Argggh!’ Blackbeard yelled somewhere behind us. ‘Those scallywags are a-boarding me vessel! Get ‘em, lads!’
‘We’ll never get going in time!’ Annabeth yelled as we climbed aboard.
I looked around at the hopeless maze of sail and ropes. The ship was in great condition for a three-hundred-year-old vessel, but it would still take a crew of fifty several hours to get underway. We didn’t have several hours. I could see the pirates running down the stairs, waving tiki torches and sticks of celery.
I closed my eyes and concentrated on the waves lapping against the hull, the ocean currents, the winds all around me. Suddenly, the right word appeared in my mind. ‘Mizzenmast!’ I yelled.
Annabeth looked at me like I was nuts, but in the next second, the air was filled with whistling sounds of ropes being snapped taut, canvases unfurling and wooden pulleys creaking.
Annabeth ducked as a cable flew over her head and wrapped itself around the bowsprit. ‘Percy, how…’
I didn’t have an answer, but I could feel the ship responding to me as if it were part of my body. I willed the sails to rise as easily as if I were flexing my arm. I willed the rudder to turn.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge lurched away from the dock, and by the time the pirates arrived at the water’s edge, we were already underway, sailing into the Sea of Monsters.
13 Annabeth Tries to Swim Home
I’d finally found something I was really good at.
The Queen Anne’s Revenge responded to my every command. I knew which ropes to hoist, which sails to raise, which direction to steer. We ploughed through the waves at what I figured was about ten knots. I even understood how fast that was. For a sailing ship, pretty darn fast.
It all felt perfect – the wind in my face, the waves breaking over the prow.
But now that we were out of danger, all I could think about was how much I missed Tyson, and how worried I was about Grover.
I couldn’t get over how badly I’d messed up on Circe’s Island. If it hadn’t been for Annabeth, I’d still be a rodent, hiding in a hutch with a bunch of cute furry pirates. I thought about what Circe had said: See, Percy? You’ve unlocked your true self!
I still felt changed. Not just because I had a sudden desire to eat lettuce. I felt jumpy, like the instinct to be a scared little animal was now a part of me. Or maybe it had always been there. That’s what really worried me.
We sailed through the night.
Annabeth tried to help me keep lookout, but sailing didn’t agree with her. After a few hours’ rocking back and forth, her face turned the colour of guacamole and she went below to lie in a hammock.
I watched the horizon. More than once I spotted monsters. A plume of water as tall as a skyscraper spewed into the moonlight. A row of green spines slithered across the waves – something maybe thirty metres long, reptilian. I didn’t really want to know.
Once I saw Nereids, the glowing lady spirits of the sea. I tried to wave at them, but they disappeared into the depths, leaving me unsure whether they’d seen me or not.
Sometime after midnight, Annabeth came up on deck. We were just passing a smoking volcano island. The sea bubbled and steamed around the shore.
‘One of the forges of Hephaestus,’ Annabeth said. ‘Where he makes his metal monsters.’
‘Like the bronze bulls?’
She nodded. ‘Go around. Far around.’
I didn’t need to be told twice. We steered clear of the island, and soon it was just a red patch of haze behind us.
I looked at Annabeth. ‘The reason you hate Cyclopes so much … the story about how Thalia really died. What happened?’
It was hard to see her expression in the dark.
‘I guess you deserve to know,’ she said finally. ‘The night Grover was escorting us to camp, he got confused, took some wrong turns. You remember he told you that once?’
‘Well, the worst wrong turn was into a Cyclops’s lair in Brooklyn.’
‘They’ve got Cyclopes in Brooklyn?’ I asked.
‘You wouldn’t believe how many, but that’s not the point. This Cyclops, he tricked us. He managed to split us up inside this maze of corridors in an old house in Flatbush. And he could sound like anyone, Percy. Just the way Tyson did aboard the Princess Andromeda. He lured us, one at time. Thalia thought she was running to save Luke. Luke thought he heard me scream for help. And me … I was alone in the dark. I was seven years old. I couldn’t even find the exit.’
She brushed the hair out of her face. ‘I remember finding the main room. There were bones all over the floor. And there were Thalia and Luke and Grover, tied up and gagged, hanging from the ceiling like smoked hams. The Cyclops was starting a fire in the middle of the floor. I drew my knife, but he heard me. He turned and smiled. He spoke, and somehow he knew my dad’s voice. I guess he just plucked it out of my mind. He said, “Now, Annabeth, don’t you worry. I love you. You can stay here with me. You can stay forever.’ ”