book: the mark of athena

What If Percy Didn’t Catch Annabeth in Time?

The chamber groaned. The Athena Parthenos tilted to one side. Its head caught on one of Arachne’s support cables, but the marble foundation under the pedestal was crumbling. Nausea swelled in Annabeth’s chest. If the statue fell into the chasm, all her work would be for nothing. Their quest would fail. 

“Secure it!” Annabeth cried. Her friends understood immediately.

“Zhang!” Leo cried. “Get me to the helm, quick! The coach is up there alone.” Frank transformed into a giant eagle, and the two of them soared toward the ship. Jason wrapped his arm around Piper. He turned to Percy.

“Back for you guys in a sec.” He summoned the wind and shot into the air. 

“This floor won’t last!” Hazel warned. “The rest of us should get to the ladder.”

Plumes of dust and cobwebs blasted from holes in the floor. The spider’s silk support cables trembled like massive guitar strings and began to snap. Hazel lunged for the bottom of the rope ladder and gestured for Nico to follow, but Nico was in no condition to sprint.

Percy gripped Annabeth’s hand tighter. “It’ll be fine,” he muttered.

Looking up, she saw grappling lines shoot from the Argo II and wrap around the statue. One lassoed Athena’s neck like a noose. Leo shouted orders from the helm as Jason and Frank flew frantically from line to line, trying to secure them.

Nico had just reached the ladder when a sharp pain shot up Annabeth’s bad leg. She gasped and stumbled.

“What is it?” Percy asked. She tried to stagger toward the ladder. Why was she moving backward instead? Her legs swept out from under her and she fell on her face.

“Her ankle!” Hazel shouted from the ladder. “Cut it! Cut it!”

Annabeth’s mind was woolly from the pain. Cut her ankle?

Apparently Percy didn’t realize what Hazel meant either. Then something yanked Annabeth backward and dragged her toward the pit. Percy lunged, but unfortunately, he couldn’t get to her in time. Annabeth was dragged across the floor, towards the pit. She flung her arms wildly, trying to find something to grab onto, but there was nothing. Annabeth sobbed as she hit the edge of the pit. Her legs went over the side. Too late, she realized what was happening: she was tangled in the spider silk. She should have cut it away immediately. She had thought it was just loose line, but with the entire floor covered in cobwebs, she hadn’t noticed that one of the strands was wrapped around her foot — and the other end went straight into the pit. It was attached to something heavy down in the darkness, something that was pulling her in. 

Annabeth’s strength was gone. She slipped over the edge.

“ANNABETH!” She heard Percy, his voice laced with desperation. Her body slammed into something. She must have blacked out briefly from the pain. When she could see again, she realized that she’d fallen partway into the pit and was dangling over the void. She had somehow managed to grab a ledge, about fifteen feet below the top of the chasm. She looked up, and there was Percy, thrusting his hand out to her although he was much too far away to help.

“Annabeth! Gods, just..just hold on!” He said, with watery eyes. He turned away from her and yelled for the others, calling for help. His voice was lost in the general shouting.
No escape, said a voice in the darkness below. I go to Tartarus, and you will come too.

Annabeth wasn’t sure if she actually heard Arachne’s voice or if it was just in her mind. The pit shook. She was holding onto a ledge barely about the size of a bookshelf, and the pull on her leg was much too strong. It felt like her leg was pulling free of her body. Pain washed everything in red. The force of the Underworld tugged at her like dark gravity. She didn’t have the strength to fight. She knew she was too far down to be saved.

“Percy,” she croaked, “You can’t pull me up.”

Percy shook his head furiously, as if rejecting to believe that this was happening, that this was reality and there was nothing he could do. “No! I can! Hold on! Frank, Jason, Hazel…SOMEONE HELP HER!” He turned towards her again, now crying. His face was white with fear and desperation. She could see in his eyes that he knew it was hopeless.

Annabeth stamped his face in her mind, wondering if this was the last time she’d ever get to see him again. His face was gaunt, scraped and bloody, his hair dusted with cobwebs, but when he locked eyes with her, she thought he had never looked more handsome. She managed to give him a weak smile, with tears pouring out of her own eyes.

“I’ll see you on the other side,” she said, “I promise. We’ll be together again.” She knew that she was making an empty promise, she would never be able to return. Tartarus was almost always a one-way trip.

Percy widened his eyes, and she could sense he was close to completely falling apart. “Annabeth…” his voice sounded like broken glass, and the shards pierced her heart.

She saw the sunlight far, far above — maybe the last sunlight she would ever see. She looked at Percy’s face once more, and then let go of the tiny ledge, closing her eyes and falling into eternal darkness.

Percy yelled, starting to jump down the chasm, but someone grabbed him. “LET ME GO!” He was yelling, his voice completely distraught. He struggled against the giant claws that had flew him off the floor–Frank in eagle form. He was dropped aboard the ship, and as the Argo II flew away at top speed, Percy yelled her name over and over again, sobbing louder than ever, and attempting to jump off the ship to go and try to save her. Jason and coach Hedge had had to tie him to the mast to stop him.

He couldn’t believe it, all these years of hardship, all this time of trying to be with her, only for the Fates to snatch her away from him, so unfairly, so brutally–and probably for good.
The gods had done it. They had broken Percy Jackson.

  • Percabeth: fall into Tartarus.
  • Jasiper: fall off the Grand Canyon.
  • Leo: falls on Calypso's island.
  • Frazel: ...
  • Frazel: ...
  • Frank: You know, we can...
  • Hazel: Don't think about it.