She’s walking along the sidewalk, one foot steadily in front of the other. Her Yankees cap is on her head, but she’s not invisible. For some reason, this doesn’t freak her out.
The city she walks in is a beautiful mishmash of buildings and styles, parks and lakes and an open-air market. The air smells like freshly cut grass, strawberries, and books, both old and new. The only sounds are the birds chirping and wood chimes off in the distance.
The city is empty except for Annabeth, has been for as long as she’s known it. She loves it more than anything.
Annabeth , a voice suddenly whispers. It echoes against the sprawling expanse of the city.
She freezes, looking around. From where she stands, she can see the entire city, and she knows instinctively that she’s not alone. But there’s nobody out there except the birds and the wind.
Annabeth , it says again, booming, shaking Annabeth to her very core.
“What? Who’s there? Show yourself!” She demands, twisting and turning to find the culprit.
Oh, dear, sweet Annabeth , it laughs, you have no idea what’s in store for you, do you?
You’ll need someone to get you through it all, someone to fight with and for , it thinks aloud. Annabeth can imagine a finger on a chin, or the statue of The Thinker coming alive, bronze lips moving. Yes, yes, an equal. Someone as strong as you in every way. Someone who will challenge you, who will make you better. Someone with a destiny as great as yours.
Despite the fear and anger curling in her chest, Annabeth can’t help but be pleased by that. Her destiny is great. She frickin’ knew it.
You need an equal, Annabeth Chase.
“Who are you?” She yells out, her voice echoing. “What do you mean, an equal?”
I’ve found the perfect person. Soon enough, he’ll be the strong, handsome boy you need. Oh, and just our luck, dear girl! He’s on his way right now!
“What are you—”
You’ll need to be awake for this.
Annabeth wakes abruptly, sitting up in her bunk like she’s been electrocuted. Gasping for breath, she hurries out of bed, willing to risk the harpies so she can ask Chiron what it means. He always has some wisdom to impart about her dreams, the only thing she’s no good at figuring out.
It’s easy to sneak out of Cabin Six. Ryland, the Head Counselor, sleeps like a rock. Plus, he doesn’t care much about the whereabouts of the rest of them, not when there are better things to research and invent.
Once she’s out, she slips on her Yankees cap, which actually works now that she’s not dreaming. From there, all she has to do is make sure she doesn’t make too much noise, and she’s golden.
When she arrives, he’s on the porch, still in his wheelchair. He doesn’t look surprised to see her once she pulls off her cap, and he welcomes her up on the porch easily enough. Still, he asks with some concern, “Annabeth, what are you doing up? It’s quite late.”
She collapses into a chair next to him. He offers her a blanket from his lap, which she takes gratefully. “I had a dream.”
“Hmm.” Go on , he’s saying.
She tells him about the voice, what was said, and he listens carefully like he always does. Thank the gods for Chiron—he makes her feel safer than anyone else here, except maybe Luke.
Tugging gently on his beard, Chiron says, “Perhaps you are simply thinking about your future.”
“But Chiron, someone else was saying that to me. Someone wanted me to hear that. It wasn’t just me coming up with this.”
He steeples his fingers under his chin. “You may be right. But who would invade a dream in such a way, but not show themself?”
As much as she doesn’t want to even think it, Annabeth can’t ignore an obvious choice. “They talked about having an equal, someone to fight with and for . That they’ve found the perfect person. It...it sounds like Aphrodite.”
He raises an eyebrow, but doesn’t say anything.
Nervous, Annabeth clutches the blanket tighter. “I mean, doesn’t it?”
“Aphrodite...she would have wanted to show herself. It does sound like her, except for that.”
“Could it be my mother? She must know about the prophecy you heard. Whoever’s coming, he must be the one who’ll go on the quest. On my quest.” The last thing she wants is to be under Aphrodite’s thumb, so this theory is one she likes a lot more—plus it means she’ll finally be able to go on a quest soon, all the talk about the solstice be damned.
Chiron sighs. “Annabeth, I wouldn’t get your hopes up. Dreams often refer to the future, and not necessarily the near future.”
“But they said he’s on his way right now . That sounds a lot like the near future to me.”
He starts to say something, but then an odd sight interrupts him. When he leans forward in his chair, Annabeth looks off to where he’s looking, and di immortales ….
“I see, Annabeth.”
There’s a boy stumbling toward the lights of the porch, the arm of a satyr slung over his shoulder, something clutched in his other hand.
“Oh my gods. Which satyrs have found half-bloods recently?”
“Well, Ash, Blossom, Glenn, and Grover.”
“Grover?” She repeats, immediately reminded of her past with the young goat.
“Yes, but last I heard, he’d lost him—”
The boy, now much closer, stumbles so much that he almost falls over. “Should I go help them?”
Before Chiron can respond, the boy comes upon them, collapsing just before the steps. Grover is in fact the satyr with him, and he ends up sprawled in the grass, looking relatively unhurt in comparison to the boy.
Annabeth jumps to her feet, running to his side and leaning over him, hair spilling over her shoulders. He blinks up at her, sea green eyes glazed, and without thinking, Annabeth tells Chiron, “He’s the one. He must be.”
“Silence, Annabeth. He’s still conscious. Bring him inside.”
It takes a long time, but eventually, he’s tucked into a bed in the infirmary. Chiron insists that she take care of Grover while he attends the boy.
Thankfully, her old friend wakes just enough to be dragged to the couch in the living room of the Big House. Annabeth ends up wiping sweat from her brow once that’s done. Fatigue suddenly attempts to take over her, the lateness of the hour settling in. She doesn’t let it, though, powering through and hurrying off to the infirmary.
Chiron beckons her over to the boy’s bedside. In the low light, she sees him much more clearly—messy black hair, Mediterranean skin, long eyelashes, and a jaw he definitely needs to grow into.
The perfect person , the voice had said. Someone with a destiny as great as yours.
“I’ll take care of him,” she offers. “I’m awake already.”
Chiron rubs at his temples. “Alright. But if you get tired, sleep. He’ll survive ‘till the morning.”
She’s left alone with the boy, and for hours, she sits and thinks. He wakes up several times, and she’s always there to feed him tiny bits of ambrosia.
One time, she scrapes it off his chin, and asks, “What will happen at the summer solstice?”
It’s worth a try, or she thought so until she finds out all he can manage to stutter out is, “What?”
Quickly, she makes sure Chiron isn’t there to hear. “What’s going on? What was stolen? We’ve only got a few weeks!”
“I’m sorry,” he mumbles, blinking hard. “I don’t….”
“Are you him?”
He opens his mouth, probably another apology, but someone knocks, and then Annabeth has no choice but to shove the spoon back in his mouth.
By the time she leaves, so tired she wants nothing more than to take a nap, the boy is asleep again. All thoughts of him being the one the voice was talking about are buried under confusion over the solstice.