We tore down the hill. The bridge was our only chance. Grover had just made it to the other side and was setting Annabeth down. We had to make it across, too, before the giant caught us.
“Grover!” I yelled. “Get Annabeth’s knife!”
His eyes widened when he saw the Cyclops behind us, but he nodded like he understood.
As Clarisse and I scrambled across the bridge, Grover began sawing at the ropes.
The first strand went snap!
Polyphemus bounded after us, making the bridge sway wildly.
The ropes were now half cut. Clarisse and I dove for solid ground, landing beside Grover. I made a wild slash with my sword and cut the remaining ropes.
The bridge fell away into the chasm, and the Cyclops howled … with delight, because he was standing right next to us.
“Failed!” he yelled gleefully. “Nobody failed!”
Clarisse and Grover tried to charge him, but the monster swatted them aside like flies.
My anger swelled. I couldn’t believe I’d come this far, lost Tyson, suffered through so much, only to fail—stopped by a big stupid monster in a baby-blue tuxedo kilt. Nobody was going to swat down my friends like that! I mean … nobody, not Nobody. Ah, you know what I mean.
Strength coursed through my body. I raised my sword and attacked, forgetting that I was hopelessly outmatched. I jabbed the Cyclops in the belly. When he doubled over I smacked him in the nose with the hilt of my sword. I slashed and kicked and bashed until the next thing I knew, Polyphemus was sprawled on his back, dazed and groaning, and I was standing above him, the tip of my sword hovering over his eye.
“Uhhhhhhhh,” Polyphemus moaned.
“Percy!” Grover gasped. “How did you—”
“Please, noooo!” the Cyclops moaned, pitifully staring up at me. His nose was bleeding. A tear welled in the corner of his half-blind eye. “M-m-my sheepies need me. Only trying to protect my sheep!”
He began to sob.
I had won. All I had to do was stab—one quick strike.
“Kill him!” Clarisse yelled. “What are you waiting for?”
The Cyclops sounded so heartbroken, just like … like Tyson.
“He’s a Cyclops!” Grover warned. “Don’t trust him!”
I knew he was right. I knew Annabeth would’ve said the same thing.
But Polyphemus sobbed … and for the first time it sank in that he was a son of Poseidon, too. Like Tyson. Like me. How could I just kill him in cold blood?
“We only want the Fleece,” I told the monster. “Will you agree to let us take it?”
“No!” Clarisse shouted. “Kill him!”
The monster sniffed. “My beautiful Fleece. Prize of my collection. Take it, cruel human. Take it and go in peace.”
“I’m going to step back slowly,” I told the monster. “One false move …”
Polyphemus nodded like he understood.
I stepped back … and as fast as a cobra, Polyphemus smacked me to the edge of the cliff.
“Foolish mortal!” he bellowed, rising to his feet. “Take my Fleece? Ha! I eat you first.”
He opened his enormous mouth, and I knew that his rotten molars were the last things I would ever see.
Then something went whoosh over my head and thump!
A rock the size of a basketball sailed into Polyphemus’s throat—a beautiful three-pointer, nothing but net. The Cyclops choked, trying to swallow the unexpected pill. He staggered backward, but there was no place to stagger. His heel slipped, the edge of the cliff crumbled, and the great Polyphemus made chicken wing motions that did nothing to help him fly as he tumbled into the chasm.
Halfway down the path to the beach, standing completely unharmed in the midst of a flock of killer sheep, was an old friend.
“Bad Polyphemus,” Tyson said. “Not all Cyclopes as nice as we look.”
Tyson gave us the short version: Rainbow the hippocampus—who’d apparently been following us ever since the Long Island Sound, waiting for Tyson to play with him—had found Tyson sinking beneath the wreckage of the CSS Birmingham and pulled him to safety. He and Tyson had been searching the Sea of Monsters ever since, trying to find us, until Tyson caught the scent of sheep and found this island.
I wanted to hug the big oaf, except he was standing in the middle of killer sheep. “Tyson, thank the gods. Annabeth is hurt!”
“You thank the gods she is hurt?” he asked, puzzled.
“No!” I knelt beside Annabeth and was worried sick by what I saw. The gash on her forehead was worse than I’d realized. Her hairline was sticky with blood. Her skin was pale and clammy.
Grover and I exchanged nervous looks. Then an idea came to me. “Tyson, the Fleece. Can you get it for me?”
“Which one?” Tyson said, looking around at the hundreds of sheep.
“In the tree!” I said. “The gold one!”
“Oh. Pretty. Yes.”
Tyson lumbered over, careful not to step on the sheep. If any of us had tried to approach the Fleece, we would’ve been eaten alive, but I guess Tyson smelled like Polyphemus, because the flock didn’t bother him at all. They just cuddled up to him and bleated affectionately, as though they expected to get sheep treats from the big wicker basket. Tyson reached up and lifted the Fleece off its branch. Immediately the leaves on the oak tree turned yellow. Tyson started wading back toward me, but I yelled, “No time! Throw it!”
The gold ram skin sailed through the air like a glittering shag Frisbee. I caught it with a grunt.
It was heavier than I’d expected—sixty or seventy pounds of precious gold wool.
I spread it over Annabeth, covering everything but her face, and prayed silently to all the gods I could think of, even the ones I didn’t like.
The color returned to her face. Her eyelids fluttered open. The cut on her forehead began to close. She saw Grover and said weakly, “You’re not… married?”
Grover grinned. “No. My friends talked me out of it.”
“Annabeth,” I said, “just lay still.”
But despite our protests she sat up, and I noticed that the cut on her face was almost completely healed. She looked a lot better. In fact, she shimmered with health, as if someone had injected her with glitter.
Meanwhile, Tyson was starting to have trouble with the sheep. “Down!” he told them as they tried to climb him, looking for food. A few were sniffing in our direction. “No, sheepies. This way!
They heeded him, but it was obvious they were hungry, and they were starting to realize Tyson didn’t have any treats for them. They wouldn’t hold out forever with so much fresh meat nearby.
“We have to go,” I said. “Our ship is…” The Queen Anne’s Revenge was a very long way away. The shortest route was across the chasm, and we’d just destroyed the only bridge. The only other possibility was through the sheep.
“Tyson,” I called, “can you lead the flock as far away as possible?”
“The sheep want food.”
“I know! They want people food! Just lead them away from the path. Give us time to get to the beach. Then join us there.”
Tyson looked doubtful, but he whistled. “Come, sheepies! Um, people food this way!”
He jogged off into the meadow, the sheep in pursuit.
“Keep the Fleece around you,” I told Annabeth. “Just in case you’re not fully healed yet. Can you stand?”
She tried, but her face turned pale again. “Ohh. Not fully healed.”
Clarisse dropped next to her and felt her chest, which made Annabeth gasp.
“Ribs broken,” Clarisse said. “They’re mending, but definitely broken.”
“How can you tell?” I asked.
Clarisse glared at me. “Because I’ve broken a few, runt! I’ll have to carry her.”
Before I could argue, Clarisse picked up Annabeth like a sack of flour and lugged her down to the beach. Grover and I followed.
As soon as we got to the edge of the water, I concentrated on the Queen Anne’s Revenge. I willed it to raise anchor and come to me. After a few anxious minutes, I saw the ship rounding the tip of the island.
“Incoming!” Tyson yelled. He was bounding down the path to join us, the sheep about fifty yards behind, bleating in frustration as their Cyclops friend ran away without feeding them.
“They probably won’t follow us into the water,” I told the others. “All we have to do is swim for the ship.”
“With Annabeth like this?” Clarisse protested.
“We can do it,” I insisted. I was starting to feel confident again. I was back in my home turf—
the sea. “Once we get to the ship, we’re home free.”
We almost made it, too.
We were just wading past the entrance to the ravine, when we heard a tremendous roar and saw Polyphemus, scraped up and bruised but still very much alive, his baby-blue wedding outfit in tatters, splashing toward us with a boulder in each hand.
Chapter Sixteen: I Go Down With The Ship
“You’d think he’d run out of rocks,” I muttered.
“Swim for it!” Grover said.
He and Clarisse plunged into the surf. Annabeth hung on to Clarisse’s neck and tried to paddle with one hand, the wet Fleece weighing her down.
But the monster’s attention wasn’t on the Fleece.
“You, young Cyclops!” Polyphemus roared. “Traitor to your kind!”
“Don’t listen to him!” I pleaded. “Come on.”
I pulled Tyson’s arm, but I might as well have been pulling a mountain. He turned and faced the older Cyclops. “I am not a traitor.”
“You serve mortals!” Polyphemus shouted. “Thieving humans!”
Polyphemus threw his first boulder. Tyson swatted it aside with his fist.
“Not a traitor,” Tyson said. “And you are not my kind.”
“Death or victory!” Polyphemus charged into the surf, but his foot was still wounded. He immediately stumbled and fell on his face. That would’ve been funny, except he started to get up again, spitting salt water and growling.
“Percy!” Clarisse yelled. “Come on!”
They were almost to the ship with the Fleece. If I could just keep the monster distracted a little longer …
“Go,” Tyson told me. “I will hold Big Ugly.”
“No! He’ll kill you.” I’d already lost Tyson once. I wasn’t going to lose him again. “We’ll fight him together.”
“Together,” Tyson agreed.
I drew my sword.
Polyphemus advanced carefully, limping worse than ever. But there was nothing wrong with his throwing arm. He chucked his second boulder. I dove to one side, but I still would’ve been squashed if Tyson’s fist hadn’t blasted the rock to rubble.
I willed the sea to rise. A twenty-foot wave surged up, lifting me on its crest. I rode toward the Cyclops and kicked him in the eye, leaping over his head as the water blasted him onto the beach.
“Destroy you!” Polyphemus spluttered. “Fleece stealer!”