This chapter is dedicated to my friend Hannah for all her support in the previous couple of weeks.

I would like to say a big thanks once again to my awesome beta reader 'Forestwater'. :D

Disclaimer: I do not own any of the Percy Jackson series. However most the characters and events are my own so please, be original and don't copy them.

Thanks for taking the time to read my fanfiction :)

Zoe x

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Within moments my hands seemed to retaliate instinctively to protect my face. I thought for a moment I could feel a strange tingling sensation from the palms of my hands, but it was gone before I could do more than wonder about it. My hands left my face to grip the sides of the boat as it rocked again; my fingernails dug into the wood to the quick, and I knew that would hurt later, but I certainly didn't care now. I crammed my eyes shut and curled up into as small a ball as I could make. After a few moments, the canoe stopped rocking. I loosened my death-grip on the sides of the boat, feeling my fingernails scream in protest, and lifted my head.

The mist had cleared. I could see as far as two miles downriver, and either bank was clear as day. And speaking of the bank . . . two very annoyed nereids sat on the riverbed, rubbing their heads and scowling.

For a moment I was confused. Where was the fiend? Then it dawned on me. Why those devious little . . . ARGGH! I knew I shouldn't have trusted them.

I flung my legs over the side of the canoe and splashed over to them, a thousand angry words on the tip of my tongue just waiting -- no begging -- to be unleashed on those horrid little demons. But they beat me to it.

Ella had rushed over with a stern-looking girl, whose eyes were deep-set under a broad forehead and thick, dark eyebrows trimmed into angry check-marks. Her mane was blacker than onyx and was tied into a tight ponytail. She was the kind of girl who would always look angry, even when she wasn't.

"You didn't have to push us so hard. We were only messing around," the nereids moaned in irritating unison, rubbing their heads and looking innocently at their fellow sister Ella. Pffft! Stupid nereids! Any idiot could tell they were lying!

"Why you -- ! You have the nerve to start accusing me? I didn't even touch your slithery little bodies," I spat, sloshing up onto the riverbank and glaring down at them.

The girl Ella had brought over immediately cracked up, though her facial features never softened any. I spared a confused glance for her -- what was so funny? -- before returning my attention to the little snake-sisters.

"What were you two thinking?" Ella glared at her sisters and began to pace madly. "I told you specifically not to do this, especially not after what happened last time…" A pang of remembrance hit her; she grimaced and shook it off.

She turned back to me. "I'm so sorry . . . uh. . . . Sorry, I seemed to have forgotten to ask your --"

"It's Cynthia," I said, cutting her off.

The girl who had accompanied her immediately looked at me; she looked me up and down as if she were sizing me up, obviously taking in that I was small, scrawny, and blonde. Oh joy, hear comes the blonde jokes. I grimaced.

Well, at least I'm not some sort of . . . I looked her up and down, searching for some sort of flaw. I'm not. . . . The girl grinned and leaned forward, the muscles in her arms and legs flexing.

I'm not . . . strong. I glanced down at my small, pathetic arms. They looked like wet noodles compared to this girl! And she knew it; I'd bet anything that she knew it very well.

"Hello? Cynthia, anybody there?" Ella said in frustration, waving a hand in front of my face. Oops! I blushed.

This just seemed to make the girl laugh even harder.

The two nereids that had purposefully tried to sink me were trying to sneak off, but Ella spotted them -- she must have eyes in the back of her head or something. I shuddered at the thought; I wouldn't want her for a teacher.

Ella reinstated her position of the leader by yelling at her . . . sisters -- you know, even though they look alike, they're nothing alike.

The girl who had accompanied her intrigued and yet infuriated me. She decided to approach me -- probably to begin taunting me, I thought cynically. It might have been unfair, but there was something about this girl that I didn't like.

"So you're Cynthia." It wasn't a question.

"No, I'm Mary flaming Poppins." I said sourly.

She laughed. "Well, okay then, Mary." She glanced back towards the canoe and back at me. "Mind telling me what just happened?"

"What's there to tell? Nereids are annoying."

"I'd have to agree with you there, but they're not all bad," she said, glancing back at Ella with an almost tender expression (I say "almost" because with this girl's face, it was hard to tell).

"Whatever." I couldn't share her charity. Nereids were horrible little monsters, and even the nice ones could be difficult.

"Trust me, Ella's cool." She seemed to get my "Yeah, right" expression because she grinned again. "Besides, if you don't trust me, how are you going to get to camp?"

What was she talking about? They never said anything about any camp. . . . I gave her a quizzical look.

"Exactly. Come on." She grabbed my arm and dragged me away. I tugged, trying to escape her grasp, but my noodle arms were no match for this girl's grip.

"Firstly, why should I trust you? And secondly, who the heck are you?"

She laughed again -- this annoying giggling habit they have was really getting on my nerves. At least hers wasn't so ultrasonic, but still, it was damn annoying.

"I'm Lexia." She grinned again (what was up with the constant grinning? Was she just constantly amused by everything?), then leaned in closer and whispered tauntingly, "You really shouldn't trust me." She winked, and left it at that.

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I don't know why I went with her – maybe because I just didn't know what to think anymore or simply out of fear; Mother Nature wasn't always gentle.

But, what I do know is, I was exhausted. My energy supplies were depleted. My body was limp and jelly-like. It was as if I had just swam 200 lengths without a break. But still I dragged my feeble body along, wanting to make a good impression on this girl.

The sun continued to roast the reddish-brown sands beneath my feet and parched my throat to rough sandpaper. The ripples within the dunes raged like an ocean battling the sky. The winds picked up as the sun beat down, forcing me to shield my eyes.

Lexia noticed my discomfort and, for some bizarre reason unknown to me, decided to be kind. She passed me her waterskin, from which I drank greedily, quenching my avid thirst and soothing the irritated tissue as it ran down my throat. I passed it back to her. Relief stuck my body once my thirst was quenched, but hunger, still ravenous, bit at my limbs.

A while later I saw someone move their lips in attempt to communicate with me, but all I heard was muffled words. I grunted in response. I assumed we had arrived as a sleek white stone building was placed in front of me. It had ribbed columns and cautious guardians frozen into stone around it. I walked through the archway, oblivious to its beauty. And, seeing cool shades and comfort, I instantly flopped onto a sofa, ignoring all else. I needed rest. Just before I lost consciousness, I noticed a shadow of a tall masculine figure arch over me. But I didn't care; it was too hot and I was exhausted for anything besides a mild concern. I was tugged into unconsciousness and on into a more peaceful sleep.