Annabeth Chase and the Lighting Thief

(18) The Prophecy Comes True

We were the first heroes to return alive to Half-Blood Hill since Luke, so of course everybody treated us as if we’d won some reality TV contest. According to camp tradition, we wore laurel wreaths to a big feast prepared in our honor, then led a procession down to the bonfire, where we got to burn the burial shrouds our cabins had made for us in our absence.

My shroud was beautiful – grey silk with embroidered owls – Percy told me it seemed a shame not to bury me in it. I punched him and told him to shut up. Being the son of Poseidon, Percy didn’t have any cabin mates, so the Ares cabin had volunteered to make his shroud. They’d taken an old bedsheet and painted smiley faces with X’ed-out eyes around the border, and the word LOSER painted really big in the middle.

It was fun to burn.

As Apollo’s cabin led the sing-along and passed out toasted marshmallows, I was surrounded by my siblings. Some of my siblings and Grover’s satyr buddies, who were admiring the brand new searcher’s license he’d received from the Council of Cloven Elders. The council had called Grover’s performance on the quest “Brave to the point of indigestion. Horns-and whiskers above anything we have seen in the past.”

The only ones not in a party mood were Clarisse and her cabinmates, whose poisonous looks told me they’d never forgive Percy for disgracing their dad.

Even Dionysus’s welcome-home speech wasn’t enough to dampen my spirits. “Yes, yes, so the little brat didn’t get himself killed and now he’ll have an even bigger head. Well, huzzah for that. In other announcements, there will be no canoe races this Saturday...”

I moved back into cabin six with my siblings, but I didn’t feel so lonely any more. I had my friends to train with during the day. At night I couldn’t help but think about what Percy said when we were in the truck.

You should write him a letter or something.

I sighed and got out of bed to grab a pencil and paper.

A week later I had gotten my reply, but I wasn’t so sure if I was up to it. The decision should have been easy. I mean, nine months of hero training or nine months of sitting in a classroom – duh. But there was my dad to consider. For the second time, I had the chance to live with him again, and maybe it wouldn’t go so badly.

But the real world is where the monsters are. That’s where you learn whether you’re any good or not. I thought about the fate of Thalia, daughter of Zeus. I wondered how many monsters would attack me if I left Half-Blood Hill. If I stayed in one place for a whole school year, without Chiron or my friends around to help me, would my family and I even survive until the next summer?

On the Fourth of July, the whole camp gathered at the beach for a fireworks display by cabin nine. Being Hephaestus’s kids, they weren’t going to settle for a few lame red-white-and-blue explosions. They’d anchored a barge offshore and loaded it with rockets the size of Patriot missiles. I told Percy the blasts would be sequenced so tightly they’d look like frames of animation across the sky. The finale was supposed to be a couple of thirty-meter-tall Spartan warriors who would crackle to life above the ocean, fight a battle, then explode into a million colors.

As Percy and I were spreading a picnic blanket, Grover showed up to tell us goodbye. He was dressed in his usual jeans and T-shirt and trainers, but in the last few weeks he’d started to look older, almost high-school age. His goatee had got thicker. He’d put on weight. His horns had grown a few centimeters at least, so he now had to wear his rasta cap all the time to pass as human.

“I’m off,” he said. “I just came to say... well, you know.”

I tried to feel happy for him. After all, it wasn’t every day a satyr got permission to go look for the great god Pan. But it was hard saying goodbye. Grover was one of my oldest friends.

I gave him a hug and told him to keep his fake feet on.

Percy asked him where he was going to search first.

“Kind of a secret,” he said, looking embarrassed. “I wish you could come with me, guys, but humans and Pan...”

“We understand,” I said. “You got enough tin cans for the trip?”

“Yeah.”

“And you remembered your reed pipes?”

“Jeez, Annabeth,” he grumbled. “You’re like an old mama goat.”

But he didn’t really sound annoyed. He gripped his walking stick and slung a backpack over his shoulder. He looked like any hitchhiker you might see on an American highway – nothing like the little runty boy I used to defend from the Ares kids.

“Well,” he said, “wish me luck.”

He gave me another hug. He clapped Percy on the shoulder, then headed back through the dunes. Fireworks exploded to life overhead: Hercules killing the Nemean lion, Artemis chasing the boar, George Washington (who, by the way, was a son of Athena) crossing the Delaware.

“Hey, Grover,” Percy called. He turned at the edge of the woods. “Wherever you’re going – I hope they make good enchiladas.”

Grover grinned, and then he was gone, the trees closing around him.

“We’ll see him again,” I said. I tried to believe it. The fact that no searcher had ever come back in two thousand years... well, I decided not to think about that. Grover would be the first. He had to be.

July passed.

I spent my days devising new strategies for capture-the-flag and making alliances with the other cabins to keep the banner out of Ares’s hands. Percy finally got to the top of the climbing wall for the first time without getting scorched by lava. From time to time, I’d walk past the Big House, glance up at the attic windows and think about the Oracle. I tried to convince myself that its prophecy had come to completion.

You shall go west, and face the god who has turned.

Been there, done that – even though the traitor god turned out to be Ares rather than Hades.

You shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned.

Check. One master bolt delivered. One helmet of darkness back on Hades’s oily head.

And you shall fail to save what matters most, in the end. Percy had failed to save his mom, but only because he’d let her save herself, and I knew that was the right thing. So why was I still uneasy?

The last night of the summer session came all too quickly. The campers had one last meal together. We burned part of our dinner for the gods. At the bonfire, the senior counsellors awarded the end-of-summer beads.

When I saw the bead for this year, I smiled. The design was pitch black, with a sea-green trident shimmering in the centre.

“The choice was unanimous,” Luke announced. “This bead commemorates the first son of the Sea God at this camp, and the quest he undertook into the darkest part of the Underworld to stop a war!”

The entire camp got to their feet and cheered. Even Ares’s cabin felt obliged to stand. Athena’s cabin steered me to the front so I could share in the applause. I’m not sure I’d ever felt as happy or sad as I did at that moment. I had finally explored the world outside of camp, but it made me realize how much I missed everyone. And in the morning, most of them would be leaving for the year.

* * *

The next morning, I found a form letter on my bedside table. I knew Dionysus must’ve filled it out, because he stubbornly insisted on getting my name wrong:

Dear Annabelle Take,

If you intend to stay at Camp Half-Blood year-

round, you must inform the Big House by noon

today. If you do not announce your intentions,

we will assume you have vacated your cabin or

died a horrible death. Cleaning harpies will begin

work at sundown. They will be authorized to eat

any unregistered campers. All personal articles

left behind will be incinerated in the lava pit.

Have a nice day! Mr D (Dionysus) Camp Director, Olympian Council no.12

I threw the letter down on my bed. I had already told Chiron my decision, but was it the right one to make?

“Annabeth!” Will stumbled into my cabin.

“What happened? What’s wrong?”

“It’s Percy... he’s been poisoned.”

Percy was in a sickroom in the Big House when I ran in.

“I have other campers to attend to, you got him?”

I nodded and walked in. Argus was in the corner, and Chiron was tending to Percy.

Percy’s face was a sick grey color, and he wasn’t moving and I watched Chiron to get to work.

I bandaged his right hand, where apparently he’d been poisoned. He finally woke up when I gave him some nectar.

I was sitting next to him, holding the nectar glass and dabbing a washcloth on his forehead.

He grinned. “Here we are again,”

“You idiot,” I said, and his grin grew even bigger, “You were green and turning grey when we found you. If it weren’t for Chiron’s healing...”

“Now, now,” Chiron said. “Percy’s constitution deserves some of the credit.”

He was sitting near the foot of the bed in human form, his lower half was magically compacted into the wheelchair, his upper half dressed in a coat and tie. He smiled, but his face looked weary and pale.

“How are you feeling?” he asked.

“Like my insides have been frozen, then microwaved.”

“Apt, considering that was pit scorpion venom. Now you must tell me, if you can, exactly what happened.”

Between sips of nectar, Percy told us the story. The room was quiet for a long time.

“I can’t believe that Luke...” My voice faltered, and then I got angry when the realization hit me. “Yes. Yes, I can believe it. May the gods curse him... He was never the same after his quest.”

“This must be reported to Olympus,” Chiron murmured. “I will go at once.”

“Luke is out there right now,” Percy said. “I have to go after him.”

Chiron shook his head. “No, Percy. The gods –”

“Won’t even talk about Kronos,” Percy snapped. “Zeus declared the matter closed!”

“Percy, I know this is hard. But you must not rush out for vengeance. You aren’t ready.”

Percy stayed quiet and then said, “Chiron... your prophecy from the Oracle... it was about Kronos, wasn’t it? Was I in it? And Annabeth?”

I froze. Chiron glanced nervously at the ceiling. “Percy, it isn’t my place –”

“You’ve been ordered not to talk to me about it, haven’t you?”

His eyes were sympathetic, but sad. “You will be a great hero, child. I will do my best to prepare you. But if I’m right about the path ahead of you...”

Thunder boomed overhead, rattling the windows.

“All right!” Chiron shouted. “Fine!” He sighed in frustration. “The gods have their reasons, Percy. Knowing too much of your future is never a good thing.”

“We can’t just sit back and do nothing,” Percy said.

“We will not sit back,” Chiron promised. “But you must be careful. Kronos wants you to come unravelled. He wants your life disrupted, your thoughts clouded with fear and anger. Do not give him what he wants. Train patiently. Your time will come.”

“Assuming I live that long.”

Chiron put his hand on Percy’s ankle. “You’ll have to trust me, Percy. You will live. But first you must decide your path for the coming year. I cannot tell you the right choice...”

I got the feeling that he had a very definite opinion, and it was taking all his willpower not to advise Percy. “... But you must decide whether to stay at Camp Half-Blood year-round, or return to the mortal world for seventh grade and be a summer camper. Think on that. When I get back from Olympus, you must tell me your decision.”

Percy wanted to protest, it was written all over his face but Chiron’s expression told him there could be no more discussion; he had said as much as he could.

“I’ll be back as soon as I can,” Chiron promised. “Argus will watch over you.”

He glanced at me. “Oh, and, my dear... whenever you’re ready, they’re here.”

“Who’s here?” Percy asked.

Nobody answered. Chiron rolled himself out of the room. I heard the wheels of his chair clunk carefully down the front steps, two at a time. I suddenly became very interested the ice in Percy’s drink.

“What’s wrong?” Percy asked me.

“Nothing.” I set the glass on the table. “I... just took your advice about something. You... um... need anything?”

“Yeah. Help me up. I want to go outside.”

“Percy, that isn’t a good idea.”

He slid his legs out of bed. I caught him before he could crumple to the floor. His face turned green.

I said, “I told you...”

“I’m fine,” Percy insisted. He managed a step forward. Then another, still leaning heavily on me. Argus followed us outside, but he kept his distance.

By the time we reached the porch, Percy’s face was beaded with sweat. But he had managed to make it all the way to the railing.

It was dusk. The camp looked completely deserted. The cabins were dark and the volleyball pit silent. No canoes cut the surface of the lake. Beyond the woods and the strawberry fields, the Long Island Sound glittered in the last light of the sun.

“What are you going to do?” I asked Percy.

“I don’t know.” Percy told me he got the feeling Chiron wanted him to stay year-round, to put in more individual training time, but he wasn’t sure that’s what he wanted. Percy admitted he felt bad about leaving me alone, though, with only Clarisse for company...

I pursed my lips, then said quietly, “I’m going home for the year, Percy.”

He stared at me. “You mean, to your dad’s?”

I pointed towards the crest of Half-Blood Hill. Next to Thalia’s pine tree, at the very edge of the camp’s magical boundaries, a family stood silhouetted – two little children, a woman and a tall man with blond hair. They seemed to be waiting. My dad was holding a backpack that I had gotten from Waterland in Denver.

“I wrote him a letter when we got back,” I lied, I didn’t really want to tell him it was the only thing on my mind. “Just like you suggested. I told him... I was sorry. I’d come home for the school year if he still wanted me. He wrote back immediately. We decided... we’d give it another try.”

“That took guts.”

I pursed my lips again. “You won’t try anything stupid during the school year, will you? At least... not without sending me an iris-message?”

Percy managed a smile. “I won’t go looking for trouble. I usually don’t have to.”

“When I get back next summer,” I said, “we’ll hunt down Luke. We’ll ask for a quest, but if we don’t get approval, we’ll sneak off and do it anyway. Agreed?”

“Sounds like a plan worthy of Athena.”

I held out my hand. Percy shook it.

“Take care, Seaweed Brain,” I told him. “Keep your eyes open.”

“You too, Wise Girl.” I walked up the hill and joined my family. I gave my father an awkward hug and looked back at the valley one last time.

I put my hand on Thalia’s pine tree, then allowed myself to be led over the crest and into the mortal world.

I’d be back next summer. Nothing could keep me away from my family.

A/N: i’m so sad this journey has come to an end, but don’t worry! Annabeth Chase and the Sea of Monsters chapter one is already up! i hope you guys enjoyed this as much as i did, and i’m so excited to get started on the Sea of Monsters!

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