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The Crown of Ptolemy, Page 2

Rick Riordan

  I’d lost my sword before on a few occasions, but it always reappeared in pen form back in my pocket. I had a feeling that wasn’t going to happen this time. Riptide had been consumed – sucked into Setne’s body along with the bricks, the broken glass and several cubic feet of sod.

  Setne turned up his palms. ‘Sorry about that. I’m a growing deity. I need my nutrition …’ He tilted his head as if listening to something in the storm. ‘Percy Jackson. Interesting. And your friend, Annabeth Chase. You two have had some interesting adventures. You’ll give me lots of nourishment!’

  Annabeth struggled to her feet. ‘How do you know our names?’

  ‘Oh, you can learn a lot about someone from devouring their prized possession.’ Setne patted his stomach. ‘Now, if you don’t mind, I really need to consume you both. Not to worry, though! Your essence will live forever right here … next to my, uh, pancreas, I think.’

  I slipped my hand into Annabeth’s. After all we’d been through, I was not going to let our lives end this way – devoured by a wannabe Elvis god with a pillbox hat.

  I weighed my options: direct attack or strategic retreat. I wanted to punch Setne in his heavily mascaraed eyes, but if I could get Annabeth to the shore we could jump into the harbour. Being the son of Poseidon, I’d have the upper hand underwater. We could regroup, maybe come back with a few dozen demigod friends and some heavy artillery.

  Before I could decide, something completely random changed the equation.

  A full-sized camel dropped out of the sky and crushed Setne flat.

  ‘Sadie!’ Annabeth cried.

  For a split second, I thought she was calling the camel Sadie. Then I realized Annabeth was looking up into the storm, where two falcons spiralled above the courtyard.

  The camel bellowed and farted, which made me appreciate it even more.

  Unfortunately we didn’t have time to become friends. The camel widened its eyes, bleated in alarm and dissolved into sand.

  Setne rose from the dust pile. His crown was tilted. His black jacket was covered in camel fuzz, but he looked unhurt.

  ‘That was rude.’ He glanced up at the two falcons now diving towards him. ‘No time for this nonsense.’

  Just as the birds were about to rip his face off, Setne vanished in a swirl of rain.

  The falcons landed and morphed into two human teens. On the right stood my buddy Carter Kane, looking casual in his beige linen combat jammies, with a curved ivory wand in one hand and a crescent-bladed sword in the other. On the left stood a slightly younger blonde girl, who I assumed was his sister, Sadie. She had black linen jammies, orange highlights in her hair, a white wooden staff and mud-spattered combat boots.

  Physically, the two siblings looked nothing alike. Carter’s complexion was coppery, his hair black and curly. His thoughtful scowl radiated seriousness. By contrast, Sadie was fair-skinned with blue eyes and a lopsided smile so full of mischief I would’ve figured her for a Hermes kid back at Camp Half-Blood.

  Then again, I have Cyclopes and two-tailed mermen as siblings. I wasn’t about to comment on the Kane kids’ lack of resemblance.

  Annabeth exhaled with relief. ‘I am so glad to see you.’

  She gave Sadie a big hug.

  Carter and I looked at each other.

  ‘Hey, man,’ I said. ‘I’m not going to hug you.’

  ‘That’s okay,’ Carter said. ‘Sorry we’re late. This storm was messing up our locator magic.’

  I nodded like I knew what locator magic was. ‘So this friend of yours, Setne … he’s kind of a dirt wipe.’

  Sadie snorted. ‘You don’t know the half of it. Did he happen to give you a helpful villain monologue? Reveal his evil plans, say where he was going next, that sort of thing?’

  ‘Well, he used that scroll, the Book of Thoth,’ I said. ‘He summoned a cobra goddess, devoured her essence and stole her red hat.’

  ‘Oh dear.’ Sadie glanced at Carter. ‘The crown of Upper Egypt will be next.’

  Carter nodded. ‘And if he manages to put the two crowns together –’

  ‘He’ll become immortal,’ Annabeth guessed. ‘A newly made god. Then he’ll start vacuuming up all the Greek and Egyptian magic in the world.’

  ‘Also he stole my sword,’ I said. ‘I want it back.’

  The three of them stared at me.

  ‘What?’ I said. ‘I like my sword.’

  Carter hooked his curvy-bladed khopesh and his wand to his belt. ‘Tell us everything that happened. Details.’

  While we talked, Sadie muttered some sort of spell, and the rain bent around us like we were under a giant invisible umbrella. Neat trick.

  Annabeth had the better memory, so she did most of the explaining about our fight with Setne … though calling it a fight was generous.

  When she was done, Carter knelt and traced some hieroglyphs in the mud.

  ‘If Setne gets the hedjet, we’re finished,’ he said. ‘He’ll form the crown of Ptolemy and –’

  ‘Hold up,’ I said. ‘Low tolerance for confusing names. Can you explain what’s going on in, like, regular words?’

  Carter frowned. ‘The pschent is the double crown of Egypt, okay? The bottom half is the red crown, the deshret. It represents the Lower Kingdom. The top half is the hedjet, the white crown of the Upper Kingdom.’

  ‘You wear them together,’ Annabeth added, ‘and that means you’re the pharaoh of all Egypt.’

  ‘Except in this case,’ Sadie said, ‘our ugly friend Setne is creating a very special pschent – the crown of Ptolemy.’

  ‘Okay …’ I still didn’t get it, but felt like I should at least pretend to follow along. ‘But wasn’t Ptolemy a Greek dude?’

  ‘Yes,’ Carter said. ‘Alexander the Great conquered Egypt. Then he died. His general Ptolemy took over and tried to mix Greek and Egyptian religion. He proclaimed himself a god-king, like the old pharaohs, but Ptolemy went a step further. He used a combination of Greek and Egypt magic to try making himself immortal. It didn’t work out, but –’

  ‘Setne has perfected the formula,’ I guessed. ‘That Book of Thoth gives him some primo magic.’

  Sadie clapped for me. ‘I think you’ve got it. Setne will recreate the crown of Ptolemy, but this time he’ll do it properly, and he’ll become a god.’

  ‘Which is bad,’ I said.

  Annabeth tugged thoughtfully at her ear. ‘So … who was that cobra goddess?’

  ‘Wadjet,’ Carter said. ‘The guardian of the red crown.’

  ‘And there’s a guardian of the white crown?’ she asked.

  ‘Nekhbet.’ Carter’s expression turned sour. ‘The vulture goddess. I don’t like her much, but I suppose we’ll have to stop her from getting devoured. Since Setne needs the Upper Kingdom crown, he’ll probably go south for the next ritual. It’s like a symbolic thing.’

  ‘Isn’t up usually north?’ I asked.

  Sadie smirked. ‘Oh, that would be much too easy. In Egypt, up is south, because the Nile runs from the south to the north.’

  ‘Great,’ I said. ‘So how far south are we talking about – Brooklyn? Antarctica?’

  ‘I don’t think he’ll go that far.’ Carter rose to his feet and scanned the horizon. ‘Our headquarters are in Brooklyn. And I’m guessing Manhattan is like Greek god central? A long time ago, our Uncle Amos hinted at that.’

  ‘Well, yeah,’ I said. ‘Mount Olympus hovers over the Empire State Building, so –’

  ‘Mount Olympus –’ Sadie blinked – ‘hovers over the … Of course it does. Why not? I think what my brother’s trying to say is that if Setne wants to establish a new seat of power, blending Greek and Egyptian –’

  ‘He’d find a place in between Brooklyn and Manhattan,’ Annabeth said. ‘Like right here, Governors Island.’

  ‘Exactly,’ Carter said. ‘He’ll need to conduct the ritual for the second crown south of this point, but it doesn’t have to be far south. If I were him –’

  ‘And we’re glad you’
re not,’ I said.

  ‘– I would stay on Governors Island. We’re at the north end now, so …’

  I gazed south. ‘Anyone know what’s at the other end?’

  ‘I’ve never been here,’ Annabeth said. ‘But I think there’s a picnic area.’

  ‘Lovely.’ Sadie raised her staff. The tip flared with white fire. ‘Anyone fancy a picnic in the rain?’

  ‘Setne’s dangerous,’ Annabeth said. ‘We can’t just go charging in. We need a plan.’

  ‘She’s right,’ Carter said.

  ‘I kind of like charging in,’ I said. ‘Speed is of the essence, right?’

  ‘Thank you,’ Sadie muttered.

  ‘Being smart is also of the essence,’ Annabeth said.

  ‘Exactly,’ Carter said. ‘We have to figure out how to attack.’

  Sadie rolled her eyes at me. ‘Just as I feared. These two together … they’ll overthink us to death.’

  I felt the same way, but Annabeth was getting that annoyed stormy look in her eyes and, since I date Annabeth, I figured I’d better suggest a compromise.

  ‘How about we plan while we walk?’ I said. ‘We can charge south, like, really slowly.’

  ‘Deal,’ said Carter.

  We headed down the road from the old fort, past some fancy brick buildings that might have been officers’ quarters back in the day. We made our way across a soggy expanse of soccer fields. The rain kept pouring down, but Sadie’s magic umbrella travelled with us, keeping the worst of the storm away.

  Annabeth and Carter compared notes from the research they’d done. They talked about Ptolemy and the mixing of Greek and Egyptian magic.

  As for Sadie, she didn’t appear interested in strategy. She leaped from puddle to puddle in her combat boots. She hummed to herself, twirled like a little kid and occasionally pulled random things out of her backpack: wax animal figurines, some string, a piece of chalk, a bright yellow bag of candy.

  She reminded me of someone …

  Then it occurred to me. She looked like a younger version of Annabeth, but her fidgeting and hyperness reminded me of … well, me. If Annabeth and I ever had a daughter, she might be a lot like Sadie.


  It’s not like I’d never dreamed about kids before. I mean, you date someone for over a year, the idea is going to be in the back of your mind somewhere, right? But still – I’m barely seventeen. I’m not ready to think too seriously about stuff like that. Also, I’m a demigod. On a day-to-day basis, I’m busy just trying to stay alive.

  Yet, looking at Sadie, I could imagine that someday maybe I’d have a little girl who looked like Annabeth and acted like me – a cute little hellion of a demigod, stomping through puddles and flattening monsters with magic camels.

  I must have been staring, because Sadie frowned at me. ‘What?’

  ‘Nothing,’ I said quickly.

  Carter nudged me. ‘Were you listening?’

  ‘Yes. No. What?’

  Annabeth sighed. ‘Percy, explaining things to you is like lecturing a gerbil.’

  ‘Hey, Wise Girl, don’t start with me.’

  ‘Whatever, Seaweed Brain. We were just saying that we’ll have to combine our attacks.’

  ‘Combine our attacks …’ I patted my pocket, but Riptide had not reappeared in pen form. I didn’t want to admit how nervous that made me.

  Sure, I had other skills. I could make waves (literally) and occasionally even whip up a nice frothy hurricane. But my sword was a big part of who I was. Without it, I felt crippled.

  ‘How do we do combined attacks?’

  Carter got a mischievous gleam in his eyes that made him look more like his sister. ‘We turn Setne’s strategy against him. He’s using hybrid magic – Greek and Egyptian together, right? We do the same.’

  Annabeth nodded. ‘Greek-style attacks won’t work. You saw what Setne did with your sword. And Carter is pretty sure regular Egyptian spells won’t be enough, either. But if we can find a way to mix our powers –’

  ‘Do you know how to mix our powers?’ I asked.

  Carter’s shoes squished in the mud. ‘Well … not exactly.’

  ‘Oh, please,’ Sadie said. ‘That’s easy. Carter, give your wand to Percy.’


  ‘Just do it, brother dear. Annabeth, do you remember when we fought Serapis?’

  ‘Right!’ Annabeth’s eyes lit up. ‘I grabbed Sadie’s wand and it turned into a Celestial bronze dagger, just like my old one. It was able to destroy Serapis’s staff. Maybe we can create another Greek weapon from an Egyptian wand. Good idea, Sadie.’

  ‘Cheers. You see, I don’t need to spend hours planning and researching to be brilliant. Now, Carter, if you please.’

  As soon as I took the wand, my hand clenched like I’d grabbed an electrical cable. Spikes of pain shot up my arm. I tried to drop the wand, but I couldn’t. Tears filled my eyes.

  ‘By the way,’ Sadie said, ‘this may hurt a bit.’

  ‘Thanks.’ I gritted my teeth. ‘Little late on the warning.’

  The ivory began to smoulder. When the smoke cleared and the agony subsided, instead of a wand I was holding a Celestial bronze sword that definitely wasn’t Riptide.

  ‘What is this?’ I asked. ‘It’s huge.’

  Carter whistled under his breath. ‘I’ve seen those in museums. That’s a kopis.’

  I hefted the sword. Like so many I’d tried, it didn’t feel right in my hands. The hilt was too heavy for my wrist. The single-edged blade was curved awkwardly, like a giant hook knife. I tried a jab and nearly lost my balance.

  ‘This one doesn’t look like yours,’ I told Carter. ‘Isn’t yours called a kopis?’

  ‘Mine is a khopesh,’ Carter said. ‘The original Egyptian version. What you’re holding is a kopis – a Greek design adapted from the Egyptian original. It’s the kind of sword Ptolemy’s warriors would’ve used.’

  I looked at Sadie. ‘Is he trying to confuse me?’

  ‘No,’ she said brightly. ‘He’s confusing without trying.’

  Carter smacked his palm against his forehead. ‘That wasn’t even confusing. How was that –? Never mind. Percy, the main thing is, can you fight with that sword?’

  I sliced the kopis through the air. ‘I feel like I’m fencing with a meat cleaver, but it’ll have to do. What about weapons for you guys?’

  Annabeth rubbed the clay beads on her necklace, the way she does when she’s thinking. She looked beautiful. But I digress.

  ‘Sadie,’ she said, ‘those hieroglyphic spells you used on Rockaway Beach … which one made the explosion?’

  ‘It’s called – well, I can’t actually say the word without making you blow up. Hold on.’ Sadie rummaged through her backpack. She brought out a sheet of yellow papyrus, a stylus and a bottle of ink – I guess because pen and paper would be un-Egyptian. She knelt, using her backpack as a makeshift writing desk, and scrawled in normal letters: HA-DI.

  ‘That’s a good spell,’ Carter agreed. ‘We could show you the hieroglyph for it, but unless you know how to speak words of power –’

  ‘No need,’ Annabeth said. ‘The phrase means explode?’

  ‘More or less,’ Sadie said.

  ‘And you can write the hieroglyph on a scroll without triggering the ka-boom?’

  ‘Right. The scroll will store the magic for later. If you read the word from the papyrus … well, that’s even better. More ka-boom with less effort.’

  ‘Good,’ Annabeth said. ‘Do you have another piece of papyrus?’

  ‘Annabeth,’ I said, ‘what are you doing? ’Cause if you’re messing around with exploding words –’

  ‘Relax,’ she said. ‘I know what I’m doing. Sort of.’

  She knelt next to Sadie, who gave her a fresh sheet of papyrus.

  Annabeth took the stylus and wrote something in Ancient Greek:


  Being dyslexic, I’m lucky if I can recognize English words, but, being a demigod,
Ancient Greek is sort of hardwired into my brain.

  ‘Ke-rau-noh,’ I pronounced. ‘Blast?’

  Annabeth gave me a wicked little smile. ‘Closest term I could think of. Literally it means strike with lightning bolts.’

  ‘Ooh,’ Sadie said. ‘I love striking things with lightning bolts.’

  Carter stared at the papyrus. ‘You’re thinking we could invoke an Ancient Greek word the same way we do with hieroglyphs?’

  ‘It’s worth a try,’ Annabeth said. ‘Which of you is better with that kind of magic?’

  ‘Sadie,’ Carter said. ‘I’m more a combat magician.’

  ‘Giant-chicken mode,’ I remembered.

  ‘Dude, my avatar is a falcon-headed warrior.’

  ‘I still think you could get a sponsorship deal with KFC. Make some big bucks.’

  ‘Knock it off, you two.’ Annabeth handed her scroll to Sadie. ‘Carter, let’s trade. I’ll try your khopesh; you try my Yankees cap.’

  She tossed him the hat.

  ‘I’m usually more of a basketball guy, but …’ Carter put on the cap and disappeared. ‘Wow, okay. I’m invisible, aren’t I?’

  Sadie applauded. ‘You’ve never looked better, brother dear.’

  ‘Very funny.’

  ‘If you can sneak up on Setne,’ Annabeth suggested, ‘you might be able to take him by surprise, get the crown away from him.’

  ‘But you told us Setne saw right through your invisibility,’ Carter said.

  ‘That was me,’ Annabeth said, ‘a Greek using a Greek magic item. For you, maybe it’ll work better – or differently, at least.’

  ‘Carter, give it a shot,’ I said. ‘The only thing better than a giant chicken man is a giant invisible chicken man.’

  Suddenly the ground shook under our feet.

  Across the soccer fields, towards the south end of the island, a white glow lit the horizon.

  ‘That can’t be good,’ Annabeth said.

  ‘No,’ Sadie agreed. ‘Perhaps we should charge in a little more quickly.’

  The vultures were having a party.

  Past a line of trees, a muddy field stretched to the edge of the island. At the base of a small lighthouse, a few picnic tables huddled as if for shelter. Across the harbour, the Statue of Liberty glowed white in the storm, rainclouds pushing around her like waves off the prow of a ship.

  In the middle of the picnic grounds, six large black buzzards whirled in the rain, orbiting our buddy Setne.

  The magician was rocking a new outfit. He’d changed into a red quilted smoking jacket – I guess to match his red crown. His silk trousers shimmered in red and black paisley. Just to make sure his look wasn’t too understated, his loafers were entirely covered in rhinestones.

  He strutted around with the Book of Thoth, chanting some spell, the same way he’d done back at the fort.

  ‘He’s summoning Nekhbet,’ Sadie murmured. ‘I’d really rather not see her again.’

  ‘What kind of name is Neck Butt, anyway?’ I asked.

  Sadie snickered. ‘That’s what I called her the first time I saw her. But,