‘You don’t see it?’ Sadie asked. ‘Hold on.’ She disentangled her backpack from her boot and rummaged through her supplies. She brought out another ceramic vial, this one stubby and wide like a face-cream jar. She pulled off the lid and scooped out some pink goo. ‘Let me smear this on your eyelids.’

‘Wow, that sounds like an automatic no.’

‘Don’t be squeamish. It’s perfectly harmless … well, for magicians. Probably for demigods, too.’

Annabeth wasn’t reassured, but she closed her eyes. Sadie smeared on the gloop, which tingled and warmed like menthol rub.

‘Right,’ Sadie said. ‘You can look now.’

Annabeth opened her eyes and gasped.

The world was awash in colour. The ground had turned translucent – gelatinous layers descending into darkness below. The air rippled with shimmering veils, each one vibrant but slightly out of sync, as if multiple high-definition videos had been superimposed on top of one another. Hieroglyphs and Greek letters swirled around her, fusing and bursting as they collided. Annabeth felt as if she were seeing the world on the atomic level. Everything invisible had been revealed, painted with magic light.

‘Do – do you see like this all the time?’

Sadie snorted. ‘Gods of Egypt, no! It would drive me bonkers. I have to concentrate to see the Duat. That’s what you’re doing – peering into the magical side of the world.’

‘I …’ Annabeth faltered.

Annabeth was usually a confident person. Whenever she dealt with regular mortals, she carried a smug certainty that she possessed secret knowledge. She understood the world of gods and monsters. Mortals didn’t have a clue. Even with other demigods, Annabeth was almost always the most seasoned veteran. She’d done more than most heroes had ever dreamed of, and she’d survived.

Now, looking at the shifting curtains of colours, Annabeth felt like a six-year-old kid again, just learning how terrible and dangerous her world really was.

She sat down hard in the sand. ‘I don’t know what to think.’

‘Don’t think,’ Sadie advised. ‘Breathe. Your eyes will adjust. It’s rather like swimming. If you let your body take over, you’ll know what to do instinctively. Panic, and you’ll drown.’

Annabeth tried to relax.

She began to discern patterns in the air: currents flowing between the layers of reality, vapour trails of magic streaming off cars and buildings. The site of the train wreck glowed green. Sadie had a golden aura with misty plumes spreading behind her like wings.

Where the dog monster once lay, the ground smouldered like live coals. Crimson tendrils snaked away from the site, following the direction in which the monster had fled.

Annabeth focused on the derelict apartment building in the distance, and her heartbeat doubled. The tower glowed red from the inside – light seeping through the boarded-up windows, shooting through cracks in the crumbling walls. Dark clouds swirled overhead, and more tendrils of red energy flowed towards the building from all over the landscape, as if being drawn into the vortex.

The scene reminded Annabeth of Charybdis, the whirlpool-inhaling monster she’d once encountered in the Sea of Monsters. It wasn’t a happy memory.

‘That apartment building,’ she said. ‘It’s attracting red light from all over the place.’

‘Exactly,’ Sadie said. ‘In Egyptian magic, red is bad. It means evil and chaos.’

‘So that’s where the dog monster is heading,’ Annabeth guessed. ‘To merge with the other piece of the sceptre –’

‘And to find its master, I’d wager.’

Annabeth knew she should get up. They had to hurry. But, looking at the swirling layers of magic, she was afraid to move.

She’d spent her whole life learning about the Mist – the magical boundary that separated the mortal world from the world of Greek monsters and gods. But she’d never thought of the Mist as an actual curtain.

What had Sadie called it – the Duat?

Annabeth wondered if the Mist and the Duat were related, or maybe even the same thing. The number of veils she could see was overwhelming – like a tapestry folded in on itself a hundred times.

She didn’t trust herself to stand. Panic, and you’ll drown.

Sadie offered her hand. Her eyes were full of sympathy. ‘Look, I know it’s a lot, but nothing has changed. You’re still the same tough-skinned, rucksack-wielding demigod you’ve always been. And now you have a lovely dag

ger as well.’

Tags: Rick Riordan Percy Jackson & Kane Chronicles Crossover Fantasy
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