Everything in bold is Rick Riordans. I do not own Percy Jackson
The campers at Camp Half-Blood were upset. Upset that their heroes were MIA, upset that the giant ship had left and haden't Iris messaged them, and upset that they had no clue what was going on on the quest. Was Percy okay? Did they find him? Clarrise growled and stabbed her brisket, while simultaneously chewing on the inside of her mouth with worry. It had been days since she'd seen Piper, Jason, Leo and Annabeth. Where were they?
A bright light focused on Mr.D's table exploded and suddenly there was a hefty stack of papers in the center of the table. Curious, Chiron picked up the sheets and read the note on front. He gasped, and repeated it aloud.
"Dear Campers and Hunters:
We realize you are worried about the friends on the dangerous quest they have gone out on, so we have decided to give you a sneak peak into what horrors they had to face on the journey to Rome. Enjoy.
-Hermes and Apollo (The most awesome gods EVER)
The campers gasped and Thalia said, "What are we waiting for? Start reading!"
Chiron glanced at her and began to read.
Annabeth had reached her terror limit.
This caused everyone to pale. "Poor Annabeth." Malcom said quietly. Everyone nodded.
She'd been assaulted by chauvinist ghosts. She'd broken her ankle.
This caused everyone to wince and the younger demigods to pale even more.
She'd been chased across a chasm by an army of spiders.
Athena's cabin gasped, stifled screams and shivered. Clarrise rolled her eyes at them and mumbled wimps. Deep down though, she was worried about Annabeth.
Now, in severe pain, with her ankle wrapped in boards and Bubble Wrap, and carrying no weapon except her dagger, she faced Arachne
The pavilion was now in chaos. Chiron was frozen and the demigods were screaming. The Athena cabin was attempting to hide under the table and even the hunters were shocked. Thalia whistled loudly causing everyone to look at her.
"We have to keep reading! We need to see how it ends!" Chiron nodded and continued to read.
—a monstrous half-spider who wanted to kill her and make a commemorative tapestry about it.
Everyone grimaced but kept mostly quiet. The smaller children in Athenas cabin were weeping for their half sister though.
In the last few hours, Annabeth had shivered, sweated, whimpered, and blinked back so many tears that her body simply gave up on being scared. Her mind said something like, Okay, sorry. I can't be any more terrified than I already am.
Thalia's eyes filled with tears, for Annabeth was like her little sister, and she hated it when she was scared.
So instead, Annabeth started to think.
Grover smiled at how predictable she was.
The monstrous creature picked her way down from the top of the web-covered statue.
Everyone froze. They could be reading about her death. Where was Percy? He should be there.
She moved from strand to strand, hissing with pleasure, her four eyes glittering in the dark. Either she was not in a hurry, or she was slow.
Annabeth hoped she was slow.
Please be slow, everyone prayed.
Not that it mattered. Annabeth was in no condition to run, and she didn't like her chances in combat. Arachne probably weighed several hundred pounds.
The camp was full of pale, crying demigods, and a very depressed centaur.
Those barbed legs were perfect for capturing and killing prey. Besides, Arachne probably had other horrible powers—a poisonous bite, or web-slinging abilities like an Ancient Greek Spider-Man.
Despite the horrible situation, a few people chuckled at that ridiculous idea.
No. Combat was not the answer.
That left trickery and brains.
The Athena cabin began to cheer. She could trick Arachne, she had to.
In the old legends, Arachne had gotten into trouble because of pride. She'd bragged about her tapestries being better than Athena's, which had led to Mount Olympus's first reality TV punishment program: So You Think You Can Weave Better Than a Goddess? Arachne had lost in a big way.
Everyone smirked. That's what you get for trying to be better than the gods.
Annabeth knew something about being prideful. It was her fatal flaw as well. She often had to remind herself that she couldn't do everything alone. She wasn't always the best person for every job.
"Yes she is." One of the younger Athena campers said stubbornly. Everyone smiled at her.
Sometimes she got tunnel vision and forgot about what other people needed, even Percy. And she could get easily distracted talking about her favorite projects.
"gasp! She forgets Percy?" Travis said smirking
Thalia scowled at him and he deflated.
But could she use that weakness against the spider? Maybe if she stalled for time…though she wasn't sure how stalling would help. Her friends wouldn't be able to reach her, even if they knew where to go. The cavalry would not be coming. Still, stalling was better than dying.
She tried to keep her expression calm, which wasn't easy with a broken ankle. She limped toward the nearest tapestry—a cityscape of Ancient Rome.
"Marvelous," she said. "Tell me about this tapestry."
Arachne's lips curled over her mandibles. "Why do you care? You're about to die."
"Well, yes," Annabeth said. "But the way you captured the light is amazing. Did you use real golden thread for the sunbeams?"
The weaving truly was stunning. Annabeth didn't have to pretend to be impressed.
Arachne allowed herself a smug smile. "No, child. Not gold. I blended the colors, contrasting bright yellow with darker hues. That's what gives it a three-dimensional effect."
"Beautiful." Annabeth's mind split into two different levels: one carrying on the conversation, the other madly grasping for a scheme to survive.
"Cmon wise girl, you got this." Thalia mumbled
Nothing came to her.
"DON'T GIVE UP!" Grover screamed, who was able to keep quiet until then.
Arachne had been beaten only once—by Athena herself, and that had taken godly magic and incredible skill in a weaving contest.
"So…" she said. "Did you see this scene yourself?"
Arachne hissed, her mouth foaming in a not-very-attractive way. "You are trying to delay your death. It won't work."
"Dammit." Clarrise swore "Keep trying."
"No, no," Annabeth insisted. "It just seems a shame that these beautiful tapestries can't be seen by everyone. They belong in a museum, or…"
"Or what?" Arachne asked.
A crazy idea sprang fully formed from Annabeth's mind, like her mom jumping out of Zeus's noggin. But could she make it work?
"YES! ANNABETH TRY!" Thalia screamed.
"Nothing." She sighed wistfully. "It's a silly thought. Too bad."
"What is she playing at?" Malcom wondered aloud. Everyone was asking themselves the same question.
Arachne scuttled down the statue until she was perched atop the goddess's shield. Even from that distance, Annabeth could smell the spider's stink, like an entire bakery full of pastries left to go bad for a month.
Everyone scrunched up their noses. EW was the general thought.
"What?" the spider pressed. "What silly thought?"
Annabeth had to force herself not to back away. Broken ankle or no, every nerve in her body pulsed with fear, telling her to get away from the huge spider hovering over her.
"yes, please get away." Chiron said very lowly.
"Oh…it's just that I was put in charge of redesigning Mount Olympus," she said. "You know, after the Titan War. I've completed most of the work, but we need a lot of quality public art. The throne room of the gods, for instance…I was thinking your work would be perfect to display there. The Olympians could finally see how talented you are. As I said, it was a silly thought."
Malcom gasped. "Flattery! Crazy, but it just might work!" The Athena campers were all smiling at her brilliant idea while everyone else but chiron was in the dark. He was beaming at his students bravery and skill.
Arachne's hairy abdomen quivered. Her four eyes glimmered as if she had a separate thought behind each and was trying to weave them into a coherent web.
"You're redesigning Mount Olympus," she said. "My work…in the throne room."
"Well, other places too," Annabeth said. "The main pavilion could use several of these. That one with the Greek landscape—the Nine Muses would love that. And I'm sure the other gods would be fighting over your work as well. They'd compete to have your tapestries in their palaces. I guess, aside from Athena, none of the gods has ever seen what you can do?"
Arachne snapped her mandibles. "Hardly. In the old days, Athena tore up all my best work. My tapestries depicted the gods in rather unflattering ways, you see. Your mother didn't appreciate that."
"of course not stupid." Clarrise said, rolling her eyes.
"Rather hypocritical," Annabeth said, "since the gods make fun of each other all the time. I think the trick would be to pit one god against another. Ares, for instance, would love a tapestry making fun of my mother. He's always resented Athena."
"That he has." Said Mark from the Ares cabin while glaring at the Athena campers. They glared back.
Arachne's head tilted at an unnatural angle. "You would work against your own mother?"
"I'm just telling you what Ares would like," Annabeth said. "And Zeus would love something that made fun of Poseidon. Oh, I'm sure if the Olympians saw your work, they'd realize how amazing you are, and I'd have to broker a bidding war. As for working against my mother, why shouldn't I? She sent me here to die, didn't she? The last time I saw her in New York, she basically disowned me."
The Athena cabin gasped. "Why would mother do that?" Malcom yelled, distressed.
Annabeth told her the story. She shared her bitterness and sorrow, and it must have sounded genuine. The spider did not pounce.
Thalia wiped her forehead. Annabeth better know what she's doing.
"This is Athena's nature," Arachne hissed. "She casts aside even her own daughter. The goddess would never allow my tapestries to be shown in the palaces of the gods. She was always jealous of me."
"But imagine if you could get your revenge at long last."
"By killing you!"
"NO." The whole camp yelled.
"I suppose." Annabeth scratched her head. "Or…by letting me be your agent. I could get your work into Mount Olympus. I could arrange an exhibition for the other gods. By the time my mother found out, it would be too late. The Olympians would finally see that your work is better."
"Continue Annabeth." Chiron said softly and everyone looked at him.
"Yes please." Grover added on.
"Then you admit it!" Arachne cried. "A daughter of Athena admits I am better! Oh, this is sweet to my ears."
Thunder rolled. Everyone glanced at the sky.
"But a lot of good it does you," Annabeth pointed out. "If I die down here, you go on living in the dark. Gaea destroys the gods, and they never realize you were the better weaver."
"She's crazy. But she seems to be winning." Someone said from the Nike cabin. "Hopefully mother has blessed her."
The spider hissed.
Annabeth was afraid her mother might suddenly appear and curse her with some terrible affliction.
"She understands how desperate you are Annabeth." Malcom said gravely, "Athena always has a plan."
The first lesson every child of Athena learned: Mom was the best at everything, and you should never, ever suggest otherwise.
Athena cabin nodded sharply while everyone else rolled their eyes.
But nothing bad happened. Maybe Athena understood that Annabeth was only saying these things to save her life. Or maybe Athena was in such in bad shape, split between her Greek and Roman personalities, that she wasn't even paying attention.
"Maybe" Chiron said shrugging slightly.
"This will not do," Arachne grumbled. "I cannot allow it."
"Well…" Annabeth shifted, trying to keep her weight off her throbbing ankle. A new crack appeared in the floor, and she hobbled back.
"Careful!" Arachne snapped. "The foundations of this shrine have been eaten away over the centuries!"
Annabeth's heartbeat faltered. "Eaten away?"
"You have no idea how much hatred boils beneath us," the spider said. "The spiteful thoughts of so many monsters trying to reach the Athena Parthenos and destroy it. My webbing is the only thing holding the room together, girl! One false step, and you'll fall all the way to Tartarus—and believe me, unlike the Doors of Death, this would be a one-way trip, a very hard fall! I will not have you dying before you tell me your plan for my artwork."
Annabeth's mouth tasted like rust. All the way to Tartarus? She tried to stay focused, but it wasn't easy as she listened to the floor creak and crack, spilling rubble into the void below.
Mouths were agape at this discovery. All the way to Tartarus?
"Right, the plan," Annabeth said. "Um…as I said, I'd love to take your tapestries to Olympus and hang them everywhere. You could rub your craftsmanship in Athena's nose for all eternity. But the only way I could do that…No. It's too difficult. You might as well go ahead and kill me."
"No!" Arachne cried. "That is unacceptable. It no longer brings me any pleasure to contemplate. I must have my work on Mount Olympus! What must I do?"
Annabeth shook her head. "Sorry, I shouldn't have said anything. Just push me into Tartarus or something."
"What is she doing!?" Clarrise screeched while everyone else stared at the book in shock. ":Is she trying to get herself killed!?"
"Don't be ridiculous. Kill me."
"I do not take orders from you! Tell me what I must do! Or…or—"
"Or you'll kill me?"
"Yes! No!" The spider pressed her front legs against her head. "I must show my work on Mount Olympus."
Annabeth tried to contain her excitement. Her plan might actually work…but she still had to convince Arachne to do something impossible. She remembered some good advice Frank Zhang had given her: Keep it simple.
"I suppose I could pull a few strings," she conceded.
"I excel at pulling strings!" said Arachne. "I'm a spider!"
Everyone chuckled at this.
"Yes, but to get your work shown on Mount Olympus, we'd need a proper audition. I'd have to pitch the idea, submit a proposal, put together a portfolio. Hmm…do you have any headshots?"
"Glossy black-and-white…Oh, never mind. The audition piece is the most important thing. These tapestries are excellent. But the gods would require something really special—something that shows off your talent in the extreme."
Arachne snarled. "Are you suggesting that these are not my best work? Are you challenging me to a contest?"
"Oh, no!" Annabeth laughed. "Against me? Gosh, no. You are much too good. It would only be a contest against yourself, to see if you really have what it takes to show your work on Mount Olympus."
"Of course I do!"
"Well, I certainly think so. But the audition, you know…it's a formality. I'm afraid it would be very difficult. Are you sure you don't just want to kill me?"
"Stop saying that!" Arachne screeched. "What must I make?"
"yes, please stop." Thalia begged the book.
"I'll show you." Annabeth unslung her backpack. She took out Daedalus's laptop and opened it. The delta logo glowed in the dark.
"What is that?" Arachne asked. "Some sort of loom?"
"In a way," Annabeth said. "It's for weaving ideas. It holds a diagram of the artwork you would build."
Her fingers trembled on the keyboard. Arachne lowered herself to peer directly over Annabeth's shoulder.
"EW GROSS." Drew screamed. Everyone glared at her.
Annabeth couldn't help thinking how easily those needlelike teeth could sink into her neck.
She opened her 3-D imaging program. Her last design was still up—the key to Annabeth's plan, inspired by the most unlikely muse ever: Frank Zhang.
Annabeth did some quick calculations. She increased the dimensions of the model, then showed Arachne how it could be created—strands of material woven into strips, then braided into a long cylinder.
The golden light from the screen illuminated the spider's face. "You want me to make that? But this is nothing! So small and simple!"
"The actual size would be much bigger," Annabeth cautioned. "You see these measurements? Naturally it must be large enough to impress the gods. It may look simple, but the structure has incredible properties. Your spider silk would be the perfect material—soft and flexible, yet hard as steel."
"I see…" Arachne frowned. "But this isn't even a tapestry."
"That's why it's a challenge. It's outside your comfort zone. A piece like this—an abstract sculpture—is what the gods are looking for. It would stand in the entry hall of the Olympian throne room for every visitor to see. You would be famous forever!"
"what is she doing?" Conner asked. "Is she going to make Arachne weave her own prison?"
"I believe so." Chiron said sadly. "Hopefully it works."
Arachne made a discontented hum in her throat. Annabeth could tell she wasn't going for the idea. Her hands started to feel cold and sweaty.
"This would take a great deal of web," the spider complained. "More than I could make in a year."
Annabeth had been hoping for that. She'd calculated the mass and size accordingly. "You'd need to unravel the statue," she said. "Reuse the silk."
"YES UNRAVEL IT!" Everyone yelled
Arachne seemed about to object, but Annabeth waved at the Athena Parthenos like it was nothing. "What's more important—covering that old statue or proving your artwork is the best? Of course, you'd have to be incredibly careful. You'd need to leave enough webbing to hold the room together. And if you think it's too difficult—"
"I didn't say that!"
"Okay. It's just…Athena said that creating this braided structure would be impossible for any weaver, even her. So if you don't think you can—"
Travis's grin turned mischievous. "Trickery. I like it."
"Athena said that?"
"Ridiculous! I can do it!"
"Great! But you'd need to start right away, before the Olympians choose another artist for their installations."
Arachne growled. "If you are tricking me, girl—"
"You'll have me right here as a hostage," Annabeth reminded her. "It's not like I can go anywhere. Once this sculpture is complete, you'll agree that it's the most amazing piece you've ever done. If not, I will gladly die."
Arachne hesitated. Her barbed legs were so close, she could've impaled Annabeth with a quick swipe.
"Fine," the spider said. "One last challenge—against myself!"
Arachne climbed her web and began to unravel the Athena Parthenos.
"START READING THE NEXT CHAPTER NOW PLEASE CHIRON." Thalia and the rest of camp yelled almost simultaneously.
Make sure to check out my other reading the Mark of Athena story