Annabeth looked at me like I was nuts, but in the next second, the air was filled with whistling sounds of ropes being snapped taut, canvases unfurling, and wooden pulleys creaking.
Annabeth ducked as a cable flew over her head and wrapped itself around the bowsprit.
“Percy, how …”
I didn’t have an answer, but I could feel the ship responding to me as if it were part of my body. I willed the sails to rise as easily as if I were flexing my arm. I willed the rudder to turn.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge lurched away from the dock, and by the time the pirates arrived at the water’s edge, we were already underway, sailing into the Sea of Monsters.
Chapter Thirteen: Annabeth Tries To Swim Home
I’d finally found something I was really good at.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge responded to my every command. I knew which ropes to hoist, which sails to raise, which direction to steer. We plowed through the waves at what I figured was about ten knots. I even understood how fast that was. For a sailing ship, pretty darn fast.
It all felt perfect—the wind in my face, the waves breaking over the prow.
But now that we were out of danger, all I could think about was how much I missed Tyson, and how worried I was about Grover.
I couldn’t get over how badly I’d messed up on Circe’s Island. If it hadn’t been for Annabeth, I’d still be a rodent, hiding in a hutch with a bunch of cute furry pirates. I thought about what Circe had said: See, Percy? You’ve unlocked your true self!
I still felt changed. Not just because I had a sudden desire to eat lettuce. I felt jumpy, like the instinct to be a scared little animal was now a part of me. Or maybe it had always been there. That’s what really worried me.
We sailed through the night.
Annabeth tried to help me keep lookout, but sailing didn’t agree with her. After a few hours rocking back and forth, her face turned the color of guacamole and she went below to lie in a hammock.
I watched the horizon. More than once I spotted monsters. A plume of water as tall as a skyscraper spewed into the moonlight. A row of green spines slithered across the waves—
something maybe a hundred feet long, reptilian. I didn’t really want to know.
Once I saw Nereids, the glowing lady spirits of the sea. I tried to wave at them, but they disappeared into the depths, leaving me unsure whether they’d seen me or not.
Sometime after midnight, Annabeth came up on deck. We were just passing a smoking volcano island. The sea bubbled and steamed around the shore.
“One of the forges of Hephaestus,” Annabeth said. “Where he makes his metal monsters.”
“Like the bronze bulls?”
She nodded. “Go around. Far around.”
I didn’t need to be told twice. We steered clear of the island, and soon it was just a red patch of haze behind us.
I looked at Annabeth. “The reason you hate Cyclopes so much … the story about how Thalia really died. What happened?”
It was hard to see her expression in the dark.
“I guess you deserve to know,” she said finally. “The night Grover was escorting us to camp, he got confused, took some wrong turns. You remember he told you that once?”
“Well, the worst wrong turn was into a Cyclops’s lair in Brooklyn.”
“They’ve got Cyclopes in Brooklyn?” I asked.
“You wouldn’t believe how many, but that’s not the point. This Cyclops, he tricked us. He managed to split us up inside this maze of corridors in an old house in Flatbush. And he could sound like anyone, Percy. Just the way Tyson did aboard the Princess Andromeda. He lured us, one at a time. Thalia thought she was running to save Luke. Luke thought he heard me scream for help. And me … I was alone in the dark. I was seven years old. I couldn’t even find the exit.”
She brushed the hair out of her face. “I remember finding the main room. There were bones all over the floor. And there were Thalia and Luke and Grover, tied up and gagged, hanging from the ceiling like smoked hams. The Cyclops was starting a fire in the middle of the floor. I drew my knife, but he heard me. He turned and smiled. He spoke, and somehow he knew my dad’s voice. I guess he just plucked it out of my mind. He said, ‘Now, Annabeth, don’t you worry. I love you. You can stay here with me. You can stay forever.’”
I shivered. The way she told it—even now, six years later—freaked me out worse than any ghost story I’d ever heard. “What did you do?”
“I stabbed him in the foot.”
I stared at her. “Are you kidding? You were seven years old and you stabbed a grown Cyclops in the foot?”
“Oh, he would’ve killed me. But I surprised him. It gave me just enough time to run to Thalia and cut the ropes on her hands. She took it from there.”
“Yeah, but still … that was pretty brave, Annabeth.”
She shook her head. “We barely got out alive. I still have nightmares, Percy. The way that Cyclops talked in my father’s voice. It was his fault we took so long getting to camp. All the monsters who’d been chasing us had time to catch up. That’s really why Thalia died. If it hadn’t been for that Cyclops, she’d still be alive today.”
We sat on the deck, watching the Hercules constellation rise in the night sky.
“Go below,” Annabeth told me at last. “You need some rest.”
I nodded. My eyes were heavy. But when I got below and found a hammock, it took me a long time to fall asleep. I kept thinking about Annabeth’s story. I wondered, if I were her, would I have had enough courage to go on this quest, to sail straight toward the lair of another Cyclops?
I didn’t dream about Grover.
Instead I found myself back in Luke’s stateroom aboard the Princess Andromeda. The curtains were open. It was nighttime outside. The air swirled with shadows. Voices whispered all around me—spirits of the dead.
Beware, they whispered. Traps. Trickery.
Kronos’s golden sarcophagus glowed faintly—the only source of light in the room.
A cold laugh startled me. It seemed to come from miles below the ship. You don’t have the courage, young one. You can’t stop me.
I knew what I had to do. I had to open that coffin.
I uncapped Riptide. Ghosts whirled around me like a tornado. Beware!
My heart pounded. I couldn’t make my feet move, but I had to stop Kronos. I had to destroy whatever was in that box.
Then a girl spoke right next to me: “Well, Seaweed Brain?”
I looked over, expecting to see Annabeth, but the girl wasn’t Annabeth. She wore punk-style clothes with silver chains on her wrists. She had spiky black hair, dark eyeliner around her stormy blue eyes, and a spray of freckles across her nose. She looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure why.
“Well?” she asked. “Are we going to stop him or not?”
I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t move.
The girl rolled her eyes. “Fine. Leave it to me and Aegis.”
She tapped her wrist and her silver chains transformed— flattening and expanding into a huge shield. It was silver and bronze, with the monstrous face of Medusa protruding from the center. It looked like a death mask, as if the gorgon’s real head had been pressed into the metal. I didn’t know if that was true, or if the shield could really petrify me, but I looked away. Just being near it made me cold with fear. I got a feeling that in a real fight, the bearer of that shield would be almost impossible to beat. Any sane enemy would turn and run.
The girl drew her sword and advanced on the sarcophagus. The shadowy ghosts parted for her, scattering before the terrible aura of her shield.
“No,” I tried to warn her.
But she didn’t listen. She marched straight up to the sarcophagus and pushed aside the golden lid.
For a moment she stood there, gazing down at whatever was in the box.
The coffin began to glow.
“No.” The girl’s voice trembled. “It can’t be.”
From the depths of the ocean, Kronos laughed so loudly the whole ship trembled.
“No!” The girl screamed as the sarcophagus engulfed her in a blast of a golden light.
“Ah!” I sat bolt upright in my hammock.
Annabeth was shaking me. “Percy, you were having a nightmare. You need to get up.”
“Wh—what is it?” I rubbed my eyes. “What’s wrong?”
“Land,” she said grimly. “We’re approaching the island of the Sirens.”
I could barely make out the island ahead of us—just a dark spot in the mist.
“I want you to do me a favor,” Annabeth said. “The Sirens … we’ll be in range of their singing soon.”
I remembered stories about the Sirens. They sang so sweetly their voices enchanted sailors and lured them to their death.
“No problem,” I assured her. “We can just stop up our ears. There’s a big tub of candle wax below deck—”
“I want to hear them.”
I blinked. “Why?”
“They say the Sirens sing the truth about what you desire. They tell you things about yourself you didn’t even realize. That’s what’s so enchanting. If you survive … you become wiser. I want to hear them. How often will I get that chance?”
Coming from most people, this would’ve made no sense. But Annabeth being who she was—well, if she could struggle through Ancient Greek architecture books and enjoy documentaries on the History Channel, I guessed the Sirens would appeal to her, too.
She told me her plan. Reluctantly, I helped her get ready.
As soon as the rocky coastline of the island came into view, I ordered one of the ropes to wrap around Annabeth’s waist, tying her to the foremast.
“Don’t untie me,” she said, “no matter what happens or how much I plead. I’ll want to go straight over the edge and drown myself.”
“Are you trying to tempt me?”
I promised I’d keep her secure. Then I took two large wads of candle wax, kneaded them into earplugs, and stuffed my ears.
Annabeth nodded sarcastically, letting me know the earplugs were a real fashion statement.
I made a face at her and turned to the pilot’s wheel.
The silence was eerie. I couldn’t hear anything but the rush of blood in my head. As we approached the island, jagged rocks loomed out of the fog. I willed the Queen Anne’s Revenge to skirt around them. If we sailed any closer, those rocks would shred our hull like blender blades.
I glanced back. At first, Annabeth seemed totally normal. Then she got a puzzled look on her face. Her eyes widened.
She strained against the ropes. She called my name—I could tell just from reading her lips.
Her expression was clear: She had to get out. This was life or death. I had to let her out of the ropes right now.
She seemed so miserable it was hard not to cut her free.
I forced myself to look away. I urged the Queen Anne’s Revenge to go faster.
I still couldn’t see much of the island—just mist and rocks—but floating in the water were pieces of wood and fiberglass, the wreckage of old ships, even some flotation cushions from airplanes.