'Not today, kid,' Thalia warned. 'One more step and I'll pin your feet to the rocks.'
Ethan ran – straight into the cave of Melinoe. Thalia took aim at his back, but I said, 'No. Let him go.'
She frowned but lowered her bow.
I wasn't sure why I wanted to spare Ethan. I guess we'd had enough fighting for one day, and in truth I felt sorry for the kid. He would be in enough trouble when he reported back to Kronos.
Nico picked up the sword of Hades reverently. 'We did it. We actually did it.'
'We did?' Iapetus asked. 'Did I help?'
I managed a weak smile. 'Yeah, Bob. You were great.'
We got an express ride back to the palace of Hades. Nico sent word ahead, thanks to some ghost he'd summoned out of the ground, and within a few minutes the Three Furies themselves arrived to ferry us back. They weren't thrilled about lugging Bob the Titan, too, but I didn't have the heart to leave him behind, especially after he noticed my shoulder wound, said, 'Owie,' and healed it with a touch.
Anyway, by the time we arrived in the throne room of Hades, I was feeling great. The Lord of the Dead sat on his throne of bones, glowering at us and stroking his black beard like he was contemplating the best way to torture us. Persephone sat next to him, not saying a word, as Nico explained about our adventure.
Before we gave back the sword, I insisted that Hades take an oath not to use it against the gods. His eyes flared like he wanted to incinerate me, but finally he made the promise through clenched teeth.
Nico laid the sword at his father's feet and bowed, waiting for a reaction.
Hades looked at his wife. 'You defied my direct orders.'
I wasn't sure what he was talking about, but Persephone didn't react, even under his piercing gaze.
Hades turned back to Nico. His gaze softened just a little, like rock soft rather than steel. 'You will speak of this to no one.'
'Yes, lord,' Nico agreed.
The god glared at me. 'And if your friends do not hold their tongues, I will cut them out.'
'You're welcome,' I said.
Hades stared at the sword. His eyes were full of anger and something else – something like hunger. He snapped his fingers. The Furies fluttered down from the top of his throne.
'Return the blade to the forges,' he told them. 'Stay with the smiths until it is finished, and then return it to me.'
The Furies swirled into the air with the weapon, and I wondered how soon I would be regretting this day. There were ways around oaths, and I imagined Hades would be looking for one.
'You are wise, my lord,' Persephone said.
'If I were wise,' he growled, 'I would lock you in your chambers. If you ever disobey me again –'
He let the threat hang in the air. Then he snapped his fingers and vanished into darkness.
Persephone looked even paler than usual. She took a moment to smooth her dress, then turned towards us. 'You have done well, demigods.' She waved her hand and three red roses appeared at our feet. 'Crush these, and they will return you to the world of the living. You have my lord's thanks.'
'I could tell,' Thalia muttered.
'Making the sword was your idea,' I realized. 'That's why Hades wasn't there when you gave us the mission. Hades didn't know the sword was missing. He didn't even know it existed.'
'Nonsense,' the goddess said.
Nico clenched his fists. 'Percy's right. You wanted Hades to make a sword. He told you no. He knew it was too dangerous. The other gods would never trust him. It would undo the balance of power.'
'Then it got stolen,' Thalia said. 'You shut down the Underworld, not Hades. You couldn't tell him what had happened. And you needed us to get the sword back before Hades found out. You used us.'
Persephone moistened her lips. 'The important thing is that Hades has now accepted the sword. He will have it finished, and my husband will become as powerful as Zeus or Poseidon. Our realm will be protected against Kronos… or any others who try to threaten us.'
'And we're responsible,' I said miserably.
'You've been very helpful,' Persephone agreed. 'Perhaps a reward for your silence –'
'You'd better go,' I said, 'before I carry you down to the Lethe and throw you in. Bob will help me. Won't you, Bob?'
'Bob will help you!' Iapetus agreed cheerfully.
Persephone's eyes widened, and she disappeared in a shower of daisies.
Nico, Thalia and I said our goodbyes on a balcony overlooking Asphodel. Bob the Titan sat inside, building a toy house out of bones and laughing every time it collapsed.
'I'll watch him,' Nico said. 'He's harmless now. Maybe… I don't know. Maybe we can retrain him to do something good.'
'Are you sure you want to stay here?' I asked. 'Persephone will make your life miserable.'
'I have to,' he insisted. 'I have to get close to my dad. He needs a better adviser.'
I couldn't argue with that
. 'Well, if you need anything –'
'I'll call,' he promised. He shook hands with Thalia and me. He turned to leave, but he looked at me one more time. 'Percy, you haven't forgotten my offer?'
A shiver went down my spine. 'I'm still thinking about it.'
Nico nodded. 'Well, whenever you're ready.'
After he was gone, Thalia said, 'What offer?'
'Something he told me last summer,' I said. 'A possible way to fight Kronos. It's dangerous. And I've had enough danger for one day.'
Thalia nodded. 'In that case, still up for dinner?'
I couldn't help but smile. 'After all that, you're hungry?'
'Hey,' she said, 'even immortals have to eat. I'm thinking cheeseburgers at McHale's.'
And together we crushed the roses that would return us to the world.
When you're up against immortal enemies you need more than a sharp stick to get you out of harm's way. These are the weapons and gadgets that any self-respecting half-blood needs to make sure they see their sixteenth birthday…
Owner: Percy Jackson
Origins: Forged by the Cyclopes, tempered in the heart of Mount Etna, cooled in the River Lethe. Famous past owners include Hercules himself. This weapon has seen some serious action in its time.
Features: Looks like your standard ballpoint pen, until you take off the cap and it becomes a celestial bronze sword. Has a handy trick of always returning to its owner, making it impossible to lose.
Best against: Most immortal creatures of the Underworld.
Not so good for: Hydras – it cuts through the necks well, but watch out for the extra eight heads that grow back on each neck.
Origins: Modelled on Zeus's own shield, given to Thalia by Athena.
Features: Made of bronze and super-strong, the shield also has the image of Medusa moulded into its side. The mere sight of it terrifies most enemies. Especially effective when used in battle with Thalia's huge, retractable spear.
Best against: Any immortal weapon and most people with eyes.
Not so good for: Yet to find an enemy who hasn't trembled in its presence. Well, if it's good enough for the King of the Gods…
Origins: Invented by Luke himself to be the ultimate killing machine.
Features: Half steel, half celestial bronze, this deadly sword can kill both mortals and immortals. Especially dangerous when wielded by the best swordsman Camp Half-Blood has seen in millennia.
Best against: Pretty much anyone you want to decapitate.
Not so good for: Defending the user when up against Aegis – even deadly swords have their limits.
Name: YANKEES BASEBALL CAP
Owner: Annabeth Chase
Origins: A gift from her mom, Athena, goddess of wisdom.
Features: Navy blue, NYC Yankees logo… oh yeah, and makes the wearer invisible.
Best for: Making speedy (and invisible) getaways.
Name: TYSON'S SHIELD
Owner: Percy Jackson
Origins: Made by Percy's half-brother, Tyson, and has all the added extras only a Cyclops could engineer.
Features: Cleverly disguised as an average-looking wristwatch to the untrained eye, but punch the stopwatch button and you're instantly armed with a metre-wide, lightweight war shield. Neat.
Best against: Celestial swords.
Not so good for: Shielding against manticore attacks.
OLYMPIAN CROSSWORD PUZZLE
Test your knowledge of Percy Jackson and the Olympians!
2.Lord of the Dead5.The ____ Fates6.Percy's best friend7.Percy's half-brother Tyson is a ___11.This monster wears Fruit of the Loom underwear13.Percy's cousin, daughter of Zeus14.Percy is entering this year at school16.Percy has the ability to control this element17.God of the Sea18.Hot-tempered female bully, daughter of Ares20.Another name for a half-blood25.Also known as 'The Kindly Ones'26.Percy's mom loves food that is this colour28.Percy's magical sword29.Annabeth's hat makes her turn this30.Luke is the son of this godDOWN
1.Percy's birthday month2.Wife of Zeus3.Titan Lord4.Lord of the Sky5.Dr _______ (evil manticore in The Titan's Curse)8.Activities Director at the camp9.Medusa's hair is made of these10.Camp visited by Percy and friends12.Annabeth is deathly afraid of these creatures15.Nike is the goddess of _____19.Zeus's mother21.Name of the link Percy and Grover share22.Zeus, Poseidon and Hades are all ____.23.Hydras have multiple ____24.Thalia had once been turned into a ____27.Aphrodite is the goddess of _____.(Solution on page 158)
OLYMPIAN WORD JUMBLE
Discover the hidden words lurking in this puzzle!
PERCY KAMPÊ MINOSANNABETH CALYPSO TITANTYSON POSEIDON OLYMPIANSGROVER JANUS RICK RIORDAN
(The Percy Author!)DAEDALUS KRONOS GERYON PAN BRIARES NICO CHIRON LUKE HERA LABYRINTH RACHEL CLARISSE SPHINX BACKBITER HELLHOUND RIPTIDE