Kelly halted the cohort on the lee side of the hill with the pine tree to dress the line and make a quick inspection of armor and gear; these sloppy Greeks were going to see what a real military force looked like! The marching column was four across, each file consisting of one centuria headed by its decuranus carrying the standard followed by a legionary with the banner. At the front of the column Kelly was flanked by the cohort standard and banner carried by two picked legionaries with her three centurions in a row behind her. Once she was satisfied with the looks of her command Kelly led them in a wide circle around the base of the hill, well clear of the dragon coiled sleepily around the foot of the tree. Percy had said that it would ignore them unless they tried to touch the Fleece but Kelly didn't feel like trying her luck – she preferred to save it for dealing with the Greeks.
A valley cradled by wooded hills opened before them, much smaller than the valley of New Rome. There was no city and no military camp but Greek style buildings of white marble gleamed here and there with a cluster of extremely strange looking buildings near a lake fed by a river flowing down from the hills and through it to empty into the Long Island sound. Yeah, Percy had said they had a beach. He'd also mentioned the forest, big, dense and dark, taking up maybe a third of the valley. Stocked with monsters he'd said, that should be fun anyway. Gravel crunched underfoot as they marched down a track that didn't deserve the name of road to form up in front of the big blue house with wrap around porches and four floors of windows glaring down at them.
Kelly shivered fighting down the urge to order an assault, or maybe a retreat. Jason had warned her about that; the sense of being on enemy ground was almost overwhelming for all they were invited guests. A bunch of kids and fauns, all wearing orange t-shirts, abruptly lost interest in their volleyball game and moved closer staring at the legionaries. Kelly was careful to ignore them as she climbed the steps of the porch to knock at the front door of the Big House. Had Percy felt anywhere near this threatened at Camp Jupiter?
Nobody answered the door. Kelly was about to knock again when the clickity-clack of hooves sounded from the far end of the building. The next second a centaur came around the corner. He had the lower body of a white stallion and his human half was wearing a t-shirt emblazoned with the words; 'World's Best Centaur'. Kelly forced herself to let go of her sword hilt. This was Chiron, a completely different brand of centaur from the ones they'd fought.
He came to a full stop several feet away from her, and cleared his throat, obviously none too comfortable himself; "Ah-hem."
Kelly saluted smartly. "Master Chiron? Second Tribune Kelly Martinia Everes and the Fourth Cohort of the XIIth Fulminata, you've been expecting us."
"Ah, yes. Indeed." His eye fell to the sword at her side and blinked. "Dear me, isn't that –"
"Gorgophone? Yes sir it is." Kelly drew the ancient blade of Perseus and showed it to him. "I'm a Perseid, sir, on my mother's side, as well as a legacy of Mars." That was a big reason why she and the Fourth had drawn this assignment. Percy and Jason had hoped her Greek descent would help her feel more at home at Camp Half-Blood – too bad they'd been wrong about that. "Where would you like us to set up tents, sir?"
Chiron looked about as uncomfortable as Kelly felt. "Follow me please."
The Fourth marched past the volleyball court across a wooden foot bridge and into what clearly passed for a forum in this camp – or maybe that should be 'agora' seeing as these were Greeks. There didn't seem to be any shops or snack bars just a gaggle of the strangest looking barracks Kelly had ever seen and, at the far end, a pair of small temples. The lightning bolts on the bronze doors of one and peacocks and pomegranates carved into the frieze of the other made it clear which gods they belonged to.
Kelly kissed her hand and murmured; "Ave Jupiter Optimus Maximus, Ave Juno Moneta." Behind her the rest of the cohort followed suit except for the standard bearers who couldn't spare a hand. They passed between the temple of Juno and a barracks with a grass roof into an open field with the lake to the east and a roofless circle of tall white columns crowning a low hill due north.
"I thought here," Chiron said. "As you can see it's convenient to both the showers and the mess hall. It should be large enough…"
Kelly measured the space with her eye and nodded, "Plenty of room thank you, sir."
The engineers marked out the limits of the camp on the green grass then stood back. Pompey Liberanus, Kelly's senior decuranus, closed his eyes in concentration. He stretched out his arms in front of him palms together, then slowly drew them apart. The turf inside the square drawn by the engineers split down the middle then rolled back like a carpet baring the brown earth and everybody else sprang into action; two legionaries from each centuria set to work putting up the tents while the rest pulled off their mail shirts, hung them and their helmets on their spears and started to dig. Twenty minutes later Pompey rolled the grass back down into the five foot deep ditch defining the limit of the camp and up over the five foot high earthen wall behind it. Inside four neat squares of two man pup-tents were divided by wide dirt roads running from gate to gate, front to back and side to side, with the big principia tent at the crossroads in the middle flanked by officers' quarters. Looking over the camp's rampart Kelly saw they'd collected quite a crowd of orange t-shirted kids, most with their mouths hanging open, and grinned. Take that you sloppy Greeks!
The crowd shifted as a tall athletic girl shoved kids out of her way making for the praetoriangate. Kelly walked down the steps cut in the obverse face of the earth wall arriving at almost exactly the same moment as the other girl.
She was tall with brown hair tied back by a red bandana. The stark planes of her face, handsome rather than beautiful, and the reddish tinge to her eyes told Kelly exactly who this girl's godly parent had to be. And sure enough: "Clarisse LaRue, daughter of Ares."
"Kelly Martinia Everes, legacy of Mars," she responded shaking the proffered hand, "Which makes us relatives I guess."
Clarisse looked around, impressed but trying not to show it. "Planning on sitting out a siege?"
"Digging in is SOP," Kelly explained. "You know how it is, the one time you don't entrench is always the one time you really should have."
Clarisse nodded. Of course she understood. "Chiron sent me to show you around."
"Thanks, we could do with a quick orientation." Kelly raised her voice to a bellow; "Officer's call! the Porta praetoria!"
Exactly five seconds later the two of them were surrounded by the officers of the Fourth. "Centurions with me," Kelly said crisply. "Pompey you're in command; assemble for orders and announcements at Sext." He snapped a salute and the decurani faded away leaving the three centurions. "Clarisse LaRue, my officers: Vicki Doolittle, daughter of Victory. Felix Silano, son of Fortuna. Cara Lightfoot, daughter of Vortumnus."
"Uh, hello," the daughter of Ares said awkwardly. "Um… let's start with the cabins."
"So, um, these are the cabins, gods on the right, goddesses on the left." Clarisse said with a vague wave round the agora.
"Percy said you split campers up according to their godly parent," Kelly said. "Doesn't that make for uneven distribution?"
"Oh yeah," Clarisse shrugged. "Some cabins like Hermes or Apollo or even my dad Ares have up to twenty campers. Others like Hades have only one and some, like Zeus's, are empty." She looked at the Romans curiously. "I'm guessing that's not the way you do it?"
"No. Legionaries are assigned to cohort and centuria depending on where there's an opening," Kelly answered skipping over the politics involved. "You don't have legacies here do you?"
Clarisse looked puzzled. "What?"
"Descendants of demi-gods," Kelly explained. "Like me. My grandfather was a son of Mars and I'm also a legacy of Jupiter through my descent from Perseus."
"We only have first generation half-bloods here," Clarisse answered frowning. "The gods don't have DNA you know. We've always figured that our kids, if we had any, would be normal."
"Maybe they are," Vicki said, thinking visibly. "I mean the Perseids and Heraclids are sort of special cases aren't they? Jupiter – or Zeus - gave them particular gifts. Same deal with Neptune and Frank Zhang's family from what he said."
"Yeah, but DNA or no grandchildren and even more distant descendants of the Roman gods aren't normal," Kelly argued. "I mean look at me, I've got Martian powers and I'm his great granddaughter. And Pompey's got Cererian powers just like his dad."
"Maybe our gods play by different rules," Felix said thoughtfully. "I mean they are different in their Roman forms from the Greek – according to Jason and Percy anyway. So far they're the only ones to see both."
"More than half the legion is legacies," Cara put in. "And some of us are both. I mean my mom is a legacy of Mercury but my father is one of the minor Roman gods. I don't think he has a Greek form."
"A lot of us are descended from more than one god," Kelly agreed, laughed. "I've got a friend who's got most of the pantheon in her family tree."
"That doesn't happen here," Clarisse said, "at least I don't think it does." She gave her head a shake, dismissing the subject. "How about I show you the arena?"
The arena was cool and so was the chariot track but the armory was amazing. The Romans could barely tear themselves away. Clarisse also explained about 'capture the flag', the Greek version of war games, and that monster hunting in the forest was positively encouraged.
"Wow," Vicki said more than a little enviously. "Lucky you, we don't have anything like that in New Rome."
Kelly however had noticed a fairly disturbing lack; "Where are your temples?"
Clarisse rolled her eyes. "You've been talking to Annabeth haven't you? She's drawn up blue-prints and everything but Chiron says we just can't afford it especially with all of the new cabins.
Kelly had not in fact been talking to Annabeth Chase about temples or anything else. "So – no temples?"
"We've gotten along fine without one this long," said Clarisse.
The Romans exchanged looks. "You mean you don't make sacrifices?" Kelly asked finding that very hard to believe.
"Sure we do, at every meal."
The centurions all looked at their tribune. Kelly was a priest after all, the priest of Mars. "Will that be all right?" Cara wondered, frowning.
Kelly thought about it and nodded. "Yeah, I think so. When in the Greek camp do as the Greeks do. I mean the priests will still be fulfilling the terms of our contracts back home."
"Your what?" Now it was Clarisse looking incredulous.
"Our contractual obligations to our gods," Kelly explained, "established by Romulus back at the beginning of Rome."
"You got contracts with the gods?"
It was hard to say who was the most astounded.
"Well…you're Greeks after all." Kelly said at last. "Romans are different. We're very legal minded. We like things all written out and signed."
"Different," Clarisse agreed, "very different."
"I really hate to bring this up," Felix said. "But I think our fearless leader has missed an even more important lack here. I haven't seen any coffee shops."
"We've got a camp store in the Big House," Clarisse answered. "They don't sell coffee though."
"Okay – panic time!" said Felix.
"Not good!" Vicki agreed. Cara just hugged herself looking horrified.
"You gotta understand," Kelly explained to a bewildered Clarisse. "The legion runs on coffee. We can't live without it."
"You can get whatever you want to drink at meals no problem." The Greek girl answered, trying to sound reassuring.
"Problem! What about between meals?" Felix all but wailed.
Clarisse was stymied. "Okay. We'll talk to Chiron. I'm sure he can get you some if it's that important."
"Trust me," Kelly said. "It is. The last thing we need is a cohort of caffeine starved legionaries!"