A/N: I had a bit of writer's block while writing this chapter, I hope it turned out okay.
This chapter is dedicated to a new reviewer, The Underestimated Truth, thanks for reviewing!
As always my friends, R&R!
The trip to Bulgaria didn't take long at all. The winds blew with them, as if Jason was not still in some sort of coma down below. The Zlata Panega soon stretched below them, the sun shimmering on its surface. It was two days since Annabeth had decided that this was the most prudent thing to do. They needed Percy and Jason to complete the quest, and there really wasn't any other way she could think to do it. But now Annabeth was starting to wonder if it had been the right decision.
"All hands on deck!" Leo's shout shocked Annabeth out of her contemplations where she leaned against the rail. As the others came on deck, Annabeth pushed the hair back from her forehead, securing it with a scrap of cloth. Sweat stood out on her forehead as she took a deep breath. Because now was not the time for regrets or second thoughts. The others were counting on her. Percy and Jason were counting on her.
Piper came to stand next to her, her braid a mess of wisps. "We made it," she said, sending Annabeth a relieved look.
"We need a team to go down to the water," Annabeth said. "I'd like for you to come. I feel like . . . because it's Percy and Jason . . ." Piper nodded.
"We should take one more," she said. "You know, the whole, three-demigod quest thing." Annabeth nodded, looking around the others.
"Is anyone willing to come down with Piper and me?" she asked.
"I'll come," Leo said, surprising everyone. "What?" he asked. "I mean, we're going to meet the goddess of healing. She probably wouldn't want to meet kids of Hades or Mars. Like, you know, death and war?"
Nico nodded. "Most of the gods we've met have been pretty put off or excited about our parentage. Panacea probably doesn't have anything against Hephaestus, Aphrodite, or Athena." Nico had looked better since Piper had charmed him to sleep. He hadn't really gotten any of that since they'd rescued him from that jar. The circles around his eyes were less pronounced, and the shadows under his eyes almost gone. But not quite.
"So, it's settled then," Leo said. "Hey, Nico, you want to take over the controls? Oh, hey coach." Coach Hedge had come up onto the deck, dripping wet. "Did you just take a shower?"
"None of your business, Cupcake," The satyr said. "What're you all talking about without me?" he asked suspiciously. "I hope you aren't planning on going topside and leaving me behind, eh?"
"Ah, no Coach. It's just three of us going down," Leo said. "You know, the whole three demigods to a quest thing. We need you on the ship with Nico, Hazel and Frank in case any monsters show up. It was too easy to get here, I don't like it. With the Athena Parthenos, we should have attracted about fifty of them." The coach seemed fine with this arrangement, but Annabeth was pretty sure that Leo was also warning the others to keep a look out. This made sense, because the Athena Parthenos should have attracted monsters like nobody's business. But it hadn't. Not a single monster during their two day trip to this river.
"Ready to go?" Piper asked, from where she was standing by the ladder. Leo and Annabeth nodded. They descended the ladder quickly, with ease that come of doing so more than a couple times. Annabeth's feet hit the earth by the river bank with a soft thump. She braced herself, for what she wasn't sure. Maybe she was just so used to Gaea being wherever they set foot on solid ground like this, or maybe she was afraid that somehow this would prompt Tartarus to talk to her. But nothing happened.
"Wow," Leo said. "Suddenly, I feel kinda lonely." Annabeth looked back up at the Argo II high above them. It did seem very far away, far away from Percy. I need to stop this, she thought. Percy will be fine, these are our friends.
"So . . . what do we do now?" Piper asked, looking around. The bank of the river was covered with what Annabeth noticed as medicinal herbs. Mint grew in clumps, yarrow and burdock spread their tangled stems around smaller plants. Even nettles grew here and there, tall stems raising the poisonous leaves above some of the smaller, more delicate plants that Annabeth didn't know.
"The other gods presented themselves to us," Annabeth said after a small silence. "And finding the farmer god was an accident according to Nico, Hazel and Frank. I don't think we've really sought a god or goddess, unless you count the offering to Dionysus."
She made her way through the plants by the riverside, being careful to avoid the nettles. There were some species of that plant that could sting like nothing else. She knelt in the mud, shivering slightly as the coldness seeped through her jeans.
Piper and Leo knelt next to her, looking out over the water as it flowed, blue-ish grey, within its banks. Annabeth let a hand dip into the water, letting the smoothness of it wash away her fears. She would find a way to heal Percy. She would. The water churned suddenly, bubbles rising to the surface. Annabeth let out a yelp as a head emerged out of the water. A Naiad.
Annabeth couldn't help but stare at the girl, brown hair framed her face, and her eyes, which squinted against the sun, were a shocking shade of green, similar to Percy's, but not exact. A bit . . . lighter. "You are Annabeth Chase?" The Naiad's question was directed to her, and Annabeth nodded.
"Percy and Jason are in trouble," she blurted. "We need Panacea's help." The Naiad nodded pensively.
"My sisters are taking your plea to the Lady. She is kind-hearted. I think she will help you."
"Thank you," Piper said gratefully.
The Naiad dipped her head. "The son of Poseidon is in danger. And not just from his condition." She turned back to Annabeth, her gentle eyes seeming to look straight into her soul. "You must help each other to beat this. The abyss doesn't fall, but it can be out-distanced. You must beat the darkness inside before you can be truly free."
Annabeth was startled. "How do you . . .?"
The Naiad laughed quietly. "I am Ruwa; the Lady's apprentice, if you will. When I am ready, she plans to send me to Olympus. They need a healer, not just Apollo, but she will not abandon her people, her home."
"I didn't know Panacea had much to do with Naiads," Annabeth said quietly.
"She and Poseidon were great friends," Ruwa said with a shrug. "Which may be part of the reason she helps you. A son of Poseidon is in danger." Just then, another figure appeared out of the tall plants around them.
"Hello, young Heroes. I am Panacea."
A/N: I know, I know, it's kind of a cliff-hanger, but I say (Not promise, my life can get pretty crazy) I'll update again this week? (Reviews might help, *hint hint*. Even if it's just one word! They can make my day. :) *puppy face* o_o )