Family Feud: The Beginning Of The End Of The Earth

Ava Griffin is a demigod. Basically, she is half-human,and half-greek god. She is a permanent camper at Camp Half Blood, a camp where all demigods train for the hard-and normally short-life of a demigod. When Connor Alati arrives, Ava befriends him. Connor quickly learns that Ava has many layers, some that even the campers are afraid of. When Connor recieves a prophecy that has been forbidden for years, Ava and Connor are set off on a quest to save the world. And they are not guaranteed survival. With the ghastly past, horrifying present, and impossible future, Ava and Connor discover that the world is falling apart, and the gods are to blame.

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4. Ava Kills Mother Nature

     After I slammed the door in Ava's face-I know, I'm a jerk-I sulked in a dusty chair for the rest of the day. My brain was on overdrive, trying to keep up with all of the new information it was recieving. On top of finding out I was the son of Poseidon, I learned that my unknown mother is dead, and my father who I decided was only my father biologically, had the audacity to write on her grave. So much in my mind needed to be figured out, so many questions unanswered. Chiron came to my cabin shortly after dinner, but I didn't let him in. Ava didn't come back, which made me feel worse. 

     I went to bed, hungry and numb. I cried until I fell asleep. I'm as tough as a rubber duck. My dreams were restless. Images of the sky being ripped open, a gold harp and a silver bow battling, and an owl staring at me flashed through my mind. I woke up in panic, sweat covering my face. My head throbbed, my eyes were wet and puffy, and my clothes were sticking to my body. All in all, I was having a horrific first day at Camp Half-Blood.

     I relayed the day's events. After barely getting over the initial shock that one of my parents was an immortal Greek god, I stunk at my first class, then destroyed the second class with all the water in Long Island Sound, then found out I was the son of a god who couldn't even protect a human he had a kid with, and finally ending the day with nightmares that made no sense. Really? I wanted some peace. Just a break, something to make me feel calm like when I first walked into this cabin. Then it hit me.

     I pulled the covers off me, and raced out the door. It was still nighttime. Stars glistened from above; a half-moon shone dully on the camp. There was no one in sight, the only sign of life coming from the hearth in the center of the cabins. I noticed that not once had the fire stopped roaring. I didn't know why, that was the only thing Ava hadn't told me about. Ava. I hit myself on the head. I would have to apologize to her tomorrow.

     Like many things in this story, I never got the chance. I could barely see as I made my way to Long Island Sound, the wet grass making my bare feet slip around. The grass turned to sand, announcing my presence on the beach. I was not alone.

     Ava was sitting there, feet just being touched by the black sea. My brain told me the tide was low, and the sea was stressed. I wondered if it was reflecting my dad's mood, or mine. Probably both. I had known many things about the sea and boats and fishing, but I was overwhelmed by all these new senses that had opened in my mind. I wondered if it was a gift from Poseidon, and immediately hated it.

     Ava's dark hair was down, reaching the middle of her back, where it was blowing gently. She was sitting with her knees up, arms around them. I saw the streaks of old tears still shine on her face.  I sat next to her and matched her position, making her jump.

     She regarded me with suprise and hurt. The bandage was still on her forehead. "There's no doors here that you can slam in my face, you know."

     "Ava, I'm so sorry. Something happened..." I told her about the Iris message, leaving out the part about my telepathic conversation with Poseidon. I was afraid of how much I hated him. So much so I thought it would turn all of the oceans into tsunamis. I also told her about the nightmares, which had made no sense, but I had a deep feeling in the pit of my stomach that they were more than just random images projected by my subconscious. To make things worse, when I talked about my mother, tears started to form in my eyes. When I finished, Ava looked at me with regret. 

     "Connor, I'm so sorry about your mom. I didn't know..." She took my hand and squeezed it.

     I sniffed, "Don't be sorry. It's not your fault." Ava took her hand away, placing it in the sand.

     She was silent for a minute, gazing at the ocean while biting her lip. "It's my fault you are even in Poseidon's cabin. If you hadn't helped me, you wouldn't have found out today. And I probably just wrecked your chances of having friends." I gave her a questioning look, which she took as a chance to go on. "Connor, the people here don't like me. Hate me even. This isn't the first time they have done something like this. Just the first time that they paid for it."

     "What's their deal? I've only been here a day, and even I noticed that you have no friends, well except for Chiron." She gave me a look. "Uh, I didn't mean it like that."

     She laughed. "That's okay. It's true, though. Let's just say, there are very good reasons for them hating me. And they only hate me because, well..." She bit her lip again. "Because they are afraid of me."

     "What? How in the world are they afraid of you?"

     Ava hestitated. "Maybe another time, okay?" I nodded, respecting her privacy. Though it was rather grudgingly. "So, why did you come here?"

     I shifted in the sand. "Well, I woke up after the nightmares I told you about, and wanted to cool down. I thought the beach was a good place for that. What about you?"

     "Same. I always come here when I have nightmares." She put her hands in the sand, sifting it through her fingers. I decided not to press that subject too. If she wanted to tell me, she would. She didn't. 

     "The nereids are saying some pretty harsh things to me right now." 

     Ava laughed. "They are so overly dramatic. You only used them as an arachnid repellant." I laughed with her again. We ended up sitting there for a little while longer, listening to the waves. The silence was comfortable, peaceful. I tried asking Ava once, and, even being the daughter of Athena, she couldn't figure out the nightmares. In my mind, I was still having a silent dispute with the nereids. They told me I had to apologize, which I did. They swam away, still muttering angrily about the way their hair got all messed up by my typhoon.

     After awhile, we decided to leave, and head back to our cabins. The sky was inky black, few stars showing even though there were no lights to hide them. I notcied Ava was barefoot as well, her feet sliding in the dewy grass. My mind was aching with curiosity, wanting to know what was so hate-worthy about Ava. It was hard to believe she could even be a demigod, as violent as they presented themselves. When we entered the courtyard formed by the cabins, the hearth in the center seemed to glow brighter. I passed it off as my imagination, but Ava tensed.

     "I'll see you tomorrow, Connor," Ava smiled as she turned to leave.

     "Yeah, definitely." I returned the smile, then walked to my new cabin. Home. I would have to get used to that, even if I was hidng the fact that I hated who it represented. 

     I plopped down on the stiff, unused mattress. Sleep came surprisingly fast, and the last thought I had before the darkness swallowed me was how good it would be to kill Poseidon.

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

     Camp Half-Blood's personal Old Country Buffet was in a taco mood this Friday night. There were taco salads, burritos, fajitas, and chimichangas galore. I grabbed a taco loaded with all the fixings. I passed the golden brazier without a glance, taking a seat by Ava. I know it was against the rules, but I didn't care. If I followed them, I would have had to eat every meal alone. Who wants to do that? And no one sat near Ava anyways, so she didn't seem to mind. The other campers, on the other hand, minded a lot. Chiron told me yesterday that kids were complaining about Ava breaking the rules. 1. I was the one doing it, not Ava. And 2. They never made an effort to include her anyways. Chiron told me that he was happy Ava had a friend, so he wouldn't be changing anything, which I was happy about.

     "Why is everyone so fired up?" I asked, noticing the festive mood all around. Except on Ava's face. She looked annoyed and nervous.

     "Every Friday night we play capture the flag. It's technically like how the mortals play, but we use weapons and magic." I eyed Ava. "I just hide in a tree in the woods."

     I felt like a complete wimp, but I was not in the mood to get shish kabobbed by someone from Ares. "Can I go with you? I mean, it's not like I'm scared, I just uh, pulled a muscle yesterday."

     Ava raised her eyebrows. "Oh you poor thing! In what class?"

     "Greek grammar." I laughed with Ava. 

     "Okay, you can come. But you can't tell anyone about it."

     I held my hands up. "Promise." We ate for a little while, talking about our different classes. Since the incident Wednesday, battle training class was suspended for the rest of the week, giving Ava and I an hour of free time yesterday and today, which we had not used to hang out with each other. Ava had small volunteer projects she was doing, and I had to work on Greek grammar. Which was stupid. Even if I was half greek god, my dyslexia made Omega look like a horse-shoe. Which it's apparently not, by the way. 

     A horn sounded, hushing the crowd as Chiron galloped into the mess hall. His hooves knocked noisily, echoing across the silent area. Chiron was wearing his usual bronze breast plate with nothing underneath, showing off his muscular arms. His face was festive as he gazed at the entire group.

     "Hello, everyone! I hope you enjoyed taco night, because we are going to begin capture the flag. Red Team is:Apollo, Ares, Nemesis, Hecate,Tyche, Hypnos, Nike and Hebe. Blue Team is:Hephaestus, Hermes, Iris, Dionysus, Aphrodite, Demeter, and Athena. Last week's winner was Red Team, so you guys get to hide your flag first." I gave Chiron a questioning look, wondering why he didn't mention me. "Oh, right." Chiron looked around until his eyes settled on me. "Connor, you can choose which team you would like to be on." I looked aroung the pavillion and saw girls from Aphrodite smiling at me and giggling, and kids from Ares giving me threatening looks, punching their hands. 

     "I'll be on the Blue Team," I said, smiling at Ava. She gave me a look like I was stupid, but smiled anyways. I whispered just to her. "I'm going to hide out anyways."

     "They're going to want you to use your powers, you know. That's a huge advantage."

     "Like I said, I pulled a muscle." Ava laughed, then got drowned out by Chiron's booming voice.

     "Campers, grab your weapons, strap on your armor, strategize, and meet up at the edge of the woods in a half hour. You're dismissed." Everyone rose, not needing to take their plates because they magically vanished once you were done. Ava and I got up then walked together to my cabin.

     "I have to go to my cabin to 'strategize' and get my stuff."

     "What about me?" I asked. " I still haven't gotten armor to wear. I just have Nero." I unsheathed my sword, showing her. It was the same one Ava had told me to use when she gave me the tour. In greek grammar, a kid named Nick told me that Nero meant water in greek. Fitting, huh? Its sleek celestial bronze blade glowed faintly, the emerald shone bright in the sun that was still in the sky. I especially liked the design of a sea serpent coling around the handle. The sword was the perfect size, weight, and shape for me, like an extension of my arm. Secretly I hoped that I wouldn't have to use this on a real mission. They called them quests here. A mission where three demigods-no more, no less-are sent in the mortal world to do things for the gods. Like puppets. The thought sent a wave of anger rippling through me. Ava's voice ripped me from my thoughts.

     "I'll be quick. Meet me down at the armory in like ten." She waved and ran off, along the stone paths around the grass. I wondered why she did that, instead of running across. Shaking my head, I walked to my cabin. It still gave off an uncomfortable lonely feeling. And it smelled like my foster mom's old perfume. I sat on a chair, remembering the times. I hated that place.

     I had lived in downtown Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. My home was also the home of six other kids, whom did not make very great siblings. I was the only one there because of a lack of parents, the rest because of a lack of parents who wanted them. I hate to admit it, but I could see why. They were all kids who lived more in juvie then in the foster house, do to petty theft and vandalizing. My foster mom, Margaret, was a single mother, who smoked inside and wore this nasty perfume that made the entire place unfit to breathe in. She didn't exactly exude motherly love either, not being home enough and not recognizing that kids normally like fresh food and clothes that fit. I had kept to myself at home, and at school I had a few friends. I wonder if they even missed me. Doubt it.

     Looking at a new watch Chiron had given me, I decided to head to the armory.  When I got there, people were walking in and out, mumbling about faulty arrows or jinxed helmets. Shields, swords, and all other sorts of weapons and armor were scattered around. I fumbled for a shield, but none fit right. The helmets were too tight, too big, or just plain uncomfortable. I felt someone tap my shoulder. I turned around to see a girl with auburn hair and brown eyes smile at me warmly. I remembered that she was the girl that had waved to me the other day.

     "Hey, I'm Ashley." She put out her hand for me to shake, which I did.

     "Hey, I'm Connor. But you, uh, probably know that already."

     She laughed, which made her face glow. I had a brief thought that she was really pretty, but I shook it out of my mind. "Yeah, you make quite a splash." We laughed together. "So, we're on the same team, I hear."

     "What cabin are you in?"

     "Aphrodite. Goddess of beauty." As she said that, Ashley flipped her hair over her shoulder, giving me a whiff of her shampoo. And yeah, it smelled really good.

     "Oh, cool."

     "So, why did you decide to be on the Blue Team?"

     "Well, Ava is on this team, so I figured I'd hang out with her." Ashley frowned a little.

     "You need to branch out a little, make some new friends." She ran her fingers up my arm, which I couldn't not notice. "You can't spend the rest of your time here hanging out with the mental case. Aphrodite is good at socializing. Maybe I could give you tips..." I knocked her hand away.

     "Look, Ava isn't a mental case. And I think I can decide who I want to 'socialize' with." I gave her a sharp look. "And who not to."

     I thought Ashley would get mad, but instead she just smirked. "I see my mom has already gotten to you. She is quite the expert in that area. Just know that you're missing out." With a wink and a wave, Ashley strutted out of the armory. I watched her go, until she pulled a boy holding a bow out of sight. I shook my head. Probably going to flirt with that guy, too, I figured.

     Ava walked in right after, wearing full battle attire. She wore a gold breastplate with leather straps fitted around her shoulders. On her right arm she carried a similar colored shield, and in her left hand she held the small dagger she had used in battle training class the other day. Her face was covered by an centurion-type helmet. The best way I could describe it was like those old Roman type ones, where it covered most of your face, except for a slit that ran vertically through the center. On top of the helmet, a blue plume of some material, maybe horse hair, fanned in a straight line, like a mohawk.

     She removed the helmet, releasing her dark hair. "Hey."

     "Hey, liar."

     Ava frowned. "Liar?"

     I pointed at the dagger in her hand. "You said that you didn't have a weapon."

     "Oh, this thing," she muttered. "It was a gift. I don't like to use it very much."

     "It's cool, though."

     "Thanks, I guess."

     "So," I said, changing the subject, "you just missed my first encounter with a girl from Aphrodite."

     Ava snorted. "How did that go?"

     "Well, let's just say I told her I wasn't interested."

     "Wait what? You rejected a girl from Aphrodite?"

     "Yeah, she said that I needed to make new friends. So I told her I could handle it myself."

     "You did?" I nodded, noticing that Ava didn't look quite as enthused as I thought she would be. "That can't bring anything good, but um, thanks Connor." She smiled at me, which wasn't exactly convincing. "So, let's find you some armor for our 'big battle'." We laughed. "Here, try this." I took from her a medium-sized bronze shield that had small bolt-like designs ringed around. The weight was pretty good, I could lift it up with ease.

     "I'm gonna need one of those," I said, pointing to her helmet. "So no one from our team shoots me down." Ava laughed, as she scanned the room for a helmet like hers. I had no idea at the moment that I just jinxed us pretty badly.

     She walked towards the very back of the room, where things were stacked haphazardly everywhere. "Catch this." Without warning she tossed a helmet my direction.

     "Whoa!" I ducked as the helmet sailed over my head. It landed with a clang. "Give a guy a warning, would you?" 

     Between fits of giggles, Ava answered, "Whoops." I picked it up, suprised it wasn't broken. When I put it on, it fit perfectly.

     "Okay, I think this one is good."

     "Great, 'cause here comes your breastplate." I ducked again as a leather blur nearly killed me. This time, Ava nearly fell over laughing.

     "You're trying to kill me before we even begin." I laughed too while pulling on my newest piece of armor. It felt strange. "I don't think this one is good, Ava." She walked up to me and giggled some more.

     "You put it on backwards, for one."

     "Oh, I knew that." I turned it around, but it stell felt uncomfortable.

     "Sure you did. Here, let me help with the straps." I fell silent as Ava fiddled with the straps on my sides and shoulders. It made for a sufficiently awkward moment, but I liked how she blushed a light pink. "There ya go. How does it feel?"

     "Pretty good. How do I look?" I put on my helmet, grabbed my shield, and unsheathed my sword. I felt pretty awesome. 

     "Like a demigod." A horn sounded in the distance. "Let's go." We ran to the edge of the woods, where the entire camp was assembled. 

     Plumes of red and blue shown everywhere. Each camper wore battle attire, carrying their own personal accesories. One girl wore a strange glowing green vial around her neck, and another boy had what looked like a solid gold bow and arrow set. Even his quiver was gold. Chiron was overseeing the assembly, arms folded tight across his chest.

     "Attention! Good, thank you. For those of you who have not played yet, capture the flag here is played similarily to how the mortal world plays. Each team has a flag, where they are allowed ten minutes to hide in plain sight in their individual territories, bordered by the river. You may bound and capture any campers that you find on your side of the river. Blue Team has the north side, Red south. You may not try to maim, bribe or murder any campers. You cannot change your helmets to the other team's. You cannot harm the dryads or their homes." Next to me, Ava shifted uncomfortably. "Red Team, you have ten minutes to hide your flag." Five people with red plumes on their helmets ran south towards the river that I could feel but not see. They carried a flag that had a flaming arrow displayed proudly. When they returned, the five people from the blue team headed off to hide our flag. Both flags were their team's colors, but each held different insignias. Blue Team had a picture of a rainbow on it. I don't think ours won the intimidating contest. Chiron called everyone to attention once our team mates had come back. "Everyone now knows all the rules. Behave, fight hard, but most of all, be a demigod."

     Everyone ran screaming to their positions on opposite sides of the river. It wasn't even a river, more like a creek you could cross yourself by walking. Campers on the Blue team were deciding whether to be on the defense or try to capture the flag. Ava and I ignored them, me following her lead as we retreated farther and farther from everyone else. Soon, we were so far away we could barely hear the shouts and clamors.

     Suddenly, Ava stopped. "Here we are." Before us a large tree with gnarled limbs stood tall and proud, reaching to extreme heights. "This tree is special to the dryads. They call it 'Mother Nature'." I gave Ava a questioning look. "I"m not kidding! It's because it was the first piece of nature a dryad inhabited on Camp Half Blood grounds. To them it's too sacred to live in now. If they knew I was here..." She bit her lip and sighed. "Well, ready to climb?"

     My eyes widened in shock. The first limb was a good ten feet from the ground. "How in the world are we going to do that?"

     Ava smiled. "Like this." She lightly touched a small spot on the wood. When I looked closer, I realized it was a small carved flame. She whispered something in Greek, which somehow made the tree produce a rope ladder. It literally seeped through the bark. 

     "What did you say?" I asked, amazed.

     "Scandere scalam. It means, climb the ladder. I had found this the first time I played capture the flag here. Somehow I just knew what to say." I furrowed my brow as she furrowed hers, and I think it was for the same reason: confusion. That was it. I was sick of not knowing things. I needed some answers.

     "Ava..." I was too late, she had already started to climb. I joined her ascent to the first limb. Not very high, but that was as far as the ladder reached. When I got to the top, Ava patted the spot next to her on the long, wiry limb. We swung our legs off the side moving them back in forth for awhile. Just when I finally had enough courage to ask Ava what I meant to ask her, Ava started to speak.

     "So, what's your story?"

     "What?"

     "Your story. Where you came from, how you got here..." 

     "Oh, that story. Not much to tell." I listened to birds chirping, monsters in the distance howling, and somewhere, the horn to signal the beginning of capture the flag sounded. "I lived in the ugliest part of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. I was taken there before I can even remember. The foster home I lived in was horrible. All the other kids there were delinquents, and more than once had to get taken home in a cop car. My foster mom, Margaret, was terrible at being a mother. She was barely ever home, and when she was, she smoked constantly. I don't miss them, and I don't think they miss me." I watched Ava's reaction. She nodded, as if she could relate.

     "What about school? Didn't you have friends?"

     "Not really. Not enough to cry if I died." 

     "I'm sorry, Connor." Ava smiled at me warmly, which I have to say, did make my life seem a little less depressing. "When did you have that dream? The one that told you to come here."

     I drew a deep breath before answering. "It was almost three months ago. Towards the end of March. Nothing special happened that day at all. I went to bed, and in my dream, this woman was talking to me. I couldn't see her, just hear. She told me that it was imperative that I find Camp Half Blood. The world was ending, and the gods needed me. I'll never forget that. She showed me a map in my mind, so much that I have it memorized. I left home without a word. I hid in the backs of trucks, trailers, trains, and even walked to get here. A few days ago, I knew that I was close. The lady in my sleep told me I had to move faster, but I was so worn out by then I knew I couldn't run. For some reason, she told me to find at a specific gas station a gallon of gas, and keep it with me the entire day. When I was not even two miles from the place, that thing found me. It came from nowhere, like from the darkness itself. I tried to run fast enough, but I couldn't, especially with the gallon of gas in my hand. Then I thought of an idea. I threw all of it at the monster. I thought it was over because I knew I didn't have matches. Somehow, there was a box of them in my pocket. They just magically appeared. And I suppose you know what happened next." Ava nodded.

     "There is so much to uncover. Who this lady is, what is happening with the gods. Why they need you."

     "I don't know. I don't think I'm all that useful."

     Ava smiled. "You saved me."

     "All in a day's work." We shared a laugh. And then I killed the moment. "Ava, what about you? What's your story? Why do the campers dislike you so much?"

     Ava leaned away from me, swishing her legs nervously. She bit her lip and looked at the sun that was setting. It cast a glow of many colors over the forest. I think it would have made a pretty good romantic shot in a movie, except for Ava leaning away from me, and the sounds of monsters roaring in the distance. It sounded almost like laughter. Or was that campers? The noises seemed closer now then before. She sighed. "I guess it's only fair if I tell you. Well, the campers don't like me because...because..."

     "Because of this, freak!" Just then, an arrow whizzed by Ava's face, skimming it slightly.  I nearly fell off the tree branch in surprise. Ava wasn't so lucky. I reached out my hand, but it was too late. Ava toppled backwards, falling the entire ten feet to the ground. Her back smacked hard on the dirt, all air escaping her lungs. I imagined she was crying out from pain, but the fall took any air in her lungs away. 

     "Ava!" I scooched as fast as I could to the ladder and climbed down, jumping from the last few steps. I ran to Ava, who was trying to regain her breath. "O my gosh, are you okay?" I tried to help her sit up, when I noticed her face. Where the arrow hit her, a small torrent of blood was cascading down her cheek. "Who did this?" My eyes scanned the woods, until I found who it was. Walking towards us, laughing hysterically, was Ashley and the boy I saw she grabbed after leaving the armory. They were being followed by other girls from Aphrodite, I assumed, and more guys from Apollo holding bows. This didn't make sense to me, because they were wearing helmets with blue plumes too, even though they were on the Red Team. Ava groaned softly beside me, making my anger flare up again. "What have you guys done?"

     "Connor, Connor, Connor." Ashley tsked as she walked towards me. "You just don't get it do you? Ava isn't a good person to be around. She's a monster." 

     "No she's not! What are you doing here? Why are they here? They're not on our team." I pointed to the kids from Apollo.

     "Connor, it's this little thing called a common enemy. You haven't seen what Ava can do. Will do. She could kill you. She has already killed someone." Next to me, Ava gasped.

     "Don't." Ava warned, sitting up and wincing.

     "Oh I will. Connor dear needs to know what he's gotten himself into."

     "Please don't. Not here. It's not safe, I won't be able to stop-"

     "Shut up! Boys, move Connor away."

     "Oh, I'm not going anywhere!" Two guys from Apollo came towards me, grinning. "Leave us alone! What are you going to do?" My question was answered, when those two, laughing, raised their bows, and in unision, fired at me.

     Ropes spiraled out from the arrows, wrapping around me again and again until I was cocooned, only my head free to move. I fell down, squirming hopelessly. Ashley laughed as she walked closer to me. 

     She brushed her hand against my face, myself turning my head away. "Connor, you'll thank me for this later. Guys, can you move him please?" She batted her eyelashes. Obviously being enchanted by Ashley's beauty, they willingly obeyed her, picking me up and tossing me roughly towards the tree. I grunted as my back hit it. 

     "Ashley! Stop this! Don't drag Connor into this." Ava begged from her spot. Her cheek was still gushing, her face pale and scared.

     "Oh, please. He needs to see himself. The flames, the fear, the hatred. The murderer you are." Murderer? What did they mean? Ava couldn't kill anyone! 

     "Please." 

     Ashley pushed her back down, hard. "You shouldn't even be here. You should be dead! You don't deserve the gift you have."

    "It's not a gift! It's a curse!"

    "No Ava, you are a curse. You are disgusting, ugly, stupid, and fat." Ashley smiled as her words took effect. I thought they were very shallow words, but girls worked differently. Apparently this was enough for Ava's eyes to water. "And apparently a cry baby. Did you cry when you saw your boyfriend die?"

     "Ashley, no. Don't do this. Please."

     "What was his name again?"

     "Ashley!" Ava shot back, trying unsuccessfully to stand up.

     "Mike, right? His name was Mike."

     "Chiron!" Ava screamed at the top of her lungs as she kneeled. "Chiron!"

     "He can't help you! That old horse has lost it. You are so miserable, pathetic, and weak," Ashley taunted, pushing Ava back down with each hateful word. "That's why Mike died too! You were weak, sitting there crying while a mere mortal did the demigod work. It's all your fault."

     "Stop! You're making me mad!"

     "I am? Well I'm shaking in my designer boots."

     "Ashley, maybe we should stop." One of the boys who had helped tie me up chimed in.

     "Yeah," one of the girls agreed. "She like, almost totally burned down the whole camp last time."

     "Shut up! All of you!" She yelled at them. What was her problem? Why go through all this trouble? And what are they talking about? Burning down the whole camp, killing someone named Mike. Ashley turned back to Ava. "How did you even get godly blood in you? You are weak. Powerless. Nothing." Ava screamed as she tried to hide herself from the words, but it was no use. I had wondered for days why people hated Ava, why they were afraid of her. How Ava was dry when I picked her up after the fight with that spider. Why Ava strayed from the camp fire at night, why she never walked past the hearth in the middle of the courtyard. Why people talked about her and fire in the same sentence. Ava looked up, and my heart halted. She was no longer crying. Instead of her normal, sad, grey eyes, Ava's eyes were... I tried to pretend it wasn't real, but it was.

     Her eyes were on fire.

     "I am not nothing." Ava spoke more confident, wiser, and angrier than I had ever seen. She stood up, not even flinching at her bruised back and sliced face. Her eyes continued to burn, brighter and brighter until they were white hot. I could feel the heat from ten feet away. Her eyes glowed wider-no, the fire was spreading. Around her head until it was shrouded in fire. The intense flames kept spreading, all the way to her feet, until Ava was completely encased in a torrent of white flames. The heat was so warm that the ropes around me burned, releasing me from my prison. I stood up, kicked the now ablaze ropes, and backed away from Ava. Ashley was trying to step away, but Ava locked in on her target: Ashley. 

     "Ashley, run!" I screamed. She obeyed, turning her back to book it as fast as possible to safety. Ava laughed in a sinister voice, one that did not belong to her. Stretching out her hand, Ava shot a ball of flames at Ashley, who narrowly missed being barbecued. Her and the other campers ran off in different directions, screaming for help.

     "You won't escape me!" Volley after volley of flames Ava threw in every direction, trying to incinerate her bullies. I hid behind the enchanted tree, desperately trying to evade the fiery darts. I had to help her, somehow. I needed to stop her before that fire destroyed the entire forest. I leaned over to my right, peeking out behind the trunk. Ava was spinning, shooting flame after flame. Trees all around burned, spreading far and wide. I saw dryads running from their homes, wailing at the sight. 

     "Get outta here!" They ignored me, batting their arms at the fire. I needed to do something, and fast. Before this tree burned. Right now, a strange green light shone around "Mother Nature", protecting it. But the light was growing dimmer by the second, and I knew eventually it would fade and the tree would be open for crispiness. Taking a deep breath, I ran around the tree, waving my arms. "Ava, stop! It's me Connor! You have to stop!"

     Ava turned. Inside the human sized candle, Ava regarded me with curiosity. Like a cat might before realizing that a mouse was its prey. I saw no recognition there at all. Like she was a completely different person. I won't be able to stop, she had said. She wasn't in control, the fire was. And the fire wanted to do what it was best at: burning. Ava pointed at me and spoke what I was sure the last word I would ever hear.

     "Die."

     A pillar of flame raced towards me. Time slowed down, and in the space of a second I was about to die, then was ripped from my spot by strong hands. I was pulled to the right, away from the enchanted tree I was standing in front of. The flames hit the tree, the barrier long gone. The fire roared. It faintly sounded like laughter. I screamed, trying to run towards it, until I realized my feet weren't on the ground. They hovered a few inches, being held up by the hands that saved my life. I turned, looking up at who had done the deed, and saw horse. Then higher, to see Chiron's face. He had immense fear in his eyes, lips set in a thin line.

     "Are you alright, Connor?" I nodded. "Good, because you need to stop Ava." I glanced at her, who was shooting more flames at Mother Nature. Dryads sobbed all around us. I felt like doing it myself. 

     "I already tried, remember? She tried to kill me! I thought I was her friend!"

     "Connor, she cannot stop herself. She will even kill me. You must use you powers, quickly now! Before the entire camp perishes!" 

     "There's no water here! I don't know if I can do that again! I was so mad last time."

     "Connor you must! Use the creek! Hurry!" Chiron released me from his grip, galloping away. I closed my eyes, feeling for the creek. It was not too far, closer than Long Island Sound was. With courage I assumed was nonexistant, I walked in Ava's line of sight. 

     "Ava! Listen to me!" She halted her assault, eyeing me. For a brief second, I saw a flash of something in Ava's eyes. Fear. Fear of not being able to stop, fear of knowing she was trapped, unable to stop herself from killing people. 

     "Connor, run." That time, it was Ava's voice, her normal self, trying to fight her own body. But then it was gone, being replaced by the murderous alter ego. Before I was baked, I willed the river to come to me. I felt that tugging sensation in my gut. Somehow, I heard the rush of water. Somehow, I forced the water to come to me. Wave after wave drowned out the fires, sending steam into the air. Ava screamed as she was plunged under. Just as quickly as it came, I sent the water back to its rightful place, apologizing again to the water spirits. Trees all around me were now nothing but damp piles of ash. Mother Nature was defeated, now a mountain of barbecued wood. Their was nothing magical left of it, unless you consider burnt wood and leaves enchanting.

     I found Ava laying on the ground, soaking wet and unconscious. Exhausted, I stumbled towards her. Her body started to steam, evaporating the water until it was gone, leaving Ava completely dry. Her jeans, grey long sleeve  shirt, hair, everything was dry. No question that was how she was magically dried back in the arena. The blood on her cheek was washed clean, but the gash looked bad. I heard footsteps-or horsesteps-behind me. Chiron kneeled before Ava, brushing his hand against her wound.

     "Thank you, Connor."

     "Yep, anytime." I replied sarcastically.

     With a mixture of relief, sadness, anger, and blame, Chiron looked at me and said, "I think I might just hold you to that."

     

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