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FIC: The Final Sacrifice, chpt 33

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: My Mom Reveals Her Master Plan
Rating: PG-13
Characters: Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson, Grover Underwood, Thalia Grace, Athena
Word Count: 2,793

Chapter Summary: After the battle, Athena drops a bombshell on Annabeth.

Notes: In some ways I feel like I've subverted canon in making Annabeth the central point of the prophecy, when obviously the PJO books are about Percy's role. In others ... well, the moment Annabeth's dagger was the lynchpin, I would argue that the evidence is there that this was her story as much as Percy's. It's never entirely clear that the 'choice' of the prophecy is definitely Luke's. Yes, it could be, and it makes sense as an interpretation. But all three of them made choices in that scene, and it was Annabeth who set the ball rolling. A lot of TLO is about Percy yielding—and the idea that the prophecy was all about Luke, and Percy was always a background setting in turning sixteen, the way and see the world in endless sleep was a setting detail to the main events of the prophecy. But Luke's story isn't all about Luke. It's about Luke and Annabeth. The more I looked down that path, the more important it felt to give her a story, a strong one, in which she controlled the narrative.

I must stress that I do not proclaim any of this story to be canon at all. I simply wanted to tell a tale that put her at the centre—Annabeth's story, and not just Annabeth's opinion of Percy's story—and give it enough plausibility that it could conceivably be part of canon. We're still not done yet, but this note fits most with regards to the prophecy on which the series centres on.

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Prophecies were the most twisted monsters in Greek mythology.

As we crouched there in the throne room, the fate of the world hanging in the balance, I saw the great and terrible beauty of the Great Prophecy in perfect clarity. It had been exquisitely crafted to mislead. Every line had a double meaning, carefully shrouding the truth in complex layers. The hero's soul. The cursed blade. The single choice.

Even now, it wasn't over. My dagger lay in Luke's hands, waiting for his decision. His choice, to determine how the lines of the prophecy would ultimately play out.

I'd made my choice. Percy had made his. And now here we were, trusting Luke to make the right one as well.

Could a prophecy apply in triplicate?

Luke undid his armour straps. His shirt was scorched, whether by electricity during the fight or his own burning body. He peeled off his torn sleeve to reveal a patch of pale skin under his left arm. A shiver ran through me. I felt like I knew that spot more intimately than I should have.

Luke raised our dagger and sank it into the last mortal point on his body.

There was an awful, defeated howl. A violent tremor shook the ground. Luke glowed, brighter than a star, brighter than a god, as bright as death.

I couldn't tear my eyes from him. I don't know if I would have shrivelled up if Grover hadn't ducked my head and shielded my eyes.

Heat seared across us, hotter than the lava chamber of Mount St Helens. The explosion was worse than the one Percy and I had set off there, too. It left a ringing silence thundering in my ears.

Luke lay at the heart of Olympus. Blood trickled from the stab wound under his left arm, pooling on the ground beneath him. Percy knelt by his legs in stunned silence.

'Help me,' I whispered to Grover. He looped my good arm over his shoulder and we limped over.

Luke opened his eyes—bright and blue, the way they had been before. There was a deep sadness in them.

'You knew,' he said. 'I almost killed you, but you knew ...'

I detached myself from Grover and crawled to his side. 'Shh. You were a hero at the end, Luke. You'll go to Elysium.'

'Think ... rebirth.' He coughed. Blood splattered from his mouth. 'Try for three times. Isles of the Blest.'

A noise somewhere between a laugh and a sob escaped my throat. 'You always pushed yourself too hard.'

His hand trembled. The skin was completely blackened. I met his fingers, but there was hardly anything to hold.

Another bloody cough wracked his body. His eyes were hazy. 'Did you ... Did you love me?'

In his words, I heard the hurt of the lost boy he had been, wondering if his father loved him. I heard his pain when Thalia renounced him on the cliff of Mount Tam. I heard the desperation when he'd stood on my doorstep, clutching for one last lifeline to lift him from the dark path he'd chosen.

I swallowed hard. 'There was a time I thought ... well, I thought ...'

Maybe I could have pretended, and soothed him with a lie. That would have been the easy thing, maybe even the kind thing to do. But our dagger lay between us, cursed by the promises that had turned false.

Promises that Luke had made because he needed to feel like he could do something right. Just as I'd made him out to be greater than he was, I had represented something else to him, too—proof that he was still a hero. I was his talisman, not something real.

We didn't love each other. We were each other's illusions.

I felt Percy's gaze on me, as though his fate, too, hung on my answer. The moment my eyes found his, I nearly drowned in their hunger. It hit me with astounding clarity that this was the question that had hung in dissension between us this past year, turning our friendship upside down, wringing our hearts inside out.

I had to speak the truth. For all of us.

'You were like a brother to me, Luke. But I didn't love you.'

Luke exhaled slowly. There was no disappointment, only resignation. I got the sense that maybe I wasn't the one he'd been seeking confirmation from.

I thought of Thalia, telling me that if she was his anchor, it was too late. Of our faces beaming up at him from the Titan Phoebe's scrying pool.

Maybe I couldn't give him the love he sought. But there was something else I'd given him—I was the final person to still have faith in him. The only one who hadn't given up on him. I'd given him his chance to be a hero at last.

Pain contorted Luke's face. Grover rummaged in his pockets. 'We can get ambrosia. We can—'

'Grover, you're the bravest satyr I ever knew,' Luke rasped. 'But, no. There's no healing ...'

His voice was weakening. He coughed again. Then he found one last burst of energy and reached for Percy. 'Ethan. Me. All the unclaimed.' His voice shook. 'Don't let it ... Don't let it happen again.'

Percy promised.

I was too stricken to cry. We made a circle around Luke's broken body, our hands clasped around each other's.

Luke's hand fell limply to his side. He turned his head to me, as though I was the last thing he needed to see to ease his passage across the Styx.

I held his gaze. 'Family,' I mouthed. He smiled faintly and closed his eyes.

His chest rose one final time.

+++

It was probably the most anticlimactic arrival of the gods in history.

The sight of them storming the palace, twelve giant deities in full Greek battle armour, might have been impressive if the enemy they came to confront had not already been expelled.

Hermes fell to his knees at his son's body. I waited for him to blast me to smithereens for my failure, but he simply produced a shroud from the air, pure white with green lines running across it like beating wings, and wrapped it around Luke.

The gods parted to allow three wizened old ladies to pass through. They knit as they walked, shining threads of blue, grey, and green trailing from their clinking needles. It was the same quilt I'd seen them weaving when they'd shown up in the attic the night Percy had arrived at the Big House, three years ago. The strands of our fate, intertwined in a thick braid—a circle of three, bound in love and hate. In its glowing fabric, I saw all of us, changing through the years.

Luke's mom handed her new baby proudly to Hermes. A golden basket landed on my father's doorstep. Sally kissed the top of Percy's head and tilted his face towards the sea.

I saw the children we had been and every stitch that tugged our paths closer together. I saw our lifelines tangle when we met. And I saw the end: a single blue thread unravelling from the others, cut and frayed while its green and grey counterparts continued to twist onwards into the future.

Luke's string. His life. His death.

A sacrifice to set things right.

The three Fates scooped Luke into their wrinkled little arms.

'Wait.' Hermes came forward. He had removed his armour, revealing his ancient chiton and winged helm. His face was wet with tears. He uncovered Luke's face and pressed a kiss and a blessing to his son's forehead. 'Farewell.'

The ache in his voice tunnelled deep into my heart. My legs went weak. Percy grabbed my right shoulder—the wrong one. He let go quickly when I yelped with pain and caught me around the waist instead. 'Oh gods, Annabeth. I'm sorry.'

'It's all right,' I murmured. His face swam before me. I sank into a deep, green pool.

I found myself back in the Labyrinth, but its twists and turns were kindly now. Down its corridors, I saw scenes of what must have happened elsewhere while we fought Kronos on Olympus. Hades thundered down Fifth Avenue, smiting Laistrygonians and Hyperboreans with helm and sword alike. Nico followed in his wake, his Stygian blade radiating death.

Demeter tackled the side streets: vines and shoots sprung out of the cracks, ensnaring dracaenae and telkhines. Persephone waved her hands and the trapped monsters became daisies growing out of the sidewalk. My cabin four friends ran to their mother, beaming. Together, they turned the streets of Manhattan into a literal urban jungle.

I watched Typhon drive the Olympians back in his relentless charge towards the city. He tore up the George Washington Bridge and waded into the Hudson, but a tidal wave of power swamped him. Poseidon joined his family in a hurricane of swirling wind and water, just like the one Percy had created in Central Park. Like Hades, he had brought a back-up army: thousands of merpeople, Cyclopes, and sea creatures leapt into battle. At their head, tall as a Hekatonkheire, Percy's brother surfed the waves on a hippocampus with rainbow scales. He waved his club defiantly in the storm giant's face.

Typhon went down in a deluge of lightning bolts and tsunamis.

On the opposite side of the corridor, I saw the sinister mirror to Olympus: the black palace on Mount Othrys. Mist was wrapped thickly around it such that only its edges were visible, but I could tell it was crumbling as if something were eating it up from the inside. A large, black throne toppled through the fog, cracked and smoking like it had been blasted with lightning.

The Labyrinth swept me down another tunnel, this one narrower, with offshoots that showed me the mortal side of our families. Luke's mom sat at her kitchen table, surrounded by burnt cookies and mouldy peanut butter sandwiches. Her head was in her hands, as though she knew the fate she had feared for her son had finally come to pass. My father stood at the entrance to a temple of majestic columns and carved friezes: the original Parthenon, which he'd wanted to take me to see. His head was bowed as though in prayer. Did he sense that I'd been in trouble? On the corner of Thirty-third and Fifth, Sally Jackson bandaged wounded demigods and Hunters while her husband (his name came to me at last: Paul Blofis) manned a firehose over the flaming cars in the street. They both glanced repeatedly towards the top of the Empire State Building, as though searching for a sign.

I kept going, following a shining path of green light like the one Rachel had claimed she saw when she'd guided us through. At the centre of the maze, the double doors to Daedalus's workshop glowed with its blue symbol, but it was an owl instead of the Greek Delta. Next to them, Hestia waited patiently for me in her adult form.

'Are you coming home?' she asked.

I didn't know if she meant Camp Half-Blood or San Francisco.

'Home is wherever your heart is,' she chided. With a sweet smile, she flung the workshop doors open.

I stepped out into consciousness.

I awoke in a forest glade under a brilliant blue sky. My arm was in a sling and my body was weak, but there was a refreshing lightness to my body, like someone had cleaned out my insides with breath mints. Only once in my life had I ever felt this rejuvenated—when I'd worn the Golden Fleece.

'Hey, Wise Girl.'

My heart did a flip-flop at the sight of Percy's lopsided smile, the one dimple in his cheek winking at me. 'Seaweed Brain.'

He helped me up. 'How are you feeling?'

I flexed my arm. It didn't feel like it had been broken mere hours (or however long I'd been out) ago. In fact, the sling seemed to be little more than a precaution. Grover was helping Thalia limp into the glade, and I certainly felt better than she looked.

'How long was I out?'

Percy thought about it. 'I dunno. Maybe half an hour, max? Apollo took care of it.'

This took a while to sink in. The god of healing himself had attended to me? That was ... wow.

'At least his healing skills are better than his haikus,' Percy joked.

He filled me in on what had happened while I was out. Zeus had turned the Empire State Building blue as a personal favour—'A sign for my mom,' Percy said, winking.

'Like Theseus.' I thought of Sally and Paul throwing repeated, worried glances at the building, and smiled. 'Minus the accidental miscommunication.'

The gods were fixing their throne room. The Cyclopes were rebuilding the sky bridge so that the rest of our friends and allies could come up. The rest of the city ... well, it would have to wait until the most urgent repairs were done.

We headed out to watch the reparations, Thalia hobbling along with us on crutches. The Cyclopes were almost to the floating elevator when we got there, piecing together marble slabs to form a new, stable walkway across the chasm. Tyson was among them. He waved to us, but didn't stop working.

Once the bridge was done, our friends brought the injured up from the ground level. We helped to carry them to the glade and load them up with nectar and ambrosia.

Then there were the fallen. Some of the bodies, like Michael's we would never recover. But the others ...

I never wanted to see shrouds laid out like this again.

Will brought the last corpse—the too-tiny body of my sister Holly. Nico di Angelo trailed behind him. He said a blessing over each shroud in the glade. Then he followed his father up to the throne room. I heard a cheer go up when they arrived at the palace gates, possibly the first time all three sons of Kronos had been truly united since Cath's prophecy.

Athena came down the palace hill, still dressed in her battle armour, complete with glowing purple cape and owl helmet. She fixed Percy with a piercing stare. He quickly mumbled something about seeing how the throne room repairs were going. He and Grover hurried off together.

'I'd better go find Lady Artemis,' Thalia said. She nodded to my mother (I guess bowing was a challenge in her current state).

Athena touched Thalia's bracelet with a small smile. 'Well fought, Thalia. Your lady is proud.'

Thalia exchanged one last grin with me before hobbling up the hill.

'Mother,' I said.

Her expression was poker-straight. I couldn't tell if she intended to chide or congratulate me. At last, she said, 'You did well. You brought my final strategy together in the end.'

'Your ...' I felt like someone had sucker-punched me. 'You meant for me to ... Did you know this would happen?'

Athena gazed over the side of the mountain. 'You know that we are forbidden to interfere directly with the lives of mortals. All direct attempts—they are doomed to fail.'

'You told me Hermes sought to thwart Luke's fate.'

She nodded severely. 'He tried to placate him, to cajole his anger, perhaps. A direct attack. You and I, we understand the importance of playing the long game.'

The long game. 'Thalia's Aegis. The dagger. They were yours.' My head spun. 'In Hal's house. You led Luke and Thalia to it. And then you led me to them.' It was a strategy so complex, so dependent on every piece coming together perfectly, that it was a wonder it had even worked.

'The plan was not without its flaws,' Athena admitted. 'I anticipated that your friend Thalia would play a greater role. Percy Jackson was an ... unexpected complication.'

I scowled. After he'd saved Olympus, against all her dire predictions, surely Athena couldn't still be wary of him?

She saw my expression and smiled. 'I cannot control the Fates any more than you can. The Great Prophecy had to play out as it was specified. All I could do was set up the pieces of the chessboard.'

'So we were your pawns.'

Athena studied me closely. 'Do you know what happens to a pawn when it reaches the other end of the board?'

'It becomes—' My breath hitched.

Athena smiled. 'You were my secret weapon all along, Annabeth. I sent a pawn, and she became a queen.'

While I was still trying to absorb this, she cupped her hands around my face. 'Now come. The council is gathering, and you will want to be there.'



Chapter 34
Tags: the final sacrifice
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