‘Scylla!’ a sailor yelled, as another column of reptilian flesh shot from the cliffs and snapped him up. It happened so fast it was like watching a laser beam rather than a monster. I couldn’t even make out the thing’s face, just a flash of teeth and scales.
I uncapped Riptide and tried to swipe at the monster as it carried off another deckhand, but I was way too slow.
‘Everyone get below!’ I yelled.
‘We can’t!’ Clarisse drew her own sword. ‘Below deck is in flames.’
‘Lifeboats!’ Annabeth said. ‘Quick!’
‘They’ll never get clear of the cliffs,’ Clarisse said. ‘We’ll all be eaten.’
‘We have to try. Percy, the Flask.’
‘I can’t leave Tyson!’
‘We have to get the boats ready!’
Clarisse took Annabeth’s command. She and a few of her undead sailors uncovered one of the two emergency rowboats while Scylla’s heads rained from the sky like a meteor shower with teeth, picking off Confederate sailors one after another.
‘Get the other boat.’ I threw Annabeth the Flask. ‘I’ll get Tyson.’
‘You can’t!’ she said. ‘The heat will kill you!’
I didn’t listen. I ran for the boiler room hatch, when suddenly my feet weren’t touching the deck any more. I was flying straight up, the wind whistling in my ears, the side of the cliff only inches from my face.
Scylla had somehow caught me by the knapsack, and was lifting me up towards her lair. Without thinking, I swung my sword behind me and managed to jab the thing in her beady yellow eye. She grunted and dropped me.
The fall would’ve been bad enough, considering I was thirty metres in the air. But, as I fell, the CSS Birmingham exploded below me.
The engine room blew, sending chunks of ironclad flying in either direction like a fiery set of wings.
‘Tyson!’ I yelled.
The lifeboats had managed to get away from the ship, but not very far. Flaming wreckage was raining down. Clarisse and Annabeth would either be smashed or burned or pulled to the bottom by the force of the sinking hull, and that was thinking optimistically, assuming they got away from Scylla.
Then I heard a different kind of explosion – the sound of Hermes’s magic Flask being opened a little too far. White sheets of wind blasted in every direction, scattering the lifeboats, lifting me out of my free fall and propelling me across the ocean.
I couldn’t see anything. I spun in the air, got clonked on the head by something hard, and hit the water with a crash that would’ve broken every bone in my body if I hadn’t been the son of the Sea God.
The last thing I remembered was sinking in a burning sea, knowing that Tyson was gone forever, and wishing I were able to drown.