“You stole the Fleece!” I yelled. “You’ve been using it to lure satyrs to their deaths!”
“So? Satyrs good eating!”
“The Fleece should be used to heal! It belongs to the children of the gods!”
“I am a child of the gods!” Polyphemus swiped at me, but I sidestepped. “Father Poseidon, curse this thief!” He was blinking hard now, like he could barely see, and I realized he was targeting by the sound of my voice.
“Poseidon won’t curse me,” I said, backing up as the Cyclops grabbed air. “I’m his son, too.
He won’t play favorites.”
Polyphemus roared. He ripped an olive tree out of the side of the cliff and smashed it where I’d been standing a moment before. “Humans not the same! Nasty, tricky, lying!”
Grover was helping Annabeth aboard the ship. Clarisse was waving frantically at me, telling me to come on.
Tyson worked his way around Polyphemus, trying to get behind him.
“Young one!” the older Cyclops called. “Where are you? Help me!”
“You weren’t raised right!” Polyphemus wailed, shaking his olive tree club. “Poor orphaned brother! Help me!”
No one moved. No sound but the ocean and my own heartbeat. Then Tyson stepped forward, raising his hands defensively. “Don’t fight, Cyclops brother. Put down the—”
Polyphemus spun toward his voice.
“Tyson!” I shouted.
The tree struck him with such force it would’ve flattened me into a Percy pizza with extra olives. Tyson flew backward, plowing a trench in the sand. Polyphemus charged after him, but I shouted, “No!” and lunged as far as I could with Riptide. I’d hoped to sting Polyphemus in the back of the thigh, but I managed to leap a little bit higher.
“Blaaaaah!” Polyphemus bleated just like his sheep, and swung at me with his tree.
I dove, but still got raked across the back by a dozen jagged branches. I was bleeding and bruised and exhausted. The guinea pig inside me wanted to bolt. But I swallowed down my fear.
Polyphemus swung the tree again, but this time I was ready. I grabbed a branch as it passed, ignoring the pain in my hands as I was jerked skyward, and let the Cyclops lift me into the air. At the top of the arc I let go and fell straight against the giant’s face—landing with both feet on his already damaged eye.
Polyphemus yowled in pain. Tyson tackled him, pulling him down. I landed next to them—sword in hand, within striking distance of the monster’s heart. But I locked eyes with Tyson, and I knew I couldn’t do it. It just wasn’t right.
“Let him go,” I told Tyson. “Run.”
With one last mighty effort, Tyson pushed the cursing older Cyclops away, and we ran for the surf.
“I will smash you.’” Polyphemus yelled, doubling over in pain. His enormous hands cupped over his eye.
Tyson and I plunged into the waves.
“Where are you?” Polyphemus screamed. He picked up his tree club and threw it into the water. It splashed off to our right.
I summoned up a current to carry us, and we started gaining speed. I was beginning to think we might make it to the ship, when Clarisse shouted from the deck, “Yeah, Jackson! In your face, Cyclops!”
Shut up, I wanted to yell.
“Rarrr!” Polyphemus picked up a boulder. He threw it toward the sound of Clarisse’s voice, but it fell short, narrowly missing Tyson and me.
“Yeah, yeah!” Clarisse taunted. “You throw like a wimp! Teach you to try marrying me, you idiot!”
“Clarisse!” I yelled, unable to stand it. “Shut up!”
Too late. Polyphemus threw another boulder, and this time I watched helplessly as it sailed over my head and crashed through the hull of the Queen Anne’s Revenge.
You wouldn’t believe how fast a ship can sink. The Queen Anne’s Revenge creaked and groaned and listed forward like it was going down a playground slide.
I cursed, willing the sea to push us faster, but the ship’s masts were already going under.
“Dive!” I told Tyson. And as another rock sailed over our heads, we plunged underwater.
My friends were sinking fast, trying to swim, without luck, in the bubbly trail of the ship’s wreckage.
Not many people realize that when a ship goes down, it acts like a sinkhole, pulling down everything around it. Clarisse was a strong swimmer, but even she wasn’t making any progress.
Grover frantically kicked with his hooves. Annabeth was hanging on to the Fleece, which flashed in the water like a wave of new pennies.
I swam toward them, knowing that I might not have the strength to pull my friends out.
Worse, pieces of timber were swirling around them; none of my power with water would help if I got whacked on the head by a beam.
We need help, I thought.
Yes. Tyson’s voice, loud and clear in my head.
I looked over at him, startled. I’d heard Nereids and other water spirits speak to me underwater before, but it never occurred to me … Tyson was a son of Poseidon. We could communicate with each other.
Rainbow, Tyson said.
I nodded, then closed my eyes and concentrated, adding my voice to Tyson’s: RAINBOW! We need you!
Immediately, shapes shimmered in the darkness below—three horses with fish tails, galloping upward faster than dolphins. Rainbow and his friends glanced in our direction and seemed to read our thoughts. They whisked into the wreckage, and a moment later burst upward in a cloud of bubbles—Grover, Annabeth, and Clarisse each clinging to the neck of a hippocampus.
Rainbow, the largest, had Clarisse. He raced over to us and allowed Tyson to grab hold of his mane. His friend who bore Annabeth did the same for me.
We broke the surface of the water and raced away from Polyphemus’s island. Behind us, I could hear the Cyclops roaring in triumph, “I did it! I finally sank Nobody!”
I hoped he never found out he was wrong.
We skimmed across the sea as the island shrank to a dot and then disappeared.
“Did it,” Annabeth muttered in exhaustion. “We …”
She slumped against the neck of the hippocampus and instantly fell asleep.
I didn’t know how far the hippocampi could take us. I didn’t know where we were going. I just propped up Annabeth so she wouldn’t fall off, covered her in the Golden Fleece that we’d been through so much to get, and said a silent prayer of thanks.
Which reminded me … I still owed the gods a debt.
“You’re a genius,” I told Annabeth quietly.
Then I put my head against the Fleece, and before I knew it, I was asleep, too.
Chapter Seventeen: We Get A Surprise On Miami Beach
“Percy, wake up.”
Salt water splashed my face. Annabeth was shaking my shoulder.
In the distance, the sun was setting behind a city skyline. I could see a beachside highway lined with palm trees, storefronts glowing with red and blue neon, a harbor filled with sailboats and cruise ships.
“Miami, I think,” Annabeth said. “But the hippocampi are acting funny.”
Sure enough, our fishy friends had slowed down and were whinnying and swimming in circles, sniffing the water. They didn’t look happy. One of them sneezed. I could tell what they were thinking.
“This is as far as they’ll take us,” I said. “Too many humans. Too much pollution. We’ll have to swim to shore on our own.”
None of us was very psyched about that, but we thanked Rainbow and his friends for the ride. Tyson cried a little. He unfastened the makeshift saddle pack he’d made, which contained his tool kit and a couple of other things he’d salvaged from the Birmingham wreck. He hugged Rainbow around the neck, gave him a soggy mango he’d picked up on the island, and said good-bye.
Once the hippocampi’s white manes disappeared into the sea, we swam for shore. The waves pushed us forward, and in no time we were back in the mortal world. We wandered along the cruise line docks, pushing through crowds of people arriving for vacations. Porters bustled around with carts of luggage. Taxi drivers yelled at each other in Spanish and tried to cut in line for customers. If anybody noticed us—five kids dripping wet and looking like they’d just had a fight with a monster—they didn’t let on.
Now that we were back among mortals, Tyson’s single eye had blurred from the Mist. Grover had put on his cap and sneakers. Even the Fleece had transformed from a sheepskin to a red-and-gold high school letter jacket with a large glittery Omega on the pocket.
Annabeth ran to the nearest newspaper box and checked the date on the Miami Herald. She cursed. “June eighteenth! We’ve been away from camp ten days!”
“That’s impossible!” Clarisse said.
But I knew it wasn’t. Time traveled differently in monstrous places.
“Thalia’s tree must be almost dead,” Grover wailed. “We have to get the Fleece back tonight.”
Clarisse slumped down on the pavement. “How are we supposed to do that?” Her voice trembled. “We’re hundreds of miles away. No money. No ride. This is just like the Oracle said. It’s your fault, Jackson! If you hadn’t interfered—”
“Percy’s fault?!” Annabeth exploded. “Clarisse, how can you say that? You are the biggest—”
“Stop it!” I said.
Clarisse put her head in hands. Annabeth stomped her foot in frustration.
The thing was: I’d almost forgotten this quest was supposed to be Clarisse’s. For a scary moment, I saw things from her point of view. How would I feel if a bunch of other heroes had butted in and made me look bad?
I thought about what I’d overheard in the boiler room of the CSS Birmingham—Ares yelling at Clarisse, warning her that she’d better not fail. Ares couldn’t care less about the camp, but if Clarisse made him look bad …
“Clarisse,” I said, “what did the Oracle tell you exactly?”
She looked up. I thought she was going to tell me off, but instead she took a deep breath and recited her prophecy:
“You shall sail the iron ship with warriors of bone, You shall find what you seek and make it your own,
But despair for your life entombed within stone,
And fail without friends, to fly home alone.”
“Ouch,” Grover mumbled.
“No,” I said. “No … wait a minute. I’ve got it.”
I searched my pockets for money, and found nothing but a golden drachma. “Does anybody have any cash?”
Annabeth and Grover shook their heads morosely. Clarisse pulled a wet Confederate dollar from her pocket and sighed.
“Cash?” Tyson asked hesitantly. “Like … green paper?”
I looked at him. “Yeah.”
“Like the kind in duffel bags?”
“Yeah, but we lost those bags days a-g-g—”
I stuttered to a halt as Tyson rummaged in his saddle pack and pulled out the Ziploc bag full of cash that Hermes had included in our supplies.
“Tyson!” I said. “How did you—”
“Thought it was a feed bag for Rainbow,” he said. “Found it floating in sea, but only paper inside. Sorry.”