“I…” Her voice broke. “I’ll see you in the morning. Sleep well.”
She ran off toward the beach. I was too confused to do anything but watch until she disappeared in the dark.
I don’t know exactly how much time passed. Like Calypso said, it was hard to keep track on the island. I knew I should be leaving. At the very least, my friends would be worried. At worst, they could be in serious danger. I didn’t even know if Annabeth had made it out of the volcano. I tried to use my empathy link with Grover several times, but I couldn’t make contact. I hated not knowing if they were all right.
On the other hand, I really was weak. I couldn’t stay on my feet more than a few hours. Whatever I’d done in Mount St. Helens had drained me like nothing else I’d ever expected.
I didn’t feel like a prisoner or anything. I remembered the Lotus Hotel and Casino in Vegas, where I’d been lured into this amazing game world until I almost forgot everything I cared about. But the island of Ogygia wasn’t like that at all. I thought about Annabeth, Grover, and Tyson constantly. I remembered exactly why I needed to leave. I just…couldn’t. and then there was Calypso herself.
She never talked much about herself, but that just made me want to know more. I would sit in the meadow, sipping nectar, and I would try to concentrate on the flowers or the clouds or the reflections on the lake, but I was really staring at Calypso as she worked, the way she brushed her hair over her shoulder, and the little strand that fell in her face whenever she knelt to dig in the garden. Sometimes she would hold out her hand and birds would fly out of the woods to settle on her arm—lorikeets, parrots, doves. She would tell them good morning, ask how it was going back at the nest, and they would chirp for a while, then fly off cheerfully. Calypso’s eyes gleamed. She would look at me and we’d share a smile, but almost immediately she’d get that sad expression again and turn away. I didn’t understand what was bothering her.
One night we were eating dinner together at the beach. Invisible servants had set up a table with beef stew and apple cider, which may not sound all that exciting, but that’s because you haven’t tasted it. I hadn’t even noticed the invisible servants when I first got to the island, but that’s because you haven’t tasted it. I hadn’t even noticed the invisible servants when I first got to the island, but after a while I became aware of the beds making themselves, meals cooking on their own, clothes being washed and folded by unseen hands.
Anyway, Calypso and I were sitting at dinner, and she looked beautiful in the candlelight. I was telling her about New York and Camp Half-Blood, and then I started telling her about the time Grover had eaten an apple while we were playing Hacky Sack with it. She laughed, showing off her amazing smile, and our eyes met. Then she dropped her gaze.
“There it is again,” I said.
“You keep pulling away, like you’re trying not to enjoy yourself.”
She kept her eyes on her glass of cider. “As I told you, Percy, I have been punished. Cursed, you might say.”
“How? Tell me. I want to help.”
“Don’t say that. Please don’t say that.”
“Tell me what the punishment is.”
She covered her half-finished stew with a napkin, and immediately an invisible servant whisked the bowl away. “Percy, this island, Ogygia, is my home, my birthplace. But it is also my prison. I am under…house arrest, I guess you would call it. I will never visit this Manhattan of yours. Or anywhere else. I am alone here.”
“Because your father was Atlas.”
She nodded. “The gods do not trust their enemies. And rightly so. I should not complain. Some of the prisons are not nearly as nice as mine.”
“But that’s not fair,” I said. “Just because you’re related doesn’t mean you support him. This other daughter I knew, Zoë, Nightshade—she fought against him. She wasn’t imprisoned.”
“But, Percy,” Calypso said gently, “I did support him in the first war. He is my father.”
“What? But the Titans are evil!”
“Are they? All of them? All the time?” She pursed her lips. “Tell me, Percy. I have no wish to argue with you. but do you support the gods because they are good, or because they are your family?”
I didn’t answer. She had a point. Last winter, after Annabeth and I had saved Olympus, the gods had had a debate about whether or not they should kill me. That hadn’t been exactly good. But still, I felt like I supported them because Poseidon was my dad.
“Perhaps I was wrong in the war,” Calypso said. “And in fairness, the gods have treated me well. They visit me from time to time. They bring me word of the outside world. But they can leave. And I cannot.”
“You don’t have any friends?” I asked. “I mean…wouldn’t anyone else live here with you? it’s a nice place.”
A tear trickled down her cheek. “I…I promised myself I wouldn’t speak of this. But—”
She was interrupted by a rumbling sound somewhere out on the lake. A glow appeared on the horizon. It got brighter and brighter, until I could see a column of fire moving across the surface of the water, coming toward us.
I stood and reached for my sword. “What is that?”
Calypso sighed. “A visitor.”
As the column of fire reached the beach. Calypso stood and bowed to it formally. The flames dissipated, and standing before us was a tall man in gray overalls and a metal leg brace, his beard and hair smoldering with fire.
“Lord Hephaestus,” Calypso said. “This is a rare honor.”
The fire god grunted. “Calypso. Beautiful as always. Would you excuse us, please, my dear? I need to have a word with our young Percy Jackson.”
Hephaestus sat down clumsily at the dinner table and ordered a Pepsi. The invisible servant brought him one, opened it too suddenly, and sprayed soda all over the gods work clothes. Hephaestus roared and spat a few curses and swatted the can away.
“Stupid servants,” he muttered. “Good automatons are what she needs. They never act up!”
“Hephaestus,” I said, “what’s going on? Is Annabeth—”
“She’s fine,” he said. “Resourceful girl, that one. Found her way back, told me the whole story. She’s worried sick, you know.”
“You haven’t told her I’m okay?”
“That’s not for me to say,” Hephaestus said. “Everyone thinks you’re dead. I had to be sure you were coming back before I s tarted telling everyone where you were.”
“What do you mean?” I said. “Of course I’m coming back!”
Hephaestus studied me skeptically. He fished something out of his pocket—a metal disk the size of an iPod. He clicked a button and it expanded into a miniature bronze TV. On the screen was news footage of Mount St. Helens, a huge plume of fire and ash trailing into the sky.
“Still uncertain about further eruptions,” the newscaster was saying. “Authorities have ordered the evacuation of almost half a million people as a precaution. Meanwhile, ash has fallen as far away as Lake Tahoe and Vancouver, and the entire Mount St. Helens area is closed to traffic within a hundred-mile radius. While no deaths have been reported, minor injuries and illnesses include—”
Hephaestus switched it off. “You caused quite an explosion.”
I stared at the blank bronze screen. Half a million people evacuated? Injuries. Illness. What had I done?
“The telekhines were scattered,” the god told me. “Some vaporized. Some got away, no doubt. I don’t think they’ll be using my forge any time soon. On the other hand, neither will I. the explosion caused Typon to stir in his sleep. We’ll have to wait and see—”
“I couldn’t release him, could I? I mean, I’m not that powerful!”
The god grunted. “Not that powerful, eh? Could have fooled me. You’re the son of the Earthshaker, lad. You don’t know your own strength.”
That’s the last thing I wanted him to say. I hadn’t been in control of myself in that mountain. I’d released so much energy I’d almost vaporized myself, drained all the life out of me. Now I found out I’d nearly destroyed the Northwest U.S. and almost woken the most horrible monster ever imprisoned by the gods. Maybe I was too dangerous. Maybe it was safer for my friends to think I was dead.
“What about Grover and Tyson?” I asked.
Hephaestus shook his head. “No word, I’m afraid. I suppose the labyrinth has them.”
“So what am I supposed to do?”
Hephaestus winced. “Don’t ever ask an old cripple for advice, lad. But I’ll tell you this. You’ve met my wife?”
“That’s her. She’s a tricky one, ad. Be careful of love. It’ll twist your brain around and leave you thinking up is down and right is wrong.”
I thought about my meeting with Aphrodite, in the back of a white Cadillac in the desert last winter. She’d told me that she had taken a special interest in me, and she’d be making things hard for me in the romance department, just because she liked me.
“Is this part of her plan?” I asked. “Did she land me here?”
“Possibly. Hard to say with her. But if you decide to leave this place—and I don’t say what’s right or wrong—then I promised you an answer to your quest. I promised you the way to Daedalus. Well now, here’s the thing. It has nothing to do with Ariadne’s string. Not really. Sure, the string work. That’s what the Titan’s army will be after. Btu the best way through the maze…Theseus had the princess’s help. And the princess was a regular mortal. Not a drop of god blood in her. But she was clever, and she could see, lad. She could see very clearly. So what I’m saying—I think you know how to navigate the maze.”
It finally sank in. why hadn’t I seen it before? Hera had been right. The answer was there all the time.
“Yeah,” I said. “Yeah, I know.”
“Then you’ll need to decide whether or not you’re leaving.”
“I…” I wanted to say yes. Of course I would. But the words stuck in my throat. I found myself looking out at the lake, and suddenly the idea of leaving seemed very hard.
“Don’t decide yet,” Hephaestus advised. “Wait until daybreak. Daybreak is a good time for decisions.”
“Will Daedalus even help us?” I asked. “I mean, if he gives Luke a way to navigate the Labyrinth, we’re dead. I saw dreams about…Daedalus killed his nephew. He turned bitter and angry and—”
“It isn’t easy being a brilliant inventor,” Hephaestus rumbled. “Always alone. Always misunderstood. Easy to turn bitter, make horrible mistakes. People are more difficult to work with than machines. And when you break a person, he can’t be fixed.”
Hephaestus brushed the last drops of Pepsi off his work clothes. “Daedalus started well enough. He helped the Princess Ariadne and Theseus because he felt sorry for them. He tried to do a good deed. And everything in his life went bad because of it. Was that fair?” The god shrugged. “I don’t know if Daedalus will help you, lad, but don’t judge someone until you’ve stood at his forge and worked with his hammer, eh?”