorágine and Yasmany understanding the two. After a while, the two women laugh after Principal Torres explains that she got her alternate self to believe they were from another universe as the alternate Gloria Torres points the phone at a walk-in freezer, saying Gladis locked herself inside. Principal Torres tells them to hurry. Sal and Gabi open the portal, which Yasmany can see but Principal Torres could not. Yasmany goes in first but fails to enter as he is not relaxed enough. Sal and Gabi head to the Chicken Universe where they apologize to the workers and the workers apologize to them. The other Gloria Torres, Ydania, brings them to the freezer where they find the alternate Gladis. She hugs Sal as she explains how she wants his Gladis not to fear the multiverse, but it backfired. Gabi demands she take them to their Gladis, as the other Gabi's Sal opens a portal to their universe.

They meet that universe's Sal, who has vertical eyebrows he traded with a Sal where everyone has eyebrows like that and shares an embrace the alternate Gladis. After realizing they are dating, Gabi asks where she is, and they tell her they do not have a Gabi. After approaching a field of unicorns, Gabi tries to get on one, but the Sal with the vertical eyebrows stops her, saying getting on one is an art. As he explains how unicorns can track each other across the multiverse, the unicorn barfs on him and sends him to another universe. The unicorn then introduces himself as Norberto and, after Gabi asks him politely, he agrees to help them find Gladis. The three climb on as Norberto takes off and lands in another universe. They find Gladis sitting on the back of the Carmita, the unicorn who took her. The alternate Gladis and Gabi get off and tell Gladis she has to go home. However, Gladis, who has grown more confident, refuses to return and Carmita reveals they have bonded since Gladis stayed on stayed on her back for a minute, they are bonded forever. Norberto claims she just made that up and it was a story for humans to enslave them. However, Carmita and Gladis vanish, and Norberto goes after them, with Sal still on his back. Sal and Norberto, begging the unicorn to go back to get Gabi and the alternate Gladis, chase Gladis and Carmita through various universes containing space stations, Gum Baby, and Ireland, before stopping in a universe of complete darkness. Sal begs Gladis to return home and apologizes for scaring her, Gladis says she is not angry with him and fears she will lose her newfound confidence if she returns. Thinking of her close relationship with her father, Sal says if she does not return, she will never see her father again. Sal then gives a short speech; however, she leaves before he starts, and Norberto informs him that they left.

They reach Sal's home universe and watch the Pickup area for Gladis, they find her alone and Carmita approaches behind them with Gabi and the alternate Sal and Gladis, the latter two say they wish to apologize, but Gabi says their Gladis sets the rules. Gabi his telescope and she narrates the interaction, saying Gladis hugged her father and is dragging him inside. After the alternate Sal has second thoughts about apologizing, Carmita sends him a universe populated entirely by Gabis. Gabi begs her to take her there as Sal gets a text from Gladis asking for him to meet her father. As the unicorns take the girls to different universes, Sal goes to meet Gladis.

Beware the Grove of True Love (by Roshani Chokshi)

Aru Shah

Aru Shah, Mini and Brynne Rao have been punished by Urvashi for sleeping during one of her classes. They have already completed four brutal errands, Brynne brought helmets for the last one. But all they had to was pick up Urvashi's anklets from the cleaners in the Night Bazaar. Boo gives them a lotus flower to the place where the anklets are. They notice a path going to the "Grove of True Love", a place where people find their true loves, but Brynne said that it was cursed. After being given a box with the anklets, the three were unsure if they were in there due to the task being surprisingly easy. They open the box and the anklets float into the "Grove of True Love" when they weren't looking!

They give chase and find the anklets stuck in a bunch of trees. A statue says that they must finish a love story if they want them back. It was the story of Shakuntula, they enter a world similar to the story after Dushyanta rejected her due to Durvasa's memory loss. They encounter a giant snake who turns smaller saying they are the guardian of the river containing the ring in the story. Mini manages to find a candy bar wrapper shiny enough for the snake to trade the ring. The sisters get out of the story just as it finishes. As promised, the trees give back the anklets, just then Urvashi arrived to take them back. As the other two leave, Aru realizes that Urvashi orchestrated the plot to teach them about love. Urvashi lets Aru join her sisters in their fun, because it won't last forever.

The Cave of Doom (by Jennifer Cervantes)

Zane Obispo

Two days after returning to Isla Holbox from the Shaman Institute of Higher-Order Magic, Zane Obispo and Brooks are having lunch when Hondo Obispo approaches them to vent about a one star review of Maya Journeys by Bartholomew Butts III, saying he was led up an unstable town in a rainstorm on Isla Pájaros and claims to have seen an white alligator with a human face. He says he told the tour guide, but no one believed him. Hondo tells Zane and Brooks to investigate as he has to pack for a trip he is taking with his girlfriend Quinn to Mount Kilimanjaro where he plans to propose. The son of Hurakan says goodbye to Rosie before he and Brooks go to investigate.

As they fly to the island, Zane struggles with telling Brooks that he is leaving the following week to help his father regain an adult form. When they see a storm over the island, Brooks starts to fly faster as Zane struggles to stay on, seeing a boy on a unicorn as they zoom to the island. When they arrive, Brooks hears the birds warning them as Zane hears nothing. As Brooks notices the birds have no eyes, a storm appears over the island and separates the two. The wind dies down and they fall. Zane sees symbols on the walls before landing on a ledge, looking down he throws a fireball and sees dozens of viper boas, looking up he sees Brooks on another ledge. She tells him the birds were calling them a threat and her arm is sprained and there is no service, with the only way out is to climb down. Zane agrees and they start climbing. He drops his phone, but hears it buzz when they reach the bottom. After finding two tunnels, they go into the one on the left and start to hear a baby's cry. Suddenly it stops and they see a figure approaching them, another Zane Obispo. As the son of Hurakan inspects his shadowy double, he throws fire and Fuego at it to no effect. It slashes Zane's arm as Brooks is able to disintegrate it with her shrieks, turning it into a pile of scales. Brooks reveals her arm is healed and they fly out and onto a beach on Isla Holbox. Zane signals for Rosie and tells her to get Ixtab.

As he tells Brooks he believes that thing in the cave was not Mayan, the Queen of Xib'alb'a arrives and demands Zane show her. After she does, she says it is nothing of their concern, but they know she is withholding something from them. Ixtab agrees to tell them if they agree to keep this information to themselves under threat of half a year in the Underworld. They agree but she only tells them the gods fought monsters before time began and imprisoned them deep in the Earth, with the symbol meaning hope. She refuses to say more but agrees to have it looked into when he says a human saw it. Before leaving, she informs Brooks that Zane will be spending time with his father the following week. When the goddess leaves, Brooks asks Zane why he did not tell her about spending time with his dad. He says he just wanted to spend a normal week with her, and she agrees to it, but he wants to return to Pájaros to investigate as Ixtab never said it was not a demon and never barred them from returning. Brooks says she won't let him, but Zane convinces her by saying Ixtab could cover the whole thing up and she agrees to a flyover.

When they do a flyover, everything seems normal, but Zane asks to get a closer look. Brooks reluctantly gets closer as they see normal birds this time and spot a demon digging something up. After it leaves, Zane lands to investigate and finds a stone box buried in the sand. He opens it to find a black shell with the symbol etched into it with gold strands on the bottom. He inspects the lid to see two demons have a party and a pair of familiar eyes. Brooks realizes the eyes are the same as what they faced in the cave as three demons appear. They sneak into the Caribbean Sea and Brooks drags them back to Isla Holbox. Zane thinks the eyes look like alien eyes as he realizes they are from Eyes in the Sky, a blog on extraterrestrial life by Ren Santiago. After theorizing that those demons might be part-alien, Zane calls Ren and leaves a message.

The Initiation (by Yoon Ha Lee)

Kim Min

At the office of the Thousand Worlds Domestic Security Ministry, siblings Kim Min and Kim Jun wait outside the office of Security Officer Seok to revive their first assignment. When they enter, Min asks what their first assignment will be, however Seok says she is not an agent yet and must undergo an eight-week training program at the Gray Institute and be given a temporary license upon graduating. She protests but Jun and Seok say it is the only way for her to become an agent. Min reluctantly agrees and shapeshifts into a sixteen-year-old after Seok says she needs to hide her age, as well as not tell anyone she is a fox spirit. Seok tells Jun to hide as he would upset others. Before she leaves, Seok asks that she hand over the Dragon Pearl. Min is reluctantly but hands it over after Seok says it will be safe with him until she graduates.

Upon arriving on Daeriseok, a gas giant with domed cities that houses the Gray Institute, Min eagerly gets out of her seat and is greeted by her instructor, Lee Bina. As Bina starts to show Min around, an alarm goes off indicating that the dome is breached. The two, along with another trainee named Hansoo, take action. Worried Jun might have inadvertently caused it, Min asks him to leave temporarily but he cannot as he is haunting her and would pass on if he is away for too long. After putting on vacuum suits and taking out a forcefield generator, Min suggests it is a problem with the meridian and the headmaster, Commandant Paik, asks for a progress report. Bina says it is under control for now and Paik asks to speak with the three. Once in her office, Piak asks for a status report. Bina gives the report and Piak reveals it was a test. After explaining how she takes drills a step further, she asks Min if she has any supernatural heritage, however Hansoo replays for her, and the Commandant dismisses the three. Hansoo shows Min to her quarters. When he leaves, Min tells Jun she thinks Piak is hiding something. Soon after Hansoo returns to gets her to introduce her to the rest of the trainees in their group, Duri, a non-binary dragon training to be a customs inspector, Chinsun, a female dokkaebi training to be a computer technician, and Haru, a girl training for combat. After that Hansoo says he wants to be an administrator as the group talk about their tests.

Over the next few days, Min and her teammates are briefed on different protocols and safety guidelines. On the third day they are tasked with inspecting a downed shuttle and finding out what caused it to crash. As they do, Duri starts to feel feint and Min notices they are growing. She talks to Jun, but he quickly vanishes. Min panics and thinks there is some kind anti ghost enchantment on the school and notices Duri has grown more. Soon they revert to their true form with Min noticing the same thing happening to her and Chinsun. Min asks Jun what is happening, but he doesn't know and leaves just in case he is causing it. After her fox form is revealed, the others are shocked to learn what she is, but they need all the help they can get and pay her little attention. They hear animal sounds and human screams from the other shuttle bays as Min says her handler wanted her heritage to be a secret. The group leaves, with Duri's immense size forcing them to stay behind, and they find other supernaturals panicking after being forced into their true forms. A trainee from a different group notices Min but thinks she is a dog. Min asks Jun, who has undergone a change in appearance, and the others notice him as well. They panic but calm down slightly when Min says he is her brother. Eventually they realize they forced transformations and loss of control might have something to do with the artifacts keeping the institute in orbit and agree to inform the Commandant.

They try to reach her but come up empty, Chinsun manages to hack into the system and get through. As they enter the elevator, Haru lays out a plan of action, having Min bite ankles if they are seen. They reach the Commandant's level and find everyone out cold and the door to the Commandant's office shut. Hansoo and Chinsun tend to the wounded as Min, Jun, and Haru approach the office cautiously. Just then the door flies off and a monsters will part from various supernatural species emerges, Min bites it as Haru shoots at it with blasters she took from downed technicians. After a while, Min realizes the creature is the Commandant and, hearing something in the vent, Min tells Haru to fire at it and Duri falls on the Commandant. The group goes into her office to find the artifacts going haywire and Duri manages to shut them down. After that the supernaturals could take human form and they realize she was stealing magic. But they all the thought it was a great initiation nonetheless and look forward to what happens in the future.

The Gum Baby Files (by Kwame Mbalia)

Gum Baby

When in Jackson, Mississippi, Gum Baby is listening to Tristan's message to the displaced Alkeans as Ayanna scolds her for listening to the message out loud, fearing they would be seen. Gum Baby then rests on Junior's head and the bus they were hiding behind pulls away. Ayanna uses one of Junior's stones to clean sap off her staff as best she can. The three see a group of campers are Junior and Ayanna's age about the enter the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum. As they plot their next move, the counselor, Ms. James, mistakes Ayanna and Junior for campers as Gum Baby hides behind Junior. The teens go with Ms. James as she takes Ayanna's bat and has Junior check in his bag. When they enter the museum, they fail to notice a gray cloaked figure close by. As they get into the elevator, Gum Baby rips herself free from Junior's hair, causing him to yelp and Ms. James takes notice of her. Ayanna says she is a stress relief object, but Ms. James does not allow her to keep Gum Baby for the trip and drops Gum Baby, Ayanna's bat, and Junior's pouch into baggage check in. As Ms. James escorts her companions to the elevator, Gum Baby notices a figure made out of gray cloth get in with them.

As Gum Baby struggles to get out of the bin, an old woman helps her out and introduce herself as Granny Z. As Granny Z explains how children are going missing and that she was stationed at the museum and cannot leave until her business is finished, Gum Baby mentions she saw something going after her friends. Granny Z promises to help her. Granny Z gives her a map and she sets out to find her friends. When she is in a hallway, struggling to read the map, she sees two people walking down as well talking about two new kids experiencing a power outage in the Evers exhibit. She heads into the security and, after seeing the monitors, realizes she has to be more careful. When she exits, Gum Baby comes face to face with a child. He is shocked but agrees not to mention her and she heads to the Evers exhibit. She arrives at the exhibit to find it empty and, after looking at a pillar with the exhibit's namesake, the lights go out. She takes a defensive stance and backs up into a button that triggers a video to play. After watching it, the ghost appears and floats over to a set of journals on display. After it touches one of the books while saying forget, it vanishes and Gum baby attacks it to stop it from touching another journal. The ghost vanishes as soon as the lights come back on and a security guard finds the exhibit covered in sap.

Gum Baby hides in a locker before he sees her and watches as he is joined by the museum director and a custodian. The director, Ms. Fields, asks the two what happened to the Hamer exhibit, confusing Gum Baby. They assume a kid did it as the custodian, Mr. Clyde, says it will take a week to clean. Ms. Fields leaves as she has Mr. Clyde and the security guard, Larry, clean it up. Gum Baby look at the map to find the name of the exhibit changing as if Evers never existed. Gum Baby follows Ms. Fields. She hides in the shadows until the director goes through a door, watches as anything related to Medgar Evers, the exhibit's former namesake, either vanishes or is replaced with something about Fannie Lou Hamer. Ms. Field's returns to the exhibit, followed by the ghost. It touches her as the exhibit becomes empty with a sign saying it is under construction. Gum Baby watches in horror as Larry drags the "culprits", Ayanna and Junior, and shows the director a sap covered stone.

Ms. Fields takes the teenagers to her office and Gum Baby watches as she scolds the two and says she is looming for their permission slips and will call their parents. She gets a call from Larry, who cannot find the permission slips, and Gum Baby enters to try and save them and that she found the ghost. However, they tell her to return to the lost and found before she gets them into more trouble. She returns to the Lost and Found and tells Granny Z no one has faith in her. Granny Z says sometimes one's purpose is not what they think it is and she just has to stick to it. Gum Baby gets an idea and goes to stop the ghost.

Gum Baby runs across the hall, throwing sap at the security cameras. When she reaches the stairs, she creates a slingshot out of sap flings herself to the third floor. When she reached the exhibit on Ida B. Wells, she sees Ms. Fields and Larry walking to the exhibit with Ayanna and Junior in tow. The ghost appears, visible to everyone, and drapes itself over the curator and security guard. As it stretches towards the printing press to erase Ida B. Wells, Gum Baby makes a replica of Ever's journal and says the names of Evers, Hamer, and Wells. Junior and Ayanna join in and the ghost goes to grab Gum Baby, however its tendril gets stuck on her, and Gum Baby fires a ball of sap at it.

In the lobby, Mr. Clyde wheels the sap covered ghost, believing it to be part of an exibit, as Ms. Fields demands answers from Junior and Ayanna after none of the counselors can verify if they are campers. Granny Z comes over with Ayanna's bat and Junior's bag and says they are with her, and their parents are coming soon. Ms. Fields accepts this and leaves. Granny Z says she will take them where they need to go and that someone wants to talk to them. Ayanna speaks into her staff and Mami Wata replays, says Tristan is missing.

The Demon Drum (by Rebecca Roanhorse)

Nizhoni Begay

At the Begay House, Nizhoni Begay is telling her younger brother Mac Begay about the All-Nations Assembly Powwow, which he had to miss due to breaking his arm while skateboarding. As she tells it Toni, a girl from their school's Ancestry Club, says she is being to dramatic as her friend Davery Descheny tells her to tone it down. She reluctantly does so.

Earlier that day, Nizhoni's father dropped her off somewhat late, earning her the annoyed glance of the other club members. She apologizes saying Davery's dad, who is driving them, is not present, but he enters soon after. After making sure they have lunch and spending money, they head out. As they drive away from the school, Nizhoni and Davery silently express their belief that no monsters will be at the powwow.

When they arrive, they are amazed by the sheer size of the crowd. Mr. Descheny tells them to stay in groups as he saves seats in the main arena. They look at the sections outside the arena, food vendors, hip hop, and merchandise. Davery suggests they try fry bread tacos and Nizhoni seconds him, however Toni is reluctant, her father ingraining a healthy diet into her. However, Davery convinces her to try one. Nizhoni, Davery, and Maya order fry bread while Darcy and Kody head to the hip hop showing. Toni does not order anything goes off on her own when she is asked to get napkins. Nizhoni gets the napkins and takes a bite of fry bread when she returns, but it tastes rancid to her while the others say it tastes fine. She hears a drum and they head to the hip hop venue. The performers, MC ThunderKat and DJ KareBare, have a muffled argument before starting their performance. Maya goes to check out the flea market. While the others like it, the music sounds like nails on a chalkboard to Nizhoni as she complains about the drumming getting louder, but the others do not hear a drum. Nizhoni leaves to check out the flea market to find something for her mother. As she is looking, she sees a crowd gathering as an argument breaks out. She recognizes one voice as Maya and shoves through the crowd to see what is happening. Maya explains the vendor jacked up the price of a pair of earrings from five dollars to ten as she gave her the money and refuses to take the earrings back. Nizhoni promises to get their friends to help them pool money for her as they leave, the drum beat also gets louder. Nizhoni and Maya meet back up to find the others just as the hip hop show is canceled. They begrudgingly head inside as Nizhoni pulls Davery behind. She explains that she senses something is off and Davery realizes that everything makes sense. As they think of a monster that can do something like that, they both realize it is the drums. They spot six when they go into the arena and decide to tell the others about Nizhoni's abilities and find Toni.

They find Toni in the back of the stands and Nizhoni tells everyone about her abilities and responsibilities as a monsterslayer. The others think she is crazy, but Davery says she is telling the truth. Maya, Kody, and Darcy believe her and agree to help as she explains one of the six drums is causing everything to go wrong. However, Toni feels she is crazy and opts not to help. The five then put Nizhoni's plan into action. The five make their way to the stage and wait for the intertribal dancing to start so that they could get on stage. They dance with the crowd and each test five of the drums, all five sound normal leaving the one Toni was supposed to inspect as the culprit. As if on que, Toni dances by and tests the drum, resulting in the wrong sound to come out and it starts to transform into a humanoid deer monster. Toni runs away screaming and Nizhoni tries to hit with a drumstick to no avail. After Davery believes drumsticks do not work on it, Toni returns with a blanket and a large water bottle. She squirts it and the monster shrinks to a fraction of its original size as Nizhoni wraps it in a blanket.

Mac interrupts the story, surprised no one got hurt, but Toni says his sister's dancing was dangerous enough. After Nizhoni guesses Toni got the water trick from her dad, the two laugh as Kody and Darcy mimic Toni's dance and she joins them. When Mac asks if Nizhoni brought him a souvenir, she shows him the defeated drum monster.

Bruto and the Freaky Flower (by Tehlor Kay Mejia)

Paola Santiago

A week before school starts, Paola Santiago is in her bedroom, bored after being confined to the apartment after saving her friend and helping La Llorona pass on. She sees Bruto resting by her door and sees if he wants to play. However he is unresponsive and Pao starts to worry and moves him to her bed. As she lists all the medical facts she memorized when thinking of a breed of dog to get, her mother walks by to say she is going to work. Pao hides Bruto under her covers and goes to her desk. Without opening her door, Pao says she is brushing up and eight grade science since she finished seventh grade the previous year during lunch. Her mom tells her not to leave as Señora Mata will know and heads to the bar. Pao uncovers Bruto, wishing he could talk, starts to see a cactus with red flowers by the banks of the deepest section of the Gila River. Pao is startled and breaks the connection. Realizing Bruto is showing her something, she asks him to continue. She sees other chupacabra puppies around the flowers. The images stop and Pao comes up with a plan. After changing in beige clothing, she scoops up Bruto and tries to sneak out, but Dante's abuela catches her and, not buying her excuse of walking Bruto, she tells Pao to go. Soon Dante Mata comes out to head to soccer practice, but after hearing Bruto is sick, he decides to help Pao and carries him for her. Señora Mata throws Dante her Arma del Alma and they head to the river.

Pao fills Dante in as they walk to the river, unsure where exactly the flowers are. As they walk, Bruto stays quiet and his body temperature drops. Pao fears he might die, but Dante distracts her by talking about different antics Bruto got in. They find the flowers just as the sun is about to set and Pao goes to get one, but she trips on a rock. When she gets up she notices that the rocks are moving and they are soon dodging rocks. Dante activates his soul weapon and hands it to a surprised Pao as he takes Bruto to safety. He smashes rock monsters until a howl comes out of the distance. Dante returns, tells her he hid Bruto in a hollow cactus. They watch as a pack of chupacabra puppies arrive and the rock monsters roll into the river. The puppies play as the middle schoolers decide how to get the flowers. She hands the soul weapon back to a worried Dante as she makes a mad dash for the flowers, the chupacabra puppies grows as she runs. She reaches the flowers and tries to pick one. However the ground shakes and the puppies flee. Pao starts to rise into the air as she realizes the flower is on the head of a giant monster. She loses her footing but not her grasp on the flower. Dante calls out in worry as the giant punches a nearby hill. Dante takes a battle stance as Pao takes out her knife and starts to cut the flower off the giant. A red liquid oozes out, disgusting Pao, but she keeps cutting until it is off. She falls to the ground, hurting herself, and goes to find Bruto. The flower rots quickly and she finds Bruto. She offers him the flower and he eats it, gaining energy as he eats. She is relieved that Bruto is alright and they rush to Dante to find him battling the monster and winning. She sees the puppies trying to force it into the river, but she realizes they will be crushed. Pao borrows the soul weapon and hits the giant’s left leg, knocking it into the water. When it falls in, the puppies devour the flowers. Pao and Dante meet back up and she wonders if Bruto would stay with his own kind or come back with them. Bruto comes back to them and they head back to the Riverside Palace Apartments.

The Loneliest Demon (by Sarwat Chadda)

Sikander Aziz

As he is preparing lunch for a customer, a demon stands outside Mo's, a demon demands Sikander Aziz fight her to the death. After days of the demon demanding a fight, and annoyed that Sargon is sunning himself on the roof, his parents tell him to humor her. He tells his father he does not need the shovel and they head out back. After freeing herself from the dumpster lid, the demon introduces herself as Rabisu, a one of Nergal's followers and a demon associated with discomfort and back pain. As Sik tells her he is immortal, Rabisu attacks. However he sidesteps and Rabisu hits three trash cans. Sik's mother comes out and scolds him for not showing compassion for Rabisu, referring to the demon as a Djinn, and takes her inside as she cries about not being able to kill anyone and has Sik clean up. As Sik protests, he questions how Rabisu was able to topple multiple trash cans at once. After finishing he returns to his apartment to find, to his horror, Rabisu wearing his best jeans and favorite Narvana T-shirt with a hole in the back. After asking what she wants, Rabisu explains how the other demons left for Kurnugi without her and how she was camped out at the Canal Street Subway station for weeks trying to open a gateway home. She asks Sik to help her and, at his mother’s silent urging, he reluctantly agrees. Sik calls Belet Amari, who is in London having tea with Elizabeth II, and asks for her advise on how to get to Kurnugi. She says Erishkigal has beefed up security and is not letting anyone in or out. After explaining that he encountered one of Nergal's demons and that he cannot kill her, she tells him to contact her brother Petar, a historian. She texts Sik his address and he and Rabisu head out.

Sik and Rabisu arrive at The House of Heroes, a comic book store, and enter. They are greeted by Petar and he takes them to his office. After explaining how modern heroes were inspired by myths around the world, he says that Gilgamesh was temporarily ruler of the land of the dead and anyone with his seal can pass through any realm he ruled over. Sik says he has the seal at home and Rabisu becomes overjoyed at the prospect that she could return home. Petar says to meet him at the United Nations building in an hour. They meet up in the visitors lobby and, in an attempt to get an elevator to themselves, they claim Rabisu is suffering from the sickness that infection New York the previous year. They succeed and Sik are Rabisu get in. Sik puts on the ring and pushes a button. Nothing happens and, after a series of prolonged sarcastic goodbyes, the doors close with Sik still inside. As the elevator descends, Sik tries desperately to get out. Soon it stops and the lights go out. They come back on and they hear countless heartbeats. Rabisu starts to panic, thinking they were banished for eternity. The doors start to open, and they see Petar in the United Nations lobby. After Petar says it did not work, they describe what they heard to him and Petar becomes unnerved. When Sik asks what “they” are, Rabisu says they are the Anunna. They head to a bench by the East River where Petar explains how the Anunna are beings who existed before the birth of the universe. After explaining the multiverse, Sik is surprised that it exists. Petar explains that the are safe as long as they do not meddle with the seven gates guarding the underworld. After telling Rabisu they can not take her home after all, she throws a tantrum and starts to cry when she learns Sik is immortal.

After thanking Petar, Sik and Rabisu head to Mo's. As they walk, Rabisu explains the fun times she and the other demons had together, such as one planting maggots in her head, another biting off her tail, and one throwing her in a lake of molten metal that turned her into a skeleton for a decade until her flesh grew back. Sik says her friends are toxic, but she says toxic friends are better then none. When they reach the deli, Sik is horrified to find it so backed up. He gives Rabisu the keys to let herself into the apartment and rushes over to help his parents, telling his mom he could not help Rabisu as a customer demands his food. After the last customer leaves, Sik and his mother head upstairs while his father cleans up. His mother asks him to check on Rabisu. He goes to his door and knocks, but gets no response. He goes to his mother, telling her Rabisu is asking for the impossible, but says he has done the impossible before. Sik goes back to his room and enters to find the window open. He searches for Gilgamesh's ring but does not find it. He realizes that Rabisu is going to Canel Street to get home.

Ski grabs Abubu and rushes to the ruined subway station as fast as he can. He hopes on a train on Spring Street and not long after the car stops and the power goes out. The riders remain calm for a few minutes before some start to get sick. Everyone starts to panic as Sik uses the shovel to break a window. Everyone gets out as Sik hears a noise and goes towards it. The father in he goes, the colder it gets. He bumps into something, upon inspection he realizes it is Rabisu covered in fresh brand marks. She tells Sik the Anunna were waiting in the space between words and attacks her when she opened a portal. She tells Sik they are still trying to figure out his world and to run, but he asks where the ring is. Rabisu says she dropped it and he says he will get it. Impressed by his heroism, she agrees to help Sik. After a mischief of rats passes them, they find the portal. As the Anunna take physical forms, Sik attacks as he looks for a ring. Rabisu finds it and goes for it. After nearly hitting a kid on a unicorn, Rabisu causes back pain in on the the Anunna before grabbing the ring. Sik falls into the multiverse, he uses Abubu to destroy the ring. Sik wakes up singed and missing his hair to Rabisu slapping him and the demon helps him to a nearby bench. After promising Rabisu he will get her home one day, he tells her to come with him.

When Sik returns home, his horrified mother practically shaves his head to give him a better haircut . Rabisu stays with Petar for a few days before heading to the deli. She pets Sargon while saying he disemboweled and ate her fellow demons. She returns his shirt, mended, and says she is going to explore the country. Sik gives her a Statue of Liberty T-shirt, her first ever present, and welcomes her to the United States of America.

My Night at the Gifted Carnival (by Graci Kim)

Riley Oh

As Riley Oh is waiting in line with the rest of her Saturday school class to enter the Gifted Carnival, her sister Hattie points out a kid on a unicorn flying through a crowd of Cheollima. As they watch their chaperone Joon reveals his gifted mark to the ticket taker and walking back with a large pile of maps and tickets. As the other kids cheer, Riley laments to herself on the events to come, seeing the carnival as something tantalizing as she is a saram, someone without magic. While she gets to experience it once a year, she feels like the carnival is the only night of the year she can experience what the other kids experience on a daily basis. Once inside, Joon hands out the maps and tickets while giving them a lecture about what to do if they loose something or get sick. He heads to the tent to watch a show as Hattie drags Riley to the performance tent as well. After ordering one of everything from the snack bar, the girls make their way to ringside seats and watch as the Ring Master, a Gumiho witch, entertains the crowd with illusions. After Hattie eats some of the snacks, she tries to get Riley to eat them. Riley refuses as her sister backs off. Soon the Ring Master vanishes and a woman from the Miru clan, Strongwoman Cho, appears in her place lifting a piano that the Ring Master appears out off. Soon after a Samjogo seer, Old Man Nam, appears asking for a volunteer from the audience. He picks Riley, but she refuses and he picks another volunteer instead, a girl named Aracely. He predicts that it is her brother Mateo's birthday, she came with him and her mother, gave cake to her dog, and he predicts something distressing will happen to her before she leaves and pulls her aside. Hattie tells Riley she needs to use the bathroom and hands her the remaining snacks as he leaves. Riley watches the rest of the show, but as she leaves she realizes Hattie has not returned.

Riley searches the port-a-potties to no success, but finds a trail of candy from Hattie's necklace and follows it to a tent. She enters and is amazed that it leads to a freezer sized room. Riley spots a building made of ice and looks into the window to find four life size figurines of children with a snowflake symbol on their forehead bound together by a red string. However she realizes they are real after seeing Aracely and panics, calling her sister’s name. She finds Hattie out cold, who explains she heard a scream after coming out of the bathroom and left a trail for Riley to follow and hit her head on a crate as she was running away when she wakes up. Hattie reveals that the Dalgyan Gwisin, the ghost of a vengeful mother who killed children after her child died and has been known to escape the realm of the dead, is behind it. Disturbed, Riley tells Hattie they need to save the kids and go to find Joon. They find Joon by the Ferris wheel, keeping an eye on Jennie Byun as she talks with some saram kids. They tell him the Dalgyal Gwisih is at the carnival abducting children, but he does not believe them and thinks it is a prank by a Gumiho. Hattie changes the subject and asks about a glass gavel with bronze bells with a snowflake insignia, an item that the Dalgyal Gwisin had with her. Joon says that before a soul can enter Heaven and apply to be reborn, the soul must be judged by all seven judges of the afterlife and, if found guilty of a crime, with serve time in that judge's hell and be branded with the insignia to ensure they do not escape. Before he can say more, he is forced to turn a pig back into a saram after Jennie gives them a potion. The Oh sisters look at each other, realizing they are on their own.

They make their way to the staff tent and sneak in when the guard leaves. They find Strongwoman Cho and the Ring Master and try to convince them to help save the kids. The strongwoman thinks it is a prank and has the guard, who has just returned, escort them out. However Riley thinks the have Old Man Nam read them to show they are telling the truth. The Ring Master agrees to let them try, but says they will be banished forever if they are lying. They wake up Old Man Nam and explain everything to him. He reads them and reveals they are telling the truth. They agree to help the sisters as they lead them to the imprisoned kids. The Oh sisters lead the Ring Master, Strongwoman Cho, and Old Man Nam to the tent where the kids are. The Ring Master confirms that the ice gavel was used on the kids and that they are still alive, but just barely, and says they need the gavel to free them. Strongwoman Cho goes to cut the string, but Old Man Nam says it is a bulgeun-sil, a string that binds fate, and they realize Dalgyan Gwisin wants to take the children to the Spiritrealm with her. They know they must come face to face with the ghost to get the gavel and they need to get her to think she won. Riley comes up with a plan to use illusions.

After creating the illusions, they take the kids away, however Dalgyan Gwisin comes back with two screaming kids, a boy and a girl, and they hide. The ghost takes the gavel out of her pocket and strikes the girl in the forehead. Riley screams when she sees Dalgyan Gwisih's featureless face, drawing the ghost's attention to her, and the boy escapes. Riley freezes in fear, only running when Hattie draws the ghost's attention to her and is frozen. Strongwoman Cho tosses a crate at the ghost as the Ring Master makes herself look like Riley to distract the ghost as Old Man Nam fails to lasso the ghost. Riley unknowingly runs towards the ice structure and is cornered. As Dalgyan Gwisih approaches, Riley remembers there is an incantation that returns things to where they belong. After the performances body slam the ghost the the group, Riley tells them the incantation. They reluctantly say it as Dalgyan Gwisin is sent back to the Hell of Infinite Ice. However the gavel is vanishing as well. Riley manages to free all the kids just before the gavel vanishes. The adults congratulate Riley, saying she has a bright future in magic. This gets to her as Hattie hugs her. They say their goodbyes to the performers and kids before meeting up with Joon and the others.

My Life as a Child Outlaw (by Rick Riordan)

As eight year old Finn McCumhail is resting in his tent, Bodbmall, one of his foster mothers, tells him fifty members of Clan Morna are coming for him and he must flee. He says he can fight, but Bodbmall insists he run as she holds them off. As Finn runs, he encounters the Líath Lúcachra, his other foster mother. Finn says he is running downstream to get away from the Clan Morna, but she says they are coming from downstream and tells the boy to go east and that she and Bodbmall will reunite with him one day. Concerned by her words, Finn runs as he only has a spear. He inadvertently runs off a cliff, but a donkey breaks his fall only to fall off and hit his head. Finn hears a group of men talking about him as he passes out. Finn wakes up riding on the men's donkey. Thinking they might be slavers; he keeps still until they stop. However, he notices he is not bound. When they stop, Finn tries to run, but cannot as his legs are half asleep. The men, who are all carrying tools and covers in pockmarks and rashes, invite him to stay for dinner and Finn accepts, telling them his name is Demne. He realizing they are áes dána, traveling craftsmen. The travelers introduce themselves as Futh, Ruth, Regna, Madhfeá, Ailbe, and Rogein. Fin catches a rabbit for dinner and the áes dána sing about the Battle of Cnucha, where the leader of Clan Morna decapitated Finn's father. After dinner Finn decides to travel with the áes dána.

Finn spends the next six weeks traveling with the men, learning their trades and losing his hair to disease before growing back. However as they finish helping a man as they travel through the Crotta Mountains, he warns them of a robber killing travelers and to find another way around. The group ignored the man and heads forward. They spot the robber charging at them in broad daylight and kills all but Finn, who wounds his leg. The robber, impressed by Finn's skills, asks for his name and if anyone can pay a ransom for him. Finn withholds his name but says Bodbmall and the Líath Lúcachra raised him. After learning this the robber introduces himself as Fíacail and drafts Finn into becoming his assistant. Finn spends several months with Fíacail, cleaning loot and learning to fight with a sword and to better throw a spear. A year after being separated from his foster mothers, the three reunite as Fíacail lets the women take him, but keeps the boys weapons. Finn and his foster mothers then return to Slíab Bladma.

They return to the forest they fled, but in a different spot, and Finn is told to go do his chores. As he does, he thinks of the year he spent away from his foster mothers, longing to experience something like that. Finn desires to take his father’s place as the leader of the Fianna and wipe out the Clan Morna. He eventually asks Bodbmall to teach him to be a druid, but loses interest after learning he must memorize the history of every clan in Ireland. The Líath Lúcachru refuses to teach him new fighting techniques as her feet hurt. Finn eventually asks about the man who betrayed his father, but they claim to not know his name and only know that he fled to Greece. As his foster mothers keep making excuses to not move their camp, Finn spends more and more time exploring the woods, often spending a couple of days away at a time. During one of these outings, he finds a large settlement, Mag Life, and sees twenty boys his age play a game of hurling. Ignoring his better judgement, he introduces himself as Demne and asks them if he can play with them. The leader of the group, Mahan, puts him on the team opposite him, captained by a boy named Lugaid. When they start, Finn scores multiple goals and breaks the opposing teams bones. At Lugaid's urging, Finn runs into the woods before the other boys beat him. He returns the following day and Mahan reluctantly agrees to let him play. He does not break any bones and scores goals again, but the boys are still Leary of him. Finn return again where Mahan has Finn play against more and more boys. When Finn returns again Mahan says he told his father about him and was told to kill the boy on sight. Finn escapes into the woods. He lies low for a few weeks before returning in the summer, Finn finds the boys playing in a lake and asks to join them. They tell him to leave but Finn get in the water anyway. The boys try to drown him and he fights back, after escaping their grasp most of the boys are either unconscious or dead, including Lugaid, and Finn leaves Mag Life.

Shortly after turning ten, Finn and his foster mothers spot a heard of deer as they dry out badger hide. Finn is surprised that his foster mothers do not want to hunt them, so he does so. He returns with two stags and he notices his foster mothers watching him butcher the carcasses. When Finn asks them if they want it get married to have an easier life, they laugh and say they enjoy the equality their lifestyle brings them and marriage would ruin it. The Líath Lúcachru brings up his father as an example before Bodbmall scolds her. Finn then fears he will be the one to care for them for the remainder of his life.

Soon after the Líath Lúcachru returns after a week long absence to inform Finn and Bodbmall that Clan Morna knows where he is after speaking with villagers at Mag Life. His foster mothers tell Finn to head to Benntraige as the king will give him work. Finn runs as his foster mothers hold off the Morna. Finn travels west for a few days before reaching Loch Léin, the home of the Benntraige. Finn easily gets an audience with the king, who asks what he can do. Finn says he can hunt and returns with a dozen deer. Impressed, the king remarks that he knew a man who could do the same thing, Cumhail, and says he knows of one of his son's working for the King of Scotland. Finn inadvertently reveals he is a son of Cumhail and the king forces himself to turn the boy away from the safety of his tribe.

Finn McCumhail

After staying with a shepherd and his family for a few days in Ciarraige for a few days they directly him to their king, who hires him on the spot as a cleaner. He is content with this life until the king asks him to play a game of fidchell. Finn wins seventeen times in a row and the king realizes he is Cumhail's son. The king says his uncle Crimall is hiding in the wilderness of Connacht with what is left of Cumhail's forces before kicking Finn out. Within a week of learning of his uncle, Finn comes across Lóchan, the chief blacksmith of the Uí Chúanach tribe, and his daughter Cruithne. The smith agrees to take him on as his apprentice and never asks for Finn's name. Soon Cruithne asks Finn to kiss her and the two start to date. Eventually Lóchan tells Finn to stay away from Béo, a wild boar terrorizing the country side. Finn then asks Lóchan to make him some spears for “self defense”. Finn goes out early the next day to kill the boar. However Béo finds him first. It takes Finn three spears, but he manages to kill Béo and spends the rest of the day cutting off the head. He returns expected praise, however Lóchan scolds him for missing a day’s work and Cruithne is repulsed by the head. The father and daughter pack him and bag and tell Finn not to return as Cruithne says she will instead marry a shepherd from a neighboring village. Finn leaves heartbroken.

After traveling for a few days, Finn comes across a sobbing woman who says her son was killed. Finn decides to avenge her son's death and the woman points him in the direction of the killer and Finn goes off. He finds the man, who looks familiar to him, and, gathering all the fear and rag that has built up in him in his decade of life, confronts the man. The man says he knew Finn would come as Finn throws his spear and impales the man, suddenly the man's form shifts and turns into the Líath Lúcachru. A shocked Finn soon sees a white bag, the bag that was stolen from his father before be was killed, and realizes that the Líath Lúcachru betrayed his father. With her dying breath, she says she was saving it for him and to seek out his uncle. She dies before Finn can learn if she truly cared for him. Finn buries his foster mother and seeks out his uncle.

Characters

Calamity Juice

Beware the Grove of True Love

The Cave of Doom

The Initiation

The Gum Baby Files

The Demon Drum

Bruto and the Freaky Flower

The Loneliest Demon

My Night at the Gifted Carnival

My Life as a Child Outlaw

Trivia

  • This is the first and only anthology book of Rick Riordan Presents.
  • The only illustrations in the book that do not appear on the inside or back cover are the unicorn from Calamity Juice and the drum from The Demon Drum.
  • Despite sources suggesting otherwise, Tristan Strong doesn't actually appear in this book.
  • My Night at the Gifted Carnival is set a year before the events of The Last Fallen Star.[12]
  • In Calamity Juice, while Sal Vidon and Norberto are chasing Gladis Machado and Carmita through the multiverse, Gum Baby makes a cameo. Zane Obispo, Sikander Aziz, and Riley Oh also witness Sal and Norberto. This at least implies that the Camp Half-Blood series and all the universes in the Rick Riordan Presents are part of the multiverse.

References

Rick Riordan Presents
Pandava Quintet: Aru Shah and the End of Time | Aru Shah and the Song of Death | Aru Shah and the Tree of Wishes | Aru Shah and the City of Gold
Storm Runner Trilogy: The Storm Runner | The Fire Keeper | The Shadow Crosser
Shadow Bruja Duology: Lords of Night
Thousand Worlds series: Dragon Pearl | Tiger Honor
Sal & Gabi Duology: Sal & Gabi Break the Universe | Sal & Gabi Fix the Universe
Tristan Strong Trilogy: Tristan Strong Punches a Hole in the Sky | Tristan Strong Destroys the World | Tristan Strong Keeps Punching
Paola Santiago series: Paola Santiago and the River of Tears | Paola Santiago and the Forest of Nightmares | Paola Santiago and the Sanctuary of Shadows
The Gifted Clans series: The Last Fallen Star | The Last Fallen Moon | The Last Fallen Realm
Pahua Moua series: Pahua and the Soul Stealer | Pahua and the Dragon's Secret
Serwa Boateng series: Serwa Boateng's Guide to Vampire Hunting
Outlaw Saints: Ballad & Dagger
Winston Chu Duology: Winston Chu Versus the Whimsies
Moko Magic Duology: Moko Magic
Stand Alone Novels: Race to the Sun | City of the Plague God
Others: The Cursed Carnival and Other Calamities: New Stories About Mythic Heroes
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