Mortal studies was even worse than myth studies.
Chiron decided we would work on math today. Nico left early to do something else. I didn't blame him.
Percy and I spent the next hour trying to solve two polynomials. I was better at it, which made me feel kind of bad, him being so many grades ahead of me. The bell rang when we had just begun our third problem.
Percy filed away our stuff- I would continue it tomorrow while he was at Camp Jupiter, which didn't seem fair. Then again, being Praetor didn't sound like much more fun.
We all ate huge dinners of ribs and Caesar's salad.
It was amazing. I ate so much I nearly exploded. When the bell chimed again Percy looked at me and "You need armor."
"Okay. When does the game start?"
"Fifteen minutes. Go get something warmer on, it's cold in the woods. But make it light and comfortable, easy to run in. Then meet me in front of my cabin."
"Okay," I said, "See you in a few."
I jogged down the hill- all the way to my cabin.
I threw all of the contents that had been in my bag onto the floor, then picked out my softest pair of regular jeans, a hot pink tank top, and my purple hoodie. I then threw them on, tightening my ponytail, and then rushed to the front of Percy's Cabin.
It was weird, looking like somebody had just picked up a chunk of a tide pool and shoved it on the front of a building.
Percy was wearing jeans and a orange t-shirt that said CH-B. I'm guessing that was a type of camp shirt.
"Way to go camo," I said.
He had something in his hand. It was blue and floppy and it looked like a dish towel. He glanced at it, grinned, and then slapped it on his head.
I blinked. Did I just blacked out, I thought. Because that happened sometimes, I get stuck in time warps and what feels like two minutes can be hours.
Percy wasn’t there anymore- I was staring at an empty field.
"I don't need camouflage. You really don't when you're invisible," said a voice next to me.
"No way. That's awesome!" I exclaimed.
Percy turned visible again. "It's Annabeth's, a gift from her mom, but she's letting me borrow it tonight."
"I want my dad to give me something like that."
"Yeah, me too. Let's go," said Percy.
We walked to the armory in silence. The air was turning cool and fresh. We walked past the arena. Percy stopped at the armory and I looked at him.
"Let's get you suited up," he said.
We walked in past the strange weapons- it felt like ages since I'd been here- but it was only this morning.
Percy walked to the right corner of the room.
"Come on, the armor is back here."
Hidden behind all of the swords there was a small beaten up door which Percy rattled the handle of.
"Locked. Darn it, you might have to go armor-less."
I looked at the handle- it was old brass and tarnishing. I looked around. Then I spotted what I needed, a small thin silver knife. I picked it up, blew off the dust, and jammed it into the keyhole. Flicking my wrist sideways, with a small click and a creak, the door eased open.
"Nice," said Percy in awe.
I walked in. The room was covered in spider webs and it was a good thing there was still some daylight left because the place looked like a horror movie set.
Percy went to a chest in the back of the room and rummaged through it.
"Anything?" I asked.
"No. It's all too big."
All of the sudden I felt like someone had shot me with an arrow through the temples. I grimaced and closed my eyes. The second I did, the pain stopped, and like in a dream I could see something. It was the armory but without neither Percy nor I in it.
The image zoomed to a large cherry wood chest with gold silk and brass rivets in the corner. It zoomed in and showed the two top rivets sliding inwards and a small drawer sliding out. Revealing a key with a lotus on the handle.
Then suddenly my eyes shot open and I looked at Percy. He was staring at me looking confused and bewildered.
"What happened to you?"
"Vision. Is that normal?" I asked.
"No," he replied.
I guess there wasn't anything I could do about it. I looked to the corner of the room and my heart skipped a beat. Coated with dust there was a chest, withered cherry wood, with ripped and faded gold silk and tarnished brass rivets.
I walked over to it and kneeled down.
"Percy," I asked.
"Nobody really knows. Annabeth says it was given to Chiron as a gift many years ago but no one knows what's inside or how to open it."
I took a deep breath and pressed the two top rivets. At first they didn't budge then with a small screech then slowly slid in and as they did the drawer slid out.
On red satin sat the key just like it did in my vision, the brass curled into a lotus flower at the top.
I looked up at Percy and smiled.
"Well Watson, I think we're near to solving this mystery."
Percy looked so shocked that he didn't even move- only twitched.
I slid the key into the locked twisted it in a full 360 and the click let me know that it was unlocked. I pushed open the lid and it hit the wall with a deep thunk. Inside, completely dust free, was a breastplate and it was magnificent.
Leather curved smoothly and evenly to a seam where straps connected it to the back piece. The neckline was a silver neckpiece almost four inches wide and it cascaded over the shoulders in three metal plates. A lotus was etched it the middle of the neckline, swirls curled out in every direction.
Percy finally gained his senses again and said, "H-how did you know?"
"I think this is a gift from my father. I had a vision telling me how to open the chest. I guess he heard my wish. I wonder if it has any cool powers like that hat of yours. Help me get it on will you?"
"I don't know if that's such a good idea. It might not be for you."
I examined the silver neck-plate- it hooked together at the shoulders and on the back right, above the border, in all-caps Latin there was an engraving- PRIMA ENIM CROURE MORPHEUS.
"For the first blood of Morpheus," I muttered in translation, "Well, that solves that."
Percy ambled over and helped me with the straps.
Though I'm not a very formal dresser, even I had to admit, looking the dusty windows reflection, I looked awesome.
The spiked shoulders made it look tough, but the glossy silver looked elegant. Especially with the black leather background.
Percy shook his head smiling, "Lea, you're going to put the Aphrodite girls to shame."
I felt myself blushing. This dude was hot I couldn't deny that, and him telling me I looked good, it was… weird.
What sounded like a conch horn cut through the silence of the forest.
We jogged into a clearing in the forest where the other teams were waiting.
"Where have you been Percy? We can't start without a captain," said one of the Stoll brothers.
"Just helping Lea with her armor," admitted Percy.
The crowd seemed to part so that they could see me.
All eyes glued on me.
"Sweet," said a voice from the crowd.
"Nice armor," said Ava stepping forward. "That's gotta be real silver."
Cloe stepped out of the crowd too.
"And here's your secret weapons," she said, handing me a surprisingly heavy satchel. A messenger bag with a bronze lotus on the latch.
I could tell the entire Hermes' cabin's eyebrows rose when she said "secret weapons."
I began to think I'd never need to go shopping again. I'd nearly gained an entirely new outfit today.
"So we've got the Hephaestus, Demeter, Hermes, and Dionysus Cabin. And all the minor's here, right," asked Percy trying to get the attention off me- he could tell how much I hated it.
"All here," said another anonymous voice.
"Good, Dionysus and Demeter, you're on border patrol." Groans arose from the crowd. "Hephaestus, you protect the flag with the Hermes cabin, the minors and I are all going out for the flag, we'll rendezvous at the large boulder by the creek. Got it?"
The crowd nodded.
"Lea, stick with me," continued Percy.
"Would have anyways," I replied.
The horn broke through the excited clamor of the crowd. Everyone darted off in different directions.
Percy waved to me and then disappeared into the brush.
I followed him, silently jogging for the next hundred yards. We came to a stream, Percy sloshed through it, and as he did his skin seemed to gain color with a more confident glow.
I was about to jump in, thinking the water was magic before I realized, Son of Poseidon and water. Duh.
So I skipped across easily.
We had only gone a few more feet when Percy stopped abruptly and dove behind a bush.
I skidded to a halt beside him.
"Aphrodite's on border patrol."
At first I thought he was talking about the goddess herself, which created a really strange mental image, but then I realized he meant the cabin.
I peered over the bush to see three girls putting on lip-gloss and fixing their hair. Productive, I thought. Just then four Ares cabin kids walked up the Aphrodite girls, scowling.
"They've sent Percy, he'll be here any minute now and you're just standing around! For all we know he could be watching us this very second," yelled one of the Ares boys.
I raised an eyebrow at Percy and we stifled laughs under our breaths.
Just then something caught my eye, far off in the distance I could see something red and gold whipping in the wind. I pointed at it.
"The flag," whispered Percy, "Okay, We'll detour around them. Just stay low and quiet."
"Okay," I said, and then got a flash of inspiration and dashed out into the clearing.
The Ares kids whipped around to glare at me, "You're not on our team."
"Where did you get that armor, it's way too pretty for a shabby girl like you," said one of the Aphrodite girls, her lip curled into a smirk-y snarl.
"Hey guys," I said, "Just wanted to let you know, that flag is mine, and it's gonna be all your fault."
With that I sprinted in the direction of the red silk.
I could hear their loud footsteps behind me, they were calling for reinforcements, I glanced next to me, someone was there.
"What were you thinking?" said a bodiless voice.
"You distract them, but stay invisible, I'll get the flag. Trust me."
I heard Percy sigh, but I could tell he stayed back waiting for the other campers, who weren't far behind. I just hope this wouldn't turn into a cliché horror movie, because I couldn't afford to trip.
There was only two Athena kids guarding the flag and before they could even move I snatched the flag and sprinted to the left. Thank the gods for Middle School track practice.
As I felt my feet get heavier and heavier I noticed the trees getting thicker as the same familiar coffee soil squished beneath my feet. I ducked behind a tree to catch my breath. Shouting that was once far in the distance came closer and closer. My breaths were short and panicky.
Why had I felt the urge to be the hero? I wanted to be appreciated so badly. Maybe it was because I knew this is where I belonged and I didn't want to screw it up like I always did.
I couldn't let them catch me. I shakily stood up. Then I noticed something. The clearing I was in was much more than familiar.
I spun around and looked at the tree, there was a knot the perfect size at shoulder height. I placed my hand on it, and with a faint “sshhhkiillt,” I was engulfed into the tree as the hole opened up. I could hear the voices coming closer- they would be in the clearing any second. I dove into the underworld and darkness swallowed me.
My eyes took a few minutes to adjust. I was in a huge cavern, and when I say huge, I mean you could fit the entire city of Sacramento in here.
I was on the side of this fishbowl-like cave. It had a windy path carved into the midnight colored stone. I didn't dare go any further. I was safe here, well- safe from the other team, maybe not from anything else. Then the thought dawned upon me, what was more dangerous- twenty other demigods or the underworld? Maybe this wasn't such a good idea. They would have passed by now.
I turned around. I noticed the stone Nico had told me about, a simple black lump that lay right next to the entrance, which had closed behind me.
I stepped on it, but when it slid into the ground nothing else happened, so I tried again, same result. When panic began to set in I began to frantically step on it again and again. Nothing happened. Anxiety struck me- how would I get out if the entrance was blocked? Who would find me? When? How?
I pulled out a fork from my satchel, bronze and sparkly, and thought it cast a little light it was still like being in a jail cell with a night-light. Comforting, but other than that, no help whatsoever.
I sat down, still clutching the fork, with my back against the wall(no pun intended). Henry always said to think before you act. So I sat and caught my breath and regained my wits.
I closed my eyes, and thought, if anyone were to find me it would be Nico.
Nico, Nico, Nico. I repeated the name over and over in my head.
His face flashed into my mind. It was as if someone had thrown me into a cold lake, but I could see what was around me and instead of water I was in the forest again. Nico was there walking with his head down and his hands in his pockets, kicking at the dirt.
Was I dreaming?
"Nico!" I called out.
He jumped, "Lea?"
"Nico," I asked wondering what in Hades was happening.
"Lea? Where are you?" he asked.
"Your entrance to the underworld. I'm trapped."
Then I snapped out of it and was thrown back into the cavern. I felt like someone had just shaken me awake.
I dug my fork into the ground and clutched onto the red fabric of the flag.
Then behind me I heard a sound of grinding like rock on rock as rock behind my back disappeared. I fell out into sunlight.
"Lea?" asked a quizzical voice.
"Whaddup?" I asked.
Opening my eyes to see Nico staring down at me.
He helped me up and I shoved the flag into his hand.
“We better get this to the border.”
He grinned crazily, "Then you'll explain."
We jogged back as quickly as we could, my lungs feeling like they were about to collapse. I didn't even both jumping over the stream- I just sloshed right through it. When we reached the other side I crumpled to the dirt my legs failed me but I didn't care. We'd won.
Six of our teammates emerged from the bushes and began screaming their heads off as soon as they saw Nico grasping the flag. Looking back on it, it's just a joyous blur. All I know is that Chiron clopped into the clearing and declared us winners. My teammates tackled me with hugs and the Ares' kids looked about ready to pulverize me. I didn't care. I'd won fair and square. Even if a secret entrance to the underworld is in the rulebook as illegal, I thought it still counted.
Nico and I walked back to my cabin where I collapsed on the porch steps after Percy decided to go to the campfire. I had skipped out- my lungs would definitely not allow me to sing.
I leaned up against the railing Nico directly across from me. We watched as the sun set over the sparkling water.
"So what happened?" he asked.
"In the underworld?"
"I went into the passage and the door closed behind me but when I tried to get back out it wouldn't open, no matter how many times I pressed the rock. So I closed my eyes and thought of you," I paused feeling my face get hot, "And suddenly it was like I was watching you through security camera."
"I saw you."
"What?" I choked out.
"First there was this sharp pain in my forehead, but then when I closed my eyes I could see you sitting in the underworld digging your fork into the soil and grasping the flag like a life line. It was like a vision," he paused to think. "Like a dream."
I was thinking so hard my head hurt. How did I do that? How could I possibly set up mental video chat, without trying?
I uncomfortably fiddled with my armor, and centered on the neck plate was a small pink gem, a little smaller than a penny but triangle with the point facing downwards. I pressed on it, and like everything else in this crazy demi-god world, it slid inwards.
The silver neck-plate went limp, and the leather softened. I was now wearing a silver and black satin blouse- the fabric draped shoulders made of silver thread with a lotus swirl pattern with a single pink jewel fastened to the middle.
"Oh, I have got to get this off." I said whipping the beautiful but dreadful shirt over my head since I had my tank-top underneath.
"It transforms into mortal mode," said Nico.
"Why does mortal mode have to be so hideous," I asked, holding the thing like a dirty rag.
Nico laughed quietly, amused by my obvious dislike for high fashion. T-shirts, tanks, and jeans. That's just how I roll.
I kicked open my door and threw the blouse in the corner of the room. The sun had fully set now, and my room began to have an eerie glow like everything else does at night.
"See you tomorrow Nico," I called out the door, but when I peeked my head around the frame he was already gone. I flopped down onto my lower bunk and a wave of sleep engulfed me.