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FIC: The Final Sacrifice, chpt 31

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: Our Reinforcements Are Dead
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson, Thalia Grace, Grover Underwood, Luke Castellan, Chiron, Kronos, Mrs O'Leary, Nico di Angelo, Hades, Sally Jackson, Paul Blofis
Word Count: 3,151

Chapter Summary: More unexpected help arrives, but Kronos breaches the last line of defence.

Notes: Big thanks to CupcakeQueen816, strawberrygirl2000 and Athenachild101 for their Ameri-picking for this chapter—in particular the US 'translation' of 'wicked!'

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When we walked back into the throne room, I felt like we'd interrupted a private moment, but not the one that would have tied my insides into knots. It was more like Rachel and Hestia were having the private moment, and Percy was as much a third party as Grover and me. He was staring at them with an expression that was half-stunned, half-confused. He'd looked a bit like that the first time we'd met, when he'd just woken up after his fight with the Minotaur, with no clue what had just happened.

'Percy?' My eyes darted among the three of them. 'Should we, um, leave again?'

Percy shook his head. To Rachel, he said, 'You're not going to do anything stupid, are you? I mean ... you talked to Chiron, right?'

'You're worried about me doing something stupid?' Rachel asked. Annoying as she was, she had a point.

Percy tried again. Rachel just gave him a withering look and told him to go save the world.

He turned to Hestia, Pandora's pithos in his arms. 'I give this to you as an offering,' he told her.

'I am the least of the gods,' Hestia said. 'Why would you trust me with this?'

She said it like a test, like she knew the answer already, but needed to hear if Percy knew it, too.

'You're the last Olympian. And the most important.'

The shadow of a smile hovered around Hestia's lips. 'And why is that, Percy Jackson?'

'Because Hope survives best at the hearth.' He held out the jar more firmly. 'Guard it for me, and I won't be tempted to give up again.'

Hestia took the pithos, and I felt that flutter in my chest again, the sense that Elpis had taken flight within. Hestia caught my eye. In the dancing flames of her pupils, I saw the outline of a young demigod holding out a knife to a little girl.

You have to dig deeper than that, Hestia had told me months ago. Family is important ... Remember me, Annabeth Chase.

The pithos disappeared into her hearth, jumpstarting the fire. 'Well done, Percy Jackson. May the gods bless you.'

Percy glanced at Grover and me. 'We're about to find out. Come on, guys.'

He led us over to the throne on the left of Zeus's. It was made of black leather, with a curved back and raised armrests that extended into a narrow pole-holder. Crusted seaweed wrapped around the bottom of the pedestal.

Percy reached for the edge of the seat. 'Help me up.'

He wanted to climb on Poseidon's throne? 'Are you crazy?'

'Probably.'

Grover moistened his lips. 'Percy, the gods really don't appreciate people sitting on their thrones. I mean, like, turn you into a pile of ashes don't appreciate it.'

'I need to get his attention,' Percy insisted. 'It's the only way.'

This would get Poseidon's attention, all right, though I didn't see how that would help us. But if Percy had a plan ... well, I trusted him. Besides, desperate times called for desperate measures. Grover and I formed a step with our arms so Percy could hop onto the seat.

We waited with our hearts thudding in our mouths. We couldn't really hear Percy's one-sided conversation. Steam curled from his hair as he talked, like something inside him was coming to a boil. His edges grew faint. Grover and I exchanged a nervous look.

At last, he jumped down. He was thankfully in one piece, although wisps of vapour still emanated from his skin.

'Are you okay?' Grover asked. 'You turned pale and ... you started smoking.'

'I did not!' he protested, then he stared at his own arms. How had he not noticed himself burning up?

'If you'd sat there any longer, you would've spontaneously combusted,' I predicted. I guess I'd been right about what the curse of Achilles wouldn't guard against. 'I hope the conversation was worth it?'

'We'll find out soon.'

He definitely had something other than steam up his sleeve, but I didn't get a chance to ask what his plan was. The doors to the throne room burst open and Thalia entered, looking like she'd just been in heavy battle. I noted with dread that her magical Hunter's bow was broken in two.

'You've got to get down there,' she said without preamble. 'The enemy is advancing.' She gave me a significant look. 'And Kronos is leading them.'

+++

There wasn't even a block of amnesty. We emerged straight into the warzone. Clarisse had finally ceased her relentless chariot parade; she'd become a Hyperborean ice sculpture. The drakon carcass had been liberated and fashioned into a thousand bronze breastplates, gleaming on the chests of the advancing enemy demigods. Kronos himself was twenty feet from the entrance of the building. He was flanked by Ethan Nakamura, a dracaena, and two giants. It was the first time I'd seen Luke since Silena's death. The sight of him made my stomach turn.

Even worse, our last pillar of defence was guarding the doors with a bow stretched across his chest, arrow at the ready.

'Chiron,' I whispered.

Luke's head turned when we exited the building. Golden eyes landed on Percy, blazing with hatred.

'Step aside, little son.' The command was a fierce reminder of who was running this show.

'I'm afraid not,' Chiron said. His voice was steady, but I knew him well enough to see the anger layered thickly under his calm.

'Chiron—' My feet were practically glued to the ground. Lifting them was a Herculean effort. 'Look out!'

He'd been so focused on Kronos that he hadn't noticed the dracaena leaping forward. Fortunately, whatever magic Kronos had extended over us didn't hold Chiron in its grip. He turned with a swiftness born from thousands of years of skill and put an arrow straight through her forehead. But that was his last arrow. A grimace flickered over his face as he shouldered his bow and drew his sword instead.

My heart hammered in my throat. Luke's skill at the sword had surpassed Chiron's long ago.

Kronos approached leisurely, already savouring Chiron's defeat. 'You're a teacher, not a hero.'

Chiron held his gaze steadily. 'Luke was a hero. He was a good one, until you corrupted him.'

A pang struck my heart. Did Chiron still blame himself for not being the mentor Luke had needed?

Kronos's rage exploded in a reverberating scream: 'FOOL!' There was something about that cry—so full of power, but also an anguish that could not be the Titan lord's. 'You filled his head with empty promises. You said the gods cared about me!'

I drew in a sharp breath. If I had been able to move, I would have reached involuntarily for Luke.

Chiron had heard it, too. 'Me. You said me.'

Luke's face wavered. Before I could tell if his eyes were indeed changing, Chiron lashed out. His sword feinted down, then straight up at Luke's head.

'BACK!' Luke recovered quickly, slashing Chiron's blade away with his scythe. It hit with a rush of black energy that blew Chiron straight into the wall. The bricks cracked instantly and crashed down, burying him in a pile of rubble.

Something inside me broke. 'No!'

The spell holding us captive shattered, as though Luke had lost control of it along with his temper. My feet found purchase on the pavement. I scrambled to the heap of brick and mortar that was all we could see of Chiron. Percy and Thalia knocked away pieces of it, but it was a tomb three times higher than us.

I whirled around. Luke was studying us with an unbearably smug smile playing about his lips. His eyes were as dark as his ugly expression.

'You—' I choked up. First Silena, now this. 'To think that I—that I thought—'

I'd thought all we needed was for Luke to shine through, to push Kronos back. But he'd definitely emerged just now, and he'd still attacked Chiron.

Chiron, the closest thing I'd had to a father for so many years.

Luke knew that.

Percy realised what I was going to do a split second before I acted. His fingers grasped for my elbow. 'Annabeth, don't.'

But I was unstoppable. I flew at Luke with my dagger. I should have done it when he'd stood on my doorstep, before he'd taken everything I held dear: threatening camp, betraying my friends, littering the city with their bodies ... and now Chiron.

All this at the hands of the person who'd sworn to protect me.

Hermes was right. I had failed. I'd failed to stop Luke from becoming this—this monster.

My knife found its target perfectly. Luke didn't even lift a finger to defend himself—something that wouldn't penetrate the red haze over my mind until later. The blade slid into the gap in his armour. It connected with a clang that shook my whole body.

I collapsed at his feet. My right arm hung at an awkward angle. My shoulder joint flared with pain.

Stupid, stupid, stupid. He was like Percy, protected by the curse of Achilles.

The scythe came down on me at last, as though my strike had kick-started the circuits in Luke's brain: Oops, an attack. Kill! If Percy hadn't grabbed me, I'd have been sidewalk slice and dice.

I struggled against his restraining arms. My knife was hanging loosely in my injured arm, else I'd have flown at Luke again, invulnerability or no. There had to be a chink somewhere, a weak spot. Or maybe there wasn't. I couldn't see how he could still be human after all of this. Whether he was Kronos or Luke or something in between, I didn't know. All I knew was—'I HATE you!'

Percy wouldn't let me go. He insisted that he had to fight Luke.

But it was my fight, too. This was between me and Luke. Hermes himself had said so. Luke had come to me to prevent this.

'So much spirit,' Luke taunted. 'I can see why Luke wanted to spare you.'

The name sent another jolt down my injured arm. Luke.

Who was he?

'Unfortunately,' Kronos said, raising his blade again, 'that won't be possible.'

Percy tensed. He pushed me into Thalia and Grover and took a protective stance in front of us.

Then a howl ripped through the air like a resounding bugle. Kronos hesitated.

Was it reinforcements? I couldn't think who there was left to back us up. All our campers were here. The Hunters were spent. The Party Ponies were scattered. Daedalus's statues had been hacked to pieces.

That howl sounded a lot like Mrs O'Leary, but ...

A wave rippled through the monsters on Fifth Avenue, like an invisible bowling ball rolling through their ranks. They parted like the walls of the Red Sea. I had a sudden flashback to Daedalus's timely arrival with Mrs O'Leary during the Battle of the Labyrinth. Had she worked a similar miracle?

But the boy standing next to her at the end of the cleared monster aisle was small, skinny, and clad in armour as black as the Styx.

Percy lowered his sword a fraction. 'Nico?'

Boy and hellhound advanced, Mrs O'Leary in one enthusiastic bounce, Nico calm and confident. It was his energy parting the monsters, pushing them aside with creepy fingers of death. His helmet was shaped like a skull, with round sockets for his eyes and mouth. Under the thin black bridge of his nosepiece, a sarcastic smile stretched across his jaw.

'Got your message,' he said to Percy. 'Is it too late to join the party?'

Luke spat at him. 'Son of Hades. Do you love death so much you wish to experience it?'

Nico fixed him with a steely glare. 'Your death would be great for me.'

'I am immortal, you fool!' Luke shouted. 'I have escaped Tartarus. You have no business here, and no chance to live.'

I didn't see how Nico could possibly make a difference. Already, the monsters that had parted on his arrival were recovering from their shock and closing back in. But Nico clearly disagreed. He raised his sword and the entire city trembled. Cracks erupted on every available surface: walls, pavement, concrete. Bony fingers crept through them, an army of skeletons emerging from the crevices of the earth. They crawled out between the monsters, startling the enemy into retreat.

'Awesome!' one of the Ares warriors exclaimed. 'They're even better than ours.'

'HOLD YOUR GROUND!' Luke screamed. 'The dead are no match for us!'

But Nico wasn't finished. A black thunder cloud rolled in, casting the whole block into its gloom. A horn drowned out Luke's voice. Once again, the monsters were knocked aside, this time by the massive black chariot that rattled down the avenue. It was pulled by a team of demon horses with glowing red eyes and nightmarish bodies. Their hooves pounded the air with waves of dark energy that shook the concrete beneath them.

The chariot driver had an intense, manic face with black flames burning in his eyes. The helm on his head sent terrifying images shuddering through the air: every nightmare I'd ever had about Janus, and Luke, and impossible sacrifices, and losing Percy, and—

I clutched at his arm like it was a lifeline against the hideous visions. Percy met my eyes with terror in his own. Our shared connection was the only thing pushing back the waves of fear radiating from Hades's helm of darkness.

We weren't the only ones affected. All around us, demigods fell to their knees, clutching at their heads. Thalia's face was so pale, her freckles were little brown buoys bobbing in a white sea.

Even Luke looked shaken, though he maintained his aggressive stance. He drew his scythe across his chest as he faced the three newcomers: Hades and two tall ladies who had to be his wife, Persephone, and her mother, Demeter.

'Hello, Father,' Hades said coolly. 'You're looking ... young.'

'Hades.' Luke said it like a curse. 'I hope you and the ladies have come to pledge your alliance.'

Hades sounded almost bored. 'I'm afraid not. My son here—' he glanced at Nico, who went slightly pink under his helmet, 'convinced me that perhaps I should prioritise my list of enemies. As much as I dislike certain upstart demigods,' he switched his focus to Percy, who shuddered at the new blast of nightmarish fear from Hades's helm, 'it wouldn't do for Olympus to fall. I would miss bickering with my siblings. And if there is one thing we agree on—it is that you were a terrible father.'

Demeter's eyes raked critically across Luke's scythe. 'True. No appreciation of agriculture.'

Persephone stomped her foot. 'Mother!'

From his sheath, Hades drew a sword like Nico's, only it was double-edged with silver. 'Now fight me!' he commanded. 'For today, the House of Hades will be called the saviours of Olympus!'

Luke made a frustrated noise in the back of his throat. 'I don't have time for this!'

He brought down his scythe, but not to attack. He drove it into the sidewalk, creating yet another crack that raced down both sides of the pavement. (One more hit, and I was sure the roads would be done for.) A hazy barrier rose from the fault line and circled the block.

'What's he doing?' Percy asked.

Thalia raised her hands as though sensing the vibrations in the air. 'Sealing us in.'

Luke had cut the magic outside his new barrier and reigned it in tighter. The only dead zone was now his new ring around the Empire State Building. Hades and his forces were caught outside. The black chariot slammed into the shimmering wall of energy and bounced off like my knife against Luke's skin. Hades toppled out, looking incensed.

'ATTACK!'

The street exploded with fighting. With the removal of the sleeping spell, mortals along Fifth Avenue awoke into their worst nightmare. It was a good thing we'd pushed most of them out of the way earlier, or they'd have been in serious trouble, caught in the crossfire between our allies and the monster army.

Percy ran to the barrier, but it blasted him back just as it had Hades. We were completely cut off from the fight. Only four of us (plus Mrs O'Leary) were left inside the ring of magic to face Luke and his honour guard—two Hyperboreans and Ethan Nakamura. And my shoulder still hung, dislocated, at an awkward angle.

'Grover!' I said. 'Help me.'

He grabbed my arm and helped to heave my shoulder back into joint. Pain shot splinters up my neck and down my side. 'Thanks,' I gasped.

'Look out!' Grover dragged me out of the way as a downpour of frost cascaded from one of the Hyperboreans. Thalia leapt into action. Quick as a mountain goat, she scaled the giant's back and drew two blades across his neck.

Meanwhile, Percy made short work of the other Hyperborean. He pulled Riptide out from the giant's blue butt and raced off down the sidewalk, along the barrier.

'Percy!' I yelled. Where was he going?

Fifth Avenue was a mess of fighting that we couldn't get to. Mortals wailed with terror; could the Mist even disguise something this awful? I caught a glimpse of Will Solace, desperately trying to drag the wounded to the safe zone, but unable to pull them across Luke's barrier.

Luke himself had disappeared in the melee. The doors to the Empire State Building hung open.

Oh no.

'Percy!' I sprinted after him. On the other side of the barrier, an unknown mortal snatched up a sword from the ground and shoved it straight through a dracaena's belly. He turned to Percy with an excited grin. I recognised him then—Percy's stepdad. I had completely forgotten that Percy's family was right outside the building.

'Mom!' Percy waved his arms to get her attention, but Sally's back was turned. I didn't know if she heard him or sensed the Laistrygonian closing in on her, but she spun around and blasted the giant with a police shotgun.

Mortal bullets typically didn't work against monsters, but the Laistrygonian stumbled straight into Nico di Angelo's sword. The Stygian iron dissolved him instantly into black dust.

Percy's stepdad whistled. 'Nice one.'

Percy's jaw dropped. 'When did you learn to fire a shotgun?'

'About two seconds ago,' Sally said. 'Percy, we'll be fine. Go!'

'Yes, we'll handle the army.' Nico slammed the butt of his sword into a dracaena without even looking. 'You have to get to Kronos!'

I grabbed his arm. 'Come on, Seaweed Brain.' Had Luke reached the elevators already?

We raced for the building doors. Mrs O'Leary was too big to fit through the doors, so Percy set her digging for Chiron. The rest of us plunged into the building.



Chapter 32
Tags: the final sacrifice
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