He waved his hand, and his image disappeared in the mist.
All around us, the manticore’s minions were still acting completely nuts. One of them had found our friend the homeless guy, and they were having a serious conversation about metal angels from Mars. Several other guards were harassing the tourists, making animal noises and trying to steal their shoes.
I looked at Zoë. ‘What did he mean… “the huntress knows”?’
Her face was the colour of the fog. She pointed across the bay, past the Golden Gate Bridge. In the distance, a single mountain rose up above the cloud layer.
‘The garden of my sisters,’ she said. ‘I must go home.’
16 We Meet The Dragon Of Eternal Bad Breath
‘We will never make it,’ Zoë said. ‘We are moving too slowly. But we cannot leave the Ophiotaurus.’
‘Mooo,’ Bessie said. He swam next to me as we jogged along the waterfront. We’d left the shopping-centre pier far behind. We were heading towards the Golden Gate Bridge, but it was a lot further than I’d realized. The sun was already dipping in the west.
‘I don’t get it,’ I said. ‘Why do we have to get there at sunset?’
‘The Hesperides are the nymphs of the sunset,’ Zoë said. ‘We can only enter their garden as day changes to night.’
‘What happens if we miss it?’
‘Tomorrow is winter solstice. If we miss sunset tonight, we would have to wait until tomorrow evening. And by then, the Olympian Council will be over. We must free Lady Artemis tonight.’
Or Annabeth will be dead, I thought, but I didn’t say that.
‘We need a car,’ Thalia said.
‘But what about Bessie?’ I asked.
Grover stopped in his tracks. ‘I’ve got an idea! The Ophiotaurus can appear in different bodies of water, right?’
‘Well, yeah,’ I said. ‘I mean, he was in Long Island Sound. Then he just popped into the water at Hoover Dam. And now he’s here.’
‘So maybe we could coax him back to Long Island Sound,’ Grover said. ‘Then Chiron could help us get him to Olympus.’
‘But he was following me,’ I said. ‘If I’m not there, would he know where he’s going?’
‘Moo,’ Bessie said forlornly.
‘I… I can show him,’ Grover said. ‘I’ll go with him.’
I stared at him. Grover was no fan of the water. He’d almost drowned last summer in the Sea of Monsters, and he couldn’t swim very well with his goat hooves.
‘I’m the only one who can talk to him,’ Grover said. ‘It makes sense.’
He bent down and said something in Bessie’s ear. Bessie shivered, then made a contented, lowing sound.
‘The blessing of the Wild,’ Grover said. ‘That should help with safe passage. Percy, pray to your dad, too. See if he will grant us safe passage through the seas.’
I didn’t understand how they could possibly swim back to Long Island from California. Then again, monsters didn’t travel the same way as humans. I’d seen plenty of evidence of that.
I tried to concentrate on the waves, the smell of the ocean, the sound of the tide.
‘Dad,’ I said. ‘Help us. Get the Ophiotaurus and Grover safely to camp. Protect them at sea.’
‘A prayer like that needs a sacrifice,’ Thalia said. ‘Something big.’
I thought for a second. Then I took off my coat.
‘Percy,’ Grover said. ‘Are you sure? That lion skin… that’s really helpful. Hercules used it!’
As soon as he said that, I realized something.
I glanced at Zoë, who was watching me carefully. I realized I did know who Zoë’s hero had been; the one who’d ruined her life, got her kicked out of her family and never even mentioned how she’d helped him. Hercules, a hero I’d admired all my life.
‘If I’m going to survive,’ I said, ‘it won’t be because I’ve got a lion-skin cloak. I’m not Hercules.’
I threw the coat into the bay. It turned back into a golden lion skin, flashing in the light. Then, as it began to sink beneath the waves, it seemed to dissolve into sunlight on the water.
The sea breeze picked up.
Grover took a deep breath. ‘Well, no time to lose.’
He jumped in the water and immediately began to sink. Bessie glided next to him and let Grover take hold of his neck.
‘Be careful,’ I told them.
‘We will,’ Grover said. ‘Okay, um… Bessie? We’re going to Long Island. It’s east. Over that way.’
‘Moooo?’ Bessie said.
‘Yes,’ Grover answered. ‘Long Island. It’s this island. And… it’s long. Oh, let’s just start.’