Wednesday, June 13, 2012

The Sea of Monsters - Chapter 19

Chapter 19

 We arrived in Long Island just after Clarisse, thanks to the centaurs' travel powers. I rode on Chiron's
back, but we didn't talk much, especially not about Kronos. I knew it had been difficult for Chiron to tell
me. I didn't want to push him with more questions. I mean, I've met plenty of embar-rassing parents, but
Kronos, the evil titan lord who wanted to destroy Western Civilization? Not the kind of dad you invited
to school for career day.
 When we got to camp, the centaurs were anxious to meet Dionysus. They'd heard he threw some really
wild par-ties, but they were disappointed. The wine god was in no mood to celebrate as the whole camp
gathered at the top of Half-Blood Hill.
 The camp had been through a hard two weeks. The arts and crafts cabin had burned to the ground from
an attack by aDraco Aionius  (which as near as I could figure was Latin for
"really-big-lizard-with-breath-that-blows-stuff-up"). The Big House's rooms were overflowing with
wounded. The kids in the Apollo cabin, who were the best healers, had been working overtime
performing first aid. Everybody looked weary and battered as we crowded around Thalia's tree.
 The moment Clarisse draped the Golden Fleece over the lowest bough, the moonlight seemed to
brighten, turn-ing from gray to liquid silver. A cool breeze rustled in the branches and rippled through the
grass, all the way into the valley. Everything came into sharper focus—the glow of the fireflies down in
the woods, the smell of the straw-berry fields, the sound of the waves on the beach.
 Gradually, the needles on the pine tree started turning from brown to green.
 Everybody cheered. It was happening slowly, but there could be no doubt—the Fleece's magic was
seeping into the tree, filling it with new power and expelling the poison.
 Chiron ordered a twenty-four/seven guard duty on the hilltop, at least until he could find an appropriate
monster to protect the Fleece. He said he'd place an ad inOlympus Weekly right away.
 In the meantime, Clarisse was carried on her cabin mates' shoulders down to the amphitheater, where
she was honored with a laurel wreath and a lot of celebrating around the campfire.
 Nobody gave Annabeth or me a second look. It was as if we'd never left. In a way, I guess that was the
best thank-you anyone could give us, because if they admitted we'd snuck out of camp to do the quest,
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they'd have to expel us. And really, I didn't want any more attention. It felt good to be just one of the
campers for once.
 Later that night, as we were roasting s'mores and listen-ing to the Stoll brothers tell us a ghost story
about an evil king who was eaten alive by demonic breakfast pastries, Clarisse shoved me from behind
and whispered in my ear, "Just because you were cool one time, Jackson, don't think you're off the hook
with Ares. I'm still waiting for the right opportunity to pulverize you."
 I gave her a grudging smile.
 "What?" she demanded.
 "Nothing," I said. "Just good to be home."
 The next morning, after the party ponies headed back to Florida, Chiron made a surprise announcement:
the chariot races would go ahead as scheduled. We'd all figured they were history now that Tantalus was
gone, but completing them did feel like the right thing to do, especially now that Chiron was back and the
camp was safe.
 Tyson wasn't too keen on the idea of getting back in a chariot after our first experience, but he was
happy to let me team up with Annabeth. I would drive, Annabeth would defend, and Tyson would act as
our pit crew. While I worked with the horses, Tyson fixed up Athena's chariot and added a whole bunch
of special modifi-cations.
 We spent the next two days training like crazy. Annabeth and I agreed that if we won, the prize of no
chores for the rest of the month would be split between our two cabins. Since Athena had more
campers, they would get most of the time off, which was fine by me. I didn't care about the prize. I just
wanted to win.
 The night before the race, I stayed late at the stables. I was talking to our horses, giving them one final
brushing, when somebody right behind me said, "Fine animals, horses. Wish I'd thought of them."
 A middle-aged guy in a postal carrier outfit was leaning against the stable door. He was slim, with curly
black hair under his white pith helmet, and he had a mailbag slung over his shoulder.
 "Hermes?" I stammered.
 "Hello, Percy. Didn't recognize me without my jogging clothes?"
 "Uh ..." I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to kneel or buy stamps from him or what. Then it
occurred to me why he must be here. "Oh, listen, Lord Hermes, about Luke ..."
 The god arched his eyebrows.
 "Uh, we saw him, all right," I said, "but—"
 "You weren't able to talk sense into him?"
 "Well, we kind of tried to kill each other in a duel to the death."
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 "I see. You tried the diplomatic approach."
 "I'm really sorry. I mean, you gave us those awesome gifts and everything. And I know you wanted
Luke to come back. But ... he's turned bad.Really bad. He said he feels like you abandoned him."
 I waited for Hermes to get angry. I figured he'd turn me into a hamster or something, and I did not want
to spend any more time as a rodent.
 Instead, he just sighed. "Do you ever feel your father abandoned you,  Percy?"
 Oh, man.
 I wanted to say, "Only a few hundred times a day." I hadn't spoken to Poseidon since last summer.  I'd
never been to his underwater palace. And then there was the whole thing with Tyson—no warning, no
explanation. Justboom, you have a brother. You'd think that deserved a little heads-up phone call or
 The more I thought about it, the angrier I got. I realized I did want recognition for the quest I'd
completed, but not from the other campers. I wanted my dad to say something. To notice me.
 Hermes readjusted the mailbag on his shoulder. "Percy, the hardest part about being a god is that you
must often act indirectly, especially when it comes to your own children. If we were to intervene every
time our children had a problem … well, that would only create more problems and more resentment.
But I believe if you give it some thought, you will see that Poseidonhas been paying attention to you. He
has answered your prayers. I can only hope that some day, Luke may realize the same about me.
Whether you feel like you succeeded or not, you reminded Luke who he was. You spoke to him."
 "I tried to kill him."
 Hermes shrugged. "Families are messy. Immortal families are eternally messy. Sometimes the best we
can do is to remind each other that we're related, for better or worse … and try to keep the maiming and
killing to a minimum."
 It didn't sound like much of a recipe for the perfect family. Then again, as I thought about my quest, I
realized maybe Hermes was right. Poseidon had sent the hippocampi to help us. He'd given me powers
over the sea that I'd never known about before. And there was Tyson. Had Poseidon brought us
together on purpose? How many times had Tyson saved my life this summer?
 In the distance, the conch horn sounded, signaling curfew.
 "You should get to bed," Hermes said. "I've helped you get into quite enough trouble this summer
already. I really only came to make this delivery."
 "A delivery?"
 "I am the messenger of the gods, Percy." He took an electronic signature pad from his mailbag and
handed it to me. "Sign there, please."
 I picked up the stylus before realizing it was entwined with a pair of tiny green snakes. "Ah!" I dropped
the pad.
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 Ouch, said George.
 Really, Percy, Martha scolded.Would you want to be dropped on the floor of a horse stable?
 "Oh, uh, sorry." I didn't much like touching snakes, but I picked up the pad and the stylus again. Martha
and George wriggled under my fingers, forming a kind of pencil grip like the ones my special ed teacher
made me use in second grade.
 Did you bring me a rat? George asked.
 "No …" I said. "Uh, we didn't find any."
 What about a guinea pig?
 George! Martha chided.Don't tease the boy.
 I signed my name and gave the pad back to Hermes.
 In exchange, he handed me a sea-blue envelope.
 My fingers trembled. Even before I opened it, I could tell it was from my father. I could sense his power
in the cool blue paper, as if the envelope itself had been folded out of an ocean wave.
 "Good luck tomorrow," Hermes said. "Fine team of horses you have there, though you'll excuse me if I
root for the Hermes cabin."
 And don't be too discouraged when you read it, dear, Martha told me.He doeshave your interests at
 "What do you mean?" I asked.
 Don't mind her, George said. And next time, remember, snakes work for tips.
 "Enough, you two," Hermes said. "Good-bye, Percy. For now."
 Small white wings sprouted from his pith helmet. He began to glow, and I knew enough about the gods
to avert my eyes before he revealed his true divine form. With a brilliant white flash he was gone, and I
was alone with the horses.
 I stared at the blue envelope in my hands. It was addressed in strong but elegant handwriting that I'd
seen once before, on a package Poseidon had sent me last summer.
 Percy Jackson
 c/o Camp Half-Blood
 Farm Road 3.141
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 Long Island, New York 11954
 An actual letter from my father. Maybe he would tell me I'd done a good job getting the Fleece. He'd
explain about Tyson, or apologize for not talking to me sooner. There were so many things that I wanted
that letter to say.
 I opened the envelope and unfolded the paper.
 Two simple words were printed in the middle of the page:
 Brace Yourself
 The next morning, everybody was buzzing about the chari-ot race, though they kept glancing nervously
toward the sky like they expected to see Stymphalian birds gathering. None did. It was a beautiful
summer day with blue sky and plenty of sunshine. The camp had started to look the way it should look:
the meadows were green and lush; the white columns gleamed on the Greek buildings; dryads played
happily in the woods.
 And I was miserable. I'd been lying awake all night, thinking about Poseidon's warning.
 Brace yourself.
 I mean, he goes to the trouble of writing a letter, and he writes two words?
 Martha the snake had told me not to feel disappointed. Maybe Poseidon had a reason for being so
vague. Maybe he didn't know exactly what he was warning me about, but he sensed something big was
about to happen—something that could completely knock me off my feet unless I was prepared. It was
hard, but I tried to turn my thoughts to the race.
 As Annabeth and I drove onto the track, I couldn't help admiring the work Tyson had done on the
Athena chariot. The carriage gleamed with bronze reinforcements. The wheels were realigned with
magical suspension so we glided along with hardly a bump. The rigging for the horses was so perfectly
balanced that the team turned at the slightest tug of the reins.
 Tyson had also made us two javelins, each with three buttons on the shaft. The first button primed the
javelin to explode on impact, releasing razor wire that would tangle and shred an opponent's wheels. The
second button pro-duced a blunt (but still very painful) bronze spearhead designed to knock a driver out
of his carriage. The third button brought up a grappling hook that could be used to lock onto an enemy's
chariot or push it away.
 I figured we were in pretty good shape for the race, but Tyson still warned me to be careful. The other
chariot teams had plenty of tricks up their togas.
 "Here," he said, just before the race began.
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 He handed me a wristwatch. There wasn't anything spe-cial about it—just a white-and-silver clock face,
a black leather strap—but as soon as I saw it I realized that this is what I'd seen him tinkering on all
 I didn't usually like to wear watches. Who cared what time it was? But I couldn't say no to Tyson.
 "Thanks, man." I put it on and found it was surprisingly light and comfortable. I could hardly tell I was
wearing it.
 "Didn't finish in time for the trip," Tyson mumbled. "Sorry, sorry."
 "Hey, man. No big deal."
 "If you need protection in race," he advised, "hit the button."
 "Ah, okay." I didn't see how keeping time was going to help a whole lot, but I was touched that Tyson
was con-cerned. I promised him I'd remember the watch. "And, hey, um, Tyson ..."
 He looked at me.
 "I wanted to say, well ..." I tried to figure out how to apologize for getting embarrassed about him before
the quest, for telling everyone he wasn't my real brother. It wasn't easy to find the words.
 "I know what you will tell me," Tyson said, looking ashamed. "Poseidon did care for me after all."
 "Uh, well—"
 "He sent you to help me. Just what I asked for."
 I blinked. "You asked Poseidon for ... me?"
 "For a friend," Tyson said, twisting his shirt in his hands. "Young Cyclopes grow up alone on the streets,
learn to make things out of scraps. Learn to survive."
 "But that's so cruel!"
 He shook his head earnestly. "Makes us appreciate blessings, not be greedy and mean and fat like
Polyphemus. But I got scared. Monsters chased me so much, clawed me sometimes—"
 "The scars on your back?"
 A tear welled in his eye. "Sphinx on Seventy-second Street. Big bully. I prayed to Daddy for help. Soon
the peo-ple at Meriwether found me. Met you. Biggest blessing ever. Sorry I said Poseidon was mean.
He sent me a brother."
 I stared at the watch that Tyson had made me.
 "Percy!" Annabeth called. "Come on!"
 Chiron was at the starting line, ready to blow the conch.
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 "Tyson ..." I said.
 "Go," Tyson said. "You will win!"
 "I—yeah, okay, big guy. We'll win this one for you." I climbed on board the chariot and got into position
just as Chiron blew the starting signal.
 The horses knew what to do. We shot down the track so fast I would've fallen out if my arms hadn't
been wrapped in the leather reins. Annabeth held on tight to the rail. The wheels glided beautifully. We
took the first turn a full chariot-length ahead of Clarisse, who was busy trying to fight off a javelin attack
from the Stoll brothers in the Hermes chariot.
 "We've got 'em!" I yelled, but I spoke too soon.
 "Incoming!" Annabeth yelled. She threw her first javelin in grappling hook mode, knocking away a
lead-weighted net that would have entangled us both. Apollo's chariot had come up on our flank. Before
Annabeth could rearm her-self, the Apollo warrior threw a javelin into our right wheel. The javelin
shattered, but not before snapping some of our spokes. Our chariot lurched and wobbled. I was sure the
wheel would collapse altogether, but we somehow kept going.
 I urged the horses to keep up the speed. We were now neck and neck with Apollo. Hephaestus was
coming up close behind. Ares and Hermes were falling behind, riding side by side as Clarisse went
sword-on-javelin with Connor Stoll.
 If we took one more hit to our wheel, I knew we would capsize.
 "You're mine!" the driver from Apollo yelled. He was a first-year camper. I didn't remember his name,
but he sure was confident.
 "Yeah, right!" Annabeth yelled back.
 She picked up her second javelin—a real risk consider-ing we still had one full lap to go—and threw it
at the Apollo driver.
 Her aim was perfect. The javelin grew a heavy spear point just as it caught the driver in the chest,
knocking him against his teammate and sending them both toppling out of their chariot in a backward
somersault. The horses felt the reins go slack and went crazy, riding straight for the crowd. Campers
scrambled for cover as the horses leaped the corner of the bleachers and the golden chariot flipped over.
The horses galloped back toward their stable, dragging the upside-down chariot behind them.
 I held our own chariot together through the second turn, despite the groaning of the right wheel. We
passed the starting line and thundered into our final lap.
 The axle creaked and moaned. The wobbling wheel was making us lose speed, even though the horses
were respond-ing to my every command, running like a well-oiled machine.
 The Hephaestus team was still gaining.
 Beckendorf grinned as he pressed a button on his com-mand console. Steel cables shot out of the front
of his mechanical horses, wrapping around our back rail. Our chariot shuddered as Beckendorf's winch
system started working—pulling us backward while Beckendorf pulled himself forward.
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 Annabeth cursed and drew her knife. She hacked at the cables but they were too thick.
 "Can't cut them.'" she yelled.
 The Hephaestus chariot was now dangerously close, their horses about to trample us underfoot.
 "Switch with me!" I told Annabeth. "Take the reins!"
 "Trust me!"
 She pulled herself to the front and grabbed the reins. I turned, trying hard to keep my footing, and
uncapped Riptide.
 I slashed down and the cables snapped like kite string. We lurched forward, but Beckendorf's driver
just swung his chariot to our left and pulled up next to us. Beckendorf drew his sword. He slashed at
Annabeth, and I parried the blade away.
 We were coming up on the last turn. We'd never make it. I needed to disable the Hephaestus chariot
and get it out of the way, but I had to protect Annabeth, too. Just because Beckendorf was a nice guy
didn't mean he wouldn't send us both to the infirmary if we let our guard down.
 We were neck and neck now, Clarisse coming up from behind, making up for lost time.
 "See ya, Percy!" Beckendorf yelled. "Here's a little part-ing gift!"
 He threw a leather pouch into our chariot. It stuck to the floor immediately and began billowing green
 "Greek fire!" Annabeth yelled.
 I cursed. I'd heard stories about what Greek fire could do. I figured we had maybe ten seconds before it
 "Get rid of it!" Annabeth shouted, but I couldn't. Hephaestus's chariot was still alongside, waiting until the
last second to make sure their little present blew up. Beckendorf was keeping me busy with his sword. If
I let my guard down long enough to deal with the Greek fire, Annabeth would get sliced and we'd crash
anyway. I tried to kick the leather pouch away with my foot, but I couldn't. It was stuck fast.
 Then I remembered the watch.
 I didn't know how it could help, but I managed to punch the stopwatch button. Instantly, the watch
changed. It expanded, the metal rim spiraling outward like an old-fashioned camera shutter, a leather
strap wrapping around my forearm until I was holding a round war shield four feet wide, the inside soft
leather, the outside polished bronze engraved with designs I didn't have time to examine.
 All I knew: Tyson had come through. I raised the shield, and Beckendorf's sword clanged against it. His
blade shat-tered.
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 "What?" he shouted. "How—"
 He didn't have time to say more because I knocked him in the chest with my new shield and sent him
flying out of his chariot, tumbling in the dirt.
 I was about use Riptide to slash at the driver when Annabeth yelled, "Percy!"
 The Greek fire was shooting sparks. I shoved the tip of my sword under the leather pouch and flipped it
up like a spatula. The firebomb dislodged and flew into the Hephaestus chariot at the driver's feet. He
 In a split second the driver made the right choice: he dove out of the chariot, which careened away and
exploded in green flames. The metal horses seemed to short-circuit. They turned and dragged the burning
wreckage back toward Clarisse and the Stoll brothers, who had to swerve to avoid it.
 Annabeth pulled the reins for the last turn. I held on, sure we would capsize, but somehow she brought
us through and spurred the horses across the finish line. The crowd roared.
 Once the chariot stopped, our friends mobbed us. They started chanting our names, but Annabeth yelled
over the noise: "Hold up! Listen! It wasn't just us!"
 The crowd didn't want to be quiet, but Annabeth made herself heard: "We couldn't have done it without
somebody else! We couldn't have won this race or gotten the Fleece or saved Grover or anything! We
owe our lives to Tyson, Percy's ..."
 "Brother!" I said, loud enough for everybody to hear. "Tyson, my baby brother."
 Tyson blushed. The crowd cheered. Annabeth planted a kiss on my cheek. The roaring got a lot louder
after that. The entire Athena cabin lifted me and Annabeth and Tyson onto their shoulders and carried us
toward the winner's platform, where Chiron was waiting to bestow the laurel wreaths.

The Sea of Monsters - Chapter 20

Chapter 20

 That afternoon was one of the happiest I'd ever spent at camp, which maybe goes to show, you never
know when your world is about to be rocked to pieces.
 Grover announced that he'd be able to spend the rest of the summer with us before resuming his quest
for Pan. His bosses at the Council of Cloven Elders were so impressed that he hadn't gotten himself
killed and had cleared the way for future searchers, that they granted him a two-month fur-lough and a
new set of reed pipes. The only bad news: Grover insisted on playing those pipes all afternoon long, and
his musical skills hadn't improved much. He played "YMCA," and the strawberry plants started going
crazy, wrapping around our feet like they were trying to strangle us. I guess I couldn't blame them.
 Grover told me he could dissolve the empathy link between us, now that we were face to face, but I told
him I'd just as soon keep it if that was okay with him. He put down his reed pipes and stared at me. "But,
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if I get in trouble again, you'll be in danger, Percy! You could die!"
 "If you get in trouble again, I want to know about it. And I'll come help you again, G-man. I wouldn't
have it any other way."
 In the end he agreed not to break the link. He went back to playing "YMCA" for the strawberry plants.
I didn't need an empathy link with the plants to know how they felt about it.
 Later on during archery class, Chiron pulled me aside and told me he'd fixed my problems with
Meriwether Prep. The school no longer blamed me for destroying their gym-nasium. The police were no
longer looking for me.
 "How did you manage that?" I asked.
 Chiron's eyes twinkled. "I merely suggested that the mortals had seen something different on that day—a
fur-nace explosion that was not your fault."
 "You just said that and they bought it?"
 "I manipulated the Mist. Some day, when you're ready, I'll show how it's done."
 "You mean, I can go back to Meriwether next year?"
 Chiron raised his eyebrows. "Oh, no, they've still expelled you. Your headmaster, Mr. Bonsai, said you
had—how did he put it?—un-groovy karma that disrupted the school's educational aura. But you're not
in any legal trou-ble, which was a relief to your mother. Oh, and speaking of your mother ..."
 He unclipped his cell phone from his quiver and handed it to me. "It's high time you called her."
 The worst part was the beginning—the
amp-without-permission-going-on-dangerous-quests-and-scaring-me-half-to-death" part.
 But finally she paused to catch her breath. "Oh, I'm just glad you're safe!"
 That's the great thing about my mom. She's no good at staying angry. She tries, but it just isn't in her
 "I'm sorry, Mom," I told her. "I won't scare you again."
 "Don't promise me that, Percy. You know very well it  will only get worse." She tried to sound casual
about it, but I could tell she was pretty shaken up.
 I wanted to say something to make her feel better, but I knew she was right. Being a half-blood, I would
always be doing things that scared her. And as I got older, the dangers would just get greater.
 "I could come home for a while," I offered.
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 "No, no. Stay at camp. Train. Do what you need to do. But you will come home for the next school
 "Yeah, of course. Uh, if there's any school that will take me."
 "Oh, we'll find something, dear," my mother sighed. "Some place where they don't know us yet."
 As for Tyson, the campers treated him like a hero. I would've been happy to have him as my cabin mate
forever, but that evening, as we were sitting on a sand dune overlooking the Long Island Sound, he made
an announcement that com-pletely took me by surprise.
 "Dream came from Daddy last night," he said. "He wants me to visit."
 I wondered if he was kidding, but Tyson really didn't know how to kid. "Poseidon sent you a dream
 Tyson nodded. "Wants me to go underwater for the rest of the summer. Learn to work at Cyclopes'
forges. He called it an inter—an intern—"
 "An internship?"
 "Yes." I let that sink in. I'll admit, I felt a little jealous. Poseidon had never invited me underwater.  But
then I thought, Tyson was going?  Just like that?
 "When would you leave?" I asked.
 "Now. Like ... now  now?"
 I stared out at the waves in the Long Island Sound. The water was glistening red in the sunset.
 "I'm happy for you, big guy," I managed. "Seriously."
 "Hard to leave my new brother," he said with a tremble in his voice. "But I want to make things.
Weapons for the camp. You will need them."
 Unfortunately, I knew he was right. The Fleece hadn't solved all the camp's problems. Luke was still out
there, gathering an army aboard the Princess Andromeda. Kronos was still re-forming in his golden
coffin. Eventually, we would have to fight them.
 "You'll make the best weapons ever," I told Tyson. I held up my watch proudly. "I bet they'll tell good
time, too."
 Tyson sniffled. "Brothers help each other."
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 "You're my brother," I said. "No doubt about it."
 He patted me on the back so hard he almost knocked me down the sand dune. Then he wiped a tear
from his cheek and stood to go. "Use the shield well."
 "I will, big guy."
 "Save your life some day."
 The way he said it, so matter-of-fact, I wondered if that Cyclops eye of his could see into the future.
 He headed down to the beach and whistled. Rainbow, the hippocampus, burst out of the waves. I
watched the two of them ride off together into the realm of Poseidon.
 Once they were gone, I looked down at my new wristwatch. I pressed the button and the shield spiraled
out to full size. Hammered into the bronze were pictures in Ancient Greek style, scenes from our
adventures this sum-mer. There was Annabeth slaying a Laistrygonian dodgeball player, me fighting the
bronze bulls on Half-Blood Hill, Tyson riding Rainbow toward the Princess Andromeda, the CSS
Birmingham  blasting its cannons at Charybdis. I ran my hand across a picture of Tyson, battling the
Hydra as he held aloft a box of Monster Donuts.
 I couldn't help feeling sad. I knew Tyson would have an awesome time under the ocean. But I'd miss
everything about him—his fascination with horses, the way he could fix chariots or crumple metal with his
bare hands, or tie bad guys into knots. I'd even miss him snoring like an earth-quake in the next bunk all
 "Hey, Percy."
 I turned.
 Annabeth and Grover were standing at the top of the sand dune. I guess maybe I had some sand in my
eyes, because I was blinking a lot.
 "Tyson ..." I told them. "He had to ..."
 "We know," Annabeth said softly. "Chiron told us."
 "Cyclopes forges." Grover shuddered. "I hear the cafete-ria food there is terrible! Like, no enchiladasat
 Annabeth held out her hand. "Come on, Seaweed Brain. Time for dinner."
 We walked back toward the dining pavilion together, just the three of us, like old times.
 A storm raged that night, but it parted around Camp Half-Blood as storms usually did. Lightning flashed
against the horizon, waves pounded the shore, but not a drop fell in our valley. We were protected again,
thanks to the Fleece, sealed inside our magical borders.
 Still, my dreams were restless. I heard Kronos taunting me from the depths of Tartarus: Polyphemus sits
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blindly in his cave, young hero, believing he has won a great victory. Are you any less deluded?
The titan's cold laughter filled the darkness.
 Then my dream changed. I was following Tyson to the bottom of the sea, into the court of Poseidon. It
was a radi-ant hall filled with blue light, the floor cobbled with pearls. And there, on a throne of coral, sat
my father, dressed like a simple fisherman in khaki shorts and a sun-bleached T-shirt. I looked up into his
tan weathered face, his deep green eyes, and he spoke two words:Brace yourself.
 I woke with a start.
 There was a banging on the door. Grover flew inside without waiting for permission. "Percy!" he
stammered. "Annabeth ... on the hill ... she ..."
 The look in his eyes told me something was terribly wrong. Annabeth had been on guard duty that night,
pro-tecting the Fleece. If something had happened—
 I ripped off the covers, my blood like ice water in my veins. I threw on some clothes while Grover tried
to make a complete sentence, but he was too stunned, too out of breath. "She's lying there ... just lying
there ..."
 I ran outside and raced across the central yard, Grover right behind me. Dawn was just breaking, but
the whole camp seemed to be stirring. Word was spreading. Something huge had happened. A few
campers were already making their way toward the hill, satyrs and nymphs and heroes in a weird mix of
armor and pajamas.
 I heard the clop of horse hooves, and Chiron galloped up behind us, looking grim.
 "Is it true?" he asked Grover.
 Grover could only nod, his expression dazed.
 I tried to ask what was going on, but Chiron grabbed me by the arm and effortlessly lifted me onto his
back. Together we thundered up Half-Blood Hill, where a small crowd had started to gather.
 I expected to see the Fleece missing from the pine tree, but it was still there, glittering in the first light of
dawn. The storm had broken and the sky was bloodred.
 "Curse the titan lord," Chiron said. "He's tricked us again, given himself another chance to control the
 "What do you mean?" I asked.
 "The Fleece," he said. "The Fleece did its work too well."
 We galloped forward, everyone moving out of our way. There at the base of the tree, a girl was lying
unconscious. Another girl in Greek armor was kneeling next to her.
 Blood roared in my ears. I couldn't think straight. Annabeth had been attacked? But why was the Fleece
still there?
 The tree itself looked perfectly fine, whole and healthy, suffused with the essence of the Golden Fleece.
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 "It healed the tree," Chiron said, his voice ragged. "And poison was not the only thing it purged."
 Then I realized Annabeth wasn't the one lying on the ground. She was the one in armor, kneeling next to
the unconscious girl. When Annabeth saw us, she ran to Chiron. "It... she ... just suddenly there ..."
 Her eyes were streaming with tears, but I still didn't understand. I was too freaked out to make sense of
it all. I leaped off Chiron's back and ran toward the unconscious girl. Chiron said: "Percy, wait!"
 I knelt by her side. She had short black hair and freck-les across her nose. She was built like a
long-distance runner, lithe and strong, and she wore clothes that were somewhere between punk and
Goth—a black T-shirt, black tattered jeans, and a leather jacket with buttons from a bunch of bands I'd
never heard of.
 She wasn't a camper. I didn't recognize her from any of the cabins. And yet I had the strangest feeling
I'd seen her before....
 "It's true," Grover said, panting from his run up the hill. "I can't believe ..."
 Nobody else came close to the girl.
 I put my hand on her forehead. Her skin was cold, but my fingertips tingled as if they were burning.
 "She needs nectar and ambrosia," I said. She was clearly a half-blood, whether she was a camper or
not. I could sense that just from one touch. I didn't understand why everyone was acting so scared.
 I took her by the shoulders and lifted her into sitting position, resting her head on my shoulder.
 "Come on!" I yelled to the others. "What's wrong with you people? Let's get her to the Big House."
 No one moved, not even Chiron. They were all too stunned.
 Then the girl took a shaky breath. She coughed and opened her eyes.
 Her irises were startlingly blue—electric blue.
 The girl stared at me in bewilderment, shivering and wild-eyed. "Who—"
 "I'm Percy," I said. "You're safe now."
 "Strangest dream ..."
 "It's okay."
 "No," I assured her. "You're okay. What's your name?"
 That's when I knew. Even before she said it.
 The girl's blue eyes stared into mine, and I understood what the Golden Fleece quest had been about.
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The poison-ing of the tree. Everything. Kronos had done it to bring another chess piece into play—
another chance to control the prophecy.
 Even Chiron, Annabeth, and Grover, who should've been celebrating this moment, were too shocked,
thinking about what it might mean for the future. And I was holding someone who was destined to be my
best friend, or possi-bly my worst enemy.
 "I am Thalia," the girl said. "Daughter of Zeus."

The Sea of Monsters - Chapter 18

Chapter 18

 "One on one," I challenged Luke. "What are you afraid of?"
 Luke curled his lip. The soldiers who were about to kill us hesitated, waiting for his order.
 Before he could say anything, Agrius, the bear-man, burst onto the deck leading a flying horse. It was
the first pure-black pegasus I'd ever seen, with wings like a giant raven. The pegasus mare bucked and
whinnied. I could understand her thoughts. She was calling Agrius and Luke some names so bad Chiron
would've washed her muzzle out with saddle soap.
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 "Sir!" Agrius called, dodging a pegasus hoof. "Your steed is ready!"
 Luke kept his eyes on me.
 "I told you last summer, Percy," he said. "You can't bait me into a fight."
 "And you keep avoiding one," I noticed. "Scared your warriors will see you get whipped?"
 Luke glanced at his men, and he saw I'd trapped him. If he backed down now, he would look weak. If
he fought me, he'd lose valuable time chasing after Clarisse. For my part, the best I could hope for was to
distract him, giving my friends a chance to escape. If anybody could think of a plan to get them out of
there, Annabeth could. On the down-side, I knew how good Luke was at sword-fighting.
 "I'll kill you quickly," he decided, and raised his weapon. Backbiter was a foot longer than my own
sword. Its blade glinted with an evil gray-and-gold light where the human steel had been melded with
celestial bronze. I could almost feel the blade fighting against itself, like two opposing mag-nets bound
together. I didn't know how the blade had been made, but I sensed a tragedy. Someone had died in the
process. Luke whistled to one of his men, who threw him a round leather-and-bronze shield.
 He grinned at me wickedly.
 "Luke," Annabeth said, "at least give him a shield."
 "Sorry, Annabeth," he said. "You bring your own equip-ment to this party."
 The shield was a problem. Fighting two-handed with just a sword gives you more power, but fighting
one-handed with a shield gives you better defense and versatility. There are more moves, more options,
more ways to kill. I thought back to Chiron, who'd told me to stay at camp no matter what, and learn to
fight. Now I was going to pay for not lis-tening to him.
 Luke lunged and almost killed me on the first try. His sword went under my arm, slashing through my
shirt and grazing my ribs.
 I jumped back, then counterattacked with Riptide, but Luke slammed my blade away with his shield.
 "My, Percy," Luke chided. "You're out of practice."
 He came at me again with a swipe to the head. I parried, returned with a thrust. He sidestepped easily.
 The cut on my ribs stung. My heart was racing. When Luke lunged again, I jumped backward into the
swimming pool and felt a surge of strength. I spun underwater, creat-ing a funnel cloud, and blasted out of
the deep end, straight at Luke's face.
 The force of the water knocked him down, spluttering and blinded. But before I could strike, he rolled
aside and was on his feet again.
 I attacked and sliced off the edge of his shield, but that didn't even faze him. He dropped to a crouch
and jabbed at my legs. Suddenly my thigh was on fire, with a pain so intense I collapsed. My jeans were
ripped above the knee. I was hurt. I didn't know how badly. Luke hacked downward and I rolled behind
a deck chair. I tried to stand, but my leg wouldn't take the weight.
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 "Perrrrrcy!" Grover bleated.
 I rolled again as Luke's sword slashed the deck chair in half, metal pipes and all.
 I clawed toward the swimming pool, trying hard not to black out. I'd never make it. Luke knew it, too.
He advanced slowly, smiling. The edge of his sword was tinged with red.
 "One thing I want you to watch before you die, Percy." He looked at the bear-man Oreius, who was still
holding Annabeth and Grover by the necks. "You can eat your din-ner now, Oreius. Bon appetit."
 "He-he! He-he!" The bear-man lifted my friends and bared his teeth.
 That's when all Hades broke loose.
 A red-feathered arrow sprouted from Oreius's mouth. With a surprised look on his hairy face, he
crumpled to the deck.
 "Brother!" Agrius wailed. He let the pegasus's reins go slack just long enough for the black steed to kick
him in the head and fly away free over Miami Bay.
 For a split second, Luke's guards were too stunned to do anything except watch the bear twins' bodies
dissolve into smoke.
 Then there was a wild chorus of war cries and hooves thundering against metal. A dozen centaurs
charged out of the main stairwell.
 "Ponies!" Tyson cried with delight.
 My mind had trouble processing everything I saw. Chiron was among the crowd, but his relatives were
almost nothing like him. There were centaurs with black Arabian stallion bodies, others with gold
palomino coats, others with orange-and-white spots like paint horses. Some wore brightly colored
T-shirts with Day-Glo letters that said PARTY PONIES: SOUTH FLORIDA CHAPTER. Some were
armed with bows, some with baseball bats, some with paintball guns. One had his face painted like a
Comanche warrior and was waving a large orange Styrofoam hand making a big Number I. Another was
bare-chested and painted entirely green. A third had googly-eye glasses with the eyeballs bouncing
around on Slinky coils, and one of those baseball caps with soda-can-and-straw attachments on either
 They exploded onto the deck with such ferocity and color that for a moment even Luke was stunned. I
couldn't tell whether they had come to celebrate or attack.
 Apparently both. As Luke was raising his sword to rally his troops, a centaur shot a custom-made arrow
with a leather boxing glove on the end. It smacked Luke in the face and sent him crashing into the
swimming pool.
 His warriors scattered. I couldn't blame them. Facing the hooves of a rearing stallion is scary enough, but
when it's a centaur, armed with a bow and whooping it  up in a soda-drinking hat, even the bravest warrior
would retreat.
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 "Come get some!" yelled one of the party ponies.
 They let loose with their paintball guns. A wave of blue and yellow exploded against Luke's warriors,
blinding them and splattering them from head to toe. They tried to run, only to slip and fall.
 Chiron galloped toward Annabeth and Grover, neatly plucked them off the deck, and deposited them on
his back.
 I tried to get up, but my wounded leg still felt like it was on fire.
 Luke was crawling out of the pool.
 "Attack, you fools.'" he ordered his troops. Somewhere down below deck, a large alarm bell thrummed.
 I knew any second we would be swamped by Luke's reinforcements. Already, his warriors were getting
over their surprise, coming at the centaurs with swords and spears drawn.
 Tyson slapped half a dozen of them aside, knocking them over the guardrail into Miami Bay. But more
warriors were coming up the stairs.
 "Withdraw, brethren!" Chiron said.
 "You won't get away with this, horse man!" Luke shouted. He raised his sword, but got smacked in the
face with another boxing glove arrow, and sat down hard in a deck chair.
 A palomino centaur hoisted me onto his back. "Dude, get your big friend!"
 "Tyson!" I yelled. "Come on!"
 Tyson dropped the two warriors he was about to tie into a knot and jogged after us. He jumped on the
centaur's back.
 "Dude!" the centaur groaned, almost buckling under Tyson's weight. "Do the words 'low-carb diet' mean
any-thing to you?"
 Luke's warriors were organizing themselves into a pha-lanx. But by the time they were ready to
advance, the cen-taurs had galloped to the edge of the deck and fearlessly jumped the guardrail, as if it
were a steeplechase and not ten stories above the ground. I was sure we were going to die. We
plummeted toward the docks, but the centaurs hit the asphalt with hardly a jolt and galloped off,
whooping and yelling taunts at thePrincess Andromeda as we raced into the streets of downtown
 I have no idea what the Miamians thought as we galloped by.
 Streets and buildings began to blur as the centaurs picked up speed. It felt as if space were
compacting—as if each centaur step took us miles and miles. In no time, we'd left the city behind. We
raced through marshy fields of high grass and ponds and stunted trees.
 Finally, we found ourselves in a trailer park at the edge of a lake. The trailers were all horse trailers,
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tricked out with televisions and mini-refrigerators and mosquito netting. We were in a centaur camp.
 "Dude!" said a party pony as he unloaded his gear. "Did you see that bear guy? He was all like: 'Whoa, I
have an arrow in my mouth!'"
 The centaur with the googly-eye glasses laughed. "That was awesome! Head slam!"
 The two centaurs charged at each other full-force and knocked heads, then went staggering off in
different direc-tions with crazy grins on their faces.
 Chiron sighed. He set Annabeth and Grover down on a picnic blanket next to me. "I really wish my
cousins wouldn't slam their heads together. They don't have the brain cells to spare."
 "Chiron," I said, still stunned by the fact that he was here. "You saved us."
 He gave me a dry smile. "Well now, I couldn't very well let you die, especially since you've cleared my
 "But how did you know where we were?" Annabeth asked.
 "Advanced planning, my dear. I figured you would wash up near Miami if you made it out of the Sea of
Monsters alive. Almost everything strange washes up near Miami."
 "Gee, thanks," Grover mumbled.
 "No, no," Chiron said. "I didn't mean ... Oh, never mind. I am glad to see you, my young satyr. The point
is, I was able to eavesdrop on Percy's Iris-message and trace the signal. Iris and I have been friends for
centuries. I asked her to alert me to any important communications in this area. It then took no effort to
convince my cousins to ride to your aid. As you see, centaurs can travel quite fast when we wish to.
Distance for us is not the same as distance for humans."
 I looked over at the campfire, where three party ponies were teaching Tyson to operate a paintball gun.
I hoped they knew what they were getting into.
 "So what now?" I asked Chiron. "We just let Luke sail away? He's got Kronos aboard that ship. Or
parts of him, anyway."
 Chiron knelt, carefully folding his front legs under-neath him. He opened the medicine pouch on his belt
and started to treat my wounds. "I'm afraid, Percy, that today has been something of a draw. We didn't
have the strength of numbers to take that ship. Luke was not organized enough to pursue us. Nobody
 "But we got the Fleece!" Annabeth said. "Clarisse is on her way back to camp with it right now."
 Chiron nodded, though he still looked uneasy. "You are all true heroes. And as soon as we get Percy
fixed up, you must return to Half-Blood Hill. The centaurs shall carry you."
 "You're coming, too?" I asked.
 "Oh yes, Percy. I'll be relieved to get home. My brethren here simply do not appreciate Dean Martin's
music. Besides, I must have some words with Mr. D. There's the rest of the summer to plan. So much
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training to do. And I want to see ... I'm curious about the Fleece."
 I didn't know exactly what he meant, but it made me worried about what Luke had said: I was going to
let you take the Fleece ... once I was done with it.
 Had he just been lying? I'd learned with Kronos there was usually a plan within a plan. The titan lord
wasn't called the Crooked One for nothing. He had ways of getting peo-ple to do what he wanted
without them ever realizing his true intentions.
 Over by the campfire, Tyson let loose with his paintball gun. A blue projectile splattered against one of
the centaurs, hurling him backward into the lake. The centaur came up grinning, covered in swamp muck
and blue paint, and gave Tyson two thumbs up.
 "Annabeth," Chiron said, "perhaps you and Grover would go supervise Tyson and my cousins before
they, ah, teach each other too many bad habits?"
 Annabeth met his eyes. Some kind of understanding passed between them.
 "Sure, Chiron," Annabeth said. "Come on, goat boy."
 "But I don't like paintball."
 "Yes, you do." She hoisted Grover to his hooves and led him off toward the campfire.
 Chiron finished bandaging my leg. "Percy, I had a talk with Annabeth on the way here. A talk about the
 Uh-oh, I thought.
 "It wasn't her fault," I said. "I made her tell me."
 His eyes flickered with irritation. I was sure he was going to chew me out, but then his look turned to
weari-ness. "I suppose I could not expect to keep it secret forever."
 "So am I the one in the prophecy?"
 Chiron tucked his bandages back into his pouch. "I wish I knew, Percy. You're not yet sixteen. For now
we must simply train you as best we can, and leave the future to the Fates."
 The Fates. I hadn't thought about those old ladies in a long time, but as soon as Chiron mentioned them,
some-thing clicked.
 "That's what it meant," I said.
 Chiron frowned. "That's what what  meant?"
 "Last summer. The omen from the Fates, when I saw them snip somebody's life string. I thought it meant
I was going to die right away, but it's worse than that. It's got something to do with your prophecy. The
death they foretold—it's going to happen when I'm sixteen."
 Chiron's tail whisked nervously in the grass. "My boy, you can't be sure of that. We don't even know if
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the prophecy is about you."
 "But there isn't any other half-blood child of the Big Three!"
 "That we know of."
 "And Kronos is rising. He's going to destroy Mount Olympus!"
 "He will try," Chiron agreed. "And Western Civilization along with it, if we don't stop him. But we will
stop him. You will not be alone in that fight."
 I knew he was trying to make me feel better, but I remembered what Annabeth had told me. It would
come down to one hero. One decision that would save or destroy the West. And I felt sure the Fates
had been giving me some kind of warning about that. Something terrible was going to happen, either to
me or to somebody I was close to.
 "I'm just akid,  Chiron," I said miserably. "What good is one lousy hero against something like Kronos?"
 Chiron managed a smile. '"What good is one lousy hero'? Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain said something
like that to me once, just before he single-handedly changed the course of your Civil War."
 He pulled an arrow from his quiver and turned the razor-sharp tip so it glinted in the firelight. "Celestial
bronze, Percy. An immortal weapon. What would happen if you shot this at a human?"
 "Nothing," I said. "It would pass right through."
 "That's right," he said. "Humans don't exist on the same level as the immortals. They can't even be hurt
by our weapons. But you, Percy—you are part god, part human. You live in both worlds. You can be
harmed by both, and you can affect both. That's what makes heroes so special. You carry the hopes of
humanity into the realm of the eternal. Monsters never die. They are reborn from the chaos and
barbarism that is always bubbling underneath civilization, the very stuff that makes Kronos stronger. They
must be defeated again and again, kept at bay. Heroes embody that struggle. You fight the battles
humanity must win, every generation, in order to stay human. Do you understand?"
 "I ... I don't know."
 "You must try, Percy. Because whether or not you are the child of the prophecy, Kronos thinks you
might be. And after today, he will finally despair of turning you to his side. Thatis  the only reason he
hasn't killed you yet, you know. As soon as he's sure he can't use you, he will destroy you."
 "You talk like you know him."
 Chiron pursed his lips. "I do know him."
 I stared at him. I sometimes forgot just how old Chiron was. "Is that why Mr. D blamed you when the
tree was poi-soned? Why you said some people don't trust you?"
 "But, Chiron ... I mean, come on! Why would they think you'd ever betray the camp for Kronos?"
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 Chiron's eyes were deep brown, full of thousands of years of sadness. "Percy, remember your training.
Remember your study of mythology. What is my connec-tion to the titan lord?"
 I tried to think, but I'd always gotten my mythology mixed up. Even now, when it was so real, so
important to my own life, I had trouble keeping all the names and facts straight. I shook my head. "You,
uh, owe Kronos a favor or something? He spared your life?"
 "Percy," Chiron said, his voice impossibly soft. "The titan Kronos is my father."

The Sea of Monsters - Chapter 17

Chapter 17

 "Percy, wake up."
 Salt water splashed my face. Annabeth was shaking my shoulder.
 In the distance, the sun was setting behind a city skyline. I could see a beachside highway lined with
palm trees, store-fronts glowing with red and blue neon, a harbor filled with sailboats and cruise ships.
 "Miami, I think," Annabeth said. "But the hippocampi are acting funny."
 Sure enough, our fishy friends had slowed down and were whinnying and swimming in circles, sniffing
the water. They didn't look happy. One of them sneezed. I could tell what they were thinking.
 "This is as far as they'll take us," I said. "Too many humans. Too much pollution. We'll have to swim to
shore on our own."
 None of us was very psyched about that, but we thanked Rainbow and his friends for the ride. Tyson
cried a little. He unfastened the makeshift saddle pack he'd made, which contained his tool kit and a
couple of other things he'd salvaged from the Birmingham  wreck. He hugged Rainbow around the neck,
gave him a soggy mango he'd picked up on the island, and said good-bye.
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 Once the hippocampi's white manes disappeared into the sea, we swam for shore. The waves pushed us
forward, and in no time we were back in the mortal world. We wandered along the cruise line docks,
pushing through crowds of people arriving for vacations. Porters bustled around with carts of luggage.
Taxi drivers yelled at each other in Spanish and tried to cut in line for customers. If anybody noticed
us—five kids dripping wet and looking like they'd just had a fight with a monster—they didn't let on.
 Now that we were back among mortals, Tyson's single eye had blurred from the Mist. Grover had put
on his cap and sneakers. Even the Fleece had transformed from a sheepskin to a red-and-gold high
school letter jacket with a large glittery Omega on the pocket.
 Annabeth ran to the nearest newspaper box and checked the date on the Miami Herald. She cursed.
"June eighteenth! We've been away from camp ten days!"
 "That's impossible!" Clarisse said.
 But I knew it wasn't. Time traveled differently in mon-strous places.
 "Thalia's tree must be almost dead," Grover wailed. "We have to get the Fleece backtonight."
 Clarisse slumped down on the pavement. "How are we supposed to do that?" Her voice trembled.
"We're hundreds of miles away. No money. No ride. This is just like the Oracle said. It'syour  fault,
Jackson! If you hadn't interfered—"
 "Percy's fault?!" Annabeth exploded. "Clarisse, how can you say that? You are the biggest—"
 "Stop it!" I said.
 Clarisse put her head in hands. Annabeth stomped her foot in frustration.
 The thing was: I'd almost forgotten this quest was sup-posed to be Clarisse's. For a scary moment, I
saw things from her point of view. How would I feel if a bunch of other heroes had butted in and made
me look bad?
 I thought about what I'd overheard in the boiler room of the CSS Birmingham  —Ares yelling at
Clarisse, warning her that she'd better not fail. Ares couldn't care less about the camp, but if Clarisse
made him look bad ...
 "Clarisse," I said, "what did the Oracle tell you exactly?"
 She looked up. I thought she was going to tell me off, but instead she took a deep breath and recited her
 "You shall sail the iron ship with warriors of bone,
 You shall find what you seek and make it your own,
 But despair for your life entombed within stone,
 And fail without friends, to fly home alone."
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 "Ouch," Grover mumbled.
 "No," I said. "No ... wait a minute. I've got it."
 I searched my pockets for money, and found nothing but a golden drachma. "Does anybody have any
 Annabeth and Grover shook their heads morosely. Clarisse pulled a wet Confederate dollar from her
pocket and sighed.
 "Cash?" Tyson asked hesitantly. "Like ... green paper?"
 I looked at him. "Yeah."
 "Like the kind in duffel bags?"
 "Yeah, but we lost those bags days a-g-g—"
 I stuttered to a halt as Tyson rummaged in his saddle pack and pulled out the Ziploc bag full of cash that
Hermes had included in our supplies.
 "Tyson!" I said. "How did you—"
 "Thought it was a feed bag for Rainbow," he said. "Found it floating in sea, but only paper inside. Sorry."
 He handed me the cash. Fives and tens, at least three hundred dollars.
 I ran to the curb and grabbed a taxi that was just letting out a family of cruise passengers. "Clarisse," I
yelled. "Come on. You're going to the airport. Annabeth, give her the Fleece."
 I'm not sure which of them looked more stunned as I took the Fleece letter jacket from Annabeth,
tucked the cash into its pocket, and put it in Clarisse's arms.
 Clarisse said, "You'd let me—"
 "It's your quest," I said. "We only have enough money for one flight. Besides, I can't travel by air. Zeus
would blast me into a million pieces. That's what the prophecy meant: you'd fail without friends, meaning
you'd need our help, but you'd have to fly home alone. You have to get the Fleece back safely."
 I could see her mind working—suspicious at first, won-dering what trick I was playing, then finally
deciding I meant what I said.
 She jumped in the cab. "You can count on me. I won't fail."
 "Not failing would be good."
 The cab peeled out in a cloud of exhaust. The Fleece was on its way.
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 "Percy," Annabeth said, "that was so—"
 "Generous?" Grover offered.
 "Insane,"Annabeth corrected. "You're betting the lives of everybody at camp that Clarisse will get the
Fleece safely back by tonight?"
 "It's her quest," I said. "She deserves a chance."
 "Percy is nice," Tyson said.
 "Percy is too  nice," Annabeth grumbled, but I couldn't help thinking that maybe, just maybe, she was a
little impressed. I'd surprised her, anyway. And that wasn't easy to do.
 "Come on," I told my friends. "Let's find another way home."
 That's when I turned and found a sword's point at my throat.
 "Hey, cuz," said Luke. "Welcome back to the States."
 His bear-man thugs appeared on either of side of us. One grabbed Annabeth and Grover by their T-shirt
collars. The other tried to grab Tyson, but Tyson knocked him into a pile of luggage and roared at Luke.
 "Percy," Luke said calmly, "tell your giant to back down or I'll have Oreius bash your friends' heads
 Oreius grinned and raised Annabeth and Grover off the ground, kicking and screaming.
 "What do you want, Luke?" I growled.
 He smiled, the scar rippling on the side of his face.
 He gestured toward the end of the dock, and I noticed what should've been obvious. The biggest boat in
port was the Princess Andromeda.
 "Why, Percy," Luke said, "I want to extend my hospital-ity, of course."
 The bear twins herded us aboard thePrincess Andromeda. They threw us down on the aft deck in front
of a swimming pool with sparkling fountains that sprayed into the air. A dozen of Luke's assorted
goons—snake people, Laistrygonians, demigods in battle armor—had gathered to watch us get some
 "And so, the Fleece," Luke mused. "Where is it?" He looked us over, prodding my shirt with the tip of
his sword, poking Grover's jeans.
 "Hey!" Grover yelled. "That's real goat fur under there!"
 "Sorry, old friend." Luke smiled. "Just give me the Fleece and I'll leave you to return to your, ah, little
nature quest."
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 "Blaa-ha-ha!" Grover protested. "Some old friend!"
 "Maybe you didn't hear me." Luke's voicewas danger-ously calm. "Where—is—the—Fleece?"
 "Not here," I said. I probably shouldn't have told him anything, but it felt good to throw the truth in his
face. "We sent it on ahead of us. You messed up."
 Luke's eyes narrowed. "You're lying. You couldn't have ..." His face reddened as a horrible possibility
occurred to him. "Clarisse?"
 I nodded.
 "You trusted ... you gave ..."
 The bear giant flinched. "Y-yes?"
 "Get below and prepare my steed. Bring it to the deck. I need to fly to the Miami Airport, fast.'"
 "But, boss—"
 "Do it!" Luke screamed. "Or I'll feed you to the drakon!"
 The bear-man gulped and lumbered down the stairs. Luke paced in front of the swimming pool, cursing
in Ancient Greek, gripping his sword so tight his knuckles turned white.
 The rest of Luke's crew looked uneasy. Maybe they'd never seen their boss so unhinged before.
 I started thinking ... If I could use Luke's anger, get him to talk so everybody could hear how crazy his
plans were ...
 I looked at the swimming pool, at the fountains spray-ing mist into the air, making a rainbow in the
sunset. And suddenly I had an idea.
 "You've been toying with us all along," I said. "You wanted us to bring you the Fleece and save you the
trouble of getting it."
 Luke scowled. "Of course, you idiot! And you've messed everything up!"
 "Traitor!" I dug my last gold drachma out of my pocket and threw it at Luke. As I expected, he dodged
it easily.
 The coin sailed into the spray of rainbow-colored water.
 I hoped my prayer would be accepted in silence. I thought with all my heart: O goddess, accept my
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 "You tricked all of us!" I yelled at Luke. "Even DIONYSUS at CAMP HALF-BLOOD!"
 Behind Luke, the fountain began to shimmer, but I needed everyone's attention on me, so I uncapped
 Luke just sneered. "This is no time for heroics, Percy. Drop your puny little sword, or I'll have you killed
sooner rather than later."
 "Who poisoned Thalia's tree, Luke?"
 "I did, of course," he snarled. "I already told you that. I used elder python venom, straight from the
depths of Tartarus."
 "Chiron had nothing to do with it?"
 "Ha! You know he would never do that. The old fool wouldn't have the guts."
 "You call it guts? Betraying your friends? Endangering the whole camp?"
 Luke raised his sword. "You don't understand the half of it. I was going to let you take the Fleece ...
once I was done with it."
 That made me hesitate. Why would he let me take the Fleece? He must've been lying. But I couldn't
afford to lose his attention.
 "You were going to heal Kronos," I said.
 "Yes! The Fleece's magic would've sped his mending process by tenfold. But you haven't stopped us,
Percy. You've only slowed us down a little."
 "And so you poisoned the tree, you betrayed Thalia, you set us up—all to help Kronos destroy the
 Luke gritted his teeth. "You know that! Why do you keep asking me?"
 "Because I want everybody in the audience to hear you."
 " Whataudience?"
 Then his eyes narrowed. He looked behind him and his goons did the same. They gasped and stumbled
 Above the pool, shimmering in the rainbow mist, was an Iris-message vision of Dionysus, Tantalus, and
the whole camp in the dining pavilion. They sat in stunned silence, watching us.
 "Well," said Dionysus dryly, "some unplanned dinner entertainment."
 "Mr. D, you heard him," I said. "You all heard Luke. The poisoning of the tree wasn't Chiron's fault."
 Mr. D sighed. "I suppose not."
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 "The Iris-message could be a trick," Tantalus suggested, but his attention was mostly on his
cheeseburger, which he was trying to corner with both hands.
 "I fear not," Mr. D said, looking with distaste at Tantalus. "It appears I shall have to reinstate Chiron as
activities director. I suppose I do miss the old horse's pinochle games."
 Tantalus grabbed the cheeseburger. It didn't bolt away from him. He lifted it from the plate and stared at
it in amazement, as if it were the largest diamond in the world. "I got it!" he cackled.
 "We are no longer in need of your services, Tantalus," Mr. D announced.
 Tantalus looked stunned. "What? But—"
 "You may return to the Underworld. You are dis-missed."
 "No! But—Nooooooooooo!"
 As he dissolved into mist, his fingers clutched at the cheeseburger, trying to bring it to his mouth. But it
was too late. He disappeared and the cheeseburger fell back onto its plate. The campers exploded into
 Luke bellowed with rage. He slashed his sword through the fountain and the Iris-message dissolved, but
the deed was done.
 I was feeling pretty good about myself, until Luke turned and gave me a murderous look.
 "Kronos was right, Percy. You're an unreliable weapon. You need to be replaced."
 I wasn't sure what he meant, but I didn't have time to think about it. One of his men blew a brass whistle,
and the deck doors flew open. A dozen more warriors poured out, making a circle around us, the brass
tips of their spears bris-tling.
 Luke smiled at me. "You'll never leave this boat alive."

The Sea of Monsters - Chapter 16

Chapter 16

 "You'd think he'd run out of rocks," I muttered.
 "Swim for it!" Grover said.
 He and Clarisse plunged into the surf. Annabeth hung on to Clarisse's neck and tried to paddle with one
hand, the wet Fleece weighing her down.
 But the monster's attention wasn't on the Fleece.
 "You, young Cyclops!" Polyphemus roared. "Traitor to your kind!"
 Tyson froze.
 "Don't listen to him!" I pleaded. "Come on."
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 I pulled Tyson's arm, but I might as well have been pulling a mountain. He turned and faced the older
Cyclops. "I am not a traitor."
 "You serve mortals!" Polyphemus shouted. "Thieving humans!"
 Polyphemus threw his first boulder. Tyson swatted it aside with his fist.
 "Not a traitor," Tyson said. "And you are not my kind."
 "Death or victory!" Polyphemus charged into the surf, but his foot was still wounded. He immediately
stumbled and fell on his face. That would've been funny, except he started to get up again, spitting salt
water and growling.
 "Percy!" Clarisse yelled. "Come on!"
 They were almost to the ship with the Fleece. If I could just keep the monster distracted a little longer ...
 "Go," Tyson told me. "I will hold Big Ugly."
 "No! He'll kill you." I'd already lost Tyson once. I wasn't going to lose him again. "We'll fight him
 "Together," Tyson agreed.
 I drew my sword.
 Polyphemus advanced carefully, limping worse than ever. But there was nothing wrong with his throwing
arm. He chucked his second boulder. I dove to one side, but I still would've been squashed if Tyson's fist
hadn't blasted the rock to rubble.
 I willed the sea to rise. A twenty-foot wave surged up, lifting me on its crest. I rode toward the Cyclops
and kicked him in the eye, leaping over his head as the water blasted him onto the beach.
 "Destroy you!" Polyphemus spluttered. "Fleece stealer!"
 "Youstole the Fleece!" I yelled. "You've been using it to lure satyrs to their deaths!"
 "So? Satyrs good eating!"
 "The Fleece should be used to heal! It belongs to the children of the gods!"
 "Iam a child of the gods!" Polyphemus swiped at me, but I sidestepped. "Father Poseidon, curse this
thief!" He was blinking hard now, like he could barely see, and I realized he was targeting by the sound
of my voice.
 "Poseidon won't curse me," I said, backing up as the Cyclops grabbed air. "I'm his son, too. He won't
play favorites."
 Polyphemus roared. He ripped an olive tree out of the side of the cliff and smashed it where I'd been
standing a moment before. "Humans not the same! Nasty, tricky, lying!"
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 Grover was helping Annabeth aboard the ship. Clarisse was waving frantically at me, telling me to come
 Tyson worked his way around Polyphemus, trying to get behind him.
 "Young one!" the older Cyclops called. "Where are you? Help me!"
 Tyson stopped.
 "You weren't raised right!" Polyphemus wailed, shaking his olive tree club. "Poor orphaned brother!
Help me!"
 No one moved. No sound but the ocean and my own heartbeat. Then Tyson stepped forward, raising
his hands defensively. "Don't fight, Cyclops brother. Put down the—"
 Polyphemus spun toward his voice.
 "Tyson!" I shouted.
 The tree struck him with such force it would've flat-tened me into a Percy pizza with extra olives. Tyson
flew backward, plowing a trench in the sand. Polyphemus charged after him, but I shouted, "No!" and
lunged as far as I could with Riptide. I'd hoped to sting Polyphemus in the back of the thigh, but I
managed to leap a little bit higher.
 "Blaaaaah!" Polyphemus bleated just like his sheep, and swung at me with his tree.
 I dove, but still got raked across the back by a dozen jagged branches. I was bleeding and bruised and
exhausted. The guinea pig inside me wanted to bolt. But I swallowed down my fear.
 Polyphemus swung the tree again, but this time I was ready. I grabbed a branch as it passed, ignoring
the pain in my hands as I was jerked skyward, and let the Cyclops lift me into the air. At the top of the
arc I let go and fell straight against the giant's face—landing with both feet on his already damaged eye.
 Polyphemus yowled in pain. Tyson tackled him, pulling him down. I landed next to them—sword in
hand, within striking distance of the monster's heart. But I locked eyes with Tyson, and I knew I couldn't
do it. It just wasn't right.
 "Let him go," I told Tyson. "Run."
 With one last mighty effort, Tyson pushed the cursing older Cyclops away, and we ran for the surf.
 "I will smash you.'" Polyphemus yelled, doubling over in pain. His enormous hands cupped over his eye.
 Tyson and I plunged into the waves.
 "Where are you?" Polyphemus screamed. He picked up his tree club and threw it into the water. It
splashed off to our right.
 I summoned up a current to carry us, and we started gaining speed. I was beginning to think we might
make it to the ship, when Clarisse shouted from the deck, "Yeah, Jackson! In your face, Cyclops!"
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 Shut up, I wanted to yell.
 "Rarrr!" Polyphemus picked up a boulder. He threw it toward the sound of Clarisse's voice, but it fell
short, nar-rowly missing Tyson and me.
 "Yeah, yeah!" Clarisse taunted. "You throw like a wimp! Teach you to try marrying me, you idiot!"
 "Clarisse!" I yelled, unable to stand it. "Shut up!"
 Too late. Polyphemus threw another boulder, and this time I watched helplessly as it sailed over my
head and crashed through the hull of the Queen Anne's Revenge.
 You wouldn't believe how fast a ship can sink. The Queen Anne's Revenge creaked and groaned and
listed forward like it was going down a playground slide.
 I cursed, willing the sea to push us faster, but the ship's masts were already going under.
 "Dive!" I told Tyson. And as another rock sailed over our heads, we plunged underwater.
 My friends were sinking fast, trying to swim, without luck, in the bubbly trail of the ship's wreckage.
 Not many people realize that when a ship goes down, it acts like a sinkhole, pulling down everything
around it. Clarisse was a strong swimmer, but even she wasn't making any progress. Grover frantically
kicked with his hooves. Annabeth was hanging on to the Fleece, which flashed in the water like a wave
of new pennies.
 I swam toward them, knowing that I might not have the strength to pull my friends out. Worse, pieces of
timber were swirling around them; none of my power with water would help if I got whacked on the head
by a beam.
 We need help, I thought.
 Yes. Tyson's voice, loud and clear in my head.
 I looked over at him, startled. I'd heard Nereids and other water spirits speak to me underwater before,
but it never occurred to me ... Tyson was a son of Poseidon. We could communicate with each other.
 Rainbow,Tyson said.
 I nodded, then closed my eyes and concentrated, adding my voice to Tyson's: RAINBOW! We need
 Immediately, shapes shimmered in the darkness below—three horses with fish tails, galloping upward
faster than dolphins. Rainbow and his friends glanced in our direction and seemed to read our thoughts.
They whisked into the wreckage, and a moment later burst upward in a cloud of bubbles—Grover,
Annabeth, and Clarisse each clinging to the neck of a hippocampus.
 Rainbow, the largest, had Clarisse. He raced over to us and allowed Tyson to grab hold of his mane.
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His friend who bore Annabeth did the same for me.
 We broke the surface of the water and raced away from Polyphemus's island. Behind us, I could hear
the Cyclops roaring in triumph, "I did it! I finally sank Nobody!"
 I hoped he never found out he was wrong.
 We skimmed across the sea as the island shrank to a dot and then disappeared.
 "Did it," Annabeth muttered in exhaustion. "We ..."
 She slumped against the neck of the hippocampus and instantly fell asleep.
 I didn't know how far the hippocampi could take us. I didn't know where we were going. I just propped
up Annabeth so she wouldn't fall off, covered her in the Golden Fleece that we'd been through so much
to get, and said a silent prayer of thanks.
 Which reminded me ... I still owed the gods a debt.
 "You're a genius," I told Annabeth quietly.
 Then I put my head against the Fleece, and before I knew it, I was asleep, too.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Sea of Monsters - Chapter 14

Chapter 14

 When you think "monster island," you think craggy rocks and bones scattered on the beach like the
island of the Sirens.
 The Cyclops's island was nothing like that. I mean, okay, it had a rope bridge across a chasm, which
was not a good sign. You might as well put up a billboard that said, SOMETHING EVIL LIVES HERE.
But except for that, the place looked like a Caribbean postcard. It had green fields and tropical fruit trees
and white beaches. As we sailed toward the shore, Annabeth breathed in the sweet air. "The Fleece,"
she said.
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 I nodded. I couldn't see the Fleece yet, but I could feel its power. I could believe it would heal anything,
even Thalia's poisoned tree. "If we take it away, will the island die?"
 Annabeth shook her head. "It'll fade. Go back to what it would be normally, whatever that is."
 I felt a little guilty about ruining this paradise, but I reminded myself we had no choice.  Camp Half-Blood
was in trouble. And Tyson ... Tyson would still be with us if it wasn't for this quest.
 In the meadow at the base of the ravine, several dozen sheep were milling around. They looked peaceful
enough, but they were huge—the size of hippos. Just past them was a path that led up into the hills. At
the top of the path, near the edge of the canyon, was the massive oak tree I'd seen in my dreams.
Something gold glittered in its branches.
 "This is too easy," I said. "We could just hike up there and take it?"
 Annabeth's eyes narrowed. "There's supposed be a guardian. A dragon or ..."
 That's when a deer emerged from the bushes. It trotted into the meadow, probably looking for grass to
eat, when the sheep all bleated at once and rushed the animal. It hap-pened so fast that the deer
stumbled and was lost in a sea of wool and trampling hooves.
 Grass and tufts of fur flew into the air.
 A second later the sheep all moved away, back to their regular peaceful wanderings. Where the deer
had been was a pile of clean white bones.
 Annabeth and I exchanged looks.
 "They're like piranhas," she said.
 "Piranhas with wool. How will we—"
 "Percy!" Annabeth gasped, grabbing my arm. "Look."
 She pointed down the beach, to just below the sheep meadow, where a small boat had been run
aground ... the other lifeboat from the CSSBirmingham.
 We decided there was no way we could get past the man-eating sheep. Annabeth wanted to sneak up
the path invisi-bly and grab the Fleece, but in the end I convinced her that something would go wrong.
The sheep would smell her. Another guardian would appear. Something. And if that happened, I'd be too
far away to help.
 Besides, our first job was to find Grover and whoever had come ashore in that lifeboat—assuming
they'd gotten past the sheep. I was too nervous to say what I was secretly hoping ... that Tyson might still
be alive.
 We moored theQueen Anne's Revenge on the back side of the island where the cliffs rose straight up a
good two hun-dred feet. I figured the ship was less likely to be seen there. The cliffs looked climbable,
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barely—about as difficult as the lava wall back at camp. At least it was free of sheep. I hoped that
Polyphemus did not also keep carnivorous mountain goats.
 We rowed a lifeboat to the edge of the rocks and made our way up, very slowly. Annabeth went first
because she was the better climber.
 We only came close to dying six or seven times, which I thought was pretty good. Once, I lost my grip
and I found myself dangling by one hand from a ledge fifty feet above the rocky surf. But I found another
handhold and kept climbing. A minute later Annabeth hit a slippery patch of moss and her foot slipped.
Fortunately, she found some-thing else to put it against. Unfortunately, that something was my face.
 "Sorry," she murmured.
 "S'okay," I grunted, though I'd never really wanted to know what Annabeth's sneaker tasted like.
 Finally, when my fingers felt like molten lead and my arm muscles were shaking from exhaustion, we
hauled our-selves over the top of the cliff and collapsed.
 "Ugh," I said.
 "Ouch," moaned Annabeth.
 "Garrr!" bellowed anothervoice.
 If I hadn't been so tired, I would've leaped another two hundred feet. I whirled around, but I couldn't
see who'd spoken.
 Annabeth clamped her hand over my mouth. She pointed.
 The ledge we were sitting on was narrower than I'd real-ized. It dropped off on the opposite side, and
that's where the voice was coming from—right below us.
 "You're a feisty one!" the deep voice bellowed.
 "Challenge me!" Clarisse's voice, no doubt about it. "Give me back my sword and I'll fight you!"
 The monster roared with laughter.
 Annabeth and I crept to the edge. We were right above the entrance of the Cyclops's cave. Below us
stood Polyphemus and Grover, still in his wedding dress. Clarisse was tied up, hanging upside down over
a pot of boiling water. I was half hoping to see Tyson down there, too. Even if he'd been in danger, at
least I would've known he was alive. But there was no sign of him.
 "Hmm," Polyphemus pondered. "Eat loudmouth girl now or wait for wedding feast? What does my bride
 He turned to Grover, who backed up and almost tripped over his completed bridal train. "Oh, um, I'm
not hungry right now, dear. Perhaps—"
 "Did you saybride?" Clarisse demanded. "Who— Grover?"
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 Next to me, Annabeth muttered, "Shut up. She has to shut up."
 Polyphemus glowered. "What 'Grover'?"
 "The satyr!" Clarisse yelled.
 "Oh!" Grover yelped. "The poor thing's brain is boiling from that hot water. Pull her down, dear!"
 Polyphemus's eyelids narrowed over his baleful milky eye, as if he were trying to see Clarisse more
 The Cyclops was an even more horrible sight than he had been in my dreams. Partly because his rancid
smell was now up close and personal. Partly because he was dressed in his wedding outfit—a crude kilt
and shoulder-wrap, stitched together from baby-blue tuxedoes, as if the he'd skinned an entire wedding
 "What satyr?" asked Polyphemus. "Satyrs are good eat-ing. You bring me a satyr?"
 "No, you big idiot!" bellowed Clarisse. "That satyr! Grover! The one in the wedding dress!"
 I wanted to wring Clarisse's neck, but it was too late. All I could do was watch as Polyphemus turned
and ripped off Grover's wedding veil—revealing his curly hair, his scruffy adolescent beard, his tiny
 Polyphemus breathed heavily, trying to contain his anger. "I don't see very well," he growled. "Not since
many years ago when the other hero stabbed me in eye. But YOU'RE— NO— LADY— CYCLOPS!"
 The Cyclops grabbed Grover's dress and tore it away. Underneath, the old Grover reappeared in his
jeans and T-shirt. He yelped and ducked as the monster swiped over his head.
 "Stop!" Grover pleaded. "Don't eat me raw! I—I have a good recipe!"
 I reached for my sword, but Annabeth hissed, "Wait!"
 Polyphemus was hesitating, a boulder in his hand, ready to smash his would-be bride.
 "Recipe?" he asked Grover.
 "Oh y-yes! You don't want to eat me raw. You'll get E coli and botulism and all sorts of horrible things.
I'll taste much better grilled over a slow fire. With mango chutney! You could go get some mangos right
now, down there in the woods. I'll just wait here."
 The monster pondered this. My heart hammered against my ribs. I figured I'd die if I charged. But I
couldn't let the monster kill Grover.
 "Grilled satyr with mango chutney," Polyphemus mused. He looked back at Clarisse, still hanging over
the pot of boiling water. "You a satyr, too?"
 "No, you overgrown pile of dung!" she yelled. "I'm a girl! The daughter of Ares! Now untie me so I can
rip your arms off!"
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 "Rip my arms off," Polyphemus repeated.
 "And stuff them down your throat!"
 "You got spunk."
 "Let me down!"
 Polyphemus snatched up Grover as if he were a wayward puppy.  "Have to graze sheep now. Wedding
postponed until tonight. Then we'll eat satyr for the main course!"
 "But ... you're still getting married?" Grover sounded hurt. "Who's the bride?"
 Polyphemus looked toward the boiling pot.
 Clarisse made a strangled sound. "Oh, no! You can't be serious. I'm not—"
 Before Annabeth or I could do anything, Polyphemus plucked her off the rope like she was a ripe apple,
and tossed her and Grover deep into the cave. "Make yourself comfortable! I come back at sundown for
big event!"
 Then the Cyclops whistled, and a mixed flock of goats and sheep—smaller than the
man-eaters—flooded out of the cave and past their master. As they went to pasture, Polyphemus patted
some on the back and called them by name—Beltbuster, Tammany, Lockhart, etc.
 When the last sheep had waddled out, Polyphemus rolled a boulder in front of the doorway as easily as
I would close a refrigerator door, shutting off the sound of Clarisse and Grover screaming inside.
 "Mangos," Polyphemus grumbled to himself. "What are mangos?"
 He strolled off down the mountain in his baby-blue groom's outfit, leaving us alone with a pot of boiling
water and a six-ton boulder.
 We tried for what seemed like hours, but it was no good. The boulder wouldn't move. We yelled into
the cracks, tapped on the rock, did everything we could think of to get a signal to Grover, but if he heard
us, we couldn't tell.
 Even if by some miracle we managed to kill Polyphemus, it wouldn't do us any good. Grover and
Clarisse would die inside that sealed cave. The only way to move the rock was to have the Cyclops do
 In total frustration, I stabbed Riptide against the boul-der. Sparks flew, but nothing else happened. A
large rock is not the kind of enemy you can fight with a magic sword.
 Annabeth and I sat on the ridge in despair and watched the distant baby-blue shape of the Cyclops as
he moved among his flocks. He had wisely divided his regular animals from his man-eating sheep, putting
each group on either side of the huge crevice that divided the island. The only way across was the rope
bridge, and the planks were much too far apart for sheep hooves.
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 We watched as Polyphemus visited his carnivorous flock on the far side. Unfortunately, they didn't eat
him. In fact, they didn't seem to bother him at all. He fed them chunks of mystery meat from a great
wicker basket, which only reinforced the feelings I'd been having since Circe turned me into a guinea
pig—that maybe it was time I joined Grover and became a vegetarian.
 "Trickery," Annabeth decided. "We can't beat him by force, so we'll have to use trickery."
 "Okay," I said. "What trick?'
 "I haven't figured that part out yet."
 "Polyphemus will have to move the rock to let the sheep inside."
 "At sunset," I said. "Which is when he'll marry Clarisse and have Grover for dinner. I'm not sure which is
 "I could get inside," she said, "invisibly."
 "What about me?"
 "The sheep," Annabeth mused. She gave me one of those sly looks that always made me wary. "How
much do you like sheep?"
 "Just don't let go!" Annabeth said, standing invisibly some-where off to my right. That was easy for her
to say. She wasn't hanging upside down from the belly of a sheep.
 Now, I'll admit it wasn't as hard as I'd thought. I'd crawled under a car before to change my mom's oil,
and this wasn't too different. The sheep didn't care. Even the Cyclops's smallest sheep were big enough
to support my weight, and they had thick wool. I just twirled the stuff into handles for my hands, hooked
my feet against the sheep's thigh bones, and presto—I felt like a baby wallaby, riding around against the
sheep's chest, trying to keep the wool out of my mouth and my nose.
 In case you're wondering, the underside of a sheep doesn't smell that great. Imagine a winter sweater
that's been dragged through the mud and left in the laundry hamper for a week. Something like that.
 The sun was going down.
 No sooner was I in position than the Cyclops roared, "Oy! Goaties! Sheepies!"
 The flock dutifully began trudging back up the slopes toward the cave.
 "This is it!" Annabeth whispered. "I'll be close by. Don't worry."
 I made a silent promise to the gods that if we survived this, I'd tell Annabeth she was a genius. The
frightening thing was, I knew the gods would hold me to it.
 My sheep taxi started plodding up the hill. After a hun-dred yards, my hands and feet started to hurt
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from holding on. I gripped the sheep's wool more tightly, and the animal made a grumbling sound. I didn't
blame it. I wouldn't want anybody rock climbing in my hair either. But if I didn't hold on, I was sure I'd
fall off right there in front of the monster.
 "Hasenpfeffer!" the Cyclops said, patting one of the sheep in front of me. "Einstein! Widget—eh there,
 Polyphemus patted my sheep and nearly knocked me to the ground. "Putting on some extra mutton
 Uh-oh,I thought. Here it comes.
 But Polyphemus just laughed and swatted the sheep's rear end, propelling us forward. "Go on, fatty!
Soon Polyphemus will eat you for breakfast!"
 And just like that, I was in the cave.
 I could see the last of the sheep coming inside. If Annabeth didn't pull off her distraction soon ...
 The Cyclops was about to roll the stone back into place, when from somewhere outside Annabeth
shouted, "Hello, ugly!"
 Polyphemus stiffened. "Who said that?"
 "Nobody!" Annabeth yelled.
 That got exactly the reaction she'd been hoping for. The monster's face turned red with rage.
 "Nobody!" Polyphemus yelled back. "I remember you!"
 "You're too stupid to remember anybody," Annabeth taunted. "Much less Nobody."
 I hoped to the gods she was already moving when she said that, because Polyphemus bellowed
furiously, grabbed the nearest boulder (which happened to be his front door) and threw it toward the
sound of Annabeth's voice. I heard the rock smash into a thousand fragments.
 For a terrible moment, there was silence. Then Annabeth shouted, "You haven't learned to throw any
better, either!"
 Polyphemus howled. "Come here! Let me kill you, Nobody!"
 "You can't kill Nobody, you stupid oaf," she taunted. "Come find me!"
 Polyphemus barreled down the hill toward her voice.
 Now, the "Nobody" thing wouldn't have made sense to anybody, but Annabeth had explained to me that
it was the name Odysseus had used to trick Polyphemus centuries ago, right before he poked the
Cyclops's eye out with a large hot stick. Annabeth had figured Polyphemus would still have a grudge
about that name, and she was right. In his frenzy to find his old enemy, he forgot about resealing the cave
entrance. Apparently, he didn't even stop to consider that Annabeth's voice was female, whereas the first
Nobody had been male. On the other hand, he'd wanted to marry Grover, so he couldn't have been all
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that bright about the whole male/female thing.
 I just hoped Annabeth could stay alive and keep dis-tracting him long enough for me to find Grover and
 I dropped off my ride, patted Widget on the head, and apologized. I searched the main room, but there
was no sign of Grover or Clarisse. I pushed through the crowd of sheep and goats toward the back of
the cave.
 Even though I'd dreamed about this place, I had a hard time finding my way through the maze. I ran
down corri-dors littered with bones, past rooms full of sheepskin rugs and life-size cement sheep that I
recognized as the work of Medusa. There were collections of sheep T-shirts; large tubs of lanolin cream;
and wooly coats, socks, and hats with ram's horns. Finally, I found the spinning room, where Grover was
huddled in the corner, trying to cut Clarisse's bonds with a pair of safety scissors.
 "It's no good," Clarisse said. "This rope is like iron!"
 "Just a few more minutes!"
 "Grover," she cried, exasperated. "You've been working at it for hours!"
 And then they saw me.
 "Percy?"Clarisse said. "You're supposed to be blown up!"
 "Good to see you, too. Now hold still while I—"
 "Perrrrrcy!" Grover bleated and tackled me with a goat-hug. "You heard me! You came!"
 "Yeah, buddy," I said. "Of course I came."
 "Where's Annabeth?"
 "Outside," I said. "But there's no time to talk. Clarisse, hold still."
 I uncapped Riptide and sliced off her ropes. She stood stiffly, rubbing her wrists. She glared at me for a
moment, then looked at the ground and mumbled, "Thanks."
 "You're welcome," I said. "Now, was anyone else on board your lifeboat?"
 Clarisse looked surprised. "No. Just me. Everybody else aboard the Birmingham ...  well, I didn't even
know you guys made it out."
 I looked down, trying not to believe that my last hope of seeing Tyson alive had just been crushed.
"Okay. Come on, then. We have to help—"
 An explosion echoed through the cave, followed by a scream that told me we might be too late. It was
Annabeth crying out in fear.