She's only seven years old, and seven years isn't a lot of experience, so naturally, it was the last thing on everyone's mind that their survival would fall into the hands of the little blonde kid. But the ways of the Fates can be strange in mortals' eyes, and, as it was not yet the time to cut the thread of the daughter of Zeus, they improvised.
The three Fates have made some notoriously poor decisions in the history of mortal man. Fortunately, they'd learned something over their countless, deathless years, and they weren't about to place the lives of Hermes' brash young son and Zeus's shining daughter in the hands of a mere human (or even in the hands of that guardian satyr called Grover.) Unfortunately, there weren't any willing immortals on hand to assist the half-bloods, and although deadly fate could technically overrule any and all wills – whether finite or infinite – no one wants a god as an enemy, even the Fates.
So they improvised.
They chose a young hero who was the last thing that the Cyclops would expect.
She may be seven years old, and she may be untrained, and she may be unprepared for combat with a massive, ravenous monster, but she is the daughter of Pallas Athena – goddess of wisdom, goddess of battle. The grey-eyed goddess with the sparkling eyes.
Annabeth Chase has divine blood in her veins.
She's also seven years old.
Her combat experience is almost non-existent. Her only weapon is small dagger of celestial bronze. But she is willful, and she is smart, and even hubris can be helpful if it's channeled properly on the battlefield. Any normal seven-year-old would be brave enough – or, perhaps, foolish enough – to do anything but turn and run (and then what would happen to the other half-bloods?)
Annabeth Chase has never been a normal seven year old.
In the same second that she hears Thalia Grace's terrified shriek, she's tearing through the maze of corridors, right, left, right again, and then she's looking at a bone-littered room, a fire dancing in its center, the air thick and wet with darkness and fog, the wall supporting two bound-and-gagged half-bloods and a satyr.
A single eye peers out of the dark, and suddenly, even Annabeth Chase, daughter of Athena, is afraid.
Yes, she'll have to play the hero today, even if she is only seven years old, seven short years, and unfortunately, less than half of them were spent on the run. As a result, still hasn't learned the art of subtlety. Thalia and Luke didn't help much, either – both were headstrong and confident, neither doing a very good job of teaching stealth to their newest charge. Of course, they hadn't exactly predicted that she would need it. She was young. Inexperienced. Thalia would watch her back, and Luke would do his best to keep them all alive. It wasn't the little girl's job to fight. If she could just hang on to that bronze knife and stay out of the way while Thalia sent harpy feathers flying, that would be enough.
Or so they thought.
Seven years old or not, she could've used some stealth right about now.
Her muddy sneakers squeak on the concrete as she slips through the door, and the hulking monster turns at the sound.
He has one eye, a bloodshot lump of a thing that looks like someone accidentally smashed it into his forehead, and that one eye goes wide when it sees her. The flames spiraling out of his makeshift fire pit reflect in his dark pupils – flashes of angry orange and red, blazing hungrily. He straightens, the muscles in his shoulders and arms bulging beneath tight, leathery skin.
Thalia and Luke both know it's too late, and it's time for their little protégé to run for it. Unfortunately, their warnings are muffled by the gags that the monster stuffed into their mouths. Their useless shouts of panic are silenced. Even Grover tries to warn the child – that's all she is, a child, and he should have protected her, he knows that – but all he can manage is an incoherent bleat: baa-ha-ha against his gag.
The little girl pauses in the doorway, but only for a moment. Only because she's taking in her surroundings, trying to make a strategy. She swallows and takes a step into the room, sneakers still creaking.
One. Squeak. Two. Squeak.
Overhead, bound and gagged as she is, Thalia Grace closes her eyes and prays that the gods have enough sense to protect the little girl from being eaten alive.
Luke Castellan writhes in his bonds, but in vain.
Grover lowers his head and bleats again. A soft, mournful bleat.
Despite the thick heat of the flames, seven-year-old Annabeth Chase shivers. Slowly, fingers trembling, she grips the hilt of her celestial bronze knife and slides it out of its sheath, into her sweaty palm. Her knuckles go white around the blade. Its surface sparkles and flashes with the scarlet light of the monster's fire.
Her throat is dry.
"Let my friends go."
The Cyclops grins, his crooked teeth glistening in the firelight. He doesn't attack. He doesn't even threaten her. Very slowly, one lumbering step at a time (and every step makes the whole house rattle beneath his weight,) he saunters toward this new, little hero. She should turn, she should run, but she's transfixed.
He just smiles at her.
Annabeth blinks, once, twice, and for the first time in her life, she wishes her father were here to protect her. She closes her eyes. She prays to a goddess she's never met, Please, if you hear me, I still think I'm too young to die.
Then, eyes still closed, she hears the voice.
"Now, Annabeth, don't you worry. I love you. You can stay here with me. You can stay forever."
She opens her eyes.
The Cyclops grins crookedly at her. His hot, moist breath smells of blood and rotted flesh, but his voice is familiar.
Annabeth blinks. "Father?" It's impossible, but she knows that voice. And he said he loves me. He loves me. Something flutters in her chest. She inadvertently feels herself take a step closer, and she's shuddering now, and the bronze knife shakes in her tiny fist, but she moves forward. One step. Squeak.
"Yes, Annabeth. It's me. Don't be afraid. I love you."
I love you.
Another step. Squeak.
Her fingers loosen around the hilt of the knife.
"It's okay," her father's voice says. "You can stay with me."
"Stay," she echoes distantly.
"I love you. Don't be afraid."
I love you.
Then she finds herself shaking her head, as if to dispel some wicked fog from her mind.
She moves forward, quickly now, every step increases her confidence and now she's running, raising the knife over her head, and the flames dance hideously against the walls and floor, glittering off of the polished surface of the blade. She sprints into the monster's long, deep shadow.
One gnarled, leathery fist gropes down to seize her by the back of the neck.
"I love you, Annabeth," her father's voice says. "Don't be scared. I love you. Come closer."
Tears glisten in the Annabeth Chase's eyes, and for the first time, she looks even younger than seven.
"You never loved me," she cries. "You never will."
Then Annabeth closes her eyes and brings the bronze knife down – hard.
A/N: I got this plot bunny this afternoon, and I knew it would eat away at my soul until I wrote it down. This is the Cyclops scene that Annabeth recounts in Sea of Monsters. The intro about the Fates kind of wrote itself, and the rest is just canon.
Reviews are appreciated! :)