‘Nice fighting with you, Seaweed Brain.’
Together we leaped into the monster’s path. Kampê hissed and sliced at us. I dodged, trying to distract her, while Annabeth went in for a strike, but the monster seemed able to fight with both hands independently. She blocked Annabeth’s sword, and Annabeth had to jump back to avoid the cloud of poison. Just being near the thing was like standing in an acid fog. My eyes burned. My lungs couldn’t get enough air. I knew we couldn’t stand our ground for more than a few seconds.
‘Come on!’ I shouted. ‘We need help!’
But no help came. Everyone was either down, or fighting for their lives, or too scared to move forward. Three of Chiron’s arrows sprouted from Kampê’s chest, but she just roared louder.
‘Now!’ Annabeth said.
Together we charged, dodged the monster’s slashes, got inside her guard and almost… almost managed to stab Kampê in the chest, but a huge bear’s head lashed out from the monster’s waist, and we had to stumble backwards to avoid getting bitten.
My eyesight went black. The next thing I knew, Annabeth and I were on the ground. The monster had its forelegs on our chests, holding us down. Hundreds of snakes slithered right above me, hissing like laughter. Kampê raised her green-tinged swords, and I knew Annabeth and I were out of options.
Then, behind me, something howled. A wall of darkness slammed into Kampê, sending the monster sideways. And Mrs O’Leary was standing over us, snarling and snapping at Kampê.
‘Good girl!’ said a familiar voice. Daedalus was fighting his way out of the Labyrinth, slashing down enemies left and right as he made his way towards us. Next to him was someone else – a familiar giant, much taller than the Laistrygonians, with a hundred rippling arms, each holding a huge chunk of rock.
‘Briares!’ Tyson cried in wonder.
‘Hail, little brother!’ Briares bellowed. ‘Stand firm!’
And as Mrs O’Leary leaped out of the way, the Hundred-handed One launched a volley of boulders at Kampê. The rocks seemed to enlarge as they left Briares’s hands. There were so many, it looked like half the earth had learned to fly.
Where Kampê had stood a moment before was a mountain of boulders, almost as tall as Zeus’s Fist. The only sign that the monster had ever existed were two green sword points sticking through the cracks.
A cheer went up from the campers, but our enemies weren’t done yet. One of the dracaenae yelled, ‘Ssssslay them! Kill them all or Kronossss will flay you alive!’
Apparently, that threat was more terrifying than we were. The giants surged forward in a last desperate attempt. One surprised Chiron with a glancing blow to the back legs, and he stumbled and fell. Six giants cried in glee and rushed forward.
‘No!’ I screamed, but I was too far away to help.
Then it happened.
Grover opened his mouth, and the most horrible sound I’d ever heard came out. It was like a brass trumpet magnified a thousand times – the sound of pure fear.
As one, the forces of Kronos dropped their weapons and ran for their lives. The giants trampled the dracaenae, trying to get into the Labyrinth first. Telkhines and hellhounds and enemy half-bloods scrambled after them. The tunnel rumbled shut, and the battle was over. The clearing was quiet except for fires burning in the woods, and the cries of the wounded.
I helped Annabeth to her feet. We ran to Chiron.
‘Are you all right?’ I asked.
He was lying on his side, trying in vain to get up. ‘How embarrassing,’ he muttered. ‘I think I will be fine. Fortunately, we do not shoot centaurs with broken… Ow!… broken legs.’
‘You need help,’ Annabeth said. ‘I’ll get a medic from Apollo’s cabin.’
‘No,’ Chiron insisted. ‘There are more serious injuries to attend to. Go! I am fine. But, Grover… later we must talk about how you did that.’
‘That was amazing,’ I agreed.
Grover blushed. ‘I don’t know where it came from.’
Juniper hugged him fiercely. ‘I do!’
Before she could say more, Tyson called, ‘Percy, come quick! It is Nico!’
There was smoke curling off his black clothes. His fingers were clenched, and the grass all around his body had turned yellow and died.
I rolled him over as gently as I could and put my hand against his chest. His heart was beating faintly. ‘Get some nectar!’ I yelled.
One of the Ares campers hobbled over and handed me a canteen. I trickled some of the magic drink into Nico’s mouth. He coughed and spluttered, but his eyelids fluttered open.