The Tyrant's TombRick Riordan
Also by Rick Riordan
PERCY JACKSON AND THE OLYMPIANS
Book One: The Lightning Thief
Book Two: The Sea of Monsters
Book Three: The Titan’s Curse
Book Four: The Battle of the Labyrinth
Book Five: The Last Olympian
The Demigod Files
The Lightning Thief: The Graphic Novel
The Sea of Monsters: The Graphic Novel
The Titan’s Curse: The Graphic Novel
The Battle of the Labyrinth: The Graphic Novel
The Last Olympian: The Graphic Novel
Percy Jackson’s Greek Gods
Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes
From Percy Jackson: Camp Half-Blood Confidential
THE KANE CHRONICLES
Book One: The Red Pyramid
Book Two: The Throne of Fire
Book Three: The Serpent’s Shadow
The Red Pyramid: The Graphic Novel
The Throne of Fire: The Graphic Novel
The Serpent’s Shadow: The Graphic Novel
From the Kane Chronicles: Brooklyn House Magician’s Manual
THE HEROES OF OLYMPUS
Book One: The Lost Hero
Book Two: The Son of Neptune
Book Three: The Mark of Athena
Book Four: The House of Hades
Book Five: The Blood of Olympus
The Demigod Diaries
The Lost Hero: The Graphic Novel
The Son of Neptune: The Graphic Novel
Demigods & Magicians
MAGNUS CHASE AND THE GODS OF ASGARD
Book One: The Sword of Summer
Book Two: The Hammer of Thor
Book Three: The Ship of the Dead
For Magnus Chase: Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds
9 from the Nine Worlds
THE TRIALS OF APOLLO
Book One: The Hidden Oracle
Book Two: The Dark Prophecy
Book Three: The Burning Maze
Copyright © 2019 by Rick Riordan
Cover art © 2019 by John Rocco
Designed by Joann Hill
Cover design by Joann Hill
All rights reserved. Published by Disney • Hyperion, an imprint of Disney Book Group. No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without written permission from the publisher. For information address Disney • Hyperion, 125 West End Avenue, New York, New York 10023.
In memory of Diane Martinez,
who changed many lives for the better
Guide to Apollo Speak
About the Author
The Dark Prophecy
The words that memory wrought are set to fire,
Ere new moon rises o’er the Devil’s Mount.
The changeling lord shall face a challenge dire,
Till bodies fill the Tiber beyond count.
Yet southward must the sun now trace its course,
Through mazes dark to lands of scorching death
To find the master of the swift white horse
And wrest from him the crossword speaker’s breath.
To westward palace must the Lester go;
Demeter’s daughter finds her ancient roots.
The cloven guide alone the way does know,
To walk the path in thine own enemy’s boots.
When three are known and Tiber reached alive,
’Tis only then Apollo starts to jive.
There is no food here
Meg ate all the Swedish Fish
Please get off my hearse
I BELIEVE IN RETURNING dead bodies.
It seems like a simple courtesy, doesn’t it? A warrior dies, you should do what you can to get their body back to their people for funerary rites. Maybe I’m old-fashioned. (I am over four thousand years old.) But I find it rude not to properly dispose of corpses.
Achilles during the Trojan War, for instance. Total pig. He chariot-dragged the body of the Trojan champion Hector around the walls of the city for days. Finally I convinced Zeus to pressure the big bully into returning Hector’s body to his parents so he could have a decent burial. I mean, come on. Have a little respect for the people you slaughter.
Then there was Oliver Cromwell’s corpse. I wasn’t a fan of the man, but please. First, the English bury him with honors. Then they decide they hate him, so they dig him up and “execute” his body. Then his head falls off the pike where it’s been impaled for decades and gets passed around from collector to collector for almost three centuries like a disgusting souvenir snow globe. Finally, in 1960, I whispered in the ears of some influential people, Enough, already. I am the god Apollo, and I order you to bury that thing. You’re grossing me out.
When it came to Jason Grace, my fallen friend and half brother, I wasn’t going to leave anything to chance. I would personally escort his coffin to Camp Jupiter and see him off with full honors.
That turned out to be a good call. What with the ghouls attacking us and everything.
Sunset turned San Francisco Bay into a cauldron of molten copper as our private plane landed at Oakland Airport. I say our private plane; the chartered trip was actually a parting gift from our friend Piper McLean and her movie star father. (Everyone should have at least one friend with a movie star parent.)
Waiting for us beside the runway was another surprise the McLeans must have arranged: a gleaming black hearse.
Meg McCaffrey and I stretched our legs on the tarmac while the ground crew somberly removed Jason’s coffin from the Cessna’s storage bay. The polished mahogany box seemed to glow in the evening light. Its brass fixtures glinted red. I hated how beautiful it was. Death shouldn’t be beautiful.
The crew loaded it into the hearse, then transferred our luggage to the backseat. We didn’t have much: Meg’s backpack and mine, my bow and quiver and ukulele, and a couple of sketchbooks and a poster-board diorama we’d inherited from Jason.
I signed some paperwork, accepted the flight crew’s condolences, then shook hands with a nice undertaker who handed me the keys to the hearse and walked away.
I stared at the keys, then at Meg McCaffrey, who was chewing the head off a Swedish Fish. The plane had been stocked with half a dozen tins of the squishy red candy. Not anymore. Meg had single-handedl
y brought the Swedish Fish ecosystem to the brink of collapse.
“I’m supposed to drive?” I wondered. “Is this a rental hearse? I’m pretty sure my New York junior driver’s license doesn’t cover this.”
Meg shrugged. During our flight, she’d insisted on sprawling on the Cessna’s sofa, so her dark pageboy haircut was flattened against the side of her head. One rhinestone-studded point of her cat-eye glasses poked through her hair like a disco shark fin.
The rest of her outfit was equally disreputable: floppy red high-tops, threadbare yellow leggings, and the well-loved knee-length green frock she’d gotten from Percy Jackson’s mother. By well-loved, I mean the frock had been through so many battles, been washed and mended so many times, it looked less like a piece of clothing and more like a deflated hot-air balloon. Around Meg’s waist was the pièce de résistance: her multi-pocketed gardening belt, because children of Demeter never leave home without one.
“I don’t have a driver’s license,” she said, as if I needed a reminder that my life was presently being controlled by a twelve-year-old. “I call shotgun.”
“Calling shotgun” didn’t seem appropriate for a hearse. Nevertheless, Meg skipped to the passenger’s side and climbed in. I got behind the wheel. Soon we were out of the airport and cruising north on I-880 in our rented black grief-mobile.
Ah, the Bay Area…I’d spent some happy times here. The vast misshapen geographic bowl was jam-packed with interesting people and places. I loved the green-and-golden hills, the fog-swept coastline, the glowing lacework of bridges, and the crazy zigzag of neighborhoods shouldered up against one another like subway passengers at rush hour.
Back in the 1950s, I played with Dizzy Gillespie at Bop City in the Fillmore. During the Summer of Love, I hosted an impromptu jam session in Golden Gate Park with the Grateful Dead. (Lovely bunch of guys, but did they really need those fifteen-minute-long solos?) In the 1980s, I hung out in Oakland with Stan Burrell—otherwise known as MC Hammer—as he pioneered pop rap. I can’t claim credit for Stan’s music, but I did advise him on his fashion choices. Those gold lamé parachute pants? My idea. You’re welcome, fashionistas.
Most of the Bay Area brought back good memories. But as I drove, I couldn’t help glancing to the northwest—toward Marin County and the dark peak of Mount Tamalpais. We gods knew the place as Mount Othrys, seat of the Titans. Even though our ancient enemies had been cast down, their palace destroyed, I could still feel the evil pull of the place—like a magnet trying to extract the iron from my now-mortal blood.
I did my best to shake the feeling. We had other problems to deal with. Besides, we were going to Camp Jupiter—friendly territory on this side of the bay. I had Meg for backup. I was driving a hearse. What could possibly go wrong?
The Nimitz Freeway snaked through the East Bay flatlands, past warehouses and docklands, strip malls and rows of dilapidated bungalows. To our right rose downtown Oakland, its small cluster of high-rises facing off against its cooler neighbor San Francisco across the bay as if to proclaim, We are Oakland! We exist, too!
Meg reclined in her seat, propped her red high-tops up on the dashboard, and cracked open her window.
“I like this place,” she decided.
“We just got here,” I said. “What is it you like? The abandoned warehouses? That sign for Bo’s Chicken ’N’ Waffles?”
“Concrete counts as nature?”
“There’s trees, too. Plants flowering. Moisture in the air. The eucalyptus smells good. It’s not like…”
She didn’t need to finish her sentence. Our time in Southern California had been marked by scorching temperatures, extreme drought, and raging wildfires—all thanks to the magical Burning Maze controlled by Caligula and his hate-crazed sorceress bestie, Medea. The Bay Area wasn’t experiencing any of those problems. Not at the moment, anyway.
We’d killed Medea. We’d extinguished the Burning Maze. We’d freed the Erythraean Sibyl and brought relief to the mortals and withering nature spirits of Southern California.
But Caligula was still very much alive. He and his co-emperors in the Triumvirate were still intent on controlling all means of prophecy, taking over the world, and writing the future in their own sadistic image. Right now, Caligula’s fleet of evil luxury yachts was making its way toward San Francisco to attack Camp Jupiter. I could only imagine what sort of hellish destruction the emperor would rain down on Oakland and Bo’s Chicken ’N’ Waffles.
Even if we somehow managed to defeat the Triumvirate, there was still that greatest Oracle, Delphi, under the control of my old nemesis Python. How I could defeat him in my present form as a sixteen-year-old weakling, I had no idea.
But, hey. Except for that, everything was fine. The eucalyptus smelled nice.
Traffic slowed at the I-580 interchange. Apparently, California drivers didn’t follow that custom of yielding to hearses out of respect. Perhaps they figured at least one of our passengers was already dead, so we weren’t in a hurry.
Meg toyed with her window control, raising and lowering the glass. Reeee. Reeee. Reeee.
“You know how to get to Camp Jupiter?” she asked.
“ ’Cause you said that about Camp Half-Blood.”
“We got there! Eventually.”
“Frozen and half-dead.”
“Look, the entrance to camp is right over there.” I waved vaguely at the Oakland Hills. “There’s a secret passage in the Caldecott Tunnel or something.”
“Well, I haven’t actually ever driven to Camp Jupiter,” I admitted. “Usually I descend from the heavens in my glorious sun chariot. But I know the Caldecott Tunnel is the main entrance. There’s probably a sign. Perhaps a demigods only lane.”
Meg peered at me over the top of her glasses. “You’re the dumbest god ever.” She raised her window with a final reeee SHLOOMP!—a sound that reminded me uncomfortably of a guillotine blade.
We turned northeast onto Highway 24. The congestion eased as the hills loomed closer. The elevated lanes soared past neighborhoods of winding streets and tall conifers, white stucco houses clinging to the sides of grassy ravines.
A road sign promised CALDECOTT TUNNEL ENTRANCE, 2 MI. That should have comforted me. Soon, we’d pass through the borders of Camp Jupiter into a heavily guarded, magically camouflaged valley where an entire Roman legion could shield me from my worries, at least for a while.
Why, then, were the hairs on the back of my neck quivering like sea worms?
Something was wrong. It dawned on me that the uneasiness I’d felt since we landed might not be the distant threat of Caligula, or the old Titan base on Mount Tamalpais, but something more immediate…something malevolent, and getting closer.
I glanced in the rearview mirror. Through the back window’s gauzy curtains, I saw nothing but traffic. But then, in the polished surface of Jason’s coffin lid, I caught the reflection of movement from a dark shape outside—as if a human-size object had just flown past the hearse.
“Oh, Meg?” I tried to keep my voice even. “Do you see anything unusual behind us?”
“Unusual like what?”
The hearse lurched as if we’d been hitched to a trailer full of scrap metal. Above my head, two foot-shaped impressions appeared in the upholstered ceiling.
“Something just landed on the roof,” Meg deduced.
“Thank you, Sherlock McCaffrey! Can you get it off?”
That was an annoyingly fair question. Meg could turn the rings on her middle fingers into wicked gold swords, but if she summoned them in close quarters, like the interior of the hearse, she a) wouldn’t have room to wield them, and b) might end up impaling me and/or herself.
CREAK. CREAK. The footprint impressions deepened as the thing adjusted its weight like a surfer on a board. It must have been immensely heavy to sink into the metal roof.
whimper bubbled in my throat. My hands trembled on the steering wheel. I yearned for my bow and quiver in the backseat, but I couldn’t have used them. DWSPW, driving while shooting projectile weapons, is a big no-no, kids.
“Maybe you can open the window,” I said to Meg. “Lean out and tell it to go away.”
“Um, no.” (Gods, she was stubborn.) “What if you try to shake it off?”
Before I could explain that this was a terrible idea while traveling fifty miles an hour on a highway, I heard a sound like a pop-top aluminum can opening—the crisp, pneumatic hiss of air through metal. A claw punctured the ceiling—a grimy white talon the size of a drill bit. Then another. And another. And another, until the upholstery was studded with ten pointy white spikes—just the right number for two very large hands.
“Meg?” I yelped. “Could you—?”
I don’t know how I might have finished that sentence. Protect me? Kill that thing? Check in the back to see if I have any spare undies?
I was rudely interrupted by the creature ripping open our roof like we were a birthday present.
Staring down at me through the ragged hole was a withered, ghoulish humanoid, its blue-black hide glistening like the skin of a housefly, its eyes filmy white orbs, its bared teeth dripping saliva. Around its torso fluttered a loincloth of greasy black feathers. The smell coming off it was more putrid than any dumpster—and believe me, I’d fallen into a few.
“FOOD!” it howled.
“Kill it!” I yelled at Meg.
“Swerve!” she countered.
One of the many annoying things about being incarcerated in my puny mortal body: I was Meg McCaffrey’s servant. I was bound to obey her direct commands. So when she yelled “Swerve,” I yanked the steering wheel hard to the right. The hearse handled beautifully. It careened across three lanes of traffic, barreled straight through the guardrail, and plummeted into the canyon below.
Dude, this isn’t cool
Dude just tried to eat my dude
That’s my dead dude, dude
I LIKE FLYING CARS. I prefer it when the car is actually capable of flight, however.
As the hearse achieved zero gravity, I had a few microseconds to appreciate the scenery below—a lovely little lake edged with eucalyptus trees and walking trails, and a small beach on the far shore, where a cluster of evening picnickers relaxed on blankets.