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FIC: The Final Sacrifice, chpt 32

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: I Play An Unexpected Role
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson, Grover Underwood, Thalia Grace, Luke Castellan, Hestia, Kronos, Ethan Nakamura
Word Count: 3,549

Chapter Summary: Annabeth, Percy, and Grover meet Luke in the throne room of Olympus.

Notes: This chapter has been a long time in coming. The outlines of it have existed pretty much since I embarked on Necklace of Harmonia—as you may pick up from some of the references to the power behind curses. I had this idea how the final showdown was meant to end, and though the actual phrasing of sequences has changed much over time, this is the conclusion I have been working up to for two years. It's a heady feeling to actual get here!

The history of the dagger is completely my fictionalisation (except for the bit about it passing hands from Hal to Luke to Annabeth, which is found in The Diary of Luke Castellan). However, in my love for backstory, I wanted the inanimate object to have one as well. And I wanted the final resolution to be much stronger than 'the dagger is a cursed blade because Luke broke his promises.' Much of this story is a speculation of why broken promises cursed the dagger, and to do so, I went back to create the history of the dagger, stemming from Ismene's sacrifice with it, to how it passed along to Achilles and Iphigenia, and later through Jenny to Hal, and finally Luke. I hope the clues to its importance (going back to TGF in some places, but most pertinently NoH) have been constant, yet subtle enough that Annabeth would not plausibly have connected the dots until this point. That was also a huge logic puzzle that needed to be resolved—how did Annabeth come to the final answer, but only then.

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The elevator rose too slowly. I counted ten heartbeats for every floor that blinked by. The same upbeat elevator music was playing, but it no longer seemed appropriate. I wasn't so concerned about stayin' alive as I was about stopping Luke. But my brain was racing too fast to formulate a plan.

Luke must have cracked the Olympus sky bridge because it was splintering like the pavements of Manhattan. Any later and we wouldn't have made it across. As we leapt from the elevator, a chunk of marble broke off, severing it from the rest of the bridge. A piece beneath my feet crumbled into dust, throwing me off balance.

My stomach swooped. I cried out for Percy even before I consciously realised that my jump wasn't going to carry me across.

A split second of utter terror ... and then he had me, clinging to the very tips of my fingers. The city sprawled beneath me, the spire of the Empire State Building ready to impale me once I fell. My bag swung from my shoulder. Something small and green toppled out—Luke's diary, the last trace of all that had been good about him.

I was going to go the same way.

Percy's face contorted. His knuckles turned white with the effort of holding on. Then he had my wrist, my arm, the rest of me. He heaved me up onto the broken edge of the bridge and he did not let go. His whole body was trembling—or was it mine? He squeezed me so tightly, every nerve was tight as a steel drum.

Abruptly, he pulled away. I brushed my hair behind my ears. 'Um, thanks.'

He muttered something incoherent.

Grover urged us on. The sky bridge tumbled away as we ran. When we reached the slopes of Olympus, it was gone, leaving a fifty-foot chasm between us and the floating elevator.

My insides plummeted like Luke's diary. 'We're marooned. On our own.'

'The connection between Olympus and America is dissolving. If it fails ...' Grover said with a nervous bleat.

Thalia closed her eyes. 'The gods won't move on to another country this time. This will be the end of Olympus.' She shuddered. Was she wondering what that would mean for her and her Hunters? 'The final end.'

Will's medical bay was nowhere to be seen. I couldn't even identify the park where it had been. Along the path was the detritus of a hastily fought battle, but no bodies were in sight. The glorious architecture of Olympus lay in ruins. It was like Kronos's scythe had reaped the soul of the beautiful city. Houses were on fire. Trees and sculptures had been hacked to pieces.

Luke was halfway up the mountain, screaming in deranged anger as he climbed towards the heart of the city: the palace at the peak.

'That was my promise!' he cried, and the word caught in my chest. Promise.

'Tear it down!' With each word, a new structure exploded. A marble fountain honouring Poseidon. A golden statue of Apollo. A shrine to Artemis. ('He'll pay for that,' Thalia seethed.)

'BRICK BY BRICK!' They were Luke's words as much as they were Kronos's. Which was he? Did it even matter?

Grover cried out in alarm. 'Look out!'

We were passing the massive statue of Hera. The ground buckled, ripping the statue from its foundations. Someone shoved me from behind. I flew into Percy and landed in a tangle of limbs. Marble dust swirled around us.

'Thalia!' Grover's hands flew to his mouth in horror.

She was pinned under the massive statue. Unlike the other ruins Luke had hacked to pieces, it remained intact. The carved features of the grudging goddess scowled at me, as though displeased that she hadn't gotten me, too.

Percy heaved at the statue with his shoulders, but it was no use. The thing was heavier than the boulder that had entombed Polyphemus's cave. It pinned Thalia's legs so tightly, tears sprang from her eyes when we tried to yank her out.

She cursed loudly. 'I survive all those battles and I get defeated by a stupid chunk of rock?'

I swore the statue's expression turned smug.

'It's Hera. She's had it in for me all year. Her statue would've killed me if you hadn't pushed us away.' Not that her hateful highness would have cared much if it had killed Thalia. There had never been much love lost between the two of them either.

'Well, don't just stand there,' Thalia said. 'I'll be fine. Go!'

I cast an agonised glance between her and Luke. He was almost to the palace now. We didn't have much time. Nearly all the temples on the mountain slopes had already been trashed. With a sharp pang, I watched my mother's Parthenon go up in flames.

We promised Thalia we'd be back, and hurried on.

The last hundred yards to the palace were the hardest to cover. It was like sprinting through treacle. Maybe it was Luke, messing with time. Or maybe it was the earth of Olympus itself, making a last desperate bid to repel its attacker.

In the throne room, Luke stood like a conductor under an orchestra of stars. 'Finally, the Olympian Council!' His cold, bitter laugh echoed back and forth around the twelve thrones. 'So proud and mighty. Which seat of power shall I destroy first?'

Ethan Nakamura didn't answer. He slunk near Hestia's hearth, wisely keeping clear of Luke's swinging scythe. The hearth glowed faintly, nothing but embers now. I couldn't see Hestia, but I sensed her presence nonetheless.

I am always there, she'd told me once. I live at the heart of every home.

Nakamura turned and spotted us. 'My lord.'

I wasn't prepared for Luke's expression. It was completely at odds with the harsh laughter that had issued from him seconds ago. The gold in his eyes could have been mere reflections off the torches on the walls. He looked like the fourteen-year-old who'd just run from a blazing inferno feeling utterly forsaken by his godly father—the same fourteen-year-old who had pushed aside his own terror and bitterness to offer me sanctuary.

Promise.

I heard a choked gasp. A second later, I realised it was mine.

Luke's mouth contorted into a sneer. 'Shall I destroy you first, Jackson? Is that the choice you will make—to fight me and die instead of bowing down? Prophecies never end well, you know.'

At the mention of the prophecy, my dagger tingled so violently in its sheath, it sent a shockwave up my spine. I hardly heard Percy's reply. My ears were ringing.

Single choice ... end his days.

Cursed blade.

I found the hilt of my dagger. Little threads of dark energy crept along it, travelling up my fingers, up my arm. They stung like the hurt of Luke's broken promises, my obliterated hero worship, and all the terrible things he'd done.

The sky on my back. Silena's melted face. Chiron buried in rubble.

Curses build on the actions of their owners.

It will always protect its owner.

My dagger had always tried to warn me. Every time it had burnt red-hot in my hands—whenever Luke betrayed his promise to Thalia and me. It had shown me its history, trying to tell me about the power of sacrifice.

The world unravelled in a blinding web of shining threads, like power lines that connected us all. The strongest wound around Luke and Percy, a seething mess of sinister tendrils circling them as they faced off. But the energy emanating from my dagger was a burst of silver and grey, straining to reach those horrible black lines.

I pulled my dagger from its sheath, seeing it in a whole different light now. 'Percy, the blade!' The lines of the prophecy were drawn from my mouth: The hero's soul ...

Could it reap Luke's soul from Kronos?

Luke's scythe had morphed into his own original weapon—the bronze and steel Backbiter with its twin edges. The evil, soul-reaping blade we'd zoomed in on as the perfect fit for the cursed blade in the prophecy.

But we hadn't realised there was another blade here that was every bit as cursed, not by purpose, but by oath.

'Wait!' I cried. But Percy and Luke were already in motion. Their blades clashed. They whirled and spun.

To my right, Ethan Nakamura drew his dagger and edged towards Percy's unguarded back. I flew at him, tackling him to the ground before the backstabbing son of Nemesis could even get close. He snarled and twisted round to engage me.

Our battle took us to the far side of the throne room, where the female goddess's thrones stood in a line down from Hera's. Grover started to play on his reed pipes. Vines sprung from Dionysus's throne, creeping across the ground to ensnare Nakamura. He cursed and sliced them away.

I tried to keep an eye on Percy and Luke's fight, but even with Grover's vines distracting him, Nakamura was a formidable opponent. He thrust and stabbed in quick succession. My own swings were clumsy, hampered by my need to guard my right shoulder.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Percy sail through the air and land by the hearth. One of the thrones exploded in an electric storm, blasting Luke aside. His sword clattered out of his hands.

I drew up my knees and shoved them into Nakamura's gut, kicking him away as hard as I could.

'Luke, listen!' I scrambled towards him.

He glared at me, golden eyes furious, like the monster inside sensed what I meant to do. He waved a hand through the air. The reverberation was a solid backhand that sent me flying straight into my mother's throne. The crash felt like it cracked my head open.

I heard Percy shout my name. His voice was so far away. The room looked disjointed and broken, like I was staring at the world through cracked glass.

Each fractured piece was a different picture. In one, an altar lay on the stone floor. Achilles plunged my dagger into the struggling fawn on its marble slab, while Calchas warned, 'The Fates demand a life to set things right.'

Another glassy window showed the Minotaur tussling with a weedy hero, until a trembling young girl cried out, her voice wracked with grief: 'Asterion!' A moment of distraction, and Theseus broke off the Minotaur's horn, plunging it into the man-beast's heart.

Another piece: Luke faced his father, angry tears swimming in his eyes. 'Tell me! If you love me, TELL ME!' Behind them, May Castellan screamed, green mist flooding from her eyes and mouth: 'No, not Luke, not my boy, please no!'

There were a million more shards, like the shattered pieces of Luke's promises. I saw myself alone, burning a shroud in the empty amphitheatre. Staggering under an impossible weight. Crying on Half-Blood Hill. Crouching behind a corrugated iron sheet.

Still more flooded into view. Jenny's dagger flew into Hal's windshield. Hal himself stepped into a supernova of Greek fire. The bronze blade in Luke's hand extended towards me, hilt-first. My dagger floated before my straining body.

Always the dagger. My dagger. Luke. Me. Promise.

Promise.

The fractured images coalesced into a single eye that flickered with soft candlelight. Hestia sat in her hearth, gazing intently at me. She reached out and handed me Pandora's pithos. It was cracked down the sides, every shard etched with the things I'd seen, as if Hestia had pieced it together from the fragments of my visions. There was one missing piece, a hole through which the elfin face of Elpis, Spirit of Hope, peeked through.

The hole was a perfect fit for my dagger.

Elpis blinked at me. Her face blurred into Luke's: bright blue eyes, sharp cheekbones, a mouth twisted into what might have been bitterness, hurt, or a desperate plea. His expression spanned all of his incarnations over the years, from the innocent nine-year-old to the jaded Titan host.

'A single choice shall end his days,' Hestia said. 'Do you know what to do?'

I knew.

Daughter of Athena, your time is coming. For months, I had dreaded Pan's prophecy, Janus's promise. They had played in my nightmares, taunting me with awful possibilities. I'd been terrified that the choice would be between Percy and Luke, the fate of one or the other in my hands.

But that wasn't my role.

I was the keeper of an oath, one sworn in complete innocence, which had nonetheless grown into a protection and a curse. Both woven by Luke.

Thalia had been right. Luke had gone too far. And there was only one way to set things right. Only one way to redeem a soul that had gone too far over the edge.

I clicked the dagger into the pithos, closing the gap. Blinding light burst from the cracks, filling my vision. A soft melody filled my ears, like birdsong in spring. The music swept through my veins like a crackling fire.

My eyes opened. It took a moment to get my bearings. The throne room was a sheet of grass, with thick roots spreading across the two lines of thrones. Grover was coming towards me with his pipes at his lips. It was his song that flowed through the room, spreading life and hope and healing.

Grover reached my side and put down his pipes. The music stopped, but its echo lingered in the air, soft and hopeful. He dug a square of ambrosia out of his pocket and put it in my mouth.

Warm sweetness exploded over my tongue, the taste of buttery blue waffles and hot chocolate. Strength flooded my body.

'Thanks.' I tried to shake off my disorientation. The world had a hazy tinge to it. Ethan Nakamura was gone. A jagged fissure ran along the left side of the room, near the thrones of the male gods. It cut through Grover's grassy carpet, a chasm in the ground that fell away into nothingness. Percy and Luke were a blur at the edge of it.

'Percy!' Grover scrambled to his hooves and launched himself across the room. Luke deflected him easily. He rolled dangerously close to the edge of the steep drop. Only a thick clump of grass and roots kept him from falling in.

Panic threw the room into sharp clarity. I struggled to my feet. Everything unfolded in slow motion: Luke flying at Percy; the clash of their blades; Riptide clattering out of Percy's hand and falling into the fissure, plummeting to earth.

I saw the triumph in Luke's eyes as he raised Backbiter again. The confidence: he had won. Yet there was hollow displeasure in his expression, like this victory was an empty one.

I saw the shock and apprehension that rippled across Percy's face as weaponless, he looked up at Luke's blade. The certainty: this was it. The cursed blade that would reap his soul.

But it wasn't. The prophecy wasn't set in stone yet—but it would be my choice.

I held something infinitely more powerful than all the weapons in the room: the ability to shape the deciding line of the prophecy.

Which blade. Which hero. Which soul.

It wasn't a choice between saving Luke or saving Percy. My choice would save both of them ... except saving Luke didn't mean what I'd expected it to. It was the same choice Ariadne had made eons ago in the Labyrinth.

I had always thought saving Luke meant saving his life. But it was no longer about his life. It was about his soul.

'STOP!' With a silent prayer to Athena for strength, I forced myself to move.

Luke's sword slashed through the air and came down on me. I met it with my dagger—an insane, impossible move, but I knew with utter certainty that its thin bronze blade was the only thing that could stand against Backbiter now.

'Luke, I understand now. You have to trust me.'

'Luke Castellan is dead!' he bellowed. 'His body will burn away as I assume my true form!'

His blade pressed harder against mine, inching towards my throat, but my dagger held firm. Its power lay not in size or strength, but in its history. It had been a sacrifice laid down to protect others. To protect family.

Family. 'Your mother—she saw your fate.'

'Service to Kronos! This is my fate.' His pronouns were slipping. I was getting through. My arms were in agony, but I didn't let go. My dagger burnt red-hot in my hand, glowing and lending me strength.

'No! That's not the end, Luke.' This was my moment. I could end this. I could call him back.

I also knew what that meant.

My chest constricted, but I didn't pull back. 'The prophecy—she saw what you would do. It applies to you!'

Had Hal Green seen it, too? Was that why he'd given Luke the dagger?

'I will crush you, child!' I could see the battle raging in his eyes: blue and gold, wrestling for control. Luke was fighting. Kronos was struggling.

'You won't. You promised. You're holding Kronos back even now.'

'LIES!' Gold surged through his eyes. He backhanded me across the face so hard, I saw stars. With Kronos's power, I should have flown across the room. But he'd pulled back.

He'd pulled back.

I stared up at the double-edged sword, raised in an executioner's stance. Something dribbled from the corner of my mouth. It had a bitter, coppery tang. 'Family, Luke. You promised.'

Luke's knees buckled. He lowered his sword. 'Family.'

I felt the coals of Hestia's hearth grow stronger at his declaration.

Luke made a choked sound, halfway between a sob and a cry. 'Annabeth ...' He lurched towards me. 'You're bleeding.'

I locked eyes with him. 'My knife,' I whispered. From the anguish on his face, I was sure he understood. Tears stung at my eyes.

I tried to place the dagger in his hands, just like he'd handed it to me so many years ago. But my arm would not move. Jarred by Luke's blow, it was twisted even more awkwardly than before. My blade slipped from my fingers.

No. The moment it left my hand, my strength left me. The room tilted. My head swam with vertigo. I couldn't—

No. I wasn't done. I had to finish this. Otherwise, all would be lost. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw movement. Percy and Grover, both making their way towards me.

'Percy—' In the end, he was still the one I trusted to help me. The one who was truly my rock. 'Percy, please ...'

He was next to me in a flash, my knife in his hands. He disarmed Luke with ease.

Luke didn't even parry the attack. His focus was on me.

He took a step forward.

'Don't touch her!' Percy snarled.

'Jackson ...' Luke's face flickered. Golden anger crept back into his eyes. It rippled over his skin.

No! I had been so close!

But I had underestimated Luke. He broke through again. 'He's changing. Help.' His plea had the same tone as the one he'd made on my doorstep. This time, it could not be clearer what he meant. 'He's—he's almost ready. He won't need my body any more. Please—'

He shuddered. Was it just the bright spots exploding across my vision, or was a glow actually flickering over his body?

Kronos contorted Luke's face—'NO!'

Percy intercepted him again, but this time Luke shoved him away. Percy landed sprawled next to me. His hand was still closed around my dagger.

'The knife, Percy.' My head swam. I had to explain—needed him to understand what we had to do, but I couldn't find the right words. My body ached to shut down. Going into shock, I thought dimly. I heard my own voice beseeching, 'Hero ... cursed blade ...'

Luke reached towards the hearth. Backbiter lay there, but the moment he touched the sword, Luke cried out. The blade fell back into the smouldering fire. Hestia appeared among the coals. She had taken on the appearance of a blonde seven-year-old with stormy grey eyes.

Me.

Luke fell to his knees. His hands were raw and blistered. Golden smoke curled from his palms, rising from his fingertips.

'Please,' he begged again, but this time, he addressed Percy.

Percy staggered towards him, my knife clenched in his fist. Had he understood what I'd tried to say?

'You can't ... can't do it yourself,' Luke gasped. 'He'll break my control. He'll defend himself. Only my hand. I know where. I can ... can keep him controlled.'

Percy hesitated. My knife trembled in his hand. He looked at me, and fear gripped my heart. The prophecy, in its twisted, unpredictable way, had forced the choice back into Percy's hands.

My mother's warning became crystal clear.

What will he choose when his need to play the hero conflicts with the wisest course of action?

If he chose me now, Kronos would kill us all.

The glow over Luke's skin became painfully bright. 'Please. No time.'

The world hung on a timeless precipice.

A final choice.

Percy handed my dagger to Luke.



Chapter 33
Tags: the final sacrifice
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