All's Fair in Love and War

written by Kaleidoscope Flowers

Prologue: Of Unpleasant Mornings and Archery Attempts

Noelle Redmond is your typical daughter of Ares. Her first summer at Camp Half-Blood, though, goes horribly awry when a fight leads to the death of her mother, and Noelle turns against the Olympians. Complications arise when she befriends more half-bloods along the way as she tries to evade spiteful gods while seeking refuge at the Titan camp. But the demigods she befriends seem to be far from normal themselves, and they end up thrusting Noelle into several complex situations that are far from what she originally imagined. Set during TLO. Rated T for profuse swearing.

This idea was hanging around in my head for days before I decided to write it down, and I scrapped several attempts for a first chapter before finally getting to this point. Keep in mind that this is a prologue, so future chapters will be longer. Also, thanks to the awesome Theia 47 for being my beta reader and being a helpful editor 8)

"Uuuuuuuhhhhh . . ."

A yawn escaped from my lips, and my eyelids fluttered, refusing to stay completely open.

I sat up in my bunk, then was unpleasantly jolted wide awake by my head hitting the ceiling. I had forgotten that I was in the top bunk and that I had already gone through my growth spurt, making me at least a few inches taller than most fifteen-year-old girls.

I rubbed my temples, slightly disoriented. You would think that bumping your head shouldn't feel like anything for a child of Ares, but when you've just woken up and you're still sleepy, it hurts like hell. It's also not the best way to start off your day.

Rays of sunlight streamed through the smudged glass windows of the cabin. Even though the panes were dirty, the light that got through was almost blindingly bright, warning me that it was late morning. I remembered that breakfast ended and activities started at nine o'clock, and I guessed it was now around eight-thirty or eight-forty-five.

"Oh, gods . . ." I mumbled. I was already late for breakfast, and I'd have to rush if I wanted to get to my first activity on time. I climbed out of bed, still rubbing the back of my head, and looked at myself in the mirror.

I groaned. My hair was knotted and snarled in such a way that it made me look like a pale, freckled, blonde Medusa. I rummaged through my drawer to try and find something to make myself look a little more human. This was one of the rare times where I wished I was an Aphrodite girl. They probably at least had sufficient hygienic supplies in their cabin.

"Hey, Redmond! REDMOND!"

A rough, low voice cut through my thoughts. I recognized it as Sherman's, a big, bulky guy who enjoyed wielding a longsword with a carelessness that I considered rather dangerous. I preferred not talking to him unless it was absolutely necessary.

"Yeah? And, goddammit, Sherman, could you at least make an effort to organize your clothes instead of leaving them in various places around the cabin? Especially on my favorite sword?" I shot back a reply. I was already grumpy from being woken up in an unpleasant way, and I was far from patient right now.

I was one of the four girls in the entire Ares cabin, who were Clarisse La Rue, our counselor; and a pair of twins named Alice and Reagan. Both were rather vicious, even for Ares girls, and they were either following Clarisse around or keeping to themselves. Clarisse was a bit nicer. I rarely talked to her, though.

I heard a vague grunt in response from Sherman and took that as an adequate apology; apparently he didn't have anything to say to me anymore. I pulled on a sweatshirt and ran a wet hairbrush through my tangled, dishwater-blonde hair so I looked acceptable for breakfast.

"Hey, Noelle, you ready for Capture the Flag?"

It was Clarisse's voice, a voice I recognized, but barely heard being directed solely toward myself. The fact that she had used my first name instead of my last was also odd, but maybe she just felt compelled to address me politely, since we weren't that close.

I took my celestial bronze sword out of the weapons cabinet. I glanced at the blade, making sure it was gleaming and polished. "Ready as I'll ever be, Clarisse. You?" I gave her a slight smile.

"Pssshh, yeah. I can't wait to kick some Aphrodite, Apollo, and Hermes ass." Clarisse laughed, and the sound was reminiscent of a hyena.

"I thought Silena Whatsherface from the Aphrodite cabin was one of your friends, though." I set down my weapon and put up my hair in a ponytail. I winced as I found a knot in my hair that I seemed to have missed before.

"Oh yeah, she's all right. Freaks happen, I guess. But those other giggly, self-absorbed bitches will definitely be fun to see tasting blood." Clarisse started toward the door. "Hey, you ready for breakfast yet?"

I slipped into a pair of sneakers and followed her. "Yeah, coming."

The mess hall was somewhat less noisy than usual, as Clarisse and I were a little late for breakfast. There were still a quite a few half-bloods hanging around the pavilion, though. I grabbed some eggs, bacon, and orange juice and muttered a prayer to my father as I scraped a bit of my eggs into the fire. A sharp, metallic scent arose from the burning food.

Clarisse and I were the only kids sitting at the Ares table, since everyone else had woken up before us and eaten earlier. We had never talked to each other much, but we made small talk about Capture the Flag and weaponry in order to avoid silence. We split paths after breakfast when I headed off to archery and she to sword fighting.

Archery had never been my forte. I preferred a balanced sword to a bow, to be honest, and judging a distance and aiming from afar was never my strong point. I was mediocre at it, you might say, not horrible; but far from gifted. There were people who were much worse than me, and at least I was a lot better at swordfighting, so I supposed I couldn't complain.

A girl with flaxen blonde hair and tanned skin was standing next to me. I could tell she was an Apollo girl. Her arrows landed much closer to the center of the target, compared to me and most of the other kids around us, even though she seemed to be concentrating on her aim just as much as I was.

She turned to look at me. The girl glanced at my far-from-perfect target after she noticed me staring. "Hey, don't worry. You're an Ares kid, aren't you? Noelle Redmond, am I right? We Apollo guys can only do archery. You guys are best with all the other weapons." She notched another arrow as her last one landed millimeters from the center of the target.

I put down my bow, knowing that if I tried to aim an arrow without looking that I would probably kill someone. "Well, not with archery, apparently. I'm a sword girl, myself."

"Ah. I've never liked swords. They all seemed too heavy and hard to control for me. But I suppose I would naturally have a preference for bows and arrows, being an Apollo child. I'm Taryn, by the way." She examined a different kind of arrow, weighing it in her hands before deciding to notch it.

"Taryn, you and your siblings have such an unfair advantage," I complained, then quickly took up the bow again to avoid a reprimand from Chiron, who was going around and correcting various campers' aims. I mumbled a curse under my breath as I fumbled with the bowstring, which had somehow gotten tangled.

"What, and you don't have an unfair advantage in any fighting or weaponry-related activities?"

"Oh, touché," I furrowed my brow as I tried to decide if I should adjust my aim slightly to the left. I stepped a little to the right in order to avoid the rays of sunlight obscuring my vision.

Taryn chortled and then pointed something out. "Hey, we need to go, don't we?" She gestured toward the mass of campers getting up and starting to move.

"Oh," I exclaimed with realization, hastily putting away the bow and arrows. "Oh, crap, we do have to go, don't we? I have pegasi riding next, what about you?"

She grinned. "Sorry. I have sword practice next. Gotta be prepared for whipping your butts tonight in Capture the Flag, you know." And with that, she walked away.

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