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FIC: The Final Sacrifice, chpt 28

Title: The Final Sacrifice (Daughter of Wisdom 5)
Author: shiiki
Rating: PG-13
Characters/Pairings: Annabeth Chase/Percy Jackson, Luke Castellan, Thalia Grace, Charles Beckendorf/Silena Beauregard, Clarisse La Rue, Michael Yew, OCs, multiple others
Fandom: Percy Jackson
Word Count: WIP, estimated 100K+ (3336 chapters planned)

Summary: The war on Olympus is heating up, and Annabeth Chase is right in the thick of it. Bad enough that she's gearing up for battle while wrestling with the emotional turmoil over two of her dearest friends that is turning her heart inside out. She doesn't need more mysterious glimpses about the Great Prophecy and how it connects to her own history. But in order to understand what lies in her future, Annabeth has to dig into the past. What she finds will shape her choices … and change the course of the final battle. An alternate PoV retelling of The Last Olympian. Part 5 of the Daughter of Wisdom series.

In this chapter
Chapter Title: We Get Some Unexpected Reinforcements
Rating: PG
Characters: Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson, Chiron, Thalia Grace
Word Count: 2,817

Chapter Summary: Two new arrivals make it through the Morpheus enchantment.

Notes: The exchange between Percy and Annabeth about Luke in this chapter has long struck me as a perfect example of two people completely missing the point of what the other is trying to convey, and getting utterly frustrated because of it. If you just look at the lines of dialogue in turn, it reads a little oddly. But that's where perspective and context come in, and it's amazing what we can infer about their respective states of mind without explicitly being told.

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Two years ago, Luke had cornered Percy, Grover, and me on the Princess Andromeda in Miami. We'd only escaped because a herd of Party Ponies had ridden to our rescue.

This was almost exactly like that.

The centaurs barrelled through the northern flank of the monster army, sweeping them straight into their own lines on the south. Like a crazy, multi-coloured clown convention, they stampeded into the block, shooting off fart arrows and spiked pinwheels, and shafts with boxing gloves that delivered continuous sucker punches to the monsters' faces.

'Percy!' Chiron was the only one of his brethren dressed in armour. He carried a proper recursive bow and a quiver of pointed arrows that he shot into the enemy lines with deadly accuracy. 'Sorry we're late!'

'WASTE MONSTERS!' bellowed a centaur. He aimed a massive paintball gun at a line of hellhounds and sprayed a double round of pink balls through them. 'PARTY PONIES! SOUTH FLORIDA CHAPTER!'

This raised an echo of responding cries from the various centaur affiliations. The Titan army panicked. They turned and fled, ignoring Kronos's orders to stand their ground. One of the Hyperboreans tripped up in his haste to retreat and smashed the golden chariot flat. I got a glimpse of Luke's face before he was squashed under the big blue butt. His expression was almost comical—a mix of surprise and disgust, exactly like the time I'd slugged him with a mud bomb during capture the flag.

Then his giants dragged his banged-up chariot away, towards the East River. We surged forward with the centaurs, exhilarated by this turn of the tide, until Chiron cried, 'HOLD! On your promise, hold!'

The centaurs kept going for a few more blocks, Percy sprinting alongside them.

'Percy!' For a moment, I wondered if he could pull back. Just like on the Williamsburg Bridge, the thirst for the fight was taking over. Was it all part of the curse of Achilles?

But then he stopped. He stood for a few seconds with his sword raised and pointed at Luke's retreating back. Then he turned around and came back to me.

'Chiron's smart,' I told him. It was a wise strategic decision. Even with the centaurs' back-up, we couldn't afford to spread ourselves too thin. 'We need to regroup.'

His fingers flexed around Riptide. 'But the enemy—'

'They're not defeated. But the dawn is coming. At least we've bought some time.'

Percy glared eastward, where the last of the monsters were disappearing around the NYU Medical Center. I wrapped my fingers gently around his elbow. At my touch, he seemed to relax.

'Come on,' I said, and led him back to the foot of the Empire State Building.

Chiron sent his brethren off to get breakfast and root beer, an idea that excited them as much as the thrill of wasting monsters. Once they'd gone, I hugged him tight. 'Thank you.'

Mrs O'Leary bounded up to join the group hug, which felt like getting a hug from Tyson—exuberant and rib-crushing. Chiron patted her, then pushed her away. 'Enough of that, dog. Yes, I'm glad to see you, too.'

Percy shook his hand. 'Chiron, thanks. Talk about saving the day.'

'I'm sorry it took so long.' He winced as he described the task of organising the Party Ponies to ride in.

I shook my head. As far as I was concerned, he'd turned up just in time. We hadn't even expected help to come through, what with Morpheus's enchantments. 'How'd you get through the magic defences around the city?'

'They slowed us down a bit, but I think they're intended mostly to keep mortals out,' Chiron said. 'Kronos doesn't want puny humans getting in the way of his great victory.'

'So maybe other reinforcements can get through,' Percy suggested. I didn't know who else he was hoping for. Did we even have more reinforcements on the outside? Besides the gods, of course, but they were all busy with Typhon. Chiron gave us a quick status update on that battle: last he'd heard, the storm giant had crossed the Appalachians, throwing down Dionysus and Hephaestus in the process. The other Olympians were still fighting.

It became clear why Kronos had waited all summer to launch his attack, despite his eagerness to kill Percy. He'd been biding his time, making sure his army was at full strength. He wasn't going to risk the slightest oversight thwarting his goal. And now he had Typhon, the worst monster of all, as his ultimate back-up ...

'He will arrive in New York by this time tomorrow,' Chiron predicted. 'Once he and Kronos combine forces—'

Percy's foot tapped nervously against the pavement. 'Then what chance do we have? We can't hold out another day.'

Thalia emerged from the lobby of the Empire State Building, covered in monster guts from head to toe. 'We'll have to,' she said. 'I'll see about some new traps around the perimeter.'

Chiron went off to help her. I sighed and began polishing off my knife blade.

Percy watched me for a few minutes. 'At least your mom is okay,' he said at last.

'If you call fighting Typhon okay.' My relief at Chiron's timely save was fading into dread for what the next day—well, tonight, to be precise—might bring. 'Percy, even with the centaurs' help, I'm starting to think—'

'I know,' he said. His eyes were a swirl of emotions that were hard to pick out. Apprehension, maybe, and ... was that regret? 'Listen, there were some ... some visions Hestia showed me.'

I remembered the strange way he'd acted after greeting Hestia on Mount Olympus, like he'd just woken from a trance. Shortly after that, he'd accused Hermes of abandoning Luke's mom. And when I'd told him about Luke coming to find me, for once, he hadn't condemned Luke. It was as if he'd finally seen things from Luke's perspective.

'You mean about Luke?' I guessed.

'Yeah.' He looked at my knife. 'You and Thalia and Luke. The first time you met. And the time you met Hermes.'

The scenes Luke had recorded in his diary played through my head. All I know is that this is my family, and I need to keep them safe. I won't be like my dad.

I closed my eyes, focusing on the feel of my dagger against my palm. Then I sheathed it and exhaled slowly. 'Luke promised he'd never let me get hurt. He said ... he said we'd be a new family, and it would turn out better than his.'

Percy's hand moved forward like he meant to touch my arm, but didn't quite dare. 'Thalia talked to me earlier. She's afraid—'

'That I can't face Luke,' I finished. This must have been what she hadn't wanted to say to me earlier.

'But there's something else you should know.' Percy's hand fell back to his side. 'Ethan Nakamura seemed to think Luke was still alive inside his body. Maybe even fighting Kronos for control.'

Hope fluttered in my chest, a bird spreading its wings to take flight. After so many months of Percy's insistence that Luke was Kronos, that my friend no longer existed, to hear proof that I might have been right all along ...

'I didn't want to tell you.'

I thought of the repeated arguments we'd had over this issue. How I'd hid Luke's visit from him. Why he'd hid this from me. I thought of him holding my hand when Will healed my shoulder and my fingers brushing over his Achilles spot, and it finally occurred to me why he might have been so furious all those times I'd defended Luke.

I wanted him to understand what I felt—why I wanted Luke back, but also why it shouldn't matter to Percy that I did.

I bit my lip and gazed up at the Empire State Building. It rose before us in its permanent, enduring glory. The cloud that was Mount Olympus shimmered faintly above its needle spire.

Hestia had once asked me why I wanted to be an architect. The truth was, it wasn't just buildings I wanted to create. I wanted to build a world that would never change—including the people in it.

Relationships are like architecture.

I looked back at Percy, at the unmarred perfection of his skin, courtesy of the curse of Achilles. At the faint grey streak running through his hair, testament of his loyalty to me.

I had to believe I could keep the people I loved from being taken away from me.

I swallowed hard. 'Percy, for so much of my life, I felt like everything was changing, all the time. I didn't have anyone I could rely on. I ran away when I was seven. Then with Luke and Thalia I thought I'd found a family, but it fell apart almost immediately.' I tucked my hair behind my ears. 'What I'm saying ... I hate it when people let me down, when things are temporary. I think that's why I want to be an architect.'

I held his gaze. His face was carefully neutral. Did he understand what I was trying to get at?

'To build something permanent. A monument to last a thousand years.'

I couldn't believe he remembered. I'd told him that years ago, after he'd seen the visions the Sirens had shown me in the Sea of Monsters. 'I guess that sounds like my fatal flaw again.'

'I guess I understand how you feel.' My heart leapt, but Percy continued, 'But Thalia's right. Luke has already betrayed you so many times.'

I resisted the urge to shake him. He was missing the point completely. I wasn't just trying to talk about Luke.

But Percy remained as obtuse as ever. 'He was evil even before Kronos. I don't want him to hurt you any more.'

It was such a mixed statement—concern and condemnation in the same breath. Evil. It was a word that left no room for argument. It eclipsed the complexity of Luke's struggles. If Hestia had shown Percy Luke's side of the story, if Percy had stood up to Hermes on Luke's behalf, how could he fail to see that Luke was a complete person, bad and good?

I pressed my lips tightly together. 'And you'll understand if I keep hoping there's a chance you're wrong.'

Percy glanced towards the medical station Will had set up across the street. A constant flow of the wounded kept tripping in. His face hardened into his brooding look, the one that always got him in trouble with adults who assumed he was plotting mischief. There was something darker about it now. When he turned his stare on me, it was like being put through a radioactive scanner.

'What?' I asked, unnerved.

He blinked, his expression clearing. 'Um ... nothing, I guess.'

Then without warning, he took off down Fifth Avenue.

'Percy! Where are you going?' My heart sped up. What had just gone through his mind? Did he mean to race off to challenge Luke by himself?

When he stopped next to a blue Prius with a bashed-in hood, I was almost relieved. Then I saw who was inside. I didn't recognise the driver until I saw his unconscious companion in the passenger seat.

'Your mom,' I whispered.

Percy shook the door handles. 'They—they must've seen those blue lights in the sky.' The car doors refused to budge. 'I need to get them out.'

'Percy.' I put my hand on his arm.

He hit the windshield. I don't know if he was actually trying to punch straight through it. Thankfully, it didn't shatter. 'I can't leave them here! I have to move them. I have to—'

My heart softened at his panic. Though he sounded like he was losing his mind, I understood this. He was terrified for his mom. This was the Percy I knew, the one to whom family meant everything.

'Percy, just—just hold on.' I spotted Chiron just around the corner and waved him over. 'We can push the car to a side street, all right? They're going to be fine.'

Even when Chiron reassured him that his family wouldn't be hurt by the Morpheus enchantment and we should focus on fighting the Titans, Percy wasn't convinced. He rubbed his hands distractedly over his face. It was obvious he couldn't think straight when his mom was in danger.

'I—' He stopped abruptly and pressed his hands to the backseat window. 'No way.'

I looked inside the car. Strapped into the back seat was a large ceramic vase the size of a small child, with zebra stripes of geometric patterns. Although Thalia hadn't described the pithos Prometheus had handed over, I knew instantly this had to be it. But ...

'That's impossible!' I said. 'I thought you left that at the Plaza.'

'Locked in a vault,' Percy said grimly.

Chiron stared at the pithos. 'That isn't—'

Percy nodded. 'Pandora's jar. Prometheus came to find us earlier.' He repeated what Thalia had told me, but in more detail. 'He ... showed me a bunch of visions. About—about how the gods failed their kids.' He didn't meet my eyes when he said this, and I guessed it was more stuff to do with Luke. 'He wanted me to surrender to Kronos. Obviously I didn't. That's why he left me the jar. He said to open it when I was ready to surrender. If I'd seen enough destruction.'

'Then the jar is yours,' Chiron surmised. 'It will follow you and tempt you to open it, no matter where you leave it. It will appear when you are weakest.'

I stared at the jar. When you are weakest. Was it the danger to his parents that crippled Percy? Or our previous conversation about Luke?

I don't want him to hurt you any more.

A sudden chill settled over me. My mind dredged up the dream I'd had the night after Percy returned from Operation Trojan Bomb: yet another interpretation my subconscious had dredged up of the Great Prophecy. Percy had chosen to take a fatal blow for me, the way I'd jumped in front of Nakamura's knife for him. Only in the dream, there had been no miraculous save.

It goes beyond personal loyalty, my mother had warned. What will he choose when his need to play the hero conflicts with the wisest course of action?

If he took a deadly hit for me now ... it'd be like sacrificing a queen for a pawn. Percy was the one with the power, with the invulnerability (aside from that one secret spot). Only he had a hope of defeating Kronos. In the defence of Olympus, I was expendable. Percy was not.

Percy nudged me aside and sliced a hole in the backseat window. 'We'll put the car in neutral, push them out of the way. And take that stupid jar to Olympus.'

Chiron handed the pithos to Thalia, who disappeared with it into the building. 'A good plan. But Percy ...'

The whirr of helicopter blades startled us. I scanned the skies. It wasn't hard to spot the source of the disturbance: a dark red chopper wobbled over the apartment blocks in the east and made its way unevenly towards us, pitching from side to side. Splashed across its side in bright green letters was a logo that sent an irrational spurt of irritation throbbing through my veins.

DE. I'd only seen it once before, monogrammed onto notebook paper, but the logo was scarred into my brain alongside the image of Rachel Dare lounging on Percy's couch.

But how was this possible? 'What is she doing here? How did she get through the barrier?' Why wasn't she asleep like the rest of Manhattan?

Chiron seemed mystified. 'Who? What mortal would be insane enough—'

Insane was right. Two blocks from us, the helicopter did a sudden forward roll, plunging towards the roofs of the towers.

Chiron clucked his tongue. 'The Morpheus enchantment! The foolish mortal pilot is asleep.'

I glared at Percy, waiting for him to make a call, but he seemed crippled with indecision, just like with his parents. Anger resurged through me. What had possessed Rachel Dare to come charging in? Now we had to figure out how to help her. As if we had time or energy to spare. Percy was already losing his mind over his parents.

The helicopter fell faster. We didn't have much time. I knew what Percy would have done if he hadn't been so stricken with worry. (Over Rachel. A knife twisted sharply in my stomach.) I put my fingers in my mouth and whistled. A second later, the pegasus Guido landed in front of us.

'Come on, Percy,' I said, trying to hide the ire in my voice. 'We have to save your friend.'



Chapter 29
Tags: the final sacrifice
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