There was a moment of deadly silence. The god Janus flickered and disappeared. Then thunder shook the sky. A woman’s stern voice spoke from above: You will pay the price for that, Daedalus.

I’d heard that voice before. It was Annabeth’s mother: Athena.

Daedalus scowled up at the heavens. “I have always honored you, Mother. I have sacrificed everything to follow your way.”

Yet the boy had my blessing as well. And you have killed him. For that, you must pay.

‘I have paid and paid!” Daedalus growled. “I’ve lost everything. I’ll suffer in the Underworld, no doubt. But in the meantime…”

He picked up the boy’s scroll, studied it for a moment, and slipped it into his sleeve.

You do not understand, Athena said coldly. You will pay now and forever.

Suddenly Daedalus collapsed in agony. I felt what he felt. A searing pain closed around my neck like a molten-hot collar—cutting off my breath, making everything go black.


I woke in the dark, my hands clutching my throat.

“Percy?” Grover called from the other sofa. “Are you okay?”

I steadied my breathing. I wasn’t sure how to answer. I’d just watched the guy we were looking for, Daedalus, murder his own nephew. How could I be okay? The television was going. Blue light flickered through the room.

“What—what time is it?” I croaked.

“Two in the morning,” Grover said. “I couldn’t sleep. I was watching the Nature Channel.” He sniffled. “I miss Juniper.”

I rubbed the sleep out of my eyes. “Yeah, well…you’ll see her again soon.”

Grover shook his head sadly. “Do you know what day it is, Percy? I just saw it on TV. It’s June thirteenth. Seven days since we left camp.”

“What?” I said. “That can’t be right.”

“Time is faster in the Labyrinth,” Grover reminded me. “The first time you and Annabeth went down there, you thought you were only gone a few minutes, right? But it was an hour.”

“Oh,” I said. “Right.” Then it dawned on me what he was saying, and my throat felt searing hot again. “Your deadline with the Council of Cloven Elders.”

Grover put the TV remote in his mouth and crunched off the end of it. “I’m out of time,” he said with a mouthful of plastic. “As soon as I go back, they’ll take away my searcher’s license. I’ll never be allowed to go out again.”

“We’ll talk to them,” I promised. “Make them give you more time.”

Grover swallowed. “They’ll never go for it. The world is dying, Percy. What you did today—saving the ranch animals from Geryon—that was amazing. I—I wish I could be more like you.”

“Hey,” I said. “Don’t say that. You’re just as much a hero—”

“No I’m not. I keep trying, but…” He sighed. “Percy, I can’t go back to camp without finding Pan. I just can’t. You understand that, don’t you? I can’t face Juniper if I fail. I can’t even face myself.”

His voice was so unhappy it hurt to hear. We’d been through a lot together, but I’d never heard him sound this down.

“We’ll figure out something,” I said. “You haven’t failed. You’re the champion goat boy, all right? Juniper knows that. So do I.”

Grover closed his eyes. “Champion goat boy,” he muttered dejectedly.

A long time after he dozed off, I was still awake, watching the blue light of the Nature Channel wash over the stuffed trophy heads on Geryon’s walls.


The next morning we walked down to the cattle guard and said our good-byes.

“Nico, you could come with us,” I blurted out. I guess I was thinking about my dream, and how much the young boy Perdix reminded me of Nico.

He shook his head. I don’t think any of us had slept well in the demon ranch house, but Nico looked worse than anybody else. His eyes were red and his face chalky. He was wrapped in a black robe that must’ve belonged to Geryon, because it was three sizes too big even for a grown man.

“I need time to think.” His eyes wouldn’t meet mine, but I could tell from his tone he was still angry. The fact that his sister had come out of the Underworld for me and not for him didn’t seem to sit well with him.

“Nico,” Annabeth said. “Bianca just wants you to be okay.”

She put her hand on his shoulder, but he pulled away and trudged up the road toward the ranch house. Maybe it was my imagination, but the morning mist seemed to cling to him as he walked.

“I’m worried about him,” Annabeth told me. “If he starts talking to Minos’s ghost again—”

“He’ll be al right,” Eurytion promised. The cowherd had cleaned up nicely. He was wearing new jeans and a clean Western shirt and he’d even trimmed his beard. He’d put on Geryon’s boots. “The boy can stay here and gather his thoughts as long as he wants. He’ll be safe, I promise.”

“What about you?” I asked.

Eurytion scratched Orthus behind one chin, then the other. “Things are going to be run a little different on this ranch from now on. No more sacred cattle meat. I’m thinking about soybean patties. And I’m going to befriend those flesh-eating horses. Might just sign up for the next rodeo.”

The idea made me shudder. “Well, good luck.”

“Yep.” Eurytion spit into the grass. “I reckon you’ll be looking for Daedalus’s workshop now?”

Annabeth’s eyes lit up. “Can you help us?”

Eurytion studied the cattle guard, and I got the feeling the subject of Daedalus’s workshop made him uncomfortable. “Don’t know where it is. But Hephaestus probably would.”

“That’s what Hera said,” Annabeth agreed. “But how do we find Hephaestus?”

Eurytion pulled something from under the collar of his shirt. It was a necklace—a smooth silver disk on a silver chain. The disk had a depression on the middle, like a thumbprint. He handed it to Annabeth.

“Hephaestus comes here from time to time,” Eurytion said. “Studies the animals and such so he can make bronze automaton copies. Last time, I— uh—did him a favor. A little trick he wanted to play on my dad, Ares, and Aphrodite. He gave me that chain in gratitude. Said if I ever needed to find him, the disk would lead me to his forges. But only once.”

“And you’re giving it to me?” Annabeth asked.

Eurytion blushed. “I don’t need to see the forges, miss. Got enough to do here. Just press the button and you’ll be on your way.”

Annabeth pressed the button and the disk sprang to life. It grew eight metallic legs. Annabeth shrieked and dropped it, much to Eurytion’s confusion.

“Spider!” she screamed.

“She’s, um, a little scared of spiders,” Grover explained. “That old grudge between Athena and Arachne.”

“Oh.” Eurytion looked a little embarrassed. “Sorry, miss.”

The spider scrambled to the cattle guard and disappeared between the bars.

“Hurry,” I said. “That thing’s not going to wait for us.”

Annabeth wasn’t anxious to follow, but we didn’t have much choice. We said our good-byes to Eurytion, Tyson pulled the cattle guard off the hole, and we dropped back into the maze.


I wish I could’ve put the mechanical spider on a leash. It scuttled along the tunnels so fast, most of time I couldn’t even see it. If it hadn’t been for Tyson’s and Grover’s excellent hearing, we never would’ve known which way it was going.

We ran down a marble tunnel, then dashed to the left and almost fell into an abyss. Tyson grabbed me and hauled me back before I could fall. The tunnel continued in front of us, but there was no floor for about a hundred feet, just gaping darkness and a series of iron rungs in the ceiling. The mechanical spider was about halfway across, swinging from bar to bar by shooting out metal web fiber.

“Monkey bars,” Annabeth said. “I’m great at these.”

She leaped onto the first rung and started swinging her way across. She was scared of tiny spiders, but not of plummeting to her death from a set of monkey bars. Go figure.

Annabeth got to the opposite side and ran after the spider. I followed. When I got across, I looked back and saw Tyson giving Grover a piggyback ride (or was it a goatyback ride?). the big guy made it across in three swings, which was a good thing since, just as he landed, the last iron bar ripped free under his weight.

We kept moving and passed a skeleton crumpled in the tunnel. It work the remains of a dress shirt, slacks, and a tie. The spider didn’t slow down. I slipped on a pile of wood scraps, but when I shined a light on them I realized they were pencils—hundreds of them, all broken in half.

The tunnel opened up onto a large room. A blazing light hit us. Once my eyes adjusted, the first thing I noticed were the skeletons. Dozens littered the floor around us. Some were old and bleached white. Others were more recent and a lot grosser. They didn’t smell quite as bad as Geryon’s stables, but almost.

Then I saw the monster. She stood on a glittery dais on the opposite side of the room. She had the body of a huge lion and the head of a woman. She would’ve been pretty, but her hair was tied back in a tight bun and she wore too much makeup, so she kind of reminded me of my third-grade choir teacher. She had a blue ribbon badge pinned to her chest that took me a moment to read: THIS MONSTER HAS BEEN RATED EXEMPLARY!

Tyson whimpered. “Sphinx.”

I knew exactly why he was scared. When he was small, Tyson had been attacked by a Sphinx’s paws and disappeared.

Annabeth started forward, but the Sphinx roared, showing fangs in her otherwise human face. Bars came down on both tunnel exits, behind us and in front.

Immediately the monster’s snarl turned into a brilliant smile.

“Welcome, lucky contestants!” she announced. “Get ready to play…ANSWER THAT RIDDLE!”

Canned applause blasted from the ceiling, as if there were invisible loudspeakers. Spotlights swept across the room and reflected off the dais, throwing disco glitter over the skeletons on the floor.

“Fabulous prizes!” the Sphinx said. “Pass the test, and you get to advance! Fail, and I get to eat you! Who will be our contestant?”

Annabeth grabbed my arm. “I’ve got this,” she whispered. “I know what she’s going to ask.”

I didn’t argue too hard. I didn’t want Annabeth getting devoured by a monster, but I figured if the Sphinx was going to ask riddles, Annabeth was the best one of us to try.

She stepped forward to the contestant’s podium, which had a skeleton in a school uniform hunched over it. She pushed the skeleton out of the way, and it clattered to the floor.

“Sorry,” Annabeth told it.

“Welcome, Annabeth Chase!” the monster cried, though Annabeth hadn’t said her name. “Are you ready for your test?”

“Yes,” she said. “Ask your riddle.”