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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8. The Goddess With Wings Gives Us A Coupon

     And of course I slept like a baby after that whole charade. And of course by slept like a baby, I mean I stared at the wall scared out of my mind, clutching my sword Nero until the sun rose above the horizon. I couldn't really win. I either didn't sleep, or I had nightmares about my dead mother. At least that strange woman who had ordered me to come to camp hadn't returned to my dreams. She has been silent since I got here. I had to be at least a little thankful that Chiron gave Ava and I two days to prepare. Maybe even a little honored that The Three Sisters-whoever they were-destined for us to be the ones to save the day. Honestly though, I had a few choice words for these destiny-controlling grandmas.

     There was no way I would be able to sleep tonight, or the next, or any other night for the next few days. Or maybe even weeks. By the amount of pressure this quest seemed to hold, most likely days. That's probably how long I would live.

     Breakfast time came in no time at all, but as you can imagine, I didn't have much of an appetite. I decided to take a long shower. I grabbed my short supplies-courtesy of the mischievous guys in Hermes-and walked over to the bathrooms. Not many people were walking around. Those who were smiled at me or waved. This Great Prophecy just had to pick now, right when people were getting used to me. When I was getting used to them. Prophecies suck.

     When I was done in the shower, I walked back to my cabin to drop off my things. Absentmindedly, I listened to the thud my sheathed sword made against my thigh. I was almost to the dining pavilion when someone called my name. I turned to the sound, where I found myself looking at a guy around my age running towards me. The person coming towards me was tall, dark, and-just to fit the saying, I promise-handsome. The guy stopped in front of me, breathing heavily.

     "Hey?" I looked at the guy warily.

     The boy in front of me had a really tan face, adorned with a sharp chin, blonde hair, and bright blue eyes. He wore an orand Camp Half-Blood shirt, jeans, and tennis. "You're Connor, right?"

     I nodded. "Yeah. Can I help you?"

     "Sorry. I'm Noah Velos." He extended his hand for me to shake. I remembered the conversation Ava and Rose had had about a boy named Noah asking about Ava. Could that be him? I shook his hand anyways. "I'm from Apollo," I stiffened at that, remembering the first time I saw Ava transform. "I just wanted to introduce myself. And uh, apologize."

     I gave him a questioning look. "Apologize for what?"

     "That whole thing with the Apollo and Aphrodite cabins and Ava. I wasn't there, but I heard it was bad."

     "Yeah, it was. But why are you apologizing if you didn't do anything?"

     "Someone should. It was pretty messed up what they did to Ava."

     "You got that right," I agreed. "But, uh, why now? That was weeks ago."

     "I didn't really feel the need to until a couple of days ago," Noah confessed, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. "And I uh, want to apologize to Ava."

     My eyebrows raised. "You do?"

     "I just feel like I owe her. I kind of 'went with the flow' when it came to Ava. I was a total jerk, so I want to make it up to her."

     I shifted uncomfortably. "Do you, uh, like Ava? Like as more than a friend?"

     Noah's blue eyes widened in surprise. "Oh, no. I did, but that was awhile ago. No, I just want to be friends again."

     "Want to sit with us at breakfast? I need a guy around anyways."

     Noah laughed. "I know we're not supposed to, but sure. You heading there now?" I nodded. "Sweet." 

     "So, how long have you been at Camp Half-Blood?" I asked as we walked in the dewy grass.

     "Two years. I lived in South Carolina with my mom before. Just us." 

     "Lucky you."

     Noah looked at me. "What do you mean?"

     "My mom's dead."

     Noah looked taken aback. "I'm sorry, man."

     "Don't worry about it." We didn't say much else once we got in line. I started to head past the burning bowl things meant for our offerings-without making one-when I noticed Noah giving me a weird glance.

     "How come you're not offering?"

     "Let's just say I don't feel like I owe the gods anything." Noah nodded as if he understood, but he still tossed half his bagel in the golden braziers. A lot of people around us were giving odd looks at Noah and I walking towards my table. I think the looks were more directed at Noah then at me, but it didn't make their scrutiny any less uncomfortable.

      Ava and Rose were already sitting at my table, chatting happily and laughing. Rose was the first to notice who I was with. When she did, she smirked and elbowed Ava. Ava looked up in surprise at me, then at Noah, and immediately a blush sprang to her face. I sat down across from Ava, eyeing her closely. She was biting her lip while she watched Noah sit down next to me. Noah was watching Rose as she kept the smirk on her face. And Rose was watching me, and whatever expression was plastered on my face. Probably not a very nice one.

     Noah broke the silence. "Hey, you guys." I repeated the 'hey', still watching Ava.

     "Hey, Noah," Rose chirped up. "What are you doing here?"

     "Uh, Connor invited me."

     "Yep, I did. You guys okay with that?" Rose nodded. "Ava?" I looked pointedly at her.

     Ava finally looked at me. In her eyes I saw confusion, wariness, embarrassment, and even some suspicion. "Yeah, I'm good with it."

     "Awesome," Noah grinned flashing his teeth. Something didn't feel right. I just knew it. No I was not jealous. Just reasonably cautious and investigative. Bit like Sherlock Holmes.

     "So," Rose started, "how did you guys meet?"

     "It was pretty much five minutes ago," I replied. I went on to tell Ava and Rose the whole story, which only took a minute or two. Both Ava and Rose seemed interested in Noah's apology. But Ava even more so. She probably thought it was 'sweet'. 

     Give me a break.

     "That was thoughtful," Ava mumbled, looking at Noah. He gave her a brief smile before turning to me.

     "So do you guys use 'water boy' and 'lava girl' like everyone else?"

     I laughed. "Yeah, we do. Maybe you guys can get nicknames too."

     "I doubt we'll have time for that," Ava muttered.

     "What do you mean?" Rose asked, giving Ava a confused look.

     Ava inhaled deeply. "Connor and I are going on a quest in two days." I watched as Rose and Noah exchanged a look of unease.

     "You are?" Noah asked, looking at me. I nodded.

     Ava took up the explanation for me. "Last night, Connor had a nightmare. Long story short, he was given The Great Prophecy and now we have to go save the gods."

     Noah and Rose gasped in unison. "The Great Prophecy? The one that has been forbidden for years? Ava, why didn't you tell me you were apart of it?" Rose looked a little hurt as she munched on a piece of toast solemnly.

     "I'm sorry," Ava apologized, biting her lip. "Chiron told me to not say a word until it was time."

     "So that makes you the other half, then?" Noah asked, looking at me. I nodded. "Well, it couldn't have had better timing, could it?" Noah complained. I got the feeling that he didn't exactly mean what it sounded like he meant. Like us leaving was interrupting another schedule I didn't know about.

     "No kidding," I agreed. I took a bite out of my french toast, not really tasting it.

     "What exactly is this quest about? No one knows the entire prophecy except for you guys," Rose said, gesturing between Ava and I.

     "I'll tell them," Ava offered. The second she spoke the words of The Great Prophecy, Ava's voice changed like mine had, becoming older, layered. 

     Only two may answer this call, 

     To battle with water, and fire tall.

     The God this test to you He doth give,

     You decide whether you die or live.

     Find the gate amongst the stars,

     To discover who you truly are,

     For if you don't, the rest is none.

     Your quest begins at the sun.

     "And that's it," Ava finished, her voice going back to normal. Noah and Rose seemed to have lost a little color in their faces. They both regarded the other as if the end times were here, both of their lips set in a thin line and hands clenched in fists. The end probably was right around the corner, especially if you expected me to stop it, but not yet. Both of their plates disappeared in a puff of smoke, as if they both lost their appetite. I couldn't really blame them. Ava and I were so dead. They regained their composure and looked at me.

     Noah asked, "Do you have any idea what that means?"

     "Not a clue," I summed up. "But we do know that the gods are fighting about something, and we have to stop them before we go into World War Five. Imagine three world wars in only thirty years. It could kill everyone."

     "No kidding! Especially after how all the toxins released in World War 4 nearly destroyed the ozone layer! So basically," Rose delivered, "you Ava, and you, Connor, have to find out what the gods are fighting about, give them a timeout, have them make up, then be done? It couldn't be that hard, could it?"

     "Rose, you know the gods. They don't exactly 'forgive and forget'. I'm a perfect testimony of that."

     "Right," I agreed with Ava, nodding. I shook my head in confusion. "Wait, what?" At the perfect timing, the horn signaling the end of breakfast sounded. Everyone around us moved from their places, heading off in various directions to their various morning classes. Rose and Noah stood up simultaneously.

     "Bye Ava, I'll see you at lunch," Rose gave her a brief hug before walking off, giving me a brief smile.

     "I'll see ya guys later," Noah waved to Ava and I before heading to his class. I turned to Ava.

     "Ready to go prepare for our deaths?"

     Ava laughed, her plate disappearing along with mine. "Wouldn't miss it for the world."

 

________________________________________________________________________________________________ 

 

     We decided to grab a small blanket and sit down by the beach. Long Island Sound was in a good mood, bright blue and calm, which threw out my theory of the water reflecting my mood, since it was anything but calm. The ocean reflected the hot sun above us, radiating its warmth with no clouds in the sky to dampen it. 

     Ava placed the blanket on the grass, and on top of the blanket a journal, history books, drachmas, a bag of potato chips, and some Dr.Pepper's. What? Figuring out how we were gonna die takes a lot of energy.

    I took a place next to Ava and looked out at the sea. A salty breeze filled my nose and ruffled my hair. I glanced at Ava. She was biting her lip and looking intently at a book. Her hair was down, blowing in the breeze in front of her eyes. She kept trying to tuck it behind her ear, but it wouldn't stay. She sighed, still oblivious to me watching her, and pulled her dark brown curls up in a bun. Then she noticed me looking at her.

    "What?"

    I shook my head. "Uh, nothing." I cleared my throat. "So, what are we doing?"

    Her grey eyes fell to the books around us. "Well, we're going to try to decipher the prophecy. Any lines that we can make sense of before we go would be helpful."

     "So we can stop things from happening?"

     "I wish. Once a prophecy is said, things that are foretold in them can't be changed. But we can prepare. Let's go over it again."

     Simultaneously, and in unison, Ava and I spoke those mysterious lines, with more than just two voices.

     Only two may answer this call, 

     To battle with water and fire tall.

     "That's us," I remembered. Ava nodded, and we kept reciting.

     The God this test to you He doth give,

     You decide whether you die or live.

     "I choose life," Ava replied. I laughed. Then we continued.

     Find the gate amongst the stars, 

     To discover who you truly are.

     For if you don't, the rest is none.

     Your quest begins at the sun.

     "The last four lines don't make any sense. What gate?"

     "I have no idea," Ava confessed. "There is no story about a gate by the stars, unless it means a place in the clouds. But that would make no sense."

     "What about the part where it says, "The god this test to you he doth give"? What god? Poseidon, maybe?"

     "I'm not sure about that either. It most likely means Zeus, since the phrase is spoken as if this god is special or supreme. Honestly, I don't understand any of it. It's driving me insane." Ava wriggled her hands together, almost like she was strangling someone.

     I held my hands up. "Slow down, lava girl. Just because you're a daughter of Athena doesn't mean you have to know everything."

     "Don't say that around Hestia," Ava teased. That brought me back to last night, when Hestia warned me about Ava having a meltdown soon, and that she was keeping secrets from me. I looked at her closely. She was looking towards the ocean, loose strands of her dark brown hair blowing gently. The freckles on her cheeks and nose glowed in the sunlight. She had problems from her past, sure, but Ava didn't look like someone who was falling apart. She had it together, right?

     Wrong.

     "Why not?" I finally asked.

     Ava turned to me and heaved a sigh. "I should probably tell you." Ava paused for a minute before speaking. "Eons ago, Hestia had made a promise to not have children with mortals. Artemis and Hera also have made this promise. When my mother, Athena, had found my dad, for some reason Hestia was incredibly jealous. They never really enjoyed each other anyways. For over a year, my mother dated my dad while fighting with Hestia on the sidelines. My dad was...a prize. Just some trophy to win." Ava looked away for a moment. "Anyways, long story short, Athena was pregnant, and Hestia was furious. While in labor, Athena tried to hide, but Hestia found her and she...she..." Ava's eyes welled up.

     "You don't have to say the rest. I get the picture."

     Ava sniffed. "Thanks. I'm literally the spawn of a cat fight. With goddesses. And now we're supposed to save their sorry butts. Unbelievable." Ava shook her head.

     "I'm not exactly thrilled to go help them either. Poseidon, mostly. Guess we both have godly parents we don't exactly enjoy very much." Even though this conversation was heavy, I felt a smile tug at my lips. Ava trusted me enough to tell a secret like that. Hestia was wrong, Ava wasn't keeping secrets from me. 

     "Guess so," Ava smiled at me. "So, what should we do? I brought drachmas so we can Iris message someone." Ava held up her hand to show me the gold coins. They used to be the actual currency of Grecians long ago. If you wanted to buy anything in the immortal world-or bribe a god-you would need them. "Maybe one of the gods would have an idea."

     Asking the gods for help was the last thing I wanted to do. They expected us to run their errands, do their laundry, be a hit man for them. Or in Ava's case, expected us to be okay with being cursed by one of them. Pretty much anything they were too lazy or self-centered to deal with. I growled. "Who is the least annoying?"

     "Well, Zeus and Hera are both control freaks. Plus, if you make Hera mad she'll send send rabid cows on you. Not good." I'm not kidding, Ava's face was completely serious. "Poseidon, Hestia, and Athena are out, obviously. Demeter just talks about corn; Aphrodite about herself. Apollo just sings and plays his harp; Artemis will be hunting. All Ares talks about is how amazing the nuclear bombs were back in World War Three. Hermes will be gone running errands for the other gods. Dionysus probably has a hangover, and Hephaestus will be in his forge..."

     "Does this have an ending?" I asked incredulously.

     "Doubt it. Anyways, I'm not in the mood for Hades, he's too depressing, always talking about death and whatnot. Iris would be no help besides completing the Iris message, Hypnos will be taking his mid-morning nap, Tyche will be playing Blackjack at some casino. Hecate is dangerous with Iris messages, she might try to suck us into a vortex..."

     "You've got to be kidding me."

     "I'm dead serious, water boy. We have two choices. Nike, or Hebe. Hebe will probably volunteering at a local animal shelter, or being a volunteer fire fighter. Probably wouldn't want to interrupt that. Nike is probably at a batting cage or a gym. Which do you think?"

     "Let's try Nike. She seems like the only sane one." Ava nodded, picking up a golden drachma, but looking slightly annoyed. "You haven't spoken to her yet. Just wait and see."

     Before I could answer, Ava ran down to the water where a slight mist hung in the air. If you looked real close, a small rainbow shimmered like a projection. I flinched at that word:projection. Just like my mom. 

     Ava didn't notice, instead saying a quick prayer to Iris before tossing the coin into the rainbow. It disappeared in a flash. For a second nothing happened, then a vision came into focus. All of a sudden, a soccer ball was flying straight at our faces.

     "Duck!" I yelled, throwing myself to the ground. I suppose that I looked like a marine or something, ducking to avoid a grenade or shower of bullets. Maybe even like a ninja. I lay in the sand, mouth full of it, when I heard Ava laughing.

     "I know they upgraded these thing to 3D, but they're not real, Connor." Ava was still barely containing giggles as I stood up and spit out sand. I dusted myself off before glaring at her.

     I crossed my arms. "It was a reflex. A very quick and understandable reflex."

     "Sure, sure."

     "It was!"

     "Ahem," To my right, I saw a very mad looking woman glaring at us through the image. The woman was very tan, giving her skin a bronze look. She had midnight black hair pulled back into an athletic bun held back with a silver headband. She was wearing full Nike attire, a Nike Just Do It shirt, black shorts with the white check mark logo thingy, and bright gold Nike cleats. And then I looked at her shoulders. Holy Zeus.

     Attached To Nike's shoulders were extremely gold wings. Yes, wings. If you've ever watched a movie in your life, you've probably seen at the beginning that pegasus with the huge wings, right? Just some blip for a producing company or whatever. But the point is, remember the wings on the horse. That's what they looked like. But gold.

     "You lot are standing right in front of the goal! I had the most amazing left-footed kick in millenia, and you two got in the way! I didn't even get to hear the net swish when my ball hit it." Nike got a faraway look in her eyes. "I love that swishing noise. Like back in 2001 in the NBA finals...Allen Iverson making shot after shot, his muscles rippling...I could even almost get past the fact he wasn't wearing a Nike-brand jersey..."

     "Uh, Nike?" I interjected. "Back to earth, please?" I gave Ava a questioning look. She mouthed, Told you so.

     Nike brought back her bright multicolored eyes to Ava and I. She seemed flustered, as if her day had been ruined by us. "Who are you? And why have you interrupted my football game?"

     "Football?" Ava asked. "Weren't you playing soccer?"

     Nike leaned into the Iris message. "Depends on which country you're in, mate," she explained, turning her voice into a British accent and flashing a smile. "Now, who are you?" Nike placed her hands on her hips.

     "I'm Connor, and this is Ava. We're from Camp Half-Blood."

     "You are?" Nike jumped up and down, clapping her hands together. "Is Jordan there? Has he been working on his layups? I named him after Michael Jordan, you know. Ah, my old pal Michael. Now he wore the right brand jerseys. Good mortal. We played one-on-one once...he almost had me too. Those were the days..." Ava and I shared another look.

     "Does she uh, drift off like that a lot?"

     "Pretty much," Ava said, rolling her eyes. "And she's one of the more tolerable ones."

     "Fantastic," I grumbled.

     "...and how he said I looked better than Serena Williams when I sweat and put on athletic tape-"

     "Nike, we uh, need to talk to you."

     The goddess of victory brought her eyes back to us. She glared at Ava, who had spoken. "What is it, daughter of Athena?"

     Ava flinched. "Connor and I uh, have to leave on quest on the 29th,and we are trying to figure out some stuff in this prophecy-"

     "Tell me the prophecy, child." So Ava did. When she finished, Nike gave her a pale and uneasy look. Nike's wings flapped nervously, and sweat started to bead on her forehead. "Those voices...no, it couldn't be...would interfere with volleyball state champions...must run...run...Run fool, run. Run from the Son. Run from the future, present, past. For the hour is now, this hour is last."

     "Uh, is she drifting off again, Ava?"

     Ava looked unsettled too. "I don't think so." We turned back to Nike, who was still rambling on about how this would destroy her reputation at UCLA and how she wouldn't be their number one spiker, blah blah blah. "Nike, what did you say about running? And this hour?"

     Her eyes snapped back into focus. "I have no idea what you are talking about." Ava and I looked at each other.

     "But you just said-"

     "Tell me what you need help with. I assume you two are the ones it speaks about? Fire and water?"

     "Right," I agreed. "I'm a son of Poseidon-water-and Ava's the daughter of-well, she's got the fire power."

     "And you took a nose dive in the sand earlier, didn't you?" Nike asked, pointing a finger at me. I felt my face get hot as I nodded. Nike tilted her head back, sighed, and folded her hands together. "Fates help us." She tilted her head back down to us. "So, what is it you are confused about?"

     "Well, everything," Ava confessed. "Do you know of any gate amongst the stars?"

     Nike stroke her chin with her finger, as if in deep thought. "There is one, but that can't have anything to do with your quest."

     "What about, "Your quest begins at the sun?" How can our quest start at the sun?"

     "Maybe it doesn't mean the literal sun."

     I raised an eyebrow at Nike. "What do you mean, 'the literal sun'?"

     She shrugged. "Maybe the prophecy meant Apollo. He is the sun god." Ava and I gasped.

     Ava slapped her hand to her forehead. "Of course! I can't believe I didn't think of that!"

     "I can't believe it either," I agreed. "Daughter of wisdom must just be a title." 

     "Hey!" Ava slapped my arm.

     "Ow!"

     "You had it coming!" Ava glared fiercely at me with her steel eyes.

     "Did not!" I glared back at her with my green ones.

     "We're doomed," Nike sighed, rubbing her hands with her forehead. "The world is falling apart and we put our faith in two bumbling teenagers. At least they know how to wear proper clothing." She grinned down at our shorts and shoes. Yes, they were Nike's.

     "We can hear you, Nike," Ava mumbled.

     "I'm glad we're done here," Nike confessed, automatically deeming this conversation over. "Fernando Torres said he would stop by and play a game or two. I could watch him play soccer all day..." I cleared my throat. "Especially in these shoes!" Nike grinned down at her bright tennis. I wondered why she wasn't wearing shinguards if she was playing soccer. The wings probably gave her an unfair advantage. "Do you two have a pair like these? Right off the factory line! Just look at the aerodynamics, the comfort, the edge, the support! Speaking of support, you two should really try our new line of sports bra-"

     "I think we're fine, Nike! Really, we'll just be on our way now," Ava said, her face getting hot. Mine did a little too.

     "Right! Just for this interesting, conversation, I'll give you two a coupon for my store!"

     "Awesome!" Ava exclaimed. "For what?"

     Nike produced a bright green card from thin air. "It says, 'You will receive one free pair of shorts-'"

     "Alright!" I whooped, pumping my fist in the air.

     "-'when you buy thirteen pairs of socks'! Isn't that fantastic? You two are so lucky!''

     "I'm feeling lucky," Ava muttered. 

     "I bet! Oh, I think I see Fernando pulling up!" Nike jumped up and down. "Quick, how do my wings look-" Nike turned to show us her wings, accidentally swiping the Iris message, disconnecting it. Where it used to be was now air, and further away, was the ocean. I blinked at the now blank spot, then turned to Ava.

     "Fernando isn't actually going to see her wings, is he?" I asked Ava.

     "Oh, no," she assured me, waving her hands. "the Mist will take care of that. C'mon." Before I could ask what the Mist was, Ava trudged back up the beach and plopped down on our picnic blanket.

     "Poor Fernando," I sighed. I walked back up the beach and joined Ava in our spot. Opening up a Dr.Pepper, I took a big sip before speaking. "So, lava girl, what's our plan, then?"

     "Well for one, never ask Nike for help again," I laughed. "And two, first thing the morning of the 29th, we head to Olympus and have a chat with Apollo."

     "The Olympus? As in Mount Olympus? As in Greece?"

     "Well, sort of. Yes, Mount Olympus, but not in Greece, in New York City. The Empire State Building to be exact."

     "Thanks for clarifying that." I mumbled.

     "Sorry," Ava apologized. "It's just something you have to see to believe."

     "I've seen enough today," I sighed, laying down and putting my arms under my head. I watched the sky as clouds finally started to come in. One after another until the sky looked like a huge pile of cotton balls. 

     Ava took her hair out of her bun and laid down to. I tried to not pay too much attention to the fact that our heads were slightly touching, and I could smell her sweet shampoo. "Those are stratocumulus clouds. Below 6,000 feet. May develop into cumulonimbus clouds."

     I turned my head to her. "Thank you for that, Ms.Meteorologist."

     Ava blushed, biting her lip. "Sorry, can't help it."

     "That's okay," I told her chuckling. I turned my head back to the sky. I pointed a large, white cloud right above us. "What do you think that one looks like?"

     She thought for a moment. "A satyr." I laughed. "What about that one?" Ava pointed to another.

     "A cotton ball." It was Ava's turn to laugh. "How about that one?"

     "A hellhound. Oh, what about that one?"

     "A cotton ball." I looked for a particularly hard one. I pointed again. "Shoot."

     "A cow with wings." She pointed to another one, not saying anything, just gesturing for me to go.

     "A cotton ball."

     Ava hit my arm. "You stink at this game. Try that one, and really think of something this time."

     "Fine," I sighed. I looked up at the sky. Each cloud in turn looked like a bunny or a cluster of bubbles. One appeared out of the corner of my eye. Just barely visible. The cloud seemed more detailed then the rest, depicting a woman's face. Every second the cloud shifted little by little until I was sure I was facing my birth other, Farah Alati. I swallowed hard. "That one," I started, pointing upwards, "looks like my mom."

     Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Ava shoot me a look. "You okay?"

     I nodded, though I was technically lying. "Yeah. I just wish I knew what happened to her. How she died. Why my...why Poseidon didn't save her. I hate him." I sat up clenching my hands into fists. 

     Ava copied me, though she didn't clench her fists. "Hate is a strong word, ya know."

     I gave her a questioning look. "Don't you hate Hestia and Athena?"

     Ava looked right at me. "Absolutely." She looked back down. "Hate can make you do terrible things. I just want to make sure you really mean it."

     I sighed heavily. "I do. I really hate Poseidon."

     Ava looked back at me with a hint of a smile. "I'm not much of a fan either."

________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

     I shifted back and forth on my feet nervously as I waited for Ava and Chiron-horse mode Chiron-to finish talking. My sword Nero bounced lightly on my thigh as it sat in its sheath. My mind raced with all the grisly things I might have to use this sword for.

     I was standing at the top of the hill that led into camp. I hadn't been up here since the first time I came. By the looks of how impossible our quest is, I doubted there would be a second entrance for me. Today was the day, the 29th of June. The day Ava and I leave on a quest we literally knew nothing about. 

     My backpack sat on the ground next to me, full of a change of clothes, granola bars, drachmas, a wad of mortal money, ambrosia-the nectar of the gods-and water bottles. Everything you could possibly need on a quest to save the world.

     To bad you couldn't pack courage in there.

     I turned to Ava and Chiron, who had been talking a good twenty minutes. "Ava! We should get going!"

     Ava turned to Chiron. They said a few more words before joining me. Ava had a similar black backpack exactly like mine attached to her back. Her face was pale, framed by her long, lightly curly hair. She also fidgeted with her weapon, her bright gold dagger Kafto, which she still hadn't told me about. Her steel grey eyes were fierce,worried, and deflated due to small bags underneath. 

     I realized I probably looked the same. The past two nights have brought nothing but more visions of scary and confusing things, yet no sign of my mom or the mysterious commanding woman. I knew I had bags under my eyes, and I had a feeling they wouldn't exactly be repaired over the next few days. Or weeks. Depends on how long we live, right?

     "Do you two wish to have Argus take you into the city?" Chiron asked. "He hasn't had any runs lately. He could use some new sights to see. You know him, always looking for things to see."

     Ava's eyes lit up. "Yeah! I hadn't even thought of that! Where is he?"

     "Coming right now," Chiron pointed down the hill, where I don't even know what was approaching. Apparently it was Argus. The man-I assumed he was male, even if not human-was covered in eyes. I had seen a lot of weird things in the short time I had been at camp, but this was by far the weirdest. You know how sometimes people say they have eyes at the back of their head? Well, Argus had them everywhere on his head, face, arms, hands, and neck. Any skin he showed was covered in eyes that rolled about lazily or darted back and forth. It was a little disorienting to look at him directly, because so many parts of his body were moving in all directions. All of his eyes were very blue, and he had blonde hair.

     Ave elbowed me. "Get your jaw off the ground, would ya?"

     "Connor," Chiron said, "this is Argus. Argus, Connor." Argus nodded, while I mumbled a 'hello'. Ava gave him instructions on how we needed to get to The Empire State Building. He grunted, heading down the hill to where apparently a van awaited to be our escort. Watching our strange new driver descend the hill, crossing through the barriers, I picked up my backpack and placed it on my back.

     "Now you two have everything you need? Do you have enough ambrosia? Water? Money?"

     "Chiron, we're good. We have everything we will need."

     "Are you sure? Do you have your weapons?"

     "Yes, Chiron," I assured him.

     "What about underwear? You can't go on a quest without a good change of under-"

     "Chiron! We're good to go, okay?" Ava smiled at Chiron's distressed character. I think he was more worried about us than we were.

     "Oh, alright. Come here, you two," Chiron outstretched his arms, bringing Ava and I into a huge bear hug. Or was it horse hug? "You two be safe, okay? And send lots of Iris messages! I'll ask her to give you guys special treatment. And-"

     "Chiron," I interrupted. "We're going to be fine," I lied. "Don't worry."

     Chiron let us go, sniffing lightly. "You better get going then. I'll see you soon!" Chiron gave Ava one last hug before trotting back down to camp. Home. And now we had to leave. I wished we had had more people to say goodbye to, so we would be delayed longer. Rose and Noah had already given their goodbyes and hugs and gone back. Safe and protected.

     Ava and I turned to face the other side of the hill that led to a small road that led to, well, anything. I sighed.

     "You ready for this?"

     "Oh, I am so ready," Ava assured me, rolling her eyes.

     "Oh, yeah? Well I'm so ready, I'm like way more ready than you."

     "Well I'm so ready that strangers just glance at me, and their like, "Woah, she's so ready". That's how ready I am."

     "I'm so ready that it like surpasses the universe. Beat that." I smiled victoriously.

     Ava groaned. "We're just doing this to delay our quest out of fear, aren't we?"

     "Totally," I agreed. Together, Ava and I took step after step until we rippled through Camp Half-Blood's protection shield. 

     Completely exposed.

     "I still beat you," I mumbled to Ava.

 

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