The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3)

The Burning Maze (The Trials of Apollo #3)

Rick Riordan

To Melpomene, the Muse of Tragedy,

I hope you’re pleased with yourself

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.


Once was Apollo

Now a rat in the Lab’rinth

Send help. And cronuts


I refuse to share this part of my story. It was the lowest, most humiliating, most awful week in my four-thousand-plus years of life. Tragedy. Disaster. Heartbreak. I will not tell you about it.

Why are you still here? Go away!

But, alas, I suppose I have no choice. Doubtless, Zeus expects me to tell you the story as part of my punishment.

It’s not enough that he turned me, the once-divine Apollo, into a mortal teenager with acne, flab and the alias Lester Papadopoulos. It’s not enough that he sent me on a dangerous quest to liberate five great ancient Oracles from a trio of evil Roman emperors. It’s not even enough that he enslaved me – his formerly favourite son – to a pushy twelve-year-old demigod named Meg!

On top of all that, Zeus wants me to record my shame for posterity.

Very well. But I have warned you. In these pages, only suffering awaits.

Where to begin?

With Grover and Meg, of course.

For two days, we had travelled the Labyrinth – across pits of darkness and around lakes of poison, through dilapidated shopping malls with only discount Halloween stores and questionable Chinese food buffets.

The Labyrinth could be a bewildering place. Like a web of capillaries beneath the skin of the mortal world, it connected basements, sewers and forgotten tunnels around the globe with no regard to the rules of time and space. One might enter the Labyrinth through a manhole in Rome, walk ten feet, open a door and find oneself at a training camp for clowns in Buffalo, Minnesota. (Please don’t ask. It was traumatic.)

I would have preferred to avoid the Labyrinth altogether. Sadly, the prophecy we’d received in Indiana had been quite specific: Through mazes dark to lands of scorching death. Fun! The cloven guide alone the way does know.

Except that our cloven guide, the satyr Grover Underwood, did not seem to know the way.

‘You’re lost,’ I said, for the fortieth time.

‘Am not!’ he protested.

He trotted along in his baggy jeans and green tie-dyed T-shirt, his goat hooves wobbling in his specially modified New Balance 520s. A red Rasta cap covered his curly hair. Why he thought this disguise helped him better pass for human, I couldn’t say. The bumps of his horns were clearly visible beneath the hat. His shoes popped off his hooves several times a day, and I was getting tired of being his sneaker retriever.

He stopped at a T in the corridor. In either direction, rough-hewn stone walls marched into darkness. Grover tugged his wispy goatee.

‘Well?’ Meg asked.

Grover flinched. Like me, he had quickly come to fear Meg’s displeasure.

Not that Meg McCaffrey looked terrifying. She was small for her age, with traffic-light-coloured clothes – green dress, yellow leggings, red high-tops – all torn and dirty thanks to our many crawls through narrow tunnels. Cobwebs streaked her dark pageboy haircut. The lenses of her cat-eye glasses were so grimy I couldn’t imagine how she could see. In all, she looked like a kindergartner who had just survived a vicious playground brawl for possession of a tyre swing.

Grover pointed to the tunnel on the right. ‘I – I’m pretty sure Palm Springs is that way.’

‘Pretty sure?’ Meg asked. ‘Like last time, when we walked into a bathroom and surprised a Cyclops on the toilet?’

‘That wasn’t my fault!’ Grover protested. ‘Besides, this direction smells right. Like … cacti.’

Meg sniffed the air. ‘I don’t smell cacti.’

‘Meg,’ I said, ‘the satyr is supposed to be our guide. We don’t have much choice but to trust him.’

Grover huffed. ‘Thanks for the vote of confidence. Your daily reminder: I didn’t ask to be magically summoned halfway across the country and wake up in a rooftop tomato patch in Indianapolis!’

Brave words, but he kept his eyes on the twin rings around Meg’s middle fingers, perhaps worried she might summon her golden scimitars and slice him into rotisserie-style cabrito.

Ever since learning that Meg was a daughter of Demeter, the goddess of growing things, Grover Underwood had acted more intimidated by her than by me, a former Olympian deity. Life was not fair.

Meg wiped her nose. ‘Fine. I just didn’t think we’d be wandering around down here for two days. The new moon is in –’

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