Hi guys, sorry for the wait. I'm a T.A. this semester and I've been spending weekends grading papers. I'd like to give a shout out to New and Lovestoreadonline, they've been reviewing from the very start and I haven't thanked them so far. Katherine, hope you're having fun wherever you are, and that you'll be back soon. And, as always, thanks to xFireStarx and to all reviewers out there, I appreciate it.
candycanelover asked if I could double space the lines when I publish. I would if I could. Like any author here can tell you, documents are uploaded from Word onto FF and they have a set format. You can always zoom in by pressing Ctrl and rolling the mouse thingy. Caligurl wanted to know what's going on in Camp Half-Blood. Well, Jason's quest is halfway through… and some other stuff you'll know about soon enough, but there won't be a chapter starring Annabeth, Jason, etc.
Anyway, here goes.
Chapter 16 – Announcements
"Soldiers!" yelled Dakota in a loud voice, immediately centering the entire amphitheatre's attention on her. She walked forward and stood a few feet ahead of Reyna and Percy, who remained quietly behind her, looking at the ground. There was a small rustle of discomfort, as people shifted in their seats and leaned forward in interest, questions popping in their heads like fireworks. Dakota gathered her thoughts for a few instants, her face serious, before addressing them.
"Lupa has been summoned to Olympus," she said forcefully and clearly, "and she will not be returning anytime soon. As of this afternoon, and until her return, I am the commanding officer in Castra Roma and all officers will report to me."
Whispers followed her statement, quick and quiet. The questions and guesses crisscrossing the crowd, like mice darting through a field of wheat, were easy to guess, but hard to answer. They had a sense of urgency to them but there was also a wisp of excitement about the demigods, as when an audience stands in a concert whispering, knowing that something is about to come onstage. They knew that if Lupa was gone, things were going to change.
"Soldiers!" bellowed the praetor again, as whispers were beginning to turn into fully-fledged conversations. She was rewarded with absolute attention once again, and she continued. "Before she left," she said, "Lupa gave me some final orders. First and foremost, she told me that war is coming once again, as terrible as the Titan War or even worse. We do not yet know our enemy; we do not yet know where or how it will be fought, but we do know that it is almost upon us. Castra Roma has never faced a challenge unprepared and it will not happen under my watch. So, starting tomorrow, I am taking our status from standby, to imminent warfare."
This time, nobody spoke a word, not the smallest whisper met the praetor's statement. Silence dominated the night, unbroken and unbreakable as they all felt it, the whole weight and meaning of her words settling firmly on their shoulders. Muscles tensed, eyes narrowed, brows furrowed and every breath was held for just an instant longer as seriousness and dread descended on the entire auditorium like a cloak falling softly on top of them. They were at war again.
Aware of the change in her audience and seeing the gravity in their expressions, Dakota continued. "Accordingly," she said, "you will be receiving new training and vigilance schedules early tomorrow morning. Furthermore, we will be choosing Tribunes to lead us in battle once again. I need not remind you of the great honor and responsibility that becoming a Tribune entails." She paused for a second, as if she were remembering something, and she gave a small sigh before going on. "As you all know, Tribunes are usually chosen from amongst the Centurions but, unfortunately, the terms for the current Centurions expire at the end of the week. We don't have time to elect Centurions, then elect Tribunes and then replace the ones promoted. Therefore, the process will be done simultaneously, one Centurion will be chosen per cabin, as well as six Tribunes. I will personally select the Tribunes from anyone in the Legion whom I think will lead our cohorts best. I expect you to be ready, and willing, to serve."
A tall guy from the leftmost part of the crowd raised his hand and waved it gently.
"Yes," said Dakota.
"How do we know that there will be war?" he asked simply. "How are we going to prepare if we don't know who or what we're fighting?"
"Lupa has informed me of it," said Dakota. "She wouldn't tell me more, but I trust her and I have my orders. She gazed at the crowd again. "As to how we will be training, it will be an intense all-round training from now on. You though hell week was tough last year? Well we're going into permanent hell, and I will have all of you on full alert, ready to move out within the hour. Is that clear?"
No one seemed to be willing to answer or contradict her again, and only silence greeted her question. "Fine, then," she said. "Now, don't think we are completely ignorant of the situation, there have been troubling signs for several weeks and we have come up with a plan of action on several fronts. Patrols are going to increase, we will be sending scouts out and I expect the forges to work around the clock. And also, we are going have a quest."
There was a murmur of unrest again, and Dakota had to wait a few seconds before she was able to speak again. "I know the Cumaean Sybil isn't here," she said, "so, unless she shows up very soon, this quest will have no warning of its outcome. There will be three campers on the team, who will be chosen during this week. There will be an archer, a scout and a melee fighter and I will be choosing them personally based on past and present performance. So, if you want to go, you're gonna have to show me you want it."
A hand immediately flew into the air, from a girl with piercing amber eyes and long brown hair.
"Yes, Hazel," said Dakota.
"Where will they be going?" she asked.
"The maze," answered Dakota. "The details will be given only to the chosen team, but they will be going down to find something down there that was lost, or hidden, by the gods millennia ago. I believe it will be crucial to winning the war."
Hazel's eyes lit up, like she'd just been given the best gift she could have asked for and smiled at Dakota, who simply nodded back at her. She then turned towards the crowd again and turned to look at Percy behind her, before speaking again.
"As you may or may not know," she said, "some new campers arrived today, Jamie Bell, Liam Cavendish and Percy Jackson. All of you, stand up and step forward."
Jamie and Liam stood up, slightly nervous, and made themselves visible. At the same time, Percy stepped forward and stood next to Dakota. "Liam and Jamie," said Dakota, pointing at them, "have gone through their initiation and have joined Castra Roma as Munifex soldiers. Liam has already been claimed as a son of Apollo and I'm sure Jamie will be claimed soon. I expect all of you to make them feel welcome."
She paused again as everyone noticed that Percy had been left out and turned to stare at him. "Percy," said the praetor, her eyes turning on him, "went through his trials in Mission Peak and, due to his performance, was admitted by Vesta on probation. He has therefore not joined the Legion and is here on trial. For now, he will join us in training and for meals and I expect you all to treat him fairly. However, on Lupa's orders he will not be given privileged information, nor can any of our secrets or techniques be revealed to him. Maybe someday, if he proves himself, he will be admitted into camp, but that is something for Vesta and Lupa to decide. Percy you can sit down, now."
Jamie felt furious as she watched Percy walk quietly towards her, his face downcast and worried. He sat down next to her and looked forward, absolutely serious. With that introduction, Dakota had just singled him out as the most undesirable person in the whole of camp and, if soldiers were as unforgiving as she thought they were, he was not going to get through the first day. Angrily, she stood up, raised her hand and spoke out before being recognized.
"You haven't said where he'll be staying," said Jamie, her voice ringing out throughout the amphitheatre, "nor what Lupa told you both this afternoon."
Dakota fixed her with a steely glare that spoke volumes and said "you can't speak up whenever you want to, Jamie. I understand you are new here, but we don't stand for disrespect in Castra Roma. Now, I have one more announcement…
"You haven't answered the question!" said Jamie loudly.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and heard Percy saying, "it's OK, Jamie, let it go."
"No, it's not OK," replied Jamie. She then addressed Dakota directly. "You can't just treat him like that and not explain! What did Lupa tell you? Why can't he be a camper?"
Dakota gave her one of coldest stares she had ever felt. "I did warn you," she told Jamie as she turned to look at some of the soldiers behind her. "Dan, Isabel, would you please escort Jamie to Mercury cabin? She'll be staying there tonight and we can discuss her insubordination tomorrow."
Two people stood up behind Jamie and grabbed both of her arms. "Come on," said the guy, presumably Dan. "Don't make this any worse than it has to be."
Both soldiers tried to push her forward but she started to struggle, getting madder and madder all the time. They were larger than she was, but they were having a hard time making her move and they had only gotten her halfway through the amphitheatre, passing by its centre, close to where the praetor was. Seeing her stubbornness and disregard for orders, Dakota lost her temper completely. She marched towards her, hair flying and eyes blazing, evidently ready to give her the rant of a lifetime. As she watched her approaching, Jamie's temper got the better of her. She felt the energy again, accumulating and swirling all around her. She summoned it, almost unknowingly, without really meaning to, just out of pure fury.
Dakota reached her, filling her lungs for an all-out military rant.
"JAMIE BELL!" she shouted, "THIS IS NOT…"
And that was all she was able to get out. In that instant, Jamie released the energy she had been harnessing and Dakota was blasted away, actually twirling a few times in the air before landing. It wasn't as powerful an explosion as the one she had summoned in the sea, but it was still strong enough to send the praetor some 15 feet in the air, making her fall flat on her back in the middle of the amphitheatre. At the same time, Dan and Isabel were also thrown away from her, landing a few feet on either side, dazed and confused.
The crowd roared as they saw their praetor flying and most teenagers stood up, ready to climb down from the stands to grab her again. Several soldiers jumped from the stands and landed on the ground, walking firmly in her direction. But then, just as Dakota was getting back on her feet, the incoming avalanche was stopped by a powerful bright light that flashed above Jamie's head. The light shone a powerful purple, searing everyone's eyes and forcing them into a full stop.
When Jamie was finally able to raise her head, she saw the symbol clearly and finally, after so log, received an answer that she thought she had known for some time now. Above her head, clearly visible for everyone, there was the shape of a crossroads, made up of three different ways. In front of it there was the shape of three women standing back to back and holding torches, with three dogs sitting at her feet.
Dakota raised her hand and the soldiers stopped their push towards them. There was a full minute of silence, during which everyone stared at the symbol, which shined with ever-growing strength, blinding them, until it gave out as suddenly as if someone had blown a candle. Whispers sprung among the campers once again and some actually pointed at her and, for some reason, to the Mission Peak and then to the west. Just when Jamie was about to ask what they were pointing at, Dakota stepped forward and spoke loudly.
"You have been claimed as a child of the gods," she said with a trace of anger still lurking in the depths of her voice. "Hail, Jamie Bell. Daughter of Trivia, goddess of magic, witchcraft and sorcery. Lady of the Crossroads."
There was silence again. Dakota approached her and spoke quietly into her ear. "Our traditions and rules state that you have to be taken to your cabin now and introduced to camp by one of your brothers or sisters. So, you are going to go, quietly. We'll talk more tomorrow." She turned to one of her fallen guards, helped her up and said "Go on, Isabel. Take your sister to your cabin and show her around. I will be there early tomorrow."
Then, she walked to the centre of the amphitheatre.
"The rest of you," she said loudly. "You are dismissed! Lights out is in one hour!"
Before everyone left, Dakota walked over to Percy and said, "Percy, come with me. I need to ask you something."
Hope you liked it. I noticed there are several new readers: caligurl, Jamie miche, luveitall. Thanks for reading.
Please review !