I shivered. The way she told it – even now, six years later – freaked me out worse than any ghost story I’d ever heard. ‘What did you do?’
‘I stabbed him in the foot.’
I stared at her. ‘Are you kidding? You were seven years old and you stabbed a grown Cyclops in the foot?’
‘Oh, he would’ve killed me. But I surprised him. It gave me just enough time to run to Thalia and cut the ropes on her hands. She took it from there.’
‘Yeah, but still … that was pretty brave, Annabeth.’
She shook her head. ‘We barely got out alive. I still have nightmares, Percy. The way that Cyclops talked in my father’s voice. It was his fault we took so long getting to camp. All the monsters who’d been chasing us had time to catch up. That’s really why Thalia died. If it hadn’t been for that Cyclops, she’d still be alive today.’
We sat on the deck, watching the Heracles constellation rise in the night sky.
‘Go below,’ Annabeth told me at last. ‘You need some rest.’
I nodded. My eyes were heavy. But when I got below and found a hammock, it took me a long time to fall asleep. I kept thinking about Annabeth’s story. I wondered, if I were her, would I have had enough courage to go on this quest, to sail straight towards the lair of another Cyclops?
I didn’t dream about Grover.
Instead I found myself back in Luke’s stateroom aboard the Princess Andromeda. The curtains were open. It was nighttime outside. The air swirled with shadows. Voices whispered all around me – spirits of the dead.
Beware, they whispered. Traps. Trickery.
Kronos’s golden sarcophagus glowed faintly – the only source of light in the room.
A cold laugh startled me. It seemed to come from miles below the ship. You don’t have the courage, young one. You can’t stop me.
I knew what I had to do. I had to open that coffin.
I uncapped Riptide. Ghosts whirled around me like a tornado. Beware!
My heart pounded. I couldn’t make my feet move, but I had to stop Kronos. I had to destroy whatever was in that box.
Then a girl spoke right next to me, ‘Well, Seaweed Brain?’
I looked over, expecting to see Annabeth, but the girl wasn’t Annabeth. She wore punk-style clothes with silver chains on her wrists. She had spiky black hair, dark eyeliner around her stormy blue eyes and a spray of freckles across her nose. She looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure why.
‘Well?’ she asked. ‘Are we going to stop him or not?’
I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t move.
The girl rolled her eyes. ‘Fine. Leave it to me and Aegis.’
She tapped her wrist and her silver chains transformed – flattening and expanding into a huge shield. It was silver and bronze, with the monstrous face of Medusa protruding from the centre. It looked like a death mask, as if the gorgon’s real head had been pressed into the metal. I didn’t know if that were true, or if the shield could really petrify me, but I looked away. Just being near it made me cold with fear. I got a feeling that in a real fight, the bearer of that shield would be almost impossible to beat. Any sane enemy would turn and run.
The girl drew her sword and advanced on the sarcophagus. The shadowy ghosts parted for her, scattering before the terrible aura of her shield.
‘No,’ I tried to warn her.
But she didn’t listen. She marched straight up to the sarcophagus and pushed aside the golden lid.
For a moment she stood there, gazing down at whatever was in the box.
The coffin began to glow.
‘No.’ The girl’s voice trembled. ‘It can’t be.’
From the depths of the ocean, Kronos laughed so loudly the whole ship trembled.
‘No!’ The girl screamed as the sarcophagus engulfed her in a blast of golden light.
‘Ah!’ I sat bolt upright in my hammock.
Annabeth was shaking me. ‘Percy, you were having a nightmare. You need to get up.’
‘Wh-what is it?’ I rubbed my eyes. ‘What’s wrong?’
‘Land,’ she said grimly. ‘We’re approaching the island of the Sirens.’
I could barely make out the island ahead of us – just a dark spot in the mist.
‘I want you to do me a favour,’ Annabeth said. ‘The Sirens … we’ll be in range of their singing soon.’
I remembered stories about the Sirens. They sang so sweetly their voices enchanted sailors and lured them to their death.
‘No problem,’ I assured her. ‘We can just stop up our ears. There’s a big tub of candle wax below deck –’
‘I want to hear them.’
I blinked. ‘Why?’
‘They say the Sirens sing the truth about what you desire. They tell you things about yourself you didn’t even realize. That’s what’s so enchanting. If you survive … you become wiser. I want to hear them. How often will I get that chance?’