logo
Share this:

Page 23


My mind was racing as fast as my tiny little heart. I needed to get back to my clothes, which were lying in a heap on the floor. If I could do that, I could get Riptide out of my pocket and … And what? I couldn’t uncap the pen. Even if I did, I couldn’t hold the sword.

I squirmed helplessly as C.C. brought me over to the guinea pig cage and opened the wire door.

“Meet my discipline problems, Percy,” she warned. “They’ll never make good classroom pets, but they might teach you some manners. Most of them have been in this cage for three hundred years. If you don’t want to stay with them permanently, I’d suggest you—”

Annabeth’s voice called: “Miss C.C.?”

C.C. cursed in Ancient Greek. She plopped me into the cage and closed the door. I squealed and clawed at the bars, but it was no good. I watched as C.C. hurriedly kicked my clothes under the loom just as Annabeth came in.

I almost didn’t recognize her. She was wearing a sleeveless silk dress like C.C.’s, only white.

Her blond hair was newly washed and combed and braided with gold. Worst of all, she was wearing makeup, which I never thought Annabeth would be caught dead in. I mean, she looked good. Really good. I probably would’ve been tongue-tied if I could’ve said anything except reet, reet, reet. But there was also something totally wrong about it. It just wasn’t Annabeth.

She looked around the room and frowned. “Where’s Percy?”

I squealed up a storm, but she didn’t seem to hear me.

C.C. smiled. “He’s having one of our treatments, my dear. Not to worry. You look wonderful!

What did you think of your tour?”

Annabeth’s eyes brightened. “Your library is amazing!”

“Yes, indeed,” C.C. said, “The best knowledge of the past three millennia. Anything you want to study, anything you want to be, my dear.”

“An architect?”

“Pah!” C.C. said. “You, my dear, have the makings of a sorceress. Like me.”

Annabeth took a step back. “A sorceress?”

“Yes, my dear.” C.C. held up her hand. A flame appeared in her palm and danced across her fingertips. “My mother is Hecate, the goddess of magic. I know a daughter of Athena when I see one. We are not so different, you and I. We both seek knowledge. We both admire greatness.

Neither of us needs to stand in the shadow of men.”

“I—I don’t understand.”

Again, I squealed my best, trying to get Annabeth’s attention, but she either couldn’t hear me or didn’t think the noises were important. Meanwhile, the other guinea pigs were emerging from their hutch to check me out. I didn’t think it was possible for guinea pigs to look mean, but these did.

There were half a dozen, with dirty fur and cracked teeth and beady red eyes. They were covered with shavings and smelled like they really had been in here for three hundred years, without getting their cage cleaned.

“Stay with me,” C.C. was telling Annabeth. “Study with me. You can join our staff, become a sorceress, learn to bend others to your will. You will become immortal!”

“But—”

“You are too intelligent, my dear,” C.C. said. “You know better than to trust that silly camp for heroes. How many great female half-blood heroes can you name?”

“Um, Atalanta, Amelia Earhart—”

“Bah! Men get all the glory.” C.C. closed her fist and extinguished the magic flame. “The only way to power for women is sorcery. Medea, Calypso, now there were powerful women! And me, of course. The greatest of all.”

“You … C.C. … Circe!”

“Yes, my dear.”

Annabeth backed up, and Circe laughed. “You need not worry. I mean you no harm.”

“What have you done to Percy?”

“Only helped him realize his true form.”

Annabeth scanned the room. Finally she saw the cage, and me scratching at the bars, all the other guinea pigs crowding around me. Her eyes went wide.

“Forget him,” Circe said. “Join me and learn the ways of sorcery.”

“But—”

“Your friend will be well cared for. He’ll be shipped to a wonderful new home on the mainland. The kindergartners will adore him. Meanwhile, you will be wise and powerful. You will have all you ever wanted.”

Annabeth was still staring at me, but she had a dreamy expression on her face. She looked the same way I had when Circe enchanted me into drinking the guinea pig milk shake. I squealed and scratched, trying to warn her to snap out of it, but I was absolutely powerless.

“Let me think about it,” Annabeth murmured. “Just… give me a minute alone. To say good-bye.”

“Of course, my dear,” Circe cooed. “One minute. Oh … and so you have absolute privacy …”

She waved her hand and iron bars slammed down over the windows. She swept out of the room and I heard the locks on the door click shut behind her.

The dreamy look melted off Annabeth’s face.

She rushed over to my cage. “All right, which one is you?

I squealed, but so did all the other guinea pigs. Annabeth looked desperate. She scanned the room and spotted the cuff of my jeans sticking out from under the loom.

Yes!

She rushed over and rummaged through my pockets.

But instead of bringing out Riptide, she found the bottle of Hermes multivitamins and started struggling with the cap.

I wanted to scream at her that this wasn’t the time for taking supplements! She had to draw the sword!

She popped a lemon chewable in her mouth just as the door flew open and Circe came back in, flanked by two of her business-suited attendants.

“Well,” Circe sighed, “how fast a minute passes. What is your answer, my dear?”

“This,” Annabeth said, and she drew her bronze knife.

The sorceress stepped back, but her surprise quickly passed. She sneered. “Really, little girl, a knife against my magic? Is that wise?”

Circe looked back at her attendants, who smiled. They raised their hands as if preparing to cast a spell.

Run! I wanted to tell Annabeth, but all I could make were rodent noises. The other guinea pigs squealed in terror and scuttled around the cage. I had the urge to panic and hide, too, but I had to think of something! I couldn’t stand to lose Annabeth the way I’d lost Tyson.

“What will Annabeth’s makeover be?” Circe mused. “Something small and ill-tempered. I know … a shrew!”

Blue fire coiled from her fingers curling like serpents around Annabeth.

I watched, horror-struck, but nothing happened. Annabeth was still Annabeth, only angrier.

She leaped forward and stuck the point of her knife against Circe’s neck. “How about turning me into a panther instead? One that has her claws at your throat!”

“How!” Circe yelped.

Annabeth held up my bottle of vitamins for the sorceress to see.

Circe howled in frustration. “Curse Hermes and his multivitamins! Those are such a fad! They do nothing for you.”

“Turn Percy back to a human or else!” Annabeth said.

“I can’t!”

“Then you asked for it.”

Circe’s attendants stepped forward, but their mistress said, “Get back! She’s immune to magic until that cursed vitamin wears off.”

Annabeth dragged Circe over to the guinea pig cage, knocked the top off, and poured the rest of the vitamins inside.

“No!” Circe screamed.

I was the first to get a vitamin, but all the other guinea pigs scuttled out, too, and checked out this new food.

The first nibble, and I felt all fiery inside. I gnawed at the vitamin until it stopped looking so huge, and the cage got smaller, and then suddenly, bang! The cage exploded. I was sitting on the floor, a human again—somehow back in my regular clothes, thank the gods—with six other guys who all looked disoriented, blinking and shaking wood shavings out of their hair.

“No!” Circe screamed. “You don’t understand! Those are the worst!”

One of the men stood up—a huge guy with a long tangled pitch-black beard and teeth the same color. He wore mismatched clothes of wool and leather, knee-length boots, and a floppy felt hat. The other men were dressed more simply—in breeches and stained white shirts. All of them were barefoot.

“Argggh!” bellowed the big man. “What’s the witch done t’me!”

“No!” Circe moaned.

Annabeth gasped. “I recognize you! Edward Teach, son of Ares?”

“Aye, lass,” the big man growled. “Though most call me Blackbeard! And there’s the sorceress what captured us, lads. Run her through, and then I mean to find me a big bowl of celery! Arggggh!”

Circe screamed. She and her attendants ran from the room, chased by the pirates.

Annabeth sheathed her knife and glared at me.

“Thanks …” I faltered. “I’m really sorry—”

Before I could figure out how to apologize for being such an idiot, she tackled me with a hug, then pulled away just as quickly. “I’m glad you’re not a guinea pig.”

“Me, too.” I hoped my face wasn’t as red as it felt.

She undid the golden braids in her hair.

“Come on, Seaweed Brain,” she said. “We have to get away while Circe’s distracted.”

We ran down the hillside through the terraces, past screaming spa workers and pirates ransacking the resort. Blackbeard’s men broke the tiki torches for the luau, threw herbal wraps into the swimming pool, and kicked over tables of sauna towels.

I almost felt bad letting the unruly pirates out, but I guessed they deserved something more entertaining than the exercise wheel after being cooped up in a cage for three centuries.

“Which ship?” Annabeth said as we reached the docks.

I looked around desperately. We couldn’t very well take our rowboat. We had to get off the island fast, but what else could we use? A sub? A fighter jet? I couldn’t pilot any of those things. And then I saw it.

“There,” I said.

Annabeth blinked. “But—”

“I can make it work.”

“How?”

I couldn’t explain. I just somehow knew an old sailing vessel was the best bet for me. I grabbed Annabeth’s hand and pulled her toward the three-mast ship. Painted on its prow was the name that I would only decipher later: Queen Anne’s Revenge.

“Argggh!” Blackbeard yelled somewhere behind us. “Those scalawags are a-boarding me vessel! Get ‘em, lads!”

“We’ll never get going in time!” Annabeth yelled as we climbed aboard.

I looked around at the hopeless maze of sail and ropes. The ship was in great condition for a three-hundred-year-old vessel, but it would still take a crew of fifty several hours to get underway.

We didn’t have several hours. I could see the pirates running down the stairs, waving tiki torches and sticks of celery.

I closed my eyes and concentrated on the waves lapping against the hull, the ocean currents, the winds all around me. Suddenly, the right word appeared in my mind. “Mizzenmast!” I yelled.

Leave a comment

We will not publish your email address. Required fields are marked*