It was stuck fast.
Then I remembered the watch.
I didn’t know how it could help, but I managed to punch the stopwatch button. Instantly, the watch changed. It expanded, the metal rim spiraling outward like an old-fashioned camera shutter, a leather strap wrapping around my forearm until I was holding a round war shield four feet wide, the inside soft leather, the outside polished bronze engraved with designs I didn’t have time to examine.
All I knew: Tyson had come through. I raised the shield, and Beckendorf’s sword clanged against it. His blade shattered.
“What?” he shouted. “How—”
He didn’t have time to say more because I knocked him in the chest with my new shield and sent him flying out of his chariot, tumbling in the dirt.
I was about use Riptide to slash at the driver when Annabeth yelled, “Percy!”
The Greek fire was shooting sparks. I shoved the tip of my sword under the leather pouch and flipped it up like a spatula. The firebomb dislodged and flew into the Hephaestus chariot at the driver’s feet. He yelped.
In a split second the driver made the right choice: he dove out of the chariot, which careened away and exploded in green flames. The metal horses seemed to short-circuit. They turned and dragged the burning wreckage back toward Clarisse and the Stoll brothers, who had to swerve to avoid it.
Annabeth pulled the reins for the last turn. I held on, sure we would capsize, but somehow she brought us through and spurred the horses across the finish line. The crowd roared.
Once the chariot stopped, our friends mobbed us. They started chanting our names, but Annabeth yelled over the noise: “Hold up! Listen! It wasn’t just us!”
The crowd didn’t want to be quiet, but Annabeth made herself heard: “We couldn’t have done it without somebody else! We couldn’t have won this race or gotten the Fleece or saved Grover or anything! We owe our lives to Tyson, Percy’s …”
“Brother!” I said, loud enough for everybody to hear. “Tyson, my baby brother.”
Tyson blushed. The crowd cheered. Annabeth planted a kiss on my cheek. The roaring got a lot louder after that. The entire Athena cabin lifted me and Annabeth and Tyson onto their shoulders and carried us toward the winner’s platform, where Chiron was waiting to bestow the laurel wreaths.
Chapter Twenty: The Fleece Works It’s Magic Too Well
That afternoon was one of the happiest I’d ever spent at camp, which maybe goes to show, you never know when your world is about to be rocked to pieces.
Grover announced that he’d be able to spend the rest of the summer with us before resuming his quest for Pan. His bosses at the Council of Cloven Elders were so impressed that he hadn’t gotten himself killed and had cleared the way for future searchers, that they granted him a two-month furlough and a new set of reed pipes. The only bad news: Grover insisted on playing those pipes all afternoon long, and his musical skills hadn’t improved much. He played “YMCA,” and the strawberry plants started going crazy, wrapping around our feet like they were trying to strangle us. I guess I couldn’t blame them.
Grover told me he could dissolve the empathy link between us, now that we were face to face, but I told him I’d just as soon keep it if that was okay with him. He put down his reed pipes and stared at me. “But, if I get in trouble again, you’ll be in danger, Percy! You could die!”
“If you get in trouble again, I want to know about it. And I’ll come help you again, G-man. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
In the end he agreed not to break the link. He went back to playing “YMCA” for the strawberry plants. I didn’t need an empathy link with the plants to know how they felt about it.
Later on during archery class, Chiron pulled me aside and told me he’d fixed my problems with Meriwether Prep. The school no longer blamed me for destroying their gymnasium. The police were no longer looking for me.
“How did you manage that?” I asked.
Chiron’s eyes twinkled. “I merely suggested that the mortals had seen something different on that day—a furnace explosion that was not your fault.”
“You just said that and they bought it?”
“I manipulated the Mist. Some day, when you’re ready, I’ll show how it’s done.”
“You mean, I can go back to Meriwether next year?”
Chiron raised his eyebrows. “Oh, no, they’ve still expelled you. Your headmaster, Mr. Bonsai, said you had—how did he put it?—un-groovy karma that disrupted the school’s educational aura. But you’re not in any legal trouble, which was a relief to your mother. Oh, and speaking of your mother …”
He unclipped his cell phone from his quiver and handed it to me. “It’s high time you called her.”
The worst part was the beginning—the “Percy-Jackson-what-were-you-thinking-do-you-have-any-idea-how-worried-I-was-sneaking-off-to-camp-without-permission-going-on-dangerous-quests-and-scaring-me-half-to-death” part.
But finally she paused to catch her breath. “Oh, I’m just glad you’re safe!”
That’s the great thing about my mom. She’s no good at staying angry. She tries, but it just isn’t in her nature.
“I’m sorry, Mom,” I told her. “I won’t scare you again.”
“Don’t promise me that, Percy. You know very well it will only get worse.” She tried to sound casual about it, but I could tell she was pretty shaken up.
I wanted to say something to make her feel better, but I knew she was right. Being a half-blood, I would always be doing things that scared her. And as I got older, the dangers would just get greater.
“I could come home for a while,” I offered.
“No, no. Stay at camp. Train. Do what you need to do. But you will come home for the next school year?”
“Yeah, of course. Uh, if there’s any school that will take me.”
“Oh, we’ll find something, dear,” my mother sighed. “Some place where they don’t know us yet.”
As for Tyson, the campers treated him like a hero. I would’ve been happy to have him as my cabin mate forever, but that evening, as we were sitting on a sand dune overlooking the Long Island Sound, he made an announcement that completely took me by surprise.
“Dream came from Daddy last night,” he said. “He wants me to visit.”
I wondered if he was kidding, but Tyson really didn’t know how to kid. “Poseidon sent you a dream message?”
Tyson nodded. “Wants me to go underwater for the rest of the summer. Learn to work at Cyclopes’ forges. He called it an inter—an intern—”
“Yes.” I let that sink in. I’ll admit, I felt a little jealous. Poseidon had never invited me underwater. But then I thought, Tyson was going? Just like that?
“When would you leave?” I asked.
“Now. Like … now now?”
I stared out at the waves in the Long Island Sound. The water was glistening red in the sunset.
“I’m happy for you, big guy,” I managed. “Seriously.”
“Hard to leave my new brother,” he said with a tremble in his voice. “But I want to make things. Weapons for the camp. You will need them.”
Unfortunately, I knew he was right. The Fleece hadn’t solved all the camp’s problems. Luke was still out there, gathering an army aboard the Princess Andromeda. Kronos was still re-forming in his golden coffin. Eventually, we would have to fight them.
“You’ll make the best weapons ever,” I told Tyson. I held up my watch proudly. “I bet they’ll tell good time, too.”
Tyson sniffled. “Brothers help each other.”
“You’re my brother,” I said. “No doubt about it.”
He patted me on the back so hard he almost knocked me down the sand dune. Then he wiped a tear from his cheek and stood to go. “Use the shield well.”
“I will, big guy.”
“Save your life some day.”
The way he said it, so matter-of-fact, I wondered if that Cyclops eye of his could see into the future.
He headed down to the beach and whistled. Rainbow, the hippocampus, burst out of the waves. I watched the two of them ride off together into the realm of Poseidon.
Once they were gone, I looked down at my new wristwatch. I pressed the button and the shield spiraled out to full size. Hammered into the bronze were pictures in Ancient Greek style, scenes from our adventures this summer. There was Annabeth slaying a Laistrygonian dodgeball player, me fighting the bronze bulls on Half-Blood Hill, Tyson riding Rainbow toward the Princess Andromeda, the CSS Birmingham blasting its cannons at Charybdis. I ran my hand across a picture of Tyson, battling the Hydra as he held aloft a box of Monster Donuts.
I couldn’t help feeling sad. I knew Tyson would have an awesome time under the ocean. But I’d miss everything about him—his fascination with horses, the way he could fix chariots or crumple metal with his bare hands, or tie bad guys into knots. I’d even miss him snoring like an earthquake in the next bunk all night.
Annabeth and Grover were standing at the top of the sand dune. I guess maybe I had some sand in my eyes, because I was blinking a lot.
“Tyson …” I told them. “He had to …”
“We know,” Annabeth said softly. “Chiron told us.”
“Cyclopes forges.” Grover shuddered. “I hear the cafeteria food there is terrible! Like, no enchiladas at all.”
Annabeth held out her hand. “Come on, Seaweed Brain. Time for dinner.”
We walked back toward the dining pavilion together, just the three of us, like old times.
A storm raged that night, but it parted around Camp Half-Blood as storms usually did.
Lightning flashed against the horizon, waves pounded the shore, but not a drop fell in our valley. We were protected again, thanks to the Fleece, sealed inside our magical borders.
Still, my dreams were restless. I heard Kronos taunting me from the depths of Tartarus: Polyphemus sits blindly in his cave, young hero, believing he has won a great victory. Are you any less deluded? The titan’s cold laughter filled the darkness.
Then my dream changed. I was following Tyson to the bottom of the sea, into the court of Poseidon. It was a radiant hall filled with blue light, the floor cobbled with pearls. And there, on a throne of coral, sat my father, dressed like a simple fisherman in khaki shorts and a sun-bleached T-shirt. I looked up into his tan weathered face, his deep green eyes, and he spoke two words: Brace yourself.
I woke with a start.
There was a banging on the door. Grover flew inside without waiting for permission. “Percy!” he stammered. “Annabeth … on the hill … she …”
The look in his eyes told me something was terribly wrong. Annabeth had been on guard duty that night, protecting the Fleece. If something had happened—I ripped off the covers, my blood like ice water in my veins. I threw on some clothes while Grover tried to make a complete sentence, but he was too stunned, too out of breath. “She’s lying there … just lying there …”