Disclaimer: Percy Jackson and the Olympians belongs to Rick Riordan.
Liz sighed. Picking up newbies was always kind of a chore, even if they would grow. If they had the chance. It was shocking that they hadn't found Willow earlier; she should really be dead by now. Seventeen and never encountering a monster? Someone had to be watching out for her. Still, though, it wasn't something that she needed to figure out right now, and she could probably chalk it up to her mother working to mitigate her scent or something similar. It's not like Willow would be able to answer her questions.
She took a look at the girl, sitting on the other side of the chariot that Helen was driving. The two pegasi out in the front were more familiar with the roman girl, so it was safer for her to take the reins. Willow, on the other hand, was staring down into the floor, her arms braced with her hands on her knees and a vacant expression on her face. It was a relatively normal reaction to learning that there's an entire other facet to the world that you've been missing, but it was still kind of boring. Liz liked action. The chariot was enchanted to keep the winds from slapping everyone in the face, so they could actually hear each other and look forward without goggles.
"So, Willow?" She waved her hand once the girl looked up, making sure she had her attention. "Hi. I find that many people have a lot of questions when they figure out, hey, the Greeks and Romans weren't high off their tits when they made all those myths. So, what do you got?"
Willow thought for a moment, making Liz smile. She wasn't one of those that started blurting out half-formed questions as soon as they could. They were annoying. Finally, the rust-haired girl asked, "What are the gods like?"
"Good question. Most of us have no clue. Other than drama queens." Thunder rumbled around them, making Willow jerk around with wide eyes. Liz laughed. "Easy, that's what the gods get like if you diss them. It makes up about eighty percent of our interactions with them. For those of us that have talked to them, which includes my old teacher and most people who have been on quests, they do act relatively human. But there's always some qualities that they either don't care to get right, or just can't replicate them. One of the main ones is introducing themselves. If someone knows your full name, chances are they're either a god or a monster. If they don't have weird physical characteristics that stick out, it's a god."
Liz paused for a moment, in which Helen said, "They don't carry themselves like people either. And mortals either don't notice them or react to them completely different than they would another mortal."
"How?" Willow asked.
"Depends on the god. Mars-"
"Ares," said Liz, getting a mild glare from Helen.
"The god of war," the blonde girl paused to glare at Liz again, who held her hands up. "Makes everyone around him angry and more prone to aggression or fear."
"Aphrodite, as you might guess, makes everyone around her admire her." Liz pulled a cereal bar out of her pocket, peeling off the wrapper. She took great care to make sure that it stayed in one piece and stuffed it in her pocket when done.
"What does Apollo do?"
"According to Percy, he recites a lot of bad poetry and comes up with names that are too cliché to be inconspicuous. He is really helpful, though. He and Hermes are the nicest gods out there. Poseidon too, as long as you're his family or you've done something for him. Otherwise, he's indifferent."
"Who are the worst ones to come across?"
"Hades, Zeus, and Hera." Lightning boomed again, making Willow press her hands against her ears while the other two demigods winced. "Zeus, as the king of the gods, has all powers of judgement. No one can contest him, so he's one of the worst to piss off. Hera is similar, as the queen of the gods, and she can hold some major grudges. Hades, though…"
Liz fell silent, wondering what there was to say about the lord of death. No one in her generation had met the god, but they had of course heard all the stories and myths about him. Angry, filled with hatred for life and demigods in particular, kidnapping Persephone and forcing her to be his wife, but she wasn't sure how much of that was truth. After all, Percy had told her the truth of Hercules, and while she had never asked about Hades, they had all heard of his son, Nico, and she was fairly certain that someone like that wouldn't come from someone who hated life and everything about it.
"Just don't mess with him, okay?" She leaned back. 'Yeah, that's a good answer,' she thought. 'Don't tell her he's evil, but also warn her. He has done some pretty shitty stuff in the past.' Willow nodded across from her, frowning.
"What does he do?" the rust-haired girl asked, looking at her with her eyebrows drawn together.
"I don't know for certain. Don't believe every myth you hear, but it's generally a good policy to not mess with gods. The god of death is just more vengeful than most."
"Camp Half-Blood dead ahead," Helen yelled back at them.
Liz grinned. Her cabin would want to hear about the adventure. She actually got to fight monsters for once, which was rare with how little the year-rounders left camp. Nowadays, almost everyone was a year-rounder. The few that weren't didn't really attract monsters all too much, so they didn't encounter them too often either.
Helen directed the Pegasi to land next to the canoe lake, galloping along the ground a bit before they could stop completely. There was already a crowd forming, all trying to get a look at the new kid and placing bets on her parentage.
Elliot was standing at the front of the group, keeping those behind him relatively well behaved by shooting a few glares in their direction, even though he too was craning his neck to get a look at the newcomer. His spear was strapped across his back, and he stood with a straight, confident posture. Liz nodded approvingly. It was a good sight for anyone new; they instantly knew who was in charge. Well, relatively. Camp Half-Blood had an odd leadership system, ignoring the fact that the only concrete authority in the camp was Chiron. Mr. D really didn't have anything to do with the demigods if he could help it.
Liz placed a hand on the rail of the chariot, using it to vault over the side. The first thing she did was make her way towards Elliot, asking him, "Any trouble while we were gone?"
"Other than another newbie, no." Elliot smirked at her taken aback expression.
"How the hell did we get another one? We haven't heard of any new demigods in months!" The newbie that Liz brought with her was only just now approaching them, looking around with an open mouth.
"No, we haven't. We've known about this one for a long time; the satyr assigned to him was only just now able to convince him to come here after a run-in with a hydra in his school's cafeteria. Which they were able to kill by themselves." They both started walking towards the Big House, Liz beckoning a wide-eyed Willow to follow them. "Pretty impressive, actually. Not really sure how they did it."
Liz racked her mind for demigods that refused to come to the camp. "Wait, is this the Valentine kid? The one the satyr kept calling a dick?"
"Bingo. Now, you." Willow jumped at being addressed, flicking her eyes over to the slightly taller boy who had poked her. "We're going straight to the Big House over there for your orientation. Don't worry about grabbing your stuff from the chariot, we'll do that for you and bring it to the porch for you to grab after you're done. Have you been claimed yet?"
Knowing Apollo, he had been waiting for a cue. A golden sun bloomed into existence above the rust-haired girl's head, casting a bright light across the entire camp. Everyone who wasn't Willow either turned away or shielded their eyes, some grunting in pain.
A cheer went up from all of the Apollo campers, all of them yelling and clamoring. They started trying to get closer, pushing the other cabins out of their way until Elliot yelled at them. "Back! You'll get her after Chiron! Back, I say!"
Liz snorted, watching them all back up sheepishly. She saw two of them take out sheets of paper and mentally groaned. There were going to be way too many poems and songs to deal with until they calmed down, which would probably be a while, given how long it had been since the last demigod they got.
Elliot grabbed both of their arms, dragging them towards the Big House with a renewed pace. He was grumbling under his breath the whole time, doing his best to shelter his face from the sun. "I'm going to have such a tan tomorrow," he muttered.
Liz slapped his back cheerfully. "Hey, could be worse. He could've made everyone recite poetry or sing for her."
"Don't give him ideas!"
Sure, she wrote plenty of fiction and had plenty of poems of unnatural creatures but being faced with a several thousand-year-old centaur was slightly intimidating. At least she wasn't the only one here.
Sitting on the couch next to her was a blue-haired boy, wearing jeans and a V-neck long sleeve shirt. His arms were crossed, and he was glaring at the other man in the room, a fat man in a leopard-print shirt playing with cards.
"Welcome to Camp Half-Blood," said Chiron, his arms spread wide. "I trust you both had pleasant trips getting here?"
Both fixed him with a flat stare. The centaur coughed, muttering something about manners under his breath. "Yes, well," he started again, "what do each of you know about the Greek legends and myths?"
The blue-haired kid raised his hand. "They're real, we're demigods, and we're here so we don't get eaten by the monsters and the stories. Also, so that the gods can have us run their errands for them." He shot another glare at the man, who still hadn't looked up from his game.
"An… efficient summary. And you?" Chiron looked into Willow's eyes. "What do you know?"
"A lot less than I probably should," she said, her voice meek. A leopard head mounted on the wall caught her attention. She could've sworn it had moved.
It swung towards her and growled, making her try to jump back from the couch end up falling over it. The man threw a piece of meat at it without looking, and it chewed it before swallowing with a satisfied purr. "What the hell?" she yelped.
"Don't mind Seymour," said the man. "He sometimes gets angry when impertinent brats stare at him."
"Who are you, anyways?" Willow asked, cautiously getting back in her seat. She was now hyper aware of all the other seemingly harmless decorations, wondering which would try to attack her next.
"You can call me Mr. D." He lifted a glass to his lips, sipping at the dark liquid within. He frowned.
"…Dionysus?" she asked.
The wine god pressed a palm to his face and sighed. "Names have power, girl. It's best you learn that now."
Willow nodded slowly, making sure to file it away. Advice from a god was probably rare and valuable. "So, what should I be doing?" Her question was directed towards the centaur, who seemed grateful to finally have the conversation back on the right track.
"You two will be watching the orientation video, and then you will be brought to your cabin mates. At dinner tonight, you will be given your schedules, and from then on, you simply follow those. Please ask your councilors any questions you have before coming to me if they cannot answer them. Now, please follow me." The centaur flicked his tail and turned, walking down one of the hallways.
As Willow got up, she found a hand extended to her. Attached to the hand was the blue haired boy, who she found was several inches taller than her. "Valentine Morgan," he said. "It's good that I'm not the only newbie here."
"Willow Kate-Evans," she returned, firmly shaking his hand. "Tell me about it. I think I might have died of anxiety."
"I think I might have tried to break out," he said. They both started to follow Chiron. "I've actually been part of the whole demigod thing since I was twelve, but I never attracted any monsters until now. Thought that I could get away with it and live a normal life, but I guess not."
"I learned about all of this stuff a couple hours ago." Chiron motioned for them to enter a room, which he followed them into. He started tinkering with an old projector, taking something out and putting something else in.
"Yeah, it's a bit shocking. But hey, you'll get it soon enough. I have faith." He smiled at her.
She smiled back at him. "Thanks."
By the time that orientation was over, the sun was already dipping below the horizon. Only half of it was still left, painting the sky with streaks of oranges, yellows, and pinks. Chiron was leading Willow and Valentine on a tour of the camp, though Valentine had decided to retire to his own cabin for the day, though he refused to tell them which was his.
"And this is the Apollo cabin," Chiron said, gesturing to the ostentatious cabin in front of her. The walls were made of shining gold, with ornate pillars holding up each corner. Willow raised her eyebrows. Chiron caught her look and sighed. "Your father is…"
"That's one way of putting it," Chiron said. "This is where the tour ends. Your siblings will be waiting inside for you. I hope you enjoy your stay here." He cantered off, leaving Willow staring up at the shining cabin alone.
She took a breath, trying to calm her nerves. Inside were the people that she would spend a very long time with, so it was in her best interests to make a good first impression. If she screwed this up, they might hate her forever, make her an outcast, and it would just get worse-
Willow forcefully cut off her train of thought, shaking her head and whipping her hair about. It was useless dwelling on what might happen. What she needed to do was move forward.
Walking up onto the porch, she stared at the door, wondering how she should greet them. What would she say? Was she supposed to recite a poem? Sing something? Would they force her to shoot a bow, and laugh at her since she had never done it before? Shakily, she raised a hand to knock.
The door opened before her fist got halfway up. The man who opened it was smirking at her. "I was starting to wonder if you would ever knock, or just run away."
Willow tried her best to smile at him. "Yeah, I was, um…"
"Nervous? Don't be. We're all sunshine and rainbows in here." He chortled at his own joke, and Willow took the second to examine him.
A fully-grown adult, the first one other than Dionysus that she had seen. He had blonde hair, blue eyes the color of the sky, tanned skin, and a rather lanky figure. As for clothes, he had shorts and the customary orange shirt that everyone here seemed to wear.
He swung the door open wider, gesturing for her to come in. "I'm Will Solace, by the way," he said as she stepped over the threshold. "Councilor of the Apollo cabin. Also the oldest and handsomest demigod in the camp." He grinned at her, and Willow could've sworn that his pure white teeth glinted.
"Why aren't there any other adults around?" she asked, hoping that the answer was that they left.
Will shrugged. "Some moved to New Rome, a couple help Percy run Camp Olympus, and the rest…" he trailed off, his eyes looking somewhere far, far away. "The rest are in Elysium, I suppose."
Well, at least some of them had just moved away. "I'm sorry," she said.
Will waved it off. "I've had plenty of time to grieve. I miss them every now and them, but I treasure the memories I made with them." He beckoned for her to follow him up the stairs. "C'mon, let's get you a bed."
Walking up the stairs behind him, Willow mentally thanked her father for not making the interior as golden as the exterior. Her eyes might've started bleeding if she had to stare at the gold at all times. "How old are you, anyways?"
Will gave her a grin. "Everything you need to know is in your participant's notebook."
Willow blinked at him. After a second, he cleared his throat, saying, "Inside joke, don't worry about it. Anyways, this is the girl's room. You can choose any bed that clearly has no one already sleeping in it."
Nodding, Willow walked over to on of the beds propped up against the wall. It had white sheets and pillows, just as every other bed did. She put down her bags and suitcase on it, deciding that she'd unpack later. Turning back to Will, she asked, "So, when do I get to meet everyone else?"
"Right now. C'mon, they've been waiting for this."
Will kept talking as he led her back downstairs and into a living area, complete with a stage, microphone, several instruments, and multicolored lights. "Demigods don't really show up as often as they used to, but we also live longer on average, so it's a pretty decent trade-off. Still, it's been five years since we've gotten someone new around here. Don't worry, you're gonna love your siblings."
He gestured for her to sit down, so she chose a reclining chair close to the stage. Willow found that it swiveled, so she spun it back towards the part of the room with seats. Already, the other kids were filtering in, taking random seats in a circle of chairs that they dragged to include her. The first thing that Willow noticed was that they all had different degrees of blonde hair, but golden blonde was the most common. Willow ran a hand through her own rust-colored hair self-consciously. At least some of their eyes were green like hers.
"Alright, everyone, welcome your new sister…" he pointed to her.
It was silent for a moment before she realized that she was supposed to say something. "Uh… Willow Kate-Evans?"
The three boys and seven girls grinned. "Hi, Willow Kate-Evans," they chorused in a deep, slow voice. Willow smiled nervously in return, wishing that she could do something to calm herself down.
"And now we start with the standard get-to-know-you questions. Remember, any questions that you ask, you also have to answer, and that lies are impossible in the confines of the cabin. Now, who has the first question?"
One of the boys, a shorter one with freckles dotted across his face, raised his hand first. "My name is Jacob Smith. How old are you? I'm thirteen."
"I'm seventeen." She got a couple gasps for that, and she reminded herself that most apparently don't last on their own for as long as she had. Another one of the boys put his hand up, and Will pointed to him.
"I'm Michael Carlington. Where are you from? I'm from Eugene, Oregon."
"Savanna, Georgia." She was slowly gaining confidence, now that she realized they all really wanted to know her. Next was one of the girls, seemingly close to her own age.
"Emily Becker. What instruments do you play? I play all the clarinets and saxophones."
"I can play the guitar, flute, violin, and piano. I can also sing."
They all nodded. "Singing and playing the guitar are pretty standard Apollo kid things. So is basic first aid, but you'll learn more about that."
"Can we all glow too?" she asked.
They all looked among themselves, a couple whispering. Will looked taken aback, before he said, "No? I don't think I've ever heard of an Apollo kid glowing. I mean, yeah, Apollo is the god of the sun and light, but that's never really manifested in a significant way with his kids. No, wait, I think we're immune to radiation or something, but that's never really been confirmed. Can you glow?"
Willow tried to concentrate on bringing it out again, sitting in silence for a moment before sighing. "Not on command, but the girl that was with me, what was her name?"
"Liz?" One of them said.
"Yeah, her. She saw it." Willow was worried they believe her, and just write it off. Then Will grinned.
"That's so cool! A new demigod power? You'll be the talk of the camp for months!" He clapped her on the shoulder.
The others all clamored, asking how she did it and if they could learn how to do it too. Willow smiled and waited for Will to calm them all down so she could explain her fight to them.
At the end, Will was grimacing. One of the girls looked slightly disturbed, but the rest were beginning to theorize how she had done it. Eventually, Will motioned for them all to stop. "Alright, kids. It's getting to be late, and Willow hasn't been able to unpack yet. I think it's time that the rest of us go out to the campfire. Which of the girls would like to stay behind and help Willow?"
One of the girls with a pixie cut raised up her hand. "I'll do it," she said, before turning to Willow. "My name is Kara Stirman. C'mon."
The others talked among themselves while Kara led Willow up the stairs to her new bedroom, where they stopped in front of the bed with her stuff on it. The girl looked at Willow strangely. "You sure you wanna sleep so far away from the rest of us?"
While it was true that Willow had preemptively claimed a bed away from the rest, it was done based on the assumption that she wouldn't like anyone else. Now that she had met them, they did seem nice, so she shook her head. "No, I just didn't want to intrude. Where can I sleep?"
Kara directed her to a bed in the more populated area, where she put down all of her luggage. "Where should I put my clothes?" she asked, looking around for some sort of a closet.
"Under your bed is fine. There's a closet back there, though, if you want it. Just be aware that some of us might be wearing your clothes if you do that." Willow silently slid her suitcase under her bed. "The bathroom is over there. Just pick an empty sink and put your stuff around it."
Once Willow had complied and finished marveling at the size of the bathroom, she reentered the bedroom to find Kara sitting on a bed. Willow raised an eyebrow. The girl simply patted the bed beside her in a gesture for Willow to take a seat.
When she did, Kara asked, "So how are you holding up?"
"I'm fine. This is a pretty cool place."
Kara stared at her.
She sighed. "Yeah, okay. My entire world just got flipped, there are a lot of things that I thought I knew that I'm completely unsure of now, and I'm a little scared."
Kara smiled. "That's good. A nice reaction, one that shows a strong, sensible mind. The one thing that I can tell you is that you'll get used to all of it eventually, and that everyone here wants to see you succeed. So, if you need anything, come to any of us. We do have the oldest, most experienced demigod in the camp, so remember that when you need something."
"I do have something to ask. Have any of you met Apollo?"
"Other than Will? No." Kara sighed, and it carried with it a heavy disappointment that Willow figured the rest would find sympathy with. "He sends gifts, sometimes. A music sheet downstairs, a ray of sun that shines particularly bright on us, but that's about the extent of it."
Willow nodded, striking the chance of finally meeting her father off her list with a stroke of bitterness. "I also have to ask, who is Liz? To the camp, I mean. Everyone seemed to look to her."
Kara's countenance brightened, a fact that Willow filed away for later. "She's something of a leader around here. Her and Elliot just kind of… took over. Not in a hostile way, and they're really good at keeping the camp together. It's all really informal. I'd recommend going to Elliot with questions about intellectual pursuits, though. Liz is more partial to working with her hands."
"Is there anyone I need to watch out for?"
"There's one dick in the Demeter cabin, but he'll just throw words. He does it to everyone, we generally ignore him. Also, the Ares cabin tends to be rather pigheaded. But there are few outright bullies here, mostly because they would get torn apart by everyone else, so you don't have to worry about that."
The rust-haired girl nodded and smiled at Kara, saying, "Thanks for giving me some of your time to make sure I was alright. It really helps a lot, knowing that other people care."
"Absolutely. You're probably exhausted, how about we turn out the lights?"
"That sounds fantastic."