shiiki (shiiki) wrote in shiikifics,

FIC: The Final Sacrifice, chpt 35

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: The Prophecy Comes Full Circle
Rating: PG
Characters: Annabeth Chase, Percy Jackson, Grover Underwood, Chiron, Rachel Dare, Nico di Angelo, Clarisse La Rue, Sally Jackson, Paul Blofis, Tyson, Apollo, the Oracle
Word Count: 4,328

Chapter Summary: Annabeth's role in the Great Prophecy is finally resolved.

Notes: Hal and Cath's story was intended to follow the theme of the story of Cassandra, the prophetess of Troy who was cursed to speak prophecies that no one believed. She had a twin brother, Helenus, who is less famous, perhaps because his prophecies were believed. (I have no idea if RR chose 'Halcyon' to match Helenus—both seven letters, beginning with H—but my choice of Catharine was intentional to match that pattern.) I particularly like how the Cassandra story fits nicely into the bigger picture of the Trojan War—which you'll no doubt have guessed is the thematic base for this fic. I particularly like how Cassandra links to Iphigenia (albeit in a convoluted way) in her predictions of Iphigenia's father Agamemnon's death at the hands of his wife Clytemnestra, in part a revenge for arranging the murder of their daughter. The connection here between Hal and Jenny is very loosely a nod to the intricate links in the Trojan War stories. In my fic research, I was inspired greatly by Cassandra by Hilary Bailey, but none of it ultimately made it into the story or characterisation of Cath or Hal.

Fun fact: I wanted to make all of Annabeth's different prophecies line up, with a line from each (four of them, since she didn't get one in TGF), but I hit a snag on the BotL/TIM prophecy because the obvious line was 'destroy with a hero's final breath'. Except pretty much nothing except death rhymes with breath, so I finally gave up making this story's invented prophecy match up. The four selected lines would go like this:

Daughter of wisdom awaits her prophesied fate [DoW]
A circle of three bound in love and hate; [NoH]
Destroy with a hero’s final breath [TIM]
A sacrifice to set things right by the blade [TFS]

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We didn't stay long after the council. The gods' after party was pretty subdued. The palace grounds overlooked the ruins of the beautiful city, which kind of killed the mood. Or maybe it was because the nine Muses had smashed their instruments during the battle.

Percy stopped for a private chat with Hermes on the way out. I went on ahead. I wasn't ready to face Luke's father yet.

I found Grover on the hillside, surrounded by half a dozen forest nymphs. One of them was handing out grapes from a golden platter, but he ignored her in favour of the mountain of tin cans by his side.

'I'm guessing you don't want me to mention this to Juniper,' I said.

Grover slapped his forehead. 'She is so going to kill me.'

I laughed. 'She'll just be glad you're okay.'

'What did I miss?' He jerked his head at the palace. 'Did you guys get a reward as well?'

I told him about my new appointment, and Zeus's offer to Percy. Grover didn't seem at all surprised that Percy had turned it down.

'He wouldn't have left you behind.'

My heart did a cartwheel. 'You think so?'

'I know so.'

'Because of the empathy link?'

Grover looked at me like he could sense every emotion flooding my heart. Which, of course, he probably could. 'I've never needed an empathy link to tell how he feels about you.'

I tucked my hair behind my ears. 'We're going down to the city. You coming with us?'

Grover glanced at the pile of tin cans he'd yet to finish. 'Maybe a little later.'

At the foot of the mountain, I ran into some of the senior counsellors discussing the logistics of getting the injured and fallen back to camp. They had already started airlifting campers back with the pegasi for further care. To my relief, Travis Stoll informed me that Mrs O'Leary had dug Chiron out of the rubble downstairs and whisked him back to camp. He would be fine.

I waited for Percy at the end of the sky bridge, taking in the city and its ruined landscape. All over the mountain, nature spirits set to work re-growing the razed vegetation. So much of the infrastructure had been levelled to the ground that the slopes of Olympus were a blank canvas, an undrafted blueprint waiting to be developed.

Waiting for me to develop it.

In my mind's eye, I could see a hundred different possibilities. A circle of temples ringing the majestic mountain, their designs integrated with the natural landscape. A gradual evolution of the buildings' structures as they progressed outwards from the main palace, to reflect a slow modernisation of the gods' legacy. And this bridge, the link to the mortal world, lined with stones that glowed like the light of Hestia's hearth—to welcome us home when we visited.

Because if I'd learnt anything from Hestia, first goddess of architecture, it was that the heart of architecture was a connection to where you belonged.


Percy showed up smelling of smoke.

'Long story,' he said when I asked him about it, but he didn't elaborate.

Sally and Paul Blofis were waiting for us at the street level, though 'waiting' is probably too tame a word to describe how they were haranguing the doorman.

'I'm telling you, we have to go up!' Sally's fierce expression reminded me uneasily of my stepmother, Janet. She'd berated a nurse the same way when she and my dad had scoured San Francisco's emergency rooms looking for me. 'My son—'

Paul saw us first. He squeezed Sally's arm and pointed.

'Percy!' Sally flew at him. She engulfed him in a hug and peppered him with exclamations. Then she turned to me and squeezed me tight.

Paul grinned at us. The sword he'd found earlier hung loosely in his right hand.

'Mr Blofis.' I was glad I'd finally recalled his name. 'That was wicked sword work.'

'It seemed like the thing to do,' he said casually, like this was all in a day's work. He was more interested in Olympus than swordplay. Disappointment criss-crossed his face when Sally told him it wasn't for mortals. Something in his expression made me think of Rachel Dare and the way she'd followed Percy and Sally to camp at the start of summer, just to see what it looked like.

Actually, where was Rachel? I hadn't thought about her since we'd left her in the throne room with Hestia.

As if on cue, Nico di Angelo burst in through the building doors, his eyes wide with alarm. 'It's Rachel.'

The insane mortal girl had stolen Percy's pegasus. What was she thinking? So she'd been to Olympus—already more than any mortal had a right to expect—but she'd trespassed on a weakened Olympus, with its magical barriers lowered. As far as I knew, the defences around camp were still holding strong. Monsters and mortals alike couldn't enter without permission. Not to mention, Peleus would probably eat her the moment got close.

We'd have to go save her. Again.

The thought didn't annoy me as much as it had a day ago. I was beginning to realise why Rachel pissed me off so much. And also that maybe ... it didn't have to be that way.

The logistics of getting back to camp were tricky. We'd pretty much trashed the streets of Manhattan (I estimated the traffic jams would take days to clear). Rachel had just absconded with our last means of rapid transportation. But then Percy remembered the rivers. He summoned up three hippocampi. We clambered on and raced eastwards.

We spotted the problem as soon as we landed on the fireworks beach. From the crest of the sand dunes, we could see the Big House awash with green light. It radiated from the windows like someone had set off a nuclear bomb inside.

Chiron was laid out on a large stretcher outside the farmhouse, his back legs immobilised in plaster casts and his left arm in a sling. A group of satyrs formed a half-ring around him. Their pipes dangled in their hands like they'd been working woodland magic, but had stopped abruptly when the commotion started.

Every eye was fixed on the frizzy redhead on the porch. She stood with her arms flung wide, like a supplicant at a godly altar.

'What's she doing?' I glared at Blackjack. 'How did she get past the barriers?'

'She flew,' said Woodrow the satyr. 'Right past the dragon, right through the magic boundaries.'

'Rachel!' Percy took a step towards her, but the satyrs held him back.

Chiron held up his good arm in a warning gesture. 'Percy, don't. You can't interrupt.'

Interrupt? He spoke as though there was some sort of ritual going on. Like Rachel was meant to be standing there, seeking a blessing from a deity within.

Only one thing in the Big House could spew green light and smoke like that.

I thought of Cath and May Castellan, and my insides flipped. Surely Rachel wasn't trying to ...

Percy rounded on Chiron. 'I thought you explained things to her!'

'I did,' Chiron said calmly. 'And I invited her here.'

My jaw dropped. So did Percy's. 'You said you'd never let anyone try again! You said—'

'I know what I said, Percy. But I was wrong.' Chiron rubbed at his bandaged head. 'Rachel had a vision about the curse of Hades. She believes it may be lifted now. She convinced me she deserves a chance.'

Of course—the curse on the Oracle. On Cath. I didn't know how Percy had heard about it, but he seemed to understand exactly how much trouble Rachel had gotten herself into.

'And if the curse isn't lifted? If Hades hasn't got to that yet, she'll go crazy!'

It was too late. The green light had found Rachel. It pooled around her, surrounding her in its otherworldly glow. She gave a violent shudder.

'Hey! Stop!' Percy tore himself away from the satyrs and lunged for Rachel. A foot from her, he hit an invisible barrier and was flung back onto the lawn. I cried out, but I guess the curse of Achilles was still in effect, because he seemed fine.

I ran over. Rachel turned when I reached Percy. Her eyes were hazy and unfocused, like she was looking through us into a completely different world.

'It's all right.' Her voice had the same dreamy quality as when we'd spoken to her on Olympus. 'This is why I've come.'

'You'll be destroyed!' Percy insisted.

'This is where I belong, Percy,' she said with a grim smile. 'I finally understand why.'

The door to the Big House burst open. Mist flooded out in undulating waves, like a thousand writhing snakes. In its midst stood the mummified form of the Oracle herself.

I had never seen her leave the attic before. Now she glided across the porch straight towards Rachel's outstretched arms like an iron sheet drawn to a magnet.

Rachel didn't pull away. 'You've waited too long. But I'm here now.'

There was a burst of light over our heads. The next moment, a cheeky youth was lounging over the porch rails, between Rachel and the Oracle. A golden tan shone over his lean muscles; sparkling Ray-Bans perched jauntily on his forehead. We was remarkably self-assured for a guy draped in a revealing chiton. Only a god could have pulled off such casual arrogance.

Apollo winked when Percy greeted him, then motioned for us to be silent.

'Rachel Elizabeth Dare.' His severe tone didn't match his dazzling countenance. 'You have the gift of prophecy. But it is also a curse. Are you sure you want this?'

'It's my destiny,' Rachel said. I wondered if her visions had shown her the destiny of the last Oracle. The fate of Cath and her brother. Even if Rachel did manage to host the spirit of Delphi without going insane, she could end up chained to it for life—a virgin Oracle until the day she died.

Whether she knew what they were, Rachel accepted the risks without hesitation. She pledged herself to Apollo with a vow that was strikingly similar to the one Thalia had made two winters ago. (Then again, Apollo and Artemis were twins.)

Green smoke rushed from the mummified Oracle's mouth, the way it always did when she delivered a prophecy. This time, it took the spirit of Delphi right out of the mummy. As she crumbled to dust, I saw the ghost of the girl she used to be, with her inky hair and sad, solemn eyes.

The green mist formed a thick, spiralling column that obscured Rachel from us. When it dissipated, she was curled in a ball on the porch, completely still.

Apollo held us back. 'This is the most delicate part.'

'What's going on? What do you mean?' Percy asked.

He answered in haiku. Or at least, I think he tried to. He was missing one syllable. 'Either the spirit; takes hold or it doesn't.'

I crossed my arms. 'And if it doesn't?'

He counted out five more syllables. 'That would be real bad.'

Percy dropped to his knees on the porch steps. The light around us faded. The Big House stood empty. The presence that had lingered inside it for decades was gone.

Rachel's chest was barely rising. What would happen if the spirit rejected her? Would she end up like Luke's mom, her own spirit fractured?

Nico drew in a sharp breath. He'd obviously sensed something we couldn't.

Then Rachel groaned and tried to lift her head. 'Percy?'

He helped her to sit up. 'Are you okay?'

Nico bent anxiously over her. 'Rachel, your life aura almost faded completely. I could see you dying.'

Rachel's mind still seemed far away. 'I'm all right. Please, help me up. The visions—they're a bit distracting.'

Once it became evident that Rachel was indeed alive and not at all insane (though that was debatable—personally, I thought she was crazy enough even before she attempted to host a prophetic spirit), Apollo hopped to his feet and spread his arms. 'Ladies and gentlemen, may I introduce the new Oracle of Delphi.'

'You're kidding.' I wasn't sure what I expected—a green tint to her skin, maybe, or a glow in her eyes. Rachel just looked like the same annoyingly pretty redhead.

'It's a little surprising to me, too,' Rachel admitted. 'But this is my fate. I saw it when I was in New York.' She said it with unflinching certainty. 'I know why I was born with true sight. I was meant to become the Oracle.'

As if to cement her point, she gasped and clutched her stomach mid-explanation. She got to her feet like she'd been drawn up by a puppet string through the centre of her head. Green light shone from her eyes. Smoke spewed from her mouth, along with a reverberating voice that wasn't quite Rachel's, but not exactly the Delphic rasp of the old Oracle either.

A prophecy came spilling from her mouth—four lines spelling uncertainty and doom. With this startling pronouncement, she toppled off the porch into Percy and Nico's arms.

It was just like Hal's description of the start of Cath's stint as Oracle. Rachel didn't remember a word she'd said, either. If this was how the last Great Prophecy had begun, did this mean we now had a new Great Prophecy?

I hadn't expected to jump from the one we'd just escaped straight into another. But if we had learnt anything from the current Great Prophecy, it was that there was no guessing what it meant. Up to the very end, the lines had still been moulded by our choices.

There was no point worrying about it now. The prophecy would play out whenever it did.

Right now, we had our lives to carry on with.

Percy, Chiron, and Rachel stayed on the porch to iron out the details of her new role with Apollo. I wondered if she would stay at camp. What would that be like, having her around all the time? Surprisingly, it didn't annoy me as much as I'd have thought. (Maybe because I remembered something important: celibacy was a key requirement in her job description.)

Nico and I were distracted by the arrival of Clarisse's flying chariot. It touched down on the lawn, pulled by a team of pegasi. Will rode with her, an Apollo-Ares truce at last. They had airlifted the bodies of all the fallen warriors home from Manhattan.

The rest of the afternoon was a blur. We prepared the amphitheatre, wove shrouds, and lit the funeral pyres.

We honoured our enemies as well—the lost and unclaimed children that Percy had gone to bat for. Ethan Nakamura's body had been found shattered on the sidewalk of Fifth Avenue. I had not seen him fall during our battle, but Percy assured me that he'd turned on Kronos, the way Luke had. I didn't press him for more details. I knew it would be a while before either of us wanted to discuss that final battle in the throne room.

Although the Fates had claimed Luke's body, I wove him a shroud anyway, patterned like the tapestry of our life threads. When it burned, the colours blended into one connected spiral of smoke, a reminder that his memory would be wound into our lives long after today. Maybe forever.

At the end of the funerals, Chiron wheeled up and handed me a battered green diary. It must have fallen to the sidewalk from Olympus, possibly right onto Chiron himself.

I traced my finger over the faded leather cover. Hal Green had seen a sacrifice in Luke's future. Had he known that it connected with his sister's prophecy? Was that why he'd passed on diary and dagger, to enable Luke to make the right choice? And Luke ... had he realised that we needed to understand his story to call him back?

Now they were both gone. But I didn't think I'd ever forget what they had written.

I handed the diary back to Chiron. 'You keep it.'

'Are you sure?'

I nodded. 'Maybe it can—maybe their stories can help someone else. Other demigods.'

Chiron's fingers closed over the book's spine. 'I am sorry about what happened, Annabeth.'

'Me too.'

'I know it was not an easy choice for you.'

I looked at him in surprise. 'How did you—'

'Guess that the final choice was yours?' Chiron pulled from his breast pocket the wrinkled oak leaf on which I'd written the Oracle's final prophecy. Beckendorf's prophecy, from the start of summer.

'Wisdom chooses,' I read. 'Water remains steadfast.'

'I guessed that line might have a double meaning. Especially if it was meant to bring the Great Prophecy full circle: Cath Green's first and last prophecies.'

Both prophecies finally made sense. By summer's end, a hero's fate shall claim three—Beckendorf, Michael, and Silena had each died a hero's death. The summer that legends are made—well, who could ever forget the Battle of Manhattan? A sacrifice to set things right by the blade ... it matched the Great Prophecy's line about the cursed blade so neatly, I couldn't believe I hadn't made the connection before. The spirit of Delphi shall rest—and she had, until the Great Prophecy came to fruition and Rachel gave the prophetic spirit new life.

As for wisdom and water ... it had been me and Percy in the end, deciding the fate of Olympus. Who knew for certain which of our choices had led to the defining moment in the battle? It could have been the instant Percy had handed Luke my dagger—a choice to yield and put his faith in Luke. Or even Luke's choice, to plunge that blade into his own weak spot.

But none of their choices would have been possible if I hadn't opened the door to them.

Pan had been right about the nature of my role all along.

Chiron smiled at me. 'I guess we know now why the Oracle entrusted the prophecy to you long ago. She knew all along: you were its hidden hero.'

You were my secret weapon, Athena had said.

The enormity of the part I had played stole my breath away. Even though no one would ever know (and I had no desire to reveal my choices on Olympus to anyone else), just realising what power I'd had made my knees tremble.

'So ... what now?'

Chiron laughed. 'I think you've earned yourself a good break. And maybe a celebration.' He winked. 'After all, you've come through against all odds.'

His words brought back the opening lines of the Great Prophecy: shall reach sixteen against all odds ...

The revelation smacked me in the head. Sixteen. Today. August eighteenth.

Percy's birthday.

I'd registered it on Olympus, but hadn't said a word about it to him, let alone had time to get him a present. But the day wasn't over yet.

And there was something he'd asked for that he hadn't yet collected.


My plan wasn't as easy to pull off as I hoped. Mainly because when it came to the culinary arts, well, I was no Sally Blofis. The nymphs would have kicked me out of the underground kitchen if it hadn't been for Tyson, who showed up just before dinner, looking puzzled. He said a dove had sent him.

I rolled my eyes. Of course Aphrodite would stick her nose where it didn't belong. But I accepted his help gratefully. Thanks to Tyson, even though my chocolate cupcake looked like a brick, it wouldn't actually taste like one.

I brought it to Percy after dinner. He was sitting alone at his table, watching Grover and Juniper stroll along the moonlit beach.

'Hey,' I said. 'Happy birthday.'

He blinked at my cupcake. 'What?'

It was so typical of him to have forgotten the date, even when the resolution of the Great Prophecy should have been a blinking neon sign. 'It's August eighteenth. Your birthday, right?'

He stared from me to the cupcake. I wondered if he remembered the disastrous exchange we'd had on my birthday. This time, I was determined to get it right.

'Make a wish,' I told him.

He examined the cupcake. 'Did you bake this yourself?'

'Tyson helped,' I admitted.

Percy hid a smile. 'That explains why it looks like a chocolate brick. With extra-blue cement.'

I considered telling him that Tyson had actually saved the day—or the oven, at any rate—but he was already blowing out his candle.

He offered me the first bite. I dipped my fingers into the icing. Together, we polished off the cupcake (which did not taste anything like a brick). The ocean made a soothing backdrop to our companionable silence. The slow, steady roll of its waves was like Percy himself: full of unimaginable power under his calm, easygoing surface. You wouldn't guess from looking at him (especially with blue frosting dotting his nose and cheeks) that he was the saviour of Olympus.

'You saved the world.'

He looked at me. 'We saved the world.'

The earnestness in his voice made me smile. We're a team, right? he'd said on our first quest. You provided him with a source of power, my mother had told me.

This was us. It had always been us. Even when things had gotten so complicated, with Luke, and Rachel ...

'And Rachel is the new Oracle,' I said. 'Which means ... she won't be dating anybody.'

Percy raised his eyebrows. 'You don't sound disappointed.'

'Oh, I don't care.' And I didn't, not really. Even if she hadn't taken in the spirit of Delphi, after everything we'd seen and done ... well, if I wasn't sure of Percy after that, when would I ever be?

'Uh-huh,' Percy said.

'You got something to say to me, Seaweed Brain?'

He raised his hands in surrender. 'You'd probably kick my butt.'

I grinned. 'You know I'd kick your butt.'

He turned serious. 'When I was at the River Styx, turning invulnerable ...' He swallowed hard. 'Nico said I had to concentrate on one thing that kept me anchored to the world, that made me want to stay mortal.'

My breath caught in my throat. I had a sudden flash of him in the canoe lake, floundering until I pulled him back to me. He must have been taking his dangerous bath the very night I'd had that dream.

'Yeah?' I breathed. My fingers itched to sneak around to his weak spot, to feel that connection sparking between us again.

'Then ... up on Olympus, when they wanted to make me a god and stuff, I kept thinking ...' He paused, contemplating the offer he'd forgone.

'Oh, you so wanted to,' I teased.

'Well, maybe a little. But I didn't, because I thought—I didn't want things to stay the same for eternity, because things could always get better. And I was thinking ...'

My mouth threatened to burst into a giddy smile. 'Anyone in particular?'

He lifted his eyes. 'You're laughing at me.'

My lips twitched. 'I am not!'

Percy made a face. 'You are so not making this easy.'

He ran his fingers through his hair, struggling to find the right words. For months, I'd longed to hear him declare his feelings. Now I found I didn't need him to say it. Grover was right. I didn't need an empathy link to see how he felt about me.

There was no point dancing around it any more. I'd second-guessed myself, second-guessed us for long enough. It was time to stop running away from my doubts and fears.

This was Percy. I loved him. I trusted him. And like the eternal city I was tasked with rebuilding, I was ready to build something permanent with him, too.

'I am never, ever going to make things easy for you, Seaweed Brain,' I promised. 'Get used to it.'

I put my arms around him and kissed him. This time, I was definitely sure he was kissing me back.

It might have been the perfect romantic ending to the day, except Clarisse, of all people, had taken a leaf out of Aphrodite's book. She emerged from the bushes, leading an army of whooping, wolf-whistling campers.

'Well, it's about time!' she proclaimed.

'Oh come on, is there no privacy?' Percy whined as they surrounded us and lifted us onto their shoulders.

In response, Clarisse declared, 'I think the lovebirds need to cool off!'

They bore us away to the canoe lake, to the same dock I'd stood on in my dream, anchoring Percy to safety. With gleeful cries, our friends tossed us in. We fell into the water in a tangle of arms and legs. Fortunately, Percy was good at improvising. And water, of course.

The moment we hit the surface, a thin film of air bubbled over our skin. Without letting go of my hand, Percy pulled the layer of air around us, encasing us in our own private bubble just like he'd done at the bottom of Siren Bay.

My arms drifted around his waist, drawn to the spot on the small of his back that tied us together. His free hand traced the grey streak in my hair that matched his. Even his bath in the Styx hadn't faded it out. Because that linked us, too. There were so many things that bound us, visible or not.

'How long should we make them wait?' he asked.

'Are you in a hurry?'

He twisted a lock of my hair around his finger. 'Well, we have all the time in the world now, right?'

I put my arms around his neck. 'Maybe you're not such a Seaweed Brain after all.'

He laughed and pulled me closer. At last, he kissed me.

And it felt like coming home.

Chapter 36
Tags: the final sacrifice
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