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Generated: Aug 13, 2022 11:43 PM
Post last updated: Aug 13, 2022 11:43 PM
three renées in a trenchcoat
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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"I guess that makes as much sense as the rest of it," Bella mutters. For the time being she will put her suitcase on a bed here.

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And Chiron will show them around the rest of the camp. Strawberry fields! The hippodrome! The arena!

"I don't suppose either of you brought a panoply - we'll have to set you up with a standard bronze hoplomachus set each," Chiron mumbles to himself.

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"What would that be, please?"

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"Oh - a short sword and round shield," Chiron says more clearly. "Appropriately blunted, of course. Plus helmet, chestpiece, and pteruge skirt."

"Sorry, a skirt?" Percy says with some alarm.

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"A sword? I have a balance disorder."

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"It is blunted," Chiron says. "Ah, your mother did warn us of that issue, but we do need to find some way for you to defend yourself. Monsters are not, by and large, ADA compliant. And if you do end up with a blade in your hands, we want you to know how to make it an advantage - however slight - rather than an impediment."

"I... really cannot imagine myself stabbing anyone," Percy says queasily.

"You stabbed the Minotaur through the heart less than 48 hours ago," Chiron points out.

"...I can't imagine myself stabbing anyone again?"

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"How about I just don't go monster-hunting?" suggests Bella. "- Archery, she said there's archery. And equ-" she looks at Chiron's legs. "-estrianism but probably that wasn't a crack about you?"

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Chiron snorts good-humoredly. "It wasn't. Archery and riding are good for a controlled environment, but staying away from hunts won't keep you from encountering monsters, and a bow won't always keep them from closing in. We keep them out of the camp, but now that you know the truth, the Mist has fallen from you; when you leave this place, you'll be easy prey if you can't fight or run. ...I suppose there's always magic, with your mother who she is? It's not generally very good for immediate combat, but it might be better than falling on your own sword."

"...what Mist? Monsters have been hunting me for... years," Percy says confusedly.

"You're a special case," Chiron says. "Most demigods are protected by their own ignorance, at least until they go through puberty or learn their true nature."

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Bella has so many simultaneous reactions to this paragraph that she splutters for a bit, ultimately deciding that it can go unsaid that that's a reasonably good excuse for Cate not to have told her anything and for even Charlie to be quiet on the subject, and that if "the Mist" is no longer affecting her she can wait ten minutes to find out what it is, though she does write it down; so what her confused sequence of noises ultimately resolves into is "YEAH I wanna learn MAGIC!"

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"Magic does sound pretty cool," Percy says vaguely.

Chiron chuckles. "I've picked up enough tricks that I should be able to show you some. As I said, it's light on the flashy immediate effects, but with the right herbs you can squirrel your way out of a lot of tight situations."

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"Cool.

So what's the Mist?"

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"It is a vast and ancient magical effect which protects the world of the gods from discovery, and the children of the gods from monsters. Mortals, with a few exceptions, will not see the supernatural things that happen around them - if they are in danger they will see something as dangerous, but within their own frame of reference. A sword becomes a rifle. The Minotaur, a hulking man brandishing a baseball bat. As a secondary effect, it also clouds the minds of monsters, making it harder for them to detect the vulnerable children of the gods."

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"...swords and rifles imply very different self-preservation strategies." Among other things.

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Chiron shrugs. "Monsters are generally disinclined to target mortals directly in any case - the main thing that the Mist preserves is the natural human instinct to get well clear of a developing situation."

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"I've never been attacked by a monster, was that the Mist?"

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"Well, that and the protective amulet on your keychain. It performs a sort of parallel, layered effect."

(Percy is looking a bit sour again.)

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She looks at her keychain. "Oh. I didn't know it was magic." She looks at Percy. "- you've been attacked by monsters though? Why do they want to attack demigods?"

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"The reasons vary, but monsters are, to an extent, influenced by human perceptions. An isolate monster, like the Minotaur, may be influenced directly; a race of them will have children bending towards the mean. Children hear stories of the viciousness of the Minotaur, the hatred of the harpies, the... proclivities of the centaurs, and so these traits echo, self-reinforcing. Satyrs were once almost as bad as my kin, but the story of Mr. Tumnus has done a great deal for their people."

"Hooray Mr. Tumnus," Percy murmurs.

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"That sounds uncomfortable for you guys."

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"I resigned myself to the state of my kin a long time ago," Chiron says, a bit woodenly.

Percy frowns. "But - couldn't you, I dunno, write a bunch of books about nice centaurs who - run through wheat fields and sing songs and want to fight global warming -"

"It is forbidden!" Chiron snaps. Then he inhales deeply and closes his eyes. "Percy. If it were as simple as that, I would have written a thousand books. The centaur race would be humanity's staunchest ally. But - I cannot."

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"Who's forbidding you to write centaur books? Fantasia got made and it has nice centaurs in it."

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Chiron sighs. "I loved that film. But - the Thunderer has reasons to forbid me the Muses' aid. Reasons that touch on secrets not mine to share."

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"The Muses are real too? Are they helping with stuff like Fantasia?"

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"Well, not in person. They can encourage or discourage certain people and certain projects, but Euterpe does not personally preside over Alan Menken's writing desk. You could say that, like many gods, they administer their domains, but said domains are largely self-sustaining."

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"Am I allowed to write centaur books if I want?"

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Chiron winces. "You would... find it very difficult. Perhaps impossible."

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"What's that supposed to mean."

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"You might be struck with constant ideas for compelling stories in other domains; you would certainly have no sudden strokes of inspiration for stories to do with the Hellenic world. Not just centaurs, the interdict covers anything covered by the Mist. The words would not flow. Each would be like a pulled tooth."

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"What if I wrote a story about UNICORNS and then did find-replace."

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Chiron shakes his head. "I strongly suspect they would not be fooled. And such tricks are how well-intentioned youths wind up under divine curses. I cannot recommend attempting to find a way around the laws of the gods."

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"Why can't they just have a NORMAL law where if you try to publish it they will put you on trial instead of a kind where they make it impossible to write about unicorns and then do find-replace! That's awful!"

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Chiron sighs. "Magical interdiction is a tool they have easily available, and so it is the first they reach for. I cannot say that it is just, but it is the reality we live in."

Percy glares at the ground. "There's always bullies at the top."

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"Is my mom helping with all this? I thought she was mostly cool except for the only visiting once when I was eight thing!"

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"I have no reason to believe she has anything to do with it."

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"Maybe I will figure out how to send her a postcard.

What if I convinced my friend Angie whose parents are both humans as far as I know to write a story about Fantasia centaurs."

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"...I do not know. It is not expressly forbidden, but I cannot advise going against the spirit of the law even if you adhere to the letter."

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"Why?"

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It's Percy who speaks up this time. "Bullies don't usually care if you found a great loophole in their dumb rule. They just step on you for it."

"I wouldn't put it like that exactly," Chiron murmurs.

"I would," Percy says flatly.

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"Hrmph. - my dad isn't all Misty, right, I can call him and tell him what's going on and he'll be able to like, hear me? What about Angie?"

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"Your father, being a divine consort, is not subject to the Mist; he will hear anything you say. Your friend Angie is subject to the Mist - presumably, though she could in theory be an unclaimed demigod - and would not hear anything out of the ordinary. Most likely she would hear you complaining about the convoluted social dynamics at your new summer camp."

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"Are there a lot of those?"

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"We try to minimize them," Chiron says drily, "but this is a relatively isolated space full of teenagers. A certain amount of... socialization... is inevitable."

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"Especially if you squeeze most of us into that one cabin."

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Chiron snorts. "You are not the only person here with objections to that particular system," he says. "If you ever work on a large-scale project, especially one which will last for three thousand years, a word of advice: do not allow it to be run by committee."

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"I'll keep that in mind. Why don't you just build a new dorm though?"

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"We're planning on it. Alexander Buford, son of Athena, promises to grow into a very capable architect; in ten or fourteen years, when he's out of college, we have plans for two more cabins, one for campers whose divine parent doesn't have a cabin and one for campers whose divine parent hasn't claimed them."

"Wow, if only I was twelve in ten or fourteen years," Percy mutters.

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"And I assume that sorting people any way beside who their god parent is would be totally nuts?"

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Chiron shifts uncomfortably. "...it would be met with... significant resistance. The children of the more, ah, prolific gods enjoy the camaraderie of being housed with their siblings. And they tend to share enough traits that it is easier for one of their own to keep them under control as the cabin counselor. And... it is traditional."

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"Do I have siblings?"

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"None currently at the camp. Your mother has a stated policy of not having children less than eighteen years apart; she claims it becomes difficult for her to keep track. You do share a bloodline with a handful of immortals, but... none I would feel entirely comfortable introducing you to until you have magic of your own, in case the meeting turned sour."

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"...okay. What are magic lessons going to look like? Also apparently I have to learn Ancient Greek?"

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Chiron hums thoughtfully. "Magic lessons are likely to consist of a mixture of botany and poetry lessons, those being two of the main components of practical magic. I will try to keep the lessons directly relevant to the subject, though, and not teach you too much of the fundamentals unless you are specifically interested. And most demigods find ancient Greek to be much less intimidating once they've started their lessons. It bypasses the dyslexia, you see."

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"Why does Ancient Greek bypass the dyslexia?!"

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"Well - it's not really what humans call dyslexia, you understand, it's just that your brain is wired as if Ancient Greek was your first language, and it makes it harder for you to grasp other scripts. It was more practical back when it was just... Greek, the lingua franca of the Mediterranean."

Percy rubs his temples. "Why was this necessary. Who said and we'll make it slightly easier for the demigods to learn to speak a language they're already going to speak. Can I fight them."

"It was a hack to help demigods learn to read without reliable childhood instruction, actually," Chiron explains. "In times when only a single-digit percentage of the population could read, that was a marked advantage. No one could have predicted an almost 90% literacy rate."

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"I think people who have a first language in the normal way do not have dyslexia in other languages. Though I guess it might have been in some ways more inconvenient if we also all had accents and made grammatical errors in English instead of just needing to shell out for audio books. If this was deliberately implemented why hasn't it been updated in thousands of years?"

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"If the gods had the resources to go around fixing mistakes they made three thousand years ago, that is not where they would start. We are none of us what we once were."

They've circled back around to the Hermes cabin. "This has been an engaging conversation," Chiron says, "and I hope we will have many more, but paperwork waits for neither gods nor men. Luke can hopefully help you with any further confusion."

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"Thanks."

In she goes to learn names and partly but not fully unpack in case Artemis says she can have the COMPLETELY EMPTY CABIN GOING UNUSED WHILE THIS ONE OVERFLOWS.

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Luke can help with parts of this! "I do think you've got a decent shot at the transfer," he says. "Artemis likes boldness - unlike some gods."

Percy continues to have as far as Bella can tell no possessions, making his unpacking process nonexistent. "It's kind of weird to think about," he says cautiously. "I mean - us being on their, you know, family tree. The gods'."

Luke smiles, razor-thin. "One big happy Olympian family, that's us."

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"Is that how this works? Will all our older cousins and step-parents and uncles and suchlike be swinging by for a family reunion any day now?"

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Luke snorts explosively. "Wouldn't that be hilarious. No, I'm afraid most of our extended relations don't even care enough to claim us on their taxes, let alone come to the barbecues. Some of us go to the grave with as much information about their sire as Percy has about his right now."

Percy looks unthrilled by this.

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"I will be sure to consider the state of the competition when choosing Mother's Day gifts."

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Luke nods. "All I'm saying."

"Is that -" Percy starts, then pauses and says a little quieter, "Is that what your - deal - is? You're unclaimed?"

"Nope!" Luke says with a brittle grin. "Full 50% Hermes Juice in these veins, not from concentrate."

"...oh. Then -"

"And I don't particularly want to talk about it!" Luke claps his hands together abruptly. "Right, everybody, it's beginning to look a lot like dinner, asses in gear, come on -"

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Dinner does sound good. Maybe they get to eat ambrosia.

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Luke shepherds Hermes Cabin over to the dining pavilion. It's pretty grand, like much of the rest of the camp, and there's a feast laid out. No ambrosia in evidence, or nectar for that matter, but there's barbecue and fried stuff and, perhaps surprisingly, plenty of clearly marked vegetarian fare.

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Huh. Bella doesn't like vegetables more than the typical twelve year old but she will get a corn on the cob in addition to her ribs and potatoes. "How do I make a sacrifice to Artemis about the sleeping arrangements?" she asks Luke.

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Luke points to a brazier at the end of the buffet line, where a handful of kids are lined up. "Just take a bit of whatever seems most appropriate - probably a rib but you might actually want to take some venison - and drop it in the fire and ask your question. You'll probably get a clear weal or woe, Artemis is pretty chill about omens since nobody's bugging her about parentage. If it just smells unexpectedly nice that's not weal, though, that's just how the brazier works. And, uh, don't let me tell you what to do but if you want to stay on your mom's good side you might want to sacrifice to her too, just to keep up."

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"That's really not consonant with how she presents herself otherwise but I guess I don't know her that well," mutters Bella. She grabs some venison and lines up.

When she comes to the brazier she drops in the venison and says, "Artemis, can I sleep in your cabin? My mother is Hecate and sometimes conflated with you in mythology."

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Things don't go quiet exactly, but there's a sense of stillness. There's also a sense like someone's looking at her, evaluating.

Then, behind her, someone laughs a bit too loud, and the stillness breaks. The smoke billowing from the brazier shines silver for a moment, smelling of petrichor, and Bella feels the possibly unprecedented bodily urge to go jogging before that, too, fades.

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Is that supposed to be "pretty clear". She supposes she can ask Luke. She gives the fire a couple potato wedges and a rib. "Hi Mom, you are winning all the god parent contests, thanks for the ride to camp."

The fire throws red-yellow-blue sparks and then goes back to normal; Bella's keychain feels a bit warmer than usual. She gets out of line and goes to ask Luke if silver is weal or woe.

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"Weal," Luke says immediately. "I guess - it's clearer when it's woe? If Artemis wants to say woe you're gonna feel hunted."

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"I guess they haven't caught up to newfangled technology like Morse code or anything." She sits at the Hermes table - she doesn't want to eat alone - and starts in on the food.

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Once everyone's meal seems to be winding down, Dionysus stands reluctantly. "Hello, children. Today's announcements are that Capture the Flag will be held on Friday; Ares' cabin, predictably enough, holds the laurels." A table of obvious jocks roars their approval. "Congratulations on your... achievement. And we have two new campers today - Isabella Swan, daughter of Hecate, and Peter Johnson, undeclared."

Chiron leans over and mutters something in his ear. Dionysus shakes his head irritably. "Percy Jackson. Still undeclared. Huzzah for new campers. No more announcements, go on back to your cabins."

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Hopefully capturing flags is optional because she incredibly doesn't care about who has a flag.

She goes with the crowd to collect her suitcase from Hermes cabin and tote it over to Artemis's.

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Artemis' cabin is - not necessarily nicer than Hermes', as that would defeat the point. But it's empty, and quiet, and the silvery wood-paneled walls are covered with moonlit landscape paintings instead of abstract graffiti. There's an array of bunks or, if she'd rather, a few silk hammocks.

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Ooh, she will at least give a hammock a try. She lies in it to do her end-of-day notetaking (does her personal alphabet look like Greek?? she has no idea! maybe!) and eventually decides that she would prefer to sleep in a bed but the hammocks are nice to have.

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The next day dawns, as they are given to do. A schedule has been slipped under the cabin door, telling her that breakfast is served from dawn until the sky turns blue, followed by magic lessons with Chiron, then assorted athletics (no running or swordplay for her, but swimming and archery and equestrianism are all represented) and academics (Greek, metalwork, horticulture).

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Ooh, she gets to start with magic. She gets dressed and meanders at a safe pace to the food zone to see what's on offer for breakfast.

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Various stuff! Fruits are well represented, but there's a substantial amount of breakfast pastry and meatstuff on offer as well.

Also there's a Percy! He waves at her.

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Grapes and a muffin and a pile of sausages. Mom gets a sausage and she goes and sits next to Percy. "Morning! I hope none of those thirty other people snore!"

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"Boy do I wish you were right!" Percy laughs. (He has a Belgian waffle with some kind of blue syrup on it.)

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"I am probably not allowed to have sleepovers but at least I am not contributing to the crowding problem I guess." Nomf nomf. "What's your schedule like?"

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Percy pulls out a folded bit of paper. "Uh, lots of stuff - they want me in 'general weapons training', I guess to figure out what I'm good at, and they're apparently going to cycle me through electives to see if they can ferret out my divine parentage that way? And then after I've seen them they'll place me based on my skills? So I'm gonna be doing, like, rock climbing and equestrianism and metalwork and just generally seeing everything they've got to offer, I guess. And Ancient Greek."

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"Ah, Newbie Week," says a mysterious teenager who sets down her tray next to Bella's. "Fun times, fun times. Pray they figure you out quick, being a jack-of-all-trades only gets more exhausting."

She turns to Bella. "Hi! Zanna Rin. Daughter of Eris. I'm sniffing you inquisitively because you're the first other miscellaneous bastard to escape Hermes Hell, and you got yourself a single, which is hilarious."

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"Hi, I'm Bella. Did you arrange to live somewhere else too? How?"

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"Wellllll, Mom is - depending on your source she's Ares' sister or his daughter or the mother of several of his kids? So after they clocked me for her kid and after I got extremely sick of sleeping in Hermes, I sacrificed and said hey Ares, are we cool if I move to your cabin, and I just heard a woman cackling and the brazier flared so hard I lost an eyebrow, but I declared it weal because that's kind of just how Mom is. And I've been sleeping in the barracks ever since. And the guy hasn't come down and stabbed me yet so I figure we're cool. And my roommates suck but in different ways than Hermes cabin sucks and I can kick their asses about it, so we're basically cool."

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"I guess the sister/daughter/consort confusion is, uh, par for the course. I'm glad your eyebrow has recovered from the experience."

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"Yeah, they grow back great. This was half a decade ago, for the record, I'm an oldby." She snags her finger under a leather strand around her neck, bearing five painted clay beads. "Hardly anybody here remembers when I was unclaimed. Except Luke but Luke's ancient." She leans precariously around Bella and another girl to poke Luke in the arm.

"Eat your breakfast, Zanna," he says without looking at her.

She rolls her eyes and inhales a softboiled egg. "Mad because I abandoned you five years ago, aren't you, Squidward."

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"...isn't that a Spongebob character?"

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"Yeah, I'm saying he's a grump. Like the venerable Squidward."

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"Oh, okay. I don't actually watch much Spongebob. So you've been coming to camp for five years now?"

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"Yep. Every year at the end of summer you get a new bead on your necklace. Or bracelet, or whatever, some people do a bracelet."

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"Neat!"

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"Also, uh, less coming to camp, more living here full-time. My mortal folks aren't exactly interested in having me around and I'm even less interested in cohabiting with them."

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"That sucks. People shouldn't have kids if they're gonna treat them like that."

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Jazz hands. "They don't have one anymore!"

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"I imagine not everyone with a demigod kid knew what they were getting into but that is rough, yeah. How many people live here year-round?"

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"Mmm... summer you get about a hundred fifty to two hundred kids, year-round... maybe a fifth of that, plus staff. Not all of them have a charming family situation, some are just particularly severe monster bait and wouldn't be safe in the wider world. Not that anybody's safe in the wider world, but. You know."

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"What make somebody particularly severe monster bait?"

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"Somebody in a wheelchair, unless they're a Hephaestus kid and it turns into a powered exoskeleton. Somebody who can't figure out their sire or a talent of their own, and doesn't have the drive to make something of themselves anyway. An honest-to-God Quaker, once - she said something about how monsters could kill her but they couldn't make her take up a sword. She was right, for what it's worth. And - sometimes you get a kid who, for whatever reason, the Mists just don't like. Somebody who could call the Minotaur out of whatever hole he's in, just by taking a road trip."

She's carefully not looking at Percy.

"Those don't tend to last long. Even if they make an impressive showing at first."

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"How long do we usually live?"

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"Varies. Wildly. There's demigods rattling around from the Greatest Generation. Rule of thumb, if you make it to sixteen you'll probably make it - death rate per year after that isn't worse than mortals get from smoking. But, you know. You gotta make it."

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"So hypothetically if I stayed here for four years where there aren't monsters I'd be fine?"

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"Not quite. A big part of the life expectancy boost is that if you made it to sixteen, you know what you're doing. That means combat experience, and it means facing real danger. If you stay cooped up for four years, all you're really doing is delaying the coin flip when you go up against your first monster. I guess you'd have better odds if you spent the time sparring, but there really isn't a substitute for the first time you see a harpy coming for you with violence in her heart and know that it's you or her."

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"How do I get an exoskeleton wheelchair."

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"Huh. I think you're better off asking Chiron if you can do some kind of magic to make your body work for you, given your whole mom situation, but if he says no it is forbidden or similar Chironic bullshit I can see about finding a Hephaistos kid who likes a challenge?"

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"Thanks, I appreciate it. Though magic for not falling down would also be great!"

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"I'll bet. We haven't had anybody who did proper magic in a while, it'll be interesting to see what you can manage."

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Percy has finished his waffle, and looks mildly conflicted, but says "- I'd better get going. To General Weapons or whatever. I think the sky's pretty blue by now."

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"Oh, right, time. ADHD sucks. I'd better head to archery - see you later, Swan."

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"Thanks, it was nice to meet you." She carries her grape stem to nibble from on the way and hauls her bookbag to wherever she's supposed to be for magic lessons with Chiron.

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Magic lessons: in the woods, apparently. A specific glade is demarcated, with clear directions given.

"Hello, Bella," Chiron says as she approaches.

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"Good morning! How are you?"

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He unfolds his equine half to a standing position and puts a hand to his back, muttering something blasphemous-sounding in Greek. "Ugh. Quite well, apart from my back - you may thank the gods that, among other things, your spine does not bend at a ninety-degree angle."

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"I was sort of assuming it just worked out for you since it's supposed to do that! I guess my dad complains about his back."

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"It could certainly be worse. But I am a very old man, and it is my prerogative to complain uselessly. Enough of it. You're here to learn magic! Do you know anything of it already? I imagine not, but if you have some latent instinct for the practice you could very well surprise me."

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"I don't know anything besides what you told me about how there's herbs and stuff."

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"Excellent, then we won't be starting from a muddled base. At its core, magic is the augmentation of the physical - herb-lore, alchemy, a certain amount of mathematics - via the metaphysical. A practiced witch can create potions with fantastic effects, enchant objects to better perform their function, curse their enemies and bless their allies - but all of that depends on how well such an effect can be grounded in reality. If you wish to curse a foe to fall on his own sword, you should begin by spilling oil under his sandals. Do you follow?"

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"I guess that makes sense but it kind of limits it to situations where you have oil and your foe's sandals."

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He smiles. "This is one limitation of witchcraft! The more you know of the art, the more you can do without direct access to the subject - you might, for instance, inscribe a curse tablet for a faraway enemy, or bless an army without knowing each member individually - but a clever witch should always have a variety of reagents on her person, to cover any situation she can predict and some she cannot. The more versatile the reagent, the better. Ancient Greek had one word, pharmakon, for both poison and cure, because any cure can be a poison under the right circumstances."

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"...I guess that's true if you're generous with the definitions of poison and cure."