Holy Hecate, Annabeth thought, how long does it take to cast a stupid spell?
She caught Sadie’s gaze and saw the message in her eyes: Hold on. Just another few seconds.
Annabeth wasn’t sure she had a few more seconds.
‘The Ptolemaic dynasty …’ She gritted her teeth. ‘It fell centuries ago. Your cult was forgotten. How is it that you’re back now?’
Serapis sniffed. ‘That’s not important. The one who awakened me … well, he has delusions of grandeur. He thinks he can control me just because he found some old spells in the Book of Thoth.’
Behind the god, Sadie flinched as if she’d been smacked between the eyes. Apparently, this ‘Book of Thoth’ struck a chord with her.
‘You see,’ Serapis continued, ‘back in the day, King Ptolemy decided it wasn’t enough to make me a major god. He wanted to become immortal, too. He declared himself a god, but his magic backfired. After his death, his family was cursed for generations. The Ptolemaic line grew weaker and weaker until that silly girl Cleopatra committed suicide and gave everything to the Romans.’
The god sneered. ‘Mortals … always so greedy. The magician who awakened me this time thinks he can do better than Ptolemy. Raising me was only one of his experiments with hybrid Greek-Egyptian magic. He wishes to make himself a god, but he has overstepped himself. I am awake now. I will control the universe.’
Serapis fixed Annabeth with his brilliant green eyes. His features seemed to shift, reminding Annabeth of many different Olympians: Zeus, Poseidon, Hades. Something about his smile even reminded Annabeth of her mother, Athena.
‘Just think, little demigod,’ Serapis said, ‘this lighthouse will draw the gods to me like moths to a candle. Once I have consumed their power, I will raise a great city. I will build a new Alexandrian library with all the knowledge of the ancient world, both Greek and Egyptian. As a child of Athena, you should appreciate this. As my high priestess, think of all the power you will have!’
A new Alexandrian library.
Annabeth couldn’t pretend that the idea didn’t thrill her. So much knowledge of the ancient world had been destroyed when that library had burned.
Serapis must have seen the hunger in her eyes.
‘Yes.’ He extended his hand. ‘Enough talk, girl. Give me my staff!’
‘You’re right,’ Annabeth croaked. ‘Enough talk.’
She drew her dagger and plunged it into the monster’s shell.
So many things could have gone wrong. Most of them did.
Annabeth was hoping the knife would split the shell, maybe even destroy the monster. Instead, it opened a tiny fissure that spewed red magic as hot as a line of magma. Annabeth stumbled back, her eyes stinging.
Serapis bellowed, ‘TREACHERY!’ The staff creature howled and thrashed, its three heads trying in vain to reach the knife stuck in its back.
At the same moment, Sadie cast her spell. She threw her silver necklace and yelled, ‘Tyet!’
The pendant exploded. A giant silvery hieroglyph enveloped the god like a see-through coffin:
Serapis roared as his arms were pinned to his side.
Sadie shouted, ‘I name you Serapis, god of Alexandria! God of … uh, funny hats and three-headed staffs! I bind you with the power of Isis!’
Debris began falling out of the air, crashing around Annabeth. She dodged a brick wall and a fuse box. Then she noticed the wounded staff monster crawling towards Serapis.
She lunged in that direction, only to get smacked in the head by a falling piece of timber. She hit the floor hard, her skull throbbing, and was immediately buried in more debris.
She took a shaky breath. ‘Ow, ow, ow.’
At least she hadn’t been buried in bricks. She kicked her way out of a pile of plywood and plucked a six-inch splinter out of her shirt.
The monster had made it to Serapis’s feet. Annabeth knew she should have stabbed one of the monster’s heads, but she just couldn’t make herself do it. She was always a softie when it came to animals, even if they were part of a magical evil creature trying to kill her. Now it was too late.
The god flexed his considerable muscles. The silvery prison shattered around him. The three-headed staff flew into his hand, and Serapis turned on Sadie Kane.
Her protective circle evaporated in a cloud of red steam.