“Or we’ll die?” I guessed.
“Well…after you shrivel slowly to dust, yes.”
“Let’s avoid the swords,” I decided.
“Briares, fight!” Tyson urged. “Grow to full size!”
Instead, Briares looked like he was trying to shrink even smaller. He appeared to be wearing his absolutely terrified face.
Kampê thundered toward us on her dragon legs, hundreds of snakes slithering around her body.
For a second I thought about drawing Riptide and facing her, but my heart crawled into my throat. Then Annabeth said what I was thinking: “Run.”
That was the end of the debate. There was no fighting this thing. We ran through the jail yard and out the gates of the prison, the monster right behind us. Mortals screamed and ran. Emergency sirens began to blare.
We hit the wharf just as a tour boat was unloading. The new group of visitors froze as they saw us charging toward them, followed by a mob of frightened tourists, followed by…I don’t know what they saw through the Mist, but it could not have been good.
“The boat?” Grover asked.
“Too slow,” Tyson said. “Back into the maze. Only chance.”
“We need a diversion,” Annabeth said.
Tyson ripped a metal lamppost out of the ground. “I will distract Kampê. You run ahead.”
“I’ll help you,” I said.
“No,” Tyson said. “You go. Poison will hurt Cyclopes. A lot of pain. But it won’t kill.”
“Are you sure?”
“Go, brother. I will meet you inside.”
I hated the idea. I’d almost lost Tyson once before, and I didn’t want to ever risk that again. But there was no time to argue, and I had no better idea. Annabeth, Grover, and I each took one of Briares’s hands and dragged him toward the concession stands while Tyson bellowed, lowered his pole, and charged Kampê like a jousting knight.
She’d been glaring at Briares, but Tyson got her attention as soon as he nailed her in the chest with the pole, pushing her back into the wall. She shrieked and slashed with her swords, slicing the pole to shreds. poison dripped in pools all around her, sizzling into the cement.
Tyson jumped back as Kampê’s hair lashed and hissed, and the vipers around her legs darted their tongues in every direction. A lion popped out of the weird half-formed faces around her waist and roared.
As we sprinted for the cellblocks, the last thing I saw was Tyson picking up a Dippin’ Dots stand and throwing it at Kampê. Ice cream and poison exploded everywhere, all the little snakes in Kampê’s hair dotted with tuttifrutti. We dashed back into the jail yard.
“Can’t make it,” Briares huffed.
“Tyson is risking his life to help you!” I yelled at him. “You will make it.”
As we reached the door of the cellblock, I heard an angry roar. I glanced back and saw Tyson running toward us at full speed, Kampê right behind him. She was plastered in ice cream and T-shirts. One of the bear heads on her waist was now wearing a pair of crooked plastic Alcatraz sunglasses.
“Hurry!” Annabeth said, like I needed to be told that.
We finally found the cell where we’d come in, but the back wall was completely smooth—no sign of a boulder or anything.
“Look for the mark!” Annabeth said.
“There!” Grover touched a tiny scratch, and it became a Greek ∆. The mark of Daedalus glowed blue, and the stone wall grinded open.
Too slowly. Tyson was coming through the cellblock, Kampê’s swords lashing out behind him, slicing indiscriminately through cell bars and stone walls.
I pushed Briares inside the maze, then Annabeth and Grover.
“You can do it!” I told Tyson. But immediately I knew he couldn’t Kampê was gaining. She raised her swords. I need a distraction—something big. I slapped my wristwatch and it spiraled into a bronze shield. Desperately, I threw it at the monster’s face.
SMACK! The shield hit her in the face and she faltered just long enough for Tyson to dive past me into the maze. I was right behind him.
Kampê charged, but she was too late. The stone door closed and its magic sealed us in. I could feel the whole tunnel shake as Kampê pounded against it, roaring furiously. We didn’t stick around to play knock, knock with her, though. We raced into the darkness, and for the first time (and the last) I was glad to be back in the Labyrinth.
WE VISIT THE DEMON DUDE RANCH
We finally stopped in a room full of waterfalls. The floor was one big pit, ringed by a slippery stone walkway. Around us, on all four walls, water tumbled from huge pipes. The water spilled down into the pit, and even when I shined a light, I couldn’t see the bottom.
Briares slumped against the wall. He scooped up water in a dozen hands and washed his face. “This pit goes straight to Tartarus,” he murmured. “I should jump in and save you trouble.”
“Don’t talk that way,” Annabeth told him. “You can come back to camp with us. You can help us prepare. You know more about fighting Titans than anybody.”
“I have nothing to offer,” Briares said. “I have lost everything.”
“What about your brothers?” Tyson asked. “The other two must stand tall as mountains! We can take you to them.”
Briares’s expression morphed to something even sadder: his grieving face. “They are no more. They faded.”
The waterfalls thundered. Tyson stared into the pit and blinked tears out of his eye.
“What exactly do you mean, they faded?” I asked. “I thought monsters were immortal, like the gods.”
“Percy,” Grover said weakly, “even immortality has limits. Sometimes…sometimes monsters get forgotten and they lose their will to stay immortal.”
Looking at Grover’s face, I wondered if he was thinking of Pan. I remembered something Medusa had told us once: how her sisters, the other two gorgons, had passed on and left her alone. Then last year Apollo said something about the old god Helios disappearing and leaving him with the duties of the sun god. I’d never thought about it too much, but now, looking at Briares, I realized how terrible it would be to be so old—thousands and thousands of years old—and totally alone.
“I must go,” Briares said.
“Kronos’s army will invade camp,” Tyson said. “We need help.”
Briares hung his head. “I cannot, Cyclops.”
“You are strong.”
“Not anymore.” Briares rose.
“Hey,” I grabbed one of his arms and pulled him aside, where the roar of the water would hide our words. “Briares, we need you. In case you haven’t noticed, Tyson believes in you. He risked his life for you.”
I told him about everything—Luke’s invasion plan, the Labyrinth entrance at camp, Daedalus’s workshop, Kronos’s golden coffin.
Briares just shook his head. “I cannot, demigod. I do not have a finger gun to win this game.” To prove his point, he made one hundred finger guns.
“Maybe that’s why monsters fade,” I said. “Maybe it’s not about what the mortals believe. Maybe it’s because you give up on yourself.”
His pure brown eyes regarded me. His face morphed into an expression I recognized—shame. Then he turned and trudged off down the corridor until he was lost in the shadows.
“It’s okay,” Grover hesitantly patted his shoulder, which must’ve taken all his courage.
Tyson sneezed. “It’s not okay, goat boy. He was my hero.”
I wanted to make him feel better, but I wasn’t sure what to say.
Finally Annabeth stood and shouldered her backpack. “Come on, guys. This pit is making me nervous. Let’s find a better place to camp for the night.”
We settled in a corridor made of huge marble blocks. It looked like it could’ve been part of a Greek tomb, with bronze torch holders fastened to the walls. It had to be an older part of the maze, and Annabeth decided this was a good sign.
“We must be close to Daedalus’s workshop,” she said. “Get some rest, everybody. We’ll keep going in the morning.”
“How do we know when it’s morning?” Grover asked.
“Just rest,” she insisted.
Grover didn’t need to be told twice. He pulled a heap of straw out of his pack, ate some of it, made a pillow out of the rest, and was snoring in no time. Tyson took longer getting to sleep. He tinkered with some metal scraps from his building kit for a while, but whatever he was making, he wasn’t happy with it. He kept disassembling the pieces.
“I’m sorry I lost the shield,” I told him. “You worked so hard to repair it.”
Tyson looked up. His eye was bloodshot from crying. “Do not worry, brother. You saved me. You wouldn’t have had to if Briares had helped.”
“He was just scared,” I said. “I’m sure he’ll get over it.”
“He is not strong,” Tyson said. “He is not important anymore.”
He heaved a big sad sigh, then closed his eye. The metal pieces fell out of his hand, still unassembled, and Tyson began to snore.
I tried to fall asleep myself, but I couldn’t. something about getting chased by a large dragon lady with poison swords made it real hard to relax. I picked up my bedroll and dragged it over to where Annabeth was sitting, keeping watch.
I sat down next to her.
“You should sleep,” she said.
“Can’t. You doing all right?”
“Sure. First day leading the quest. Just great.”
“We’ll get there,” I said. “We’ll find the workshop before Luke does.”
She brushed her hair out of her face. She had a smudge of dirt on her chin, and I imagined what she must’ve looked like when she was little, wandering around the country with Thalia and Luke. Once she’d saved them from the mansion of the evil Cyclops when she was only seven. Even when she looked scared, like now, I knew she had a lot of guts.
“I just wish the quest was logical,” she complained. “I mean, we’re traveling but we have no idea where we’ll end up. How can you walk from New York to California in a day?”
“Space isn’t the same in the maze.”
“I know, I know. It’s just…” She looked at me hesitantly. “Percy, I was kidding myself. All that planning and reading, I don’t have a clue where we’re going.”
“You’re doing great. Besides, we never know what we’re doing. It always works out. Remember Circe’s island?”
She snorted. “You made a cute guinea pig.”
“And Waterland, how you got us thrown off that ride?”
“I got us thrown off? That was totally your fault!”
“See? It’ll be fine.”
She smiled, which I was glad to see, but the smile faded quickly.
“Percy, what did Hera mean when she said you knew the way to get through the maze?”
“I don’t know,” I admitted. “Honestly.”
“You’d tell me if you did?”