"Nakamura," Kronos said. "Attend me. Giants—deal with them."

He pointed at my friends and me. Then he ducked into the lobby.

For a second I was stunned. I'd been expecting a fight, but Kronos completely ignored me like I wasn't worth the trouble. That made me mad.

The first Hyperborean giant smashed at me with his club. I rolled between his legs and stabbed Riptide into his backside. He shattered into a pile of ice shards. The second giant breathed frost at Annabeth, who was barely able to stand, but Grover pulled her out of the way while Thalia went to work. She sprinted up the giant's back like a gazelle, sliced her hunting knives across his monstrous blue neck, and created the world's largest headless ice sculpture.

I glanced outside the magic barrier. Nico was fighting his way toward my mom and Paul, but they weren't waiting for help. Paul grabbed a sword from a fallen hero and did a pretty fine job keeping a dracaena busy. He stabbed her in the gut, and she disintegrated.

"Paul?" I said in amazement.

He turned toward me and grinned. "I hope that was a monster I just killed. I was a Shakespearian actor in college! Picked up a little swordplay!"

I liked him even better for that, but then a Laistrygonian giant charged toward my mom. She was rummaging around in an abandoned police car—maybe looking for the emergency radio—and her back was turned.

"Mom!" I yelled.

She whirled when the monster was almost on top of her. I thought the thing in her hands was an umbrella until she cranked the pump and the shotgun blast blew the giant twenty feet backward, right into Nico's sword.

"Nice one," Paul said.

"When did you learn to fire a shotgun?" I demanded.

My mom blew the hair out of her face. "About two seconds ago. Percy, we'll be fine. Go!"

"Yes," Nico agreed, "we'll handle the army. You have to get Kronos!"

"Come on, Seaweed Brain!" Annabeth said. I nodded. Then I looked at the rubble pile on the side of the building. My heart twisted. I'd forgotten about Chiron. How could I do that?

"Mrs. O'Leary," I said. "Please, Chiron's under there. If anyone can dig him out, you can. Find him! Help him!"

I'm not sure how much she understood, but she bounded to the pile and started to dig. Annabeth, Thalia, Grover, and I raced for the elevators.

NINETEEN

WE TRASH THE

ETERNAL CITY

The bridge to Olympus was dissolving. We stepped out of the elevator onto the white marble walkway, and immediately cracks appeared at our feet.

"Jump!" Grover said, which was easy for him since he's part mountain goat.

He sprang to the next slab of stone while ours tilted sickeningly.

"Gods, I hate heights!" Thalia yelled as she and I leaped. But Annabeth was in no shape for jumping. She stumbled and yelled, "Percy!"

I caught her hand as the pavement fell, crumbling into dust. For a second I thought she was going to pull us both over. Her feet dangled in the open air. Her hand started to slip until I was holding her only by her fingers. Then Grover and Thalia grabbed my legs, and I found extra strength. Annabeth was not going to fall.

I pulled her up and we lay trembling on the pavement. I didn't realize we had our arms around each other until she suddenly tensed.

"Um, thanks," she muttered.

I tried to say Don't mention it, but it came out as, "Uh duh."

"Keep moving!" Grover tugged my shoulder. We untangled ourselves and sprinted across the sky bridge as more stones disintegrated and fell into oblivion. We made it to the edge of the mountain just as the final section collapsed.

Annabeth looked back at the elevator, which was now completely out of reach—a polished set of metal doors hanging in space, attached to nothing, six hundred stories above Manhattan.

"We're marooned," she said. "On our own."

"Blah-ha-ha!" Grover said. "The connection between Olympus and America is dissolving. If it fails—"

"The gods won't move on to another country this time," Thalia said. "This will be the end of Olympus. The final end."

We ran through streets. Mansions were burning. Statues had been hacked down. Trees in the parks were blasted to splinters. It looked like someone had attacked the city with a giant Weedwacker.

"Kronos's scythe," I said.

We followed the winding path toward the palace of the gods. I didn't remember the road being so long. Maybe Kronos was making time go slower, or maybe it was just dread slowing me down. The whole mountaintop was in ruins—so many beautiful buildings and gardens gone.

A few minor gods and nature spirits had tried to stop Kronos. What remained of them was strewn about the road: shattered armor, ripped clothing, swords and spears broken in half.

Somewhere ahead of us, Kronos's voice roared: "Brick by brick! That was my promise. Tear it down BRICK BY BRICK!"

A white marble temple with a gold dome suddenly exploded. The dome shot up like the lid of a teapot and shattered into a billion pieces, raining rubble over the city.

"That was a shrine to Artemis," Thalia grumbled. "He'll pay for that."

We were running under the marble archway with the huge statues of Zeus and Hera when the entire mountain groaned, rocking sideways like a boat in a storm.

"Look out!" Grover yelped. The archway crumbled. I looked up in time to see a twenty-ton scowling Hera topple over on us. Annabeth and I would've been flattened, but Thalia shoved us from behind and we landed just out of danger.

"Thalia!" Grover cried.

When the dust cleared and the mountain stopped rocking, we found her still alive, but her legs were pinned under the statue.

We tried desperately to move it, but it would've taken several Cyclopes. When we tried to pull Thalia out from under it, she yelled in pain.

"I survive all those battles," she growled, "and I get defeated by a stupid chunk of rock!"

"It's Hera," Annabeth said in outrage. "She's had it in for me all year. Her statue would've killed me if you hadn't pushed us away."

Thalia grimaced. "Well, don't just stand there! I'll be fine. Go!"

We didn't want to leave her, but I could hear Kronos laughing as he approached the hall of the gods. More buildings exploded.

"We'll be back," I promised.

"I'm not going anywhere," Thalia groaned.

A fireball erupted on the side of the mountain, right near the gates of the palace.

"We've got to run," I said.

"I don't suppose you mean away," Grover murmured hopefully.

I sprinted toward the palace, Annabeth right behind me.

"I was afraid of that," Grover sighed, and clip-clopped after us.

The doors of the palace were big enough to steer a cruise ship through, but they'd been ripped off their hinges and smashed like they weighed nothing. We had to climb over a huge pile of broken stone and twisted metal to get inside.

Kronos stood in the middle of the throne room, his arms wide, staring at the starry ceiling as if taking it all in. His laughter echoed even louder than it had from the pit of Tartarus.

"Finally!" he bellowed. "The Olympian Council—so proud and mighty. Which seat of power shall I destroy first?"

Ethan Nakamura stood to one side, trying to stay out of the way of his master's scythe. The hearth was almost dead, just a few coals glowing deep in the ashes. Hestia was nowhere to be seen. Neither was Rachel. I hoped she was okay, but I'd seen so much destruction I was afraid to think about it. The Ophiotaurus swam in his water sphere in the far corner of the room, wisely not making a sound, but it wouldn't be long before Kronos noticed him.

Annabeth, Grover, and I stepped forward into the torchlight. Ethan saw us first.

"My lord," he warned.

Kronos turned and smiled through Luke's face. Except for the golden eyes, he looked just the same as he had four years ago when he'd welcomed me into the Hermes cabin. Annabeth made a painful sound in the back of her throat, like someone had just sucker punched her.

"Shall I destroy you first, Jackson?" Kronos asked. "Is that the choice you will make—to fight me and die instead of bowing down? Prophecies never end well, you know."

"Luke would fight with a sword," I said. "But I suppose you don't have his skill."

Kronos sneered. His scythe began to change, until he held Luke's old weapon, Backbiter, with its half-steel, half-Celestial bronze blade.

Next to me, Annabeth gasped like she'd suddenly had an idea. "Percy, the blade!" She unsheathed her knife. "The hero's soul, cursed blade shall reap."

I didn't understand why she was reminding me of that prophecy line right now. It wasn't exactly a morale booster, but before I could say anything, Kronos raised his sword.

"Wait!" Annabeth yelled.

Kronos came at me like a whirlwind.

My instincts took over. I dodged and slashed and rolled, but I felt like I was fighting a hundred swordsmen. Ethan ducked to one side, trying to get behind me until Annabeth intercepted him. They started to fight, but I couldn't focus on how she was doing. I was vaguely aware of Grover playing his reed pipes. The sound filled me with warmth and courage—thoughts of sunlight and a blue sky and a calm meadow, somewhere far away from the war.

Kronos backed me up against the throne of Hephaestus—a huge mechanical La-Z-Boy type thing covered with bronze and silver gears. Kronos slashed, and I managed to jump straight up onto the seat. The throne whirred and hummed with secret mechanisms. Defense mode, it warned. Defense mode.

That couldn't be good. I jumped straight over Kronos's head as the throne shot tendrils of electricity in all directions. One hit Kronos in the face, arcing down his body and up his sword.

"ARG!" He crumpled to his knees and dropped Backbiter.

Annabeth saw her chance. She kicked Ethan out of the way and charged Kronos. "Luke, listen!"

I wanted to shout at her, to tell her she was crazy for trying to reason with Kronos, but there was no time. Kronos flicked his hand. Annabeth flew backward, slamming into the throne of her mother and crumpling to the floor.

"Annabeth!" I screamed.

Ethan Nakamura got to his feet. He now stood between Annabeth and me. I couldn't fight him without turning my back on Kronos.

Grover's music took on a more urgent tune. He moved toward Annabeth, but he couldn't go any faster and keep up the song. Grass grew on the floor of the throne room. Tiny roots crept up between the cracks of the marble stones.

Kronos rose to one knee. His hair smoldered. His face was covered with electrical burns. He reached for his sword, but this time it didn't fly into his hands.

"Nakamura!" he groaned. "Time to prove yourself. You know Jackson's secret weakness. Kill him, and you will have rewards beyond measure."

Ethan's eyes dropped to my midsection, and I was sure that he knew. Even if he couldn't kill me himself, all he had to do was tell Kronos. There was no way I could defend myself forever.

"Look around you, Ethan," I said. "The end of the world. Is this the reward you want? Do you really want everything destroyed—the good with the bad? Everything?"

Grover was almost to Annabeth now. The grass thickened on the floor. The roots were almost a foot long, like a stubble of whiskers.

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