Word of the beatdown they gave to Ares' kids spread immediately. Wherever they went, campers pointed at them and murmured things about Ares cabin. Annabeth seemed annoyed with the stares, still she was helpful in their tours. She showed them a few more places: the metal shop (where kids were forging their own swords), the artsandcrafts room (where satyrs were sandblasting a giant marble statue of a goat-man), and the climbing wall, which actually consisted of two facing walls that shook violently, dropped boulders, sprayed lava, and clashed together if you didn't get to the top fast enough. Finally they returned to the canoeing lake, where the trail led back to the cabins.
"I've got training to do," Annabeth said flatly. "Dinner's at seven-thirty. Just follow your cabin to the mess hall."
"Thank you for being so kind." Naruto said just as flatly, making the girl pale a little to his joy. "You should really try to be a little nicer, we haven't done a thing to you besides deck you and you kind of deserved it."
She looked at him with a sheen of annoyance that only faded slightly. "Maybe." Then rubbed her face where, oddly enough, there was not a trace of a bruise or even a red mark. Demigods were durable, Naruto knew that while Percy's strength wasn't anything special he knew how to throw a punch and that meant more then raw power in a lot of cases. There should have been at least a little red mark.
"You need to talk to the Oracle," Annabeth said.
"Not who. What. The Oracle. I'll ask Chiron."
Naruto and Percy both turned to the Lake, Naruto personally froze when he saw two beautiful teen girls sitting cross-legged at the base of the pier, about twenty feet below. They wore blue jeans and shimmering green T-shirts, and their brown hair floated loose around their shoulders as minnows darted in and out. They smiled and waved, but from their gazes it was clear Percy was more interesting to them... another point to an idea Naruto had on to whom Percy's father was.
'Loving the sea, water based powers, Water Nymphs liking him... he was definitely Poseidon's child. How could not one else notice this, I am not even all that smart and I noticed it...'
Percy, being the sweet person he was, waved back.
"Don't encourage them," Annabeth warned. "Naiads are terrible flirts."
"Naiads..." Percy sighed. "If I wasn't used to weird stuff thanks to Naruto, this might be my breaking point. So, If my father is a God, who is he?"
Annabeth nodded. " He's one of the Olympians. That I am sure of."
"That's not that shocking. The gods were horny in myths, doubtful that would ever really change." Naruto chuckled. " They remind me of Jiraiya, my godfather. Just as negligent as he was too."
Percy, knowing the story of Jiriaya and his crap, turned to Annabeth to change the subject a little before it made Naruto melancholy. "So, who's your dad?"
Her hands tightened around the pier railing and it was clear that her father was a sensitive subject. "My dad is a professor at West Point," she said. "I haven't seen him since I was very small. He teaches American history."
"What? You assume it has to be a male god who finds a human female attractive? How sexist is that?"
Naruto frowned. "Other then Aphrodite, most Goddesses were not known for their human lovers. A lot were virgins and most didn't really feature at all in major stories. It's pretty fair to expect your parent to be a god over your mom."
Annabeth froze. "Good point, sorry for snapping Percy...Cabin six."
Percy nodded, then frowned. "Meaning?"
Annabeth straightened. "Athena. Goddess of wisdom and battle."
Naruto frowned this time. " I thought she was a virgin goddess."
"She is, but there are exceptions. I am a brain child, made from divine thought and human ingenuity."
"Like one of my clones." Naruto created a clone to make a point. "Made from thought and energy with since their gods they can do more then just clones. Very cool."
There was a lustful look in Annabeth's eyes. "You must tell me how you do that, and that speed thing earlier with Luke. I have never seen anyone move so fast."
"I'll tell you another time, if your being nice. Anyway, any clue who our parents our? His dad and my godmom. I know my parents were mortal but I have been adopted by a Goddess, if that helps you figure it out. I am already pretty sure I know who Percy's dad is."
Annabeth nodded but Percy whipped his head towards Naruto. "You do?"
"DON'T SAY IT!" Annabeth barked out at them, getting their attention. "There is a reason you can't just claim your parents, they can and sometimes do punish us for claiming them earlier then they want. We work on their time, not ours."
That was not something Naruto liked...
"My mom knew." Percy said.
Annabeth looked pained. "Maybe not, Percy. Gods don't always reveal their identities."
"My dad would have. He loved her."
Annabeth gave him a cautious look. She didn't want to burst his bubble. "Maybe you're right. Maybe he'll send a sign. That's the only way to know for sure: your father has to send you a sign claiming you as his son. Sometimes it happens."
"You mean sometimes it doesn't?"
Annabeth ran her palm along the rail. "The gods are busy. They have a lot of kids and they don't always ... Well, sometimes they don't care about us, Percy. They ignore us."
Naruto bubbled with rage, feeling a trace element of Kyuubi's wrath in him. 'These so called gods are no better then that idiot Jiraiya. They only care for themselves, sleep around and drop their responsibilities when they please. Fuckers the lot of them.'
"So I'm stuck here," Percy said. "That's it? For the rest of my life?"
"It depends," Annabeth said. "Some campers only stay the summer. If you're a child of Aphrodite or Demeter, you're probably not a real powerful force. The monsters might ignore you, so you can get by with a few months of summer training and live in the mortal world the rest of the year. But for some of us, it's too dangerous to leave. We're year-rounders. In the mortal world, we attract monsters. They sense us. They come to challenge us. Most of the time, they'll ignore us until we're old enough to cause trouble-about ten or eleven years old, but after that, most demigods either make their way here, or they get killed off. A few manage to survive in the outside world and become famous. Believe me, if I told you the names, you'd know them. Some don't even realize they're demigods. But very, very few are like that."
"So monsters can't get in here?"
Annabeth shook her head. "Not unless they're intentionally stocked in the woods or specially summoned by somebody on the inside."
"Why would anybody want to summon a monster?"
"Practice fights. Practical jokes."
"The point is, the borders are sealed to keep mortals and monsters out. From the outside, mortals look into the valley and see nothing unusual, just a strawberry farm."
"So ... you're a year-rounder?"
Annabeth nodded. From under the collar of her T-shirt she pulled a leather necklace with five clay beads of differ-ent colors. It was just like Luke's, except Annabeth's also had a big gold ring strung on it, like a college ring. "I've been here since I was seven," she said. "Every August, on the last day of summer session, you get a bead for surviving another year. I've been here longer than most of the counselors, and they're all in college."
"Why did you come so young?"
She twisted the ring on her necklace. "None of your business."
"No need to be rude." Percy stood up for himself, glaring at the rude girl. "If it bothers you just don't answer. Anyway, So I could just walk out of here right now if I wanted to?"
The girl frowned at him. "It would be suicide, but you could, with Mr. D's or Chiron's permission. But they wouldn't give permission until the end of the summer session unless ..."
"You were granted a quest. But that hardly ever hap-pens. The last time ..."
Her voice trailed off. Naruto could tell from her tone that the last time hadn't gone well.
"Back in the sick room," Percy said, "when you were feeding me that stuff-"
"Yeah. You asked me something about the summer solstice."
Annabeth's shoulders tensed. "So you do know something?"
"Not a clue. Just weird dreams and what you said."
She clenched her fists. "I wish I knew. Chiron and the satyrs, they know, but they won't tell me. Something is wrong in Olympus, something pretty major. Last time I was there, everything seemed so normal."
"You've been to Olympus?"
"Some of us year-rounders-Luke and Clarisse and I and a few others-we took a field trip during winter solstice. That's when the gods have their big annual council."
Naruto gaped at her. " How the hell did you get there?"
"The Long Island Railroad, of course. You get off at Penn Station. Empire State Building, special elevator to the six hundredth floor." She turned and looked like she expected Percy to already know this "You are a New Yorker, right? He's not from here, I can tell from his accent, but your from around here."
"Right after we visited," Annabeth continued, "the weather got weird, as if the gods had started fighting. A couple of times since, I've overheard satyrs talking. The best I can figure out is that something important was stolen. And if it isn't returned by summer solstice, there's going to be trouble. When you came, I was hoping ... I mean- Athena can get along with just about anybody, except for Ares. And of course she's got the rivalry with Poseidon. But, I mean, aside from that, I thought we could work together. I thought you might know something. I've got to get a quest," Annabeth muttered to her-self. "I'm not too young. If they would just tell me the problem ..."
Naruto could smell barbecue smoke coming from somewhere nearby. Naruto laughed as Percy's stomach growled. She told them to go on, she'd catch them later. I left her on the pier, tracing her finger across the rail as if drawing a battle plan.
Back at cabin eleven, everybody was talking and horsing around, waiting for dinner. For the first time, Naruto noticed that a lot of the campers had similar features: sharp noses, upturned eyebrows, mischievous smiles. They were the kind of kids that teachers would peg as troublemakers.
'They look like me.' Naruto noticed absently. 'So many of them are blonde, a few have blue eyes, even their builds are like mine. Are they my family?'
The two boys, bordering on brothers, moved over to Percy's spot. The counselor, Luke, came over. He had the Hermes family resemblance, too. It was marred by that scar on his right cheek, but his smile was intact.
"Found you a sleeping bag," he said. "And here, I stole you both some toiletries from the camp store."
Percy flushed a little. "Thanks."
Naruto nodded at the man. "Same, thanks."
"No prob." Luke sat next to them, pushed his back against the wall. "Tough first day?"
Percy shrugged. "Not really, a couple of Ares' kids thought they could mess with us. We took them down. Was easy."
"He's got a point, Percy's barely got more then a few months training and he's way better then they are." Naruto chuckled a little, thinking of how weak the Ares kids were." He could make genin in my world in another few months easy."
"So your dad is Hermes?" Percy suddenly asked.
He pulled a switchblade out of his back pocket and he just scraped the mud off the sole of his sandal. "Yeah. Hermes."
"The wing-footed messenger guy."
"That's him. Messengers. Medicine. Travelers, merchants, thieves. Anybody who uses the roads. That's why you're here, enjoying cabin eleven's hospitality. Hermes isn't picky about who he sponsors."
"You ever meet your dad?" He asked.
"Once." Luke looked up and managed a smile. "Don't worry about it, you guys. The campers here, they're mostly good people. After all, we're extended family, right? We take care of each other."
Percy frowned suddenly, and then said something Naruto had forgotten about. "Annabeth ... twice, she said I might be 'the one.' She said I should talk to the Oracle. What was that all about?"
Luke folded his knife. "I hate prophecies."
"What do you mean?"
His face twitched around the scar. "Let's just say I messed things up for everybody else. The last two years, ever since my trip to the Garden of the Hesperides went sour, Chiron hasn't allowed any more quests. Annabeth's been dying to get out into the world. She pestered Chiron so much he finally told her he already knew her fate. He'd had a prophecy from the Oracle. He wouldn't tell her the whole thing, but he said Annabeth wasn't destined to go on a quest yet. She had to wait until... somebody special came to the camp."
"Don't worry about it, kid," Luke said. "Annabeth wants to think every new camper who comes through here is the omen she's been waiting for. Now, come on, it's dinnertime." The moment he said it, a horn blew in the distance. Luke yelled, "Eleven, fall in!"
The whole cabin, about twenty of us, filed into the commons yard. They lined up in order of seniority, so Naruto and Percy were dead last. Campers came from the other cab-ins, too, except for the three empty cabins at the end, and cabin eight, which had looked normal in the daytime, but was now starting to glow silver as the sun went down.
They marched up the hill to the mess hall pavilion. Satyrs joined us from the meadow. Naiads emerged from the canoeing lake. A few other girls came out of the woods, literally. One girl, about nine or ten years old, melt from the side of a maple tree and come skipping up the hill.
In all, there were maybe a hundred campers, a few dozen satyrs, and a dozen assorted wood nymphs and naiads.
At the pavilion, torches blazed around the marble columns. A central fire burned in a bronze brazier the size of a bathtub. Each cabin had its own table, covered in white cloth trimmed in purple. Four of the tables were empty, but cabin eleven's was way overcrowded. Percy had to squeeze on to the edge of a bench with half his butt hanging off. Naruto didn't bother and just sat on the ground.
"I am used to it." he said when Luke protested. "I am basically Japanese, we eat sitting on the floor for home meals usually."
Absently, Naruto saw Grover sitting at table twelve with Mr. D, a few satyrs, and a couple of plump blond boys who looked just like Mr. D. Chiron stood to one side, the picnic table being way too small for a centaur.
Annabeth sat at table six with a bunch of serious-looking athletic kids, all with her gray eyes and honeyblond hair. Clarisse sat behind them at Ares's table. She'd apparently gotten over being being down, because she was laughing and belching right alongside her idiot siblings.
Finally, Chiron pounded his hoof against the marble floor of the pavilion, and everybody fell silent. He raised a glass. "To the gods!"
Everybody else raised their glasses. "To the gods!" Naruto didn't bother, not caring for the moronic gods who dared demand love when they refused to care for their children.
Wood nymphs came forward with platters of food: grapes, apples, strawberries, cheese, fresh bread, and, barbecue! Naruto's glass was empty, but Luke said, "Speak to it. Whatever you want-nonalcoholic, of course."
Percy said, "Cherry Coke." to his. The glass filled with sparkling caramel liquid. "Blue Cherry Coke." The soda turned a violent shade of cobalt.
"Mango juice." Naruto said, and the drink swirled until it filled with his new favorite juice.
"Here you go, Percy," Luke said, handing him a platter of smoked brisket.
Percy and Naruto both loaded their plates and both were about to take a big bite when they noticed everybody getting up, carrying their plates toward the fire in the center of the pavilion.
"Come on," Luke told them.
As they got closer, they saw that everyone was taking a portion of their meal and dropping it into the fire, the ripest straw-berry, the juiciest slice of beef, the warmest, most buttery roll.
'That's dumb.' Naruto frowned.
Luke murmured in the ear, "Burnt offerings for the gods. They like the smell."
His look warned them not to take this lightly but Naruto was disgusted. The gods were looking worse and worse by the minute.
Luke approached the fire, bowed his head, and tossed in a cluster of fat red grapes. "Hermes."
Percy was next. He scraped a big slice of brisket into the flames.
Naruto was last, tossing in a single roll and he made sure it wasn't the nicest or the tastiest. 'Thanks for taking me here, but it was your duty as my godmother so.. yeah. Please reveal yourself... and whoever Percy's dad is, be good to him. He deserves it. I took care of Gabe,the guy abusing your kid. You owe me.'
Then he got a whiff of the smoke. It smelled nothing like burning food. It smelled of hot chocolate and fresh-baked brownies, hamburgers on the grill and wildflowers, and a hundred other good things that shouldn't have gone well together, but did.
When everybody had returned to their seats and finished eating their meals, Chiron pounded his hoof again for their attention.
Mr. D got up with a huge sigh. "Yes, I suppose I'd better say hello to all you brats. Well, hello. Our activities director, Chiron, says the next capture the flag is Friday. Cabin five presently holds the laurels."
A bunch of ugly cheering rose from the Ares table.
"Personally," Mr. D continued, "I couldn't care less, but congratulations. Also, I should tell you that we have two new campers today. Peter Johnson and Nathan Uchiha."
Chiron murmured something.
"Er, Percy Jackson, and Naruto Uzumaki" Mr. D corrected. "That's right. Hurrah, and all that. Now run along to your silly campfire. Go on."
Everybody cheered. They all headed down toward the amphitheater, where Apollo's cabin led a singalong. They sang camp songs about the gods and ate s'mores and joked around. Naruto didn't feel at home, or comfortable or happy. He felt tired, annoyed and hateful towards the gods for expecting this to be enough for their kids. His Godmom had done more then that, so he would appreciate her, but the rest of them... he couldn't care less.
But this place would do for now... for him and Percy. For the time being it would be enough, they would be well fed and trained and that is what mattered.
If only he knew how little they would get to enjoy their new home.
Chapter end, tell me what you think in the reviews.
Not a lot of changes, but enough to make it interesting.
Love, your Ninja Overlord,