The thick rope scratched at Annabeth’s neck.
“Miss Annabeth Chase, you have been found guilty of piracy.”
The same kind bound her wrists together behind her back. A line of armed guards stood behind her, shadowed eyes burning into her back, daring her to make a sudden movement.
“By which the punishment is death.”
The crowd began to murmur. They looked up at Annabeth, curious and ready and hungry for the trap door to fall. For the show to truly start.
The people were clearly Annabeth’s once-peers. They flaunted their status even in the shadow of the gallows, golden jewelry glinting in the sunlight, powered wings and silk coats decorating well-fed bodies. It’s too bad the sun’s glare was directly in Annabeth’s eyes. Maybe she’d recognize a few of them.
She fought her smirk. Arrogance wasn’t part of the plan. Keeping her eyes and ears open was.
There was more talk of her recent deeds: extortion, kidnapping, theft, conspiracy against the king… Annabeth was impressed. She made a note to talk about it with Reyna later. There was clearly a rat scurrying about the crew, his or her pockets lined with the king’s gold.
Annabeth caught a flash of purple from the rooftops. Her heart began to hammer. Time was up. She closed her eyes and took a deep breath. There was a creaking sound, and then the floor dropped from under her.
She fell and for one weightless second she thought it was all over, that something had gone wrong. But a gunshot cracked sharply in the air and Annabeth crumpled to the ground, hidden from the guards by the wooden scaffolding. A length of rope fell beside her.
Then what sounded like chaos. Shouts and screams and the unmistakable sound of smoke bombs. Someone was calling for reinforcements. Guns sounded off. The clatter of sword against sword. A heavy canon blast–
A shadow fell over Annabeth. Someone dropped in through the trapdoor. “Well, well,” they said slowly, “what have we here?” They cut the ropes binding Annabeth’s hands and carefully removed the noose from around her neck.
Annabeth took an offered hand and stood, glaring half-heartedly at Reyna. “I thought you’d been jesting about the whole ‘drawing it out to the last second’ thing.”
“I never jest,” Reyna said, smirking. She handed Annabeth a sword. “You looked lovely, by the way.”
“Quiet,” Annabeth said, fighting hard not to return the smirk. Her neck and wrists still throbbed. “We’re not out of this yet.”
“We never are.” Reyna sighed and ran with her out into the haze of the battle.