The Trial of the Rivers

All is going well for Lea as she finishes her time as a god, but when Nico goes mysteriously missing things take a turn for the worse. No longer welcome at camp, and with new power on the rise, Lea is doubting her decisions to stay mortal. Then when news from the gods comes, saying that Lord Hades has been overthrown, Lea and some other experienced demi-gods must travel west to take back the underworld.


13. 13-My Dad Teaches Me Dream-Bending

Percy and I flew into the sunset, chasing the golden orb as it sank beneath the horizon. We were so close to California, I could feel it. 
As it became dark, Percy and I scoured the land below for a highway, or any sign of humanity. As I began to lose hope, seeing that there was no lights for miles, Percy pointed north and I saw a glowing speck in the distance.
It  was a small old motel, only a few dim yellow lights illuminating the parking lot and walkways. According to the neon sigh above the lobby doors it was the ARIZONA INN, but I wasn't 100% sure because a few of the letters were out so it looked more like :ARI  O  A   I  N. 
Percy and I said goodbye to Blackjack and Bonnie, Percy insisted that we wouldn’t need there help anymore, which I was sure about, but he was the only who could communicate with them, so I let him decide. Both Blackjack and Bonnie looked relieved to be let loose, I guess toting Percy and I across the U.S. wasn’t their idea of fun. 
I watched mournfully as they took off, but Percy assured me we’d find a car to ‘borrow’ tomorrow, then he left to check us in. I stood with my back to the wall, my hand partially tucked into my pocket, watching the forest line, awake and alert. 
At this point I was ready for anything. 
Percy came back jingling a pair of keys, he had a small scratch on his left cheek that was bleeding. 
“What happened?” I asked.
“There were a few dracaenas trying to check in, I took care of them.”
“Oh,” I replied. I pictured him cutting off the snake demon lady’s head whilst a old lady behind the reception desk, squints through her glasses, having no idea what just happened. Or that she just lost a customer. 
Our room, was pretty basic but I nearly cried out of joy when I saw the microwave and the hot cocoa and popcorn packets next to it. 
Percy and I sat of the two twin beds and ate our dinner of extremely over salted and buttered popcorn (I used every single salt packet), Percy got some chips from a vending machine and we drank hot cocoa and coffee. We browsed through TV channels, and when he saw that Clash of the Titans was playing Percy yelled “No!” and pressed it twenty channels up, I guessed he was not a fan. There was nothing good on, so instead we watched a Spanish soap opera on mute and did the character voices ourselves. I ended up laughing so hard that my cheekbones hurt more than any sword wound. We were horrible. 
At around eleven at night, I took a two hours long shower, scrubbing off what I couldn’t determine whether if it was dirt or layers of my overly tan skin and scraping of the little scabs on my arms and face. At one point I shoved my entire body underwater, and stayed there seeing if I could breathe like Percy could, no such luck, which of course I already knew that. I made a mental note not to try that again. 
After using every drop of conditioner and going through my normal hair routine twelve times, (pulling out dried blood and pine needles) I got out and blow dried.
Making a toga out of the towel I used the blow drier for so long the power went out, much to Percy’s shouting, but I didn’t care, I had too much fun let the warm air hit my face forcing back my cheeks and whipping around my now soft hair. 
It was one in the morning when I finally went to bed, lying on the scratchy comforter, which was heavenly compared to pegasus back.
Percy and I joked around for a while, talking about various gods and what they’d look like in the eighties. I pictured Aphrodite in a neon pink spandex jumpsuit with a leopard hair band that pulled back her huge artificial blonde crimped hair. It one my most horrifying mental images ever. 
I could tell Percy was having trouble falling asleep, so when he turned around I silently got up and placed my finger tips on his temple, there was faint pink glow, and he was snoring instantly. 
I however, could not do the same for myself and stirred restlessly until three.
When I opened my eyes I would’ve fallen out of bed. 
By would’ve I mean, if I could’ve, if I was still in bed. 
I sat up, I was sitting in the middle of a field. A field I recognized instantly. Cook’s Meadow, Yosemite. 
Except it wasn’t really Yosemite, the trees were moving as if there was a breeze, but there was none and there was no sound. Everything was dead silent. Strangest of all was the look of the place, exactly like Yosemite but there was a strange tint, everything glowed golden. Like the sun hitting grass at that perfect time of sunset, except there was no sun, it looked cloudy except I couldn’t tell since the sky was a shifting dark golden yellow. It was like an instangram filter over the entire place. It reminded me of the Twilight or Spirit Realm from Legend of Zelda.  Everything had its own little glow, a small dim radius of light, including me. 
Staring at my hands I noticed something different, well, besides the fact that it was semi-transparent, my scars and scrapes were gonna. My nails were perfect ovals, not chipped, cracked, and dirt encrusted, like what I was used to. Also my left ring finger was  straight, unlike it had been for four years ( slammed my finger in the car door in order to get out of the first day of sixth grade). My skin was flawless, no freckles, scars or blemishes. All of that was great, I liked looking like a goddess, but my outfit was revolting. Mostly, the fact that I had mysteriously changed both out of my clothes and into new ones without noticing was alarming, but the fact that it was a dress made it thousands of time worse. It was a sheer cream toga, that hung loosely over my body, comfortable but dysfunctional. I tried standing up tripped over the hem and feel back down, so I ripped about a foot off the bottom and used it as a belt. 
For a while, I took in my surroundings, there were no birds , no field mice, the only movement was the swaying of the grass and leaves and the expanding and contracting of my chest as I breathed deeply. 
From the forest edge erupted a stag, beautiful golden and glowing more than anything else, it stopped, looked at me, as if very surprised to see another living creature and then sped off. 
I decided the best idea would be to follow it, it would probably lead me to someplace important or it could lead me into a death trap, but either way following it would be more interesting than staying here. 
I chased it, through the abnormally soft grass, splashing through a stream, and to a waterfall. Yosemite Falls, to be exact. The water frothed and bubbled luminescent. When I was about ten feet away from the deer, and finally had I cornered, it turned around and looked at me and said, “Who are you? And why are you chasing me?”, In a distinctly male human voice.
I was so surprised I fell over backwards. 
“I-I’m Lea Reclin. Daughter of Morpheus,” I stuttered in response. 
The deer smirked (as much as deer can) and replied, “Hello, my dear niece, I am Phobetor. Your father did not tell me you were coming, we do not usually get visitors in the dream realm.”
“Niece? Dream Realm? What? Why are we in Yosemite? You’re a deer! You talk! My uncle is not a talking deer.”
He chuckled, “Lea, daydreamer, I am your father’s brother. I am the god of creatures appearing in dreams, I can take what ever wild form I choose,” he suddenly glowed brighter and his body twisted in to the form of a rabbit, then back to a stag, “This is my preferred state. Come walk with me I will explain.”
At first I was hesitant, but hey, it was a shape shifting deer, that’s pretty dang normal for me. 
I shrugged and followed him back the way we came, he led me through the woods, I noticed something different about the dream realm, it was definitely Yosemite, but there were no roads or paved trails. It appeared to be back in time before any humans had come here. I liked it better, it seemed so much more… right. 
As we walked, next to a dark liquid stream, Phobetor talked to me, “This is the alternate reality, I see that you recognize where it is, were just another dimension over, that’s why it looks so similar. It used to be a part of the underworld but as we moved west this past time we decided it would be best to stay separate, that ended up being a great idea, especially seeing the condition of the underworld now. This realm is called the ‘Land of Dreams’  or ‘Demos Oneiroi’ home of the Oneiroi, sons of Hypnos, the leader of which is your father and includes myself, and my brother Phantasos. You may be considered an Oneiroi yourself, that is for Morpheus to decide.”
We entered another field, this one I didn’t recognize, it was much more secluded by trees. In the very middle of the field was a tree, an old wilting oak, with no leaves, instead, draped from it’s branches were tiny teardrops of glowing light. I walked towards it mesmerized. Just as I was reaching out to touch one of the glowing orbs, it expanded, thriving as I drew near. I was about to touch it when Phobetor, said, “No,” and pushed my hand away with his horn, “that is a dream, in solid form, touch it and you will be transported inside. But because it is a dream that has already been shifted, you will not be able to alter it to your liking, thus you will be trapped inside until the dream is over, pray you it is not a nightmare.”
I drew away quickly, recalling my nightmares with Nyx and how trapped I felt. 
“I see you know the trouble of a locked dream, perhaps it is time you learned more. Come, sit.”
He shifted into a wolf and sat about thirty feet away from the trees base. 
I knelt in front of him. 
“You know that you are in a dream right now,” he said. 
“What?” I questioned, but then remembered how I got here.
“Only gods, can come here when awake, seldom come at all, hence me being so surprised at your appearance,” he explained. 
I nodded, that made sense, I was still in the motel room, sound asleep as Percy snored next to me, oblivious to my strange mental transportation. 
Phobetor, stared at me with his glowing amber eyes, what I saw in his gaze was a mix between speculation and approval. He saw potential. 
“There are many types of dreams, falling under three categories, with three classifications. There are divine messages, insights, and common dreams, which can be fantasy, nightmares or regular,” he explained, “divine messages are dreams that are send from gods or titans, usually threats or requests, they are locked and cannot be edited by any of the Oneiroi, you have experience this before, although you are an exception, you managed to overpower Nyx. You are the first.”
I let that sink in. I was the first being to ever take control of a locked dream. I did what no god could. That was insane, Nyx probably just had her guard down. 
Phoebetor continued, “Insights is where you can look upon reality, while asleep. You can watch and eavesdrop without being noticed. We Oneiroi regulate these dreams, but will grant some others to use them. Your friend Percy was given many insight dreams, by myself in secret, I had to disobey your father in order to help your friend. I’d say it was worth it. I guess you could say I contributed to the downfall of Kronos more than I was credited.”
I shuddered, thinking of my father’s betrayal, I still felt a little hatred and perhaps a little secondhand guilt from that. 
“Common dreams are fairly self-explanitory, it is everything inbetween. All of these categories can also have various types of dreams within them, omen dreams, wild nonsense, or nightmares. Do you understand?”
“Yeah,” I replied, “I think so.”
“Try to create a dream, right here, right now.”
“Create one?” I asked, I’ve never created a dream, just edited. 
“Concentrate on a scene, add in factors, make it believable.”
I closed my eyes. I pictured Camp, serene, mid-morning, early summer. I added in some kids playing volleyball, others sitting and chatting. Then I pictured the old wind-tattered picnic table, I could see Percy and Nico sitting there waiting. They were about to turn around, but then the scene snapped away and my eyes shot open. 
“Wonderful, you successfully immersed another into a dream realm. You can do this at anytime as long as you focus, you can do this at anytime as long as you concentrate, you can use it to throw off opponents. It works as a successful mirage, but only until they figure it out. Now try to alter perception, change this realm’s reality. You can only to this when asleep.”
I took a deep breath and closed my eyes, then opened them again, tiny fairies dance along the grass tops, giggling noiselessly. I had to giggle happily, I’d always hoped to see fairies, but it was wonderful knowing that these fairies were of my creation. I twirled around dancing with them, my dress no longer a burden. I closed my eyes for a second and when I opened to them I too had wings. I leapt weightlessly. 
And then I remembered Phobetor was still there, and I stopped immediately, self consciously making the images disappear. 
“Wonderful,” he said, “You have a vivid imagination, that is extremely helpful. I’m afraid that is all I can teach you and both will only work in you are in deep concentration. Hopefully these will help you on your quest.”
“I’m sure they will,” said a voice from behind me. 
I turned, and nearly ran into my father, who was standing directly behind me. 
He smiled calmly at me, his silver hair longer than when I had last seen it, but he looked essentially the same, black tuxedo and lead colored tie, kaleidoscope eyes, with every color imaginable. 
“Hello, Lea,” he said, looking down at me admiringly. 
I had forgotten how extremely tall he was, at least 6’4. 
“Brother, you don’t mind if I steal her away for a few minutes, I too have things to teach her.”
Phobetor nodded and said to me, “I will be waiting.”
I sensed distrust between them, probably due to my fathers betrayal. 
“You are becoming very skilled with your powers,” said my father, beginning to walk in the opposite direction as his brother, inviting me to walk with him. 
I won’t deny how wonderful it felt to be praised by my father, it filled something inside me. Something that had been empty for so long. 
“Thanks,” I replied meekly. 
“How are you doing, overall, this quest appears to be taking it toll on both your physical and mental health.”
“Yeah, you know, well actually you don’t, but quests can be intense, but it’s nothing I can’t handle.”
“I worry for you,” he said, staring at me, pitifully, “You appear to be very lonely.”
“I’ve got Percy.”
“You miss your other friend, though, the child of Hades. You two are connected.”
I didn’t respond, he had hit the target, I needed Nico more than I wanted to admit. I needed him there, like he was when I was facing Nyx, silent but constant. To hold my hand when I was nervous, not caring if I was sweaty, dirty, and gross. To nod telling me we’d be okay. Someone to lean against, unfaltering.
Just… there.
It hurt so much when he wasn’t. 
“It worries me that you feel that way,” said Morpheus.
I could tell that he couldn’t read my thoughts completely, but he could pick up in the overall vibes of them. It felt strangely violating. 
“That you feel that you need others,” continued my father, “That is your fatal flaw, Lea.”
“What? That I need a friend to lean on when I’m hurt. That’s not a weakness, that’s human.”
My father looked at his shoes, awkwardly avoiding my eyes, “That’s not it, everyone needs help every once in a while, but you feel like you need help all of the time. You feel like you can’t function without some else there. Like you are worthless when alone. But that’s not true Lea, you are powerful, even when on your own. Your problem is that you don’t believe that. Your fatal flaw is dependency. You are dependant on your friends, your weapons, your powers, and you feel like without them you’d be nothing. Lea you are much more than you credit yourself.”
I’m not sure if this hurt or helped. 
It was true, and it felt good to have somebody believe in me, but I did need people. I can’t do everything on my own. I was having trouble keeping my vision forward without the help of my friends, there was no way I could complete this quest alone. 
“Come, I will teach you how to better you use your powers, although it is not necessary,” he said. 
He stood in the middle of the clearing we had come to, stood straight and touched his fingertips together, closing his eyes and concentrating. 
I suddenly felt the need to sit down and rest, then to lie, then to sleep, sleep for a few days maybe. 
I was about to succumb to the temptation, when he opened his eyes. 
“You are stronger than most,” he said, “With that amount of power I put the entire city of Manhattan to sleep.”
“Hmmm?” I asked drowsily, stumbling forward. I was really sleepy. I could do with some coffee. 
I caught myself on him, and then the second my finger touched his suit, I felt awake again, much more than any Five-Energy could do. 
I pulled away, the same glowing  light that surrounding the dreams hanging from the tree, trailed from my finger tips. 
“Wonderful,” congratulated my father, “You just drew out some of my energy essence. Unfortunately, since I am immortal it would take more than you could hold to cause me to slumber. In fact if you tried you’d spontaneously combust.”
“You can remove essence from mortals, simply by physical contact, or eye contact. You did this with Nyx.”
“Then how come I didn’t explode?”
“Well, as far as I can tell, you removed her essence, but instead of taking it for yourself, you dispersed it over the land, hence the growth of plants, the sudden change in weather, and overall tiredness of the nearby population. I seem to remember, that not one of Shasta’s many residence, felt the need to sleep that night.”
“Is that why everything glowed all gold?” I asked. 
“Yes, that and the angle of the sun, Dawn’s appearance and the use of the sun sword.”
“Oh,” I replied, “How was I even able to take that much energy, to put her to sleep.”
“You had reached a point of such scheer unfathomable hatred toward her, it was overpowering.”
“So hatred is key?”
Morpheus shook his head, “Not quite, it’s half of the key. The other half is happiness. A perfect balance between pure rage and serenity creates the ultimate power.”
“Did you just quote X-Men?” I asked, laughing, there was no way my father was so up to date in pop-culture. 
“What? The writers had to get there ideas from somewhere. Perhaps a dream,” he said smirking. 
“No way,” I said. 
He smirked in response. 
For a minute we stood in silence, myself reveling over the fact that my dad had helped create one of my favorite movies. 
“So balance between rage and serenity?” I prompted. 
“You’ve seen the movie, they explained it well enough,” he replied. 
“Take you anger, let it well inside but think of your happiest memory, and let the oblivion in between, fuel you,” I summarized. 
“I guess I can’t use it here,” since I’m already asleep and you can’t fall asleep. I’ll have to test it out of some mortals later.”
He chuckled, “Just make sure they aren’t in any places were traffic could come.”
I laughed, cautiously, picturing the gruesome scene. 
“Let’s return to the Oak, the others are waiting there,” he said walking back the way we had come.
“Others?” I asked. 
He didn’t reply, instead I was answered when I entered the field, two new people were there, along with Phobetor. On Phobetor right was what appeared to be a statue, which I knew for sure  hadn’t been there before, smooth marble, forming a man almost identical to my father, except younger, and with slicked back hair. 
On Phobetor left was another man, shorter than the statue, plump and jolly looking. He had beady purple eyes and a face that welled up around his eyes, with extremely puffy cheeks. He wore an outfit like the KFC guy, and he had little angel wings on either side of his head. 
He waddled up to me and hugged me so tightly that I lost all traces of breath in my lungs. 
“Hello, hello, my dear Granddaughter!” he exclaimed. 
“Erm, hi,” I managed, trying to regain my breath as he let me go. 
“Beautiful girl,” he said to Morpheus, “Pink is a nice color.”
I wasn’t sure if he was referring to my face or my hair. 
“Lovely, she could join us. I’m Hypnos, god of sleep.”
“Nice to meet you,” I said curtsying slightly. 
I glanced at the statue, I could have sworn he didn’t have his arms outstretched a second ago. 
I looked at my father for explanation. 
In response he said, “That is Phantasos, god of inanimate objects appearing in dreams, also god of nightmares, like Phoebetor is the god of fantasy dreams.”
I looked back at the statue, It now had a hand outstretch as if for a friendly hand shake. 
I did all that I could of a handshake with a statue. 
Then pulled away quickly, he reminded me too much of the Weeping Angels from Doctor Who. 
“Unfortunately, we are going to have to ask you to depart soon, Lea. We have godly matters to discuss,” said Hypnos.
“Oh, I see,” I replied, feeling slightly put down, I had hoped they were here for me, and that I wasn’t just an unexpected interloper. 
“Goodbye, Lea,” said my father, resting a hand on my shoulder and looking deep into my eyes, “Remember what I told you. You are strong.”
I nodded, offered a small wave to Phantasos. 
When I blinked, we was suddenly in the position of waving back. 
Phobetor, still in wolf forms, walked up to me, “ Good luck, although I doubt you will need it.” 
I stroked his head, and he closed his eyes appreciatively.
“Thanks,” I said. 
“Come with me,” said Hypnos, and he offered a hand. I took it.
Suddenly we were somewhere else, on top of half dome. 
Right at the cliff edge there were two gates, both virtually identical, the one on the right was whiter and smoother, the one on the left was more crudely carved, and  creamier colored. 
“Choose, and decided whether this dream will be the truth or just a deceitful mirage. One of these gates is made from horn, the other ivory. One only true dreams can pass through. You must decide which is which.”
I try to protest, but only stuttered, how was I supposed to decide. I needed a hint. 
But then I realized, I didn’t need any help, just like my father had said I could do this myself. 
The one on the right was too perfect, like those cheerleaders with to nice of hair and teeth, you could tell something was off about them underneath the disguise. 
I stepped forward, the crude gate opened itself for me. 
I heard Hypnos chuckle, but I didn’t turn around, instead I walked through. Instead of falling off the edge of half dome and landing with a splat, there was a sight dropping sensation and I sat upright in the motel room bed. 
The dawn light filtered in through the closed curtains. 
I was really  happy to see a full color environment again. 
Percy was leaning against the kitchenette counter sipping a cup of coffee, he looked at me, and said with a grin, “Morning sleeping beauty, ready to get rolling?”
“Yeah,” I replied happily, adjust my camp shirt which I had managed to tangle myself in during my slumber. 
I was kind of disappointed I didn’t look the way I did in the dream realm, all of my scars and imperfections were back, but at least a was wearing pants again, not some stupid dress. 
“Good,” said Percy, rinsing out his coffee cup and handing me a mug of cocoa, “because our next stop is Camp Jupiter.”

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