“Di immortals,” Annabeth muttered. She ran to the nearest easel and looked at the sketch. “He’s a genius. Look at the curves on this building!”
“And an artist,” Rachel said in amazement. “These wings are amazing!”
The wings looked more advanced than the ones I’d seen in my dreams. The feathers were more tightly interwoven. Instead of wax seals, self-adhesive strips ran down the sides.
I kept my hand on Riptide. Apparently Daedalus was not at home, but the workshop looked like it had been recently used. The laptops were running their screen savers. A half-eaten blueberry muffin and a coffee cup sat on a workbench.
I walked to the window. The view outside was amazing. I recognized the Rocky Mountains in the distance. We were high up in the foothills, at least five hundred feet, and down below a valley spread out, filled with a tumbled collection of red mesas and boulders and spires of stone. It looked like some huge kid had been building a toy city with skyscraper-size blocks, and then decided to knock it over.
“Where are we?” I wondered.
“Colorado Springs,” A voice said behind us. “The Garden of the Gods.”
Standing on the spiral staircase above us, with his weapon drawn, was our missing sword master Quintus.
“You,” Annabeth said. “What have you done with Daedalus?”
Quintus smiled faintly. “Trust me, my dear. You don’t want to meet him.”
“Look, Mr. Traitor,” she growled, “I didn’t fight a dragon woman and a three-bodied man and a psychotic Sphinx to see you. Now where is DAEDALUS?”
Quintus came down the stairs, holding his sword at his side. He was dressed in jeans and boots and his counselor’s T-shirt from Camp Half-Blood, which seemed like an insult now that we knew he was a spy. I didn’t know if I could beat him in a sword fight. He was pretty good. But I figured I would have to try.
“You think I’m an agent of Kronos,” he said. “That I work for Luke.”
“Well, duh,” said Annabeth.
“You’re an intelligent girl,” he said. “But you’re wrong. I work only for myself.”
“Luke mentioned you,” I said. “Geryon knew about you, too. You’ve been to his ranch.”
“Of course,” he said. “I’ve been almost everywhere. Even here.”
He walked past me like I was no threat at all and stood by the window. “The view changes from day to day,” he mused. “It’s always some place high up. Yesterday it was from a skyscraper overlooking Manhattan. The day before that, there was a beautiful view of Lake Michigan. But it keeps coming back to the Garden of the Gods. I think the Labyrinth likes it here. A fitting name, I suppose.”
“You’ve been here before,” I said.
“That’s an illusion out there?” I asked. “A projection or something?”
“No,” Rachel murmured. “It’s real. We’re really in Colorado.”
Quintus regarded her. “You have clear vision, don’t you? you remind me of another mortal girl I once knew. Another princess who came to grief.”
“Enough games,” I said. “What have you done with Daedalus?”
Quintus stared at me. “My boy, you need lessons from your friend on seeing clearly. I am Daedalus.”
There were a lot of answers I might’ve given, from “I knew that” to “LIAR!” to “Yeah right, and I’m Zeus.”
The only thing I could think to say was, “But you’re not an inventor! You’re a swordsman!”
“I am both,” Quintus said. “And an architect. And a scholar. I also play basketball pretty well for a guy who didn’t start until he was two thousand years old. A real artist must be good at many things.”
“That’s true,” Rachel said. “Like I can paint with my feet as well as my hands.”
“You see?” Quintus said. “A girl of many talents.”
“But you don’t even look like Daedalus,” I protested. “I saw him in a dream, and…” Suddenly a horrible thought dawned on me.
“Yes,” Quintus said. “You’ve finally guessed the truth.”
“You’re an automaton. You made yourself a new body.”
“Percy,” Annabeth said uneasily, “that’s not possible. That—that can’t be an automaton.”
Quintus chuckled. “Do you know what Quintus means, my dear?”
“The fifth, in Latin. But—”
“This is my fifth body.” The swordsman held out his forearm. He pressed his elbow and part of his wrist popped open—a rectangular hatch in his skin. Underneath, bronze gears whirred. Wires glowed.
“That’s amazing!” Rachel said.
“That’s weird,” I said.
“You found a way to transfer your animus into a machine?” Annabeth said. “That’s…not natural.”
“Oh, I assure you, my dear, it’s still me. I’m still very much Daedalus. Our mother, Athena, makes sure I never forget that.” He tugged back the collar of his shirt. At the base of his neck was the mark I’d seen before—the dark shape of a bird grafted to his skin.
“A murderer’s brand,” Annabeth said.
“For your nephew, Perdix,” I guessed. “The boy you pushed off the tower.”
Quintus’s face darkened. “I did not push him. I simply—”
“Made him lose his balance,” I said. “Let him die.”
Quintus gazed out the windows at the purple mountains. “I regret what I did, Percy. I was angry and bitter. But I cannot take it back, and Athena never lets me forget. As Perdix died, she turned him into a small bird—a partridge. She branded the bird’s shape on my neck as a reminder. No matter what body I take, the brand appears on my skin.”
I looked into his eyes, and I realized he was the same man I’d seen in my dreams. His face might be totally different, but the same soul was in there— the same intelligence and all the sadness.
“You really are Daedalus,” I decided. “But why did you come to the camp? Why spy on us?”
“To see if your camp was worth saving. Luke had given me one story. I preferred to come to my own conclusions.”
“So you have talked to Luke.”
“Oh, yes. Several times. He is quite persuasive.”
“But now you’ve seen the camp!” Annabeth persisted. “So you know we need your help. You can’t let Luke through the maze!”
Daedalus set his sword on the workbench. “The maze is no longer mine to control, Annabeth. I created it, yes. In fact, it is tied to my life force. But I have allowed it to live and grow on its own. That is the price I paid for privacy.”
“Privacy from what?”
“The gods,” he said. “And death. I have been alive for two millennia, my dear, hiding from death.”
“But how can you hide from Hades?” I asked. “I mean…Hades has the Furies.”
“They do not know everything,” he said. “Or see everything. You have encountered them, Percy. You know this is true. A clever man can hide quite a long time, and I have buried myself very deep. Only my greatest enemy has kept after me, and even him I have thwarted.”
“You mean Minos,” I said.
Daedalus nodded. “He hunts for me relentlessly. Now that he is a judge of the dead, he would like nothing better than for me to come before him so he can punish me for my crimes. After the daughters of Cocalus killed him, Minos’s ghost began torturing me in my dreams. He promised that he would hunt me down. I did the only thing I could. I retreated from the world completely. I descended into my Labyrinth. I decided this would be my ultimate accomplishment: I would cheat death.”
“And you did,” Annabeth marveled, “for two thousand years.” She sounded kind of impressed, despite the horrible things Daedalus had done.
Just then a loud bark echoed from the corridor. I heard the ba-BUMP, ba-BUMP, ba-BUMP of huge paws, and Mrs. O’Leary bounded into the workshop. She licked my face once, then almost knocked Daedalus over with an enthusiastic leap.
“There is my old friend!” Daedalus said, scratching Mrs. O’Leary behind the ears. “My only companion all these long lonely years.”
“You let her save me,” I said. “That whistle actually worked.”
Daedalus nodded. “Of course it did, Percy. You have a good heart. And I knew Mrs. O’Leary liked you. I wanted to help you. Perhaps I—I felt guilty, as well.”
“Guilty about what?”
“That your quest would be in vain.”
“What?” Annabeth said. “But you can still help us. You have to! Give us Ariadne’s string so Luke can’t get it.”
“Yes…the string. I told Luke that the eyes of a clear-sighted mortal are the best guide, but he did not trust me. He was so focused on the idea of a magic item. And the string works. It’s not as accurate as your mortal friend here, perhaps. But good enough. Good enough.”
“Where is it?” Annabeth said.
“With Luke,” Daedalus said sadly. “I’m sorry, my dear. But you are several hours too late.”
With a chill I realized why Luke had been in such a good mood in the arena. He’d already gotten the string from Daedalus. His only obstacle had been the arena master, and I’d taken care of that for him by killing Antaeus.
“Kronos promised me freedom,” Quintus said. “Once Hades is overthrown, he will set me over the Underworld. I will reclaim my son Icarus. I will make things right with poor young Perdix. I will see Minos’s soul cast into Tartarus, where it cannot bother me again. And I will no longer have to run from death.”
“That’s your brilliant idea?” Annabeth yelled. “You’re going to let Luke destroy your camp, kill hundreds of demigods, and then attack Olympus? You’re going to bring down the entire world so you can get what you want?”
“Your cause is doomed, my dear. I saw that as soon as I began to work at your camp. There is no way you can hold back the might of Kronos.”
“That’s not true!” she cried.
“I am doing what I must, my dear. The offer was too sweet to refuse. I’m sorry.”
Annabeth pushed over an easel. Architectural drawing scattered across the floor. “I used to respect you. You were my hero! You—you built amazing things. You solved problems. Now…I don’t know what you are. Children of Athena are supposed to be wise, not just clever. Maybe you are just a machine. You should have died two thousand years ago.”
Instead of getting mad, Daedalus hung his head. “You should go warn your camp. Now that Luke has the string—”
Suddenly Mrs. O’Leary pricked up her ears.
“Someone’s coming!” Rachel warned.
The doors of the workshop burst open, and Nico was pushed inside, his hands in chains. Then Kelli and two Laistrygonians marched in behind him, followed by the ghost of Minos. He looked almost solid now—a pale bearded king with cold eyes and tendrils of Mist coiling off his robes.