Dancing in the Dark

Chapter One:

The Shallows

By Aish Sheva and Caramel Kryptonite

Doctored/Beta'd By Sister Grimm Erin.

"Here's to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes... the ones who see things differently -- they're not fond of rules... You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can't do is ignore them because they change things... they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do."

Afternoon light filtered down from the clouds, turning the for-once quiet lake clear. It was easy enough to see to the bottom, though the girl trudging through the shallows didn't seem to notice, or care. A small fish swam forward to examine a small, bare toe, but turned tail and fled when the demigod took another step. Her foot disrupted the bottom, sending a spurt of debris up from the lakebed.

Desdemona Echo Anthony wasn't quite sure if she wanted to contact the go-between that evening. The past week had been uneventful, to say the least. They had no idea what the Lord of Time's plans were and Luke intended to keep it that way. Meanwhile, she was getting restless. She was sick of camp- why couldn't she go take her rightful place in the ranks of the Titan Army?

But last time Des had talked to Ethan Nakamura he had told her to sniff out those unsure about their allegiance. Okay, so it was basically find the traitors. Shouldn't be hard. But where to look? Not the Aphrodite cabin (too slow) or the Demeter cabin (plant powers, a bunch of pacifists). Perhaps the Athena cabin-if they were really so smart, they'd see the advantage. The Hephaestus cabin, as blacksmiths were always handy. The Hermes cabin, some still looked up to Luke. The Ares cabin (stupid mostly, but strong) was another possibility.

Annoyed at the thought of having to be diplomatic, she spit through her teeth, a habit she had picked up hanging around some Lastrygonians. She watched the ripples spread out, distorting the reflection of herself and the pine trees on the shore.

Des was so absorbed in her thoughts she didn't notice the camper before her until she had bumped into the other demigod. She wheeled backward, catching herself before she fell over into the water.

"Watch where you're going, idiot! You almost knocked me into the lake!" Koeset yelled. She knew that it had partially been her fault, but Koeset's motto was "Pin the blame on someone else. Always." She glared at the half-blood standing in front of her. "Who are you, anyway?"

"Watch where you're standing, moron," Des shot back angrily. She hunched her shoulders up, shrugging the collar of her brown overcoat up to cover her neck. She took a closer look at the girl. Black hair, pale skin, dark eyes. And a pair of large black wings. Come on, Des, she scolded herself. How do you not remember a girl with wings? And yet she was unfamiliar. Not like Des took time to get to know the campers, but wings were certainly an unforgettable trait. But not too odd, considering Greek myth.

"I'm Des," she said gruffly, "daughter of Cer. And if you don't know who that is, get an encyclopedia."

"I know who Cer is," Koeset said with a scowl. And why was the girl wearing an overcoat in this weather? "I'm a daughter of Eris. Absolutely lovely to meet you," she added, in a voice dripping with sarcasm.

"A pleasure," she said, her small nose crinkling slightly, matching the girl's tone. "And what name goes with such a wonderful personality?" She shivered a little, hugging her thin limbs closer. Des was always cold, as her mother was a goddess of the Underworld. Even the water around her feet was a few degrees cooler than the rest of the lake. And her skin was frequently icy. Des looked the other girl in the eye, her violet irises glancing upwards from beneath short, dark lashes. Daughter of Eris, goddess of strife. What Luke wouldn't give for a girl like that...

"Koeset. Fifteen or something, been a camper for seven years, hated by most. If there's any more information you'd like to try and pry out of me, do it now because I sure as Hades don't want to stand around in the lake for hours on end." Koeset paused for breath, watching Des' reaction.

"Well, Koeset, I've made it my life's ambition to find out your favorite color. I simply must know," she drawled. Hated by most. How well Des could relate. Not like she'd ever say that hated by all might be more accurate.

Koeset snorted, hiding a smile. Meeting someone who was every bit as sarcastic as she was didn't happen every day. "Oh, why, black, of course! Go on, have a field day psychoanalyzing my pick and connecting it to morbidity and my twisted mind and such."

"Really? It never would have crossed my mind, though your macabre mind and twisted ways have nothing on me, my favorite color is pink," she replied, rolling her eyes out of habit. She was kind of enjoying the exchange. Not often did she meet someone who might, just might be as messed up as she was. Or, you know, ever.

"Ha, pink. Very...girlish. Are you sure you're quite as macabre and twisted as you say you are?"

"My mother is the god of violent death. I am the queen of twisted," Des said haughtily. And that was the truth... if only the losers at camp knew what she could do.

"Fine. But you can only be the queen of twisted, if I'm the queen of sarcasm." Koeset smirked, enjoying their interaction.

"Fine, your majesty," Des said, smiling slightly on the inside. She shivered again and shifted on her feet, hoping the blood would flow to her toes and warm her up a bit. Queen of twisted. That fit her like a glove.

"So, daughter of Eris. Not accepted by the camp, are you? I haven't seen you around the Hermes cabin where Chiron the magical pony dumped me. Where do you get to lay your royal head every night? If you sleep at all," she said. Des rarely slept. Mostly her nights were spent rummaging through other demigods' stuff. Or sneaking into the Big House. Or contacting one of the go-betweens that came to designated spots just outside of camp each night.

"Oh, I'm a vampire. I don't need to sleep. I simply stay up all night and plot world domination. While sitting in the Zeus cabin," Koeset tossed in. "And you're right, I'm not accepted by the camp. I'd guess you're not, either..." She scrutinized the half-blood before her.

"Well, it's certainly hard to sleep with Connor Stoll snoring all night and that stupid unclaimed girl Kayla Hemmings talking in her sleep all the time," Des said dryly. "The difference between your rejection and mine is that you get decent residence, and I get 'don't leave your underwear out or one of the kleptomaniacs will take them' town." She sighed. "Children of the Underworld aren't readily received by the children of Olympus and the world of light. We like death, we like the dark and we're always cold. Are you one of us?"

Des' tone was deadly calm, which conveyed the anger she felt when she said those words. As if to prove it, she placed a hand on the other girl's upper arm. Her skin was startlingly warm to the touch. Des did not remove her hand right away. She liked the warmth and the energy she felt underneath. It was not a soothing aura, but a fire and a rush in the blood, the presence of chaos and the absence of forethought. The two girls locked eyes for a moment, midnight blue on stunning violet. Des was somewhat disappointed when Koeset shuddered and jerked her arm away. "I don't know. I'm not exactly a child of the Underworld. And why does it matter to you, anyway?"

Des smiled coldly at the reaction, shutting down the interest she had felt earlier. It was always the same, even among people who ought to understand. Why did she even try to touch? "Your mother is Eris, goddess of strife. You're just as messed up as I am. Maybe slightly less so. Camp hates us. So why stay here?"

"Where else could I go?" Koeset snorted. "My father threw me out, my mother could care less..."

"Well, I can't wait to get out of here. It's so deadbeat," Des said. She wasn't going to tell the girl where she would be going after that, but that was a private piece of information. Although Koeset would make a good addition to the Titan Army...

"In case you're a retard, camp is not exactly a wonderland for me, like it is for some losers. A 'haven', they call it. Pfft." Des snorted. As if.

"Wonderland? Ha. Anyone who thinks camp is a wonderland-" Koeset loaded the last word with sarcasm, "-is obviously mentally deranged. Too many hits over the head with a sword, hm?" Continuing, the girl remarked, "I'd like to get out of here, too. Only about another five years and then I can ask Chiron to let me out."

Des laughed dryly, enjoying the girl's company again. "Yes, that's a good way of putting it. But you know... there is..." Des hesitated, "another way of getting out of here sooner." Great, Des, real smart! Not.

Another way of getting out of here?! Koeset, greatly intrigued, pressed for details. She felt ready, as though the ice on her skin had energized her. "Really? How? Does it involve loss of limbs or something?" she added, remembering to be suspicious as she spoke.

"No. But currently the asshole running the thing thinks I should stay here," she said resentfully. Perhaps she shouldn't have mentioned it.

"Huh. Well, how do I sign up?" Anything to get out of here.

"It's complicated," Des said gruffly. "Can't tell anyone I can't trust, princess."

"Okay, fine. But princess?" Koeset asked, raising an eyebrow.

"Princess, queen of sarcasm, princess of evil. Whatever you please." She shrugged, waving her hand dismissively. "You could prove yourself handy, then I'd tell you."

"Ha. It doesn't much matter to me. But anyway," Koeset continued. "How could I do that?"

"It depends. I'll have to think about it," Des said enigmatically.

"Humph," muttered Koeset. "Well, I suppose..."

The two girls exchanged maniacal grins, two kindred souls recognizing each other for who they were and who they weren't.

"Meet me two hours from now, at the edge of the forest," Koeset said boldly.

Des's eyes narrowed, disliking being ordered by anyone. Still, this was interesting. "Why?"

"I'll show you just how handy I can be." Smirking, Koeset took off, up and about in the sky and then only a distant dot.

Des snarled, but then realized that was exactly what she would have done if she had wings. I hate not having the last word.

Koeset, for her part, just smiled a smug smile, her mind racing at even faster speeds than normal as her body surrendered to the familiar sensations of flying.

Des was the single most interesting person she'd met all year.