When Rachel had met Percy for the first time at Hoover Dam, she thought he was a tad crazy. Really, who went around swinging a sword through other people and then claiming it was a pen? (Who went around carrying a sword at all nowadays, period?) She could see his confusion, then panic, as he realized, She can see things she's not supposed to.
Right off the bat she could feel a connection to this weird kid. He could see those weird monsters, too. He didn't think she was crazy or seeing things.
He could be the key to figuring out why she saw these things, what they were, and how she could see them.
Rachel could clearly remember the first time she told her mom about one of the monsters. It had been a huge dog, bigger than a car. Rachel loved dogs, so she pointed this one out.
"Mommy! Look at the big doggie!" five-year-old Rachel had cried, her face pressed to the window of her family's limo.
"Get your face off the glass, Rachel," her mom had replied, looking up from her fashion magazine. "What dog? There's no dog out there."
"But mommy!" Rachel had protested. "It's right there, by the hot-dog truck! It's a big as a car!"
"There's no dog there," Mrs. Dare said flatly. "Stop telling lies."
There had been other incidents too, but after her parents told her each time that there was nothing there, or that the old hag with wings was really a nice old grandma, now stop making things up, Rachel had stopped telling her parents what she saw. She told her friends instead, but they told her there was nothing there. Stop trying to be funny, Dare. Quit playing your games. She had resorted to painting the strange things she saw, her closets filling up with pictures of monsters. Mr. Dare became concerned after a maid found the pictures and showed them to him. After all, it couldn't get out that the daughter of famous Mr. Dare anything but normal. He tossed the paintings in the trash.
Rachel fished them out again and hid them under her floorboards. They weren't just paintings; they were proof.
One doctor (a highly trained specialist, sworn to secrecy) thought she just had a highly overactive imagination. Another thought she was schizophrenic. Rachel thought they were both wrong. But- as her mother said (more like yelled) over her protests- she was seeing things that just weren't there. They weren't real. And Rachel couldn't tell the difference. So therefore, they had to try different medicines on her. Rachel flushed most of them right down the toilet instead of taking them. There was no point trying to fix something that wasn't broken in the first place.
But she continued to be the only one to see the monsters. Until Percy. He saw the skeletons too, and while he seemed a bit scared of them, he didn't find them odd or out of place. I'm being chased by skeletons with machine guns? Right, where's the nearest escape route?
Then he ran off before Rachel could ask him all the questions she had stored up over the years. She had a list of them, written in her journal. Why am I seeing these things? Why does nobody else see them? Where do they come from? Why are they here? Why? Why? Why?
At least she knew she wasn't crazy. The monsters did exist. Other people could see them.
Other people were being chased and killed by them.
He had called her a "mortal". He had acted like somehow, the two of them were different. That was why the sword had passed right through her.
After she was done being grateful that she was different enough that she wasn't beheaded for having a cold, Rachel went straight into trying to pry answers out of Percy. Unfortunately, he was a bit too busy trying to not get killed and escape Hoover Dam to answer very many of the questions bubbling up in Rachel.
She hoped that she would see him again. Otherwise, how would she get her questions answered? People didn't normally go around trying to lop off other people's heads with magic swords (at least, not as far as she knew), so it would be hard- if not downright impossible- to find another "demigod" and question them about the monsters.
And about the dreams. She couldn't forget the dreams. How could she get them to go away?
She couldn't find the strange boy again at Hoover Dam, even though she went on nine different tours and sneezed loudly throughout each. She suspected he might have booked it as soon as possible with the others he came with. She didn't blame him- she would've done the same if she was being chased by skeletons- but it was still a tad frustrating. To be so close to answers, and then to lose that chance! Rachel decided to keep a close lookout for others like the boy. If she could find another in New York...maybe she could finally have a friend that would really understand her.
She had some arty friends that understood her love for painting. But they all backed off really quickly whenever she painted something out of the ordinary- the gigantic black dog in Central Park; a haglike, winged woman perched on a statue; a half-man, half-bull creature eating an ice-cream cone on the corner. Rachel had tried to stop herself from painting them, but she had to, or she'd get nightmares. Her friends thought it was weird that she would put, as they said, "such creepy, unreal things in a real, everyday setting".
The problem was, Rachel was seeing such creepy, unreal things in real, everyday settings, so she painted them as such. She wasn't one to lie just to suit her father's desires. He could shove his propriety and fancy manners up his posterior for all she cared.
When she met Percy at Goode in New York, she couldn't believe her luck- though she couldn't quite tell if it was good luck or bad. This kid seemed to come with monsters attached. When she had met him at Hoover Dam, he had skeletons after him. At Goode, he had fire-breathing, really ugly vampire-donkey cheerleaders after him.
Then he ran off again before she could get all of her questions answered, with his blond, grumpy-looking friend, but not before she had scribbled her number down on his arm. Rachel needed her questions answered, and she didn't know if she'd be seeing him again. Setting the band room on fire- or, rather, appearing to set the band room on fire- was probably grounds for expulsion.
That had to be an all-time record- expelled before the school year started.
Rachel kept an eye out for monsters that summer as she went about her business. If wherever Percy went, monsters showed up, the reverse might be true.
That method (rather predictably) didn't work. Rachel saw plenty of monsters, but no Percy. Until he called her up for her help with something- if she wanted to help, that is.
"It'll be really dangerous," Percy warned her over the phone. Rachel decided she didn't care. Anything was better than hanging around her room all day. Besides, she had been in dangerous positions before, with the skeletons and the cheerleaders. It had been terrifying, but that was as dangerous as it would get, right?
The blond- Annabeth- was as nasty as she had been before, never relaxing. Rachel was having some difficulty figuring out what Percy ever saw in the other girl to make him hang out with her, but finally came to the conclusion that maybe Annabeth didn't always act like that, based on Percy's totally confused expression. She tried to be nice, but to no avail. Annabeth made no secret of her dislike of Rachel.
O.K., Rachel thought. So we're going to go beat up some dangerous people, and while we're at it we're all going to be irritable and grouchy and not get along. Makes perfect sense. Not.
Several hours later, Rachel found herself wishing she had listened to Percy when he said the quest was going to be dangerous. The cheerleaders had been perfectly tame in comparison to some of the stuff she was seeing and experiencing. She might have seen monsters before, but they hadn't been trying to kill her. They hadn't noticed her at all, because she was mortal, not a demigod. Now that distinction didn't seem to make a difference. These monsters were perfectly ready to slit her throat, mortal or no. Trying to bargain with them didn't work either, not that Rachel had particularly expected it to. After all, if she was as ugly as these creatures were, she wouldn't want a portrait either. A landscape, maybe, not that the underground fighting ring was that appealing, either. But Percy managed to not get killed by a giant, so they were off again, chased by crazy killers again. Then they were nearly killed by an insane ghost in an amazing room- Rachel could've stayed there all day. The designs for different inventions were amazing, though confusing, and the paintings...Then it was destroyed. They barely escaped by using some amazingly designed wings. Rachel hoped that that was all for the day, but the look on Percy's face said otherwise. Rachel resigned herself to more near-death experiences.
Rachel hoped the experiences would have warmed Annabeth to her, since they had been through so much together- nowhere near Percy and Annabeth's level of stuff-gone-through, but more than most people at any rate- but Annabeth showed no signs of warming up at all. If anything, her attitude towards Rachel got even frostier. Ookaay, Rachel thought. Be the bigger person here. Do not retaliate. Be sunny. Or, better yet, be kick-ass. Monsters respond more to that.
Apparently they responded very well to having a blue plastic hairbrush thrown into their face. Percy seemed impressed, at any rate. Annabeth soured even more. Apparently she didn't like it when a mere moral hairbrush worked better than her shiny bronze dagger. Or perhaps it was because she was used to Percy giving her the impressed look. Rachel decided that it was most likely a combination of the two. After that, she didn't have a lot of time for thinking because they were off running again, and she had to lead them. Getting distracted by analyzing Annabeth's actions and leading them off course would be bad. Very bad. Getting-eaten-alive-by-ugly-monsters bad. That would be very hard to explain to her dad, given that he didn't even know the monsters existed. Mr. Dare would definitely have a problem with his only daughter getting eaten by imaginary monsters.
Rachel had felt out of place many times before, when she saw monsters that other people didn't. She had never felt so out of place, however, then when she met Pan. A god. A real, live (well, almost faded) god, and the nature god at that. She had never met a god before, and the others clearly had. They were related to the gods, for heaven's sake. She was just Rachel Dare, the daughter of the man who got rich destroying the wilderness...Rachel suddenly realized that, while she might fit in to the whole world of Greek monsters and gods better than she fit in at home, she had barely scratched the surface. The lingering traces of smugness that she couldn't be tricked by the maze and the demigods did get tricked vanished. She fit better in one way; Annabeth and Percy and Nico fit in many ways. They could fight like demons and defend themselves, even Nico, who had to be only about twelve or so. They knew Greek. They knew how to handle themselves around gods. They flung themselves into dangerous situations because other people were in danger. Rachel thought she would have a lot of trouble with that. She could be selfless- wasn't coming on this quest evidence enough of that? - but actually putting her life on the line knowingly and repetitively was a whole different thing. Rachel knew she could be selfish at times, but really not as much as might be expected with her upbringing, but she suspected that she was a lot higher on the "selfish hag" chart than the two demigods.
Willingly sacrificing happiness, peace, and possibly their lives took a lot of bravery and selflessness. Rachel hoped that hanging around Percy (given that he survived the summer and wasn't actually expelled from Goode) would help her work on that.
Rachel was relieved to see Percy still alive and breathing when school started. She was even more relieved when he made it through the school year. They had become friends, since they both knew about the Greek world and could relate experiences. Percy saw a fire-breathing half-fish monster? Rachel believed him. She saw a dragon flying overhead? Percy asked her what it looked like and where it was going, then ran off to make sure it wasn't attacking camp. Rachel sighed when this happened, said a quick prayer that he wouldn't get himself killed, and made sure she had good notes to give to Percy when he came back. She reminded him of homework due dates and to keep a supply of nectar and ambrosia in both his locker and in his backpack, so he wouldn't cause questions to come up when he showed back up at school with deep cuts in his shoulder from crazy crows or a burn from a flame-throwing something. She also had him keep a hoodie in his locker, with a spare pair of jeans, so if his shirt or pants ended up with bloodstains or singed (a fairly regular occurrence, from what Rachel could tell), Percy could change and therefore miss most of the odd looks and whispers that would result if he showed up to classes with a bloody shirt but no apparent cuts or with smoke drifting up off his jeans.
She was very worried when he went back to camp- back to training, back to getting his life in danger daily, back to doing raids and quests to stop Kronos. She missed having her contact with the world that made sense- a world that, Rachel believed, she belonged in, even if she wasn't a demigod. It was lonely, cut off from that world. Percy came to hang out with her once in a while to "get away from it all", and it cheered her up that he would want to spend his time with her, but he didn't really want to talk about his world. It was his break from that. He would talk about swordfighting practice, or Blackjack, or Tyson, or Annabeth, but not about the monsters or Kronos.
Rachel wanted to know about the monsters and Kronos. They- well, Percy and his campmates- were in the middle of a war, and she didn't know what was going on. He was her only source of information, and Percy was rather stubborn at times.
Just like Annabeth, Rachel thought. Percy's version of Annabeth sounded a lot different from the Annabeth Rachel had experienced, but it sounded like she was still acting odd- at least, in Percy's opinion. He seemed to have a permanently puzzled look on his face when he talked about Annabeth these days, but he never ranted about Annabeth. Rachel suspected that he wanted the two girls to get along.
Not while Annabeth's being all possessive of Percy, Rachel thought to herself. That attitude- no. I'm allowed to be friends with him.
Or more, given her attraction towards him. Percy was the first person to make sense to Rachel (well, mostly make sense- he still was, after all, a teenage boy, and therefore confusing), and the first person to really understand her- though, she had to admit, he didn't really understand art, though he (rather half-heartedly) tried. He still referred to Van Gogh as "the guy with the ear" rather than actually learn the guy's name. Finally Rachel had made a connection with somebody, and she wasn't about to just let that go, not for a grouchy girl or because of Percy's denseness. Honestly, the guy was either as thick as an elephant's toenail or just unwilling to make the first move.
So Rachel made the first move instead, and got a very flustered Percy in response.
Not the best time for a first kiss, Rachel thought as she watched the big doof ride off on Blackjack with another demigod to do a dangerous raid on what Rachel assumed to be the headquarters of Kronos's group. She hadn't even gotten a response to the vacation invitation, not that she was really expecting one, deep down. Percy's schedule was just too unpredictable, and he couldn't change that. She supposed that it was selfish of her to want Percy to drop everything and pretend he was normal for a time when something like this was going on.
Instead, Rachel drove Paul's car back to where he and Sally waited, trying not to wince at some of the odder sounds the car was now making, and tried to explain about the hoofprints. Sally looked amused, yet worried for her son, while Paul looked like he was trying to figure out if she was serious as he inspected the hoofprints now denting his hood. Rachel suspected that he hadn't quite believed Percy when he told Paul about the Greek gods. They drove back to the city, both Rachel and Sally looking out to sea, in hope-or perhaps fear- that they would see some sign of Percy.
No calls, no letters, no Iris-messages, no news about exploding boats, no demigods turning up on Sally and Paul's doorstep with long faces. Rachel's father dragged her off on vacation anyways, muttering about "that ungrateful, uncivilized young man" and how he "thinks he can change his plans around 24/7, no respect for planning" while Rachel sulked around the vacation home, plagued by dreams she didn't understand and absentmindedly writing things in Greek in the sand. Not having Percy there to help her understand what she was dreaming about was hard, so Rachel painted her dreams, hoping that she would get an explanation from Percy as soon as she got home from this dratted vacation-
And then there was the urgent dream, the one that Percy needed to know, that he wasn't the hero that the prophecy was talking about. Rachel cursed her luck that Iris-messaging didn't work for her, at least not when she was the one calling (besides, she didn't have any Greek money), and that Percy didn't have a cell phone. She tried calling Sally, but nobody answered, even when Rachel called ten times in an hour. The feeling that something was wrong and that Percy was in danger increased. Rachel decided to watch for news from New York, that something, anything, was out of place. She had watched the news with Percy enough that she could pick out when something was a normal mortal disturbance and when it was demigods or monsters.
There was no news from New York City. There was never no news from New York City. There were always robberies, or car crashes, or traffic jams, or rampaging monsters causing some kind of disturbance that was duly noted before the rest of the news continued.
There were also no phone calls for her dad from New York City. Rachel thought this was odd.
Her dad didn't seem to care.
She had to take action. Desperate times called for desperate measures.
An hour later, Rachel found herself in her dad's helicopter, flying towards NYC with his personal flight captain. Rachel peered anxiously out the windows as the city drew closer. At first glance, things seemed fine, but as Rachel peered more closely at the skyline, she could see smoke rising from the city. Clearly, things were not all right.
Things were even less all right when the captain fell asleep at the controls while they were flying over the city. Rachel had absolutely no idea how to fly the helicopter, and if she didn't do something they would ram into a building. Rachel could see demigods on the street below her, staring up at the tottering helicopter, but then she had to rip her eyes off the wreckage in the street below to try to stabilize the helicopter. Fat lot of good she would do if she crashed and died before telling Percy what he needed to know before he went into the final battle.
Rachel would have likely died if Annabeth hadn't come to her rescue. The blonde managed to swing herself into the helicopter, shove Rachel away from the controls, straighten the helicopter, and land it neatly before Rachel could fully process what was going on. When her brain finally registered that she wasn't about to die of helicopter crash and took in the ticked-off girl in front of her, Rachel could tell that Annabeth hadn't come to her rescue because she had suddenly decided to like Rachel- it was because she, like Percy, was loath to let anybody die. However, now that Rachel was out of danger, Annabeth could glare at her all she wanted. Clearly, the other girl disliked Rachel even more now, or perhaps it was just the stress of being inside a war zone when they were so greatly outnumbered.
I can fight, Rachel thought stubbornly. Just hand me some armor and a sword. She stayed just as stubborn as Percy accepted her messages with a look of even greater stress and confusion, and then told her to get inside, out of danger. She stayed that way, determined to be a help by fighting, until she saw the drakon and realized that, if she had a bit of sense in her, she'd be terrified right now. Sure, she could beat up bullies at school, but she wasn't trained in swordfighting and would probably be a bigger help if she stayed alive, in case she caught any more helpful, abet unnerving, dreams. Rachel promptly beat a hasty retreat into the relative safety of the building they were closest to, went up a couple floors, and glued her face to the window. She decided she was very right in following Percy's instructions once she saw the fighting going on. Percy was a black-and-orange blur as he fought, Annabeth a couple paces behind. Partway into the fight, the Ares cabin arrived and dove into the fight with a vengeance that sent the attackers fleeing.
Rachel couldn't remember much of what happened next, except for her trip up to Olympus, finding Hestia, and having a talk about Rachel's powers and what they meant and how she could use them. Rachel felt even more at home with Hestia than she had ever felt with Percy, which may have had something to do with Hestia being the goddess of home and hearth, but Rachel felt that it was more the world she fit into, and Percy had just been an outlet of that world. He was still a good friend, but that tug towards him was really just a tug towards the world of Greek gods, channeled through Percy.
Rachel figured Annabeth would be happy to have that figured out. She, Rachel, had never really been in love with Percy.
Gods, it felt good to have that all figured out. She would have to explain better to Percy, who looked completely confused at her actions, but later, after she became the Oracle. Otherwise, she knew he would try to stop her- it was just too dangerous for him to be okay with it. Hestia had explained everything, and now it was time for Rachel to take action.
She'd have to apologize to Percy later, both for putting herself in danger and for stealing Blackjack, who appeared to be protesting mightily but finally agreed to take her to camp.
What happened next was like a dream, or a chopped-up video. Rachel remembered parts, like people trying to turn her off, to steer her out of camp, but Rachel walked right up to the Big House. Apollo appeared, and Rachel pledged herself to him. A creepy hippie lady appeared, but Rachel was almost in a dream, not reacting to the rather pathetic figure of the old Oracle. Then everything was green smoke, and Rachel collapsed. When she awoke, the Oracle was inside her and everything made sense. Her powers, why she was here, what she could do now.
And it felt just right.
Annabeth was suddenly much friendlier, now that Rachel was no longer competition for Percy's heart. Rachel could see from the way Percy looked at Annabeth that there hadn't been a competition in the first place. That made her feel a bit better about kinda blowing him off up on Olympus.
All they needed was a little shove to get together.
Rachel found herself not being jealous at all of their new relationship, instead becoming friends with Annabeth (and actually getting to meet the nice, headstrong, loyal, smart girl Percy had described). She also found herself suddenly very busy, helping repair and build buildings around camp and designing buildings with Annabeth. They really were quite a good team; Annabeth would describe the god or goddess they were building the cabin for as well as she could, and Rachel sketched pictures of cabins. Annabeth looked at the pictures and picked out things she thought were good ideas, and added some of her own ideas. They also consulted the children of those gods for their ideas, and together, Rachel and Annabeth incorporated them into the cabin designs.
Pity it would have to come to an end, though. The stupid prissy ladies' boarding school was waiting once fall came. There was no way to back out of it now- she had had to make the sacrifice to help the demigods, and being the Oracle couldn't be used as an excuse. Rachel snorted at the very thought of trying.
Hey, Dad, you know how I agreed to go to the boarding school you wanted me to in return for letting me go back to New York? I did it to save a bunch of people's lives, so do you think you could let me off the hook? Oh, by the way, I let an ancient, prophecy-telling spirit take up residence inside me, so I'm the new Oracle for some Greek demigods. Hope you don't mind that I did it without asking your permission first. Oh! And also, I spew green smoke when telling a prophecy. Isn't that cool?
He would freak, demand to see Apollo, argue with the god, and demand that Apollo take the spirit back out of her. Never mind that Apollo was a god and could probably blast Mr. Dare into atoms if ticked off, Rachel's father seemed to think that wealth and power over big companies could and would get him anything. Even though Rachel didn't like her father, she didn't want him to be reduced to atoms.
(Even if it might get her out of boarding school.)
Her new life wouldn't be safe. It wouldn't always be easy. It would mean giving things up and getting into dangerous situations. She couldn't date- not that she had before, anyway-at least, not until she passed the spirit of the Oracle on to another girl, years in the future. Being Oracle meant still having those terrifying dreams, now even scarier because now Rachel knew they were real, or at least would be real soon in the future. Rachel still wouldn't be exactly like the other campers and it was better if she didn't go on quests because it would be bad if she died- Chiron didn't want another dead corpse as the Oracle again. But she fit. Rachel finally had a place, and the campers, with very few exceptions, liked her. Life made sense, even more than normal now that Rachel could see more than normal. She could see a hint of trouble coming in the distance, trouble related to that Next Great Prophecy of hers, but for now life was good. She would struggle through Clarion Ladies Academy and hoped she wouldn't do anything strange like spew green smoke while there. She wasn't exactly sure if the spirit of the Oracle had the best timing.
Rachel hoped that she wouldn't need to ask her roommates to repeat any prophecies. Besides it being hard to explain her powers, Rachel guessed that any other mortals would be shell-shocked at the prophecy-telling and would have fainted rather than taking notes.
Rachel trudged up the path towards where she would be picked up and later brought to school. She waved to the small figure that was Hestia, tending the fire that burned on the dining pavilion, and then to the assorted satyrs and nymphs busily building the Hecate cabin, then smiled.
This world was odd. It was dangerous. But it was where she fit, and Rachel wouldn't change any of it.