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FIC: The Final Sacrifice, chpt 30

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: A Game Of Dress-Up Goes Horribly Wrong
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson, Rachel Dare, Grover Underwood, Silena Beauregard, Clarisse La Rue
Word Count: 4,119

Chapter Summary: The spy of Camp Half-Blood is revealed, along with the extent of Luke's treachery.

Notes: I know the text in canon implies that 30 Ares warriors showed up to fight. However, I find the maths on that utterly implausible, because that would mean Ares had 30 campers compared to 40 across the rest of the camp—while at the same time, Hermes is still the overcrowded cabin. My best fix was to include some warriors Clarisse has historically called on to supplement the numbers.

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We formed ranks a block away from the Empire State Building. It took a while to drag the Party Ponies away from the delights of root beer and Korean BBQ, but Drew Tanaka finally managed it by promising them cool new glitter arrows from the Fashion District once everything was over. She must have had some Charmspeak in her words, because I was actually convinced for a second that this was the best bribe ever. Her persuasive trick made me wonder how Silena was getting on in her quest to lift Clarisse out of her stubborn funk.

Chiron finally showed up with Rachel on his back. They looked like they'd been having a disconcertingly serious conversation. Could Chiron actually have found what she—a mortal—had to say worthwhile? Sure, she'd been useful in the Labyrinth, but this was completely different. It wasn't like her uncanny ability to see weird glowing arrows in the maze would help us strategise against a massive army that, by the sound of it, had acquired a fearsome new beast.

Yet Chiron acted like she'd given him information that could turn the tide of this battle.

'Just something I saw in my head,' Rachel hedged, acting all modest.

The beast gave another tremendous roar. Its echo blended into the thunderous footsteps of a thousand monsters pounding the pavements.

Chiron raised his eyes to the eastern skies. 'A drakon. A Lydian drakon, to be exact. The oldest and most dangerous kind.'

'How did you know that?' Percy asked Rachel.

'I'm not sure, but ...' Rachel wet her lips nervously. 'This drakon has a particular fate. It will be killed by a child of Ares.'

'How can you possibly know that?' I demanded.

'I just saw it,' she said. 'I can't explain.' She'd sounded like this in the Labyrinth, too. It had been the most annoying thing ever, her assertion that she could see the way, inexplicably but certainly.

Percy ran his hand over the top of his helmet. 'Well, I hope you're wrong. Because we're a little short on children of Ares now—' He broke off and started cursing.

I put my hand on his arm. 'What?'

'The spy,' he said tightly. 'Kronos said, "We know they cannot beat this drakon."'

I wasn't sure what he was talking about, but I guess he must have had some dream or other. This deep in battle, I couldn't be the only one dealing with nightmares.

'The spy has been keeping him updated,' Percy said. 'Kronos knows the Ares cabin isn't with us. He intentionally picked a monster we can't kill.'

Thalia pounded her fist against her palm. 'If I ever catch your spy, he's going to be very sorry.' She closed her eyes. It looked like she was mentally running through how many Hunters she had left. 'Maybe we could send another messenger to camp—'

Chiron cut in. 'I've already done that. Blackjack is on his way.' He seemed dubious that the pegasus would succeed, and I had to agree. Silena had already been gone for over a day. Assuming she'd made the trip, if she hadn't managed to persuade Clarisse to change her mind, it was unlikely that anyone, mortal or animal, would.

The drakon's roar came again. Windows rattled. Cracks appeared in the sidewalk. A line of Laistrygonians appeared at the top of Fifth Avenue.

'Rachel.' With a strained look, Percy ordered her into the Empire State Building.

Rachel started to protest. I had a sudden flashback to the arena trap we'd run into in the Labyrinth. Percy had promised Rachel first that he'd get her out alive then.

A stupid thing to think about when an army with a drakon was descending on us, but my eyes stung at the memory nonetheless.

Rachel gulped at the sight of the drakon, perched on the side of an apartment block like a meaner, uglier King Kong. She stopped arguing with Percy and disappeared into the building.

'I'll take the drakon,' Percy announced. 'Everyone else, hold the line against the army!'

I pulled my helmet firmly over my head and readied my dagger. If he thought he was going to take on that thing alone ...

Percy looked at me, but to my surprise, it wasn't to insist I stay back as well. He looked almost like the vision of him in my dream, innocently asking why I would fight with him when my mother was against it. 'Will you help me?'

You're my friend, Seaweed Brain. My voice caught on my reply. 'That's what I do. I help my friends.'

He studied me. 'Go invisible,' he decided. 'Look for weak links in its armour while I keep it busy. Just be careful.'

There was no time for further discussion. The army was upon us. Their opening volley scattered our front line of Party Ponies like dominoes. The campers and Hunters charged forwards as one. I saw Thalia and Chiron at their head, shooting arrows with the speed of bullets, before they disappeared into the fray.

Meanwhile Percy and I had bigger problems. One gargantuan problem, to be exact. The drakon slithered down the Demarest Building, so long that it spanned nearly half the skyscraper. I had no idea how it had even gotten up there, as it didn't seem to have any wings. The gleaming copper scales that covered every inch of its sickly yellow body looked frustratingly impervious to attack. When it opened its mouth, it displayed gleaming rows of teeth the size of broadswords and every bit as sharp. Glass from the building's windows showered down on us when it roared.

I donned my cap and scaled the wall opposite the drakon's, looking for a good angle to leap. Percy engaged it straight on, along with Mrs O'Leary, who knocked it off the side of the building. Its head was at least three storeys above us, but when its tongue darted out, it easily plucked three Party Ponies out of their line-up. The remaining centaurs fled, screaming in terror.

I never thought I'd see the creature that could make a hellhound look like a cuddly kitten. Mrs O'Leary was little more than a particularly resistant ink splotch on the serpent's massive body. Her claws scrabbled uselessly against its bronze scales.

Percy yelled and plunged Riptide into the drakon's globe-sized eyes. Wisely, he'd gone for the only weak spot. A thick, radioactive-looking slime oozed from the socket.

The drakon reared, more from annoyance than actual pain. Its head slammed a crater in the sidewalk. Percy hit the ground and rolled, dodging its cavernous teeth by inches. The strike brought its thrashing body right under my window. With a war cry, I leapt onto its back.

The drakon probably couldn't even sense my weight, but it was bucking like a bronco trying to dislodge Mrs O'Leary. I struggled for a grip on its slippery scales. Finally, I found a chink and drove my dagger into it.

The jerk as the drakon twisted from the stab jarred my bad shoulder again. My cap flew off. I switched arms and ripped my dagger out, searching for another weak chink, but my bad arm had gone numb. I lost my grip and fell, landing with a thud next to my cap.

The drakon's tail thudded on the sidewalk. Hands grabbed me and yanked me aside, saving me from becoming a pavement pancake.

'Thanks!' I gasped.

'I told you to be careful!' Percy scolded.

'Yeah, well—' The serpent was coming in for another strike. 'DUCK!'

I didn't wait for him to listen. I threw myself on him and pushed him to the ground. Teeth clanged inches above our heads.

He wrapped his arms around me and rolled us across the sidewalk. I sat up, dizzy.

The drakon flung Mrs O'Leary off at last. Its body made a tight, dangerous coil, its head rearing back like a cobra ready to spit. One of its eyes was a black hole where Riptide had pierced it. The other gleamed with malice. Percy and I exchanged a desperate look. Despite our best efforts, we were merely a distraction to the serpent.

And the fight had taken us a full block south of the Empire State Building. Through a gap in the invading army, we could see our friends backed up to the doors on Fifth Avenue. The monsters swarmed into the street between us.

I tugged on Percy's arm. 'We need to get back. Before we're cut off.'

With another helpless look at the rearing drakon, he nodded. He took my hand and we ran for the gap in the battle lines.

Then from behind us, a very different roar rumbled through the air: the rattling of axles as chariot wheels thundered down the carriageway.

'No ...' Percy rubbed his ears like he couldn't believe what they were hearing.

'YES!' I pumped our joint fists in the air. 'She did it! Silena did it!'

'ARES!' The red banner of cabin five fluttered from a dozen war chariots, each packed with armoured warriors. Half of them were demigods from the Ares cabin; the others were skeletal soldiers with glowing eyes—Clarisse's undead battalion.

They charged straight at us with their lances extended. Clarisse's electric spear crackled in her left hand. The drakon turned to face them. For the first time, its single yellow eye actually held a glimmer of fear.

This drakon has a particular fate. It is destined to be destroyed by ...

'The children of Ares,' I gasped. Just like it had been prophesied. But—'How did Rachel know?'

Say what you like about the Ares campers, they were ferocious in battle. Half the chariots ploughed through the dracaenae and telkhines like they were skittles. The other six tackled the drakon. Javelins flew at its open mouth, piercing the roof of its jaw. Campers leapt out of their capsizing chariots and thrust their spears at its body, searching for the same chinks I'd found with my dagger.

'We have to help!' I yelled.

Percy and I ran back to join the fight. With the drakon distracted by Ares's renewed assault, we were able to swing ourselves onto its back. We clambered along its scales towards its head. The drakon let out a hideous spray of poison that made a boiling, foul-smelling cloud in the air. When it cleared, Clarisse stood right in its face, clutching her electric spear with both hands. Her whole body was shaking with unsuppressed rage ...

... or was it fear?

'You can do it!' Percy hollered. 'A child of Ares is destined to kill it!'

Clarisse hesitated. She seemed uncharacteristically stunned by the ferocity of the drakon. She drew herself up as though gathering her courage.

I had never, ever, seen Clarisse needing to draw on her courage.

She shifted her spear into her left hand.

I inhaled sharply. Something was about to go deadly wrong, I just knew it. Clarisse's terror, her hesitation, the way she favoured her non-dominant hand ...

'No,' I whispered.

'Wait!' Percy had sensed it, too.

But it was too late. Clarisse—or whoever she was (and I had a sinking suspicion)—charged.

A jet of poison blew from the drakon's nostrils and met her head-on.

'Clarisse!' I leapt to the ground, running to get between her and the drakon.

Percy somersaulted through the air but stuck his landing. 'C'mon, you stupid worm!' he bellowed, waving Riptide like a bronze beacon. The drakon rounded on him.

Clarisse's helmet was practically melted to her head. As we worked to get it off, a golden chariot circled over our heads, pulled by Blackjack the pegasus. One of its passengers hopped out even before the wheels hit the ground.

'NO! Curse you, why?'

It was Clarisse—the real Clarisse, still in her camp t-shirt and jeans. She pushed through her siblings to kneel beside her imposter. I had never heard her this stricken, even when Chris had been wasting away in the basement after his sojourn in the Labyrinth.

Clarisse gathered up the fallen warrior in her arms while Sherman Yang and Ellis Wakefield levered off her helmet with a spear and lance. I felt like the poison sizzling from the surface of the metal was seeping into my skin. Even before we got the helmet off, I knew who had led Ares to our rescue.

Clarisse obviously knew who it was, too. Her tears splattered the girl's stolen armour. 'Why?'

Chris landed the flying chariot and ran over to us, waving his arms. 'Look out!'

The drakon had lost interest in Percy. It lurched towards us, fangs gleaming with blood and poison.

'YOU WANT DEATH?' Clarisse got to her feet. Her face was twisted into the ugliest expression I'd ever seen her wear. 'WELL, COME ON!'

She snatched up her electric spear and leapt into battle. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Percy sprinting over, ready to help, but before he could get to us, Clarisse took a flying leap onto the drakon's head and jammed her spear into its bulbous eye. The shaft exploded like a Greek fire bomb, flinging bolts of electricity in all directions. A lightning storm raged across the drakon's body. Its head sizzled and blackened. The rest of it charred from the inside out, like an eel in a hotpot. Clarisse somersaulted back onto the sidewalk, still screaming in fury.

The drakon collapsed into an ashy shell of bronze scales. The smell of burning rubber filled the air. Clarisse paused, balanced on one knee, breathing heavily. Electricity crackled around her, giving her an otherworldly glow.

Then she turned and ran back to us. I unhooked the helmet of the imposter to reveal ... Silena.

Her beautiful face was blistered from the poison. Only her eyes, full of sadness and regret, remained untouched.

Clarisse knelt and pulled Silena's head onto her lap. 'What were you thinking?'

Silena's voice was a hoarse whisper. 'Wouldn't ... listen. Cabin would ... only follow you.'

'So you stole my armour. You waited until Chris and I went out on patrol, you stole my armour and pretended to be me.' Her voice rose in outrage. She rounded on Sherman and Ellis. 'And none of you noticed?'

The Ares kids shifted their weight nervously.

Silena lifted her trembling left hand. 'Don't blame them. They wanted to ... to believe I was you.'

'You stupid Aphrodite girl! You charged a drakon! Why?'

Tears ran down Silena's ruined face. 'All my fault ... the drakon, Charlie's death ... camp endangered—'

A chorus of voices rose in protest, but died when Silena opened her palm. The silver bracelet Percy had described in our war council after Beckendorf's death lay there, with its unmistakable scythe charm.

It seemed so obvious now. So many little things I couldn't believe I hadn't seen. Her sudden interest in camp defences last year. The mix-up with the gold flakes. The way she'd kept blaming herself for stuff that should have had nothing to do with her. Her certainty that she could get past enemy lines to reach camp.

'You were the spy,' Percy said.

Silena drew in a ragged breath. 'Before—before I liked Charlie, Luke was nice to me.' Her tears fell faster as she tried to explain how he had charmed her. Coerced her to keep helping the Titans, even when she wanted out. 'He promised ... he promised I was saving lives. Fewer people would get hurt.' He'd even assured her Beckendorf would be safe. All lies.

My world tilted on its axis. I barely noticed as Clarisse sent her siblings off to carry on the fight. The battle at the doors of Olympus seemed a million miles away.

Tell them it will save more lives. Luke's voice, breaking through Kronos's façade, but intended to dupe the spy at camp. He'd dated Silena before he'd skipped camp. Made her promises and broken them before he'd fallen under Kronos's control. He'd toyed with her from the beginning ...

I don't care if I betray anyone else.

A cold clamp closed over my heart.

Silena exhaled with a sob. 'Forgive me.'

Clarisse shook her. 'You're not dying!'

But the light was fading from Silena's beautiful eyes. 'Charlie ... see Charlie ...'

Slowly, the world came back into focus: Silena, lying heartbreakingly still. Clarisse, shaking with grief and fury. Percy, looking like he'd just been stabbed in the gut.

The battle raging just a block away.

I slid Silena's lifeless eyes shut. 'We have to fight. She gave her life to help us. We have to honour her.'

Clarisse ran her sleeve over her face. 'She was a hero, understand? A hero.'

No one argued. I couldn't blame Silena even if she had betrayed us. In the end ... in the end, she had done everything she could to put things right. And she'd paid the ultimate price.

Clarisse dove into battle. Her rage transformed her completely. The brightness that had surrounded her when she slew the drakon continued to glow with a red tinge around the edges. She shone like she was a goddess herself, as if she, too, had jumped in the Styx. She dragged the dead drakon behind her chariot like a gruesome mascot, screaming as she cut through enemy lines, destroying everything in her path.

Even after the enemy retreated, she kept going. She continued to circle the block with her drakon carcass, bellowing a challenge to Kronos at the top of her lungs.

I stumbled back into the Empire State Building with Percy. My mind was a fog bank. Driving the enemy back from Olympus had given me a momentary purpose, but now that we were at an impasse again, my energy was crumbling into hollow emptiness. I understood Clarisse's need to keep charging down the absent enemy. In the quiet, my mind returned to Silena and how she'd died, tortured by the role she'd been forced to play.

The role Luke had forced her to play.

I wandered numbly around the wounded. Will Solace was riding up and down the elevator, ferrying the severely injured to Olympus, while his remaining siblings patched up those who could still return to the fight.

And then there were those who were too far gone. I watched Phoebe the Hunter kiss the forehead of a fallen comrade ... Austin Lake sing a tearful final blessing to a Demeter boy ... Kayla Knowles draw a shroud over another friend ...

Someone had brought Silena's body inside. It lay under a bright pink shroud—her favourite colour.

The lobby dissolved into a mist of tears. There was too much death. We'd been losing people left and right for two days, but it was only truly sinking in now.

Percy came up behind me and offered me his hand. I shook my head. I couldn't take it.

Silena's broken voice looped in my head: He promised I was saving lives.

Percy had tried to warn me: Luke was evil even before Kronos took over.

There's a point and you can't come back after it, Thalia had said.

Were they right? Was I a fool to believe otherwise? Had Luke completely lost sight of his anchors and thrown mortal decency to the wind?

We passed Grover, holding the hand of the old satyr Leneus as he reincarnated into a laurel plant.

'I should plant him,' Grover said, scooping up the new shoot, soil and all. 'In Olympus, in the gardens.'

'We're going that way,' Percy told him. 'Come on.'

We entered the elevator in silence. My heart seemed to stay on the ground floor when it rose. The numbers blinked by. Their flashing red lights drilled a relentless beat into my head. Luke, Luke, Luke, they seemed to chant. You were wrong about him.

I still didn't want to believe it.

I could feel Percy's eyes on me, like an accusation.

My voice came out in a bitter whisper: 'Percy, you were right about Luke.'

'Annabeth, I—'

'You tried to tell me,' I admitted. 'Luke is no good. I didn't believe you until—until I heard how he'd used Silena. Now I know.' My voice broke on a bitter coda. 'I hope you're happy.'

'That doesn't make me happy,' he said quietly.

I couldn't look at him. There wasn't anything he could possibly say or do to make this better.

Grover's voice cut through the tension. 'Well ... sure good to be together again. Arguing. Almost dying. Abject terror. Oh, look, it's our floor.'

We stepped onto the sky bridge to Olympus. The streets were completely deserted now. Will had taken over the park at the foot of the mountain for his medical base. Campers, Hunters, and satyrs lay on the grass, groaning and nursing their wounds.

Even up here, there was more death. A short line of shroud-covered bodies lay under a grove of trees. I couldn't look at them.

Somehow I found a smile to plaster on my face as I clapped my wounded friends on the back and promised they'd done great. Their broken bones and severe burns would heal in no time. The pain would stop. The words were empty and mechanic, but I kept it up. This was no time to fall apart.

We continued on to the palace. The thrones were still unoccupied. Hestia was back, in the shape I'd always known her: an eight-year-old poking disconsolately at the fire. Her hearth had burnt down to glowing embers. She turned when we approached, but said nothing. Her eyes flickered like a candle struggling against a strong wind.

At the very end of the throne room, before the seats of Zeus and Hera, Rachel Dare stood like a supplicant in prayer. Wrapped in her arms was the black-and-white pithos Thalia had carried up to Olympus earlier.

Percy approached her like she was a wild animal who might spook easily. 'Rachel?' he said slowly. 'What are you doing with that?'

'I found it.' Her voice was dreamy and trance-like. 'It's Pandora's jar, isn't it?'

Percy spoke even slower, enunciating every word. 'Please put down the jar.'

'I can see Hope inside it.' There was an odd, sing-song quality to her words. 'So fragile.'

'Rachel.' He took the pithos from her and gave me a look I wished I didn't know how to interpret. Give us a moment, it said.

I winced. 'Grover—' I made up some excuse and dragged him away.

Outside the palace, Grover ran his fingers nervously over his pipes. 'I hope Juniper's okay.'

'She's at camp?'

He nodded. 'She can't leave her tree for long. I wish I'd gotten the chance to see her before ...' He gulped. 'Will you tell her, if I don't—'

'You'll tell her yourself,' I snapped.

Grover fell silent. We stood at the top of the marble steps, watching the healers move around the park below. Will was still travelling up and down with the wounded. Nothing else moved. There wasn't even the rustle of a leaf on any of the trees. The entire mountain seemed to be holding its breath.

Grover was the first to speak. 'Annabeth, you don't really believe that stuff you said about Luke.'

It wasn't a question.

I scowled. 'I thought you read emotions, not thoughts.'

He smiled faintly. 'Sometimes they aren't all that different. You still hope he's in there. Luke, I mean. For what it's worth ... when Kronos showed up yesterday, I sensed something weird. Like anger, but not at us. I didn't really get it at first. I mean, why would Kronos be mad at himself? It didn't fit. Then I realised ... it had to be Luke.'

I squeezed my shaking hands into tight fists. 'Percy said he was struggling to break through. But—what does that matter? Even if he does fight Kronos for control, he isn't on our side. He—he tricked ...'

I couldn't say the thing I feared most—that he'd tricked me, that his promises to me were as empty as the ones he'd made to Silena. But I guess Grover sensed it with those infuriating satyr powers.

'Annabeth, nobody hates themselves if they don't regret the things they did. I'm not saying that he's a good person, or that we can count on him. In fact, I think we'd be stupid to. But I just thought—I thought you should at least know.'

None of this was particularly positive. Yet the faintest glimmer of hope lifted my heart from the chasm it had fallen into, like Elpis had crept out of her jar to give me a boost.

'Thanks, Grover,' I said softly. 'Let's go see if Percy's done.'



Chapter 31
Tags: the final sacrifice
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