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Join Percy Jackson, Annabeth Chase and Carter and Sadie Kane as they do battle with an ancient Egyptian magician determined to become a god. Against impossible odds, the four demigods and magicians team up to prevent the apocalypse. Contains the short stories The Son of Sobek, The Staff of Serapis and The Crown of Ptolemy, together in one volume for the first time. Plus, read an exciting extract from The Sword of Summer, the first book in Rick Riordan's latest series, Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.
Year:
2021
Publisher:
Penguin Uk
Language:
english
Pages:
240
ISBN 13:
9780141367293
File:
EPUB, 2.71 MB
Download (epub, 2.71 MB)

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Son of Poseidon
One of rick’s best novels ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
02 February 2020 (17:10) 
ax
The books that you find here are the best books they don’t take up much space and are much easier to find than looking through a physical library I would suggest this to all my friends.
04 September 2020 (08:36) 
Andrew Hu
yeah, it's pretty good
15 October 2020 (03:38) 

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Contents


The Son of Sobek

The Staff of Serapis

The Crown of Ptolemy

Read More





PUFFIN BOOKS





Rick Riordan is the creator of the award-winning, bestselling Percy Jackson series and the thrilling Kane Chronicles and Heroes of Olympus series. Don’t miss his new series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard.

According to Rick, the idea for the Percy Jackson stories was inspired by his son Haley. But rumour has it that Camp Half-Blood actually exists, and Rick spends his summers there recording the adventures of young demigods. Some believe that, to avoid a mass panic among the mortal population, he was forced to swear on the River Styx to present Percy Jackson’s story as fiction. Rick lives in Boston, Massachussetts, (apart from his summers on Half-Blood Hill) with his wife and two sons.

To learn more about Rick and his books, visit:

www.rickriordanmythmaster.co.uk





Books by Rick Riordan


The Percy Jackson series

PERCY JACKSON AND THE LIGHTNING THIEF*

PERCY JACKSON AND THE SEA OF MONSTERS*

PERCY JACKSON AND THE TITAN’S CURSE*

PERCY JACKSON AND THE BATTLE OF THE LABYRINTH

PERCY JACKSON AND THE LAST OLYMPIAN

THE DEMIGOD FILES

PERCY JACKSON AND THE GREEK GODS

PERCY JACKSON AND THE GREEK HEROES

The Heroes of Olympus series

THE LOST HERO*

THE SON OF NEPTUNE

THE MARK OF ATHENA

THE HOUSE OF HADES

THE BLOOD OF OLYMPUS

THE DEMIGOD DIARIES

The Kane Chronicles series

THE RED PYRAMID*

THE THRONE OF FIRE

THE SERPENT’S SHADOW

The Magnus Chase series

MAGNUS CHASE AND THE SWORD OF SUMMER

The Trials of Apollo series

THE HIDDEN ORACLE


* Also available as a graphic novel

rickriordanmythmaster.co.uk





Getting eaten by a giant crocodile was bad enough.

The kid with the glowing sword only made my day worse.

Maybe I should introduce myself.

I’m Carter Kane – part-time high-school freshman, part-time magician, full-time worrier about all the Egyptian gods and monsters who are constantly trying to kill me.

Okay, that last part is an exaggeration. Not all the gods want me dead. Just a ; lot of them – but that kind of goes with the territory, since I’m a magician in the House of Life. We’re like the police for Ancient Egyptian supernatural forces, making sure they don’t cause too much havoc in the modern world.

Anyway, on this particular day I was tracking down a rogue monster on Long Island. Our scryers had been sensing magical disturbances in the area for several weeks. Then the local news started reporting that a large creature had been sighted in the ponds and marshes near the Montauk Highway – a creature that was eating the wildlife and scaring the locals. One reporter even called it the Long Island Swamp Monster. When mortals start raising the alarm, you know it’s time to check things out.

Normally my sister, Sadie, or some of our other initiates from Brooklyn House would’ve come with me. But they were all at the First Nome in Egypt for a week-long training session on controlling cheese demons (yes, they’re a real thing – believe me, you don’t want to know), so I was on my own.

I hitched our flying reed boat to Freak, my pet griffin, and we spent the morning buzzing around the south shore, looking for signs of trouble. If you’re wondering why I didn’t just ride on Freak’s back, imagine two hummingbird-like wings beating faster and more powerfully than helicopter blades. Unless you want to get shredded, it’s really better to ride in the boat.

Freak had a pretty good nose for magic. After a couple of hours on patrol, he shrieked, ‘FREEEEEEK!’ and banked hard to the left, circling over a green marshy inlet between two neighbourhoods.

‘Down there?’ I asked.

Freak shivered and squawked, whipping his barbed tail nervously.

I couldn’t see much below us – just a brown river glittering in the hot summer air, winding through swamp grass and clumps of gnarled trees until it emptied into Moriches Bay. The area looked a bit like the Nile Delta back in Egypt, except here the wetlands were surrounded on both sides by residential neighbourhoods with row after row of grey-roofed houses. Just to the north, a line of cars inched along the Montauk Highway – vacationers escaping the crowds in the city to enjoy the crowds in the Hamptons.

If there really was a carnivorous swamp monster below us, I wondered how long it would be before it developed a taste for humans. If that happened … well, it was surrounded by an all-you-can-eat buffet.

‘Okay,’ I told Freak. ‘Set me down by the riverbank.’

As soon as I stepped out of the boat, Freak screeched and zoomed into the sky, the boat trailing behind him.

‘Hey!’ I yelled after him, but it was too late.

Freak is easily spooked. Flesh-eating monsters tend to scare him away. So do fireworks, clowns and the smell of Sadie’s weird British Ribena drink. (Can’t blame him on that last one. Sadie grew up in London and developed some pretty strange tastes.)

I would have to take care of this monster problem, then whistle for Freak to pick me up once I was done.

I opened my backpack and checked my supplies: some enchanted rope, my curved ivory wand, a lump of wax for making a magical shabti figurine, my calligraphy set and a healing potion my friend Jaz had brewed for me a while back. (She knew that I got hurt a lot.)

There was just one more thing I needed.

I concentrated and reached into the Duat. Over the last few months, I’d got better at storing emergency provisions in the shadow realm – extra weapons, clean clothes, Fruit by the Foot and chilled six-packs of root beer – but sticking my hand into a magical dimension still felt weird, like pushing through layers of cold, heavy curtains. I closed my fingers round the hilt of my sword and pulled it out – a weighty khopesh with a blade curved like a question mark. Armed with my sword and wand, I was all set for a stroll through the swamp to look for a hungry monster. Oh, joy!

I waded into the water and immediately sank to my knees. The river bottom felt like congealed stew. With every step, my shoes made such rude noises – suck-plop, suck-plop – that I was glad Sadie wasn’t with me. She never would’ve stopped laughing.

Even worse, making this much noise, I knew I wouldn’t be able to sneak up on any monsters.

Mosquitoes swarmed me. Suddenly I felt nervous and alone.

Could be worse, I told myself. I could be studying cheese demons.

But I couldn’t quite convince myself. In a nearby neighbourhood, I heard kids shouting and laughing, probably playing some kind of game. I wondered what that would be like – being a normal kid, hanging out with my friends on a summer afternoon.

The idea was so nice I got distracted. I didn’t notice the ripples in the water until fifty yards ahead of me something broke the surface – a line of leathery blackish-green bumps. Instantly it submerged again, but I knew what I was dealing with now. I’d seen crocodiles before, and this was a freakishly big one.

I remembered El Paso, the winter before last, when my sister and I had been attacked by the crocodile god Sobek. That wasn’t a good memory.

Sweat trickled down my neck.

‘Sobek,’ I murmured, ‘if that’s you, messing with me again, I swear to Ra …’

The croc god had promised to leave us alone now that we were tight with his boss, the sun god. Still … crocodiles get hungry. Then they tend to forget their promises.

No answer from the water. The ripples subsided.

When it came to sensing monsters, my magic instincts weren’t very sharp, but the water in front of me seemed much darker. That meant either it was deep, or something large was lurking under the surface.

I almost hoped it was Sobek. At least then I stood a chance of talking to him before he killed me. Sobek loved to boast.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t him.

The next microsecond, as the water erupted around me, I realized too late that I should’ve brought the entire Twenty-first Nome to help me. I registered glowing yellow eyes as big as my head, the glint of gold jewellery round a massive neck. Then monstrous jaws opened – ridges of crooked teeth and an expanse of pink maw wide enough to gulp down a garbage truck.

And the creature swallowed me whole.

Imagine being shrink-wrapped upside down inside a gigantic slimy garbage bag with no air. Being in the monster’s belly was like that, only hotter and smellier.

For a moment I was too stunned to do anything. I couldn’t believe I was still alive. If the crocodile’s mouth had been smaller, he might have snapped me in half. As it was, he had gulped me down in a single Carter-sized serving, so I could look forward to being slowly digested.

Lucky, right?

The monster started thrashing around, which made it hard to think. I held my breath, knowing that it might be my last. I still had my sword and wand, but I couldn’t use them with my arms pinned to my side. I couldn’t reach any of the stuff in my bag.

Which left only one answer: a word of power. If I could think of the right hieroglyphic symbol and speak it aloud, I could summon some industrial-strength, wrath-of-the-gods-type magic to bust my way out of this reptile.

In theory: a great solution.

In practice: I’m not so good at words of power even in the best of situations. Suffocating inside a dark, smelly reptile gullet wasn’t helping me focus.

You can do this, I told myself.

After all the dangerous adventures I’d had, I couldn’t die like this. Sadie would be devastated. Then, once she got over her grief, she’d track down my soul in the Egyptian afterlife and tease me mercilessly for how stupid I’d been.

My lungs burned. I was blacking out. I picked a word of power, summoned all my concentration and prepared to speak.

Suddenly the monster lurched upward. He roared, which sounded really weird from the inside, and his throat contracted round me like I was being squeezed from a toothpaste tube. I shot out of the creature’s mouth and tumbled into the marsh grass.

Somehow I got to my feet. I staggered around, half blind, gasping and covered with crocodile goo, which smelled like a scummy fish tank.

The surface of the river churned with bubbles. The crocodile was gone, but standing in the marsh about twenty feet away was a teenage guy in jeans and a faded orange T-shirt that said CAMP something. I couldn’t read the rest. He looked a little older than me – maybe seventeen – with tousled black hair and sea-green eyes. What really caught my attention was his sword – a straight double-edged blade glowing with faint bronze light.

I’m not sure which of us was more surprised.

For a second, Camper Boy just stared at me. He noted my khopesh and wand, and I got the feeling that he actually saw these things as they were. Normal mortals have trouble seeing magic. Their brains can’t interpret it, so they might look at my sword, for instance, and see a baseball bat or a walking stick.

But this kid … he was different. I figured he must be a magician. The only problem was I’d met most of the magicians in the North American nomes, and I’d never seen this guy before. I’d also never seen a sword like that. Everything about him seemed … un-Egyptian.

‘The crocodile,’ I said, trying to keep my voice calm and even. ‘Where did it go?’

Camper Boy frowned. ‘You’re welcome.’

‘What?’

‘I stuck that croc in the rump.’ He mimicked the action with his sword. ‘That’s why it vomited you up. So, you’re welcome. What were you doing in there?’

I’ll admit I wasn’t in the best mood. I smelled. I hurt. And, yeah, I was a little embarrassed: the mighty Carter Kane, head of Brooklyn House, had been disgorged from a croc’s mouth like a giant hairball.

‘I was resting,’ I snapped. ‘What do you think I was doing? Now, who are you, and why are you fighting my monster?’

‘Your monster?’ The guy trudged towards me through the water. He didn’t seem to have any trouble with the mud. ‘Look, man, I don’t know who you are, but that crocodile has been terrorizing Long Island for weeks. I take that kind of personally, as this is my home turf. A few days ago, it ate one of our pegasi.’

A jolt went up my spine like I’d backed into an electric fence. ‘Did you say pegasi?’

He waved the question aside. ‘Is it your monster or not?’

‘I don’t own it!’ I growled. ‘I’m trying to stop it! Now, where –’

‘The croc headed that way.’ He pointed his sword to the south. ‘I would already be chasing it, but you surprised me.’

He sized me up, which was disconcerting since he was half a foot taller. I still couldn’t read his T-shirt except for the word camp. Round his neck hung a leather strap with some colourful clay beads, like a kid’s arts-and-crafts project. He wasn’t carrying a magician’s pack or a wand. Maybe he kept them in the Duat? Or maybe he was just a delusional mortal who’d accidentally found a magic sword and thought he was a superhero. Ancient relics can really mess with your mind.

Finally he shook his head. ‘I give up. Son of Ares? You’ve got to be a half-blood, but what happened to your sword? It’s all bent.’

‘It’s a khopesh.’ My shock was rapidly turning to anger. ‘It’s supposed to be curved.’

But I wasn’t thinking about the sword.

Camper Boy had just called me a half-blood? Maybe I hadn’t heard him right. Maybe he meant something else. But my dad was African-American. My mom was white. Half-blood wasn’t a word I liked.

‘Just get out of here,’ I said, gritting my teeth. ‘I’ve got a crocodile to catch.’

‘Dude, I have to catch the crocodile,’ he insisted. ‘Last time you tried, it ate you. Remember?’

My fingers tightened round my sword hilt. ‘I had everything under control. I was about to summon a fist –’

For what happened next, I take full responsibility.

I didn’t mean it. Honestly. But I was angry. And, as I may have mentioned, I’m not always good at channelling words of power. While I was in the crocodile’s belly, I’d been preparing to summon the Fist of Horus: a giant glowing blue hand that can pulverize doors, walls and pretty much anything else that gets in your way. My plan had been to punch my way out of the monster. Gross, yes, but hopefully effective.

I guess that spell was still in my head, ready to be triggered like a loaded gun. Facing Camper Boy, I was furious, not to mentioned dazed and confused; so when I meant to say the English word fist it came out in Ancient Egyptian instead: khefa.

Such a simple hieroglyph:




You wouldn’t think it could cause so much trouble.

As soon as I spoke the word, the symbol blazed in the air between us. A giant fist the size of a dishwasher shimmered into existence and slammed Camper Boy into the next county.

I mean I literally punched him out of his shoes. He rocketed from the river with a loud suck-plop! And the last thing I saw was his bare feet achieving escape velocity as he flew backwards and disappeared from sight.

No, I didn’t feel good about it. Well … maybe a tiny bit good. But I also felt mortified. Even if the guy was a jerk, magicians weren’t supposed to go around sucker-punching kids into orbit with the Fist of Horus.

‘Oh, great.’ I hit myself on the forehead.

I started to wade across the marsh, worried that I’d actually killed the guy. ‘Man, I’m sorry!’ I yelled, hoping he could hear me. ‘Are you –?’

The wave came out of nowhere.

A twenty-foot wall of water slammed into me and pushed me back into the river. I came up spluttering, a horrible taste like fish food in my mouth. I blinked the gunk out of my eyes just in the time to see Camper Boy leaping towards me ninja-style, his sword raised.

I lifted my khopesh to deflect the blow. I just managed to keep my head from being cleaved in half, but Camper Boy was strong and quick. As I reeled backwards, he struck again and again. Each time, I was able to parry, but I could tell I was outmatched. His blade was lighter and quicker, and – yes, I’ll admit it – he was a better swordsman.

I wanted to explain that I’d made a mistake. I wasn’t really his enemy. But I needed all my concentration just to keep from getting sliced down the middle.

Camper Boy, however, had no trouble talking.

‘Now I get it,’ he said, swinging at my head. ‘You’re some kind of monster.’

CLANG! I intercepted the strike and staggered back.

‘I’m not a monster,’ I managed.

To beat this guy, I’d have to use more than just a sword. The problem was I didn’t want to hurt him. Despite the fact that he was trying to chop me into a Kane-flavoured barbecue sandwich, I still felt bad for starting the fight.

He swung again, and I had no choice. I used my wand this time, catching his blade in the crook of ivory and channelling a burst of magic straight up his arm. The air between us flashed and crackled. Camper Boy stumbled back. Blue sparks of sorcery popped around him, as if my spell didn’t know quite what to do with him. Who was this guy?

‘You said the crocodile was yours.’ Camper Boy scowled, anger blazing in his green eyes. ‘You lost your pet, I suppose. Maybe you’re a spirit from the Underworld, come through the Doors of Death?’

Before I could even process that question, he thrust out his free hand. The river reversed course and swept me off my feet.

I managed to get up, but I was getting really tired of drinking swamp water. Meanwhile Camper Boy charged again, his sword raised for the kill. In desperation, I dropped my wand. I thrust my hand into my backpack, and my fingers closed round the piece of rope.

I threw it and yelled the command word ‘TAS!’ – bind – just as Camper Boy’s bronze blade cut into my wrist.

My whole arm erupted in agony. My vision tunnelled. Yellow spots danced before my eyes. I dropped my sword and clutched my wrist, gasping for breath, everything forgotten except the excruciating pain.

In the back of my mind, I knew Camper Boy could kill me easily. For some reason he didn’t. A wave of nausea made me double over.

I forced myself to look at the wound. There was a lot of blood, but I remembered something Jaz had told me once in the infirmary at Brooklyn House: cuts usually looked a lot worse than they were. I hoped that was true. I fished a piece of papyrus out of my backpack and pressed it against the wound as a makeshift bandage.

The pain was still horrible, but the nausea became more manageable. My thoughts started to clear, and I wondered why I hadn’t been skewered yet.

Camper Boy was sitting nearby in waist-deep water, looking dejected. My magic rope had wrapped round his sword arm, then lashed his hand to the side of his head. Unable to let go of his sword, he looked like he had a single reindeer antler sprouting next to his ear. He tugged at the rope with his free hand, but of course he couldn’t make any progress.

Finally he just sighed and glared at me. ‘I’m really starting to hate you.’

‘Hate me?’ I protested. ‘I’m gushing blood here! And you started all this by calling me a half-blood!’

‘Oh, please.’ Camper Boy rose unsteadily, his sword antenna making him top-heavy. ‘You can’t be mortal. If you were, my sword would’ve passed right through you. If you’re not a spirit or a monster, you’ve got to be a half-blood. A rogue demigod from Kronos’s army, I’d guess.’

Most of what this guy said, I didn’t understand. But one thing sank in.

‘So when you said “half-blood” …’

He stared at me like I was an idiot. ‘I meant demigod. Yeah. What did you think I meant?’

I tried to process that. I’d heard the term demigod before, but it wasn’t an Egyptian concept. Maybe this guy was sensing that I was bound to Horus, that I could channel the god’s power … but why did he describe everything so strangely?

‘What are you?’ I demanded. ‘Part combat magician, part water elementalist? What nome are you with?’

The kid laughed bitterly. ‘Dude, I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t hang out with gnomes. Satyrs, sometimes. Even Cyclopes. But not gnomes.’

The blood loss must have been making me dizzy. His words bounced around in my head like lottery balls: Cyclopes, satyrs, demigods, Kronos. Earlier he’d mentioned Ares. That was a Greek god, not Egyptian.

I felt like the Duat was opening underneath me, threatening to pull me into the depths. Greek … not Egyptian.

An idea started forming in my mind. I didn’t like it. In fact, it scared the holy Horus out of me.

Despite all the swamp water I’d swallowed, my throat felt dry. ‘Look,’ I said, ‘I’m sorry about hitting you with that fist spell. It was an accident. But the thing I don’t understand … it should have killed you. It didn’t. That doesn’t make sense.’

‘Don’t sound so disappointed,’ he muttered. ‘But, while we’re on the subject, you should be dead too. Not many people can fight me that well. And my sword should have vaporized your crocodile.’

‘For the last time, it’s not my crocodile.’

‘Okay, whatever.’ Camper Boy looked dubious. ‘The point is I stuck that crocodile pretty good, but I just made it angry. Celestial bronze should’ve turned it to dust.’

‘Celestial bronze?’

Our conversation was cut short by a scream from the nearby neighbourhood – the terrified voice of a kid.

My heart did a slow roll. I really was an idiot. I’d forgotten why we were here.

I locked eyes with Camper Boy. ‘We’ve got to stop the crocodile.’

‘Truce,’ he suggested.

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘We can continue killing each other after the crocodile is taken care of.’

‘Deal. Now, could you please untie my sword hand from my head? I feel like a freaking unicorn.’

I won’t say we trusted each other, but at least now we had a common cause. He summoned his shoes out of the river – I had no idea how – and put them on. Then he helped me bind my hand with a strip of linen and waited while I swigged down half of my healing potion.

After that, I felt good enough to race after him towards the sound of the screaming.

I thought I was in pretty good shape – what with combat magic practice, hauling heavy artefacts and playing basketball with Khufu and his baboon friends (baboons don’t mess around when it comes to hoops). Nevertheless, I had to struggle to keep up with Camper Boy.

Which reminded me, I was getting tired of calling him that.

‘What’s your name?’ I asked, wheezing as I ran behind him.

He gave me a cautious glance. ‘I’m not sure I should tell you. Names can be dangerous.’

He was right, of course. Names held power. A while back, my sister, Sadie, had learned my ren, my secret name, and it still caused me all sorts of anxiety. Even with someone’s common name, a skilled magician could work all kinds of mischief.

‘Fair enough,’ I said. ‘I’ll go first. I’m Carter.’

I guess he believed me. The lines around his eyes relaxed a bit.

‘Percy,’ he offered.

That struck me as an unusual name – British, maybe, though the kid spoke and acted very much like an American.

We jumped a rotten log and finally made it out of the marsh. We’d started climbing a grassy slope towards the nearest houses when I realized more than one voice was screaming up there now. Not a good sign.

‘Just to warn you,’ I told Percy, ‘you can’t kill the monster.’

‘Watch me,’ Percy grumbled.

‘No, I mean it’s immortal.’

‘I’ve heard that before. I’ve vaporized plenty of immortals and sent them back to Tartarus.’

Tartarus?

I thought.

Talking to Percy was giving me a serious headache. It reminded me of the time my dad took me to Scotland for one of his Egyptology lectures. I’d tried to talk with some of the locals and I knew they were speaking English, but every other sentence seemed to slip into an alternate language – different words, different pronunciations – and I’d wonder what the heck they were saying. Percy was like that. He and I almost spoke the same language – magic, monsters, et cetera. But his vocabulary was completely wrong.

‘No,’ I tried again, halfway up the hill. ‘This monster is a petsuchos – a son of Sobek.’

‘Who’s Sobek?’ he asked.

‘Lord of crocodiles. Egyptian god.’

That stopped him in his tracks. He stared at me, and I could swear the air between us turned electric. A voice, very deep in my mind, said: Shut up. Don’t tell him any more.

Percy glanced at the khopesh I’d retrieved from the river, then the wand in my belt. ‘Where are you from? Honestly.’

‘Originally?’ I asked. ‘Los Angeles. Now I live in Brooklyn.’

That didn’t seem to make him feel any better. ‘So this monster, this pet-suck-o or whatever –’

‘Petsuchos,’ I said. ‘It’s a Greek word, but the monster is Egyptian. It was like the mascot of Sobek’s temple, worshipped as a living god.’

Percy grunted. ‘You sound like Annabeth.’

‘Who?’

‘Nothing. Just skip the history lesson. How do we kill it?’

‘I told you –’

From above came another scream, followed by a loud CRUNCH, like the sound made by a metal compactor.

We sprinted to the top of the hill, then hopped the fence of somebody’s backyard and ran into a residential cul-de-sac.

Except for the giant crocodile in the middle of the street, the neighbourhood could have been Anywhere, USA. Ringing the cul-de-sac were half a dozen single-storey homes with well-kept front lawns, economy cars in the driveways, mailboxes at the kerb, flags hanging above the front porches.

Unfortunately, the all-American scene was kind of ruined by the monster, who was busily eating a green Prius hatchback with a bumper sticker that read MY POODLE IS SMARTER THAN YOUR HONOUR STUDENT. Maybe the petsuchos thought the Toyota was another crocodile, and he was asserting his dominance. Maybe he just didn’t like poodles and/or honour students.

Whatever the case, on dry land the crocodile looked even scarier than he had in the water. He was about forty feet long, as tall as a delivery truck, with a tail so massive and powerful it overturned cars every time it swished. His skin glistened blackish green and gushed water that pooled around his feet. I remembered Sobek once telling me that his divine sweat created the rivers of the world. Yuck. I guessed this monster had the same holy perspiration. Double yuck.

The creature’s eyes glowed with a sickly yellow light. His jagged teeth gleamed white. But the weirdest thing about him was his bling. Round his neck hung an elaborate collar of gold chains and enough precious stones to buy a private island.

The necklace was how I had realized the monster was a petsuchos, back at the marsh. I’d read that the sacred animal of Sobek wore something just like it back in Egypt, though what the monster was doing in a Long Island neighbourhood, I had no idea.

As Percy and I took in the scene, the crocodile clamped down and bit the green Prius in half, spraying glass and metal and pieces of airbag across the lawns.

As soon as he dropped the wreckage, half a dozen kids appeared from nowhere – apparently they’d been hiding behind some of the other cars – and charged the monster, screaming at the top of their lungs.

I couldn’t believe it. They were just elementary-age kids, armed with nothing but water balloons and Super Soakers. I guessed that they were on summer break and had been cooling off with a water fight when the monster interrupted them.

There were no adults in sight. Maybe they were all at work. Maybe they were inside, passed out from fright.

The kids looked angry rather than scared. They ran round the crocodile, lobbing water balloons that splashed harmlessly against the monster’s hide.

Useless and stupid? Yes. But I couldn’t help admiring their bravery. They were trying their best to face down a monster that had invaded their neighbourhood.

Maybe they saw the crocodile for what it was. Maybe their mortal brains made them think it was an escaped elephant from the zoo, or a crazed FedEx delivery driver with a death wish.

Whatever they saw, they were in danger.

My throat closed up. I thought about my initiates back at Brooklyn House, who were no older than these kids, and my protective ‘big brother’ instincts kicked in. I charged into the street, yelling, ‘Get away from it! Run!’

Then I threw my wand straight at the crocodile’s head. ‘Sa-mir!’

The wand hit the croc on the snout, and blue light rippled across his body. All over the monster’s hide, the hieroglyph for pain flickered:




Everywhere it appeared, the croc’s skin smoked and sparked, causing the monster to writhe and bellow in annoyance.

The kids scattered, hiding behind ruined cars and mailboxes. The petsuchos turned his glowing yellow eyes on me.

At my side, Percy whistled under his breath. ‘Well, you got his attention.’

‘Yeah.’

‘You sure we can’t kill him?’ he asked.

‘Yeah.’

The crocodile seemed to be following our conversation. His yellow eyes flicked back and forth between us, as if deciding which of us to eat first.

‘Even if you could destroy his body,’ I said, ‘he would just reappear somewhere nearby. That necklace? It’s enchanted with the power of Sobek. To beat the monster, we have to get that necklace off. Then the petsuchos should shrink back into a regular crocodile.’

‘I hate the word should,’ Percy muttered. ‘Fine. I’ll get the necklace. You keep him occupied.’

‘Why do I get to keep him occupied?’

‘Because you’re more annoying,’ Percy said. ‘Just try not to get eaten again.’

‘ROARR!’ the monster bellowed, his breath like a seafood restaurant’s dumpster.

I was about to argue that Percy was plenty annoying, but I didn’t get the chance. The petsuchos charged, and my new comrade-in-arms sprinted to one side, leaving me right in the path of destruction.

First random thought: Getting eaten twice in one day would be very embarrassing.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Percy dashing towards the monster’s right flank. I heard the mortal kids come out from their hiding places, yelling and throwing more water balloons like they were trying to protect me.

The petsuchos lumbered towards me, his jaws opening to snap me up.

And I got angry.

I’d faced the worst Egyptian gods. I’d plunged into the Duat and trekked across the Land of Demons. I’d stood at the very shores of Chaos. I was not going back down to an overgrown gator.

The air crackled with power as my combat avatar formed round me – a glowing blue exoskeleton in the shape of Horus.

It lifted me off the ground until I was suspended in the middle of a twenty-foot-tall, hawk-headed warrior. I stepped forward, bracing myself, and the avatar mimicked my stance.

Percy yelled, ‘Holy Hera! What the –?’

The crocodile slammed into me.

He nearly toppled me. His jaws closed round my avatar’s free arm, but I slashed the hawk warrior’s glowing blue sword at the crocodile’s neck.

Maybe the petsuchos couldn’t be killed. I was at least hoping to cut through the necklace that was the source of his power.

Unfortunately, my swing went wide. I hit the monster’s shoulder, cleaving his hide. Instead of blood, he spilled sand, which is pretty typical for Egyptian monsters. I would have enjoyed seeing him disintegrate completely, but no such luck. As soon as I yanked my blade free, the wound started closing and the sand slowed to a trickle. The crocodile whipped his head from side to side, pulling me off my feet and shaking me by the arm like a dog with a chew toy.

When he let me go, I sailed straight into the nearest house and smashed through the roof, leaving a hawk-warrior-shaped crater in someone’s living room. I really hoped I hadn’t just flattened some defenceless mortal in the middle of watching Dr Phil.

My vision cleared, and I saw two things that irritated me. First, the crocodile was charging me again. Second, my new friend Percy was just standing in the middle of the street, staring at me in shock. Apparently my combat avatar had startled him so much he’d forgotten his part of the plan.

‘What the creeping crud is that?’ he demanded. ‘You’re inside a giant glowing chicken-man!’

‘Hawk!’ I yelled.

I decided that if I survived this day I would have to make sure this guy never met Sadie. They’d probably take turns insulting me for the rest of eternity. ‘A little help here?’

Percy unfroze and ran towards the croc. As the monster closed in on me, I kicked him in the snout, which made him sneeze and shake his head long enough for me to extricate myself from the ruined house.

Percy jumped on the creature’s tail and ran up his spine. The monster thrashed around, his hide shedding water all over the place, but somehow Percy managed to keep his footing. The guy must have practised gymnastics or something.

Meanwhile, the mortal kids had found some better ammunition – rocks, scrap metal from the wrecked cars, even a few tyre irons – and were hurling the stuff at the monster. I didn’t want the crocodile turning his attention towards them.

‘HEY!’ I swung my khopesh at the croc’s face – a good solid strike that should’ve taken off his lower jaw. Instead, he somehow snapped at the blade and caught it in his mouth. We ended up wrestling for the blue glowing sword as it sizzled in his mouth, making his teeth crumble to sand. That couldn’t have felt good, but the croc held on, tugging against me.

‘Percy!’ I shouted. ‘Any time now!’

Percy lunged for the necklace. He grabbed hold and started hacking at the gold links, but his bronze sword didn’t make a dent.

Meanwhile, the croc was going crazy trying to yank away my sword. My combat avatar started to flicker.

Summoning an avatar is a short-term thing, like sprinting at top speed. You can’t do it for very long, or you’ll collapse. Already I was sweating and breathing hard. My heart raced. My reservoirs of magic were being severely depleted.

‘Hurry,’ I told Percy.

‘Can’t cut it!’ he said.

‘A clasp,’ I said. ‘There’s gotta be one.’

As soon as I said that, I spotted it – at the monster’s throat, a golden cartouche encircling the hieroglyphs that spelled sobek. ‘There – on the bottom!’

Percy scrambled down the necklace, climbing it like a net, but at that moment my avatar collapsed. I dropped to the ground, exhausted and dizzy. The only thing that saved my life was that the crocodile had been pulling at my avatar’s sword. When the sword disappeared, the monster lurched backwards and stumbled over a Honda.

The mortal kids scattered. One dived under a car, only to have the car disappear – smacked into the air by the croc’s tail.

Percy reached the bottom of the necklace and hung on for dear life. His sword was gone. Probably he’d dropped it.

Meanwhile, the monster regained his footing. The good news: he didn’t seem to notice Percy. The bad news: he definitely noticed me, and he looked mightily torqued off.

I didn’t have the energy to run, much less summon magic to fight. At this point, the mortal kids with their water balloons and rocks had more of a chance of stopping the croc than I did.

In the distance, sirens wailed. Somebody had called the police, which didn’t exactly cheer me up. It just meant more mortals were racing here as fast as they could to volunteer as crocodile snacks.

I backed up to the kerb and tried – ridiculously – to stare down the monster. ‘Stay, boy.’

The crocodile snorted. His hide shed water like the grossest fountain in the world, making my shoes slosh as I walked. His lamp-yellow eyes filmed over, maybe from happiness. He knew I was done for.

I thrust my hand into my backpack. The only thing I found was a clump of wax. I didn’t have time to build a proper shabti, but I had no better idea. I dropped my pack and started working the wax furiously with both hands, trying to soften it.

‘Percy?’ I called.

‘I can’t unlock the clasp!’ he yelled. I didn’t dare take my eyes off the croc’s, but in my peripheral vision I could see Percy pounding his fist against the base of the necklace. ‘Some kind of magic?’

That was the smartest thing he’d said all afternoon (not that he’d said a lot of smart things to choose from). The clasp was a hieroglyphic cartouche. It would take a magician to figure it out and open it. Whatever and whoever Percy was, he was no magician.

I was still shaping the clump of wax, trying to make it into a figurine, when the crocodile decided to stop savouring the moment and just eat me. As he lunged, I threw my shabti, only half formed, and barked a command word.

Instantly the world’s most deformed hippopotamus sprang to life in midair. It sailed headfirst into the crocodile’s left nostril and lodged there, kicking its stubby back legs.

Not exactly my finest tactical move, but having a hippo shoved up his nose must have been sufficiently distracting. The crocodile hissed and stumbled, shaking his head, as Percy dropped off and rolled away, barely avoiding the crocodile’s stomping feet. He ran to join me at the kerb.

I stared in horror as my wax creature, now a living (though very misshapen) hippo, tried to either wriggle free of the croc’s nostril or work its way further into the reptile’s sinus cavity – I wasn’t sure which.

The crocodile whipped round, and Percy grabbed me just in time, pulling me out of its trampling path.

We jogged to the opposite end of the cul-de-sac, where the mortal kids had gathered. Amazingly, none of them seemed to be hurt. The crocodile kept thrashing and wiping out homes as it tried to clear its nostril.

‘You okay?’ Percy asked me.

I gasped for air but nodded weakly.

One of the kids offered me his Super Soaker. I waved him off.

‘You guys,’ Percy told the kids, ‘you hear those sirens? You’ve got to run down the road and stop the police. Tell them it’s too dangerous up here. Stall them!’

For some reason, the kids listened. Maybe they were just happy to have something to do, but, from the way Percy spoke, I got the feeling he was used to rallying outnumbered troops. He sounded a bit like Horus – a natural commander.

After the kids raced off, I managed to say, ‘Good call.’

Percy nodded grimly. The crocodile was still distracted by its nasal intruder, but I doubted the shabti would last much longer. Under that much stress, the hippo would soon melt back to wax.

‘You’ve got some moves, Carter,’ Percy admitted. ‘Anything else in your bag of tricks?’

‘Nothing,’ I said dismally. ‘I’m running on empty. But if I can get to that clasp I think I can open it.’

Percy sized up the petsuchos. The cul-de-sac was filling with water that poured from the monster’s hide. The sirens were getting louder. We didn’t have much time.

‘Guess it’s my turn to distract the croc,’ he said. ‘Get ready to run for that necklace.’

‘You don’t even have your sword,’ I protested. ‘You’ll die!’

Percy managed a crooked smile. ‘Just run in there as soon as it starts.’

‘As soon as what starts?’

Then the crocodile sneezed, launching the wax hippo across Long Island. The petsuchos turned towards us, roaring in anger, and Percy charged straight at him.

As it turned out, I didn’t need to ask what kind of distraction Percy had in mind. Once it started, it was pretty obvious.

He stopped in front of the crocodile and raised his arms. I figured he was planning some kind of magic, but he spoke no command words. He had no staff or wand. He just stood there and looked up at the crocodile as if to say, Here I am! I’m tasty!

The crocodile seemed momentarily surprised. If nothing else, we would die knowing that we’d confused this monster many, many times.

Croc sweat kept pouring off his body. The brackish stuff was up to the kerb now, up to our ankles. It sloughed into the storm drains but just continued spilling from the croc’s skin.

Then I saw what was happening. As Percy raised his arms, the water began swirling counterclockwise. It started around the croc’s feet and quickly built speed until the whirlpool encompassed the entire cul-de-sac, spinning strongly enough that I could feel it pulling me sideways.

By the time I realized I’d better start running, the current was already too fast. I’d have to reach the necklace some other way.

One last trick, I thought.

I feared the effort might literally burn me up, but I summoned my final bit of magical energy and transformed into a falcon – the sacred animal of Horus.

Instantly, my vision was a hundred times sharper. I soared upward, above the rooftops, and the entire world switched to high-definition 3D. I saw the police cars only a few blocks away, the kids standing in the middle of the street, waving them down. I could make out every slimy bump and pore on the crocodile’s hide. I could see each hieroglyph on the clasp of the necklace. And I could see just how impressive Percy’s magic trick was.

The entire cul-de-sac was engulfed in a hurricane. Percy stood at the edge, unmoved, but the water was churning so fast now that even the giant crocodile lost his footing. Wrecked cars scraped along the pavement. Mailboxes were pulled out of lawns and swept away. The water increased in volume as well as speed, rising up and turning the entire neighbourhood into a liquid centrifuge.

It was my turn to be stunned. A few moments ago, I’d decided Percy was no magician. Yet I’d never seen a magician who could control so much water.

The crocodile stumbled and struggled, shuffling in a circle with the current.

‘Any time now,’ Percy muttered through gritted teeth. Without my falcon hearing, I never would’ve heard him through the storm, but I realized he was talking to me.

I remembered I had a job to do. No one, magician or otherwise, could control that kind of power for long.

I folded my wings and dived for the crocodile. When I reached the necklace’s clasp, I turned back to human and grabbed hold. All around me, the hurricane roared. I could barely see through the swirl of mist. The current was so strong now it tugged at my legs, threatening to pull me into the flood.

I was so tired. I hadn’t felt this pushed beyond my limits since I’d fought the Chaos lord, Apophis himself.

I ran my hand over the hieroglyphs on the clasp. There had to be a secret to unlocking it.

The crocodile bellowed and stomped, fighting to stay on its feet. Somewhere to my left, Percy yelled in rage and frustration, trying to keep up the storm, but the whirlpool was starting to slow.

I had a few seconds at best until the crocodile broke free and attacked. Then Percy and I would both be dead.

I felt the four symbols that made up the god’s name:




The last symbol didn’t actually represent a sound, I knew. It was the hieroglyph for god, indicating that the letters in front of it – SBK – stood for a deity’s name.

When in doubt, I thought, hit the god button.

I pushed the fourth symbol, but nothing happened.

The storm was failing. The crocodile started to turn against the current, facing Percy. Out of the corner of my eye, through the haze and mist, I saw Percy drop to one knee.

My fingers passed over the third hieroglyph – the wicker basket (Sadie always called it the ‘teacup’) that stood for the K sound. The hieroglyph felt slightly warm to the touch – or was that my imagination?

No time to think. I pressed it. Nothing happened.

The storm died. The crocodile bellowed in triumph, ready to feed.

I made a fist and slammed the basket hieroglyph with all my strength. This time the clasp made a satisfying click and sprang open. I dropped to the pavement, and several hundred pounds of gold and gems spilled on top of me.

The crocodile staggered, roaring like the guns of a battleship. What was left of the hurricane scattered in an explosion of wind, and I shut my eyes, ready to be smashed flat by the body of a falling monster.

Suddenly, the cul-de-sac was silent. No sirens. No crocodile roaring. The mound of gold jewellery disappeared. I was lying on my back in mucky water, staring up at the empty blue sky.

Percy’s face appeared above me. He looked like he’d just run a marathon through a typhoon, but he was grinning.

‘Nice work,’ he said. ‘Get the necklace.’

‘The necklace?’ My brain still felt sluggish. Where had all that gold gone? I sat up and put my hand on the pavement. My fingers closed round the strand of jewellery, now normal-sized … well, at least normal for something that could fit round the neck of an average crocodile.

‘The – the monster,’ I stammered. ‘Where –?’

Percy pointed. A few feet away, looking very disgruntled, was a baby crocodile not more than three feet long.

‘You can’t be serious,’ I said.

‘Maybe somebody’s abandoned pet?’ Percy shrugged. ‘You hear about those on the news sometimes.’

I couldn’t think of a better explanation, but how had a baby croc got hold of a necklace that turned him into a giant killing machine?

Down the street, voices started yelling, ‘Up here! There’s these two guys!’

It was the mortal kids. Apparently they’d decided the danger was over. Now they were leading the police straight towards us.

‘We have to go.’ Percy scooped up the baby crocodile, clenching one hand round his little snout. He looked at me. ‘You coming?’

Together, we ran back to the swamp.

Half an hour later, we were sitting in a diner off the Montauk Highway. I’d shared the rest of my healing potion with Percy, who for some reason insisted on calling it nectar. Most of our wounds had healed.

We’d tied the crocodile in the woods on a makeshift leash, just until we could figure out what to do with it. We’d cleaned up as best we could, but we still looked like we’d taken a shower in a malfunctioning car wash. Percy’s hair was swept to one side and tangled with pieces of grass. His orange shirt was ripped down the front.

I’m sure I didn’t look much better. I had water in my shoes, and I was still picking falcon feathers out of my shirt sleeves (hasty transformations can be messy).

We were too exhausted to talk as we watched the news on the television above the counter. Police and firefighters had responded to a freak sewer event in a local neighbourhood. Apparently pressure had built up in the drainage pipes, causing a massive explosion that unleashed a flood and eroded the soil so badly several houses on the cul-de-sac had collapsed. It was a miracle that no residents had been injured. Local kids were telling some wild stories about the Long Island Swamp Monster, claiming it had caused all the damage during a fight with two teenage boys, but of course the officials didn’t believe this. The reporter admitted, however, that the damaged houses looked like ‘something very large had sat on them’.

‘A freak sewer accident,’ Percy said. ‘That’s a first.’

‘For you, maybe,’ I grumbled. ‘I seem to cause them everywhere I go.’

‘Cheer up,’ he said. ‘Lunch is on me.’

He dug into the pockets of his jeans and pulled out a ballpoint pen. Nothing else.

‘Oh …’ His smile faded. ‘Uh, actually … can you conjure up money?’

So, naturally, lunch was on me. I could pull money out of thin air, since I kept some stored in the Duat along with my other emergency supplies; so in no time we had cheeseburgers and fries in front of us, and life was looking up.

‘Cheeseburgers,’ Percy said. ‘Food of the gods.’

‘Agreed,’ I said, but when I glanced over at him I wondered if he was thinking the same thing I was: that we were referring to different gods.

Percy inhaled his burger. Seriously, this guy could eat. ‘So, the necklace,’ he said between bites. ‘What’s the story?’

I hesitated. I still had no clue where Percy came from or what he was, and I wasn’t sure I wanted to ask. Now that we’d fought together, I couldn’t help but trust him. Still, I sensed we were treading on dangerous ground. Everything we said could have serious implications – not just for the two of us but maybe for everyone we knew.

I felt sort of like I had two winters ago, when my uncle Amos explained the truth about the Kane family heritage – the House of Life, the Egyptian gods, the Duat, everything. In a single day, my world expanded tenfold and left me reeling.

Now I was standing at the edge of another moment like that. But if my world expanded tenfold again I was afraid my brain might explode.

‘The necklace is enchanted,’ I said at last. ‘Any reptile that wears it turns into the next petsuchos, the Son of Sobek. Somehow that little crocodile got it round his neck.’

‘Meaning someone put it round his neck,’ Percy said.

I didn’t want to think about that, but I nodded reluctantly.

‘So, who?’ he asked.

‘Hard to narrow it down,’ I said. ‘I’ve got a lot of enemies.’

Percy snorted. ‘I can relate to that. Any idea why, then?’

I took another bite of my cheeseburger. It was good, but I had trouble concentrating on it.

‘Someone wanted to cause trouble,’ I speculated. ‘I think maybe …’ I studied Percy, trying to judge how much I should say. ‘Maybe they wanted to cause trouble that would get our attention. Both of our attention.’

Percy frowned. He drew something in his ketchup with a French fry – not a hieroglyph. Some kind of non-English letter. Greek, I guessed.

‘The monster had a Greek name,’ he said. ‘It was eating pegasi in my …’ He hesitated.

‘In your home turf,’ I finished. ‘Some kind of camp, judging from your shirt.’

He shifted on his bar stool. I still couldn’t believe he was talking about pegasi as if they were real, but I remembered one time at Brooklyn House, maybe a year back, when I was certain I saw a winged horse flying over the Manhattan skyline. At the time, Sadie had told me I was hallucinating. Now, I wasn’t so sure.

Finally Percy faced me. ‘Look, Carter. You’re not nearly as annoying as I thought. And we made a good team today, but –’

‘You don’t want to share your secrets,’ I said. ‘Don’t worry. I’m not going to ask about your camp. Or the powers you have. Or any of that.’

He raised an eyebrow. ‘You’re not curious?’

‘I’m totally curious. But until we figure out what’s going on I think it’s best we keep some distance. If someone – something – unleashed that monster here, knowing it would draw both of our attention –’

‘Then maybe that someone wanted us to meet,’ he finished. ‘Hoping bad things would happen.’

I nodded. I thought about the uneasy feeling I’d had in my gut earlier – the voice in my head warning me not to tell Percy anything. I’d come to respect the guy, but I still sensed that we weren’t meant to be friends. We weren’t meant to be anywhere close to each other.

A long time ago, when I was just a little kid, I’d watched my mom do a science experiment with some of her college students.

Potassium and water, she’d told them. Separate, completely harmless. But together –

She dropped the potassium into a beaker of water, and ka-blam! The students jumped back as a miniature explosion rattled all the vials in the lab.

Percy was water. I was potassium.

‘But we’ve met now,’ Percy said. ‘You know I’m out here on Long Island. I know you live in Brooklyn. If we went searching for each other –’

‘I wouldn’t recommend it,’ I said. ‘Not until we know more. I need to look into some things on, uh, my side – try to figure out who was behind this crocodile incident.’

‘All right,’ Percy agreed. ‘I’ll do the same on my side.’

He pointed at the petsuchos necklace, which was glinting just inside my backpack. ‘What do we to do about that?’

‘I can send it somewhere safe,’ I promised. ‘It won’t cause trouble again. We deal with relics like this a lot.’

‘We,’ Percy said. ‘Meaning, there’s a lot of … you guys?’

I didn’t answer.

Percy put up his hands. ‘Fine. I didn’t ask. I have some friends back at Ca– uh, back on my side who would love tinkering with a magic necklace like that, but I’m going to trust you here. Take it.’

I didn’t realize I’d been holding my breath until I exhaled. ‘Thanks. Good.’

‘And the baby crocodile?’ he asked.

I managed a nervous laugh. ‘You want it?’

‘Gods, no.’

‘I can take it, give it a good home.’ I thought about our big pool at Brooklyn House. I wondered how our giant magic crocodile, Philip of Macedonia, would feel about having a little friend. ‘Yeah, it’ll fit right in.’

Percy didn’t seem to know what to think of that. ‘Okay, well …’ He held out his hand. ‘Good working with you, Carter.’

We shook. No sparks flew. No thunder boomed. But I still couldn’t escape the feeling that we’d opened a door, meeting like this – a door that we might not be able to close.

‘You too, Percy.’

He stood to go. ‘One more thing,’ he said. ‘If this somebody, whoever threw us together … if he’s an enemy to both of us – what if we need each other to fight him? How do I contact you?’

I considered that. Then I made a snap decision. ‘Can I write something on your hand?’

He frowned. ‘Like your phone number?’

‘Uh … well, not exactly.’ I took out my stylus and a vial of magic ink. Percy held out his palm. I drew a hieroglyph there – the Eye of Horus. As soon as the symbol was complete, it flared blue, then vanished.

‘Just say my name,’ I told him, ‘and I’ll hear you. I’ll know where you are, and I’ll come meet you. But it will only work once, so make it count.’

Percy considered his empty palm. ‘I’m trusting you that this isn’t some sort of magical tracking device.’

‘Yeah,’ I said. ‘And I’m trusting that when you call me you won’t be luring me into some kind of ambush.’

He stared at me. Those stormy green eyes really were kind of scary. Then he smiled, and he looked like a regular teenager, without a care in the world.

‘Fair enough,’ he said. ‘See you when I see you, C–’

‘Don’t say my name!’

‘Just teasing.’ He pointed at me and winked. ‘Stay strange, my friend.’

Then he was gone.

An hour later, I was back aboard my airborne boat with the baby crocodile and the magic necklace as Freak flew me home to Brooklyn House.

Now, looking back on it, the whole thing with Percy seems so unreal I can hardly believe it actually happened.

I wonder how Percy summoned that whirlpool, and what the heck Celestial bronze is. Most of all, I keep rolling one word around in my mind: demigod.

I have a feeling that I could find some answers if I looked hard enough, but I’m afraid of what I might discover.

For the time being, I think I’ll tell Sadie about this and no one else. At first she’ll think I’m kidding. And, of course, she’ll give me grief, but she also knows when I’m telling the truth. As annoying as she is, I trust her (though I would never say that to her face).

Maybe she’ll have some ideas about what we should do.

Whoever brought Percy and me together, whoever orchestrated our crossing paths … it smacks of Chaos. I can’t help thinking this was an experiment to see what kind of havoc would result. Potassium and water. Matter and antimatter.

Fortunately, things turned out okay. The petsuchos necklace is safely locked away. Our new baby crocodile is splashing around happily in our pool.

But next time … well, I’m afraid we might not be so lucky.

Somewhere there’s a kid named Percy with a secret hieroglyph on his hand. And I have a feeling that sooner or later I’ll wake up in the middle of the night and hear one word, spoken urgently in my mind:

Carter.





Until she spotted the two-headed monster, Annabeth didn’t think her day could get any worse.

She’d spent all morning doing catch-up work for school. (Skipping classes on a regular basis to save the world from monsters and rogue Greek gods was seriously messing up her grades.) Then she’d turned down a movie with her boyfriend, Percy, and some of their friends so she could try out for a summer internship at a local architecture firm. Unfortunately, her brain had been mush. She was pretty sure she’d flubbed the interview.

Finally, around four in the afternoon, she’d trudged through Washington Square Park on her way to the subway station and stepped in a fresh pile of cow manure.

She glared at the sky. ‘Hera!’

The other pedestrians gave her funny looks, but Annabeth didn’t care. She was tired of the goddess’s practical jokes. Annabeth had done so many quests for Hera, but still the Queen of Heaven left presents from her sacred animal right where Annabeth could step in them. The goddess must have had a herd of stealth cows patrolling Manhattan.

By the time Annabeth made it to the West Fourth Street station, she was cranky and exhausted and just wanted to catch the F train uptown to Percy’s place. It was too late for the movie, but maybe they could get dinner or something.

Then she spotted the monster.

Annabeth had seen some crazy stuff before, but this beastie definitely made her ‘What Were the Gods Thinking?’ list. It looked like a lion and a wolf lashed together, wedged butt-first into a hermit-crab shell.

The shell itself was a rough brown spiral, like a waffle cone – about six feet long with a jagged seam down the middle, as if it had been cracked in half, then glued back together. Sprouting from the top were the forelegs and head of a grey wolf on the left, a golden-maned lion on the right.

The two animals didn’t look happy about sharing a shell. They dragged it behind them down the platform, weaving left and right as they tried to pull in different directions. They snarled at one another in irritation. Then both of them froze and sniffed the air.

Commuters streamed past. Most manoeuvred round the monster and ignored it. Others just frowned or looked annoyed.

Annabeth had seen the Mist in action many times before, but she was always amazed by how the magical veil could distort mortal vision, making even the fiercest monster look like something explainable – a stray dog, or maybe a homeless person wrapped in a sleeping bag.

The monster’s nostrils flared. Before Annabeth could decide what to do, both heads turned and glared directly at her.

Annabeth’s hand went for her knife. Then she remembered she didn’t have one. At the moment, her most deadly weapon was her backpack, which was loaded with heavy architecture books from the public library.

She steadied her breathing. The monster stood about thirty feet away.

Taking on a lion-wolf-crab in the middle of a crowded subway station wasn’t her first choice, but, if she had to, she would. She was a child of Athena.

She stared down the beast, letting it know she meant business.

‘Bring it on, Crabby,’ she said. ‘I hope you’ve got a high tolerance for pain.’

The lion and wolf heads bared their fangs. Then the floor rumbled. Air rushed through the tunnel as a train arrived.

The monster snarled at Annabeth. She could’ve sworn it had a look of regret in its eyes, as if thinking, I would love to rip you to tiny pieces, but I have business elsewhere.

Then Crabby turned and bounded off, dragging its huge shell behind. It disappeared up the stairs, heading for the A train.

For a moment, Annabeth was too stunned to move. She’d rarely seen a monster leave a demigod alone like that. Given the chance, monsters almost always attacked.

If this two-headed hermit crab had something more important to do than kill her, Annabeth wanted to know what it was. She couldn’t just let the monster go, pursuing its nefarious plans and riding public transportation for free.

She glanced wistfully at the F train that would’ve taken her uptown to Percy’s place. Then she ran up the stairs after the monster.

Annabeth jumped on board just as the doors were closing. The train pulled away from the platform and plunged into darkness. Overhead lights flickered. Commuters rocked back and forth. Every seat was filled. A dozen more passengers stood, swaying as they clung to the handrails and poles.

Annabeth couldn’t see Crabby until somebody at the front yelled, ‘Watch it, freak!’

The wolf-lion-crab was pushing its way forward, snarling at the mortals, but the commuters just acted regular-New-York-subway annoyed. Maybe they saw the monster as a random drunk guy.

Annabeth followed.

As Crabby prised open the doors to the next car and clambered through, Annabeth noticed its shell was glowing faintly.

Had it been doing that before? Around the monster swirled red neon symbols – Greek letters, astrological signs and picture writing. Egyptian hieroglyphs.

A chill spread between Annabeth’s shoulder blades. She remembered something Percy had told her a few weeks ago – about an encounter he’d had that seemed so impossible she’d assumed he was joking.

But now …

She pushed through the crowd, following Crabby into the next car.

The creature’s shell was definitely glowing brighter now. As Annabeth got closer, she started to get nauseous. She felt a warm tugging sensation in her gut, as if she had a fishhook in her belly button, pulling her towards the monster.

Annabeth tried to steady her nerves. She had devoted her life to studying Ancient Greek spirits, beasts and daimons. Knowledge was her most important weapon. But this two-headed crab thing – she had no frame of reference for it. Her internal compass was spinning uselessly.

She wished she had backup. She had her cell phone, but, even if she could get reception in the tunnel, whom would she call? Most other demigods didn’t carry phones. The signals attracted monsters. Percy was way uptown. The majority of her friends were back at Camp Half-Blood on the north shore of Long Island.

Crabby kept shoving its way towards the front of the train.

By the time Annabeth caught up with it in the next car, the monster’s aura was so strong that even the mortals had started to notice. Many gagged and hunched over in their seats, as if someone had opened a locker full of spoiled lunches. Others fainted onto the floor.

Annabeth felt so queasy she wanted to retreat, but the fishhook sensation kept tugging at her navel, reeling her towards the monster.

The train rattled into the Fulton Street station. As soon as the doors opened, every commuter who was still conscious stumbled out. Crabby’s wolf head snapped at one lady, catching her bag in its teeth as she tried to flee.

‘Hey!’ Annabeth yelled.

The monster let the woman go.

Both sets of eyes fixed on Annabeth as if thinking, Do you have a death wish?

Then it threw back its heads and roared in harmony. The sound hit Annabeth like an ice pick between the eyes. The windows of the train shattered. Mortals who had passed out were startled back to consciousness. Some managed to crawl out of the doors. Others tumbled through broken windows.

Through blurred vision, Annabeth saw the monster crouched on its mismatched forelegs, ready to pounce.

Time slowed. She was dimly aware of the shattered doors closing, the now-empty train pulling out of the station. Had the conductor not realized what was happening? Was the train running on autopilot?

Only ten feet away from it now, Annabeth noticed new details about the monster. Its red aura seemed brightest along the seam in its shell. Glowing Greek letters and Egyptian hieroglyphs spewed out like volcanic gas from a deep-sea fissure. The lion’s left foreleg was shaved above the paw, tattooed with a series of small black stripes. Stuck inside the wolf’s left ear was an orange price tag that read $99.99.

Annabeth gripped the strap of her backpack. She was ready to swing it at the monster, but it wouldn’t make much of a weapon. Instead, she relied on her usual tactic when facing a stronger enemy. She started talking.

‘You’re made of two different parts,’ she said. ‘You’re like … pieces of a statue that came to life. You’ve been fused together?’

It was total conjecture, but the lion’s growl made Annabeth think she’d hit the mark. The wolf nipped at the lion’s cheek as if telling it to shut up.

‘You’re not used to working together,’ Annabeth guessed. ‘Mr Lion, you’ve got an ID code on your leg. You were an artefact in a museum. Maybe the Met?’

The lion roared so loudly Annabeth’s knees wobbled.

‘I guess that’s a yes. And you, Mr Wolf … that sticker on your ear … you were for sale in some antiques shop?’

The wolf snarled and took a step towards her.

Meanwhile, the train kept tunnelling under the East River. Cold wind swirled through the broken windows and made Annabeth’s teeth chatter.

All her instincts told her to run, but her joints felt as if they were dissolving. The monster’s aura kept getting brighter, filling the air with misty symbols and bloody light.

‘You … you’re getting stronger,’ Annabeth noted. ‘You’re heading somewhere, aren’t you? And the closer you get –’

The monster’s heads roared again in harmony. A wave of red energy rippled through the car. Annabeth had to fight to stay conscious.

Crabby stepped closer. Its shell expanded, the fissure down the centre burning like molten iron.

‘Hold up,’ Annabeth croaked. ‘I – I get it now. You’re not finished yet. You’re looking for another piece. A third head?’

The monster halted. Its eyes glinted warily, as if to say, Have you been reading my diary?

Annabeth’s courage rose. Finally she was getting the measure of her enemy. She’d met lots of three-headed creatures before. When it came to mythical beings, three was sort of a magic number. It made sense that this monster would have another head.

Crabby had been some kind of statue, divided into pieces. Now something had awakened it. It was trying to put itself back together.

Annabeth decided she couldn’t let that happen. Those glowing red hieroglyphs and Greek letters floated around it like the burning cord of a fuse, radiating magic that felt fundamentally wrong, as though it were slowly dissolving Annabeth’s cell structure.

‘You’re not exactly a Greek monster, are you?’ she ventured. ‘Are you from Egypt?’

Crabby didn’t like that comment. It bared its fangs and prepared to spring.

‘Whoa, boy,’ she said. ‘You’re not at full strength yet, are you? Attack me now, and you’ll lose. After all, you two don’t trust each other.’

The lion tilted its head and growled.

Annabeth feigned a look of shock. ‘Mr Lion! How can you say that about Mr Wolf?’

The lion blinked.

The wolf glanced at the lion and snarled suspiciously.

‘And, Mr Wolf!’ Annabeth gasped. ‘You shouldn’t use that kind of language about your friend!’

The two heads turned on each other, snapping and howling. The monster staggered as its forelegs went in different directions.

Annabeth knew she’d only bought herself a few seconds. She racked her brain, trying to figure out what this creature was and how she could defeat it, but it didn’t match anything she could remember from her lessons at Camp Half-Blood.

She considered getting behind it, maybe trying to break its shell, but before she could the train slowed. They pulled into the High Street station, the first Brooklyn stop.

The platform was strangely empty, but a flash of light by the exit stairwell caught Annabeth’s eye. A young blonde girl in white clothes was swinging a wooden staff, trying to hit a strange animal that weaved around her legs, barking angrily. From the shoulders up, the creature looked like a black Labrador retriever, but its back end was nothing but a rough tapered point, like a calcified tadpole tail.

Annabeth had time to think: The third piece.

Then the blonde girl whacked the dog across its snout. Her staff flared with golden light, and the dog hurtled backwards – straight through a broken window into the far end of Annabeth’s subway car.

The blonde girl followed it. She leaped in through the closing doors just as the train pulled out of the station.

For a moment they all just stood there – two girls and two monsters.

Annabeth studied the other girl at the opposite end of the car, trying to assess her threat level.

The newcomer wore white linen trousers and a matching blouse, kind of like a karate uniform. Her steel-tipped combat boots looked like they could inflict damage in a fight. Slung over her left shoulder was a blue nylon backpack with a curved ivory stick – a boomerang? – hanging from the strap. But the girl’s most intimidating weapon was her white wooden staff – about five feet long, carved with the head of an eagle, the whole length glowing like Celestial bronze.

Annabeth met the girl’s eyes, and a feeling of déjà vu rocked her.

Karate Girl couldn’t have been older than thirteen. Her eyes were brilliant blue, like a child of Zeus’s. Her long blonde hair was streaked with purple highlights. She looked very much like a child of Athena – ready for combat, quick and alert and fearless. Annabeth felt as if she were seeing herself from four years ago, around the time she first met Percy Jackson.

Then Karate Girl spoke and shattered the illusion.

‘Right.’ She blew a strand of purple hair out of her face. ‘Because my day wasn’t barmy enough already.’

British, Annabeth thought. But she didn’t have time to ponder that.

The dog-tadpole and Crabby had been standing in the centre of the car, about fifteen feet apart, staring at each other in amazement. Now they overcame their shock. The dog howled – a triumphant cry, like I found you! And the lion-wolf-crab lunged to meet it.

‘Stop them!’ Annabeth yelled.

She leaped onto Crabby’s back, and its front paws collapsed from the extra weight.

The other girl yelled something like: ‘Mar!’

A series of golden hieroglyphs blazed in the air:




The dog creature staggered backwards, retching as if it had swallowed a billiard ball.

Annabeth struggled to keep Crabby down, but the beast was twice her weight. It pushed up on its forelegs, trying to throw her. Both heads turned to snap at her face.

Fortunately she’d harnessed plenty of wild pegasi at Camp Half-Blood. She managed to keep her balance while slipping off her backpack. She smacked twenty pounds of architecture books into the lion’s head, then looped her shoulder strap through the wolf’s maw and yanked it like a bit.

Meanwhile, the train burst into the sunlight. They rattled along the elevated rails of Queens, fresh air blowing through the broken windows and glittering bits of glass dancing across the seats.

Out of the corner of her eye, Annabeth saw the black dog shake off its fit of retching. It lunged at Karate Girl, who whipped out her ivory boomerang and blasted the monster with another golden flash.

Annabeth wished she could summon golden flashes. All she had was a stupid backpack. She did her best to subdue Crabby, but the monster seemed to get stronger by the second while the thing’s red aura weakened Annabeth. Her head felt stuffed with cotton. Her stomach twisted.

She lost track of time as she wrestled the creature. She only knew she couldn’t let it combine with that dog-headed thing. If the monster turned into a complete three-headed whatever-it-was, it might be impossible to stop.

The dog lunged again at Karate Girl. This time it knocked her down. Annabeth, distracted, lost her grip on the crab monster, and it threw her off – slamming her head into the edge of a seat.

Her ears rang as the creature roared in triumph. A wave of red-hot energy rippled through the car. The train pitched sideways, and Annabeth went weightless.

‘Up you come,’ said a girl’s voice. ‘We have to move.’

Annabeth opened her eyes. The world was spinning. Emergency sirens wailed in the distance.

She was lying flat on her back in some prickly weeds. The blonde girl from the train leaned over her, tugging on her arm.

Annabeth managed to sit up. She felt as if someone was hammering hot nails into her ribcage. As her vision cleared, she realized she was lucky to be alive. About fifty yards away, the subway train had toppled off the track. The cars lay sideways in a broken, steaming zigzag of wreckage that reminded Annabeth of a drakon carcass (unfortunately, she’d seen several of those).

She spotted no wounded mortals. Hopefully they’d all fled the train at the Fulton Street station. But still – what a disaster.

Annabeth recognized where she was: Rockaway Beach. A few hundred feet to the left, vacant plots and bent chain-link fences gave way to a yellow sand beach dotted with tar and trash. The sea churned under a cloudy sky. To Annabeth’s right, past the train tracks, stood a row of apartment towers so dilapidated they might’ve been make-believe buildings fashioned from old refrigerator boxes.

‘Yoo-hoo.’ Karate Girl shook her shoulder. ‘I know you’re probably in shock, but we need to go. I don’t fancy being questioned by the police with this thing in tow.’

The girl scooted to her left. Behind her on the broken tarmac, the black Labrador monster flopped like a fish out of water, its muzzle and paws bound in glowing golden rope.

Annabeth stared at the younger girl. Round her neck glinted a chain with a silver amulet – a symbol like an Egyptian ankh crossed with a gingerbread man.




At her side lay her staff and her ivory boomerang – both carved with hieroglyphs and pictures of strange, very un-Greek monsters.

‘Who are you?’ Annabeth demanded.

A smile tugged at the corner of the girl’s mouth. ‘Usually I don’t give my name to strangers. Magical vulnerabilities and all that. But I have to respect someone who fights a two-headed monster with nothing but a rucksack.’ She offered her hand. ‘Sadie Kane.’

‘Annabeth Chase.’

They shook.

‘Lovely to meet you, Annabeth,’ Sadie said. ‘Now, let’s take our dog for a walk, shall we?’

They left just in time.

Within minutes, emergency vehicles had surrounded the train wreck, and a crowd of spectators gathered from the nearby apartment buildings.

Annabeth felt more nauseous than ever. Red spots danced before her eyes, but she helped Sadie drag the dog creature backwards by its tail into the sand dunes. Sadie seemed to take pleasure in pulling the monster over as many rocks and broken bottles as she could find.

The beast snarled and wriggled. Its red aura glowed more brightly, while the golden rope dimmed.

Normally Annabeth liked walking on the beach. The ocean reminded her of Percy. But today she was hungry and exhausted. Her backpack felt heavier by the moment, and the dog creature’s magic made her want to hurl.

Also, Rockaway Beach was a dismal place. A massive hurricane had blown through more than a year ago, and the damage was still obvious. Some of the apartment buildings in the distance had been reduced to shells, their boarded-up windows and breeze-block walls covered in graffiti. Rotted timber, chunks of tarmac and twisted metal littered the beach. The pylons of a destroyed pier jutted up out of the water. The sea itself gnawed resentfully at the shore as if to say, Don’t ignore me. I can always come back and finish the job.

Finally they reached a derelict ice-cream truck half sunken in the dunes. Painted on the side, faded pictures of long-lost tasty treats made Annabeth’s stomach howl in protest.

‘Gotta stop,’ she muttered.

She dropped the dog monster and staggered over to the truck, then slid down with her back against the passenger’s door.

Sadie sat cross-legged, facing her. She rummaged around in her own backpack and brought out a cork-stoppered ceramic vial.

‘Here.’ She handed it to Annabeth. ‘It’s yummy. Drink.’

Annabeth studied the vial warily. It felt heavy and warm, as if it were full of hot coffee. ‘Uh … this won’t unleash any golden flashes of ka-bam in my face?’

Sadie snorted. ‘It’s just a healing potion, silly. A friend of mine, Jaz, brews the best in the world.’

Annabeth still hesitated. She’d sampled potions before, brewed by the children of Hecate. Usually they tasted like pond-scum soup, but at least they were made to work on demigods. Whatever was in this vial, it definitely wasn’t.

‘I’m not sure I should try,’ she said. ‘I’m … not like you.’

‘No one is like me,’ Sadie agreed. ‘My amazingness is unique. But if you mean you’re not a magician, well, I can see that. Usually we fight with staff and wand.’ She patted the carved white pole and the ivory boomerang lying next to her. ‘Still, I think my potions should work on you. You wrestled a monster. You survived that train wreck. You can’t be normal.’

Annabeth laughed weakly. She found the other girl’s brashness sort of refreshing. ‘No, I’m definitely not normal. I’m a demigod.’

‘Ah.’ Sadie tapped her fingers on her curved wand. ‘Sorry, that’s a new one on me. A demon god?’

‘Demigod,’ Annabeth corrected. ‘Half god, half mortal.’

‘Oh, right.’ Sadie exhaled, clearly relieved. ‘I’ve hosted Isis in my head quite a few times. Who’s your special friend?’

‘My – no. I don’t host anybody. My mother is a Greek goddess, Athena.’

‘Your mother.’

‘Yeah.’

‘A goddess. A Greek goddess.’

‘Yeah.’ Annabeth noticed that her new friend had gone pale. ‘I guess you don’t have that kind of thing, um, where you come from.’

‘Brooklyn?’ Sadie mused. ‘No. I don’t think so. Or London. Or Los Angeles. I don’t recall meeting Greek demigods in any of those places. Still, when one has dealt with magical baboons, goddess cats and dwarfs in Speedos, one can’t be surprised very easily.’

Annabeth wasn’t sure she’d heard right. ‘Dwarfs in Speedos?’

‘Mmm.’ Sadie glanced at the dog monster, still writhing in its golden bonds. ‘But here’s the rub. A few months ago my mum gave me a warning. She told me to beware of other gods and other types of magic.’

The vial in Annabeth’s hands seemed to grow warmer. ‘Other gods. You mentioned Isis. She’s the Egyptian goddess of magic. But … she’s not your mom?’

‘No,’ Sadie said. ‘I mean, yes. Isis is the goddess of Egyptian magic. But she’s not my mum. My mum’s a ghost. Well … she was a magician in the House of Life, like me, but then she died, so –’

‘Just a sec.’ Annabeth’s head throbbed so badly she figured nothing could make it worse. She uncorked the potion and drank it down.

She’d been expecting pond-scum consommé, but it actually tasted like warm apple juice. Instantly, her vision cleared. Her stomach settled.

‘Wow,’ she said.

‘Told you.’ Sadie smirked. ‘Jaz is quite the apothecary.’

‘So you were saying … House of Life. Egyptian magic. You’re like the kid my boyfriend met.’

Sadie’s smile eroded. ‘Your boyfriend … met someone like me? Another magician?’

A few feet away, the dog creature snarled and struggled. Sadie didn’t appear concerned, but Annabeth was worried about how dimly the magic rope was glowing now.

‘This was a few weeks ago,’ Annabeth said. ‘Percy told me a crazy story about meeting a boy out near Moriches Bay. Apparently this kid used hieroglyphs to cast spells. He helped Percy battle a big crocodile monster.’

‘The Son of Sobek!’ Sadie blurted. ‘But my brother battled that monster. He didn’t say anything about –’

‘Is your brother’s name Carter?’ Annabeth asked.

An angry golden aura flickered around Sadie’s head – a halo of hieroglyphs that resembled frowns, fists and dead stick men.

‘As of this moment,’ Sadie growled, ‘my brother’s name is Punching Bag. Seems he hasn’t been telling me everything.’

‘Ah.’ Annabeth had to fight the urge to scoot away from her new friend. She feared those glowing angry hieroglyphs might explode. ‘Awkward. Sorry.’

‘Don’t be,’ Sadie said. ‘I’ll rather enjoy bashing my brother’s face in. But first tell me everything – about yourself, demigods, Greeks and whatever it might have to do with our evil canine friend here.’

Annabeth told her what she could.

Usually she wasn’t so quick to trust, but she’d had a lot of experience reading people. She liked Sadie immediately: the combat boots, the purple highlights, the attitude … In Annabeth’s experience, untrustworthy people weren’t so up-front about wanting to bash someone’s face in. They certainly didn’t help an unconscious stranger and offer a healing potion.

Annabeth described Camp Half-Blood. She recounted some of her adventures battling gods and giants and Titans. She explained how she’d spotted the two-headed lion-wolf-crab at the West Fourth Street station and decided to follow it.

‘So here I am,’ Annabeth summed up.

Sadie’s mouth quivered. She looked as if she might start yelling or crying. Instead, she broke down in a fit of the giggles.

Annabeth frowned. ‘Did I say something funny?’

‘No, no …’ Sadie snorted. ‘Well … it is a bit funny. I mean, we’re sitting on the beach talking about Greek gods. And a camp for demigods, and –’

‘It’s all true!’

‘Oh, I believe you. It’s too ridiculous not to be true. It’s just that each time my world gets stranger, I think: Right. We’re at maximum oddness now. At least I know the full extent of it. First, I find out my brother and I are descended from the pharaohs and have magic powers. All right. No problem. Then I find out my dead father has merged his soul with Osiris and become the lord of the dead. Brilliant! Why not? Then my uncle takes over the House of Life and oversees hundreds of magicians around the world. Then my boyfriend turns out to be a hybrid magician boy/immortal god of funerals. And all the while I’m thinking, Of course! Keep calm and carry on! I’ve adjusted! And then you come along on a random Thursday, la-di-da, and say, Oh, by the way, Egyptian gods are just one small part of the cosmic absurdity. We’ve also got the Greeks to worry about! Hooray!’

Annabeth couldn’t follow everything Sadie had said – a funeral god boyfriend? – but she had to admit that giggling about it was healthier than curling into a ball and sobbing.

‘Okay,’ she admitted. ‘It all sounds a little crazy, but I guess it makes sense. My teacher Chiron … for years he’s been telling me that ancient gods are immortal because they’re part of the fabric of civilization. If Greek gods can stick around all these millennia, why not the Egyptians?’

‘The more the merrier,’ Sadie agreed. ‘But, erm, what about this little doggie?’ She picked up a tiny seashell and bounced it off the head of the Labrador monster, which snarled in irritation. ‘One minute it’s sitting on the table in our library – a harmless artefact, a stone fragment from some statue, we think. The next minute it comes to life and breaks out of Brooklyn House. It shreds our magical wards, ploughs through Felix’s penguins and shrugs off my spells like they’re nothing.’

‘Penguins?’ Annabeth shook her head. ‘No. Forget I asked.’

She studied the dog creature as it strained against its bonds. Red Greek letters and hieroglyphs swirled around it as if trying to form new symbols – a message Annabeth could almost read.

‘Will those ropes hold?’ she asked. ‘They look like they’re weakening.’

‘No worries,’ Sadie assured her. ‘Those ropes have held gods before. And not small gods, mind you. Extra-large ones.’

‘Um, okay. So you said the dog was part of a statue. Any idea what statue?’

‘None.’ Sadie shrugged. ‘Cleo, our librarian, was just researching that question when Fido here woke up.’

‘But it has to be connected to the other monster – the wolf and the lion heads. I got the impression they’d just come to life, too. They’d fused together and weren’t used to working as a team. They got on that train searching for something – probably this dog.’

Sadie fiddled with her silver pendant. ‘A monster with three heads: a lion, a wolf and a dog. All sticking out of … what was that conical thing? A shell? A torch?’

Annabeth’s head started to spin again. A torch.

She flashed on a distant memory – maybe a picture she’d seen in a book. She hadn’t considered that the monster’s cone might be something you could hold, something that belonged in a massive hand. But a torch wasn’t right …

‘It’s a sceptre,’ she realized. ‘I don’t remember which god held it, but the three-headed staff was his symbol. He was … Greek, I think, but he was also from somewhere in Egypt –’

‘Alexandria,’ Sadie guessed.

Annabeth stared at her. ‘How do you know?’

‘Well, granted, I’m not a history nut like my brother, but I have been to Alexandria. I recall something about it being the capital when the Greeks ruled Egypt. Alexander the Great, wasn’t it?’

Annabeth nodded. ‘That’s right. Alexander conquered Egypt and, after he died, his general Ptolemy took over. He wanted the Egyptians to accept him as their pharaoh, so he mashed the Egyptian gods and Greek gods together and made up new ones.’

‘Sounds messy,’ Sadie said. ‘I prefer my gods unmashed.’

‘But there was one god in particular … I can’t remember his name. The three-headed creature was at the top of his sceptre …’

‘Rather large sceptre,’ Sadie noted. ‘I don’t fancy meeting the bloke who could carry it around.’

‘Oh, gods.’ Annabeth sat up. ‘That’s it! The staff isn’t just trying to reassemble itself – it’s trying to find its master.’

Sadie scowled. ‘I’m not in favour of that at all. We need to make sure –’

The dog monster howled. The magical ropes exploded like a grenade, spraying the beach with golden shrapnel.

The blast knocked Sadie across the dunes like tumbleweed.

Annabeth slammed into the ice-cream truck. Her limbs turned to lead. All the air was forced out of her lungs.

If the dog creature had wanted to kill her, it could have, easily.

Instead, it bounded inland, disappearing in the weeds.

Annabeth instinctively grabbed for a weapon. Her fingers closed round Sadie’s curved wand. Pain made her gasp. The ivory burned like dry ice. Annabeth tried to let go, but her hand wouldn’t obey. As she watched, the wand steamed, changing form until the burn subsided and Annabeth held a Celestial bronze dagger – just like the one she’d carried for years.

She stared at the blade. Then she heard groaning from the nearby dunes.

‘Sadie!’ Annabeth staggered to her feet.

By the time she reached the magician, Sadie was sitting up, spitting sand out of her mouth. She had bits of seaweed in her hair, and her backpack was wrapped round one of her combat boots, but she looked more outraged than injured.

‘Stupid Fido!’ she snarled. ‘No dog biscuits for him!’ She frowned at Annabeth’s knife. ‘Where did you get that?’

‘Um … it’s your wand,’ Annabeth said. ‘I picked it up and … I don’t know. It just changed into the kind of dagger I usually use.’

‘Huh. Well, magic items do have a mind of their own. Keep it. I’ve got more at home. Now, which way did Fido go?’

‘Over there.’ Annabeth pointed with her new blade.

Sadie peered inland. Her eyes widened. ‘Oh … right. Towards the storm. That’s new.’

Annabeth followed her gaze. Past the subway tracks, she saw nothing except an abandoned apartment tower, fenced off and forlorn against the late afternoon sky. ‘What storm?’

‘You don’t see it?’ Sadie asked. ‘Hold on.’ She disentangled her backpack from her boot and rummaged through her supplies. She brought out another ceramic vial, this one stubby and wide like a face-cream jar. She pulled off the lid and scooped out some pink goo. ‘Let me smear this on your eyelids.’

‘Wow, that sounds like an automatic no.’

‘Don’t be squeamish. It’s perfectly harmless … well, for magicians. Probably for demigods, too.’

Annabeth wasn’t reassured, but she closed her eyes. Sadie smeared on the gloop, which tingled and warmed like menthol rub.

‘Right,’ Sadie said. ‘You can look now.’

Annabeth opened her eyes and gasped.

The world was awash in colour. The ground had turned translucent – gelatinous layers descending into darkness below. The air rippled with shimmering veils, each one vibrant but slightly out of sync, as if multiple high-definition videos had been superimposed on top of one another. Hieroglyphs and Greek letters swirled around her, fusing and bursting as they collided. Annabeth felt as if she were seeing the world on the atomic level. Everything invisible had been revealed, painted with magic light.

‘Do – do you see like this all the time?’

Sadie snorted. ‘Gods of Egypt, no! It would drive me bonkers. I have to concentrate to see the Duat. That’s what you’re doing – peering into the magical side of the world.’

‘I …’ Annabeth faltered.

Annabeth was usually a confident person. Whenever she dealt with regular mortals, she carried a smug certainty that she possessed secret knowledge. She understood the world of gods and monsters. Mortals didn’t have a clue. Even with other demigods, Annabeth was almost always the most seasoned veteran. She’d done more than most heroes had ever dreamed of, and she’d survived.

Now, looking at the shifting curtains of colours, Annabeth felt like a six-year-old kid again, just learning how terrible and dangerous her world really was.

She sat down hard in the sand. ‘I don’t know what to think.’

‘Don’t think,’ Sadie advised. ‘Breathe. Your eyes will adjust. It’s rather like swimming. If you let your body take over, you’ll know what to do instinctively. Panic, and you’ll drown.’

Annabeth tried to relax.

She began to discern patterns in the air: currents flowing between the layers of reality, vapour trails of magic streaming off cars and buildings. The site of the train wreck glowed green. Sadie had a golden aura with misty plumes spreading behind her like wings.

Where the dog monster once lay, the ground smouldered like live coals. Crimson tendrils snaked away from the site, following the direction in which the monster had fled.

Annabeth focused on the derelict apartment building in the distance, and her heartbeat doubled. The tower glowed red from the inside – light seeping through the boarded-up windows, shooting through cracks in the crumbling walls. Dark clouds swirled overhead, and more tendrils of red energy flowed towards the building from all over the landscape, as if being drawn into the vortex.

The scene reminded Annabeth of Charybdis, the whirlpool-inhaling monster she’d once encountered in the Sea of Monsters. It wasn’t a happy memory.

‘That apartment building,’ she said. ‘It’s attracting red light from all over the place.’

‘Exactly,’ Sadie said. ‘In Egyptian magic, red is bad. It means evil and chaos.’

‘So that’s where the dog monster is heading,’ Annabeth guessed. ‘To merge with the other piece of the sceptre –’

‘And to find its master, I’d wager.’

Annabeth knew she should get up. They had to hurry. But, looking at the swirling layers of magic, she was afraid to move.

She’d spent her whole life learning about the Mist – the magical boundary that separated the mortal world from the world of Greek monsters and gods. But she’d never thought of the Mist as an actual curtain.

What had Sadie called it – the Duat?

Annabeth wondered if the Mist and the Duat were related, or maybe even the same thing. The number of veils she could see was overwhelming – like a tapestry folded in on itself a hundred times.

She didn’t trust herself to stand. Panic, and you’ll drown.

Sadie offered her hand. Her eyes were full of sympathy. ‘Look, I know it’s a lot, but nothing has changed. You’re still the same tough-skinned, rucksack-wielding demigod you’ve always been. And now you have a lovely dagger as well.’

Annabeth felt the blood rise to her face. Normally she would’ve been the one giving the pep talk.

‘Yeah. Yeah, of course.’ She accepted Sadie’s hand. ‘Let’s go find a god.’

A chain-link fence ringed the building, but they squeezed through a gap and picked their way across a field of spear grass and broken concrete.

The enchanted gloop on Annabeth’s eyes seemed to be wearing off. The world no longer looked so multilayered and kaleidoscopic, but that was fine with her. She didn’t need special vision to know the tower was full of bad magic.

Up close, the red glow in the windows was even more radiant. The plywood rattled. The brick walls groaned. Hieroglyphic birds and stick figures formed in the air and floated inside. Even the graffiti seemed to vibrate on the walls, as if the symbols were trying to come alive.

Whatever was inside the building, its power tugged at Annabeth too, the same way Crabby had on the train.

She gripped her new bronze dagger, realizing it was too small and too short to provide much offensive power. But that’s why Annabeth liked daggers: they kept her focused. A child of Athena should never rely on a blade if she could use her wits instead. Intelligence won wars, not brute force.

Unfortunately, Annabeth’s wits weren’t working very well at the moment.

‘Wish I knew what we were dealing with,’ she muttered as they crept towards the building. ‘I like to do research first – arm myself with knowledge.’

Sadie grunted. ‘You sound like my brother. Tell me, how often do monsters give you the luxury of Googling them before they attack?’

‘Never,’ Annabeth admitted.

‘Well, there you are. Carter – he would love to spend hours in the library, reading up on every hostile demon we might face, highlighting the important bits and making flash cards for me to study. Sadly, when demons attack, they don’t give us any warning, and they rarely bother to identify themselves.’

‘So what’s your standard operating procedure?’

‘Forge ahead,’ Sadie said. ‘Think on my feet. When necessary, blast enemies into teeny-tiny bits.’

‘Great. You’d fit right in with my friends.’

‘I’ll take that as a compliment. That door, you think?’

A set of steps led to a basement entrance. A single two-by-four was nailed across the doorway in a half-hearted attempt to keep out trespassers, but the door itself was slightly ajar.

Annabeth was about to suggest scouting the perimeter. She didn’t trust such an easy way in, but Sadie didn’t wait. The young magician trotted down the steps and slipped inside.

Annabeth’s only choice was to follow.

As it turned out, if they’d come through any other door, they would have died.

The whole interior of the building was a cavernous shell, thirty storeys tall, swirling with a maelstrom of bricks, pipes, boards and other debris, along with glowing Greek symbols, hieroglyphs and red neon tufts of energy. The scene was both terrifying and beautiful – as if a tornado had been caught, illuminated from within and put on permanent display.

Because they’d entered on the basement level, Sadie and Annabeth were protected in a shallow stairwell – a kind of trench in the concrete. If they’d walked into the storm on ground level, they would’ve been ripped to shreds.

As Annabeth watched, a twisted steel girder flew overhead at race-car speed. Dozens of bricks sped by like a school of fish. A fiery red hieroglyph slammed into a flying sheet of plywood, and the wood ignited like tissue paper.

‘Up there,’ Sadie whispered.

She pointed to the top of the building, where part of the thirtieth floor was still intact – a crumbling ledge jutting out into the void. It was hard to see through the swirling rubble and red haze, but Annabeth could discern a bulky humanoid shape standing at the precipice, his arms spread as if welcoming the storm.

‘What’s he doing?’ Sadie murmured.

Annabeth flinched as a helix of copper pipes spun a few inches over her head. She stared into the debris and began noticing patterns like she had with the Duat: a swirl of boards and nails coming together to form a platform frame, a cluster of bricks assembling like Lego to make an arch.

‘He’s building something,’ she realized.

‘Building what, a disaster?’ Sadie asked. ‘This place reminds me of the Realm of Chaos. And, believe me, that was not my favourite holiday spot.’

Annabeth glanced over. She wondered if Chaos meant the same thing for Egyptians as it did for Greeks. Annabeth had had her own close call with Chaos, and if Sadie had been there, too … well, the magician must be even tougher than she seemed.

‘The storm isn’t completely random,’ Annabeth said. ‘See there? And there? Bits of material are coming together, forming some kind of structure inside the building.’

Sadie frowned. ‘Looks like bricks in a blender to me.’

Annabeth wasn’t sure how to explain it, but she’d studied architecture and engineering long enough to recognize the details. Copper piping was reconnecting like arteries and veins in a circulatory system. Sections of old walls were piecing themselves together to form a new jigsaw puzzle. Every so often, more bricks or girders peeled off the outer walls to join the tornado.

‘He’s cannibalizing the building,’ she said. ‘I don’t know how long the outer walls will last.’

Sadie swore under her breath. ‘Please tell me he’s not building a pyramid. Anything but that.’

Annabeth wondered why an Egyptian magician would hate pyramids, but she shook her head. ‘I’d guess it’s some kind of conical tower. There’s only one way to know for sure.’

‘Ask the builder.’ Sadie gazed up at the remnant of the thirtieth floor.

The man on the ledge hadn’t moved, but Annabeth could swear he’d grown larger. Red light swirled around him. In silhouette, he looked like he was wearing a tall angular top hat à la Abe Lincoln.

Sadie shouldered her backpack. ‘So, if that’s our mystery god, where’s the –’

Right on cue, a three-part howl cut through the din. At the opposite end of the building, a set of metal doors burst open and the crab monster loped inside.

Unfortunately, the beast now had all three heads – wolf, lion and dog. Its long spiral shell glowed with Greek and hieroglyphic inscriptions. Completely ignoring the flying debris, the monster clambered inside on its six forelegs, then leaped into the air. The storm carried it upward, spiralling through the chaos.

‘It’s heading for its master,’ Annabeth said. ‘We have to stop it.’

‘Lovely,’ Sadie grumbled. ‘This is going to drain me.’

‘What will?’

Sadie raised her staff. ‘N’dah.’

A golden hieroglyph blazed in the air above them:




And suddenly they were surrounded in a sphere of light.

Annabeth’s spine tingled. She’d been encased in a protective bubble like this once before, when she, Percy and Grover had used magic pearls to escape the Underworld. The experience had been … claustrophobic.

‘This will shield us from the storm?’ she asked.

‘Hopefully.’ Sadie’s face was now beaded with sweat. ‘Come on.’

She led the way up the steps.

Immediately, their shield was put to the test. A flying kitchen counter would have decapitated them, but it shattered against Sadie’s force field. Chunks of marble swirled harmlessly around them.

‘Brilliant,’ Sadie said. ‘Now, hold the staff while I turn into a bird.’

‘Wait. What?’

Sadie rolled her eyes. ‘We’re thinking on our feet, remember? I’ll fly up there and stop the staff monster. You try to distract that god … whoever he is. Get his attention.’

‘Fine, but I’m no magician. I can’t maintain a spell.’

‘The shield will hold for a few minutes, as long as you use the staff.’

‘But what about you? If you’re not inside the shield –’

‘I have an idea. It might even work.’

Sadie fished something out of her pack – a small animal figurine. She curled her fingers round it, then began to change form.

Annabeth had seen people turn into animals before, but it never got easier to watch. Sadie shrank to a tenth of her size. Her nose elongated into a beak. Her hair and clothes and backpack melted into a sleek coat of feathers. She became a small bird of prey – a kite, maybe – her blue eyes now brilliant gold. With the little figurine still clutched in her talons, Sadie spread her wings and launched herself into the storm.

Annabeth winced as a cluster of bricks ploughed into her friend – but somehow the debris went straight through without turning Sadie into feather puree. Sadie’s form just shimmered as if she were travelling under a deep layer of water.

Sadie was in the Duat, Annabeth realized – flying on a different level of reality.

The idea made Annabeth’s mind heat up with possibilities. If a demigod could learn to pass through walls like that, run straight through monsters …

But that was a conversation for another time. Right now she needed to move. She charged up the steps and into the maelstrom. Metal bars and copper pipes clanged against her force field. The golden sphere flashed a little more dimly each time it deflected debris.

She raised Sadie’s staff in one hand and her new dagger in the other. In the magical torrent, the Celestial bronze blade guttered like a dying torch.

‘Hey!’ she yelled at the ledge far above. ‘Mr God Person!’

No response. Her voice probably couldn’t carry over the storm.

The shell of the building started to groan. Mortar trickled from the walls and swirled into the mix like candy-floss tufts.

Sadie the hawk was still alive, flying towards the three-headed monster as it spiralled upward. The beast was about halfway to the top now, flailing its legs and glowing ever more brightly, as if soaking up the power of the tornado.

Annabeth was running out of time.

She reached into her memory, sifting through old myths, the most obscure tales Chiron had ever told her at camp. When she was younger, she’d been like a sponge, soaking up every fact and name.

The three-headed staff. The god of Alexandria, Egypt.

The god’s name came to her. At least, she hoped she was right.

One of the first lessons she’d learned as a demigod: Names have power. You never said the name of a god or monster unless you were prepared to draw its attention.

Annabeth took a deep breath. She shouted at the top of her lungs: ‘SERAPIS!’

The storm slowed. Huge sections of pipe hovered in midair. Clouds of bricks and timber froze and hung suspended.

Becalmed in the middle of the tornado, the three-headed monster tried to stand. Sadie swooped overhead, opened her talons and dropped her figurine, which instantly grew into a full-sized camel.

The shaggy dromedary slammed into the monster’s back. Both creatures tumbled out of the air and crashed to the floor in a tangle of limbs and heads. The staff monster continued to struggle, but the camel lay on top of it with its legs splayed, bleating and spitting and basically going limp like a thousand-pound toddler throwing a tantrum.

From the thirtieth-floor ledge, a man’s voice boomed: ‘WHO DARES INTERRUPT MY TRIUMPHAL RISE?’

‘I do!’ yelled Annabeth. ‘Come down and face me!’

She didn’t like taking credit for other people’s camels, but she wanted to keep the god focused on her so Sadie could do … whatever Sadie decided to do. The young magician clearly had some good tricks up her sleeve.

The god Serapis leaped from his ledge. He plummeted thirty storeys and landed on his feet in the middle of the ground floor, an easy dagger throw away from Annabeth.

Not that she was tempted to attack.

Serapis stood fifteen feet tall. He wore only a pair of swimming trunks in a Hawaiian floral pattern. His body rippled with muscles. His bronze skin was covered in shimmering tattoos of hieroglyphs, Greek letters and other languages Annabeth didn’t recognize.

His face was framed with long, frizzy braided hair like Rastafarian dreadlocks. A curly Greek beard grew down to his collarbone. His eyes were sea green – so much like Percy’s that Annabeth got goosebumps.

Normally she didn’t like hairy bearded dudes, but she had to admit this god was attractive in an older, wild-surfer kind of way.

His headgear, however, ruined the look. What Annabeth had taken for a stovepipe hat was actually a cylindrical wicker basket embroidered with images of pansies.

‘Excuse me,’ she said. ‘Is that a flowerpot on your head?’

Serapis raised his bushy brown eyebrows. He patted his head as if he’d forgotten about the basket. A few wheat seeds spilled from the top. ‘That’s a modius, silly girl. It’s one of my holy symbols! The grain basket represents the Underworld, which I control.’

‘Uh, you do?’

‘Of course!’ Serapis glowered. ‘Or I did, and so