p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"strongHello, lovelies! Welcome to the second chapter!/strong/p
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p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"Katya followed the blond twins up past the two largest cabins ("Zeus and Hera," Castor had said) to the top of a hill where a large pavilion sat. They were the last in several groups of kids heading up. The group in front of them was easily the largest, with at least twenty kids./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""That's the Hermes cabin," said Pollux. "They're the biggest because the unclaimed kids stay there- Hermes being god of travelers and all." He pointed out another group of kids. All of them looked loud, tough, and rude. "Those are the Ares kids. Don't make them mad under ANY circumstances." He stopped, a sour look crossing his face./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""What's up, Lux?" asked Castor before a similar look crossed his face. "Oh, yeah..."/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""What's wrong?" asked Katya./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Well, it's Capture the Flag night," said Pollux, "which isn't the bad thing. We're facing Ares tonight and they're ruthless. Your tour is gonna have to wait until another time."/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""I love Capture the Flag!" exclaimed Katya. Pollux grinned./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Just wait until you play with us," he said. "It's gets quite a bit more interesting./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"~.~.~.~.~.~.~/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"Dinner was quite an event. Each cabin sat at their own table, which all surrounded an enormous blazing brazier. Katya and the twins sat down and the boys picked up their goblets, mumbling at the same time. The goblets filled with soda. Katya's eyes widened./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""They're enchanted," said Castor. "Just say what you want to drink, and it fills up for you. Won't run out until you're done, either," he added. Katya considered her glass for a moment./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Umm...fresh-squeezed orange juice," she said after a moment. The goblet filled with a bright yellow-orange liquid. Katya sipped it, relishing the sweet-tart taste. Several girls were rushing around with plates of food. All of them were dressed in green and brown. As one came and set down a basket of grapes on their table, Katya caught a glimpse of her ears, which were slightly pointed./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Wood nymphs," murmured Pollux. "Tree spirits that live in the forest." He snagged a slice of brisket from the plate that had just ended up on their table and set it on his plate. Castor grabbed a beautifully red apple and the twins stood up. Katya watched as they, and other campers, went to the bed-sized brazier and tossed in particularly succulent-looking pieces of food. A gust of wind blew around the columns that lined the pavilion and pushed the smoke into Katya's face. She expected the normal bitter smell, but instead smelled fruit, cooking meat, and the rich smell of fresh bread. As Castor and Pollux sat back down, Pollux motioned for Katya to put some food into the fire./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""It's a sacrifice to the gods. Whatever god you want." Katya snagged a bunch of huge bright green grapes and hurried over to the brazier. She paused for a minute, making her choice. emThanks, Mr. D. For...uh, everything. /emShe dropped the grapes into the fire and watched the flames curl around them for a second before heading back to the table. She was taken by surprise when she got back to the table and Mr. D was sitting there, surrounded by satyrs who all generally seemed to be catering to his every need. She spotted Ashe among them, carrying a bowl of grapes. Now that the god and his sons were next to each other, the resemblance was clear. Even though they had different hair colors, they shared rosy cheeks, the same slightly turned-up nose, and the same striking deep violet eyes. Chiron stood nearby, talking quietly with Mr. D. Katya slid into the spot next to Pollux and filled up her plate with fresh bread, cheese and strawberries. Chiron clopped around to her seat./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Taking everything in all right?" he asked with a kind smile. "It's a lot to process, I know."/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Oh, please, my dear centaur. I'm sure she's fine. Mortal children are extremely adaptable." Katya raised her eyebrows but didn't contradict the god. He wasn't wrong, after all./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""It's actually not too bad. It's probably going to hit me sometime tomorrow but I'm...pretty good for now." She bit into a strawberry that was half the size of her fist. "It's pretty amazing here."/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""And Castor and Pollux have mentioned that you joined us on a Capture the Flag night, I assume?" Katya nodded. "Hmm...it might be a bit difficult seeing as you have no weapons training yet...perhaps you can play defense." He trotted back over to Mr. D and they resumed their conversation. Katya started./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Wait, weapons training? What sort of games do you guys play?" Pollux grinned./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""We're a Greek camp and it's a war game- what do you expect? Don't worry, you've got ADHD, right?" Katya nodded. "That's battle reflexes- they'll kick in a bit once you get into the heat of battle. And we aren't allowed to hurt each other, so you'll be all right." The rest of the meal passed swiftly and as wood nymphs began clearing away plates and cups, Chiron stomped a hoof on the marble floor. The pavilion quieted and everyone looked over at Table 12. Mr D heaved himself up with a sigh./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Yes, let's see. Tonight is Capture the Flag, as I'm sure you are aware." All the campers cheered and yelled. "We have a new camper, Katya Marten." Katya could feel stares shifting from Mr. D to her but she ignored them. Chiron pounded a hoof again./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Campers, it is time for Capture the Flag! Apollo's cabin presently holds the laurels. Collect your equipment!" Everyone stood up and began heading back to the cabins./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Come with me. We gotta get you some gear," said Pollux. "Cas, we'll meet you back here?" Castor nodded and Katya followed Pollux out of the pavilion. He led her down the hill and to a good-sized shed. He hauled the door open to reveal a small armory. He studied her for a second, then hurried over to a display of breastplates. He quickly set about fitting Katya with a breastplate and red-plumed helmet. There was a short period of awkwardness when Pollux went to buckle the straps on the sides of her chest but they laughed it off and finished quickly after that. After the armor, Katya followed Pollux back to the arc of cabins to the rear of what looked like the Athena cabin- elegant and white with owl carvings- and opened the door of a smaller shed. This one held an impressive array of weapons. Picking a sword was harder than picking armor- the sword had to be the right length and the right weight. There wasn't time to pick a perfect one, but Pollux helped her find one that would work for that evening's game. As they headed back up the hill, Katya asked how the teams were organized./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Well, cabins make alliances with other cabins- they trade privileges to get them on their team. Tonight we're with Athena, Hephaestus, and Demeter. The other team is Ares, Apollo, Hermes and Aphrodite." Something seemed off to Katya./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Aren't there more cabins than that?" Pollux nodded./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Well, yeah, but some aren't occupied. Like Artemis, she's a maiden goddess, so no kids. I've heard her huntresses stay there when they stop by camp, but that hasn't happened while I've been here."/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""And Zeus, Hera and Poseidon?" Katya prompted./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""A long time ago, Zeus, Poseidon and Hades made a pact swearing they wouldn't have any more kids- children of the Big Three are incredibly powerful. Poseidon sort of broke the promise and had a son, a bit younger than you I think, but he's not here right now. And Hera is the goddess of marriage- plus I'm sure you've read the stories of what she did to Zeus' children with other women, so it would be hypocritical of her to have kids with someone other than Zeus." They'd reached the dining pavilion again. The area was a mass of red and blue plumes and several shades of bronze. Katya, Pollux and Castor had red plumes. She began scanning the blue-plumed campers. Several had quivers full of arrows strapped to their backs and carried bows- Apollo kids. There were the tough-looking Ares kids. A bunch of them, all standing in a clump, were stunningly attractive. Most of the girls- and a few guys- had their noses in a compact mirror, intensely studying their reflections. emAphrodite kids/em, Katya guessed./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"On their side, in red-plumed helmets, she saw a bunch of blond kids. Most of them were talking quietly but rapidly, and some held sheets of paper that had diagrams drawn on them. Probably the Athena kids. Some of the other kids looked like they knew their way around machines, with little black oily smudges on their faces and hands. They looked tough, but not nasty like the Ares kids. Finally, a couple smaller groups were milling around. Grass poked through the stones when they walked, and as Katya watched a pair of girls sitting on the ground, one passed her hand over a patch of grass and bright flowers sprouted. emHephaestus and Demeter./em She looked up when thuds reverberated around the pavilion. Chiron was thumping a hoof against the ground. He held out a hand to the right. A few blue-plumed kids ran in holding a gold banner with a harp sort of thing- emoh, a lyre/em- on it. All the blue campers hooted and stomped their feet. Chiron held out his hand to the other side and red-plumed campers came in with a silver banner decorated with an owl./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Are those the emflags?/em They're huge!" exclaimed Katya. Castor nodded./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Makes it more fun when you have to hide a giant piece of cloth instead of a tiny one." Chiron pounded his hoof once more./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Campers, you know the rules. The creek is the boundary. All magical weapons are fair. No maiming other players. Good luck!" All the campers cheered and yelled before heading for the woods./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Is there anything dangerous in there I should know about?" asked Katya as they made their way down the hill. Pollux tipped his head in thought./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""There're some average monsters. Nothing too dangerous. And Chiron's field medic if things get out of hand- which only happens sometimes."/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Great," said Katya, swallowing thickly./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"~.~.~.~.~.~.~/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"The red team had the territory across the river. Castor and Pollux led Katya to a cluster of trees growing close together in a clearing. Pollux pointed to a larger gap between them./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Here's a good spot for you," he said. "People won't be able to see you easily but you can jump out and attack them. Just keep them busy and when you need a team member, just shout emkókkinos/em to get someone to come and help."/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""emRed/em," translated Katya, then did a double take. "How'd I do that?"/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Dyslexia in half-bloods happens because your brain is wired for Ancient Greek- it comes pretty easily to us." Katya nodded./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"She slipped between the tree trunks and gave a thumbs-up to the twins, who both gave her one in return and jogged off. "And now we wait," mumbled Katya. She leaned against a tree so she had a view in the direction of the river. Her ADHD kicked in pretty quickly after that. She stabbed at the ground, spearing leaves on the point of her sword. She accidentally sliced a tree root and was startled to hear and indignant "Hey!" A girl materialized out of nowhere. She wore a green dress and had pointed ears. She glared at Katya./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Sorry...sorry." Katya apologized hastily and leaned her sword against another tree, holding up her hands. The dryad emhmph/emed and melted back into the tree whose roots Katya had stabbed. Katya picked up her sword and poked her head out from the cluster of trees. No one was in sight. She sighed. She would be the first to admit that she had no weapons training but she was emso/em bored! She scraped the leaves off the tip of her sword with her shoe. Then she heard a crunching sound that she didn't make. She darted back into the shadow of the trees, peering out between two trunks. A blue-plumed camper was making his way carefully in her general direction. He had held a bow with an arrow nocked and while the arrowhead wasn't a traditional sharp one, Katya was sure the tiny cylinder held some nasty surprise. She held still as she drew closer. When he was about twenty yards away and level with her hiding spot, she took a deep breath and yelled "emKókkinos/em!" as she jumped out of the cluster of trees. The Apollo boy started, swiftly loosing the arrow in her direction. Even though it was only a game, her adrenaline kicked into overdrive and she wasn't sure what happened next. Her vision shifted and there was a flurry of motion, the world flying past. A frantic shout reached her ears and she stopped, her vision retuning to normal. She found herself crouched over the Apollo boy, her sword on the ground a few feet away next to his. The boy had deep scratches on his arms and he was shaking under the hand pinning him to the forest floor. She tried to pull away and found her hand...stuck to the boy's breastplate? She tugged harder and her hand came free, only for her to discover the reason for getting stuck. Her fingernails had elongated into curved claws, each about half an inch long. She lifted her other hand to find the same thing, only the claws on that had were tinged red with the boy's blood. She caught sight of her reflection in the polished bronze of the boy's breastplate and was startled by her eyes. They looked strangely feline. She scrambled to her feet, holding her hands close to her chest./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""I'm sorry-I-I didn't-I didn't try-" The boy was looking at her warily and she knew stammered apologies would do her no good at the moment./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"So she ran. She turned and dashed out of the clearing, leaving the boy pushing himself up on his elbows. She ran until the sounds of battle were distant and soft. She sank to the ground with her back against a tree, breathing heavily. Once her breathing had slowed, she pulled her knees to her chest, folded her arms on top of them and buried her face in her arms, letting the tears begin to leak out. emI thought this place was suppose to help me. Instead I'm hurting people and I don't know what's happening to me. I- ohmygodwhatwasthat?/em Her train of thought was interrupted by the slow snapping of twigs as something made its way toward her. She remembered Pollux's words./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"em"There're some average monsters. Nothing too dangerous."/em Yeah, if you were a camper trained with swords. Plenty dangerous if you were an untrained kid with freaky claws and cat eyes. She hurried to her feet and looked around for a place to hide. The claws hadn't recedes and she decided to put them to good use, scurrying up the tree to perch on a branch about twenty feet up. She watched the forest floor, waiting for the monster./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Katya?" The monster that knew her name, apparently./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Katya, are you out here?" Oh. It was Castor and Pollux. They were near the base of her tree./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Yeah...I'm up here," she called. The twins looked up. Their faces broke into expressions of relief./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Thank the gods," said one- Katya couldn't tell them apart from her height. She climbed down slowly./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Is he okay?" she blurted once she was standing on solid ground. "The Apollo boy?" Pollux waved a hand dismissively./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Don't worry- Chiron will patch him up. That's definitely not the worst injury that's happened during Capture the Flag. What's more important is what happened to you back there? Jordan said you grew claws and attacked him." Katya splayed her fingers in front of her. The claws were still there, but as they watched, they shrunk back down into normal fingernails./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Are my eyes normal?" Castor looked at her weirdly./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Yeah, they look fine. I mean, a little red, but yeah, fine. Why?"/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""They...they, um...back in the clearing, they looked like cat eyes." She swallowed. "Let's just go back. I don't want to talk about it until I figure out what happened." The twins shared a look, then nodded, and Katya followed them back to the clearing. Several campers were milling around while Chiron patches up a few minor injuries. He looked up as Katya and the twins entered the clearing. He finished bandaging a girl's wrist and cantered over to them./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""Let's go to the Big House. We'll..." he trailed off, his attention caught by something over Katya's head. Castor, Pollux and other campers began looking up too. Katya looked up to find a shining, translucent golden paw print in orangish light hovering over her head. She looked back at Chiron./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""What's that? What's going on?"/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;""You have been claimed, child," he said, kneeling in front of her. The campers in the clearing followed suit. "Hail, Katya Marten, daughter of Panthera." Katya could see campers glancing at one another and shrugging, and she could understand why./p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"Panthera?/p
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p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"strongSo, yeah, original goddess. More about her in the next chapter, as well as a strange dream on the way for our heroine. And dreams for demigods are always something important.../strong/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"strongPlease review! I would love to hear how I'm doing./strong/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"strongUntil next time!/strong/p
p style="font-family: Times; font-size: medium;"strong-Ophelia/strong/p