Chapter 1: A Normal Life? Yeah, right
Hello everyone! So this is my first PJO fic, and it's a little different than what I've done in the past, but I hope you like it! For reference, this takes place in April 2007, before Book 2. Enjoy!
Of all the days for the universe to screw Katya Marten over, it had to be her birthday.
It hadn't started off as a screw-you day, actually. Thanks to some teacher workshop, Katya had a few days off from school and was spending her birthday at the Central Park Zoo with her dad, who worked there as a veterinarian with the big cats. She did this as often as she was able- she loved the big cats, but more importantly, she tried spending as much time with her dad as possible. Her mother had died shortly after childbirth, and her dad had never remarried. The two shared a close bond were fiercely protective of one another.
Katya and her dad, Devon, were in the veterinary center. Katya was watching her Devon do a routine check-up on Rusty, the male tiger that lived at the zoo. Rusty was snoozing under a light anesthetic and Devon was checking out his teeth. Devon held Rusty's mouth open so Katya, sitting on a stool in the corner, could see his gleaming incisors. She grinned.
"C'mere, Kitty Kat," said Devon, his nickname for her eliciting a smile. She hopped off the stool and hurried over. "How's fifteen feeling so far?"
"Um...a lot like fourteen, I guess." He held out a syringe.
"Well, fifteen-year-olds get to do the blood sampling." He laughed at her slightly horrified expression. "Kidding, kidding." He found a spot on Rusty's hind leg and quickly drew a sample of blood. He labeled the vial and placed it on a rack for later collection. "I think we're about finished here..." He glanced around. "Yup. Wanna take a lunch break?" She nodded, her stomach letting out a growl as if to say Are you kidding? Of course! Other workers came in to move Rusty back to the tiger enclosure and Katya and her dad left.
They fetched their lunch bags from Devon's locker and settled down on a bench near the North Woods area of the zoo, home to wolves, beavers, deer, waterfowl, lynx and several species of birds of prey. It was a perfect lunch spot.
Katya leaned back, chewing the last bite of her bagel and breathed in the piney smell from the nearby enclosures. It was really a gorgeous day for mid-April; the sun was shining, there was a light breeze, there were screams coming from down the North Woods pathway...
Katya straightened, looking at her dad. He had heard them too. People were tearing down the path toward the entrance. Some held children tight in their arms, any strollers forgotten in the woodland exhibits. As the first fleeing zoo-goers drew closer, Katya could hear them yelling about a wolf that was loose. She stood up, peering down the path, which curved out of sight around a cluster of trees. Devon stood up slightly in front of her. As they watched, something came loping along the path. It had a canine snout and fur, but it definitely wasn't a wolf. The thing was humanoid, walking on two thin legs.
"Dad?" Katya said nervously. "Um...i-it doesn't look like a wolf to me." As the wolflike creature emerged into the sunlight at the path's entrance, it seemed to look right at her. It snarled something. Katya figured she must be going insane, because it sounded like the thing had growled "cat." Her dad turned sharply.
"What do you see?"
Katya hadn't expected that.
"I-it looks like...um...well, a werewolf, sort of. And it...I though I heard it say 'cat.'" Her dad turned back to face it.
"Lycanthrope," he said quietly. The werewolf thing was creeping closer to them, snarling. Devon stepped backwards in time with the creature, pressing a hand to Katya's shoulder and bringing her back with him. "Katya," he muttered, "Be ready to run when I say."
"What? Dad, what is-"
"Just listen to me, darling." They had backed up near a big plastic trash can. In a swift movement, Katya's dad sprang from her side to the trash can, hefting it and spinning like a discus thrower. After a revolution and a half, he released the trash can, sending it flying at the wolf creature. The can smashed into the creature, bowling it over backwards and sending it tumbling across the pavement.
"Now RUN!" Devon yelled, grabbing his daughter's hand and sprinting away. Katya raced along with her dad, trying desperately to keep up. He ran toward the huge building that housed the big cats, going around the side to the employee entrance. He had his key ring out and expertly flicked through the keys, jabbing the right one into the lock and yanking yanking the door open. He locked the door again as soon as they were inside.
They were in a hallway that ran behind the cat enclosures for zookeepers to get inside. Devon walked quickly down the hall with Katya in tow. There was a burst of snarling from outside and the door rattled violently. Devon stopped in front of a door and selected a key from his ring.
"Dad, are you insane?" Katya nearly shrieked.
"Katya, you need to trust me, okay? I promise it will be okay." Katya was breathing heavily and she felt like crying, but she nodded. Her dad turned the key and opened the door marked with the word TIGER. As he did so, the door to the outside was ripped from its hinges to frame the wolf creature. Katya let out a scream, and a moment later, a shadow appeared in the doorway of the tiger enclosure. Rusty stepped outside. He took in Devon, a frightened Katya, and the wolf creature with his glittering amber-gold eyes- then sprang past Katya with a snarl. The wolf man charged and the two animals met in a flash of teeth and claws. There was another snarl from Rusty and a yelp from the wolf creature as Rusty sank his teeth into its arm. It pulled away, blood dripping from the fang marks. It swiped with a clawed hand, but Rusty evaded it with the grace and skill of- well, a cat, before returning with a swipe of his own. His claws raked across the wolfman's chest and before Katya's eyes, the creature dissolved into yellow dust with a howl. Rusty turned and padded back towards Katya and her father. Katya's legs gave out and she sank to the floor against the wall. Rusty paused in front of her, inclined his head, and continued back into his enclosure. Devon shut the door and locked it before pulling his cell phone out of his pocket. He selected something from speed dial and held the phone to his ear. After a pause, he spoke.
"Ashe? We've been attacked." Katya was taken slightly aback.
"Why do you have my best friend on speed dial?" Her dad held up a finger.
"It's not safe anymore. I've got to take her. We'll meet you at camp." He hung up and grabbed a broom and dustpan, heading for the yellow dust pile on the floor. He gathered all the dust into the dustpan and dumped it into a nearby sink, then turned on the faucet and washed it all down the drain.
"What camp? Is thing a thing for my ADHD? Will you please explain to me what is going on?!" Katya cried.
"Not here," her dad said. "Come on."
After a very brief stop at their apartment where Katya's dad had grabbed a packed duffel bag from his room, they were back on the road again. They left the city and were soon driving through sprawling fields. Katya was in the passenger seat with the duffel bag on her lap.
"Are we going to talk about what happened?" she asked quietly. "Something nearly killed us. What was it? Why did everyone see a wolf except me?"
"That was a lycanthrope," said her dad. "Remember the stories I used to tell you?" Katya thought back to the early years of her life.
"The Greek stuff?" Her dad nodded.
"Lycanthropes are werewolves. They were named for Lycaon, who..." He left the sentence for Katya to finish.
"He...served a human to Zeus to see if Zeus was really a god. Zeus found out and...and turned him into a wolf?"
"Very good," said Devon. They were silent for a while.
"But...that's just a myth. Isn't it?" Katya asked. Her dad didn't answer. "Isn't it?" she asked again, though less sure of herself this time.
"Ashe and Chiron will explain it better than I can," he said. The road changed to a wide dirt path. They pulled up to a base of a tall hill. Devon stopped the car and the two of them got out. There was a sign down the road. Katya squinted to make it out- the distance and her dyslexia were making it near-impossible to read.
"'Delphi Strawberry Service,'"supplied her dad. "It's their cover. I promise, darling, everything will be okay. This is a good place for you to be now that...now that we know it's dangerous for you. I tried to hold off sending you here for as long as possible but you're older now and it gets harder to hide you." He swallowed. "I love you, Katya. This is the best thing for you, I promise." He held out his arms and Katya practically fell into them, the two wrapping their arms around each other. Katya buried her face in her dad's chest, feeling tears beginning to track down her face. She sniffed.
"I love you, daddy."
"Love you more, Kitty Kat." There was a joyous shout from the top of the hill.
"Katya!" The Martens ended their hug to see Ashe waving from the top of the hill. Katya waved back, then dragged a hand across her eyes. She picked up her duffel bag and watched her dad return to the car. She started up the hill, walking backwards and watching her dad drive away back down the dirt road. She turned and hiked up to meet Ashe on top of the hill, under the enormous pine tree. Katya's gaze was drawn to the strange furry white pants Ashe wore. But...they weren't pants, because Ashe's legs ended in petite, brown...hooves? Ashe looked down.
"Oh!" he exclaimed. "Katya, I didn't want you to find out like this..." Katya looked at him in confusion.
"Ashe, are you a..." She struggled for the correct word.
"Satyr," supplied Ashe, nodding. "I'm sorry I couldn't tell you. I was assigned to be your protector."
"Protector from what?" Katya asked. Ashe gave a small smile.
"I'll let Chiron explain that," he said, before turning to face what was on the other side of the hill. Katya looked past him and her mouth fell open.
She was looking down on an expansive valley. She could see a half-circle of buildings, all different from each other. There was a volleyball pit near the base of the hill, and she could see a lake glittering in the distance.
"Welcome to Camp Half-Blood," said Ashe, pride evident in his voice. The friends started down the hill. They passed several kids and teens on the lawn, many wearing the same orange t-shirt. Some of them waved at Ashe, and then smiled at Katya. She gave a hesitant smile in return.
"That's the Big House," Ashe said, pointing at a three-story red farmhouse. "Chiron and Mr. D live there." Seeing Katya's blank look, he elaborated. "Activities director and camp director. Speaking of..." He turned to a boy walking past.
"Connor! Where's Chiron?" The teen stopped and pointed toward the Big House.
"I think on the porch around back with Mr. D- there's no archery going on right now." He nodded at Katya. "Welcome to camp," he said, before turning and continuing on. Katya followed Ashe up to the Big House and they climbed up the wooded steps to the wraparound porch. The boards creaked under their feet as they went around the corner of the house. A field of plants came into view as they drew close to the back of the house.
"I thought the strawberry farm was a cover," said Katya.
"We have to keep up the facade somehow," said a male voice as they rounded the corner. Katya nearly sat down on the spot when she saw the speaker. Standing at a table was- unbelievably- a centaur. His horse half was a pure white stallion, while his human upper half had curly brown hair and a scruffy beard.
"Chiron, this is Katya Marten," said Ashe. He nudged Katya, who was staring with wide eyes.
"You're a centaur," she mumbled before her brain had reconnected to her mouth. Chiron laughed.
"Indeed, my dear," he said, a twinkle in his eye.
"Oh, wonderful, this one seems smart," said the other occupant of the table. He was somewhat pudgy, with curly dark hair. He wore a leopard-print shirt and was holding a can of Diet Coke. Katya blushed and her head dropped self-consciously.
"Let the child be, Mr. D, she's had quite the day," said Chiron. Katya blushed even harder. Chiron pulled a chair away from the table. "Take a seat, Miss Marten." Katya sat down slowly, shifting the duffel bag so it sat on her lap.
"What's happening? What is this place?" she asked, slightly embarrassed to hear something like desperation creeping into her voice.
"Camp Half-Blood is a safe haven for children like you," said Chiron.
"Like me? Am I...half what?" Several unfinished thought tumbled out of her mouth before she began processing the events of the day. "No way," she breathed as the answer dawned on her. Chiron nodded.
"The myths of Ancient Greece are very much alive. They never really died- just shifted to the center of Western Civilization over the years. The gods, the creatures, the people- they have survived through the years and moved to where Western culture is greatest. Now, tell me about what happened earlier today." Katya recounted the attack from the lycanthrope at the zoo. When she reached the part about Rusty defending her, Mr. D, who up until that point had been acting uninterested, straightened up in his seat, the grip on his can of Coke tightening. Chiron noticed as well, but continued listening to Katya. When she finished, he shared a glance with Mr. D, then turned back to Katya.
"Thank you, child. I think it's a miracle that you've survived as long as you have in the mortal world. Half-bloods- or demigods, as you are also called- have a special scent that attracts monsters." He clapped his hands together. "Now, I think we ought to get you settled. Ashe, will you take Katya over to Cabin 11-"
"12," interrupted Mr. D. Chiron gave him a slightly startled look.
"Mr. D, are you..." The dark-haired man shook his head.
"No, I'm not. But trust me for the time being." Chiron was silent for a moment, then smiled- which seemed a little forced to Katya.
"Well, why don't the two of you head over to Cabin 12, then? I'll be along in a moment," he said to Katya and Ashe. Katya stood up and followed her friend past the table and down the back steps of the porch. She stole a glance back at Chiron and Mr. D and found them talking with their heads close together. She turned to Laurel.
"What was Chiron asking Mr. D?" Ashe looked uncomfortable.
"He was asking if Mr. D was claiming you. That's what gods usually have to do for demigods to be placed in a cabin- I can see why Chiron asked; Mr. D put you in his cabin."
"He's a god?" Who..." Katya answered her own question when she remembered the leopard shirt and the way Ashe had been so nervous around him. "Dionysus?" Ashe nodded.
"Zeus put him at this camp to let him dry out. Sort of enforced a personal Prohibition on him."
"And the cabins?"
"Each cabin is for the children of a different god. 11 is for Hermes, and the demigods who haven't been claimed yet. That's why Chiron originally told us to go there." They had reached the arc of mismatched buildings. There were many statues and flowerbeds in the large grassy commons. "I've never seen Mr. D change the placement of an unclaimed camper before."
"So...will I find out who my mom is?" Ashe shrugged.
"Hard to say. It depends on if she decides to claim you, which happens pretty frequently." A rhythmic thudding made them turn to see Chiron trotting across the grass toward them.
"Well, my dear, let's get you settled!" Katya followed him to the cabin on the end of the arc on their right. It was built out of a deep wine-colored wood, with a small porch on the front and a sloping roof. Grapevines wove across the roof and through trellises that made up parts of the porch walls. Chiron clopped up the few steps and knocked on the door. After a few seconds, it swung open to reveal two identical boys about Katya's age with blond curly hair and rich purple eyes.
"Hey, Chiron, what's up?" asked the one on the left. Chiron stepped to the side slightly to reveal Katya.
"This is Katya Marten. She'll be joining Cabin 12, by request of Mr. D- she's yet unclaimed." The boys looked slightly puzzled for a moment, but their expressions cleared quickly.
"Sounds great," said the one on the left with a smile. He held out his hand to Katya. "I'm Pollux." Katya shook his hand, followed by the other, who introduced himself as Castor.
"Dinner's in a few- I'll see you then," said Ashe, and with that, he and Chiron left with similar clip-clops. Katya followed the twins over the threshold.
"Welcome to Cabin Twelve, or Casa Dionysus, as I like to call it," said Pollux. "Um...if you don't mind us asking, what's your story with Dad? He stuck you here instead of Eleven?" Katya nodded.
"I'm...I'm not really sure. I think he knows who my mom is but I don't think he's going to say anything. It still doesn't really make sense why I'm here, though." Castor shrugged.
"Well, whatever the case, we're glad to have you. It's good to see a new face in here- Dad didn't...um...do too much with mortals." Katya smiled as the boy blushed. In the distance, the low sound of a conch echoed. The twins looked up.
"That's the general notification call," said Castor. "It's dinner time." He headed for the door with Pollux close behind and Katya behind him. Pollux stopped before he got to the doorway.
"Hey, I know this is a huge adjustment, and it's not easy leaving your life behind for this one, but I promise that camp is going to become your second home. I'll give you a tour after supper and if you ever need anything, I'm happy to lend a hand." He smiled. "Welcome to Camp Half-Blood, Katya Marten."
So what did you think? Leave a review? Pretty please? Next chapter will reveal who her parent is!