The skeleton stumbled over to the basilisk. It pulled out its rib and used it to cut off the creature’s head. The basilisk dissolved into ashes. Then the skeleton decapitated the other two monster carcasses and kicked all the ashes to disperse them. Frank remembered the two gorgons in the Tiber—the way the river had pulled apart their remains to keep them from re-forming. “You’re making sure they don’t come back,” Frank realized.
“Or slowing them down, anyway.”
The skeleton warrior stood at attention in front of Frank. Its poisoned foot and hand were mostly gone. Its head was still burning.
“What—what are you?” Frank asked. He wanted to add, Please don’t hurt me.
The skeleton saluted with its stump of a hand. Then it began to crumble, sinking back into the ground.
“Wait!” Frank said. “I don’t even know what to call you! Tooth Man? Bones? Gray?”
As its face disappeared beneath the dirt, the warrior seemed to grin at the last name—or maybe that was just its skeletal teeth showing. Then it was gone, leaving Frank alone with his pointless spear.
“Gray,” he muttered. “Okay ... but...”
He examined the tip of his spear. Already, a new dragon tooth was starting to grow out of the golden shaft.
You get three charges out of it, Mars had said, so use it wisely.
Frank heard footsteps behind him. Percy and Hazel ran into the clearing. Percy looked better, except he was carrying a-tie-dyed man satchel from R.O.F.L.—definitely not his style. Riptide was in his hand. Hazel had drawn her spatha.
“Are you okay?” she asked.
Percy turned in a circle, looking for enemies. “Iris told us you were out here battling the basilisks by yourself, and we were like, What? We came as fast as we could. What happened?”
“I’m not sure,” Frank admitted.
Hazel crouched next to the dirt where Gray disappeared. “I sense death. Either my brother has been here or…the basilisks are dead?”
Percy stared at him in awe. “You killed them all?”
Frank swallowed. He already felt like enough of a misfit without trying to explain his new undead minion.
Three charges. Frank could call on Gray twice more. But he’d sensed malevolence in the skeleton. It was no pet. It was a vicious, undead killing force, barely controlled by the power of Mars. Frank got the feeling it would do what he said—but if his friends happened to be in the line of fire, oh well. And if Frank was a little slow giving it directions, it might start killing whatever was in its path, including its master.
Mars had told him the spear would give him breathing room until he learned to use his mother’s talents. Which meant Frank needed to learn those talents—fast.
“Thanks a lot, Dad,” he grumbled.
“What?” Hazel asked. “Frank, are you okay?”
“I’ll explain later,” he said. “Right now, there’s a blind man in Portland we’ve got to see.”
PERCY ALREADY FELT LIKE THE lamest demigod in the history of lame. The purse was the final insult.
They’d left R.O.F.L. in a hurry, so maybe Iris hadn’t meant the bag as a criticism. She’d quickly stuffed it with vitamin-enriched pastries, dried fruit leather, macrobiotic beef jerky, and a few crystals for good luck. Then she’d shoved it at Percy:
Here, you’ll need this. Oh, that looks good.The purse—sorry, masculine accessory bag—was rainbow tie-dyed with a peace symbol stitched in wooden beads and the slogan Hug the Whole World. Percy wished it said Hug the Commode. He felt like the bag was a comment on his mas sive, incredible uselessness. As they sailed north, he put the man satchel as far away from him as he could, but the boat was small.
He couldn’t believe how he’d broken down when his friends had needed him. First, he’d been dumb enough to leave them alone when he had run back to the boat, and Hazel had gotten kidnapped. Then he’d watched that army marching south and had some kind of nervous breakdown.
Embarrassing? Yeah. But he couldn’t help it. When he’d seen those evil centaurs and Cyclopes, it had seemed so wrong, so backward, that he thought his head would explode. And the giant Polybotes…that giant had given him a feeling the opposite of what he felt when he stood in the ocean. Percy’s energy had drained out of him, leaving him weak and feverish, like his insides were eroding.
Iris’s medicinal tea had helped his body feel better, but his mind still hurt. He’d heard stories about amputees who had phantom pains where their missing legs and arms used to be. That’s how his mind felt—like his missing memories were aching.
Worst of all, the farther north Percy went, the more those memories faded. He had started to feel better at Camp Jupiter, remembering random names and faces. But now even Annabeth’s face was getting dimmer. At R.O.F.L., when he’d tried to send an Iris-message to Annabeth, Fleecy had just shaken her head sadly.
It’s like you’re dialing somebody, she said, but you’ve forgotten the number. Or someone is jamming the signal. Sorry, dear. I just can’t connect you.
He was terrified that he’d lose Annabeth’s face completely when he got to Alaska. Maybe he’d wake up one day and not remember her name.
Still, he had to concentrate on the quest. The sight of that enemy army had shown him what they were up against. It was early in the morning of June 21, now. They had to get to Alaska, find Thanatos, locate the legion’s standard, and make it back to Camp Jupiter by the evening of June 24. Four days. Meanwhile, the enemy had only a few hundred miles to march.
Percy guided the boat through the strong currents off the northern California coast. The wind was cold, but it felt good, clearing some of the confusion from his head. He bent his will to push the boat as hard as he could. The hull rattled as the Pax plowed its way north.
Meanwhile, Hazel and Frank traded stories about the events at Rainbow Organic Foods. Frank explained about the blind seer Phineas in Portland, and how Iris had said that he might be able to tell them where to find Thanatos. Frank wouldn’t say how he had managed to kill the basilisks, but Percy got the feeling it had something to do with the broken point of his spear. Whatever had happened, Frank sounded more scared of the spear than the basilisks.
When he was done, Hazel told Frank about their time with Fleecy.
“So this Iris-message worked?” Frank asked.
Hazel gave Percy a sympathetic look. She didn’t mention his failure to contact Annabeth.
“I got in touch with Reyna,” she said. “You’re supposed to throw a coin into a rainbow and say this incantation, like O Iris, goddess of the rainbow, accept my offering. Except Fleecy kind of changed it. She gave us her—what did she call it—her direct number? So I had to say, O Fleecy, do me a solid. Show Reyna at Camp Jupiter. I felt kind of stupid, but it worked. Reyna’s image appeared in the rainbow, like in a two-way video call. She was in the baths. Scared her out of her mind.”
“That I would’ve paid to see,” Frank said. “I mean—her expression. Not, you know, the baths.”
“Frank!” Hazel fanned her face like she needed air. It was an old-fashioned gesture, but cute, somehow. “Anyway, we told Reyna about the army, but like Percy said, she pretty much already knew. It doesn’t change anything. She’s doing what she can to shore up the defenses. Unless we unleash Death, and get back with the eagle—”
“The camp can’t stand against that army,” Frank finished. “Not without help.”
After that, they sailed in silence.
Percy kept thinking about Cyclopes and centaurs. He thought about Annabeth, the satyr Grover, and his dream of a giant warship under construction.
You came from somewhere, Reyna had said.
Percy wished he could remember. He could call for help. Camp Jupiter shouldn’t have to fight alone against the giants. There must be allies out there.
He fingered the beads on his necklace, the lead probatiotablet, and the silver ring Reyna had given him. Maybe in Seattle he’d be able to talk to her sister Hylla. She might send help—assuming she didn’t kill Percy on sight.
After a few more hours of navigating, Percy’s eyes started to droop. He was afraid he’d pass out from exhaustion. Then he caught a break. A killer whale surfaced next to the boat, and Percy struck up a mental conversation with him.
It wasn’t exactly like talking, but it went something like this: Could you give us a ride north, Percy asked, like as close to Portland as possible?
Eat seals, the whale responded. Are you seals?
No, Percy admitted. I’ve got a man satchel full of macrobiotic beef jerky, though.
The whale shuddered. Promise not to feed me this, and I will take you north.
Soon Percy had made a makeshift rope harness and strapped it around the whale’s upper body. They sped north under whale-power, and at Hazel and Frank’s insistence, Percy settled in for a nap.
His dreams were as disjointed and scary as ever.
He imagined himself on Mount Tamalpais, north of San Francisco, fighting at the old Titan stronghold. That didn’t make sense. He hadn’t been with the Romans when they had attacked, but he saw it all clearly: a Titan in armor, Annabet hand two other girls fighting at Percy’s side. One of the girls died in the battle. Percy knelt over her, watching as she dissolved into stars.
Then he saw the giant warship in its dry dock. The bronze dragon figurehead glinted in the morning light. The riggings and armaments were complete, but something was wrong. A hatch in the deck was open, and smoke poured from some kind of engine. A boy with curly black hair was cursing as he pounded the engine with a wrench. Two other demigods squatted next to him, watching with concern. One was a teenage guy with short blond hair. The other was a girl with long dark hair.
“You realize it’s the solstice,” the girl said. “We’re supposed to leave today.”
“I know that!” The curly-haired mechanic whacked the engine a few more times. “Could be the fizzrockets. Could be the samophlange. Could be Gaea messing with us again. I’m not sure!”
“How long?” the blond guy asked.
“Two, three days?”
“They may not have that long,” the girl warned.
Something told Percy that she meant Camp Jupiter. Then the scene shifted again.
He saw a boy and his dog roaming over the yellow hills of California. But as the image became clearer, Percy realized it wasn’t a boy. It was a Cyclops in ragged jeans and a flannel shirt. The dog was a shambling mountain of black fur, easily as big as a rhino. The Cyclops carried a massive club over his shoulder, but Percy didn’t feel that he was an enemy. He kept yelling Percy’s name, calling him…brother?
“He smells farther away,” the Cyclops moaned to the dog. “Why does he smell farther?”
“ROOF!” the dog barked, and Percy’s dream changed again.
He saw a range of snowy mountains, so tall they broke the clouds. Gaea’s sleeping face appeared in the shadows of the rocks.
Such a valuable pawn, she said soothingly. Do not fear, Percy Jackson. Come north! Your friends will die, yes. But I will preserve you for now. I have great plans for you.
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