The Winter Solstice is the fiftieth chapter of The Gift of a Best Friend. It was first published on September 29, 2017.


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Annabeth's POV

The few of us that stay at Camp Half-Blood year-round, or come and visit every once in a while, like us, are really excited right now.

We are going on a field trip to Olympus on the winter solstice. It’s the time when the gods have their big annual council, and the only Hades, the god of the Underworld, is allowed there.

Chiron, Jasmine, Luke, and I, and a few others got into a couple of our SUVs—Argus driving one of them and a harpy driving the other—and they took us to the Long Island Railroad. We got onto the train and took it to Penn Station.

Toothless got to come with us, but Jasmine had to use her powers to make him a baby dragon again. He didn’t like it, but Jasmine did, him being able to wrap around her neck again like he used to do.

After getting off at Penn Station, we headed to the Empire State Building, took the elevator to the special six-hundredth floor, and there it was: Olympus.

It was amazing. The architecture was unbelievably beautiful that I stared at it in awe. It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Jasmine kept using her electricity power to shock me and keep me focused. But even she was awestricken.

Everything was white and silver. There were nymphs and satyrs here too. And also some good-looking teenagers that were probably minor gods and goddesses.

Some of the boys seemed to give Jasmine second glances. She seemed to like it, because she would blush, wave to them, and turn away. But Luke didn’t like it and gave them death glares. The boys looked scared of him and didn’t look at us again. Jasmine and I laughed.

We went on. We headed up steps that led into a courtyard, then into the throne room.

It was marvelous. The twelve thrones, built for the twelve Olympians, were arranged in an inverted U, just like the cabins at camp. An enormous fire crackled in the central hearth pit. All of the Olympians were sitting on their thrones. Hades was with them, and they were waiting for us.

Jasmine inhaled sharply. “Damn, that’s a lot of power.”

I stifled a laugh.

Then I looked at my mom, Athena, sitting on her throne. She looked exactly the same way when she came to visit me on my birthday and gave me an invisibility hat, which I was carrying in my back pocket right now, but she was much taller.

Everyone cautiously looked at their godly parents, except for Luke, who just glared at his dad.

The gods welcomed us, then let us stay and watch their council begin. It involved a lot of arguing. After that was done, we all went off to explore Olympus some more.

Jasmine turned Toothless back to his normal size, and he was able to fly around with ease. Jasmine, Luke, and I walked around together for a while.

Jasmine stayed between us so that I wouldn’t blush so much, but she didn’t have to worry about me, because I was too busy looking at the structure of everything we passed and marveling at each of them.

“Hello, Annabeth,” a woman’s voice called.

We turned toward where the voice came from and saw my mother, Athena, standing before us, shrunk down to the average size of a mortal woman.

“Hi, Mom,” I said.

Luke shouldered the backpack he brought with him uncomfortably. “Jasmine, how about we leave Annabeth alone with her mother?”

“Umm . . . ok,” she replied. Then she turned to me. “Are you going to be ok?”

I gave her a knowing smile. “Yes, of course, I will be, Jasmine.”

“Ok. Just call us if you need anything.”

“I will. Go.”

Luke wrapped his arm around her shoulders, which I was a little jealous about, and the two of them walked off.

I turned my attention away from them and back on my mom. I bowed to her. “Hello, mother.”

She smiled at me. “I see you still have your invisibility hat with you.”

“Of course I do. You gave it to me, after all.”

“Are you enjoying Olympus?”

I nodded. “Yes, very much. Cassandra would’ve loved to see the architecture of it.”

Mentioning my sister made me feel down. The only reason I got into architecture was to do it for her since she died before she could do it herself.

“Yes,” Mom said. “You love it as much as she does.”

I realized she said that in the present tense instead of the past, as if she were still alive. But as much as I hoped that, I knew she wasn’t.

“I will leave you now to enjoy the rest of it,” Mom said. “But when we meet again, it may not be under good circumstances.”

I lifted an eyebrow at her. “Why?”

She didn’t answer. She just said, “Goodbye, Annabeth,” and walked off.

I went to rejoin with Jasmine and Luke, but I kept thinking about the last thing my mother said to me.

Jasmine could tell something was up, so when she got us alone, I told her.

“Why?” she asked when I was finished telling her. “Is something bad going to happen?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “But the way my mom said it, I think so.”

“Like what?”

“I don’t know.”

“Well, until you do, you shouldn’t worry about it. It’s just going to drive you crazy. Right now, let’s just enjoy the little time we have left on Olympus, ok?”

I sighed. “Ok.”

“Great. Now, let’s go.”

She grabbed my hand and pulled me all the way back to our group.

We were staying the night before going back to camp, so we set up sleeping bags in the main room.

Jasmine, Luke, and I set ours up next to each other.

“So,” Jasmine told Luke. “Have you stolen anything yet?”

He smiled. “Not yet.”

“Well, let me know when you do.”

“Will do.”

The three of us laughed.

Luke is a son of Hermes, the god of thieves. So when he says steal, he means it literally, so watch your back when you’re around a child of Hermes.

Luke wouldn’t steal from us, and if he did, it would only be as a joke and he would give us back whatever he stole from us immediately. He would also steal back whatever his siblings stole from us, though they’d be stupid to do that in the first place because Luke doesn’t like it. But only to me and Jasmine. Nobody else.

Yeah, he’s cute that way.

Anyway, after we ate dinner with the gods, we all tucked in for the night.

Luke laid down behind us, Jasmine laid next to me with Toothless on her other side, using him as a pillow, and I laid down with my hat on my chest.

Hey, I never know when I might need to become invisible fast. But there aren’t any monsters up here, so I shouldn’t need to.

I laid my head down on my pillow and went to sleep.

The next day, we packed up our things, had breakfast, and headed back to camp.

Then everything changed.

I noticed how the weather was different than usual, a lot of snow and thunderstorms. Even Luke seemed to be affected by it.

We were practicing in the arena, he’d be distracted by something and Jasmine would disarm him and knock him down. He’d get really upset about it and start cursing.

“What’s wrong, Luke?” I asked.

“Yeah,” Jasmine agreed. “Why are you being such a sore-losing ass?”

He sat down on the nearest bench and sighed. “I’m sorry, girls. I’ve just been . . .”

“A bit under the weather?” I said.

“An ass?” Jasmine said.

Luke smiled, which was good to see. “Yes. And yes.”

“What about?” I asked.

“Our field trip to Olympus.”

“Why?” Jasmine asked. “Did you not get to steal anything?”

He took a moment to answer. “No.”

“Is that why you’re upset?” I asked.

He took another moment to answer. “Yes.”

“Aww,” Jasmine said. She gave him a hug. “I’m sorry you didn’t get to steal anything. I know how much you love to do that. But you’ll be able to do it next time, and I’ll help you with it, ok?”

He smiled. “Ok.”

She pulled away from the hug. Then we all laughed. It may have been a good moment, but it was a silly one too.

“I’m sorry, girls,” Luke said again. “I’ll try to keep myself from under control.”

“You better,” Jasmine replied. “Because we can’t handle you that way.”

“I know. Now, how about a rematch?”

“Ok. But, Annabeth, do you want a turn?”

“Uh, no,” I replied. “You two go ahead. I’m going to find out what’s going on.”

“Well, ok. Let me know if you find out anything.”

“I will. I’ll see you in a while.”

“You too.”

I left the arena. I didn’t want anything distracting me from the current situation at hand, whatever that is.

I thought about asking Chiron, but he and Grover have been away most of the time ever since this school year began, and I don’t know why that is either. But I plan on finding that out as well.

I remember my mother telling me that we may not meet again under good circumstances. I guess this is what she meant.

But what is going on with her and the other gods?

Oooo, we're getting closer. You know what that means . . . I can't wait! Though, yeah, this was kind of a dull chapter, I needed to write the Winter Solstice instant into here somehow, even if it was crap. I can't leave a single detail out.

As a lot of you may know, The Ship of the Dead is coming out Tuesday! I just finished the prequel, The Hammer of Thor, the other day, and to pass the next few days, I decided, hey, why not update? I'll probably be updating again just before the official release, and then after that I'll probably be on a bit of a hiatus again because there are other books I would like to read as well. But I promise I'm never abandoning this story! I love it too much! I just wish I could write through it faster and get to my favorite parts that I cannot wait to start writing down. But I have to do this in order so as to not confuse everybody.

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