AN: Writer's block and laziness. No excuse. It's been four months. Minus a few days, but even so, four months is way too long to not update something like this. Sorrysorrysorrysorry! I'll be faster next time. Like, maybe only three months or something.
Kidding.
Well, hopefully you enjoy it even if you have been tortuously waiting for so long. Review please? Even if it's only to rage at me for keeping you waiting. IT DOESN'T MEAN I DON'T LOVE YOU.


Echoes


III. Choice


There's something almost tangible in the damp, musky air of the Labyrinth. It mingles with your heavy breathing and sweat and fear and guilt, becoming just as much a part of the maze as the shifting walls.

Helplessness.

You hate it. You absolutely loathe feeling inadequate and unknowledgeable in any way. That's not how children of Athena are supposed to be. You're intelligent and logical and quick-thinking and you always have a plan.

But the Labyrinth knows that about you, and it exists to trick and confuse you. Make you doubt yourself. The fewer people there are, the easier it is, and now your party of four has been reduced to one. One stunned, guilty, grieving daughter of Athena alone in the Labyrinth.

The only sounds are your footsteps, the steady gasp of your breathing, and the ominous creaking and groaning of the tunnels. You think you hear a constant whispering, mumbling sound (it almost reminds you of your first quest, hearing Kronos' voice from Tartarus) coming from ahead of you, or maybe it's behind you, but now it's right next to you— No, it's just the maze trying to trick you. It does that, you remind yourself. All the same, you can't rid yourself of the feeling that someone or something stalks you as you hurry through the long passageways.

You can't stop thinking about Percy.

You're focusing on the maze, of course you are. It would be foolish not to, and die because you got lost. But as you stand at a fork in the tunnels, struggling to decide which way to turn, you feel him by your side, as if a part of you has been amputated but you still feel the pain. You have a feeling that he would tell you to go left. You listen to him, for once.

The left tunnel is dark, damp like a cave. Something about it makes you wary, and you raise your knife cautiously. (Of course your knife has been drawn the entire time; you're not stupid enough to walk around Daedalus' Labyrinth without a weapon out.)

That's when you hear it. It's just a soft whisper, and your ears wouldn't have picked it up if you hadn't just paused to reconsider coming down this creepy tunnel.

You hear your name.

In his voice.

Your pulse is all you can hear. Your lungs suddenly stop working, your head is pounding.

This is not possible. He is dead, he died in the forge and even if he hadn't he would have been way too badly injured to be able to catch up to you so soon. The idea that he is here talking to you is absolutely ridiculous and you are ashamed that you thought for even a moment that it was possible.

A warm breeze brushes past your elbow, making the hairs on your arm stand on end. You're frozen.

This is not possible this is not possible thisisnot—

You hear a ghostly chuckle, and then your name again, but this time it's definitely not Percy's voice. Percy never sounded so cold, so bitingly sarcastic, so …creepy. This voice, that laugh: they don't belong to your friend. They are deeper, older, more sinister and unnatural—

The wind shoots forward and suddenly dives down into the floor, but you don't really know how you know that because you can't see wind. The maze has gone darker than Tartarus and deathly silent, which it has never been.

You hold your breath, trying to hear something, anything, in the soundless blackout that reminds you of those times when the power goes out and you're all alone.

And then, almost leisurely, a flickering white figure rises up right out of the spot the wind died. You immediately know what it is; a ghost. The ghost of a man. But not Percy. Definitely not Percy.

The ghost is wearing ancient Greek robes that are, from what you can tell, intricate and detailed so he was definitely powerful when he was alive. He's wearing a crown. He has a pointed beard. His eyes glitter. His handed are neatly folded in front of him, but not in a prayerful kind of way; you can easily imagine him as the antagonist in some ancient drama.

"Hello," he finally says. He smiles a little bit, and you continue to stare at him and analyze his every move. Ghosts are not to be trusted, you remind yourself. "Welcome to my Labyrinth."

My Labyrinth.

"Minos," you guess. It's not much of a guess; you're pretty sure the only person other than Daedalus who would ever refer to the Labyrinth as theirs would be the legendary (but certainly not mythical) king of Corinth.

He throws a hand over his eyes and sighs, "Finally! Finally somebody remembers my name. Oh, they used to. They used to know exactly who I am. But now…!"

You just raise your eyebrows. This certainly isn't the reaction you expected from the notorious King Minos of Corinth, Judger of Souls. You expected him to be at least more dignified and collected. Strangely, you feel disappointed.

He seems to realize his embarrassing lack in composure, because he clears his throat and continues with so much bravado that you'd never think he had just been ranting. "Where was I? Ah, yes. You see, my dear," he pauses to leer at you. You glare straight back at him. "This is my maze. And I don't appreciate intruders.

"I've been watching your little quest for a while—it's always good to know what's going on in your kingdom, of course—and, well, I must say it's gone too far. I've already disposed of most of your—"

"Excuse me?" you snarl. You clench your knife tighter. "Nobody hurts my friends. Not even some washed-up ghost king who thinks he owns a maze because he ruled over a kingdom that doesn't even exist anymore. Now, you're going to tell me what you did to my friends, and then—"

"I," he interrupts you proudly, "am not going to be ordered around by a little girl." He sneers, the corners of his mouth curling up into a self-satisfied smirk. "And to think I was going to give you some very useful information…"

You hate it when this happens—when people dangle knowledge right in front of your nose because they know you can't resist getting even the smallest lead in this enormous puzzle that your life has become.

You quickly, automatically analyze the situation. Two options.

One: take the bait. Best outcome: gain potentially useful information. Worst outcome: Minos tricks you by giving useless or harmful information.

Two: ignore him and move on. Best outcome: avoid deception and danger. Worst outcome: pass by useful information.

You imagine Janus's smirking faces in front of you, tossing that key around and whispering, "Choose. Choose. Choose."

Your eyes squeeze shut for a moment. Concentrate. Push your pride aside for just this moment, you tell yourself, and think rationally. He might know something about Percy. Or he might be trying to trick you. Or both. Or neither. Or, or, or…

Minos is grinning at you. Leering. Smirking.

In this moment of indecision, you suddenly know exactly what you will choose and why and that you never really had a choice in the matter. Once again, you feel helpless, and furious at yourself for feeling helpless.

"Tell me."