Due to the fact that halfway through the void a shadow demon attacked us, Nico and I’s landing was not so graceful.
He landed on his chest, myself dropping painfully onto my hindquarters.
We both sat atop Half-blood Hill for a while, watching campers play sports. I reached out, feeling for the invisible wall just in case. My fingertips passed through easily, I assumed I only needed to be invited in once, like with vampires.
It was about four in the afternoon, early June sun blared through the sparse fluffy white clouds making the grass glow a vibrant green.
“Do you think this place will ever change?” I asked, “Like really change?”
“No,” replied Nico, “There are always gonna be new things, different campers but I think underneath all that Camp’s gonna stay how it is a safe place, a home for kids like us.”
“Like you,” I corrected him.
He rolled his eyes at me, “Drama queen.”
“Oh whatever,” I retorted, “I’m allowed. I’ve been through enough to be justified to complain about it, at least to my best friend.”
“Yeah, I guess your right,” he agreed, “But you’re not the only one.”
I followed his gaze; Percy was walking with Annabeth they were laughing happily like a normal teenage couple.
“Should we go say hi?” I asked.
“Nah,” replied Nico “Wouldn’t want to ruin the moment.”
“We are much more considerate than mechanical bulls,” I added and we both laughed.
I got to my feet brushing dead grass off my jeans, which had a few tears and scorch marks in them, just how I liked it.
Nico and I walked down the hill together, I kart wheeled part of the way down and then forced Nico to try also. He wasn’t quite as good as me; his feet didn’t really leave the ground. For a while we played elbow tag with the Aphrodite cabin. Nico and I only cheated a little, that was until Piper caught on and threatened to charmspeak us into a fashion show.
As soon as I finished proving my worth at the climbing wall the horn blew, notifying everyone that it was time for dinner.
Nico and I ambled up together joking about how crazy it would be if Norse mythology was real. All of the strange step-siblings you have if you were a child of Loki.
When Percy saw me he immediately picked me up, twirling me around, saying “I am so happy to see you!”
Annabeth hugged me too, but she was gentler about it.
Nico went over to get him and me some food while I said hello to Cloe, Ava and Maria. He met me at the offerings fire with a large plate of brisket and Caesars salad. I dropped my best piece of brisket into the fire and looked up at the sky, saying clearly in my head, please; please let nothing go wrong on this quest. Although I knew it was long shot. A really long shot.
I talked with Cloe and Ava all evening, since Maria was with her Hecate family. Chiron looked a little upset that Cloe and Ava weren’t sitting at their correct tables, but he excused it because he knew they wanted to catch up with me.
Cloe went on and on about how great it was going with her and Will. Eventually Ava shut her up by interrupting talking about the fireworks.
“You two are going together right?” she demanded blatantly looking at Nico and I.
“Yeah,” I said, “I guess. If were here that day.”
“You can’t just miss it!” blurted Cloe, “What could be so important that you’d miss the fireworks?”
“Well…” I trailed off.
“No,” butted in Ava, “You did NOT get another quest,” she blared loudly.
I stuffed a piece of brisket in her mouth to get her to quiet down as other campers began to turn their head.
“Sort of,” I whispered scolding, “but it’s confidential.”
“Oooooooooh,” said Cloe excitedly.
“It’s a bunch of miniquests,” I began still keeping my voice hushed, “If you guys wanted to go on one with me.”
Both of their mouths dropped open. A bit of brisket fell out of Ava mouth.
“Us?” she sputtered.
“Yeah, you two and Maria,” I offered.
“Yes,” said Cloe, “Oh my gods, I’ve been waiting for an opportunity like this for so long.”
“An opportunity to get yourself killed?” I asked.
“No,” she replied, “An opportunity to prove to everyone I’m not just another nature freak daughter of Demeter.”
“Am I aloud to bring explosives?” asked Ava.
“Yeah sure…” I replied, “If you want.”
“Sweet,” she whispered.
“Attention please,” called Chiron.
The pavilion feel silent instantly, I guess nobody was expecting an announcement.
“In light of recent events,” began Chiron.
“Oh no,” whispered someone from the Hermes cabin, “Is he gonna cancel this week's capture the Flag because of that rodent…incident.”
Chiron cleared his throat and began again, “In light of all of our new campers,” he gestured to a table where a group of kids that I’d never seen, all of which I presumed to be demi-titans, “We will be hosting our own Camp Half Blood Olympic Games!”
Everyone cheered, chattering excitedly. This had never been done before.
“Each cabin will be its own team and the games will select a winner tournament style. If you come in last place in one of the challenges you will be eliminated for that round. The winner will have golden laurels awarded to them by the Lord Apollo himself and will be excuse from all chores for three months.”
The pavilion practically exploded with noise, those were some pretty sweet prizes.
After chatting with everyone about how great the games would be the excitement settled, we all wanted more information.
“The first event will be a sword fighting tournament which will take place next Wednesday, followed by a chariot race on week after, more of the events will be scheduled later,” announced Chiron finally.
“Dang it,” cursed Cloe, “None of my siblings are any good with a sword.”
Ava laughed at Cloe’s pain and we all filed out of the pavilion down to the campfire.
It was good to do something as normal as the campfire, stuffing my face with smores and listening to the Apollo cabins sing. We ended the night by singing Don’t Stop Believing, which seemed pretty lame but when you get enough people singing together anything can be fun.
I said goodnight to all of my friends and Nico and I walked back to the cabins together.
Halfway to my cabin I stopped and said, “Let’s go to the sand dunes.”
“But the harpies,” protested Nico.
“I’m mortal they won’t notice you, and your technically not a camper so they won’t bother us,” I said, “Hopefully.”
I gave him a confident smile, watching his dark eyes glitter in the moonlight. It was only then that I realized how much he’d grown over the past year. He was now at least two inches taller than me and I’m pretty tall.
We were no longer the middle-schoolers we were when we’d met. We’d matured, well, at least physically.
As soon as the sun disappeared the air grew chilly, not painfully cold, jus that nip of nighttime that’s strangely exhilarating.
Nico took off his huge aviator’s jacket and placed it over my shoulders.
It was cliché but I appreciated the gesture, mostly because my hoodie was pretty thin and still damp from the fountain.
I slipped my hand into his. His skin was always so cold, it was like touching marble, hardly even human.
We walked in silence out to the dunes. I slipped my shoes off and let the cool sand envelop my toes.
We sat next to each other facing the ocean, watching the silvery waves hit the shore. I rested my head on his shoulder, eventually sinking deeper and deeper into him until I was lying across his legs. He twirled the ends of my hair tentatively.
“This quest is gonna suck,” I said blatantly.
“Yeah,” he agreed, “but then it’s all over.”
“I hope so,” I said, “I love fighting monsters individually, but when it’s part of a big gruesome picture that just takes the fun out of it.”
“I know exactly what you mean,” he said.
I trailed my fingertips through the sand, looking out of the ocean.
“Tomorrow were gonna be on the opposite side of the country. Looking at the ocean from a different direction, “I said, “How weird is that.”
“Pretty crazy,” he said, “But in comparison to some of the other stuff we do…”
I laughed lightly. It was true, when you’re mixed up in the gods’ business traveling across the country in a day wasn’t all that strange.
I think I might have fallen asleep still lying across Nico because I don’t recall going back to my cabin or getting in bed.
When I woke up, my shoes were neatly placed next to my bed.
“He is such a dork,” I muttered to myself. He was so nice it was almost pathetic, almost.
I changed out of my day old clothes and into a fresh camp shirt and a pair of jean shorts with black converse. It was nice to put on some 100% dry clothes that didn’t smell like charcoal, pond water and sweat.
I threw a few pieces of clothing into my duffel bag, some shorts, a few camp shirts extra pair of shoes, extra dagger, the monokini I thought I would never need, a few forks, toothpaste, hairbrush, some tank tops, Medea SPF 3000 sunscreen, (which totally would have come in handy yesterday) and more tank tops. You know, the normal fifteen year old girl stuff.
I grabbed my armor from atop my dresser and stuffed it in with the rest, and then slid my weapons disk into my back pocket. A silver glimmer caught my eye from the back of the dresser top. I reached up and pulled the little trinket towards my spinning it in my fingers.
It was the ring I had almost died getting out of the lake last year. I had never bothered to read the inscription which was a shame because now I couldn’t, it being written in Greek. I sighed and slipped it on. It fit me perfect and I liked the look of it. A simple silver band, I decided to wear it. Worse case scenario I lose it and go back to square one, it not like it’s that important.
I zipped up my bag and threw it over my shoulder and tromped out my front door slamming the screen door behind me.
Nico was sitting on my railing waiting, I’m sure he heard me walk out since I wasn’t exactly stealthy about it but he didn’t turn around. I took that as an opportunity, I shoved him off the railing and he stumbled into the grass.
“How long have you been there?” I demanded.
“Only a few minutes,” he lied.
“You really got to get a life,” I said, “And some sleep.”
I ruffled his hair as a playful apology, then put my hair up and he wiped the grass off his pant legs.
“Your dressed a little hot, dontcha think?” I said, looking at him.
He was wearing black combat boots, black jeans, a black t-shirt with a skull on it and his aviator’s jacket.
“No,” he replied, confused.
“Dude,” I said, “It’s gonna be like ninety degrees. We are going to Hawaii in June.”
“So?” he asked.
“You’ve never been to Hawaii have you?”
“Nope,” he replied.
“Go get changed,” I dictated, “Wear some shorts at least. I’ll wait here.”
He groaned dramatically.
“You’ll be thanking me later,” I called after him as he walked back to his cabin.
After few minute he was back, wearing black shorts and his jacket was gone and he was wearing black converse, matching mine.
“That’s weird,” I said, taking in the full outfit.
“Don’t you dare make me change again,” he said.
“No it’s not bad,” I replied, “I just don’t think I’ve even seen you in anything but pants.”
“That’s likely,” he replied.
“Aren’t you gonna bring a bag?” I asked.
“Nah, I can just pop back here for a change.”
“That is so useful,” I said, and then he stepped into the morning shadow of my cabin and grabbed my hand.
We landed on a whale watching boat; a few of the tourists screamed and fell overboard. After a about five seconds of pure chaos we fell into shadow again leaving the tourists with a great story to tell everyone once they got home.
Then Nico and I feel from a palm tree’s shadow onto a beach. It was pretty deserted, only a few umbrellas here and there, which was surprising.
Some six year olds ran in circles kicking at the sand and playing tag with the waves.
It was the perfect tropical temperature, a little hot, the air thick with moisture. The sky was cloudless and the beach stretched on for a mile.
I turned around, gathering our surroundings figuring out which part of Hawaii we were on.
“Hmmm,” I said, “We must be near Kihei.”
“How do know that?” asked Nico surprised.
“I’ve been here a few times, Henry’s brother has a house here on Polo Beach, it’s really nice.”
“Cool,” replied Nico, “So what do we do now?”
I thought for a minute, Zeus had never really specified…anything. As far as I knew the destination spot was far out into the ocean.
“Let’s go swimming,” I said.
I found a little changing tent and (not so gracefully) pulled on my pink and gold monokini.
Nico was waiting for me at the water’s edge, shirtless.
The last time I’d seen him shirtless was when we were facing Joe the Kraken, two years ago. Needless to say, he’d toned since then. And by toned I mean he had serious abs, like he must’ve been doing pushups and crunches daily.
I raced past him, pulling out my ponytail while still running and dived into the waves.
Nico stared at me for a while until I splashed him back into reality.
We had a water war, raced a few times, and played wave tag which seemed childish but it was really fun.
After about an hour he got tired and decided to go get us some ice cream from a shack a little way down the beach.
I discovered a small reef a few yards off shore and I borrowed a little girl’s pair of goggles. They were adorable and pink and really tight but they worked. I swam over the reef watching the fish dart in and out of the coral. A few Nereids waved hello to me, they were different from the ones at the lake. Their skin was bluer and they had freckles that worked as camouflage in the sand. On of them gave me a lei of shells placing it over my head kindly, giggling like crazy. I guess they weren’t used to being seen.
Suddenly just as I had swam out as far as the reef went, the Nerieds scattered, frightened by something. I assumed it was just a boat or some kayakers going over above us.
I was wrong.
I was really really wrong.
From the depths figures immerged, they looked like eels with dog heads, about ten feet long. On their back were nereids, but not just regular nereids, creepy nereids. Like the ones who drown people for fun. They had wild eyes, pointed teeth, hair like black seaweed and dark splotches all of their bodies. At the end of each finger tip they had four inch long talons like black porcupine quills and their black hair flared up into a mane.
I got the feeling they weren’t here to welcome me to Poseidon’s domain.
A few of them screeched, sounding like a bubblier version of nails on chalkboard.
Then they attacked.