Percy opened his eyes – and wished he hadn't. He was lying on the cold hard ground by an empty leaf filled pool in a the middle of some kind of ruin freezing to death instead of being tucked snug in his bed at – whoa! His mind was a blank. He had no idea where he belonged except that it sure wasn't here. He got up fast and without thinking about it reached into his pocket took out a cheap plastic pen and uncapped it. Part of him was suitably astonished when it grew into a golden glowing sword but another part had been expecting exactly that and felt much better with the perfectly balanced weight at the end of his arm like it was part of him. Then he saw the first wolf.
He automatically raised his pen-sword to guard and maneuvered to put a wall at his back. More wolves appeared, sliding out of the shadows under the open arches down each side of the long pool. They were everywhere. Okay this was not good. His eyes flicked around counting the enemy, noting positions, studying the ground, calculating the best way out of this mess –
"Good, very good, son of Neptune."
Percy jumped inside but not outside. He didn't alter his defensive stance but let his eyes slide sideways towards the voice. A woman was standing at the head of the pool, a big woman. Not fat but tall. Very, very tall and wearing something dark and close fitted with this wild mane of hair and eyes that glowed in the dark just like the wolves' only hers were silver instead of green. The wolves by the way were ignoring her entirely in favor of Percy.
"Uh, I'm guessing you're with the wolves, right?" he said. "How about calling them off before somebody gets hurt?"
There was enough light for him to see she smiled but it wasn't anything like a human smile even if the face was human. "Put up your sword, pup, we mean you no harm."
Percy lowered the sword falling into an 'at rest' position that would allow him to count-attack at an instants notice; "No offense, lady, but not until they put their teeth away!"
Luckily she wasn't offended. "Even better," she said. "You have little to learn from me, Percy Jackson, in so far as proper caution is concerned."
"Could we start with who you are and where this is?"
"You stand on sacred ground, demigod," she answered. "This is the House of the Wolf. Here your journey begins. How it ends depends on you. Be strong and you will rediscover all you have lost. Show weakness and you die." She eyed him thoughtfully. "I do not think you will die. You are worthy to be a son of Rome."
"I am Lupa, Mother and Trainer of demigods. Already you are skilled but I can and I will teach you more."
Yeah, he was a demigod. Somehow Percy knew that, just like he knew his name and that the blade he held was called Riptide. "Didn't Rome fall like a thousand years ago?"
Lupa's lip curled. "Don't be foolish, pup. Rome never fell. Her gods still rule and sire demigods to defend the Flame. In due time their fate brings them here to the Wolf House, to be claimed –"
Claimed…that word carried a lot a weight, like it meant something special to Percy.
"- and taught by me, as I claimed and taught Romulus and Remus long ago, as I now claim you, Percy Jackson, as a pup of the Capitoline Wolf."
"Ho-kay…" Percy said cautiously. "Uh, what exactly does that mean?"
There was a little growl in Lupa's voice as she answered and he got the feeling that maybe asking any more questions just now wouldn't be a very smart idea. "It means, stupid pup, that you are my cub and a member of my pack! Now come, we have talked enough for one night!" She strode down the narrow bank of the pool and past Percy who hastily got out of her way then fell in behind, capping Riptide and putting it back in his pocket. She led the way out of the ruins and through a stand of redwoods to the bank of a fairly large creek. They followed it, with the wolves trotting in front, behind and around them, across a stretch of what looked like vineyards and into the forest on the other side. Percy found himself moving almost as surefooted and silently as Lupa herself. He was in a creepy forest, in the middle of the night surrounded by potential dangers – and for some weird reason he felt right at home. That said something about the life he couldn't remember that he really didn't want to think about.
Lupa stopped so abruptly that he almost walked into her. "You may sleep here for tonight at least, pup," she said, and Percy saw she was holding open the flap of a tent for him.
Sleep sounded good. Maybe the world would make more sense in the morning. He ducked inside and nearly tripped over a wolf lying across the threshold, it raised its head to give him a shiny green eyed look and other gleams showed themselves further inside the tent.
"Good night, Percy Jackson," said Lupa and let the flap fall closed behind him.
Percy stood very still as the green glowing eyes extinguished themselves pair by pair leaving him in the pitch dark surrounded by the heavy breathing of sleeping wolves. He could either stand here all night or he could accept his place was in the dog house and catch some zees. Seeing as his toothy roomies could have torn him to bits maybe half a dozen times over while he was hesitating here Percy decided on the latter course.
He edged carefully around the door wolf and lowered himself to hands and knees. The tent floor seemed to be covered with some kind of straw matting then his groping hand found fur. He snatched it back but no eyes opened in the dark so he chanced feeling further. It was some kind of rug with more piled on top of it. Percy abruptly remembered just how cold he was and crawled into the furs. In moments he was asleep.
Any hope that it would all turn out to some kind of crazy dream disappeared the minute he opened his eyes the next morning. The canvas roof above him was held in place by saplings roughly shaped into a frame. There was only one wolf, sitting with lolling tongue by the flap. And sitting in a nest of furs on the other side of an empty firepit was a small kid, maybe seven or eight.
"Ave, Percy Jackson," said the kid.
"Uh, hi. How did you –?"
"Greyfur told me," the kid answered, nodding towards the wolf. "My name is Quintus Cornelius Priscus Tiberianus."
"That's a lot of name," was all Percy could think of to say.
"You can call me Quintus." The little boy with the big name gave Percy a long considering look. "You're awful old for a pup."
"Why'd your parents leave it so long?"
Percy had to swallow a sudden lump in his throat. "I don't know. I don't remember them."
Quintus' face changed. "That must have been rough, growing up alone in the mortal world."
"I don't know," Percy said helplessly. "I don't remember anything -" then, looking into the kid's wide storm grey eyes he did. A girl with eyes just that color and blond princess curls. He could remember her laugh. Remember her throwing her arms around his neck and kissing him. He even knew her name – Annabeth. He sat up: "You're a son of Athena aren't you?"
Quintus looked surprised. "I'm a legacy of Minerva. She was my Avia's mother. My mother is a Mercuria Celera."
All of that was Greek – or rather Latin – to Percy though somehow he knew 'Avia' meant grandmother. "Do you know a daughter of Athena named Annabeth? Is she here?"
"No and no," Quintus frowned. "Why do you keep calling Minerva by her Greek name?"
"I – I don't know," Percy thought about it. "That's just what comes out of my mouth."
"Well stop it," said Quintus. "We call her Minerva."
"Okay," said Percy not wanting to make waves.
"Do you know who your godly parent or ancestor is?"
"Uh, yeah, Lupa called me a son of Neptune."
"Wow," Quintus looked mildly impressed. "We don't get many of those," he frowned again. "In fact I don't think I've ever heard of a Neptunian in the legion or the city."
Somehow that didn't surprise Percy. He had a feeling he was used to being alone. And yet when he thought about Neptune he felt something… a kind of warm glow like the memory of a smile. "I think I've met my dad," he said slowly. "I think… I think he loves me."
"Sure he does," said Quintus like he was shocked Percy could doubt it. "The gods love all their kids, no matter how many generations removed. They need us too, to guard the Flame and keep the Tradition alive."
"Right," said Percy. He didn't doubt a word the kid was saying, any more than he had doubted Lupa last night, but took some assimilating. "So – this is where we learn how to do all that?"
"Right," said Quintus. "Welcome to Camp Wolfhouse."