Annabeth went to join her brethren from the Athena cabin, who had set up a command tent and were directing operations. A grey banner with an owl fluttered outside the tent. Our security chief, Argus, stood guard at the door. Aphrodite’s children were running around, straightening everybody’s armour and offering to comb the tangles out of our horsehair plumes. Even Dionysus’s kids had found something to do. The god himself was still nowhere to be seen, but his two blond twin sons were running around, providing all the sweaty warriors with water bottles and juice boxes.
It looked like a pretty good set-up, but Chiron muttered next to me, ‘It isn’t enough.’
I thought about what I’d seen in the Labyrinth, all the monsters in Antaeus’s stadium and the power of Kronos I’d felt on Mount Tam. My heart sank. Chiron was right, but it was all we could muster. For once I wished Dionysus were here, but even if he had been, I didn’t know if he could have done anything. When it came to war, gods were forbidden to interfere directly. Apparently, the Titans didn’t believe in restrictions like that.
Over at the edge of the clearing, Grover was talking to Juniper. She held his hands while he told her our story. Green tears formed in her eyes as he delivered the news about Pan.
Tyson helped the Hephaestus kids prepare the defences. He picked up boulders and piled them next to the catapults for firing.
‘Stay with me, Percy,’ Chiron said. ‘When the fighting begins, I want you to wait until we know what we’re dealing with. You must go where we most need reinforcements.’
‘I saw Kronos,’ I said, still stunned by the fact. ‘I looked straight into his eyes. It was Luke… but it wasn’t.’
Chiron ran his fingers along his bowstring. ‘He had golden eyes, I would guess. And in his presence, time seemed to turn to liquid.’
I nodded. ‘How could he take over a mortal body?’
‘I do not know, Percy. Gods have assumed the shapes of mortals for ages, but to actually become one… to merge the divine form with the mortal. I don’t know how this could be done without Luke’s form turning to ashes.’
‘Kronos said his body had been prepared.’
‘I shudder to think what that means. But perhaps it will limit Kronos’s power. For a time, at least, he is confined to a human form. It binds him together. Hopefully it also restricts him.’
‘Chiron, if he leads this attack –’
‘I do not think so, my boy. I would sense if he were drawing near. No doubt he planned to, but I believe you inconvenienced him when you pulled his throne room down on top of him.’ He looked at me reproachfully. ‘You and your friend Nico, son of Hades.’
A lump formed in my throat. ‘I’m sorry, Chiron. I know I should’ve told you. It’s just –’
Chiron raised his hand. ‘I understand why you did it, Percy. You felt responsible. You sought to protect him. But, my boy, if we are to survive this, we must trust each other. We must…’
His voice wavered. The ground underneath us was trembling.
Everyone in the clearing stopped what they were doing. Clarisse barked a single order: ‘Lock shields!’
Then the Titan lord’s army exploded from the Labyrinth.
I’d been in fights before, but this was a full-scale battle. The first thing I saw were a dozen Laistrygonian giants erupting from the ground, yelling so loudly my ears felt like bursting. They carried shields made from flattened cars, and clubs that were tree trunks with rusty spikes bristling at the end. One of the giants bellowed at the Ares phalanx, smashed it sideways with his club, and the entire cabin was thrown aside, a dozen warriors tossed to the wind like rag dolls.
‘Fire!’ Beckendorf yelled. The catapults swung into action. Two boulders hurtled towards the giants. One deflected off a car shield with hardly a dent, but the other caught a Laistrygonian in the chest, and the giant went down. Apollo’s archers fired a volley, dozens of arrows sticking in the thick armour of the giants like porcupine quills. Several found chinks in armour, and some of the giants vaporized at the touch of celestial bronze.
But just when it looked like the Laistrygonians were about to get overwhelmed, the next wave surged out of the maze: thirty, maybe forty dracaenae in full battle armour, wielding spears and nets. They dispersed in all directions. Some hit the traps the Hephaestus cabin had laid. One got stuck on the spikes and became an easy target for archers. Another triggered a trip wire, and pots of Greek fire exploded into green flames, engulfing several of the snake women. But many more kept coming. Argus and Athena’s warriors rushed forward to meet them. I saw Annabeth draw a sword and engage one of them. Nearby, Tyson was riding a giant. Somehow he’d managed to climb onto the giant’s back and was hitting him on the head with a bronze shield – BONG! BONG! BONG!