They gave me my quest the very next day.
Chiron quietly led me to where Annabeth and Mr D were waiting. Luke was nowhere to be seen.
"Percy…" Chiron began, then trailed off. He looks resigned, yet sad. "Do you understand what's going on?" He asks instead of whatever he was originally planning to say.
"The Master Bolt was stolen, and my father claimed me so I could go fetch it," I said.
Chiron tried to make eye contact, but he couldn't seem to hold it against my rather dead eyes. Mr D was drinking more deeply out of his can of diet coke, as if he pretended hard enough, it would turn into wine and he could get drunk and forget.
"Yes." Chiron confirmed, "But Percy, please, don't hold this against him."
What is there to hold? I understand why he did it- it is the only way he can both protect me and stop a war. He tried to avoid claiming me and putting me in the sights of Zeus for as long as he could, but his hand has been forced by Fate.
Annabeth's knuckles were white around the handle of her dagger. "Will we need to see the Oracle for a prophecy?"
Right. She never got told what happened to the Oracle in the attic. To the Spirit of Delphi.
Chiron and Mr D shared a look, and it was Mr D that answered her. "Look, Annabelle, the Oracle is not giving any prophecies, the whole Bolt has Olympus on edge and-"
I cut him off, eyes glowing green. "We shall go west, and face the god who has turned."
Annabeth gasped, hand reaching out to me as if to silence the spirit of prophecy within me.
"We shall find what was stolen, and see it safely returned."
"He's the Oracle," Chiron sighed, heartbroken.
"I shall be betrayed by one who calls me family."
"Oh brother, this isn't good." Dionysus whispered.
"I shall fail to save what matters most in the end."
I came back to, nearly collapsing if it wasn't for Grover's hand steadying me.
Looking at all their ashen faces, I sighed and pressed a tissue to my nose. "What did I say now?"
Annabeth repeated everything back to me, and I closed my eyes. I know how this will end.
"Clearer than my normal prophecies," I said wryly. "I'll go get my bag ready, we will leave at 1:07pm."
I was too tired to even care that the secret is out now.
So many secrets are out now.
Annabeth frowned when she checked her watch and realised that we were all ready at the top of Half Blood Hill at 12:52 pm.
Luke appeared exactly one minute after she raised her question, holding a pair of shoes in his hands.
Screaming. Crying. The deep pit below us all.
I took them and wordlessly passed them to Grover, then I dragged Luke by the arm away for some privacy.
"Cursed shoes?" I huffed, mirthlessly. "Can you make my job easier and just tell me where you hid it?"
I was done. I love Luke, I love him with all my heart and I will die for him a thousand times over, but I'm angry and so very tired. I know exactly what is coming, and I am already so tired of all the fighting that is to come.
He frowned, "Percy, buddy, you know I'm doing this to protect you."
"Are you?" I said blankly. "Or are you doing this to get back at the gods?"
Anger flashed across his face, "They hurt you Percy, don't you understand that? They- they cursed you! They cursed you with your little 'gift'!" He spat the word 'gift', making his sentiments about my prophecy clear. "You can barely See clearly anymore!"
"I can so!" I protested, indignant. "I'm the Oracle!"
"Then why did you See Thalia?!" He yelled.
I paused, confused. When did I See Thalia? No. I can See the wisps of her in the corners of the future, but how does he know I can See her?
Luke's chest was heaving in anger. "I'm doing this for our family, Percy!"
That's what made me snap.
"Family? Family?! Of course!" I scoff, furious. "Of course you go and abandon your family- saying it's for the best! You're just like your father."
Luke recoiled, horror and anger and sadness mixing in a terrible concoction that made instant regret flash hot through me.
I'm a coward though. There's a reason no Oracle has ever been a Hero before- it's because we always seem to choose flight over fight.
I turn tail and run, leaving Luke staring at me, betrayed.
We left Camp at 1:07pm.
We are left to take a bus west, and Annabeth interrogates me as we ride.
"Are you sure you can't See anything?" She weedles. "We need as much information as possible, Perce."
I can See everything. I don't tell her that.
"Just keep your bag with you," I told her, clutching mine even closer to my chest.
"What? Why?" Grover nervously bleats.
Annabeth's eyes were aflame. "What did you See?"
"I don't know," I lied. "It's just important."
I flinched before the Furies ever stepped on the bus, and Annabeth's dagger was out and ready before the three sisters even started towards us.
"Swerve." "Lake." "Crash." "Explosion."
I muttered under my breath, warning my companions seconds before each event happened.
We stumbled away from the other bus riders and their cameras and phones.
"Percy?" Annabeth asked, taking direction from me.
"Woods. Run." I told her, grabbing her and Grover's hands.
They followed without hesitation.
Sometimes I wonder what they would do if I told them a prophecy that was complete lies. Would they follow it blindly? Yes. However Luke wouldn't. He would doubt every word out my mouth. He hears me but doesn't listen, or he listens to me without I ever needing to say a single word.
Either way, I lead them deeper into the woods.
Towards the monster den where we will find danger and shelter.
Sometimes, I truly hate my gift for giving me the responsibility of having to weigh every risk and reward for everyone.
Medusa is sweet in a murderous kind of way.
It should probably worry me more than it does to realise how many similarities she and Luke share.
The hatred towards my father that culminates into wanting to keep me forever, even when I wish for freedom and to stop being called my father's son, even when it hurts me so very much for them to keep me. Even when it kills me.
I'm a little doll they all like to play with, and they don't seem to understand how fragile and durable porcelain is.
In the end, we win the battle by me approaching her, eyes closed tight, and letting her coo and embrace me.
Then I cut her head off.
Despite Annabeth's many warnings not to, I indulge my petty side, and mail the head to Olympus.
Apollo and Dionysus would appreciate the humor behind the action, even if the others won't.
"The impertinent little-!"
"Father! He is still my Oracle, or must I remind you every time you speak of him? It's a gift: even as he quests he honors us and offers his own war trophies to us."
"Yes. And it really is a little bit funny."
Yes, they'll like it at least.
I guide them towards the poodle, and then the Amtrak.
Grover plays his reed pipes in the woods, and eats on the train.
Annabeth mutters plans under her breath in the woods, and reads her book on the train.
I guide them through the woods, and sleep on the train.
My dreams are… dark. Yet comforting.
When I was little, there was no comfort in the dark, merely monsters hidden from my eyes but not my Sight. Now, I know that in the dark, the monsters can't see me, but I can See them.
I think it's the same comfort that Luke gets when he lies, or Alabaster when he uses the Mist, or Chris when he stares off into the distance and rattles off directions nobody alive will follow, or Ethan when he sacrifices his pawn in chess. It's the same feeling of having an ace up your sleeve, a debt to collect, a balance to right.
There's a Pit below my feet, and I don't fear falling in because I can See I won't.
"It's okay," The voice crooned, comforting. "I know this quest is scary, but you are doing so well."
"Yes, I am." I said simply, "For your plans and the gods."
"My only plan is to save you, young one. The gods are the ones who have abandoned you."
"They haven't. They're bound by laws and so am I. So are you, but you don't see them. They're the same bindings I have, and Luke has. His mother could see them." I told him simply.
There was a long pause as the voice digested what I revealed. "Percy…" It tried, wary. "Just help me and your family won't break."
"I won't help you." I said, closing my eyes as swirls of gold begin to appear in the pit, throwing me back into darkness again. "My family is already breaking, but that's a binding I can try and break myself."
The voice- the one I am certain now is the one that seduced Luke- that I know who it belongs to now, is silent.
It lets me wake, and I am thankful it lets me have that little freedom.
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