Sep 29, 2022 3:20 AM
bella, daughter of hecate
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Bella has a bunch of postcards from her mom. She gets a few of them every year, starting when she was a baby and her dad had to protect them from her little baby hands and little baby gums. Now she keeps them clothespinned to a string that goes wall to wall to wall in her bedroom. On one side, Paris, Rome, Mogadishu, the Caymans, Ixtapa Zihuatanejo, Berlin, Hyderabad, Shanghai, Athens, Boston, Manaus, Costa Rica, Helsinki, Lhasa, Tokyo, Johannesburg, Cairo, Cuba, Phoenix, Toronto, Versailles, Las Vegas, Angkor Wat, Disneyworld, Sydney, San Francisco, Singapore, Barcelona, Seoul, Dubai, Vancouver. On the other side, short messages. Sometimes just, "XOXO Mom <3!" Sometimes, particularly on the Disneyworld one, "wish you were here!" Once "your mom kills at trivia night!" Once "your ????cousin???? says hi, or he would if he weren't a tool!" Once "they didn't have postcards at the last place I went to, can you believe it? Get with the times!"

Bella figures a lot of people have single parents. A single dad is more unusual but he does a good job. He's let her more or less homeschool herself after a couple years in regular school prove difficult - Bella's smart, her teachers acknowledge this, but they live in a small town where nobody's trained to handle dyslexia and once she's at the point of putting audiobooks on with headphones there's not much further point in being in a classroom. So Bella does audiobooks and stubborns her way through websites with liberal use of text to speech and refines her own personal dyslexia alphabet while slowly picking up the tricks that will just let her read - the fonts for it are one thing but she wants to be able to write. Occasionally between the postcards there's a book, and Bella gets her dad to read those to her, except for the one in Latin and the one in Ancient Greek, which it's a mystery why Mom sent them.

When Bella's eight, her mom actually visits. It's two days after the Vancouver postcard arrives and Bella does note, finding Vancouver on Wikipedia and looking at the map, that it's awfully nearby, but she still isn't expecting the knock on the door.

She doesn't recognize her mom at first. There's a couple of pictures of Cate and Charlie, one on the mantelpiece and one on the wall in the upstairs hallway, but in one of those she's wearing sunglasses and in the other she's in profile. "Can I help you?" Bella says. Charlie's not even home.

"Ooh aren't you polite," coos Cate. "It's me! Mom!"

Bella doesn't really know what to do with that, seeing as she's never met her mom. "Can I see your ID?" she asks.

Cate laughs and laughs and hands over a driver's license, which says "Cate Kourotrophos".

"Did you get married?" Bella asks. "Charlie said your last name was Soteria."

"Oh, nah, I just changed it," says Cate. "I probably have an old one with Soteria on it somewhere..." She digs up a passport, which does say Cate Soteria.

Bella lets her in.

Cate lets Bella make her a turkey sandwich and show her her room, with all the postcards, and the postcards seem - affecting. "You kept them all!" she coos. "Aren't you precious. Hey, let's go to Wild Waves!"

"Okay," says Bella, sort of figuring that Cate has coordinated with Charlie in the background. She goes on thinking that till she gets home, three days later, wearing a Magic Mountain t-shirt and a Mount Rainier sun hat and a whole instant camera's worth of selfies and in possession of a passport that Cate acquired for her in some manner to get them into Canada so they could take in the Vancouver theater scene.

Charlie hugs her so hard she can't breathe. He must give Cate some kind of look over Bella's shoulder, because Cate says, "Hey, I left a note!" (Charlie doesn't say anything.)

After an argument Bella is sent out of the house for, Cate leaves, but not before giving Bella a stropholos keyring with a key and a tiny flashlight and an itsy-bitsy Swiss army knife on it. Cate's gone again before Bella can ask her what the key is for, but she gets a carabiner from Newton's anyway and clips it to her jeans every day. She forgets once and her dad reminds her.

When Bella's twelve, Cate shows up again. This time she's less bubbly. This time, Charlie's home.

"How do you feel about... summer camp," says Cate conspiratorially.

"I dunno," says Bella. "I've never gone. Why?"

"My -" Here Cate stops, counts on her fingers, mutters, shakes her head a few times, eventually shrugs, "- my cousin! Runs a summer camp. I signed you up."

"What kind of camp is it?" Bella asks.

"Kind?" blinks Cate.

"Yeah, like, is it more arts and crafts or is it like, hiking, I have a balance thing, I dunno if Dad told you?"

"Oh, it's like, uh, equestrianism. Archery! And some arts and crafts," says Cate. "And they have a strawberry farm and I think they'll teach you Greek."

"...Greek?" says Bella. "What kind of camp has Greek and strawberries and horses?"

"Do you not like those things?" blinks Cate.

"No, they sound fine... except I'm dyslexic..."

"Oh, they know how to handle that. Anyway, go pack!"

Bella, confused, looks at Charlie. When he nods, she packs. iPod, notebooks, laptop, clothes, shampoo, keyring. "How long is it?" she calls down the stairs.

"All summer!" Cate calls back.

Bella packs slightly more aggressively. She gets in Cate's car. She never asked where the summer camp was or she might have noticed the trip not taking as long as it should to get across the country.

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As they crest the hill leading into the camp, the afternoon sun illuminates a place that... does not look like a summer camp. It looks, in fact, rather more like someone took a bunch of buildings out of a pre-Christian Greek city and dumped them into a William Louis Sonntag painting. There's a ring of modest villas around a central courtyard, plus a hippodrome and an amphitheatre and several other buildings of less obvious purpose.

There are also strawberry fields, as promised.

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"The architecture is..... neat?" says Bella.

"Oh, yeah," says Cate. "Also I'm an ancient Greek god and you're my kid! Surprise! About the first part not the second part!"

"......what?" says Bella.

"Come on, I'm gonna introduce you to Dionysus!"

Bella falls over and rolls the rest of the way down the hill. "Hey, wait for me!" Cate laughs.

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The hill is grassy and soft, and (perhaps surprisingly) she encounters no inconvenient rocky patches on her roll.

She comes to a gentle stop near a boy her approximate age who, upon noticing her rolling downhill, had the simultaneous thoughts I should help herI should get out of the way, and is this somehow my fault. As a result of the first two, he remained frozen in place; as a result of the third, he looks guilty for no apparent reason.

Next to him is a portly man in a tiger-print Hawaiian shirt who looks like he is either currently, habitually, or possibly inherently drunk. "Not a bad entrance," he says thoughtfully. "Eight - hmm - seven out of ten. If you'd kocked the runt over, that would be an eight."

"I'm not a-" the boy starts indignantly. Then he sighs, and tries to help Bella up in a manner that almost certainly makes things worse.

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"Thanks," Bella says, once she's steady again. "Mom, what do you MEAN you're going to introduce me to DIONYSUS."

"That's my cousin who I mentioned! Or my nephew or whatever he is! Our family bush is pretty elaborate and contradicts itself in many sources! Hiiiii!" yells Cate, trotting down the hill and waving at the drunk man.

"You don't think you could have tried to explain this conceit before you signed me up for this summer camp?" says Bella.

"It's not a conceit, kiddo, you're a demigod!"

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"For the record, um, they're not joking," says the boy. "I just watched my Latin teacher turn into -"

From the nearest building emerges a man with the lower body of a palomino horse.

"- yeah, a centaur. Hi Mr. B - Chiron. Hi Chiron."

"Hello, Percy. And, ah, ma'am," Chiron (apparently) says, bowing deeply to Cate.

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"That's a centaur," says Bella inanely.

"Hi!" says Cate. "I like this one. Be nice." She makes an "I'm watching you" gesture at Dionysus and then turns around and heads up the hill.

"Mom?" calls Bella. "MOM?" But she's gone.

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Percy looks deeply saddened by this interaction!

Chiron and Dionysus glance at each other. "I hate it when they tell me to be nice," Dionysus grumps. "It feels like a threat."

"Generally it is," Chiron says. "In this case, it definitely is."

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"So this is demigods and also centaurs summer camp?"

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Dionysus snorts. "One centaur. You don't want more than that."

Chiron looks like, if he were the kind of person who rolled his eyes, he would be rolling his eyes at Dionysus. "Yes, the primary purpose of Camp Half-Blood is to house and teach demigods and certain... oh, English is so lacking. Nature spirits, I suppose. Such as satyrs and nymphs. It also has certain auxiliary functions, such as the production of strawberries."

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"Well, at least she warned me about the strawberries. Uh. She told me her name was Cate."

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"I imagine she didn't tell you that was her only name," Chiron says. "It'd be out of character for her to lie. A more relevant name to this conversation is Hekate, goddess of witchcraft, crossroads, and... hmm... other things which decline to be categorized."

"Like you can't categorize them for us because they're not connected, or like they're connected by not being able to be categorized?" Percy wonders.

"Yes."

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"I guess Cate is not a ridiculous shortening for Hecate. And that explains the books of Greek myths. She's the one who gets mixed up with Artemis and also Persephone?"

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Chiron hums thoughtfully. "Well, mixed up is as mixed up does. Your mother is known for... dabbling, let's say, in various domains. She wears a lot of hats, and on more than one occasion she's been several people at once. It's only natural for people to get confused sometimes."

"I'm now imagining her wearing several hats at the same time," Percy says. "It's a very good mental image."

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"I can see it," agrees Bella. "Uh, so, I'm Bella Swan, nice to meet you all?"

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"Percy Jackson," Percy says.

Chiron nods. "Chiron. Surnames were a bit after my time, I'm afraid."

"Dionysus," Dionysus yawns. "Weren't you going to take the new kid on a tour? And, I guess, the other new kid now? So I can get back to... whatever it was I was doing, something mind-numbing I assume?"

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"Tour sounds great. Where should I put down my suitcase?"

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"We'll stop by Cabin Eleven first," Chiron says. "That's where you'll both be staying - Hekate doesn't have a cabin of her own, and Percy's divine parentage is as yet undetermined."

"Really?" Percy asks. "I thought you guys might know."

Dionysus, heading back into the building, snorts. "Kid, if we knew we'd have said so. We don't exactly have a DNA sample from every Olympian."

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"The cabins are sorted by how us demigods got that way?"

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"Yes, one cabin per Olympian." Chiron starts off at a slow trot.

"...seems kind of... inefficient," Percy says. "Like, are they all having the same number of kids, or..."

Chiron cough-laughs, surprised by the question. "No. No, they are not."

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"Like, Artemis wouldn't have any, right? And Zeus would - if the ancient Greek gods are in fact running around having children often enough to sustain a summer camp there must be a ton of Zeus ones?"

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Chiron winces. "You're right about Artemis - she finds the entire concept of reproducing by any means abhorrent. As to the Thunderer, though, that gets into... politics."

"...politics?" Percy asks slowly.

"The Thunderer, the Lord of the Waves, and the Rich One... do not have children. Anymore. The reason is not currently important, and unlike your campmates I'm disinclined to gossip."

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"Oh boy," mutters Bella, and she focuses on keeping her feet as she drags her suitcase behind her.

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They reach Cabin 11 in short order. Like the others, it's built out of marble, the stone painted in soothing swirls of color. The interior is wood-paneled and contains... a lot of beds. It looks more like a barracks than a camp cabin, frankly. But there's a place for Bella's things by one of the empty beds.

Percy does not appear to have things. He appears to be sad about this.

Chiron doesn't enter the cabin, because he is too Large and too Horse for that. Inside the cabin there are a handful of kids, including a strapping blond nineteen-year-old wearing a beaded leather cord around his neck. "Chaire, Chiron," he says. "Dropping off the newbies?"

"Yes, Luke," Chiron says. "Bella, Percy, this is Luke, the Cabin 11 counselor. He's been here for longer than most, and he should be able to help you with anything you need - as long as he isn't helping someone else."

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"This looks very crowded. Since my mom is sometimes identified with Artemis can I sleep there instead?"

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Luke laughs. "You know what, go ahead and ask her at dinner. Uh, she won't be there in person, just make a sacrifice to her and see if you get weal or woe for your answer."

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