Quinn raced beside Delia, running as fast as she could to stay caught up with the older girl. Delia was arguing with Percy about where they went next. Percy kept insisting on Olympus.
"No, they'll all be dead by now."
"How can you say that? They're our family, Delia. They would have put up a fight!"
"Percy," she shouted with desperation. "Anyone who survived would've had to flee. That's the only option! And the ones who fled aren't worth going back for."
"No, I believe in them."
"Well it's sweet that you think that, Perce."
"Listen to me for like two seconds!"
Quinn stumbled over an overgrown root and fell, completely exhausted. She was only six and she had been going full blast all day. The older two had forgotten she was still just a kid. She yawned and rubbed her eyes with weak fists.
Percy crouched down and sat next to her. Hopefully the sound of the wind in the leaves would cover their noise, and the forest canopy would stop them from being seen from above. Quinn crawled into his lap and yawned again before snuggling closer to his chest. He wrapped his arms around her protectively while Delia leaned against a tree across from them.
"We have to come up with something, Perce," she murmured in a strangled voice. "I want them to have won as much as you but let's face it; we weren't strong enough. Going back to Olympus would be a death sentence."
Percy glanced up at the defeated looking daughter of Thanatos. Somewhere, deep down he knew she was right. They hadn't done enough to prepare for Kronos' second attack. What had they been doing after he became the supposed 'Hero of Olympus'? Partying it up and letting their guard down. After six years, they thought they were safe. How wrong could they be?
Percy heaved a heavy sigh, shifting the little girl on his chest over slightly. He tightened his grip on her slightly, laying her head back over his heart.
"What do you think we should do, Dell?"
She leaned her head back and tucked her arms behind her. Blinking against the pathetic sun's rays she let out a scolding, judging 'hmph'.
"I don't know. Let's get married."
"Annabeth wouldn't like that."
"Yeah, well. When we find her I'm sure she'll understand. We practically have a kid together."
They both looked down at Quinn who was fast asleep on Percy. A small smile crept over both their faces.
"You know, I think before all this she would've made a really good hero."
"Yeah," Percy agreed. "But, you think she'd be fine even though, you know…"
Delia took in the girl again. Stitches as wide as her mouth were scattered over her green skin. Her hair was a vibrant purple that framed her little face. More than once Delia had fallen victim to the girls puppy eyes, the brightest shade of yellow boring right into your soul.
"Yeah, I think so. Remember, this is in the perfect world. No Kronos, no 'end of the world', none of that. It'd just be camp, you, me, and everyone."
"Probably no gods," Percy told her. Her black eyes met his impossibly green ones.
"Probably no gods," she agreed.
Quinn hid in the cover of the tree tops. She struggled to keep her breathing under control or at least at a level where no one would be able to hear her. Annabeth grabbed her hand and squeezed it reassuringly. Her other hand was wrapped around the hilt of her old knife, effectively stealing any reassurance Quinn had. Their backs were pressed against the thick trunk of the oak tree. Hesitantly, Annabeth dared to peer around the protection of the leaves. A cold bead of sweat ran down the side of her face. She pulled Quinn closer, wrapping her arm around the girl's waist.
Quinn desperately hoped the camouflage bandana was enough to hide her royal purple hair. Her skin should have looked like leaves, but her hair was a dead giveaway. She closed her eyes tight, hoping their color hadn't been seen yet.
"I think we're fine," Annabeth told her adoptive daughter after a few moments of tense silence. She stayed balanced on the tree branch and pulled her arm back to her side. The moon cast a shallow light. Quinn sighed with relief. They had been tracked for days now, nonstop. Finally, a brake. She sat down, thoroughly in need of rest. Annabeth climbed up a little further to see if she could get a better view.
There was a rustling in the thick foliage at the end of the branch. Quinn jerked her head up and saw a few leaves move. Her hand reached back into her pocket where her fingers curled around Riptide. She uncapped it, enveloped in the dim light of the celestial bronze.
"Μαμά? Θείος Nico? Μείνε εκεί που είσαι ... "she whispered.
The rustling continued, despite Quinn's request to stay put. She slowly stood up holding Riptide in a fighting grip.
"Κρατήστε σε ένα δεύτερο," she murmured.
From the cover of the leaves burst a black, eyeless figure. Its head looked like a skull with leathery skin pulled taught over it. At the mouth the skin pulled into a toothless mouth that was as dark as Tartarus. It moved with blinding speed, crashing into the girl before she could blink. A leathery wing smacked her off balance before her brain could send the message to her arm to move. She pin wheeled her arms in fear before crying out and falling. She screamed loudly to her mother, hoping she would be able to catch her in time. She didn't.
"Quinn, no!" Annabeth screeched hoarsely. In desperation, she dove off the branch after her girl. Every time Quinn hit a branch, Annabeth winced. Oh, gods she thought. Quinn twisted around to see the ground rushing up on her. But even faster was the thickest branch yet. She barely had time to look back up at Annabeth before she slammed into the rough wood.
Annabeth tried in vain to ignore the sound of her daughter splintering the wood on one of the bottom branches. She reached out and wrapped her hands around a branch to stop herself. From there, she climbed down an endless amount of redundant tree limbs at the speed of light before she reached a bleeding Quinn.
Annabeth's fingers were covered with blood the moment they found the young girls bandana. She sobbed and pressed Quinn's unconscious head to her chest. She leaned against a tree with Quinn on her lap.
For a second, Annabeth wished she had ambrosia or nectar, but even before she could remind herself the supply had long run out she remembered Quinn was not a half-blood. In all technicality, she was a monster. The food of the gods would destroy her in an instant. The only thing she could do was stop the bleeding and then wait for someone to come find them.
The monster up in the tree disappeared. It traveled through the darkness to its leader to let him know of what it had learned. When it's shadowy form recollected, it was far away, in the ruins of New York City. To be specific, the top of what was formally the Empire State Building and Olympus. It trudged across the blackened and dead landscape, its bird like claw feet crunching on old grey grass and age old olive leaves. Soon enough it reached the demolished bronze doors of the throne room. It walked in almost eagerly to face its master.
In the middle of the room, where the old hearth once stood, a huge black and gold throne was stationed. It looked that much bigger compared to the mortal man who lounged in it. His black hair blended in subtly with his throne. His eyes were a shocking golden, but there was a very, very thin ring of green around the unnatural color.
"What do you want?" His voice was like knives on a stone. Cold and heartless.
It was hard to believe Kronos' new body was formally Percy Jackson.