shiiki (shiiki) wrote in shiikifics,

FIC: The Final Sacrifice, chpt 29

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 150K+ (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: I Make An Emergency Landing
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson, Rachel Dare, Chiron, Thalia Grace, Jake Mason, Will Solace, OC
Word Count: 3,665

Chapter Summary: Annabeth pulls Rachel out of a bad situation.

Notes: This chapter refers a bit to the plot of Necklace of Harmonia. It's not absolutely necessary to have read that story to follow this story on the whole, but parts of this chapter may be confusing if you haven't read that fic.

The stories of Izzy's family (i.e., the premise of Antigone) is factually accurate as to the deaths of her brothers and sister, but I've taken some liberty in spinning out the adventures of Ismene, and the reasoning behind her sister Antigone's imprisonment.

I'd like to say a big thank you to Hello for our discussions (way back!) on the nature of immortality and how that affects the gods' outlook. It contributed strongly to the reasoning behind how the curse of Achilles works, and why the anchor is so important.

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It was Percy's turn to ride behind me, clinging to my waist. When we neared the helicopter, we could hear Rachel screaming at the top of her lungs, a high, terrified sound that was marginally more annoying than her regular voice.

Getting to her was tricky. Every time Guido tried to fly us closer, the helicopter lurched, turning its spinning blades towards us, and we had to abort, fast. One time the blades came so close, if I hadn't forced us down, our heads would have gone plummeting to earth without the rest of us.

'Ideas?' Percy asked hopelessly.

I guess it wouldn't do any good to ask Rachel to open the door and jump. Besides the fact that she probably wouldn't even hear us over her desperate screeching, there was the mortal pilot to consider. We couldn't leave him to plunge to his own death. Which left only one option.

'You're going to have to take Guido and get out.'

His arm tightened around me. 'What are you going to do?'

I focused on the helicopter. I'd never flown one before, but it couldn't be that different from a Camel. Plus, the theory section on my student pilot test had included a small bit on other aviation craft. And I'd read all of Daedalus's notes on flying machines. The physics of flight couldn't change that much.

I detached myself from Percy and urged Guido into a dive. 'Duck!'

Percy ducked. I sprang off Guido's back. My fingers closed around the side rail just under the helicopter's door. I'd intended for Guido to swoop beneath the chopper, but I'd miscalculated its rate of descent. Guido's wing hit the side of the helicopter and he veered off course. I hoped it hadn't done any damage.

'Hang in there!' Percy shouted, sounding terrified. I couldn't see him. I had to focus on pulling myself up into the helicopter.

Rachel had finally stopped screaming. She flung open the helicopter door and grabbed my hand. For a non-athletic mortal, she had a pretty strong grip. With her help, I heaved myself into the cockpit.

'Are you crazy?' we yelled at the same time.

I shoved her away and pushed the sleeping pilot out of his seat. The helicopter's controls weren't completely different from a plane's, thank the gods. There was no yoke, but the pedals for directional control were in the same place, and so was the central joystick. Unfortunately, neither of these seemed responsible for generating lift from the blades. We nearly slammed into the university building on East Thirty-fourth before I found the lever on the left side of the seat. The pilot had fallen on it when he passed out, sending the chopper into an uncontrolled descent. I yanked it back into position and urged us back into a hover.

'Oh my god,' Rachel said. 'That was the craziest thing ever.'

For the first time, I noticed how she was dressed. A loose t-shirt hung over her artfully distressed shorts, paired with designer sandals. It was similar to the outfit she'd worn to the beach with Percy. What did she think this was, some fun holiday excursion?

'Crazy is flying a helicopter straight into a warzone,' I said waspishly.

Rachel pursed her lips and made no further comment while I landed the helicopter on Fifth Avenue. Percy ran up to us as soon as I cut the engine. He helped Rachel pull her sleeping pilot onto the sidewalk, but then he returned to me, looking impressed. That made me feel slightly better.

'I didn't know you could fly a helicopter.'

'Neither did I,' I admitted. I explained how I'd managed to guess at the controls.

'You saved my life,' Rachel said in a small voice.

My bad shoulder twitched in annoyance. 'Yeah, well ... Let's not make a habit of it.' Pulling myself into a helicopter from mid-air hadn't done my knife wound any favours, but I refused to let on how much it hurt. 'What are you doing here, Dare? Don't you know better than to fly into a warzone?'

'I—I had to be here.' Rachel looked at Percy, as though hoping he'd back her up. 'I knew Percy was in trouble.'

Like it was her job to look after Percy. My fingers itched to strangle her with her jaunty red ponytail. What difference did she think she could make in a demigod war?

Or maybe ... maybe it did make a difference to Percy. He looked calmer now that she was safely on the ground. His consternation over Pandora's pithos and Prometheus's offer had faded.

Either way, here was one more person Percy could potentially play the hero for.

'Got that right,' I muttered. To my horror, angry tears were pricking at my eyes. Quickly, I made up some excuse and stalked off towards the Empire State Building. I heard Percy calling after me, but I didn't turn.

He didn't follow me.

Chiron and the campers were pushing cars out of the main road when I stormed up.

'What are you doing?' I snapped. 'Those could make a defensive barrier!'

'But—the mortals inside ...' Jake stammered.

I looked through the windshield. The peaceful faces of Percy's mom and stepdad made me backtrack. 'Oh. Um. Yeah, carry on.'

Chiron guided me away. 'We're taking care of them. Are you okay, Annabeth?'

I gritted my teeth. 'I'm fine. So's Percy and his friend, if you were wondering.'

Chiron sighed. 'I will go talk to them.' He glanced at my shoulder. 'You should get that looked at.'

My blood was still boiling when I walked up to the entrance of the Empire State Building. Injured campers milled around in the streets. What sort of idiots were they? We had a building right there that we would defend.

'Can't you guys move operations indoors?' I barked.

Will looked taken aback. 'We're about to. We just haven't had time—'

'And what's the status on our defences? Do we have scouts on the perimeter? Did someone schedule rotations for watches? Has—'

'Annabeth.' Thalia put a hand on my right shoulder, then winced and changed shoulders when I flinched. 'Sorry. We've got it under control. You need to calm down.'


'Come on. We're setting things up inside the lobby. You should let Will check your shoulder.'

Under Thalia's gentle reassurance, my anger fizzled out. I let her guide me into the building. Just as Will had said, the Apollo kids were slowly moving their med bay inside. The Hunters had set up neat rows of bunks along the lobby walls. They were silver, triple-decked beds with deer-patterned sheets tucked into hospital corners. Half of them were already occupied by exhausted warriors.

Will came over with a bottle of nectar and a stack of bandages. 'Let's take a look at that shoulder.'

'So what happened out there?' Thalia asked as Will prodded at my shoulder. 'Something about a rogue helicopter?'

'Someone flew in. A—a friend of Percy's.' How did I even begin to explain Rachel?

'She came to help?'

'I don't know. Percy's talking to her now. I guess we'll find out.'

Will cleared his throat. 'Good news, Annabeth—you haven't re-opened the wound. But there's a really bad sprain in the surrounding ligaments. You've got to stop over-working it.'

'Yeah, well, if monsters would kindly stop attacking.'

Will smiled faintly. 'Try and rest for now, okay?'

I sat cross-legged next to Thalia on one of the bunks. Despite the activity around us, the lobby seemed way too empty.

'Is this all of us?' I asked. There were maybe thirty kids still in fighting shape. Plus however many satyrs Grover still had. And five hundred temperamental Party Ponies. I had no idea how many fighters the Titans still had in reserve.

'I have Hunters looking for anyone who's not accounted for,' Thalia said. 'I hope they're just missing. But ...' She couldn't finish the sentence. I thought of Michael, lost on the Williamsburg Bridge, and Celia, bludgeoned by the Laistrygonians. A lump came into my throat.

Did Luke realise what was happening? Was he despairing as Kronos marshalled the Titans' forces through his body? Percy had said he seemed to be fighting back. Did that mean he regretted what had happened?

'Thalia,' I said, 'do you remember when we went to Luke's home?'

Thalia picked at the edge of the deer-patterned sheet. 'Percy told you about Prometheus?'

'Sort of. But I remember ... well, after we left, Luke was so determined to take care of us. Do you think we could still reach him?'

She was silent for such a long time, I wondered if she'd fallen asleep. Finally, she said, very softly, 'Annabeth, I don't know how well you remember this, but we ran into a lot of monsters after we left Connecticut. And half of them—well, we could have avoided them easily, but Luke insisted on fighting them.'

'To keep us safe.'

Thalia shook her head. 'Because he needed something to fight.' She twisted the corner of the sheet around her finger. 'I've thought a lot about this, Annabeth. I kept wondering how he could have done what he did. And I realised—he cared more about being angry at Hermes than anything else. I think if he'd actually stopped to think things through instead of charging off after every monster he could stick his sword in, he'd have realised his dad did care about him. But he never wanted to believe that. It was his way or no way. And if he's taken on the curse of Achilles, like you said ... well, I've learnt a bit since becoming a Hunter about how these things work.'

'What, you guys have to bathe in enchanted rivers, too?'

Thalia's smile didn't quite reach her eyes. 'Do you know why we remain mortal in combat?'

'Because it's incentive to fight better?'

'Because it's virtually impossible to build a community of immortals. Total immortality strips away your connection to people. It's why the gods never stay with just one person. They don't have a concept of personal loyalty to ground them—especially when mortals are so different.'

'But our parents—'

Thalia pre-empted my question. 'It doesn't mean they don't care. But stuff like love and loss ... at least the way we feel it ... those things matter more when your life can end. So bathing in the River Styx, becoming invincible ... well, I don't know for sure, but I think it's like trying to make yourself immortal. You practically have to give up your soul—the part that cares about anything at all.'

I thought of something Hestia had told me earlier this summer: Without that anchor, it is too easy to lose sight of who we are, to be cast adrift.

'Is that why there's an Achilles spot? To anchor them to mortality?'

Thalia looked stunned. 'I—I hadn't thought about that.'

'What do you think Luke's anchor was?'

Thalia flinched. 'I don't know.' There was a queer catch in her voice.

'Do you think ...' I turned over the first bead on my camp necklace, the one with Thalia's pine tree. Kronos must have targeted her at the start of summer because he thought she was his Achilles heel. 'Could it be you?'

Thalia's face was expressionless. She inhaled slowly, then let her breath out in one long whoosh. 'I hope not. Because if it was ... then it's too late for him.'

She got up and went to join the Hunters on their side of the lobby. Izzy was among them. She looked over and gave me a small wave.

I lay down and fell into a thin sleep.

In my dreams, I sank through pitch-black waters. I tried to hold my breath, but my lungs were ready to burst. Tangled around my arms and legs were thin threads that dragged me into the deep, like a spider reeling in its prey.

Help, I thought, struggling to free myself.

You need an anchor. Hestia's voice drifted to me through the rippling water. Look down.

It was the wrong direction. I needed to go up to the surface! Surely I'd drown if I sank any deeper. But when I looked, I saw a faint light below me, like sun on a far-off surface.

The silky threads around my limbs glowed. Their loose ends shone blue and green, like light sticks in the dark water. As soon as I stopped resisting them, a bubble of air formed around my head, allowing me to breathe again. The strings re-oriented me, turning me towards the real surface of the pool.

Bright patches appeared in the water as I drifted along, showing moving pictures like in my video shield. There was my mother, dressed in full combat armour, running on the wind towards Typhon. There was Rachel Dare in her beach shorts, riding on Chiron's back, her green eyes extraordinarily bright. Her face flickered, and for a moment she seemed to be someone else, a woman with sad eyes. There was Luke, pacing an open-air plaza under a line of international flags, swinging Backbiter—was it sword or scythe?—and cursing, 'I will slice Percy Jackson into a thousand pieces!'

And there was Percy, laughing on the Williamsburg Bridge as he drove back the enemy, the expression on his face a mirror image of Luke's.

Ten feet from the surface, I stopped drifting upwards. My anchor lines tugged me in two different directions. The blue line looped over my shoulders and pulled me left. The green line hooked around my waist and pulled me right.

Janus's faces hovered just above me. Choose, Annabeth. Which will you anchor?

I looked up and saw the problem. Each of my lines connected to a different man on either side of my bottomless pool. They were staring at each other with expressions of loathing so intense, they radiated dark energy across the water's surface.

Luke and Percy glowered at each other, then peered down at me. When I turned to Luke, the surface of the pool magnified his face, streaked with tears and contorted with pain. I saw him carrying me across Half-Blood Hill, stumbling away from the tree that was Thalia. He looked down and whispered, 'You still have me. I'm your family. Promise. I won't let anything happen to you.'

On Percy's side, the image wavered and became his face, peering at me from a dark zoo transport lorry. His arms were wrapped around his knees as he cocked his head to one side and said, 'We're a team, remember?'

I heard my own voice say, 'I don't know what my mom will do. I just know I'll fight next to you.'


'Because you're my friend, Seaweed Brain.'

His face split into a hopeful grin. 'And we always help each other.'

The threads tore relentlessly at me, intensifying the simultaneous, bidirectional pull towards both Percy and Luke. My bad shoulder screamed from the pressure. It was slowly ripping me apart.

The bubble of air protecting me vanished. Water swirled into my mouth and nose, filling my lungs. I had to make a choice. Either string could pull me to safety ... but only if I cut the other.

I found my dagger. Cut the string.

But which one?

They were glowing so brightly now, I could no longer tell which was which. I swung out ...


My dagger connected with the mattress of my bunk bed. Down feathers exploded out of it, covering me and the girl standing by my side.

Izzy brushed feathers from her hair and gently extracted my dagger from my hand. 'You probably shouldn't sleep holding a knife.'

I sat up and rubbed my eyes. 'I didn't exactly plan it.'

Izzy turned the dagger over in her hands, examining it. 'I never got a good look at this.'

'Well, I didn't exactly flaunt it at St Catherine's,' I said.

She smiled. 'And I was more worried about that necklace you picked up. I heard you destroyed it in the end.'

'Yeah.' I thought of the junkyard in Arizona where I'd eliminated both the Necklace of Harmonia and its evil fox-spirit bearer. Hephaestus had agreed to remove the curse, but he'd warned me that curses didn't just reside in objects. They grew from the actions of their owners.

'I talked to Iphigenia,' Izzy said. 'I never realised—well, when I sacrificed my dagger to Athena, I didn't think about how she might repurpose it. And I'm not absolutely certain—it was such a long time ago—but it does seem to be the same one.' She held the hilt up to the light. The etchings were faint and worn from regular use, but she seemed to recognise their patterns. 'It makes sense. I did wonder how you managed to overcome the necklace's curse.'

My eyes widened. 'Iphigenia said the dagger protects its owner.' Last year, my mother had observed that I'd had some mysterious protection against the curse of Harmonia. Kitsune, the evil fox spirit, had hinted that this protection had somehow come from Luke. I'd never figured out how any of this was possible, but now it made sense.

My chest tightened. I'd hoped that Luke had been looking out for me, maybe even interfering with Kronos's plans all along. But if it had simply been because he'd given me my dagger long ago, never knowing that its protection would extend so far ...

'I'd still be careful.' Izzy handed the dagger back to me. 'Magic objects—well, they're not that different from curses. They get their power from what people do with them.'

'You made a sacrifice to save your family,' I said. 'And Achilles saved Iphigenia—well, the first one—from becoming a sacrifice.'

Izzy got a faraway look in her eyes. 'Like I said, curses, protections—they're dangerous things to mess with. They rely on oaths, and ... well, it can get really messy if those are broken.'

I turned this over in my head. 'Izzy, what happened to your family?'

Her expression turned soft and sad. 'They all died. My parents—well, you know that story, don't you?'

I nodded. The tragedy of Oedipus and Jocasta was one of those famous tales meant to warn people that you could never thwart prophecy.

'The necklace incited my brothers to war over the kingdom. They killed each other in battle. Then my sister went crazy from the visions the necklace showed her. We had to shut her up for her own safety, while I went on pilgrimage to Delphi to break the curse. I succeed, but it was too late. When I returned, she'd already killed herself. But I don't regret my sacrifice.' She patted my hand. 'It kept other families safe. And I found a new family with the Hunters.'

She smiled fondly at the Hunters across the room. 'We always find the people we're meant to be with. And when we do, we have to stick with them. I wish you'd joined us, but I guess ... well, I can't say I approve, but I know why you chose not to.' She glanced a few beds down. Percy must have come in when I was sleeping, because he was currently crashed on the bottom bunk, still dressed in full armour. Rachel was nowhere to be seen.

'He—he's my friend,' I said stupidly.

Izzy rolled her eyes. 'Well, I suppose I can't argue with standing by your friends.'

I sheathed my dagger and looked around the lobby. I had no clue how long I'd been out. Time was starting to lose meaning. Whether this was thanks to the Lord of Time's machinations or simply the fog of battle, I couldn't say. How long had we been fighting? A day? Two? The more pertinent, ominous question was: how long could we continue to fight?

Our command station was set up near the guard desk. The bored doorman that usually manned it was gone. Either he was asleep with the other mortals, or, if he was actually an immortal as I'd often suspected, he'd fled up to Olympus to hide. Our city maps lay on his desk's polished marble surface, next to his perpetually present book. I laid my bronze shield over them and brought up the scrolling images of the city perimeter. They weren't comforting. Monsters had taken over Midtown completely. Hellhounds slobbered over the tiles in Grand Central Station. Laistrygonians ripped into the wax figurines at Madame Tussauds. Luke himself was pacing the top of UN Headquarters, swinging his scythe erratically at the line of flagpoles.

Our forces were only enough to man a two-block radius around the Empire State Building. We'd lost half our fighters. I counted roughly thirty-five campers, satyrs, and Hunters still in fighting shape. Out of these, even fewer were fully alert. Our five hundred Party Ponies had already lost interest in guarding the empty streets. Katie Gardner reported that they'd wandered off to raid the Korean BBQs on Thirty-second Street. I had no idea where Chiron was.

'Perfect,' Thalia muttered in disgust. She immediately ordered Hunters out to cover their abandoned posts.

Jake Mason was taking inventory of our weaponry. 'We're out of Greek fire.'

'And low on arrows,' Thalia added. 'I sent scouts to scavenge some, but I'm seriously running out of womanpower.'

I rubbed my fingers against my temples. 'Okay—the centaurs. They must have arrows. And those BBQ restaurants, they've got skewers and gas stoves and stuff. Can we set some traps there?'

The Stoll brothers exchanged a contemplative look. 'We're on it,' Travis said.

The elevator doors dinged open. Will stumbled out, looking exhausted. 'We've got everyone who's out of commission up to Olympus,' he said. 'It seemed safer.'

'Good,' I said, flexing my shoulder. 'You should—'

A roar thundered through the air. The walls of the building vibrated.

It looked like our recess was up.

Chapter 30
Tags: the final sacrifice
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