"There is no throne to Nemesis," Ethan muttered. "No throne to my mother."
"That's right!" Kronos tried to get up, but stumbled. Above his left ear, a patch of blond hair still smoldered. "Strike them down! They deserve to suffer."
"You said your mom is the goddess of balance," I reminded him. "The minor gods deserve better, Ethan, but total destruction isn't balance. Kronos doesn't build. He only destroys."
Ethan looked at the sizzling throne of Hephaestus. Grover's music kept playing, and Ethan swayed to it, as if the song were filling him with nostalgia—a wish to see a beautiful day, to be anywhere but here. His good eye blinked.
Then he charged . . . but not at me.
While Kronos was still on his knees, Ethan brought down his sword on the Titan lord's neck. It should have killed him instantly, but the blade shattered. Ethan fell back, grasping his stomach. A shard of his own blade had ricocheted and pierced his armor.
Kronos rose unsteadily, towering over his servant. "Treason," he snarled.
Grover's music kept playing, and grass grew around Ethan's body. Ethan stared at me, his face tight with pain.
"Deserve better," he gasped. "If they just . . . had thrones—"
Kronos stomped his foot, and the floor ruptured around Ethan Nakamura. The son of Nemesis fell through a fissure that went straight through the heart of the mountain—straight into open air.
"So much for him." Kronos picked up his sword. "And now for the rest of you."
My only thought was to keep him away from Annabeth.
Grover was at her side now. He'd stopped playing and was feeding her ambrosia.
Everywhere Kronos stepped, the roots wrapped around his feet, but Grover had stopped his magic too early. The roots weren't thick or strong enough to do much more than annoy the Titan.
We fought through the hearth, kicking up coals and sparks. Kronos slashed an armrest off the throne of Ares, which was okay by me, but then he backed me up to my dad's throne.
"Oh, yes," Kronos said. "This one will make fine kindling for my new hearth!"
Our blades clashed in a shower of sparks. He was stronger than me, but for the moment I felt the power of the ocean in my arms. I pushed him back and struck again—slashing Riptide across his breastplate so hard I cut a gash in the Celestial bronze.
He stamped his foot again and time slowed. I tried to attack but I was moving at the speed of a glacier. Kronos backed up leisurely, catching his breath. He examined the gash in his armor while I struggled forward, silently cursing him. He could take all the time-outs he wanted. He could freeze me in place at will. My only hope was that the effort was draining him. If I could wear him down . . .
"It's too late, Percy Jackson," he said. "Behold."
He pointed to the hearth, and the coals glowed. A sheet of white smoke poured from the fire, forming images like an Iris-message. I saw Nico and my parents down on Fifth Avenue, fighting a hopeless battle, ringed in enemies. In the background Hades fought from his black chariot, summoning wave after wave of zombies out of the ground, but the forces of the Titan's army seemed just as endless. Meanwhile, Manhattan was being destroyed. Mortals, now fully awake, were running in terror. Cars swerved and crashed.
The scene shifted, and I saw something even more terrifying.
A column of storm was approaching the Hudson River, moving rapidly over the Jersey shore. Chariots circled it, locked in combat with the creature in the cloud.
The gods attacked. Lightning flashed. Arrows of gold and silver streaked into the cloud like rocket tracers and exploded. Slowly, the cloud ripped apart, and I saw Typhon clearly for the first time.
I knew as long as I lived (which might not be that long) I would never be able to get the image out of my mind. Typhon's head shifted constantly. Every moment he was a different monster, each more horrible than the last. Looking at his face would've driven me insane, so I focused on his body, which wasn't much better. He was humanoid, but his skin reminded me of a meat loaf sandwich that had been in someone's locker all year. He was mottled green, with blisters the size of buildings, and blackened patches from eons of being stuck under a volcano. His hands were human, but with talons like an eagle's. His legs were scaly and reptilian.
"The Olympians are giving their final effort." Kronos laughed. "How pathetic."
Zeus threw a thunderbolt from his chariot. The blast lit up the world. I could feel the shock even here on Olympus, but when the dust cleared, Typhon was still standing. He staggered a bit, with a smoking crater on top of his misshapen head, but he roared in anger and kept advancing.
My limbs began to loosen up. Kronos didn't seem to notice. His attention was focused on the fight and his final victory. If I could hold out a few more seconds, and if my dad kept his word . . .
Typhon stepped into the Hudson River and barely sank to midcalf.
Now, I thought, imploring the image in the smoke. Please, it has to happen now.
Like a miracle, a conch horn sounded from the smoky picture. The call of the ocean. The call of Poseidon.
All around Typhon, the Hudson River erupted, churning with forty-foot waves. Out of the water burst a new chariot—this one pulled by massive hippocampi, who swam in air as easily as in water. My father, glowing with a blue aura of power, rode a defiant circle around the giant's legs. Poseidon was no longer an old man. He looked like himself again—tan and strong with a black beard. As he swung his trident, the river responded, making a funnel cloud around the monster.
"No!" Kronos bellowed after a moment of stunned silence. "NO!"
"NOW, MY BRETHREN!" Poseidon's voice was so loud I wasn't sure if I was hearing it from the smoke image or from all the way across town. "STRIKE FOR OLYMPUS!"
Warriors burst out of the river, riding the waves on huge sharks and dragons and sea horses. It was a legion of Cyclopes, and leading them into battle was . . .
"Tyson!" I yelled.
I knew he couldn't hear me, but I stared at him in amazement. He'd magically grown in size. He had to be thirty feet tall, as big as any of his older cousins, and for the first time he was wearing full battle armor. Riding behind him was Briares, the Hundred-Handed One.
All the Cyclopes held huge lengths of black iron chains—big enough to anchor a battleship—with grappling hooks at the ends. They swung them like lassos and began to ensnare Typhon, throwing lines around the creature's legs and arms, using the tide to keep circling, slowly tangling him. Typhon shook and roared and yanked at the chains, pulling some of the Cyclopes off their mounts; but there were too many chains. The sheer weight of the Cyclops battalion began to weigh Typhon down. Poseidon threw his trident and impaled the monster in the throat. Golden blood, immortal ichor, spewed from the wound, making a waterfall taller than a skyscraper. The trident flew back to Poseidon's hand.
The other gods struck with renewed force. Ares rode in and stabbed Typhon in the nose. Artemis shot the monster in the eye with a dozen silver arrows. Apollo shot a blazing volley of arrows and set the monster's loincloth on fire. And Zeus kept pounding the giant with lightning, until finally, slowly, the water rose, wrapping Typhon like a cocoon, and he began to sink under the weight of the chains. Typhon bellowed in agony, thrashing with such force that waves sloshed the Jersey shore, soaking five-story buildings and splashing over the George Washington Bridge—but down he went as my dad opened a special tunnel for him at the bottom of the river—an endless waterslide that would take him straight to Tartarus. The giant's head went under in a seething whirlpool, and he was gone.
"BAH!" Kronos screamed. He slashed his sword through the smoke, tearing the image to shreds.
"They're on their way," I said. "You've lost."
"I haven't even started."
He advanced with blinding speed. Grover—brave, stupid satyr that he was—tried to protect me, but Kronos tossed him aside like a rag doll.
I sidestepped and jabbed under Kronos's guard. It was a good trick. Unfortunately, Luke knew it. He countered the strike and disarmed me using one of the first moves he'd ever taught me. My sword skittered across the ground and fell straight into the open fissure.
"STOP!" Annabeth came from nowhere.
Kronos whirled to face her and slashed with Backbiter, but somehow Annabeth caught the strike on her dagger hilt. It was a move only the quickest and most skilled knife fighter could've managed. Don't ask me where she found the strength, but she stepped in closer for leverage, their blades crossed, and for a moment she stood face-to-face with the Titan lord, holding him at a standstill.
"Luke," she said, gritting her teeth, "I understand now. You have to trust me."
Kronos roared in outrage. "Luke Castellan is dead! His body will burn away as I assume my true form!"
I tried to move, but my body was frozen again. How could Annabeth, battered and half dead with exhaustion, have the strength to fight a Titan like Kronos?
Kronos pushed against her, trying to dislodge his blade, but she held him in check, her arms trembling as he forced his sword down toward her neck.
"Your mother," Annabeth grunted. "She saw your fate."
"Service to Kronos!" the Titan roared. "This is my fate."
"No!" Annabeth insisted. Her eyes were tearing up, but I didn't know if it was from sadness or pain. "That's not the end, Luke. The prophecy: she saw what you would do. It applies to you!"
"I will crush you, child!" Kronos bellowed.
"You won't," Annabeth said. "You promised. You're holding Kronos back even now."
"LIES!" Kronos pushed again, and this time Annabeth lost her balance. With his free hand, Kronos struck her face, and she slid backward.
I summoned all my will. I managed to rise, but it was like holding the weight of the sky again.
Kronos loomed over Annabeth, his sword raised.
Blood trickled from the corner of her mouth. She croaked, "Family, Luke. You promised."
I took a painful step forward. Grover was back on his feet, over by the throne of Hera, but he seemed to be struggling to move as well. Before either of us could get anywhere close to Annabeth, Kronos staggered.
He stared at the knife in Annabeth's hand, the blood on her face. "Promise."
Then he gasped like he couldn't get air. "Annabeth . . ." But it wasn't the Titan's voice. It was Luke's. He stumbled forward like he couldn't control his own body. "You're bleeding. . . ."
"My knife." Annabeth tried to raise her dagger, but it clattered out of her hand. Her arm was bent at a funny angle. She looked at me, imploring, "Percy, please . . ."
I could move again.
I surged forward and scooped up her knife. I knocked Backbiter out of Luke's hand, and it spun into the hearth. Luke hardly paid me any attention. He stepped toward Annabeth, but I put myself between him and her.
"Don't touch her," I said.
Anger rippled across his face. Kronos's voice growled: "Jackson . . ." Was it my imagination, or was his whole body glowing, turning gold?
He gasped again. Luke's voice: "He's changing. Help. He's . . . he's almost ready. He won't need my body anymore. Please—"
"NO!" Kronos bellowed. He looked around for his sword, but it was in the hearth, glowing among the coals.