Disclaimer: Percy Jackson isn't mine. Ivy technically is, although she belongs to herself.

Joining Forces


When you are a newbie like me, in times like these, people don't offer to give you a tour of the super-complex camp that you will apparently be staying at every summer for a good bit of your life, and you often wind up wandering around by yourself, with no one to ask exactly why the climbing wall has lava running down it, or why people are running around with goat legs. And once you realize that the staff is mostly birdlike demon ladies, well, you aren't too keen on seeing more.

Perhaps it is different for others. Perhaps it is only me.

However, I am speaking from experience, and that is exactly why I am loitering around the camp borders, in case anyone sees me and is wondering.

As for the fact that I have my arms wrapped around the big pine tree near the borders, well, I don't really have an explanation for that. It looked huggable. Enough said.

Not to mention that I have always had a special connection with trees. I can literally feel their emotions through their bark.

Yes, trees have emotions. They're living things, aren't they?

But this tree is different. Way different.

When I wrap my arms around it, a burst of emotion comes flooding into my brain, snatches of color and jabs of feelings. I almost stumble back, but instead I hug the tree tighter. I press my cheek against the rough bark and try to make sense of what I am feeling.

Whatever it is, it is strong, and more human than I have ever felt in a tree, I think.

It's all very muddled, but one sentence stands strong and clear-

Run! I'll hold them back! No, don't worry about me! For gods' sake, just take Annabeth and go!

I can't make the slightest lick of sense of that. It appears that is all I will get out of that particular tree.

I move to the tree nearest to this one, and press my hand against its trunk. I try to communicate what I want- information. I want to know what is going on with that tree.

The tree replies very quickly. Some trees remind me of dogs- incredibly eager to please. However this particular tree does not seem to understand what I am asking.

That tree? Oh, Thalia's pine. Well, she used to have a human in her, but then I guess the human moved out and the poor dear has never been the same since

It is quite easy to get exasperated with the trees in this camp, I am quickly discovering.

I try to ask more questions. How did a human get inside the tree? How did he/she get out? What do you mean, the tree hasn't been the same since?

Trees, in moments like these, are utterly unhelpful. The tree I am trying to talk to merely repeats the same things over and over, and does not explain what they mean.

I sigh loudly and say, "Well, you're no help at all," which, might I add, earns me some very odd looks.

One burly-looking guy takes it so far as to come up to me, and he sneers. I watch jealously- I have never quite managed to shape my face into such a perfect sneer.

"You're a Dumb-meter."

It's not a question, but I decide to be helpful and answer it anyway.

"Yes, I am a child of Demeter. And you?"

He growls, low in his throat. "Not important. Why are you talking to trees? You insane or something?"

"Well, I suppose it could be viewed that way, couldn't it?"

See, I'm even being polite to this wretched sneerer.

He scowls. "Go back to your cabin, loser."

I am under the impression that the last word is supposed to sting, perhaps make me burst into tears, but it really doesn't. I can handle being a loser.

I consider telling him that soon he will be deprived of my wonderful company, and then who will be the loser, but I decide against it, and simply walk away with my head held high.

My father always told me that if someone insults you, walk off with your head held high, and you will feel better and more confident.

All I really felt, though, was a developing cramp in my neck, and I began to mentally debate exactly how high he meant for my head to be held. I eventually decided that my head was held too high, and made a mental note to fix that next time.

All this debating about the proper height of heads, and I don't even realize where I am going. Thankfully, I stop right at the edge of the forest, just inches from entering. The one thing people had actually bothered to tell me was never go in the forest alone. Supposedly, it is stocked with horrible monsters, but I find that I don't care.

I know that it's probably suicide, but I step into the forest, and keep walking.

I don't meet any monsters, and it's very quiet, so I can be alone with my thoughts.

Unfortunately, my vaguely pleasant walk is cut short when something leaps from the tree above me, hollering, "Look out below!"

I give a yell and duck. My hat falls off my head and into the dirt.

I stand up. Without even looking at whomever it is that almost landed on top of me, I say angrily, "For the love of the gods, look where you're going next time! Jumping on people is very impolite, you know!

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