you, my dear,” Tiberinus said with a wry smile. “And, yes, Annabeth
Chase, I’ve helped many of your siblings…to at least begin their journey
safely. A shame all of them died painfully later on. Well, your
documents seem in order. We should get going. The Mark of Athena
Percy gripped Annabeth’s hand—probably a little too tight. “Tiberinus, let me go with her. Just a
Rhea Silvia laughed sweetly. “But you can’t, silly boy. You must
return to your ship and gather your other friends. Confront the giants!
The way will appear in your friend Piper’s knife. Annabeth has a
different path. She must walk alone.”
“Indeed,” Tiberinus said. “Annabeth must face the guardian of the
shrine by herself. It is the only way. And Percy Jackson, you have less
time than you realized to rescue your friend in the jar. You must
Percy’s pizza felt like a cement lump in his stomach. “But—”
“It’s all right, Percy.” Annabeth squeezed his hand. “I need to do this.”
He started to protest. Her expression stopped him. She was terrified but
doing her best to hide it—for his sake. If he tried to argue, he would
only make things harder for her. Or worse, he might convince her to
stay. Then she would have to live with the knowledge that she’d backed
down from her biggest challenge…assuming that they survived at all, with
Rome about to get leveled and Gaea about to rise and destroy the world.
The Athena statue held the key to defeating the giants. Percy didn’t
know why or how, but Annabeth was the only one who could find it.
“You’re right,” he said, forcing out the words. “Be safe.”
Rhea Silvia giggled like it was a ridiculous comment. “Safe? Not at
all! But necessary. Come, Annabeth, my dear. We will show you where your
path starts. After that, you’re on your own.”
Annabeth kissed Percy. She hesitated, like she was wondering what
else to say. Then she shouldered her backpack and climbed on the back of
Percy hated it. He would’ve preferred to fight any monster in the world.
He would’ve preferred a rematch with Chrysaor. But he forced himself to
stay in his chair and watch as Annabeth motored off through the streets
of Rome with Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn.