The Battle of the Labyrinth – Chapter 7: TYSON LEADS A JAILBREAK

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Chapter 7: TYSON LEADS A JAILBREAK

The good news: the left tunnel was straight with no side exits, twists, or turns. The bad news; it was a dead end. After sprinting a hundred yards, we ran into an enormous boulder that completely blocked our path. Behind us, the sounds of dragging footsteps and heavy breathing echoed down the corridor. Something—definitely not human—was on our tail. 

  “Tyson,” I said, “can you—”

  “Yes!” He slammed his shoulder against the rock so hard the whole tunnel shook. Dust trickled from the stone ceiling. 

  “Hurry!” Grover said. “Don’t bring the roof down, but hurry!”

  The boulder finally gave way with a horrible grinding noise. Tyson pushed it into a small room and we dashed through behind it. 

  “Close the entrance!” Annabeth said. 

  We all got on the other side of the boulder and pushed. Whatever was chasing us wailed in frustration as we heaved the rock back into placed and sealed the corridor. 

  “We trapped it,” I said. 

  “Or trapped ourselves,” Grover said. 

  I turned. We were in a twenty-foot-square cement room and the opposite wall was covered with metal bars. We’d tunneled straight into a cell. 

  ***

  “What in Hades?” Annabeth tugged on the bars. They didn’t budge. Through the bars we could see rows of cells in a ring around a dark courtyard—at least three stories of metal doors and metal catwalks. 

  “A prison,” I said. “Maybe Tyson can break—”

  “Shh,” said Grover. “Listen. ”

  Somewhere above us, deep sobbing echoed through the building. There was another sound, too—a raspy voice muttering something that I couldn’t make out. The words were strange, like rocks in a tumbler. 

  “what’s that language?” I whispered. 

  Tyson’s eye widened. “Can’t be. ”

  “What?” I asked. 

  He grabbed two bars on our cell door and bent them wide enough for even a Cyclops to slip through. 

  “Wait!” Grover called. 

  But Tyson wasn’t about to wait. We ran after him. The prison was dark, only a few dim fluorescent lights flickering above. 

  “I know this place,” Annabeth told me. “This is Alcatraz. ”

  “You mean that island is near San Francisco?”

  She nodded. “My school took a field trip here. It’s like a museum. ”

  It didn’t seem possible that we could’ve popped out of the Labyrinth on the other side of the country, but Annabeth had been living in San Francisco all year, keeping an eye on Mount Tamalpais just across the bay. She probably knew what she was talking about. 

  “Freeze,” Grover warned. 

  But Tyson kept going. Grover grabbed his arm and pulled him back with all his strength. “Stop, Tyson!” he whispered. “Can’t you see it?”

  I looked where he was pointing, and my stomach did a somersault. On the second-floor balcony, across the courtyard, was a monster more horrible than anything I’d ever seen before. 

  It was sort of like a centaur, with a woman’s body from the waist up. But instead of a horse’s lower body, it had the body of a dragon—at least twenty feet long, black and scaly with enormous claws and a barbed tail. Her legs looked like they were tangled in vines, but then I realized they were sprouting snakes, hundreds of vipers darting around, constantly looking for something to bite. The woman’s hair was also made of snakes, like Medusa’s. weirdest of all, around her waist, where the woman part met the dragon part, her skin bubbled and morphed, occasionally producing the heads of animals—a vicious wolf, a bear, a lion, as if she were wearing a belt of ever-changing creatures. I got the feeling I was looking at something half formed, a monster so old it was from the beginning of time, before shapes had been fully defined. 

  “It’s her,” Tyson whimpered. 

  “Get down!” Grover said. 

  We crouched in the shadows, but the monster wasn’t paying us any attention. It seemed to be talking to someone inside a cell on the second floor. That’s where the sobbing was coming from. The dragon woman said something in her weird rumbling language. 

  “What’s she saying?” I muttered. “What’s that language?”

  “The tongue of the old times. ” Tyson shivered. “What Mother Earth spoke to Titans and…her other children. Before the gods. ”

“You understand it?” I asked. “Can you translate?”

  Tyson closed his eyes and began to speak in a horrible, raspy woman’s voice. “You will work for the master or suffer. ”

  Annabeth shuddered. “I hate it when he does that. ”

  Like all Cyclopes, Tyson had superhuman hearing and an uncanny ability to mimic voices. It was almost like he entered a trance when he spoke in other voices. 

  “I will not serve,” Tyson said in a deep, wounded voice. 

  He switched to the monster’s voice: “Then I shall enjoy your pain, Briares. ” Tyson faltered when he said that name. I’d never heard him break character when he was mimicking somebody, but he let out a strangled gulp. Then he continued in the monster’s voice. “If you thought your first imprisonment was unbearable, you have yet to feel true torment. Think on this until I return. ”

  The dragon lady tromped toward the stairwell, vipers hissing around her legs like grass skirts. She spread wings that I hadn’t noticed before—huge bad wings she kept folded against her dragon back. She leaped off the catwalk and soared across the courtyard. We crouched lower in the shadows. A hot sulfurous wind blasted my face as the monster flew over. Then she disappeared around the corner. 

  “H-h-horrible,” Grover said. “I’ve never smelled any monster that strong. ”

  “Cyclopes’ worst nightmare,” Tyson murmured. “Kampê. ”

  “Who?” I asked. 

  Tyson swallowed. “Every Cyclops knows about her. Stories about her scare us when we’re babies. She was our jailer in the bad years. ”

  Annabeth nodded. “I remember now. When the Titans ruled, they imprisoned Gaea and Ouranos’s earlier children—the Cyclopes and the Hekatonkheires. ”

  “The Heka-what?” I asked. 

  “The Hundred-Handed Ones,” she said. “They called them that because…well, they had a hundred hands. They were elder brothers of the Cyclopes. ”

  “Very powerful,” Tyson said. “Wonderful! As tall as the sky. So strong they could break mountains!”

  “Cool,” I said. “Unless you’re a mountain. ”

  “Kampê was the jailer,” he said. “She worked for Kronos. She kept our brothers locked up in Tartarus, tortured them always, until Zeus came. He killed Kampê and freed Cyclopes and Hundred-Handed Ones to help fight against the Titans in the big war. ”

  “And now Kampê is back,” I said. 

  “Bad,” Tyson summed up. 

  “So who’s in that cell?” I asked. “You said a name—”

  “Briares!” Tyson perked up. “He is a Hundred-Handed One. They are as tall as the sky and—”

  “Yeah,” I said. “They break mountains. ”

  I looked up at the cells above us, wondering how something as tall as the sky could fit in a tiny cell, and why he was crying. 

  “I guess we should check it out,” Annabeth said, “before Kampê comes back. ”

  ***

  As we approached the cell, the weeping got louder. When I first saw the creature inside, I wasn’t sure what I was looking at. He was human-size and his skin was very pale, the color of milk. He wore a loincloth like a big diaper. His feet seemed too big for his body, with cracked dirty toenails, eight toes on each foot. But the top half of his body was the weird part. He made Janus look downright normal. His chest sprouted more arms than I could count, in rows, all around his body. The arms looked like normal arms, but there were so many of them, all tangled together, that his chest looked kind of like a forkful of spaghetti somebody had twirled together. Several of his hands were covering his face as he sobbed. 

  “Either the sky isn’t as tall as it used to be,” I muttered, “or he’s short. ”

  Tyson didn’t pay any attention. He fell to his knees. 

  “Briares!” he called. 

  The sobbing stopped. 

  “Great Hundred-Handed One!” Tyson said. “Help us!”

  Briars looked up. His face was long and sad, with a crooked nose and bad teeth. He had deep brown eyes—I mean completely brown with no whites or black pupils, like eyes formed out of clay. 

  “Run while you can, Cyclops,” Briares said miserably. “I cannot even help myself. ”

  “You are a Hundred-Handed One!” Tyson insisted. “You can do anything!”

  Briars wiped his nose with five or six hands. Several others were fidgeting with little pieces of metal and wood from a broken bed, the way Tyson always played with spare parts. It was amazing to watch. The hands seemed to have a mind of their own. They built a toy boat out of wood, then disassembled it just as fast. Other hands were scratching at the cement floor for no apparent reason. Others were playing rock, paper, scissors. A few others were making ducky and doggie shadow puppets against the wall. 

  “I cannot,” Briares moaned. “Kampê is back! The Titans will rise and throw us back into Tartarus. ”

  “Put on your brave face!” Tyson said. 

  Immediately Briares’s face morphed into something else. Same brown eyes, but otherwise totally different features. He had an upturned nose, arched eyebrows, and a weird smile, like he was trying to act brave. But then his face turned back to what it had been before. 

  “No good,” he said. “My scared face keeps coming back. ”

  “How did you do that?” I asked. 

  Annabeth elbowed me. “Don’t be rude. The Hundred-Handed Ones all have fifty different faces. ”

  “Must make it hard to get a yearbook picture,” I said. 

  Tyson was still entranced. “It will be okay, Briares! We will help you! Can I have your autograph?”

  Briares sniffled. “Do you have one hundred pens?”

  “Guys,” Grover interrupted. “We have to get out of here. Kampê will be back. She’ll sense us sooner or later. ”

  “Break the bars,” Annabeth said. 

  “Yes!” Tyson said, smiling proudly. “Briares can do it. He is very strong. Stronger than Cyclopes, even! Watch!”

  Briares whimpered. A dozen of his hands started playing patty-cake, but none of them made any attempt to break the bars. 

  “If he’s so strong,” I said, “why is he stuck in jail?”

  Annabeth ribbed me again. “He’s terrified,” she whispered. “Kampê had imprisoned him in Tartarus for thousands of years. How would you feel?”

  The Hundred-Handed One covered his face again. 

  “Briares?” Tyson asked. “What…what is wrong? Show us your great strength!”

  “Tyson,” Annabeth said, “I think you’d better break the bars. ”

  Tyson’s smile melted slowly. 

  “I will break the bars,” he repeated. He grabbed the cell door and ripped it off its hinges like it was made of wet clay. 

  “Come on, Briares,” Annabeth said. “Let’s get you out of here. ”

  She held out her hand. For a second, Briares’s face morphed to a hopeful expression. Several of his arms reached out, but twice as many slapped them away. 

  “I cannot,” he said. “She will punish me. ”

  “It’s all right,” Annabeth promised. “You fought the Titans before, and you won, remember?”

  “I remember the war. ” Briares’s face morphed again—furrowed brow and a pouting mouth. His brooding face, I guess. “Lightning shook the world. We threw many rocks. The Titans and the monsters almost won. Now they are getting strong again. Kampê said so. ”

  “Don’t listen to her,” I said. “Come on!”

  He didn’t move. I knew Grover was right. We didn’t have much time before Kampê returned. But I couldn’t just leave him here. Tyson would cry for weeks. 

  “One game of rock, paper, scissors,” I blurted out. “If I win, you come with us. If I lose, we’ll leave you in jail. ”

  Annabeth looked at me like I was crazy. 

  Briares’s face morphed to doubtful. “I always win rock, paper, scissors. ”

  “Then let’s do it!” I pounded my fist in my palm three times. 

  Briares did the same with all one hundred hands, which sounded like an army marching three steps forward. He came up with a whole avalanche of rocks, a classroom set of scissors, and enough paper to make a fleet of airplanes. 

  “I told you,” he said sadly. “I always—” His face morphed to confusion. “What is that you made?”

  “A gun,” I told him, showing him my finger gun. It was a trick Paul Blofis had pulled on me, but I wasn’t going to tell him that. “A gun beats anything. ”

  “That’s not fair. ”

  “I didn’t say anything about fair. Kampê’s not going to be fair if we hang around. She’s going to blame you for ripping off the bars. Now come on!”

  Briares sniffled. “Demigods are cheaters. ” But he slowly rose to his feet and followed us out of the cell. 

  I started to feel hopeful. All we had to do was get downstairs and find the Labyrinth entrance. But then Tyson froze. 

  On the ground floor right below, Kampê was snarling at us. 

  ***

  “The other way,” I said. 

  We bolted down the catwalk. This time Briares was happy to follow us. In fact he sprinted out front, a hundred arms waving in panic. 

  Behind us, I heard the sound of giant wings as Kampê took to the air. She hissed and growled in her ancient language, but I didn’t need a translation to know she was planning to kill us. 

  We scrambled down the stairs, through a corridor, and past a guard’s station—out into another block of prison cells. 

  “Left,” Annabeth said. “I remember this from the tour. ”

  We burst outside and found ourselves in the prison yard, ringed by security towers and barbed wire. After being inside for so long, the daylight almost blinded me. Tourists were milling around, taking pictures. The wind whipped cold off the bay. In the south, San Francisco gleamed all white and beautiful, but in the north, over Mount Tamalpais, huge storm clouds swirled. The whole sky seemed like a black top spinning from the mountain where Atlas was imprisoned, and where the Titan palace of Mount Othrys was rising anew. It was hard to believe the tourists couldn’t see the supernatural storm brewing, but they didn’t give any hint that anything was wrong. 

  “It’s even worse,” Annabeth said, gazing to the north. “The storms have been bad all year, but that—”

  “Keep moving,” Briares wailed. “She is behind us!”

  We ran to the far end of the yard, as far from the cellblock as possible. 

  “Kampê’s too big to get through the doors,” I said hopefully. 

  Then the wall exploded. 

  Tourists screamed as Kampê appeared from the dust and rubble, her wings spread out as wide as the yard. She was holding two swords—long bronze scimitars that glowed with a weird greenish aura, boiling wisps of vapor that smelled sour and hot even across the yard. 

  “Poison!” Grover yelped. “Don’t let those things touch you or…”

“Or we’ll die?” I guessed. 

  “Well…after you shrivel slowly to dust, yes. ”

  “Let’s avoid the swords,” I decided. 

  “Briares, fight!” Tyson urged. “Grow to full size!”

  Instead, Briares looked like he was trying to shrink even smaller. He appeared to be wearing his absolutely terrified face. 

  Kampê thundered toward us on her dragon legs, hundreds of snakes slithering around her body. 

  For a second I thought about drawing Riptide and facing her, but my heart crawled into my throat. Then Annabeth said what I was thinking: “Run. ”

  That was the end of the debate. There was no fighting this thing. We ran through the jail yard and out the gates of the prison, the monster right behind us. Mortals screamed and ran. Emergency sirens began to blare. 

  We hit the wharf just as a tour boat was unloading. The new group of visitors froze as they saw us charging toward them, followed by a mob of frightened tourists, followed by…I don’t know what they saw through the Mist, but it could not have been good. 

  “The boat?” Grover asked. 

  “Too slow,” Tyson said. “Back into the maze. Only chance. ”

  “We need a diversion,” Annabeth said. 

  Tyson ripped a metal lamppost out of the ground. “I will distract Kampê. You run ahead. ”

  “I’ll help you,” I said. 

  “No,” Tyson said. “You go. Poison will hurt Cyclopes. A lot of pain. But it won’t kill. ”

  “Are you sure?”

  “Go, brother. I will meet you inside. ”

  I hated the idea. I’d almost lost Tyson once before, and I didn’t want to ever risk that again. But there was no time to argue, and I had no better idea. Annabeth, Grover, and I each took one of Briares’s hands and dragged him toward the concession stands while Tyson bellowed, lowered his pole, and charged Kampê like a jousting knight. 

  She’d been glaring at Briares, but Tyson got her attention as soon as he nailed her in the chest with the pole, pushing her back into the wall. She shrieked and slashed with her swords, slicing the pole to shreds. poison dripped in pools all around her, sizzling into the cement. 

  Tyson jumped back as Kampê’s hair lashed and hissed, and the vipers around her legs darted their tongues in every direction. A lion popped out of the weird half-formed faces around her waist and roared. 

  As we sprinted for the cellblocks, the last thing I saw was Tyson picking up a Dippin’ Dots stand and throwing it at Kampê. Ice cream and poison exploded everywhere, all the little snakes in Kampê’s hair dotted with tuttifrutti. We dashed back into the jail yard. 

  “Can’t make it,” Briares huffed. 

  “Tyson is risking his life to help you!” I yelled at him. “You will make it. ”

  As we reached the door of the cellblock, I heard an angry roar. I glanced back and saw Tyson running toward us at full speed, Kampê right behind him. She was plastered in ice cream and T-shirts. One of the bear heads on her waist was now wearing a pair of crooked plastic Alcatrazsunglasses. 

  “Hurry!” Annabeth said, like I needed to be told that. 

  We finally found the cell where we’d come in, but the back wall was completely smooth—no sign of a boulder or anything. 

  “Look for the mark!” Annabeth said. 

  “There!” Grover touched a tiny scratch, and it became a Greek ?. The mark of Daedalus glowed blue, and the stone wall grinded open. 

  Too slowly. Tyson was coming through the cellblock, Kampê’s swords lashing out behind him, slicing indiscriminately through cell bars and stone walls. 

  I pushed Briares inside the maze, then Annabeth and Grover. 

  “You can do it!” I told Tyson. But immediately I knew he couldn’t Kampê was gaining. She raised her swords. I need a distraction—something big. I slapped my wristwatch and it spiraled into a bronze shield. Desperately, I threw it at the monster’s face. 

  SMACK! The shield hit her in the face and she faltered just long enough for Tyson to dive past me into the maze. I was right behind him. 

  Kampê charged, but she was too late. The stone door closed and its magic sealed us in. I could feel the whole tunnel shake as Kampê pounded against it, roaring furiously. We didn’t stick around to play knock, knock with her, though. We raced into the darkness, and for the first time (and the last) I was glad to be back in the Labyrinth. 

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