I was done with sitting back and doing nothing as Kronos destroyed Olympus.
Having him in my head for the past year taught me a lot about what he thought of his followers. Before he'd taken me over I'd thought that, by being a faithful follower of his, I'd be able to pull rank once we'd gotten our revenge on the gods, and be able to have some power in his new regime. Once I'd started hosting him, all those illusions dissolved. I was nothing more than a stepping stone. Whether he succeeded or not, I wouldn't live to see the damage he'd do. I'd wrapped myself in chains, but I didn't know it until I was in too deep.
He didn't care about his followers at all. I saw that on the Princess Andromeda, when Percy and Beckendorf blew it sky high. I watched countless demigods die in the battle that he'd caused to reach Olympus. They were trying to support a lord who wouldn't even lift a finger to save a single one of them. Ethan was the latest example. I watched in shock as he did what I wished I was able to do. Ethan had realized the damage the Titan was causing and tried to stop him. Kronos had made my foot stomp, and he mercilessly sent Ethan down to the pavement with nothing more than a, "So much for him."
The scene played back in my memory as I watched the gods defeat Typhon. If I could have controlled my mouth, I would have smiled. Kronos' plans were unraveling before my eyes. The tyranny he would unleash couldn't happen if the gods won.
"BAH!" Kronos screamed using my mouth. He made me swing Backbiter through the smoke that he’d used to watch the battle.
"They're on their way," Percy said with confidence. I couldn't resist smiling internally as he said, "You've lost."
“I haven’t even started,” Kronos growled. He advanced, trying to get to Percy. Grover tried to protect him by intercepting me, but Kronos shoved him out of the way like he was nothing. I watched as he hit the ground, and mentally winced in sympathy.
When Kronos reached Percy, I could tell that Kronos was accessing my memories. Percy tried to strike under Kronos’ guard, but Kronos parried the strike. He then used the first move I’d taught Percy to disarm him. I watched, helpless as Riptide fell through the same fissure that Ethan had fallen through only minutes ago.
“STOP!” Annabeth’s voice rung throughout the throne room. I’d almost forgotten that she was here. I turned to face her. Kronos slashed, trying to finish her off, but she managed to catch the blade on the hilt of her dagger. I felt a flood of pride as I saw her step closer to me to gain leverage over the Titan.
“Luke,” she said, clenching her teeth because of the strain. “I understand now. You have to trust me.” That’s when realization dawned in my mind. If Kronos could subject me to his will, couldn’t I do the same to him? Ethan had tried to fight, and had paid the price with his life. I would be dying in a couple hours at most, when Kronos assumed his new body and burned mine. I might as well try to make the most of my final time. I started to fight. I fought to keep him still.
“Luke Castellan is dead! His body will burn away as I assume my true form!” Kronos said, sensing my thoughts. I figured his words were meant to discourage me even more than Annabeth, but I didn’t back down. Kronos was still trying to force Annabeth to dislodge her blade from his, and I had to do all I could to prevent him from hurting her. I could see her tiring. It didn’t really surprise me that despite all I could do, Kronos still managed to slowly force Backbiter down to her neck.
“Your mother,” she said, her voice strained. “She saw your fate.”
“Service to Kronos!” Kronos said, using my mouth. “This is my fate.” I could tell that Kronos was beginning to need to struggle to keep his control over me.
“No!” Annabeth said. “That’s not the end, Luke. The prophecy: she saw what you would do. It applies to you!” Those four words ignited memories in my mind like a match would light a stick of dynamite. I suddenly remembered myself, young and scared, hiding as my mom had one of her fits. I remembered the creepy shade of green that her eyes would turn as she began to speak. She always said the same thing about my fate, like it was something that I needed protection from. I suddenly realized that she’d seen these very moments. She’d known what I’d do, and what I’d have to do to right that mistake.
“I will crush you, child!” Hearing those words come out of my mouth made me push against Kronos’ will with all I had to make that promise not come true. My mind felt exhausted. I could tell that I wouldn’t be able to keep this up much longer.
“You won’t,” Annabeth said. I could see it in her eyes that she was trying to open a way for me to get control by putting doubt in Kronos’ mind. “You promised. You’re holding Kronos back even now.” Her words gave me a surge of hope.
“LIES!” My concentration broke, and Kronos made Annabeth fall. On the way down, he forced me to hit her. I felt Kronos’ power shift to Percy as he began to rise. Kronos triumphantly strode over to where Annabeth lay, readying Backbiter to strike.
“Family, Luke. You promised.” She barely managed to get the words out. I barely noticed Percy and Grover trying to come to her rescue as I felt a slight loosening of the grip he had on my body. With renewed vigor, I pushed with everything I had. I made Kronos stumble.
I moved my focus to Annabeth’s knife and the injuries I’d caused her. It made me feel sick. She was right. I had broken the first promise that I’d ever made to her. I’d shattered the family I’d promised her. It was all my fault, and I realized that I was the one that needed to repair the damage I’d caused. No one else could.
I suddenly felt like I’d just surfaced after a deep dive. I gasped, forcing air into my lungs. “Annabeth…” I said. I stumbled as I tried to walk over to her. It felt foreign to be back in control of my own body. I could feel Kronos struggling for control, but I wasn’t going to let him push me down again. “You’re bleeding…” That seemed like a bit of an understatement, but I didn’t know what else to say.
A beam of understanding passed between Annabeth and I as she said, “My knife.” She tried to lift her knife, but she couldn’t keep hold of it and it clattered to the marble floor. She looked over at Percy. “Percy, please…” It was then that I realized that Percy still had Kronos’ power acting on him. I quickly cut it off and Percy lunged forward. He grabbed the knife off the ground. In the same movement he knocked Backbiter out of my hand. I didn’t even watch it to see where it had landed. I tried to take another step toward Annabeth, but Percy stepped between us.
“Don’t touch her,” he said threateningly. I was taken aback for about a second before I realized that if our roles were reversed, I’d have done the same thing.
I felt my upper hand with Kronos slip. “Jackson…” Kronos growled. As I tried to tighten my control over the titan, I felt an all encompassing pain. It felt like I was burning from the inside out. I instantly knew what was going on.
I gasped, the pain seeming to push Kronos back for a minute. “He’s changing,” I said, struggling to get the words out. “Help. He’s … he’s almost ready. He won’t need my body anymore. Please-”
“NO!” Kronos was suddenly back in control. He turned my head and I finally saw where Backbiter had landed, in the hearth. I felt a little bit of satisfaction in this. At least Percy hadn’t made it easy for Kronos to get it back. Kronos stumbled towards it and I instantly felt dread. I realized that Kronos wanted to make me feel as much pain as possible before he killed me. Percy tried to stop Kronos from getting to the hearth, but I was forced to push him out of the way. I heard the crack as his head hit the base of Athena’s throne. I felt a twinge of sympathy and would have cringed had I had control over my actions.
I heard Annabeth mutter something to Percy, but couldn’t make it out. Kronos continued to force me toward the fire to retrieve his scythe. He made me bend and pick it up, but the instant my hands touched the handle, a searing pain coursed through my body. I dropped it as quickly as I could. It was then that I realized that I was back in control. The fire glowed hotter, and I was able to see the image of Hestia in the flames. Her look of disapproval was scathing and I instantly felt even more guilty than I had before.
The pain that I felt as Kronos prepared to change increased, and the shock made me collapse. I turned to avoid falling into the flames of the hearth. “Please, Percy…” I groaned. I took my first good look at my hands after touching the scythe. My palms were scorched and blistering. I felt pain all over.
Percy grabbed Annabeth’s knife and came stalking toward me. I could tell what goal he had in mind. He planned to kill me. I figured that it would be mercy to have me die now, but I knew that if there was one thing Kronos was good at, it was self-preservation.
“You can’t…can’t do it yourself. He’ll break my control. He’ll defend himself. Only my hand. I know where. I can… can keep him controlled,” I promised. I figured that it would be easier exerting my will to control a single part of my body rather than the whole thing. I began to see smoke rising from my hands and I knew Kronos was just biding his time, preparing to change. Percy raised the knife above me, but he looked back to where Annabeth lay. Grover was there, trying to protect her. “Please,” I said, barely managing to get the word out. “No time.”
Percy suddenly looked like he understood what Annabeth had been trying to say. He looked me in the eye, paused for a moment, then turned the knife and handed it to me by the hilt.
Grover looked dumbfounded. He looked at Percy as though he’d sprouted a second head. “Percy? Are you…um…”
I secured my grip on the knife as Percy stood, weaponless, before me. Concentrating on controlling my hands, I reached for the left side of my breastplate. I unlatched the straps that held it closed, knowing that these would be my final living moments. There would be no going back once I touched the dagger to the small section of skin under my arm that was my Achilles heel.
Struggling against Kronos’ desperate attempts to defend himself, I closed my eyes, brought the tip of the knife to the spot and pushed. Agony shot through my body like nothing I’d ever felt before. I howled in pain as I experienced a tearing sensation as the Kronos’ essence was violently stripped away from my body. Intense heat gathered on the surface of my skin, and exploded outward.
For a few minutes nothing happened. No sound was heard in the throne room. I opened my eyes to see what had happened. I was still at the hearth, and a ring of ash surrounded me like I had been a bomb that had gone off. I felt weak, but Kronos was gone. No trace of his presence had remained inside of me. I was bleeding, but that didn’t matter. I was free.
“Good…blade,” I said. It was getting harder to breathe. Percy came and knelt next to me, and Grover helped Annabeth over as well. Both Grover and Annabeth were tearing up. I looked at Annabeth. “You knew. I almost killed you, but you knew…” I tried to express my relief, but Annabeth shushed me.
Her voice quivered as she said, “You were a hero at the end, Luke. You’ll go to Elysium.”
I worked hard to shake my head. That didn’t seem quite right to me. “Think…rebirth. Try for three times. Isles of the Blest.”
She sniffed and smiled. “You always pushed yourself too hard.” I held up my hand. It was blackened, but I was able to feel when her fingertips touched mine. I had one burning question that I’d been trying to ask forever, and I figured that I had to ask it before I couldn’t anymore.
“Did you…” I coughed. “Did you love me?” I expected that I already knew the answer, but I needed to hear her say it anyway.
She wiped the tears out of her eyes, then looked me in the eye. “There was a time I thought…well, I thought…” Her gaze shifted to Percy as he looked at her. They both looked so relieved just to be able to see each other alive. Annabeth looked indecisive for a few seconds then said, “You were like a brother to me, Luke. But I didn’t love you.” I nodded, my suspicions confirmed. Then I winced as the pain that filled my body flared up for a second. I could tell that I didn’t have much time left.
Grover could tell too. “We can get ambrosia,” he said. “We can-”
I cut him off. “Grover,” I said, my voice weakening as I spoke. “You’re the bravest satyr I ever knew. But no. There’s no healing…” I coughed again, harder this time.
Then I thought of a request I had to make before my thread was cut. I grabbed Percy’s sleeve, making sure that he paid attention to me. I stared at him intently. “Ethan. Me. All the unclaimed. Don’t let it… Don’t let it happen again.” I hoped he would listen.
He looked me in the eye for a couple seconds, then said, “I won’t. I promise.” I nodded, knowing that when Percy made a commitment, he would do the best he could to make sure it happened.
I heard a quiet snip in the back of my mind, as though it had passed through time and space to get to me. I knew that my time was up. My only regret was not being able to tell my father that I was sorry. I readied myself to reach the underworld as I let out my final breath.