The Sea of Monsters – Chapter 13: Annabeth Tries To Swim Home

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Chapter 13: Annabeth Tries To Swim Home

I’d finally found something I was really good at. 

  The Queen Anne’s Revenge responded to my every command. I knew which ropes to hoist, which sails to raise, which direction to steer. We plowed through the waves at what I figured was about ten knots. I even understood how fast that was. For a sailing ship, pretty darn fast. 

  It all felt perfect—the wind in my face, the waves breaking over the prow. 

  But now that we were out of danger, all I could think about was how much I missed Tyson, and how worried I was about Grover. 

  I couldn’t get over how badly I’d messed up on Circe’s Island. If it hadn’t been for Annabeth, I’d still be a rodent, hiding in a hutch with a bunch of cute furry pirates. I thought about what Circe had said: See, Percy? You’ve unlocked your true self!

  I still felt changed. Not just because I had a sudden desire to eat lettuce. I felt jumpy, like the instinct to be a scared little animal was now a part of me. Or maybe it had always been there. That’s what really worried me. 

  We sailed through the night. 

  Annabeth tried to help me keep lookout, but sailing didn’t agree with her. After a few hours rocking back and forth, her face turned the color of guacamole and she went below to lie in a hammock. 

  I watched the horizon. More than once I spotted monsters. A plume of water as tall as a skyscraper spewed into the moonlight. A row of green spines slithered across the waves—

  something maybe a hundred feet long, reptilian. I didn’t really want to know. 

  Once I saw Nereids, the glowing lady spirits of the sea. I tried to wave at them, but they disappeared into the depths, leaving me unsure whether they’d seen me or not. 

  Sometime after midnight, Annabeth came up on deck. We were just passing a smoking volcano island. The sea bubbled and steamed around the shore. 

  “One of the forges of Hephaestus,” Annabeth said. “Where he makes his metal monsters. ”

  “Like the bronze bulls?”

  She nodded. “Go around. Far around. ”

  I didn’t need to be told twice. We steered clear of the island, and soon it was just a red patch of haze behind us. 

  I looked at Annabeth. “The reason you hate Cyclopes so much … the story about how Thalia really died. What happened?”

  It was hard to see her expression in the dark. 

  “I guess you deserve to know,” she said finally. “The night Grover was escorting us to camp, he got confused, took some wrong turns. You remember he told you that once?”

  I nodded. 

  “Well, the worst wrong turn was into a Cyclops’s lair in Brooklyn. ”

  “They’ve got Cyclopes in Brooklyn?” I asked. 

  “You wouldn’t believe how many, but that’s not the point. This Cyclops, he tricked us. He managed to split us up inside this maze of corridors in an old house in Flatbush. And he could sound like anyone, Percy. Just the way Tyson did aboard the Princess Andromeda. He lured us, one at a time. Thalia thought she was running to save Luke. Luke thought he heard me scream for help. And me … I was alone in the dark. I was seven years old. I couldn’t even find the exit. ”

  She brushed the hair out of her face. “I remember finding the main room. There were bones all over the floor. And there were Thalia and Luke and Grover, tied up and gagged, hanging from the ceiling like smoked hams. The Cyclops was starting a fire in the middle of the floor. I drew my knife, but he heard me. He turned and smiled. He spoke, and somehow he knew my dad’s voice. I guess he just plucked it out of my mind. He said, ‘Now, Annabeth, don’t you worry. I love you. You can stay here with me. You can stay forever. ’”

  I shivered. The way she told it—even now, six years later—freaked me out worse than any ghost story I’d ever heard. “What did you do?”

  “I stabbed him in the foot. ”

  I stared at her. “Are you kidding? You were seven years old and you stabbed a grown Cyclops in the foot?”

  “Oh, he would’ve killed me. But I surprised him. It gave me just enough time to run to Thalia and cut the ropes on her hands. She took it from there. ”

  “Yeah, but still … that was pretty brave, Annabeth. ”

  She shook her head. “We barely got out alive. I still have nightmares, Percy. The way that Cyclops talked in my father’s voice. It was his fault we took so long getting to camp. All the monsters who’d been chasing us had time to catch up. That’s really why Thalia died. If it hadn’t been for that Cyclops, she’d still be alive today. ”

  We sat on the deck, watching the Hercules constellation rise in the night sky. 

  “Go below,” Annabeth told me at last. “You need some rest. ”

  I nodded. My eyes were heavy. But when I got below and found a hammock, it took me a long time to fall asleep. I kept thinking about Annabeth’s story. I wondered, if I were her, would I have had enough courage to go on this quest, to sail straight toward the lair of another Cyclops?

  I didn’t dream about Grover. 

  Instead I found myself back in Luke’s stateroom aboard the Princess Andromeda. The curtains were open. It was nighttime outside. The air swirled with shadows. Voices whispered all around me—spirits of the dead. 

  Beware, they whispered. Traps. Trickery. 

  Kronos’s golden sarcophagus glowed faintly—the only source of light in the room. 

  A cold laugh startled me. It seemed to come from miles below the ship. You don’t have the courage, young one. You can’t stop me. 

  I knew what I had to do. I had to open that coffin. 

  I uncapped Riptide. Ghosts whirled around me like a tornado. Beware!

  My heart pounded. I couldn’t make my feet move, but I had to stop Kronos. I had to destroy whatever was in that box. 

  Then a girl spoke right next to me: “Well, Seaweed Brain?”

  I looked over, expecting to see Annabeth, but the girl wasn’t Annabeth. She wore punk-style clothes with silver chains on her wrists. She had spiky black hair, dark eyeliner around her stormy blue eyes, and a spray of freckles across her nose. She looked familiar, but I wasn’t sure why. 

  “Well?” she asked. “Are we going to stop him or not?”

  I couldn’t answer. I couldn’t move. 

  The girl rolled her eyes. “Fine. Leave it to me and Aegis. ”

  She tapped her wrist and her silver chains transformed— flattening and expanding into a huge shield. It was silver and bronze, with the monstrous face of Medusa protruding from the center. It looked like a death mask, as if the gorgon’s real head had been pressed into the metal. I didn’t know if that was true, or if the shield could really petrify me, but I looked away. Just being near it made me cold with fear. I got a feeling that in a real fight, the bearer of that shield would be almost impossible to beat. Any sane enemy would turn and run. 

  The girl drew her sword and advanced on the sarcophagus. The shadowy ghosts parted for her, scattering before the terrible aura of her shield. 

  “No,” I tried to warn her. 

  But she didn’t listen. She marched straight up to the sarcophagus and pushed aside the golden lid. 

  For a moment she stood there, gazing down at whatever was in the box. 

  The coffin began to glow. 

  “No. ” The girl’s voice trembled. “It can’t be. ”

  From the depths of the ocean, Kronos laughed so loudly the whole ship trembled. 

  “No!” The girl screamed as the sarcophagus engulfed her in a blast of a golden light. 

  “Ah!” I sat bolt upright in my hammock. 

  Annabeth was shaking me. “Percy, you were having a nightmare. You need to get up. ”

  “Wh—what is it?” I rubbed my eyes. “What’s wrong?”

  “Land,” she said grimly. “We’re approaching the island of the Sirens. ”

  I could barely make out the island ahead of us—just a dark spot in the mist. 

  “I want you to do me a favor,” Annabeth said. “The Sirens … we’ll be in range of their singing soon. ”

  I remembered stories about the Sirens. They sang so sweetly their voices enchanted sailors and lured them to their death. 

  “No problem,” I assured her. “We can just stop up our ears. There’s a big tub of candle wax below deck—”

  “I want to hear them. ”

  I blinked. “Why?”

  “They say the Sirens sing the truth about what you desire. They tell you things about yourself you didn’t even realize. That’s what’s so enchanting. If you survive … you become wiser. I want to hear them. How often will I get that chance?”

  Coming from most people, this would’ve made no sense. But Annabeth being who she was—well, if she could struggle through Ancient Greek architecture books and enjoy documentaries on the History Channel, I guessed the Sirens would appeal to her, too. 

  She told me her plan. Reluctantly, I helped her get ready. 

  As soon as the rocky coastline of the island came into view, I ordered one of the ropes to wrap around Annabeth’s waist, tying her to the foremast. 

  “Don’t untie me,” she said, “no matter what happens or how much I plead. I’ll want to go straight over the edge and drown myself. ”

  “Are you trying to tempt me?”

  “Ha-ha. ”

  I promised I’d keep her secure. Then I took two large wads of candle wax, kneaded them into earplugs, and stuffed my ears. 

  Annabeth nodded sarcastically, letting me know the earplugs were a real fashion statement. 

  I made a face at her and turned to the pilot’s wheel. 

  The silence was eerie. I couldn’t hear anything but the rush of blood in my head. As we approached the island, jagged rocks loomed out of the fog. I willed the Queen Anne’s Revenge to skirt around them. If we sailed any closer, those rocks would shred our hull like blender blades. 

  I glanced back. At first, Annabeth seemed totally normal. Then she got a puzzled look on her face. Her eyes widened. 

  She strained against the ropes. She called my name—I could tell just from reading her lips. 

  Her expression was clear: She had to get out. This was life or death. I had to let her out of the ropes right now. 

  She seemed so miserable it was hard not to cut her free. 

  I forced myself to look away. I urged the Queen Anne’s Revenge to go faster. 

  I still couldn’t see much of the island—just mist and rocks—but floating in the water were pieces of wood and fiberglass, the wreckage of old ships, even some flotation cushions from airplanes. 

How could music cause so many lives to veer off course? I mean, sure, there were some Top Forty songs that made me want to take a fiery nosedive, but still … What could the Sirens possibly sing about?

  For one dangerous moment, I understood Annabeth’s curiosity. I was tempted to take out the earplugs, just to get a taste of the song. I could feel the Sirens’ voices vibrating in the timbers of the ship, pulsing along with the roar of blood in my ears. 

  Annabeth was pleading with me. Tears streamed down her cheeks. She strained against the ropes, as if they were holding her back from everything she cared about. 

  How could you be so cruel? She seemed to be asking me . I thought you were my friend. 

  I glared at the misty island. I wanted to uncap my sword, but there was nothing to fight. How do you fight a song?

  I tried hard not to look at Annabeth. I managed it for about five minutes. 

  That was my big mistake. 

  When I couldn’t stand it any longer, I looked back and found … a heap of cut ropes. An empty mast. Annabeth’s bronze knife lay on the deck. Somehow, she’d managed to wriggle it into her hand. I’d totally forgotten to disarm her. 

  I rushed to the side of the boat and saw her, paddling madly for the island, the waves carrying her straight toward the jagged rocks. 

  I screamed her name, but if she heard me, it didn’t do any good. She was entranced, swimming toward her death. 

  I looked back at the pilot’s wheel and yelled, “Stay!”

  Then I jumped over the side. 

  I sliced into the water and willed the currents to bend around me, making a jet stream that shot me forward. 

  I came to the surface and spotted Annabeth, but a wave caught her, sweeping her between two razor-sharp fangs of rock. 

  I had no choice. I plunged after her. 

  I dove under the wrecked hull of a yacht, wove through a collection of floating metal balls on chains that I realized afterward were mines. I had to use all my power over water to avoid getting smashed against the rocks or tangled in the nets of barbed wire strung just below the surface. 

  I jetted between the two rock fangs and found myself in a half-moon-shaped bay. The water was choked with more rocks and ship wreckage and floating mines. The beach was black volcanic sand. 

  I looked around desperately for Annabeth. 

  There she was. 

  Luckily or unluckily, she was a strong swimmer. She’d made it past the mines and the rocks. 

  She was almost to the black beach. 

  Then the mist cleared and I saw them—the Sirens. 

  Imagine a flock of vultures the size of people—with dirty black plumage, gray talons, and wrinkled pink necks. Now imagine human heads on top of those necks, but the human heads keep changing. 

  I couldn’t hear them, but I could see they were singing. As their mouths moved, their faces morphed into people I knew—my mom, Poseidon, Grover, Tyson, Chiron. All the people I most wanted to see. They smiled reassuringly, inviting me forward. But no matter what shape they took, their mouths were greasy and caked with the remnants of old meals. Like vultures, they’d been eating with their faces, and it didn’t look like they’d been feasting on Monster Donuts. 

  Annabeth swam toward them. 

  I knew I couldn’t let her get out of the water. The sea was my only advantage. It had always protected me one way or another. I propelled myself forward and grabbed her inkle. 

  The moment I touched her, a shock went through my body, and I saw the Sirens the way Annabeth must’ve been seeing them. 

  Three people sat on a picnic blanket in Central Park. A feast was spread out before them. I recognized Annabeth’s dad from photos she’d shown me—an athletic-looking, sandy-haired guy in his forties. He was holding hands with a beautiful woman who looked a lot like Annabeth. She was dressed casually—in blue jeans and a denim shirt and hiking boots—but something about the woman radiated power. I knew that I was looking at the goddess Athena. Next to them sat a young man … Luke. 

  The whole scene glowed in a warm, buttery light. The three of them were talking and laughing, and when they saw Annabeth, their faces lit up with delight. Annabeth’s mom and dad held out their arms invitingly. Luke grinned and gestured for Annabeth to sit next to him—as if he’d never betrayed her, as if he were still her friend. 

  Behind the trees of Central Park, a city skyline rose. I caught my breath, because it was Manhattan, but not Manhattan. It had been totally rebuilt from dazzling white marble, bigger and grander than ever—with golden windows and rooftop gardens. It was better than New York. Better than Mount Olympus. 

  I knew immediately that Annabeth had designed it all. She was the architect for a whole new world. She had reunited her parents. She had saved Luke. She had done everything she’d ever wanted. 

  I blinked hard. When I opened my eyes, all I saw were the Sirens—ragged vultures with human faces, ready to feed on another victim. 

  I pulled Annabeth back into the surf. I couldn’t hear her, but I could tell she was screaming. 

  She kicked me in the face, but I held on. 

  I willed the currents to carry us out into the bay. Annabeth pummeled and kicked me, making it hard to concentrate. She thrashed so much we almost collided with a floating mine. I didn’t know what to do. I’d never get back to the ship alive if she kept fighting. 

  We went under and Annabeth stopped struggling. Her expression became confused. Then our heads broke the surface and she started to fight again. 

  The water! Sound didn’t travel well underwater. If I could submerge her long enough, I could break the spell of the music. Of course, Annabeth wouldn’t be able to breathe, but at the moment, that seemed like a minor problem. 

  I grabbed her around the waist and ordered the waves to push us down. 

  We shot into the depths—ten feet, twenty feet. I knew I had to be careful because I could withstand a lot more pressure than Annabeth. She fought and struggled for breath as bubbles rose around us. 


  I was desperate. I had to keep Annabeth alive. I imagined all the bubbles in the sea—always churning, rising. I imagined them coming together, being pulled toward me. 

  The sea obeyed. There was a flurry of white, a tickling sensation all around me, and when my vision cleared, Annabeth and I had a huge bubble of air around us. Only our legs stuck into the water. 

  She gasped and coughed. Her whole body shuddered, but when she looked at me, I knew the spell had been broken. 

  She started to sob—I mean horrible, heartbroken sobbing. She put her head on my shoulder and I held her. 

  Fish gathered to look at us—a school of barracudas, some curious marlins. 

  Scram! I told them. 

  They swam off, but I could tell they went reluctantly. I swear I understood their intentions. 

  They were about to start rumors flying around the sea about the son of Poseidon and some girl at the bottom of Siren Bay. 

  “I’ll get us back to the ship,” I told her. “It’s okay. Just hang on. ”

  Annabeth nodded to let me know she was better now, then she murmured something I couldn’t hear because of the wax in my ears. 

  I made the current steer our weird little air submarine through the rocks and barbed wire and back toward the hull of the Queen Anne’s Revenge, which was maintaining a slow and steady course away from the island. 

  We stayed underwater, following the ship, until I judged we had moved out of earshot of the Sirens. Then I surfaced and our air bubble popped. 

  I ordered a rope ladder to drop over the side of the ship, and we climbed aboard. 

  I kept my earplugs in, just to be sure. We sailed until the island was completely out of sight. 

  Annabeth sat huddled in a blanket on the forward deck. Finally she looked up, dazed and sad, and mouthed, safe. 

  I took out the earplugs. No singing. The afternoon was quiet except for the sound of the waves against the hull. The fog had burned away to a blue sky, as if the island of the Sirens had never existed. 

  “You okay?” I asked. The moment I said it, I realized how lame that sounded. Of course she wasn’t okay. 

  “I didn’t realize,” she murmured. 


  Her eyes were the same color as the mist over the Sirens’ island. “How powerful the temptation would be. ”

  I didn’t want to admit that I’d seen what the Sirens had promised her. I felt like a trespasser. 

  But I figured I owed it to Annabeth. 

  “I saw the way you rebuilt Manhattan,” I told her. “And Luke and your parents. ”

  She blushed. “You saw that?”

  “What Luke told you back on the Princess Andromeda, about starting the world from scratch … that really got to you, huh?”

  She pulled her blanket around her. “My fatal flaw. That’s what the Sirens showed me. My fatal flaw is hubris. ”

  I blinked. “That brown stuff they spread on veggie sandwiches?”

  She rolled her eyes. “No, Seaweed Brain. That’s hummus. Hubris is worse. ”

  “What could be worse than hummus?”

  “Hubris means deadly pride, Percy. Thinking you can do things better than anyone else … even the gods. ”

  “You feel that way?”

  She looked down. “Don’t you ever feel like, what if the world really is messed up? What if we could do it all over again from scratch? No more war. Nobody homeless. No more summer reading homework. ”

  “I’m listening. ”

  “I mean, the West represents a lot of the best things mankind ever did—that’s why the fire is still burning. That’s why Olympus is still around. But sometimes you just see the bad stuff, you know? And you start thinking the way Luke does: ‘If I could tear this all down, I would do it better. ’

  Don’t you ever feel that way? Like you could do a better job if you ran the world?”

  “Um … no. Me running the world would kind of be a nightmare. ”

  “Then you’re lucky. Hubris isn’t your fatal flaw. ”

  “What is?”

  “I don’t know, Percy, but every hero has one. If you don’t find it and learn to control it … well, they don’t call it ‘fatal’ for nothing. ”

  I thought about that. It didn’t exactly cheer me up. 

  I also noticed Annabeth hadn’t said much about the personal things she would change—like getting her parents back together, or saving Luke. I understood. I didn’t want to admit how many times I’d dreamed of getting my own parents back together. 

  I pictured my mom, alone in our little apartment on the Upper East Side. I tried to remember the smell of her blue waffles in the kitchen. It seemed so far away. 

  “So was it worth it?” I asked Annabeth. “Do you feel … wiser?”

  She gazed into the distance. “I’m not sure. But we have to save the camp. If we don’t stop Luke …”

  She didn’t need to finish. If Luke’s way of thinking could even tempt Annabeth, there was no telling how many other half-bloods might join him. 

  I thought about my dream of the girl and the golden sarcophagus. I wasn’t sure what it meant, but I got the feeling I was missing something. Something terrible that Kronos was planning. 

  What had the girl seen when she opened that coffin lid?

Suddenly Annabeth’s eyes widened. “Percy. ”

  I turned. 

  Up ahead was another blotch of land—a saddle-shaped island with forested hills and white beaches and green meadows—just like I’d seen in my dreams. 

  My nautical senses confirmed it. 30 degrees, 31 minutes north, 75 degrees, 12 minutes west. 

  We had reached the home of the Cyclops. 

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