So this was it. This was the end, the final sacrifice. I felt like laughing, even though I was bloodied and bruised and about to be dead.
I was Percy Jackson, the Hero of Olympus. But really, had I ever asked to be a hero? Heroes never get happy endings. I'd known that all along, been told that over and over again, but still, somehow I had hoped that I would be different. That I would be the exception.
And Annabeth would have to die too, right alongside me.
She turned around and managed a weak smile at me, and it hurt me to see that she was still trying to comfort me through her pain.
"Hmm, which one of you would like to be first?" Gaea's voice boomed from everywhere, making the ground beneath my feet rumble.
We-Annabeth and I, the lucky two-were tied at a stone altar, Gaea's half-formed body standing in front of us. She looked oddly ordinary in a human body, but there was something about that earth-colored hair and those ancient, deep green eyes that made her radiate power. Her lower half was buried beneath the ground, like she was a corpse, slowly pulling her way out of her grave.
"Now, now," Gaea's laugh was like the rustling of wind through grass. "Don't be shy. How about you, Annabeth? Would you like to go first?"
Annabeth's eyes burnt defiantly. "Do I really have a choice?"
"No, you're right, little hero." Gaea smiled warmly. "You do not. Both of you will die. It does not matter what order. Then, I will rise, and the world will be mine once again, instead of being ruled by that foolish sky God, Zeus."
Gaea held her knife-a knife molded from the Earth-up against Annabeth's throat. She swallowed against the blade.
But no. I would not let Annabeth die.
Gaea had made one mistake. The stone altar was backing the sea, and I could feel the waves giving me power. Gaea might be Mother Earth, but she had no power against the ocean. Clenching my teeth, I threw everything I had left into the water, and I could feel it rising up behind me, following my will.
Annabeth met my eyes. I love you, Seaweed brain, she mouthed.
"Goodbye, Daughter of Athena." Gaea pressed her knife into Annabeth's throat.
"No!" My voice came out as a roar, and then the ocean was crashing down around us.
Gaea gasped, rearing back as the wave slammed into her. It beat against her, and then she was sinking into the ground once more. "No! NO!"
The water thundered and the sky went dark, wind whirling around us and blowing my black hair into my eyes. The line from the prophecy echoed in my head. To storm or fire the world must fall. Gaea was the world. And she was falling to storm.
"Percy!" Annabeth screamed. The water crashed down around her, but she was perfectly safe, perfectly fine, in her own little bubble, not a single drop hitting her body. "Watch out!"
I turned, but it was too late. Gaea had somehow managed to drag herself over to me, and there was nothing left of her but her head and a single arm, raised above her hand, tightly gripping her knife.
"Goodbye, sea spawn." Gaea's green eyes bore holes into mine, and even though she had lost, she was smiling.
"Percy!" Annabeth's scream was desperate.
With a laugh, Gaea plunged her knife straight into my heart.
One second I was being stabbed, and the next, I was sinking. Sinking down, down, down into the ground. I felt oddly disoriented and lightheaded, as if this was all just a dream.
Then I was at a river, and its surface was like a mirror, reflecting back moments from my life. I saw my mom, baking me blue cookies and laughing, her eyes crinkling around the edges. I saw my first day at camp, the first time I saw Annabeth, our first kiss in the lake. I frowned. Annabeth. Where was she?
"Hey. You there."
I looked up, mildly startled. A black, hooded figure paddled towards me on a boat.
"Who are you?" My voice sounded hollow, like an echo.
"What, Percy Jackson?" The figure snorted. "Forgotten me already? Serves me right. You demigods can't be trusted. You promised me a pay raise. It never came."
"I don't know what you're talking about. Can I please go back now? I need to find Annabeth."
The guy laughed. "The names Charon. Extremely underpaid transporter of souls. And I'm afraid there's no going back now. This time, Percy Jackson, you appear to actually be dead."
Dead? And that's when it all hit me. I was at the River Styx, in the Underworld. I was dead. Gaea had killed me.
"No! I can't be dead! You have to let me go back! What about all my friends? Annabeth. Grover. And Jason and Piper and Frank and Ha-"
"Come along now, Perseus." Charon interrupted, sounding mildly annoyed. "I'm sure you'll have a nice eternity in Elysium. Or rebirth. Whatever you choose. Now, hand me your drachma so we can get going."
"I don't have a drachma," I snapped.
Charon tusked. "No drachma, no passage."
Before I could open my mouth to call Charon some names that I probably shouldn't repeat, a thick, black mist swirled up from the River Styx.
Charon's eyes widened. "Well, then. I guess I should be going now. Looks like you won't be needing my services today, Percy Jackson."
"Charon!" I called after him, but he was already paddling away hurriedly. "Charon!"
"There's no need to call him, hero." An ancient voice rasped.
I turned. Three old hags in rocking chairs sat there, eyeing me like I was a lab specimen. The Fates.
"What do you want?" I was annoyed. These were the people that had decided my death.
"To fulfill the prophecy," The middle one hissed. They reminded me of the oracle, old and rotting but still filled with power. Well, the old oracle. Rachel wasn't old and rotting.
With a shaking hand, the middle one held up a blue thread, the end snipped off cleanly.
"An oath to keep with a final breath," The one on the right recited.
"And foes bear arms to the doors of death," The left one finished.
"It is not over yet," The middle one said. "Your Foes are not yet defeated. Only you, the Hero of Olympus, can save them all."
"What?" My lightheadedness made everything seem stupid and insignificant.
"We are giving you a new life. A whole new identity. You will no longer be Percy Jackson, not until you can discover yourself again."
"Why? Why do I have to live again?"
"Your oath." The right one said gravely. "To Annabeth. You promised her you'd always be together."
"An oath to keep with a final breath," The one on the left reminded me.
Annabeth's name sobered me up a bit. I had to live. For Annabeth.
The middle one held up a wrinkled finger to the thread, and instantly, it reconnected, weaving itself back together. It glowed under the Fate's touch, a warm yellow light that lit up the gloomy Underworld.
Then, suddenly, I was floating up, back the way I'd came.
"We are giving you a second chance, Perseus Jackson." Her raspy voice already sounded far away. "Do not waste it."
Yes, I know, this was a very long prologue.
But hey, I had to fit everything in.
Anyways, this is technically my first story(not really). The first one on this account, anyways. I update fast, I promise. As long as you guys review.