I wake up in a camp run by a werewolf
Even before I was drowned, I was having a rotten day.
I woke up in a room full of unfamiliar faces. More a tent, actually; a red tent. The people around me were all either in armour, red t-shirts carrying weapons, or lying in the beds on either side of me with bandages. My head felt heavier than a ton of bricks, and as I tried to sit up I collapsed and fell back down onto my pillow.
I tried to think about how I'd come to be there. I had been cold. Vey cold, but that was all I could recall. I groaned with pain. One of the red-shirts' faces turned to look at me. Only when she did, did I realize the strangest thing about the setting. Around me were teenagers, many of them wounded. They seemed to be around my age. What was that again? 13? 14? 15? It struck me that this scene felt quite familiar. How?
The girl who looked at me had strange expression. Not concern, or pity, or sympathy. More like she was waiting for me to get better simply so that she could torture me later. The red light of the tent reflected cruelly in her eyes. Her eyes were a strange colour. In fact, now that I looked at them more closely, they seemed grey, almost the colour of storm clouds. Her hair was blonde, and combined with her athletic body and tan made her look like the kind of person who spend a lot of their time on the beach, if not for her eyes, which gave me the impression that she had a very strong opinion in everything in the world, and that one of her strongest was about me. She looked like she was actively plotting my downfall.
She came over to me, holding a very dangerous-looking blade.
"Percy Jackson," she said slowly, threateningly, "If you do not tell me what you have done with Jason, I will kill you very gruesomely while you sleep."
I didn't doubt her for a second.
"How do you know my name?" I asked suspiciously.
"It was written on the inside of your shirt collar. Now where is Jason?"
I felt stupid for a second, and then tried to remember if I knew anyone named Jason. No. I tried to remember if I knew anyone. No. I tried to remember who I was. Nothing.
"I don't know who this Jason is. I don't know who I am."
"You will tell us. First though, now that you are awake I had better take you to the authorities."
I didn't like the sound of that. For some reason I got the impression that me and authorities didn't mix very well.
"I think actually I might stay here," I asked hopefully.
"It will not exactly swing them in your favour if you show weakness. They will also be very disappointed. We don't hold with weakness here. You'd better come."
Something about her seemed stiff, and I realized that she didn't normally talk this formally. Not to her friends, and I had no intention of becoming her friend. Then again, she did not seem like a good enemy to have. I decided I had better go with her.
However, when I tried to stand up, my legs turned to jelly. I was too weak.
"You have to sit in a wheel chair."
I didn't like that idea. It was bad enough having to be in the same room as her. Being weak, helpless and in her control was not exactly on the top of my to-do list. My hand instinctively reached for my pocket. In it, I felt my pen. It was important. Yes, the pen was a secret; they didn't know I had it. It was my only weapon. Anaklusmos. Riptide.
I got into the wheelchair. I didn't see the point in arguing and angering her further.
"One question though: Who are you?"
"I am Reyna," she said proudly, straightening up a little, "Daughter of Minerva, Goddess of Wisdom and Strategic Warfare, the basis of the Roman Empire."
"You mean Athena," I corrected.
"No," said Reyna, "I suggest you never insult anyone like that ever again. If you go so far as to even suggest that my mother is Greek ever again,I personally will see to your gruesome death."
I was shocked by her reaction. She reminded me of someone, but I couldn't remember whom. She seemed like a mixture between Ares and Athena, but much more disciplined in every way. Her posture was straight, like that of a soldier, and as she pushed me outside I realized that the whole area looked like a very spacious Roman army camp. There were a lot of tents, each the same size and uniform rectangular shape, but of different colours. Waving in the wind on top of each tent was a flag. On the flags were symbols, and I recognized them to be the symbols of the gods. A caduceus on one meant Hermes, a lightening bolt on the other meant Zeus. No, Jupiter.
I wondered why Reyna had been so offended. I couldn't really remember enough to get a clear idea. However, I did remember that one of the main differences between the Romans and the Greeks was that the Romans were much more a strict fighting force than the Greeks. The Greeks were more philosophical.
I must be in ancient Rome or something.
After all, Romans had to be soldiers for 25 years, might as well start young. This seemed to make sense to me until I remembered that only men served in the Roman army. In the back of my mind I heard a girl's voice saying,
"How sexist is that!"
It seemed to be a memory, but it was unconnected to anything else. That didn't matter really; it was comforting just to have a memory at all. A past.
Surrounding the tents was a huge wooden fence. At the gate there was young girl, who could only have been 9, doing sentry duty . She stood still and dead straight, like a very well-trained soldier, or a pole with eyes. Probably a mixture of both.
Outside the wall was a forest of pines, and I could hear the voices of children running through it. They were shouting, but they didn't seem to be playing, more shouting orders and trying to scare off the enemy. Mixed in with that was a mixture of cries of pain, and hisses, growls and yelps of victory.
Maybe this is just military camp with one demigod, I thought hopefully, Maybe this is a perfectly normal place. My lucky day.
But as usual, (at least I thought it was usual, I couldn't remember) my luck was non-existent. I knew I was way out of the way of perfectly normal places when I saw a satyr eating the corner of a tent. I knew what a satyr was, so I must have seen them before somewhere, but this one seemed somehow stronger than any satyrs I knew about.
"You're taking this well," commented Reyna. "Most mortals run screaming when they see a 'living myth'."
"I'm not a mortal," I responded, "More of a half-mortal."
"Really?" said Reyna, suddenly interested, "Who is your parent?"
I got the impression that it was something important, and if I did tell her then my chances of survival would fall dramatically. Not that this realization was of any importance. I couldn't tell her anyway, I didn't remember.
"I wish I knew."
"So you haven't been claimed?"
"No, I think I have, I just don't remember."
"Why don't you remember?"
"How am I supposed to know that? I have amnesia or something. I can barely remember my name."
"Do you remember anything?"
"I remember that I was cold, and I was alone . . ." I had been about to say that I had been scared but I remembered that Reyna had said that weakness was frowned upon. Somehow I got the feeling that she wouldn't smile upon fear.
She led me through the complex of tents to the largest one in the camp.
I knew that it was layered with magic as soon as I saw it. Not that I completely saw it. I more sensed it. It was almost completely invisible, the only thing that I could see that made it any different from the tents it was in front of was that I could see the wind waving it slightly, so that the material moved, almost have a rippling effect on the chameleon-style camouflage.
I could barely see it, but I could feel the magic emanating off it. It gave off an aura of the kind of a power that your parents and teachers hold over you, a kind of 'Your teacher only gives you work to make you better' or 'Mother knows best'. It felt like the power of a really condescending king, but a lot more powerful. Inside the tent there was noise. I heard a voice which I thought was familiar, but wasn't quite sure. It was a bit whiny, but also very powerful.
There was another voice, a smooth voice that seemed to speak in a bit of a howl. It sounded like natural opera. Abruptly the voice became rough, and the smooth opera became a growl.
"I don't care how many rules you have already broken by giving me this limited, useless peice of irrelevent information, I need to know what is going on!" The voice was strong and husky, and left no question of disobedience. Except if you were the man with the high voice.
"I can't tell you. If you were to act on the knowledge it would rip both sides apart."
"But we wouldn't be two sides, we'd be one, that's the beauty of it. Together, we would be indestructible."
"Indestructible until you destroyed one-another. The very way the children think is different!"
I didn't know what they were arguing about, but they were having a debate hot enough to solve the energy crisis.
Reyna steered me round the tent, until I saw a flap in the fabric. I thought she was going to push me inside straight away, but instead she waited respectfully at the tent entrance for the people inside to notice us.
There was a certain charge and power to the air. It seemed almost static, and as I sat up my orange t-shirt crackled. I looked down. I was wearing tattered grey jeans and an orange t-shirt that was so dirty and burned that I could barely make out that some parts of it had writing. It was very hard to distinguish the letters from the rest of the top, and half or them were practically singed off anyway. It looked something like Cano Hiof-Picod.
I don't know. It made no sense at all.
"Someone is trying to bring us together, and it was going to happen sooner or later. We might as well bring the sides together in a truce, instead of a bloody battle.
"Someone," said the other voice mockingly. "It could be anyone! If we come together then there would be a huge war and lots of blood. Tragedy is really, really bad for parties, and after all these troubles I really need is an increase in godly partying to bring me up to normal party level. Please?"
"No. Inform me fully and then I will decide. Besides, this isn't about you. I wish you would develop some interest in something other than partying, wine and dolphins. It would be healthy for you to get a look at the wider picture."
"Argh! You're just lucky I have enough patience not to blast you."
I could almost sense the owner of the whiny voice going purple with rage.
"Your anger management is improving the longer you go without alcohol. You managed more than ten minutes straight without threatening me. Continue at this rate and Jupiter may unground you."
I heard a chair fall over as a tall, slightly crazy-looking man in a leopard pattern Hawaii style T-shirt brushed passed me. As I predicted, his face was a brighter purple than even those funny-looking grapes. He was in such a huff that he didn't see where he was going and stubbed his toe on the wheel of my chair. His tight form fell, and he was soon short and chubby.
He cursed a string of Greek words that I magically understood but won't bother to translate because I would just have to censor them.
He quickly recollected his thoughts, and once again gained control and changed his form to that of a lazy, jolly athlete.
After he was done polluting the area with words that even the foulest ancient Greek wouldn't know, as well as turning into a lazy athlete ,he turned to look at me. His face lit up with surprise.
"Well I never …" he muttered in wonder. Then he whispered in ancient Greek,
"Beware, Cousin, forces more powerful than you expect are at work. Also, get a new T-shirt. That one is dangerous. And remember, brat, I wasn't here."
There were a hundred questions I wanted to blurt out,
Who are you? Who am I? What's wrong with my T-shirt? But before I could, he was gone.
"What did he say?" asked Reyna. "Was that Bacchus? I mean Dionysus, I think is the Greek equivalent. Was he talking to you? Was it something to do with Jason? If it was I need to know. Tell me."
I didn't answer, I was busy thinking about what the man had said. But Reyna was working herself up now, and wasn't going to let the subject drop.
"It was, wasn't it? If it was please tell me. I need to know. I need to find Jason. Please." Her voice broke as she said it, and there was real pain in her eyes. She was pleading now, but I was too surprised by her reaction to tell her.
"I, I …" I stammered.
"Please," she said quietly, and a tear escaped from her eye. "Percy." Her use of my name sparked a reaction from me. I wasn't really sure what to say, so I said,
"So, we're on first name terms now," which made me sound like a real jerk. "He just told me that there were more powerful forces at work than I thought, that there was something wrong with my T-shirt, and that I shouldn't tell anyone that he was there."
I omitted the part about being his cousin. That was too important to trust anyone with.
"Oh," said Reyna after a moment of thought, "So it wasn't about Jason. But still, you seem to need help. You are alone, unarmed, and surrounded by hostile forces. What's more, you are a half-blood. You are guaranteed to have dyslexia as well as ADHD; and to top it all up, the worst luck in the world. You help me find Jason, and you will have an ally who knows her way around life. Deal?."
She held out her hand, making it all seem very official. I held out mine and we shook.
"Deal. For better or for worse." Life was looking up. I wasn't alone.
But as I mentioned before, my luck never holds for more than ten seconds; because as soon as I found myself an ally, the weird voice inside called us in.
"Enter Reyna and prisoner."
That was strange. I didn't know I was a prisoner. I tried to think what the Romans did with prisoners, but all I could remember was that they became slaves. Not an appealing concept. Impulsively, I said,
"I'm not a prisoner."
"Well then what are you?" said the voice, stepping forwards.
As it moved into the dim light nearer the entrance, its features became apparent. I gasped in shock. It was a wolf, with vicious claws and teeth. Suddenly the growling in the forest seemed a lot more real.
The wolf had dark black fur, streaked with silver and dark brown. Its eyes were yellow-brown, almost golden, and seemed to glow in the dim light. The wolf had long legs, which I guess made it tall. I don't know. Can a wolf be tall? It certainly wasn't short. It also wasn't exactly skinny either, but not fat, just brawny. It had heavily muscled legs. I couldn't tell what size it really was through all that fur but it was certainly not small.
"You have not come here to fight us. You are not here to deliver a message and you are not here because you want to join our camp. Until we know what you are here for, and we decide what to do with you, you are ours. It is our responsibility to feed you, but you are not free to leave. You must do what we say. In other words, you are a prisoner."
I thought about this, and the idea wasn't appealing. After all, being a prisoner to a talking wolf did not sound like a good idea. Being a prisoner to people was bad enough, because then at least there was the Red Cross, or UN, or whatever. Animals had no rules. Then again, this was no ordinary animal; it was some kind of mythological monster.
It surprised me that this information did not surprise me. I think that most people never see anything like this anyway, so why should I have seen it? I probably got a big bump to the head to get this damn amnesia, so why wasn't I in a hospital bed with my mom beside me, and my dad busy speaking with the doctor. That would be fair. This certainly wasn't. What had I done to deserve this?
A few things sprang to mind at these thoughts:
1) I didn't belong to the mortal world, so
2) I had seen monsters before
3) The word 'dad' was a strange one, associated with water, pain and uncertainty
4) Hospital food was rubbish anyway, which made me painfully aware that
5) I was really hungry, which reminded me of my current situation because
6) That talking-wolf-thing looked ravenous.
Reyna looked at me expectantly, as if she was waiting for me to answer the wolf-thing. When I didn't, she said,
"Percy, this is Lupa."
I still didn't respond. Something about the way the wolf was looking at me was strange, as if it was deciding how useful I would be in a fight.
Reyna must have thought I had fallen asleep or something, because she pushed my shoulder to try to wake me up.
I looked at Lupa's face. She was scarred from many battles, but her eyes held the pride of many victories, and the wisdom of many successful fights that had been won using her strategies.
I wouldn't want to fight against her, but I wouldn't exactly want to fight for her. There was something about the way she held her head, so that she was always seeing what was underneath the surface, the interior. I felt oddly exposed under her gaze, and it wasn't a good feeling. It was like she knew all my secrets. She was deciding the best way to exploit me.
I had been looked at this way before.
"Athena always has a plan," said the same girls voice I had heard in that strange memory before.
Someone else had exploited me this way before, and I wasn't going to let it happen again. So as Lupa looked at me for my weaknesses, I searched for hers.
She was old, and used to doing things the same way. She was proud. She wouldn't admit defeat. She thought she knew best. Oh, and she was used to understanding people from one look. That was my greatest advantage. She couldn't look inside me for my secrets, because my secrets were hidden deeply inside me, so that even I could barely guess at them. She knew nothing about me, besides that I was a half-blood, and that I was alone.
I knew about her. She was the mother of Rome. She stood for discipline, military force, and survival of the fittest. And the fittest was always her.
Oh, and I knew that she had nursed the founders of Rome, Romulus and Remus, and that she didn't hold with weakness. If you were weak, you were out. She was the evil commander who wouldn't think twice about shooting you for cowardice.
Reyna must've thought I'd fallen asleep again, because she pressure-pointed my shoulder and then hit the side of my head to wake me up. I know that I wasn't responding, but was all that really necessary? I mean, just clap you hands in my ear or something.
You must know that I was in all kinds of pain. My head hurt, my legs hurt, my arms hurt. Hell, even my eyes hurt. Hey, I was exhausted, my whole body hurt. My mind seemed to hurt from trying to remember stuff, for the gods' sake, so don't judge too harshly.
After that, everything happened in a blur. I had pulled out Riptide and was holding it to Reyna's neck. She knew better than to move when so badly trapped.
But it didn't matter that she didn't move, because the next thing I knew I had heard a growling noise. Reyna was smart enough to move as soon as I heard the noise, but I was way too slow. Before I knew it I was on the floor, with a wolf's teeth around my neck. I could feel them tightening as they prepared to snap my neck. I waited for death. It didn't come.
Instead, in came two of the biggest, strongest, meanest-looking pig-faced kids I had ever seen. Thug number one had beady little eyes, and was obviously the boss of the two. Thug number two was slightly huger than him. He had a gaping, cavernous mouth, and hands with fingers that reminded me of sausages.
Ares, I thought miserably. Great.
Reyna yanked my sword out of my hand.
"Celestial Bronze," said Reyna. "Very powerful. He must have very high friends. Mount Olympus high. And he's very well trained. I'd say a son of an Olympian. Maybe Mars, Minerva, Apollo. Those are likely. Maybe even Hephaestus, but I doubt it."
She was sounding tough, but I heard through her formal tone that she was shaken, and felt betrayed. Hey, I'd feel betrayed if the guy I'd just made a deal with tried to kill me. I hadn't been trying to kill her, it had just been automatic, a reflex action. Its something that half-bloods do. She's a half-blood. She should have known better than to hit me unexpectedly. Reflex actions like that are something all half-bloods share.
"That's what keeps you alive in battle." It was the same voice I kept hearing. The voice was right though. And as well as that half-bloods have ADHD, another thing that keeps you alive in battle. And dyslexia. Our brains are hardwired for Ancient Greek. I guess though that these guys' brains are to busy hating Greece to read it. They're probably hardwired for Latin or something. Poor guys, Latin sucks.
I wondered where I had gotten my sword from.
'Friends in high places,' Reyna had said. That was comforting. 'Son of Mars,' not so comforting. I was pretty sure I couldn't be related to those Mars guys. I hoped I wasn't, they were not pretty.
Pig-eyed thug number one was holding me to the ground and idiot number two was punching his fist into his palm threateningly, as if he couldn't figure out anything better to do with his time. Lupa stepped away, and surveyed the scene. I had to escape. If I could get my weapon back then I could possibly get away. If I could just get to the forest then I might have a hope. No. I knew even before I made a break for it that I had no chance, but I wasn't going to just give up. I got the feeling that I had been in a lot of much worse situations. If I could just convince Lupa that I was useful, then I knew that she would let me live.
"I am powerful. I have powerful connections. My father will vouch for me. Like Reyna said, I have high friends. I can repay you, if you let me free." It wasn't the kind of thing that I would naturally say, but I was desperate. I had to come up with something quick, so that was the best I could do.
Looking back, that was probably the worst thing I could have done. She would probably have kept me anyway, I was a mystery, and as she had said, a prisoner. I was already useful. I was important. Proclaiming that I knew who my father was made me even more important.
"I think," said Lupa, "That we need to find out exactly what is going on. So tell me, Percy, who is your father?"
"I don't know," I answered truthfully.
"If I were to test you, to find out how much pain you can manage, would your answer remain the same?"
"Yes," I said, sounding much more confidant than I felt. "I only wish I knew more."
"But you know it is a father?"
"How? If you don't remember a mother, how do you know it is a father?"
"Just have a feeling."
"That makes it easier," Interrupted Reyna. "We now only need to test him for Mercury, Apollo, Mars and Vulcan. Percy, we are going to find out who you father is. Some of the tests will be painful, and if done to someone who is not the child of the god we are testing for, may kill you. Do you accept?"
Survival of the fittest, I thought miserably. I have no choice