He turned to Annabeth. ‘Daughter of Athena, your time is coming. You will play a great role, though it may not be the role you imagined.’
Then he looked at Tyson. ‘Master Cyclops, do not despair. Heroes rarely live up to our expectations. But you, Tyson – your name shall live among the Cyclopes for generations. And Miss Rachel Dare …’
Rachel flinched when he said her name. She backed away like she was guilty of something, but Pan only smiled. He raised his hand in a blessing.
‘I know you believe you cannot make amends,’ he said. ‘But you are just as important as your father.’
‘I –’ Rachel faltered. A tear traced her cheek.
‘I know you don’t believe this now,’ Pan said. ‘But look for opportunities. They will come.’
Finally he turned back towards Grover. ‘My dear satyr,’ Pan said kindly. ‘Will you carry my message?’
‘I – I can’t.’
‘You can,’ Pan said. ‘You are the strongest and bravest. Your heart is true. You have believed in me more than anyone ever has, which is why you must bring the message, and why you must be the first to release me.’
‘I don’t want to.’
‘I know,’ the god said. ‘But my name, Pan … originally it meant rustic. Did you know that? But over the years it has come to mean all. The spirit of the wild must pass to all of you now. You must tell each one you meet: if you would find Pan, take up Pan’s spirit. Remake the wild, a little at a time, each in your own corner of the world. You cannot wait for anyone else, even a god, to do that for you.’
Grover wiped his eyes. Then slowly he stood. ‘I’ve spent my whole life looking for you. Now … I release you.’
Pan smiled. ‘Thank you, dear satyr. My final blessing.’
He closed his eyes, and the god dissolved. White mist divided into wisps of energy, but this kind of energy wasn’t scary like the blue power I’d seen from Kronos. It filled the room. A curl of smoke went straight into my mouth, and Grover’s, and the others’. But I think a little more of it went into Grover. The crystals dimmed. The animals gave us a sad look. Dede the dodo sighed. Then they all turned grey and crumbled to dust. The vines withered. And we were alone in a dark cave, with an empty bed.
I switched on my flashlight.
Grover took a deep breath.
‘Are… are you okay?’ I asked him.
He looked older and sadder. He took his cap from Annabeth, brushed off the mud, and stuck it firmly on his curly head.
‘We should go now,’ he said, ‘and tell them. The great god Pan is dead.’
18 Grover Causes a Stampede
Distance was shorter in the Labyrinth. Still, by the time Rachel got us back to Times Square, I felt like we’d pretty much run all the way from New Mexico. We climbed out of the Marriott basement and stood on the sidewalk in the bright summer daylight, squinting at the traffic and crowds.
I couldn’t decide which seemed less real – New York or the crystal cave where I’d watched a god die.
I led the way into an alley, where I could get a nice echo. Then I whistled as loud as I could, five times.
A minute later, Rachel gasped. ‘They’re beautiful!’
A flock of pegasi descended from the sky, swooping between the skyscrapers. Blackjack was in the lead, followed by four of his white friends.
Yo, boss! He spoke in my mind. You lived!
‘Yeah,’ I told him. ‘I’m lucky that way. Listen, we need a ride to camp quick.’
That’s my speciality! Oh man, you got that Cyclops with you? Yo, Guide! How’s your back holding up?
The pegasus Guido groaned and complained, but eventually he agreed to carry Tyson. Everybody started saddling up – except Rachel.
‘Well,’ she told me, ‘I guess this is it.’
I nodded uncomfortably. We both knew she couldn’t go to camp. I glanced at Annabeth, who was pretending to be very busy with her pegasus.
‘Thanks, Rachel,’ I said. ‘We couldn’t have done it without you.’
‘I wouldn’t have missed it. I mean, except for almost dying, and Pan…’ Her voice faltered.
‘He said something about your father,’ I remembered. ‘What did he mean?’
Rachel twisted the strap on her backpack. ‘My dad… My dad’s job. He’s kind of a famous businessman.’
‘You mean … you’re rich?’
‘So that’s how you got the chauffeur to help us? You just said your dad’s name and –’
‘Yes,’ Rachel cut me off. ‘Percy… my dad’s a land developer. He flies all over the world, looking for tracts of undeveloped land.’ She took a shaky breath. ‘The wild. He – he buys it up. I hate it, but he ploughs it down and builds ugly subdivisions and shopping centres. And now that I’ve seen Pan… Pan’s death –’