‘This body has been well prepared.’ His voice was like a razor blade running over my skin. It was Luke’s, but not Luke’s. Underneath his voice was another, more horrible sound – an ancient, cold sound like metal scraping against rock. ‘Don’t you think so, Percy Jackson?’
I couldn’t move. I couldn’t answer.
Kronos threw back his head and laughed. The scar on his face rippled.
‘Luke feared you,’ the Titan’s voice said. ‘His jealousy and hatred have been powerful tools. It has kept him obedient. For that I thank you.’
Ethan collapsed in terror. He covered his face with his hands. The telkhines trembled, holding up the scythe.
Finally I found my nerve. I lunged at the thing that used to be Luke, thrusting my blade straight at his chest, but his skin deflected the blow like he was made of pure steel. He looked at me with amusement. Then he flicked his hand, and I flew across the room.
I slammed against a pillar. I struggled to my feet, blinking the stars out of my eyes, but Kronos had already grasped the handle of his scythe.
‘Ah… much better,’ he said. ‘Backbiter, Luke called it. An appropriate name. Now that it is reforged completely, it shall indeed bite back.’
‘What have you done to Luke?’ I groaned.
Kronos raised his scythe. ‘He serves me with his whole being, as I require. The difference is, he feared you, Percy Jackson. I do not.’
That’s when I ran. There wasn’t even any thought to it. No debate in my mind about – gee, should I stand up to him and try to fight again? Nope. I simply ran.
But my feet felt like lead. Time slowed down around me, like the world was turning to Jell-O. I’d had this feeling once before, and I knew it was the power of Kronos. His presence was so strong it could bend time itself.
‘Run, little hero,’ he laughed. ‘Run!’
I glanced back and saw him approaching leisurely, swinging his scythe as if he were enjoying the feel of having it in his hands again. No weapon in the world could stop him. No amount of celestial bronze.
He was three metres away when I heard, ‘PERCY!’
Something flew past me, and a blue plastic hairbrush hit Kronos in the eye.
‘Owl’ he yelled. For a moment it was only Luke’s voice, full of surprise and pain. My limbs were freed and I ran straight into Rachel, Nico and Annabeth, who were standing in the entry hall, their eyes wide with dismay.
‘Luke?’ Annabeth called. ‘What –’
I grabbed her by the shirt and hauled her after me. I ran as fast as I’ve ever run, straight out of the fortress. We were almost back to the Labyrinth entrance when I heard the loudest bellow in the world – the voice of Kronos, coming back into control. ‘AFTER THEM!’
‘No!’ Nico yelled. He clapped his hands together, and a jagged spire of rock the size of an eighteen-wheeler erupted from the ground right in front of the fortress. The tremor it caused was so powerful, the front columns of the building came crashing down. I heard muffled screams from the telkhines inside. Dust billowed everywhere.
We plunged into the Labyrinth and kept running, the howl of the Titan lord shaking the entire world behind us.