Through the dark depths, Percy flew. The water rushed around him as he searched the deep trenches. Something had disturbed the sea. Percy had heard whispers from various sea creatures, disturbing things. Whales were attacking sharks. Squids were clinging to rocks, attempting to break them with their beaks. Dolphins were attacking and even killing people. Some taint of madness was spreading out of the depths, and Percy was determined to find it and destroy it.
Off in the distance, a strange light shone. It wasn't bio-luminescence, Percy noted, as he neared it. Suddenly he cleared a ridge, and spread out before him was an impossible city. Towers of metal, connected by tunnels, covered the ocean as far as the eye could see.
Percy was mesmerized. He slowly swam forward, trying to comprehend all of it. Just to make sure it was all real, he swam close to a tower and cautiously reached out his hand.
Just before his fingers touched metal, a spotlight lit up behind him, and he felt an immense pressure slam him into the wall of the tower. He could feel it, a strange net, begin to stick to him. Percy hated nets.
He attempted to use the water around him to push the net off, but it was stuck fast. Percy felt the net begin to pull backwards, slowly speeding up, with the tower quickly receding behind him. Straining his arm, he stuck his hand into his pocket and pulled out riptide, and pulled the cap off with his teeth. He slashed away the net binding his arms, but riptide got stuck as he tried to cut the net away from his legs. He looked behind him and saw a giant, black maw coming closer rapidly.
Percy tried desperately to pull Riptide out of the net, but it was no use, and with a last terrified look at the city, he was dragged into darkness.
Gasping, Annabeth sat up. She instantly regretted this, smacking her head on the cot above hers. Groaning, she glanced at her watch. It was 3:00 AM.
Percy had been gone for a week, and already Annabeth missed him dearly. With no explanation, no note, and without even saying goodbye, he'd disappeared. They'd searched all over camp for him, all over New York, and there was no sign of him. Sally didn't show it, but she was practically out of her mind with worry. What worried Annabeth more was that, from what Chiron had told her, not even the gods new where he was.
The only clue she'd found was that before he'd left, he'd mentioned that something was going wrong, something to do with the sea. She'd been having weird, dark dreams, all of which lead her to believe that Percy was in trouble. She had recorded them in a dream journal, and they were all about Percy being captured or Percy being tortured. Her latest dream, though, pointed to something that connected with her clues: the ocean.
Annabeth got out of bed. She'd slept in her clothes, as she had for the past week, in case there was new information about Percy's whereabouts and she needed to move quickly to find him. Quietly, to avoid disturbing the rest of Athena cabin, she walked to the door and left.
The moon was bright, and almost full. The grass was covered in late night dew, and the early July sky was clear, and surprisingly bright with stars, not something that happens in New York very often. Annabeth walked silently, passing the other cabins. She paused for a moment to look at the Poseidon cabin, a ghost of Percy floating in the door, laughing after hearing that Grover had petitioned for a Starbucks in camp half-blood. She quickly moved on, but the Percy shaped hole in her heart weighed slightly heavier than before.
Walking through the mess hall, everything she saw reminded Annabeth of Percy. The table where he'd eaten every day, the crack in the floor where Nico had destroyed the skeletons and run from Percy... everything reminded her of him.
Eventually, she reached the fireworks beach. The sand glowed softly, a strip of light between the dark grass and black water. The waves rolled in quietly, the moonlight glinting off of them like a distant reflection off a forgotten mirror. The scene was beautiful... reminding Annabeth of that first, victorious night after the battle, the first time they really kissed...
Annabeth heard soft footsteps behind her, but she didn't turn. They stopped.
"Annabeth..." Rachel's voice was quiet, but broke the silence like ice hit by a sledgehammer. "You know we aren't supposed to be out after curfew. The harpies might've eaten you."
I don't care, Annabeth wanted to say. "I know." She said instead. "Why are you here?" She asked.
Rachel walked up to stand beside her, and glanced at her friend's face. Annabeth was keeping her face tightly controlled, but Rachel could see the depth of Annabeth's pain in her eyes. "I came here because I have a prophecy, and I think it's for you."
Annabeth glanced over sharply, and Rachel suddenly doubled over. Green mist spewed out of her mouth and eyes, and suddenly she straitened up, eyes glowing green, and turned to face Annabeth.
Her mouth opened, and in a voice that sounded like many voices, the Oracle began to speak.
Water lies imprisoned under the sea
The Madness spreads by mortal decree
In Ocean-River's realm a city lies
Beyond gods and kings, where sanity dies
Brave Wisdom's child must descend
And sacrifice to put the Madness to an end
But if water's champion is not saved
The Madness will Wisdom begin to crave.
The oracle doubled over, and Rachel straitened back up, looking rather dizzy. "So... how was it?" She asked.
The prophecy had practically engraved itself into Annabeth's mind. She repeated it back to Rachel, and they both stood silently, thinking. Annabeth turned and began to walk quickly towards the big house, and Rachel followed her.
"You're sure that the prophecy said Ocean-River?" Chiron said, an anxious look on his face.
"This is... well, to put it simply, very bad. We must discuss this with the gods. We must leave immediately."
Annabeth and Rachel looked surprised. "All of us?" Annabeth asked.
"Yes." Chiron said. "This is of the utmost importance, and the utmost secrecy. We must act quickly, for events may be in motion that could have terrible consequences."
They moved quietly to the vans, got into one and drove off towards New York.
The throne room of Olympus was silent for a very long moment. "You're sure..." Zeus began. "You're sure it meant Oceanus's realm?"
Chiron nodded, gravely. "I wish it were not so."
"And you're sure... that it was 'The' Madness? Not 'a' madness, or just madness?" He asked.
"Father." Athena glanced across at Zeus. "Im afraid we must accept the reality of this situation. The prophecy has come true."
The gods began to whisper among themselves, and after a moment Annabeth stepped into the center of the room. The gods went silent.
Annabeth kneeled. "Forgive me, mighty gods, but... what prophecy do you speak of?" Her words echoed off the walls, and she felt the stares of all of the gods as they considered the question. Athena looked to Zeus, and Zeus nodded.
"There was a... prophecy, made long, long ago." Athena said cautiously. "It said that if mortals were ever to leave the influence of the gods, they would begin to experience what was referred to as the Madness, which would begin to spread from mortal to mortal and begin to consume all those who did not keep guard against it. This could, ultimately, result in the destruction of the world." She paused. "A while back, 1946 to be precise, a mortal named Andrew Ryan decided that he had had enough of kings, politicians... gods. He collected together many intelligent, likeminded people, and poured all of his resources into building a utopia at the bottom of the ocean. The spot he chose lay in Oceanus's realm. Oceanus... well... his realm lays close, too close, to Gaea's heart, and so he is protected from the gods, for if we come to close to that realm, she may reawaken. Therefore, they were beyond the reach of the gods. We voted and decided that we would leave them be, because it couldn't work. It was an impractical idea. We were wrong. I would assume that the society degraded, as all utopias must, that much we predicted. It appears to have not actually died, as we had thought, but to have simply lived on, which must have been what the prophecy in the first place. Now the Madness is spreading from it, and there's nothing we can do to stop it."
The gods began to debate loudly, and it took them a moment to realize that Annabeth was standing once more, and watching them anxiously. They quieted down and stared at her once more. Annabeth spoke. "If you can't go down there... could a demigod?"
Athena looked at her knowingly. "I would assume that you are volunteering yourself?" She asked.
Annabeth nodded, while the rest of the gods reacted varyingly, some protesting, others considering.
Athena looked concerned. "My daughter... do you understand the dangers of this? You would be descending into a dystopia, filled with madness. There would be vioence, death, and depravity everywhere. Every other person could be a murderous psychopath. This is not a wise undertaking."
"All the same, I volunteer. The prophecy was given to me, and it clearly specifies that it requires a child of Athena. If the madness needs to be stopped, I can do it." Annabeth said.
"Are you sure your judgment hasn't been clouded by your emotional attachment to the son of Poseidon?" Athena said coldly. "You understand that the champion of water may not turn out to be him."
Annabeth's knees shook, but her gaze was unflinching. "I'm sure."
Aphrodite suddenly became interested in the conversation. "Ooh, a classic 'I must save my love' story!" She said.
Everyone stared at her exasperatedly. "What?" She said.
"In any case, let us have a vote." Zeus said. "Shall this daughter of Athena go to the fallen city of Rapture to destroy the Madness? All in favor?"
Aphrodite, Apollo, Demeter, Hades, Dionysus, Hephaestus, Zeus, and oddly Poseidon raised their hands.
"The majority vote is in favor. Annabeth, daughter of Athena, will be provided with the necessary equipment for her mission. Council adjourned." Zeus proclaimed.
As the Olympians began to file out, Poseidon caught Annabeth's eyes. He motioned for her to come over to where he stood, next to his seat of power.
When she arrived, Poseidon glanced around to make sure no-one was within listening distance. He sighed, then started to speak. "I would like you to know why I voted in favor of this mission, and I have a favor to ask. I know you have strong feelings for Percy, and he you. I know I can trust you to never give him up for dead. So, if there's any chance at all that he's down there, do everything you can to rescue him." Poseidon quickly past her.
Annabeth stared at where he had been, starting to realize what she had gotten into. Then she realized that she didn't care, not if there was any chance that Percy was down there and needed help. With that thought on mind, she turned and walked out of the throne room, leaving it empty but for the fire glimmering in the hearth.