May 31st, 1694

I think I must be mad.

My mother told me she loved my father so much she would have happily resigned to a common life as long as they were together. She told me it was her love for him that kept her fight alive even when he wasn't. I don't think I believed her—or maybe I just didn't understand—I think I do now. Because sometimes I think I would let the world crumble, let my world crumble, just to see her happy. That's madness, isn't it? If it isn't, then it should be.

And one of our worlds must crumble, they cannot both survive. Her world will be irrevocably changed when she loses Rachel. Will she hate me? I hope she will. It might make it easier.

Sometimes, I like to look back on what I wrote—think back on how I felt just a month ago. It seems inconceivable to me how much my feelings have changed—how much I have changed.

I force myself to read those words. I force myself to try to remember how much I hated her, hated her family. I remember how it felt to care about nothing else but my mission, to confidently declare I would do anything to avenge my family.

They don't have the same effect they used to.

She still does not know. I wonder if she suspects me. I think she might. I can see it in the way her eyes linger on me a second longer when I slip up, when I say something I shouldn't.

But she trusts me. She told me as much. So maybe I shouldn't doubt her.

What did she mean by that? I told her I trusted her. And I did—I do. Maybe I should have clarified. Maybe then I wouldn't be so confused.

I trust her to protect her loved ones at all costs. I supposed I wondered if that could be me. If I might qualify. Perhaps not as a loved one, but a cared for one? God, it sounds so sad. It's pathetic honestly, hoping I might be cared for by the family that slaughtered mine. I have only every loved my family, but this—this thing I feel for Annabeth is different. It sits in the pit of my stomach and tugs at the center of the chest and tickles the tips of my fingers.

It's difficult to categorize how I feel about. I think naming the feeling would help me moving forward and alas I cannot. I remain confused, confounded, captivated by her.

I always thought love was for fools. Fools like Luke who grew protective of her, so jealous and possessive, so insistent to make it clear she belonged to him and him alone that he demeaned her.

I think I understand now—because there is nothing I could deny her. I think I understand because the thought that she might belong to anyone let alone another man terrifies me.

We fought last night. We always fight.

I saw it coming this time. I saw doubt swarm her vision and felt as if I'd been punched in the gut. And then, the gray of her eyes lit up with conflict and I felt her body go stiff.

She asked me if she was tainted. I shouldn't have used that word. She isn't tainted. She will never be tainted. But I know how people are, how men, specifically Luke are—I wonder if he loves her enough not to care, I think I would—love someone enough that is—not to care about… you know.

I hope he doesn't care, but if he does, she'll be exiled—sent away—not in any meaningful way really, she's a royal by blood after all—she'd probably just be sent off to some faraway country to marry some faraway nobleman—I don't think I could stand to have her out of my life.

I forget that after everything is said and done, she likely won't want to be around me anyway. The murder won't be at my hands—physically anyway—but she'll know. She'll figure it out the way she always does, and when she does, she won't forgive me.

Sometimes I wish I'd never met her. It would have made it all so much simpler.

I wonder if she could have loved me—if I could have loved her—if I do.

She might dietonight. The words feel foreign even as I write them, as if they're some alien language. Written or aloud, I can't seem to believe them. She cannot die. She won't die. I'll make sure of it. Something is happening behind the scenes. Something I don't understand—something I should.

If anything happens to her

No. Annabeth can handle herself. If I hadn't come she would have come alone. I'm helping by being here. I suppose she wouldn't be here at all if I hadn't agreed to infiltrate the castle.

No. No. Whatever happens tonight is not my fault. Whatever happens, is out of my hands. It is a plan put into motion by higher-ups. I barely understand it myself.

I—I will do my best to understand what's going on and then—then I'll help her. I'll make sure she doesn't get hurt and

and if she does... I won't ever forgive myself.

I think I too would have happily lived a common life with her outside of this all. In fact, I would give everything to run away from everything—from all our responsibilities and obligations and family and convoluted plans and ulterior motives—just to be with her—to be together.

See. Madness. It must be madness to push you to abandon everything just for a feeling.

I wonder if she feels the same.

Whatever she feels for me, once she knows what I have done, what I plan to do she won't.

I suppose it won't matter what I feel thendefining the feeling won't make a difference at all, because at the end of the day, at the end of the road, if she does not die loving me, she will live hating me.

I don't know which end is worse.

- PJ

...

Annabeth forgot to breathe until she had reached a large clearing, desperately sucking in a broken inhale. In the center of the mossy grass sat a dark stone. It was nearly as tall as she was, illuminated by the sliver of moonlight that peeked through the clouds.

A force tightened around her heart as she glanced around the clearing, looking for anything that might clue her in to her impending attackers. Seeing nothing, Annabeth stepped forward, trying to take solace in the thought that Percy was somewhere behind her.

He trusted her. Percy trusted her.

She held onto the feeling, a warm coat in the dead of winter, and waited with bated breath after that first step, as if the movement might trigger some sort of disaster. To her surprise, though, nothing happened, nothing appeared, no one charged in her direction, no shouts were heard, no whispers—nothing.

Annabeth let out a shallow breath of relief and crept closer towards the stone. It loomed over her, dark and ghastly, as a wave of dread washed over her. As she moved closer, she began to notice small etchings in the stone, half-hidden by the moss creeping over.

She couldn't make them out from her vantage point. Tightening her jaw, Annabeth glanced quickly at her surroundings before advancing towards the rock, apprehension filling her with every step. There were dark stains on the edges of the stone, scarcely visible in the dim moonlight.

For the first time, it struck Annabeth that the stories Luke had warned her about might have more truth to them than she knew. Her heart seemed to drop with every step she took until she had nearly reached the stone. She still hadn't lit the lantern, not that she needed to; the clouds had cleared, giving way to the flush of moonlight that slithered over the stone illuminating the crevasses where the darkness seemed to linger.

Annabeth tentatively lifted her hand, reaching out. She didn't want to touch it, really—but there was something about the air around the stone that seemed to tingle, beckoning her forward. Her fingertips were mere millimeters from touching the stone when she heard a crack behind her.

It was a mistake—a misplaced footstep or an ill-timed stumble, but Annabeth's hand immediately shot back, drawing her bow. Her heart raced as her eyes darted around her, trying to assess the danger. She was suddenly eternally grateful she never lit her lantern, knowing that would make her even more of an obvious target.

"I thought we told you to come alone," a voice echoed across the empty expanse.

Annabeth gasped, her heart leaping out of her chest as she turned around, trying to figure out where the voice was coming from. Alas, she saw nothing but darkness.

"Are you mute, princess?" another hidden voice asked. "Or just stupid?"

Annabeth swallowed thickly, her fingers trembling along her bow.

"What have you done with my sister?" she demanded, eyes darting along the trees, trying to make out a figure amongst the shadows.

"Ah," the first voice sounded. "Just the latter then."

Annabeth spun on her heels, pointing her arrow in the direction of the voice when a tall figure stepped out from the trees. Her chest tightened. She could barely make out his face, but she could see the glimmer of the blade in his hands.

"You asked me to come, and so I have," Annabeth boomed, forcing herself not to stutter.

She could see movement in her peripherals, shadows shifting amongst the trees. She had to be calm. She needed time to think. She could win this—she had to win this.

"Where is my sister?" she questioned, biding time.

The man across the clearing nodded slowly, swinging his stance to inch closer to her. He was as old as her father, gray clinging to his dark canopy of hair. Annabeth's fingered tightened around her bow, her spine straightening despite the dozen feet that still separated them.

"We asked you to come alone," the man repeated, raising his gaze to meets her across the darkness. His eyes flashed in the moonlight.

"I am alone," Annabeth insisted, her heart racing.

A dozen men appeared at his sides, a step behind him. She could hear twigs snapping and branches breaking behind her. She was surrounded.

"Hm," the man hummed nonchalantly. The sound sent shivers down her spine. "What about your little friend? The one from the tavern?"

"I don't know what you're talking about," Annabeth pressed, her blood going cold at the mention of the tavern. How long had they been watched? Did they know?—no, they couldn't. They couldn't. "Someone must have followed me," she insisted desperately. "I came alone."

"You're lying," the man deadpanned, and she thought she heard a glimmer of disappointment in his tone—then he smiled, and the expression was ragged and violent. "Though I don't know why I expected anything else from a Chase," he spat.

It was moments like this that Annabeth wished she possessed Rachel's levelheadedness. She was kind and compassionate and persuasive. She could convince any enemy that she wasn't a threat because—well, she wasn't a threat.

Not like Annabeth. She was strategic and violent and—prideful. No, despite her best efforts, Annabeth was a threat. Even when she didn't want to be, she was always a threat.

Annabeth felt her mouth move before she could consider the consequences of potentially angering her sister's captors.

"How dare you speak ill of my family—" she began, her fingers slipping from their perfect positioning. "Don't you know who—"

"Princess," the man sighed, placing his hands behind his back now as the men around him advanced on her. "This is all getting a bit tiresome, don't you think?"

"I—" Annabeth started but found herself cut off once more.

The men around her moved, inching closer still, the steel of their blades shining in the moonlight.

"Stop moving," Annabeth demanded, sucking in a desperate breathe.

They didn't listen. They weren't listening

Maybe her mother had been right. Her mother was always right. Maybe she shouldn't have trusted her abilities. She should have left it alone. She should have asked for help.

She needed help.

Annabeth blinked, the cold air seeming to shift around her. Every second thinking was a second lost.

Maybe if she shot right—if she moved fast enough—

She blinked again, the world slowly turning around her. The clouds shifted just slightly and the new light illuminated more than a dozen new figures hidden in the late shadows.

A defeated blow struck her chest. Everyone had been right. She wasn't as strong as she'd thought.

It was no use. She was surrounded. It was hopeless. She couldn't shoot them all.

Annabeth's eyes narrowed, forcing her vision to center. She tried to focus on the man proudly standing before her. No, she couldn't shoot them all, but she could shoot their him. That would give her time—that would give her something

"Move again and I'll shoot," she threatened then, training her aim on their apparent leader. "I'll shoot him straight through the heart, and I promise won't miss," she swore.

At her words, the men around her hesitated. She forced herself not to smile at the small surge of pride. Their eyes all fell to their leader who was staring at her with the crinkled gaze of an old friend.

"You remind me of her," he laughed then.

Annabeth's blood ran cold and felt herself shiver at the familiarity in his tone. She held her breath, terrified confusion fogging her brain. She tried to keep her grip on her bow.

"Of your mother," he clarified at the confusion she hadn't known lit up across her face.

Annabeth's jaw clicked, momentarily unable to breathe. She could feel blank shock splinter across her expression and wished it hadn't.

He smiled, cold and warm all at the same time. Her fingers tensed, slipping from their perfect positioning. She tried to right her grip.

"Who are you?" Annabeth demanded, grappling with the question herself. She searched his features in the moonlight, looking for a grain of familiarity.

"Put down your weapons, Annabeth," he requested, sounding tired.

"No," she shook her head, blinking back panic. She couldn't panic. She had to be rational. She wished Percy were by her side.

"Do you want to see your sister or not?" the man sighed.

Annabeth nodded, feeling rather like a child. She cursed her parents for keeping so much from her, for not trusting her with the entire truth, the kingdom's truth.

"Then put down your bow," he insisted with a cavalier smile. "You might hurt yourself."

A rush of anger rushed through her at his condescension. Her fingers pressed into the back of her arrow, the tight shape beginning to cut her delicate fingers.

"Annabeth—" he said, his voice hardening at the slight change in her posture.

She watched his eyes dart to someone behind her. She barely had a chance to turn around when someone had taken her by the shoulder, yanking her backward.

Annabeth screamed, slamming her small heel into her attacker's foot. The men around her were now charging towards her.

She trained her eyes on their leader, still standing at the edge of the trees. Movement swarmed her peripherals, the dark figures closing in on her.

With one final breath, she straightened her posture, feeling the pull of the breeze on her curls as her fingers felt the bow go taut. But there was an unfamiliar pressure on her leg, a hand dragging her back just as her fingers released the string. Annabeth screamed, her eyes wide and terrified as she fell backward, listening for the thud of her arrow as she was overtaken by the crowd


a/n: ... hey, I don't have much of an excuse so I'm gonna brush past the fact that its been months. I know I say this every time, but I'm back for a good minute this time. I think I'll probs finish Entropy and How to beat a rumor and resume treason and this one while I'm back. maybe I'll even throw in a funny business epi if I'm feeling really productive.

anyway, I know this is short so sorry, more to come, sorry for the two cliffhangers in a row, love u all, see u sooooooon.

didn't edit, obvi, so forgive typos.

ciao ;)