Hazel tried to think. How far had she been carried? How long would it take her friends to find her? The karpoi were getting bolder, approaching the rock in twos and threes, scratching at the schist to see if it would hurt them.
“Before I get down…” She raised her voice, hoping it would carry over the fields. “Um, explain something to me, would you? If you’re grain spirits, shouldn’t you be on the gods’ side? Isn’t the goddess of agriculture Ceres—”
“Evil name!” Barley wailed.
“Cultivates us!” Sorghum spat. “Makes us grow in disgusting rows. Lets humans harvest us. Pah! When Gaea is mistress of the world again, we will grow wild, yes!”
“Well, naturally,” Hazel said. “So this army of hers, where you’re taking me in exchange for wheat—”
“Or barley,” Barley offered.
“Yeah,” Hazel agreed. “This army is where, now?”
“Just over the ridge!” Sorghum clapped his hands excitedly. “The Earth Mother—oh, yes!—she told us: ‘Look for the daughter of Pluto who lives again. Find her! Bring her alive! I have many tortures planned for her. ’ The giant Polybotes will reward us for your life! Then we will march south to destroy the Romans. We can’t be killed, you know. But you can, yes. ”
“That’s wonderful. ” Hazel tried to sound enthusiastic. It wasn’t easy, knowing Gaea had special revenge planned for her. “So you—you can’t be killed because Alcyoneus has captured Death, is that it?”
“Exactly!” Barley said.
“And he’s keeping him chained in Alaska,” Hazel said, “at…let’s see, what’s the name of that place?”
Sorghum started to answer, but Wheat flew at him and knocked him down. The karpoi began to fight, dissolving into funnel clouds of grain. Hazel considered making a run for it. Then Wheat re-formed, holding Sorghum in a headlock. “Stop!” he yelled at the others. “Multigrain fighting is not allowed!”
The karpoi solidified into chubby Cupid piranhas again.
Wheat pushed Sorghum away.
“Oh, clever demigod,” he said. “Trying to trick us into giving secrets. No, you’ll never find the lair of Alcyoneus. ”
“I already know where it is,” she said with false confidence. “He’s on the island in Resurrection Bay. ”
“Ha!” Wheat sneered. “That place sank beneath the waves long ago. You should know that! Gaea hates you
for it. When you thwarted her plans, she was forced to sleep again. Decades and decades! Alcyoneus—not until the dark times was he able to rise. ”
“The nineteen-eighties,” Barley agreed. “Horrible! Horrible!”
“Yes,” Wheat said. “And our mistress still sleeps. Alcyoneus was forced to bide his time in the north, waiting, planning. Only now does Gaea begin to stir. Oh, but she remembers you, and so does her son!”
Sorghum cackled with glee. “You will never find the prison of Thanatos. All of Alaska is the giant’s home. He could be keeping Death anywhere! Years it would take you to find him, and your poor camp has only days. Better you surrender. We will give you grain. So much grain. ”
Hazel’s sword felt heavy. She’d dreaded returning to Alaska, but at least she’d had an idea where to start looking for Thanatos. She’d assumed that the island where she had died hadn’t been completely destroyed, or possibly had risen again when Alcyoneus woke. She had hoped that his base would be there. But if the island was really gone, she had no idea how to find the giant. Alaska was huge. They could search for decades and never find him.
“Yes,” Wheat said, sensing her anguish. “Give up. ”
Hazel gripped her spatha. “Never!” She raised her voice again, hoping it would somehow reach her friends. “If I have to destroy you all, I will. I am the daughter of Pluto!”
The karpoi advanced. They gripped the rock, hissing as if it were scalding hot, but they began to climb.
“Now you will die,” Wheat promised, gnashing his teeth. “You will feel the wrath of grain!”
Suddenly there was a whistling sound. Wheat’s snarl froze. He looked down at the golden arrow that had just pierced his chest. Then he dissolved into pieces of Chex Mix.
FOR A HEARTBEAT, HAZEL WAS just as stunned as the karpoi. Then Frank and Percy burst into the open and began to massacre every source of fiber they could find. Frank shot an arrow through Barley, who crumbled into seeds. Percy slashed Riptide through Sorghum and charged toward Millet and Oats. Hazel jumped down and joined the fight.
Within minutes, the karpoi had been reduced to piles of seeds and various breakfast cereals. Wheat started to re-form, but Percy pulled a lighter from his pack and sparked a flame.
“Try it,” he warned, “and I’ll set this whole field on fire. Stay dead. Stay away from us, or the grass gets it!”
Frank winced like the flame terrified him. Hazel didn’t understand why, but she shouted at the grain piles anyway: “He’ll do it! He’s crazy!”
The remnants of the karpoi scattered in the wind. Frank climbed the rock and watched them go.
Percy extinguished his lighter and grinned at Hazel.
“Thanks for yelling. We wouldn’t have found you otherwise.
How’d you hold them off so long?”
She pointed to the rock. “A big pile of schist. ”
“Guys,” Frank called from the top of the rock. “You need to see this. ”