In the woods on the right, the Hunters sent a volley of silver arrows into the enemy line, destroying twenty or thirty dracaenae, but more marched behind them. A bolt of lightning crackled out of the sky and fried a Laistrygonian giant to ashes, and I knew Thalia must be doing her daughter of Zeus thing.
Grover raised his pipes and played a quick tune. A roar went up from the woods on both sides as every tree, rock, and bush seemed to sprout a spirit. Dryads and satyrs raised their clubs and charged. The trees wrapped around the monsters, strangling them. Grass grew around the feet of the enemy archers. Stones flew up and hit dracaenae in the faces.
The enemy slogged forward. Giants smashed through the trees, and naiads faded as their life sources were destroyed. Hellhounds lunged at the timber wolves, knocking them aside. Enemy archers returned fire, and a Hunter fell from a high branch.
"Percy!" Annabeth grabbed my arm and pointed at the reservoir. The Titan in the gold armor wasn't waiting for his forces to advance around the sides. He was charging toward us, walking straight over the top of the lake.
A Greek firebomb exploded right on top of him, but he raised his palm and sucked the flames out of the air.
"Hyperion," Annabeth said in awe. "The lord of light. Titan of the east."
"Bad?" I guessed.
"Next to Atlas, he's the greatest Titan warrior. In the old days, four Titans controlled the four corners of the world. Hyperion was the east—the most powerful. He was the father of Helios, the first sun god."
"I'll keep him busy," I promised.
"Percy, even you can't—"
"Just keep our forces together."
We'd set up at the reservoir for good reason. I concentrated on the water and felt its power surging through me.
I advanced toward Hyperion, running over the top of the water. Yeah, buddy. Two can play that game.
Twenty feet away, Hyperion raised his sword. His eyes were just like I'd seen in my dream—as gold as Kronos's but brighter, like miniature suns.
"The sea god's brat," he mused. "You're the one who trapped Atlas beneath the sky again?"
"It wasn't hard," I said. "You Titans are about as bright as my gym socks."
Hyperion snarled. "You want bright?"
His body ignited in a column of light and heat. I looked away, but I was still blinded.
Instinctively I raised Riptide—just in time. Hyperion's blade slammed against mine. The shock wave sent a ten-foot ring of water across the surface of the lake.
My eyes still burned. I had to shut off his light.
I concentrated on the tidal wave and forced it to reverse. Just before impact, I jumped upward on a jet of water.
"AHHHHH!" The waves smashed into Hyperion and he went under, his light extinguished.
I landed on the lake's surface just as Hyperion struggled to his feet. His golden armor was dripping wet. His eyes no longer blazed, but they still looked murderous.
"You will burn, Jackson!" he roared.
Our swords met again and the air charged with ozone.
The battle still raged around us. On the right flank, Annabeth was leading an assault with her siblings. On the left flank, Grover and his nature spirits were regrouping, entangling the enemies with bushes and weeds.
"Enough games," Hyperion told me. "We fight on land."
I was about to make some clever comment, like "No," when the Titan yelled. A wall of force slammed me through the air—just like the trick Kronos had pulled on the bridge. I sailed backward about three hundred yards and smashed into the ground. If it hadn't been for my new invulnerability, I would've broken every bone in my body.
I got to my feet, groaning. "I really hate it when you Titans do that."
Hyperion closed on me with blinding speed.
I concentrated on the water, drawing strength from it.
Hyperion attacked. He was powerful and fast, but he couldn't seem to land a blow. The ground around his feet kept erupting in flames, but I kept dousing it just as quickly.
"Stop it!" the Titan roared. "Stop that wind!"
I wasn't sure what he meant. I was too busy fighting.
Hyperion stumbled like he was being pushed away. Water sprayed his face, stinging his eyes. The wind picked up, and Hyperion staggered backward.
"Percy!" Grover called in amazement. "How are you doing that?"
Doing what? I thought.
Then I looked down, and I realized I was standing in the middle of my own personal hurricane. Clouds of water vapor swirled around me, winds so powerful they buffeted Hyperion and flattened the grass in a twenty-yard radius. Enemy warriors threw javelins at me, but the storm knocked them aside.
"Sweet," I muttered. "But a little more!"
Lightning flickered around me. The clouds darkened and the rain swirled faster. I closed in on Hyperion and blew him off his feet.
"Percy!" Grover called again. "Bring him over here!"
I slashed and jabbed, letting my reflexes take over, Hyperion could barely defend himself. His eyes kept trying to ignite, but the hurricane quenched his flames.
I couldn't keep up a storm like this forever, though. I could feel my powers weakening. With one last effort, I propelled Hyperion across the field, straight to where Grover was waiting.
"I will not be toyed with!" Hyperion bellowed.
He managed to get to his feet again, but Grover put his reed pipes to his lips and began to play. Leneus joined him. Around the grove, every satyr took up the song—an eerie melody, like a creek flowing over stones. The ground erupted at Hyperion's feet. Gnarled roots wrapped around his legs.
"What's this?" he protested. He tried to shake off the roots, but he was still weak. The roots thickened until he looked like he was wearing wooden boots.
"Stop this!" he shouted. "Your woodland magic is no match for a Titan!"
But the more he struggled, the faster the roots grew. They curled about his body, thickening and hardening into bark. His golden armor melted into the wood, becoming part of a large trunk.
The music continued. Hyperion's forces backed up in astonishment as their leader was absorbed. He stretched out his arms and they became branches, from which smaller branches shot out and grew leaves. The tree grew taller and thicker, until only the Titan's face was visible in the middle of the trunk.
"You cannot imprison me!" he bellowed. "I am Hyperion! I am—"
The bark closed over his face.
Grover took his pipes from his mouth. "You are a very nice maple tree."
Several of the other satyrs passed out from exhaustion, but they'd done their job well. The Titan lord was completely encased in an enormous maple. The trunk was at least twenty feet in diameter, with branches as tall as any in the park. The tree might've stood there for centuries.
The Titan's army started to retreat. A cheer went up from the Athena cabin, but our victory was short-lived.
Because just then Kronos unleashed his surprise.
The squeal echoed through upper Manhattan. Demigods and monsters alike froze in terror.
Grover shot me a panicked look. "Why does that sound like . . . It can't be!"
I knew what he was thinking. Two years ago we'd gotten a "gift" from Pan—a huge boar that carried us across the Southwest (after it tried to kill us). The boar had a similar squeal, but what we were hearing now seemed higher pitched, shriller, almost like . . . like if the boar had an angry girlfriend.
"REEEEEET!" A huge pink creature soared over the reservoir—a Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade nightmare blimp with wings.
"A sow!" Annabeth cried. "Take cover!"
The demigods scattered as the winged lady pig swooped down. Her wings were pink like a flamingo's, which matched her skin beautifully, but it was hard to think of her as cute when her hooves slammed into the ground, barely missing one of Annabeth's siblings. The pig stomped around and tore down half an acre of trees, belching a cloud of noxious gas. Then it took off again, circling around for another strike.
"Don't tell me that thing is from Greek mythology," I complained.
"Afraid so," Annabeth said. "The Clazmonian Sow. It terrorized Greek towns back in the day."
"Let me guess," I said. "Hercules beat it."
"Nope," Annabeth said. "As far as I know, no hero has ever beaten it."
"Perfect," I muttered.
The Titan's army was recovering from its shock. I guess they realized the pig wasn't after them.
We only had seconds before they were ready to fight, and our forces were still in a panic. Every time the sow belched, Grover's nature spirits yelped and faded back into their trees.
"That pig has to go." I grabbed a grappling hook from one of Annabeth's siblings. "I'll take care of it. You guys hold the rest of the enemy. Push them back!"
"But, Percy," Grover said, "what if we can't?"
I saw how tired he was. The magic had really drained him. Annabeth didn't look much better from fighting with a bad shoulder wound. I didn't know how the Hunters were doing, but the right flank of the enemy army was now between them and us.
I didn't want to leave my friends in such bad shape, but that sow was the biggest threat. It would destroy everything: buildings, trees, sleeping mortals. It had to be stopped.
"Retreat if you need to," I said. "Just slow them down. I'll be back as soon as I can."
Before I could change my mind, I swung the grappling hook like a lasso. When the sow came down for its next pass, I threw with all my strength. The hook wrapped around the base of the pig's wing. It squealed in rage and veered off, yanking the rope and me into the sky.
If you're heading downtown from Central Park, my advice is to take the subway. Flying pigs are faster, but way more dangerous.
The sow soared past the Plaza Hotel, straight into the canyon of Fifth Avenue. My brilliant plan was to climb the rope and get on the pig's back. Unfortunately I was too busy swinging around dodging streetlamps and the sides of buildings.
Another thing I learned: it's one thing to climb a rope in gym class. It's a completely different thing to climb a rope attached to a moving pig's wing while you're flying at a hundred miles an hour.
We zigzagged along several blocks and continued south on Park Avenue.
Boss! Hey, boss! Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Blackjack speeding along next to us, darting back and forth to avoid the pig's wings.
"Watch out!" I told him.
Hop on! Blackjack whinnied. I can catch you . . . probably.
That wasn't very reassuring. Grand Central lay dead ahead. Above the main entrance stood the giant statue of Hermes, which I guess hadn't been activated because it was so high up. I was flying right toward him at the speed of demigod-smashing.
"Stay alert!" I told Blackjack. "I've got an idea."
Oh, I hate your ideas.
I swung outward with all my might. Instead of smashing into the Hermes statue, I whipped around it, circling the rope under its arms. I thought this would tether the pig, but I'd underestimated the momentum of a thirty-ton sow in flight. Just as the pig wrenched the statue loose from its pedestal, I let go. Hermes went for a ride, taking my place as the pig's passenger, and I free-fell toward the street.
In that split second I thought about the days when my mom used to work at the Grand Central candy shop. I thought how bad it would be if I ended up as a grease spot on the pavement.
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