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Page 27


“Trickery,” Annabeth decided. “We can’t beat him by force, so we’ll have to use trickery.”

“Okay,” I said. “What trick?’

“I haven’t figured that part out yet.”

“Great.”

“Polyphemus will have to move the rock to let the sheep inside.”

“At sunset,” I said. “Which is when he’ll marry Clarisse and have Grover for dinner. I’m not sure which is grosser.”

“I could get inside,” she said, “invisibly.”

“What about me?”

“The sheep,” Annabeth mused. She gave me one of those sly looks that always made me wary. “How much do you like sheep?”

“Just don’t let go!” Annabeth said, standing invisibly somewhere off to my right. That was easy for her to say. She wasn’t hanging upside down from the belly of a sheep.

Now, I’ll admit it wasn’t as hard as I’d thought. I’d crawled under a car before to change my mom’s oil, and this wasn’t too different. The sheep didn’t care. Even the Cyclops’s smallest sheep were big enough to support my weight, and they had thick wool. I just twirled the stuff into handles for my hands, hooked my feet against the sheep’s thigh bones, and presto—I felt like a baby wallaby, riding around against the sheep’s chest, trying to keep the wool out of my mouth and my nose.

In case you’re wondering, the underside of a sheep doesn’t smell that great. Imagine a winter sweater that’s been dragged through the mud and left in the laundry hamper for a week.

Something like that.

The sun was going down.

No sooner was I in position than the Cyclops roared, “Oy! Goaties! Sheepies!”

The flock dutifully began trudging back up the slopes toward the cave.

“This is it!” Annabeth whispered. “I’ll be close by. Don’t worry.”

I made a silent promise to the gods that if we survived this, I’d tell Annabeth she was a genius. The frightening thing was, I knew the gods would hold me to it.

My sheep taxi started plodding up the hill. After a hundred yards, my hands and feet started to hurt from holding on. I gripped the sheep’s wool more tightly, and the animal made a grumbling sound. I didn’t blame it. I wouldn’t want anybody rock climbing in my hair either. But if I didn’t hold on, I was sure I’d fall off right there in front of the monster.

“Hasenpfeffer!” the Cyclops said, patting one of the sheep in front of me. “Einstein! Widget—

eh there, Widget!”

Polyphemus patted my sheep and nearly knocked me to the ground. “Putting on some extra mutton there?”

Uh-oh, I thought. Here it comes.

But Polyphemus just laughed and swatted the sheep’s rear end, propelling us forward. “Go on, fatty! Soon Polyphemus will eat you for breakfast!”

And just like that, I was in the cave.

I could see the last of the sheep coming inside. If Annabeth didn’t pull off her distraction soon…

The Cyclops was about to roll the stone back into place, when from somewhere outside Annabeth shouted, “Hello, ugly!”

Polyphemus stiffened. “Who said that?”

“Nobody!” Annabeth yelled.

That got exactly the reaction she’d been hoping for. The monster’s face turned red with rage.

“Nobody!” Polyphemus yelled back. “I remember you!”

“You’re too stupid to remember anybody,” Annabeth taunted. “Much less Nobody.”

I hoped to the gods she was already moving when she said that, because Polyphemus bellowed furiously, grabbed the nearest boulder (which happened to be his front door) and threw it toward the sound of Annabeth’s voice. I heard the rock smash into a thousand fragments.

For a terrible moment, there was silence. Then Annabeth shouted, “You haven’t learned to throw any better, either!”

Polyphemus howled. “Come here! Let me kill you, Nobody!”

“You can’t kill Nobody, you stupid oaf,” she taunted. “Come find me!”

Polyphemus barreled down the hill toward her voice.

Now, the “Nobody” thing wouldn’t have made sense to anybody, but Annabeth had explained to me that it was the name Odysseus had used to trick Polyphemus centuries ago, right before he poked the Cyclops’s eye out with a large hot stick. Annabeth had figured Polyphemus would still have a grudge about that name, and she was right. In his frenzy to find his old enemy, he forgot about resealing the cave entrance. Apparently, he didn’t even stop to consider that Annabeth’s voice was female, whereas the first Nobody had been male. On the other hand, he’d wanted to marry Grover, so he couldn’t have been all that bright about the whole male/female thing.

I just hoped Annabeth could stay alive and keep distracting him long enough for me to find Grover and Clarisse.

I dropped off my ride, patted Widget on the head, and apologized. I searched the main room, but there was no sign of Grover or Clarisse. I pushed through the crowd of sheep and goats toward the back of the cave.

Even though I’d dreamed about this place, I had a hard time finding my way through the maze. I ran down corridors littered with bones, past rooms full of sheepskin rugs and life-size cement sheep that I recognized as the work of Medusa. There were collections of sheep T-shirts; large tubs of lanolin cream; and wooly coats, socks, and hats with ram’s horns. Finally, I found the spinning room, where Grover was huddled in the corner, trying to cut Clarisse’s bonds with a pair of safety scissors.

“It’s no good,” Clarisse said. “This rope is like iron!”

“Just a few more minutes!”

“Grover,” she cried, exasperated. “You’ve been working at it for hours!”

And then they saw me.

“Percy?” Clarisse said. “You’re supposed to be blown up!”

“Good to see you, too. Now hold still while I—”

“Perrrrrcy!” Grover bleated and tackled me with a goat-hug. “You heard me! You came!”

“Yeah, buddy,” I said. “Of course I came.”

“Where’s Annabeth?”

“Outside,” I said. “But there’s no time to talk. Clarisse, hold still.”

I uncapped Riptide and sliced off her ropes. She stood stiffly, rubbing her wrists. She glared at me for a moment, then looked at the ground and mumbled, “Thanks.”

“You’re welcome,” I said. “Now, was anyone else on board your lifeboat?”

Clarisse looked surprised. “No. Just me. Everybody else aboard the Birmingham … well, I didn’t even know you guys made it out.”

I looked down, trying not to believe that my last hope of seeing Tyson alive had just been crushed. “Okay. Come on, then. We have to help—”

An explosion echoed through the cave, followed by a scream that told me we might be too late. It was Annabeth crying out in fear.

Chapter Fifteen: Nobody Gets The Fleece

“I got Nobody!” Polyphemus gloated.

We crept to the cave entrance and saw the Cyclops, grinning wickedly, holding up empty air.

The monster shook his fist, and a baseball cap fluttered to the ground. There was Annabeth, hanging upside down by her legs.

“Hah!” the Cyclops said. “Nasty invisible girl! Already got feisty one for wife. Means you gotta be grilled with mango chutney!”

Annabeth struggled, but she looked dazed. She had a nasty cut on her forehead. Her eyes were glassy.

“I’ll rush him,” I whispered to Clarisse. “Our ship is around the back of the island. You and Grover—”

“No way,” they said at the same time. Clarisse had armed herself with a highly collectible rams-horn spear from the Cyclops’s cave. Grover had found a sheep’s thigh bone, which he didn’t look too happy about, but he was gripping it like a club, ready to attack.

“We’ll take him together,” Clarisse growled.

“Yeah,” Grover said. Then he blinked, like he couldn’t believe he’d just agreed with Clarisse about something.

“All right,” I said. “Attack plan Macedonia.”

They nodded. We’d all taken the same training courses at Camp Half-Blood. They knew what I was talking about. They would sneak around either side and attack the Cyclops from the flanks while I held his attention in the front. Probably what this meant was that we’d all die instead of just me, but I was grateful for the help.

I hefted my sword and shouted, “Hey, Ugly!”

The giant whirled toward me. “Another one? Who are you?”

“Put down my friend. I’m the one who insulted you.”

“You are Nobody?”

“That’s right, you smelly bucket of nose drool!” It didn’t sound quite as good as Annabeth’s insults, but it was all I could think of. “I’m Nobody and I’m proud of it! Now, put her down and get over here. I want to stab your eye out again.”

“RAAAR!” he bellowed.

The good news: he dropped Annabeth. The bad news: he dropped her headfirst onto the rocks, where she lay motionless as a rag doll.

The other bad news: Polyphemus barreled toward me, a thousand smelly pounds of Cyclops that I would have to fight with a very small sword.

“For Pan!” Grover rushed in from the right. He threw his sheep bone, which bounced harmlessly off the monster’s forehead. Clarisse ran in from the left and set her spear against the ground just in time for the Cyclops to step on it. He wailed in pain, and Clarisse dove out of the way to avoid getting trampled. But the Cyclops just plucked out the shaft like a large splinter and kept advancing on me.

I moved in with Riptide.

The monster made a grab for me. I rolled aside and stabbed him in the thigh.

I was hoping to see him disintegrate, but this monster was much too big and powerful.

“Get Annabeth!” I yelled at Grover.

He rushed over, grabbed her invisibility cap, and picked her up while Clarisse and I tried to keep Polyphemus distracted.

I have to admit, Clarisse was brave. She charged the Cyclops again and again. He pounded the ground, stomped at her, grabbed at her, but she was too quick. And as soon as she made an attack, I followed up by stabbing the monster in the toe or the ankle or the hand.

But we couldn’t keep this up forever. Eventually we would tire or the monster would get in a lucky shot. It would only take one hit to kill us.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Grover carrying Annabeth across the rope bridge. It wouldn’t have been my first choice, given the man-eating sheep on the other side, but at the moment that looked better than this side of the chasm, and it gave me an idea.

“Fall back!” I told Clarisse.

She rolled away as the Cyclops’s fist smashed the olive tree beside her.

We ran for the bridge, Polyphemus right behind us. He was cut up and hobbling from so many wounds, but all we’d done was slow him down and make him mad.

“Grind you into sheep chow!” he promised. “A thousand curses on Nobody!”

“Faster!” I told Clarisse.

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