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Tintaya Allauca

[6R] Any Excuse for a Party

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Alexis Chao and Alex Michaels were the undisputed party king and queen at Six Rivers. “Team Alex” were two Scions of Dionysus, and it was generally agreed that they were the King and Queen of parties at Six Rivers. Had Alex not been strictly into the male sex, the two might have cemented their crown with a sexual relationship. Instead, they were the two people who were always the best dressed, always knew where the best parties were and always threw the best parties at the camp.

The imminent return of Corbin to the camp was reason enough for celebration, at least in Alex’s book. Alexis went along with it; she knew that her fellow Dionysian was crushing hard on the Hades bad-boy. So she indulged his desire to try to spend some time with the reclusive son of Hades.

They were a team: Alex handled the decorating, food and ‘recreational’ fun, while Alexis dealt with invitations. This synergism was natural: Alex was something of a ‘mean girl’, catty as any lead in a bad teen movie but he had a wicked sense of style. On the other hand, Alexis was truly kind; the half-Asian scion honestly liked people, even scions who rivaled her father. So she went out of her way to invite everyone. ‘Everyone’ included Tristan, the known scion of Loki, the uber-weird Grimsley and the reclusive South American scion of Erzulie. The new kids were sought out and invited as well: polite refusals were met with firm rebuttals. In the end, it was hard to tell her no; Alexis was a charming, engaging young woman, and even those who normally weren’t affected by the feminine sex found themselves charmed by her.

Nightfall found Dionysus’s cabin and the surrounding area light by Chinese lanterns. A raging bonfire in the nearby firepit was roasting a pig, and a picnic table was nigh-groaning under the weight of other food. Inside, the blonde son of the god of wine was using his coffee machine to create hot alcoholic drinks, including a hot mead drink that Æsir scions loved like cats loved catnip. Blankets and lawn chairs dotted the area around the cabin, making comfortable places to group and talk.

A second after the sun was truly down, the music started, and the party was on.

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The bed creaked as Jake looked out at the sunset rays making it through the cracks of the cabin. His new domicile existed on the edge of the Atzlanti quarter, positioned carefully to make him as far from the connection and sphere of the Latin American pantheon's heirs and the camp proper as possible. A cutoff from intimacy and solidarity that was by all standards a calculated message to everyone. At least one as intended by the Gods making the decisions... including Xipe Toltec.

,,

Not that it did that much - not that Jake would have given a damn about their point - since the Scions of the Atzlanti were ultimately, teens like Jake... disagreements about the matter of blood was understood, and generally Jake and his new kin had come very quickly to an understanding about most other things being acceptable discussion.

,,

That established, Jake had got on with the others kids fairly well for a start. Alexis had very little difficulty - once the party had been suggested, Jake had perked up and immediately asked the time. Now, it was time to go, but a hint of inspiration still demanded attention. Jake pulled open the Book of Obsidian Snake, given to him before the rows that had gotten him confined in layer twelve of Acopa before his transfer to Six Rivers, and using the pencil he left there, scrawled a quick haiku before heading out to the circle of chairs.

,,

Night falls, cheerful sounds

Granted hospitality

Embers spark tonight

,,

A smile held its place on his face tonight.

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He sped down the magically concealed dirt trail that lead off the highway and toward Six Rivers. The massive tires of his four wheel drive Dodge Ram devoured the small puddles and light debris that often lay strewn across the road. Most people drove their vehicles carefully along the road but the dark haired driver just plowed through it. The undercarriage was lifted high enough that he could've rolled over a small fallen tree and not had to worry about it.

The four-by-four roared into the large dirt lot just outside the camp's entrance trail and the sound system boomed loudly, announcing Corbin's arrival.

Yes I'm back well I'm back
Yes I'm back
Well I'm back back
Well I'm back in black
Yes I'm back in blaaaack!


After several moments as AC/DC's chorus blared in the dirt 'parking' lot, Corbin collected his things and headed up the trail that led to the camp. Massive black duffel bags were over his shoulder and he was texting something with his opposite hand as he approached the main square then veered off to the left, heading for the cabins of the Dodekatheon. "Hey, Corbin! Welcome back, bruh!"

Corbin looked up from his phone and instantly smiled. Todd, short for Todor, was a massive Cyclops who appeared to be of African American decent. His skin was a deep chocolate and his height was a well-rounded eight feet tall. He had arms as thick as tree trunks, washboard abs and fists the size of basket balls. "Todd, s'up man? Holdin' it down?"

"You know it." He replied, his one eye blinking as he shrugged casually. "Team Alex is tossin' a mixer tonight bruh, case you hadn't heard yet. Hey, you get to see your mom at all?"

"Naw," Corbin looked like he was sorry about that, and Todd saw it. He quickly recovered though and his winning smile returned. "She was in Peru, attending some fund raiser gala for NatGeo. It sorta took all her time."

"For six weeks?" Only one side of Todd's single brow raised in a skeptical expression.

"It's cool." He shrugged, blowing it off. "We all have our duties. She has hers, I have mine. I don't hold it against her, besides, we, skyped a few times."

,,

Todd could see through the lie but he didn't push the point. "Hey, why don't you get settled in, we'll talk later." He let out a sigh and shook his head slowly, feeling sorry for the poor kid as he walked away knowing Corbin had too much pride to feel it for himself.

,,

*****

Corbin strolled into the official 'party boundary' and greeted a few of his fellow Scions. There wasn't much training going on tonight, and the roast pig was hard enough for Team Alex to get approved, but hey, the higher ups had to let the kids breathe and relax every once in awhile (especially since, when some of these guys got tense, they could crush boulders). It was Yin to the Yang: they study and train hard, so they must relax and party just as hard.

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A few new faces dotted the crowd, but he didn't make a point to 'greet' them- not out of any disrespect but simply because they had their lives going on and there was no point in simply walking up and interrupting it with some lame, 'welcome to your destiny' speech. His real name was Corbin Dionkeou, but everyone at the camp called him 'Corbin Black'. He was the son of one of the most feared Gods, Hades, Ruler of the Underworld... he was the sort of God that, like Zeus, Odin, or Thor, when they sired a child that child carried with them a measure of their power and bearing. They had a lot to live up to and most other Scions didn't envy them in the slightest; it's not easy living up to an impossible legend.

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"Black! Bro, how you been? Damn, man hook me up with the dirt. What's been going on in the World?" A young man, Gabe Patras, a Son of Hermes, slapped him on the shoulder and handed him a Cherry Coke.

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"Maybe later, Pat. I just got in, let me enjoy the party a bit. Oh, I did get that software for you though, find me in the morning..." The whole mess with his mom was still bugging him a bit. Sure he put up a good front, but inside he was sort of torn up about it. But, why? He wasn't sure.

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"Sweeeeeet, will do. Hey man, welcome back and have a good time tonight, try and loosen up!" With a few smacks on the back he was gone into the crowd, half walking and half dancing (badly).

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He wandered. The fire turned his khaki shorts several different shades of brownish red and orange, but his black button up shirt kept absorbing all the glow the fire offered. He greeted a lot of people and had a few short conversations until finally the party was raging on and he was leaning against the banister of Dionysus Cabin, sipping his Cherry Coke and smirking on occasion at the shenanigans taking place around him.

,,

He tried to relax.

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"No." The word was given no particular emphasis, lacking any real emotional context at all. It might as well have been written down as uttered aloud. Alexis Chao tried not to let the flash of irritation rule her - after all, this party was for everyone at the camp, and if anyone at the camp needed a party, it was Grimsley Algar. The boy sat on the porch at the top of carved wooden steps, which lead up into the longhouse that was home to the scions of the One-Eyed God - currently consisting of Grimsley himself. The hooded cloak he habitually wore these days was thrown back in the afternoon sunshine, revealing a faded grey t-shirt and tattered looking jeans, along with sneakers that had seen better days. Being a sweet girl, Alexis tried not to stare at the network of scars that covered his painfully thin arms, but that same empathy made her feel guilty about ignoring them too. Nobody had ever gotten an answer out of Odin's son as to how he'd gotten those scars, or the rich dark blue cloak, or the great grey hawk that sat on a perch by the door and watched her with an fierce, clear gaze.

,,

Which was more than Grim was doing. He was studying a book as usual, with his staff propped up against the wall beside him. Now and then a thin hand would reach out and touch the dark runecarved wood, much as a man might pet a loved dog. He gave every evidence of ignoring Dionysus's scion beyond the monotonal reply to her invitation. Alexis pouted slightly, a sight that would cause pangs of guilt in the hardest of hearts, and sighed. Grim just turned to the next page, his severe features composed in an attitude of study.

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"Grimsleeeyyy." Alexis wheedled, and started to move towards him. Her foot had barely cleared the first step when the hawk spread it's wings in an attitude of predatory menace, beak opening to rend and tear as its claws scraped against the thick wood of the perch. She paused, and so did the hawk, but it's wings didn't lower either. As if his collected demeanour and cold scorn weren't enough for those who had bullied him before his Visitation, that hawk was deterrent aplenty. It was a wild creature still, but loyal to the strange boy who fed it. And utterly fearless.

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"Grim." she said, proud of not sounding too nervous as she didn't take her eyes off the raptor. Now he raised his tousled head and glanced her way, then at the hawk, his mismatched eyes calm.

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"Strabo. Rest." he told the hawk in a soothing tone. The grey hawk settled down again and began to preen. A faint, genuine smile touched Grim's face, and Alexis noted that it transformed him enough that, if he filled out and smiled more, he might actually be handsome. "Yes, you protected me." he told the hawk. "Thank you." He turned his eyes on her, the smile fading again like morning dew.

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"Hehe, you should teach him to be nice to your friends." Alexis smiled charmingly at Grim. He blinked, once, then his mouth hardened.

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"Statistically, that seems not worth the bother." he muttered, opening his book once more.

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"C'mon, Grim." she wheedled. "I've never been like those other douchebags. Nor has Corbin. We're welcoming him home. He's always stuck up for you, never stood for the bullying." Grim considered that, his eyes on the ground. Alexis was right. He might not like it, but it would be a disservice to Corbin not to attend, and he owed the scion of Hades no ill will.

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"I doubt he would miss my presence at your piss-up, but very well." Grey and green eyes both locked onto Alexis. "I'll attend. And... thanks for the invite."

,,

"No problem!" Alexis chirped happily. Grim was the hard one to convince, she was sure. After him, Alpaca Girl ought to be a snap. "You'll have fun, I guarantee it." She bounced away in good spirits. Grim watched her go, then shook his head.

,,

"Guarantee, hmm? And what if I get a swirly from some retarded gorilla? Do I get a refund?" he asked Strabo rhetorically. Then he smirked, and went back to reading.

,,

* * * * *

He turned up late, naturally. He had debated bringing his staff and cloak, but had decided against it. It would be too much like coming armed and armored, and while that idea had merit, Grim had decided that diplomacy was the better path, and left them back in Odin's cabin under the watchful eyes of Strabo. He had, however, not changed out of his faded and tattered clothing. Mainly because he didn't really have much to change in to. He wandered into the happy throng, hands thrust deep into his pockets as his eyes searched the crowd from beneath his uncombed mop of hair. People recognised him, of course, but other than some nods of acknowledgement no-one approached him. "Odin's son.", they murmured as his pale eye swept over them, gleaming like steel in the firelight. And they looked at his scars. And they looked away.

,,

He helped himself to a plate of food and sought a quiet spot to eat. He found one in the shadow of the cabin itself, under one of the support pillars. A pile of cushions big enough for several people to lounge around on, currently vacant. Grim sat down with his back to the pillar and began to eat, his odd eyes watching the goings-on. Once he had eaten, he would sample some of the drink, seek out Corbin and offer his well-wishes, then return to the echoing silence of Odin's longhouse. It was a fine plan.

,,

Really, it was.

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"Seriously?! Oh, that is just wicked!" Makaela all but shouted as she bounced on the balls of her feet, her clear blue eyes lighting up as if she were a child seeing her first Christmas tree glittering on a warm summer night. Alexis blinked in surprise and suppressed the urge to take a half-step backward; she'd heard the newcomer was a live wire, but after trying to coax some of the more recalcitrant Scions out of their self-imposed exiles earlier in the evening, she had not expected this level of enthusiasm. Still, she had to admit, it was actually kind of cute, in a 'no-Red-Bull-for-you-ever' kind of way.

"Seriously," the pretty Dionysian girl grinned back, relieved that the Aussie dynamo wasn't making her job more difficult, or wasting her time; she still had loads of people to chat up before the party. "It'll be great. You can meet everybody, get your dance on, y'know. Just have a good time."

'A good time' was exactly what the doctor'd ordered, as far as Makaela was concerned. Three days she'd been at Six Rivers, and already she was going stir-crazy. There was no ocean. There was no beach. How exactly was she supposed to do any surfing on a lake in the middle of a landlocked wilderness? ...Not to mention the fact that she wasn't sure anyone there spoke proper English- even the Americans had weird accents she could hardly understand.

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Still and all, she was going to this party, and she was going to do her best to forget how strange the air smelled here, and how all her friends were thousands of miles away, even for just a few hours. In low, faded yellow Chucks (sans socks), frayed denim cutoffs, and a bright orange halter top with crocheted straps, the energetic young Scion looked tan, toned, and completely unselfconscious as she jogged across the clearing toward the music and lanterns.

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"Hey!" "How's it goin'?" "Nice hat!" "Oh, that looks deee-lish. Mind if I grab some?" "Thanks, mate. Cheers!" "Great party, innit?" "Hey, thanks for the invite!" "This place looks awesome!" "Hey, what's in that?" "Sorry, mate, can't understand a word you're sayin'. Maybe we could do sign language or somethin', yeah?"

,,

Either the sunny blonde didn't know how to be nervous around complete strangers, or she wasn't giving herself a chance to run into any, because she greeted and spoke to every person she passed with the same cheerful exuberance.

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Erzulie’s cabin was as luxurious as any of the other love goddesses’, yet there was something that was a little more homely than Aphrodite’s cabin. Like Freya, Erzulie had familial ties as well as romantic love in her house. But where Aphrodite’s scions lived in a columned temple and Freya’s in a homely longhouse, Erzulie’s scions lived in a oversized log cabin painted in cheerful reds, oranges and pinks. A stylized image of Erzulie as the Black Madonna adored the space over the door, her beautiful smile beaming down at all who entered.

Alexis smiled and walked up the steps, feeling comfortable in this place. It was meant to be a place of peace, where abused children and young lovers alike could find a place to be safe. It made, in Alexis’s mind, the choice of Tintaya an odd one. The girl was known to be adopted, and she was only as polite as she had to be. She would have been a much better fit in one of the war god’s scions.

The door to the cabin was open, and white curtains floated in and out of the entrance on the wind. The faint smell of oranges and flowers greeted Alexis as she entered the main space. Ten bunkbeds, five on each wall, lined the room, but only four of them were occupied, and the top bunks held people’s stuff as opposed to being beds. The interior warm and inviting, with a large braided rug in red and gold covering most of the floor. The windows all had white curtains, which gave the place a feel of a lazy summer day. Guitar music filled the room, coming from the tall African American kid on one of the beds, picking at the strings. His dark fingers plucked at the strings casually and Big John smiled warmly at Alexis. “Hey, girl.”

“Hey, Big J. Where’s the rest of your fellow Erzulites?” Alexis asked, smiling as she joined him on his bunk.

“The pee-wee is with the other pee-wees and the ladies are out sparring today.” His grin widened and warmed, even as it twisted the scars on his face. “You need some help?”

“Not what you’re thinking,” Alexis laughed, swatting him lightly on his knee. She teased the handsome boy all the time, just as she did with many other boys at the camp. She really couldn’t help herself; the love goddesses made so many pretty, pretty boys. John’s scars were a detraction, but he’d gotten them defending himself and his sister from a Titan. They were the mark of a hero and only added to his sexy in Alexis’s opinion. “Corbin’s coming back and Alex is welcoming him home.”

“Uh huh.” John chuckled and the music changed to the first chords of Bad Things.

“Be nice! It’s not like Alex is a predatory gay or anything. He just wants what he can’t have,” Alexis said, frowning. That frown made men want to fix things for her, but this was one thing they couldn’t fix.

John nodded philosophically. “Don’t we all.” His strong fingers slapped down on the strings, silencing the guitar’s music. “So what can I do for you?”

“Everyone’s invited to the party, so I wanted to make sure that everyone knows.” The half-Asian girl cast a meaningful look at the newest Erzulie scion’s bunk. The Peruvian had wormed out of the last party by saying she wasn’t invited specifically so she didn’t want to be rude. Alexis knew that was an excuse, so she wasn’t giving Tintaya any wiggle room this time.

John’s expression became thoughtful. “She’ll be there. We all will, even the pee-wee.” Alexis believed him; John was the de facto leader of the Erzulie scions. He was the oldest, at nineteen, and had been here the longest, since he was twelve. He’d long been the protector of his little sister, Zyra, and made himself the guardian of all of his mother’s children at the camp. So if anyone could get a recalcitrant Peruvian to move, it was John. Still, there was some doubt on her expression. Alexis had spent months trying to make friends with the newest Loa adoptee and knew how stubborn she could be. “She’ll be there,” John repeated, putting a hand over his heart. “My word.”

“All right, then we’ll see you and the Erzulie pack there.” Alexis gave John a big grin before turning and heading out to find her next target. Tristan was going to be an easy-sell after these two...

* * *

Emile was in her bed again. Tintaya paused in the doorway to the cabin, setting down the shield that Maximus had been drilling her with. Normally, she’d say he was drilling with her, but today he’d been in a bad mood because of a daughter of Aphrodite. Their normal practice time had turned into a punishing sparring session that had left her bruised and aching.

Behind her, Zyra headed into the cabin, pausing to give John a hug. The two were rare full-siblings; their father had been a crusader for victims of domestic violence in New York City and for his service to her cause, Erzulie had blessed him not once but twice.

“Tintaya, got a moment?” John’s voice was pitched low enough that Emile didn’t waken and the young scion turned to face her older ‘half-brother’. “Outside?”

“Of course.” Her words and tone were polite--too polite. They were bland and inoffensive, utterly lacking warmth. Tintaya followed John to the benches and sat down.

“Team Alex is holding a party tonight. You’re going.” John’s voice was firm and Tintaya felt her eyebrows rise in surprise. This was not typical of John.

“Have I caused offense, that you’re approaching me with orders?” Tintaya felt anger rise in her; the guise of Je Wouj, the bitter woman no one could love, was her first exposure to Erzulie, and in some ways, that was Erzulie to Tintaya. Her father’s gift of anger was a good compliment to Erzulie Je Wouj.

“No, no offense. I’m merely telling you that this is how it is.” John pulled his knee up and rested an elbow on it.

Tintaya narrowed her eyes at him. “And why is that the way it is?”

“Because I’m nineteen, and soon I’ll be gone, off fighting. You’ll be the eldest of Mom’s children here, and Zyra and Emile will be looking to you. Hell, Emile is already attached to you.” John sighed. “I really need to know that when I’m gone, you’re going to be the one showing them how to get along with the other scions. You’ll need to find a Band, and all that. So will they, and you should lead by example.”

“I’m not sure I’m built for this.” Tintaya was sure she wasn’t built for this.

“Tin, if we’re protectors; it’s in our blood and magic. If we can’t protect our own, we’re pretty shitty at it.” John put a hand on her shoulder. “Follow the instincts Erzulie gave you. They’ll guide you true.”

“I... I don’t know if I can.” Tintaya stared at the ground. She felt lost and alone, not for the first time since coming here. Her alpaca were out back; she needed some time with them--

“I know you can.” He squeezed her shoulder lightly. “It’s in you, since Erzulie picked you.” Rising to his feet, he stretched and said, “Let’s get ready for the evening service before we head over to the party, all right?”

“Sure.” Tintaya wasn’t sure, in truth. She wasn’t sure about any of this. But she couldn’t go back to the Andes; her life there was gone. The only way out was to go forward, toward the final goal.

The four scions cleaned up in the bathrooms, then went to the second story of the log cabin. This level was open on three sides; a metal railing reminiscent of the ones in New Orleans kept people from wandering over the edge. An altar on a red table was against the back wall; yesterday’s offerings had been cleared and the offering platter was ready for today’s gifts. Each of the four scions placed flowers or an orange on the table and said a brief prayer. As always, Tintaya could feel Erzulie’s presence; it was comforting and off putting at the same time.

Once the evening ablutions were done, John took his sister’s hand while Tintaya felt Emile worm his fingers into hers. Glancing down at the child, she wondered why he’d fixated on her so hard. She couldn’t ask; he was Haitian and only spoke a broken French that no one really understood. Looking at his little dark face, she realized that as lonely as she was, the three-year-old had it worse: he couldn’t even talk to anyone. Erzulie had said his family was dead.

Crouching, Tintaya signaled for him to get on her back. It took a couple of moments, but he climbed aboard, as light as a feather. When she rose, John was smiling at her.

Maybe she could do this.

* * *



It was well after dark when they arrived. As they joined the edge of the party, people called out greetings to John and Zyra. Many more waved to her, and as they walked by one yelled, “Yo Alpaca Chick!”

The guest of honor was leaning against the cabin, and John headed for him. “Hey, Corbin, man.” Most people knew the friendly John; it was unusual to see his shyer sister and the other two out, though. “Have you met everyone? This is Zyra, Tintaya, and the clinger on Tin’s back is Emile. He doesn’t know English yet, so don’t mind if he doesn’t speak to you.”

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"John, hello." Corbin greeted the man by locking wrists with him. "Officially, met? No." He politely greeted them all with with a smile or a polite nod, reaffirming their names to commit their faces to memory.

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"So, what did you do to deserve all this?" The large man said with a wide smile. He waved his arm outward to encompass the scene.

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"Honestly," Corbin chuckled. "I've no idea. I was only gone for six weeks, and just to visit my mother. It's not like I was questing."

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"We both know these two don't need a reason, you were as good of a reason as any." John clamped him on the shoulder. "But welcome back. Every trip outside the boundary is no guarantee we'll make it back safe. John said a short praise to the Gods in an old African dialect that Corbin didn't recognize, but he understood it's meaning and purpose. He took a moment to thank his father and did it in Greek. "You should talk to Tin, sometime. She could learn a lot from ya and a little guidance can go a long way."

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With some measure of reluctance John managed to usher Tintaya up closer to Corbin, her attempts to get through this ordeal in relative secrecy just seemed to take a nose dive. "Ive been trying to get her open up a little, learn a few things from others. Grim and you seem the best bets, but all know how Grim is."

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"Grim is Grim." Corbin said politely. "His counsel is far wiser than mine, but I'll concede that I'm easier to get an appointment with." Corbin extended a hand to Tintaya and smiled. "Corbin Black," he said, using the moniker the camp had given him. "Pleasure to finally meet you, glad you could come be a part of my epic return, even if I'm not sure how I managed to return so epically. It was just a car ride." He smirked and rolled his eyes, still finding it absurd to throw this grand of a party just for him (But Team Alex never did anything half-way, they could throw a mixer that went three days just because bought a new pair of shoes). "For the record though, if they start singing 'hail the conquering hero' or something, I'm calling it a night."

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Although hard to express in the writing (it's 2:30am...) Corbin has Cha 4/Epic Cha 1 and a Presence of 4 with Arete (Presence) 1. The point being is that while he doesn't overbear anyone, he's very personable, polite and kind. He's very approachable and easy to talk to.

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Tintaya shook the hand offered by the dark-haired boy, smiling at him. He was easy to smile at; while not a great beauty there was an ease about him. It was a powerful weapon, one that Tintaya had utilized herself. She was much better at it now, just as the boy was better than she had been. As Corbin finished his joke and the laughter it had generated faded, Tintaya asked in her lyrically accented voice, “Are any other songs forbidden?”
“Hmm?” John asked. Tintaya shot him a look; he knew full well what she meant; he was trying to draw her out more.
He wanted her to be social? Fine. Tintaya would show him what she was capable of being. “I was just wondering what other songs would drive Corbin away before I could get to know him better.” She gave her head a cottequish tilt and smiled at Corbin--a warm smile just for him. She didn’t have to draw him away from the others, to complete all the steps in her familiar old dance, but she could play with him a little. If nothing else, it would show John what she could do.
Flirting because it was fun didn’t occur to her.
“I mean, is a Brittney Spears or Lady Gaga song going to send you fleeing into the safety of your parent’s cabin? If so, I also need to know which parent that is, so that I can find you later, if I want.” Tintaya struggled not to laugh as John blinked at her in surprise.

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Jake had snagged a Coke upon arrival, and having engaged in greetings with the few other Scions he knew as of now, he was informed by Maria, the dark-haired and willowy daughter of Quetzcoatl about whom the party was 'meant' to celebrate. She pointed out the black-haired notoriety, currently with a few other Scions. Jake grinned and thanked her, figuring he might as well continue to meet everyone at the camp.

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Jake had managed to catch the last part of the conversation, and so he quipped as he approached: "Actually, Team Alex should have waited for Corbin to enter, drop a spotlight on him - then play Ode to Joy. It would have been hilarious." A nod and a grin to each of the others. "Hey. Jake Petruzzi, new arrival. So Corbin is the big man in Six Rivers?"

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When Ariel Cole arrived at the Six Rivers, there wasn't much to see. Hardly anyone seemed about...possibly the time was off. It had been a long flight over, and she could feel the jetlag simmering in her brain. The kid, maybe twelve or thirteen, who was showing her around guided her past the common area, the cafeteria, mentioning trails that led to various other places around the came as they passed them. Finally they came to the house that had been set aside for Artemis among the proud Greco-Roman halls that cluttered the pantheon's byway in neat little rows.

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Ariel immediately noticed that there was a pattern to these houses. The one marked with a lightning bolt was slightly taller than the others, and then each other house was organized in a barely perceptible order of height. A hierarchy. Probably not of the scions, she decided, but rather of the gods themselves. Hades might tolerate being a little smaller than Zeus, but could he stomach Hermes having a temple of the same size? Zounds, no. As the gods decreed, so the men built.

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It made her want to cry to think beings like that apparently held the keys to the universe.

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Her new domicile was pleasant enough, if a bit spartan (hah! because...oh shut up). It had some greenery around it at least, and a nice domed roof. Its entrances were open arches, high and wide, leading into a small courtyard in which a lush garden had been tended. A fountain over a pool of water burbled peacefully at the center. Past that was the doors to the dormitory and living space...and it was quite a bit more modest. A handful of rooms, all empty. Artemis, Ariel reflected, was not a 'breeder,' to use the vulgar vernacular. Not a prolific adopter either, it seemed. Or maybe there were more, scattered out there in the world, waiting for some horrible thing to happen and earn her approval.

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Equally likely to Ariel's mind was that they might just not survive that horrible thing to begin with. Artemis seemed to like her children to be self-sufficient, at least nominally so, before offering a hand in aid. Or maybe it was something else. Ariel didn't pretend to understand the mind of her divine patron.

,,

She thanked her guide and started unpacking. Somewhere in the camp a dull thumping beat started up...distant music, muted but audible in its bass registers. So there were other kids here. Ariel was not a 'party girl,' by nature...though she insisted she wasn't antisocial, she preferred a few good friends to an ocean of acquaintences, and she preferred social encounters to be in her planner with a little phrase or sentence that described what sort of thing it was before going. Not antisocial...she just found that other people, in quantity, tended to disrupt her life and the things she wanted to do with the things THEY wanted to do. Perfectly social other than that.

,,

So looking that music up wasn't immediately on her mind, but the constant bum bum bum bum bumbum bum of it weighed on her as she finished unpacking, and her clothes sat in organized little stacks on her bed. She wasn't going to get much done tonight anyway...and it would be good to get a broader view of the camp. And in this case, with no plans of her own to interrupt, well...she could talk to the other kids about what there was to do here. Who the good teachers were. Dos and don'ts of demigodhood. She could get oriented.

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Ariel was very big on getting oriented.

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She hesitated on seeing the white cloth wrapping that her bow was in. It was made of silver, in addition to being an irreplaceable divine relic. Should she bring it? Were there rules about toting weapons around? It would be incredibly embarrassing to show up at this music event only to be turned away because she had a bow. But maybe if she left the arrows behind?

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Yes, that would do.

,,

With the silver bow of Artemis over her shoulder, Ariel headed back out...and nearly bumped into another girl who was cautiously ascending the steps up to the archway.

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"Oh my...hi!" the other girl said cheerfully, offering a hand. She had a pretty face and a perky smile, and looked like she should be doing commercials for breakfast cereals or toothpaste. "I'm Alexis! Sorry if I startled you, I saw the light on in there...I didn't know we had anyone from Artemis here right now!"

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Ariel shook hands with her with a peculiar caution, as if expecting the girl's skin to split open at her touch and spray little worms everywhere. "Hi," she replied apologetically in her unmistakable upper-class British accent. "Ariel Cole. No, I'm new. I just got my things out and thought I'd see what the, uh..." she waved a hand in the air. "...the noise was about."

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Alexis beamed. This one was easy! "That's such a coincidence, because I've just been going around and making sure everyone in the camp has an invitation," she declared. "I love your accent, by the way."

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"Right," said Ariel a little confusedly. "It's...how I talk, yep. Always have, to my knowledge." The nonsequitor hung for a second before Ariel realized she hadn't quite addressed the full content of Alexis' communication. "So...invitation. It's a party?"

,,

The other girl bobbed a nod so perky that Ariel was sure there were Disney princesses hanging their heads in shame at the sight of it. "We're welcoming one of the guys home, but really it's just an excuse to get everyone together."

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"So...it's not always this quiet around here?" Ariel asked. "Except for the noise I mean. There's usually more people...here?"

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Alexis laughed and grabbed Ariel's wrist to haul her along with her. "Of course there are. The camp's full of kids. They're just all going to the party...come on, I'll show you how to get there, but then I have to finish up."

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Ariel permitted herself to be dragged to one of the little marked paths that crisscrossed the camp. Some of the intersections had little wooden signs shaped like arrows that pointed out various destinations. Alexis pointed down one...a path that terminated in a copse of trees that golden light shone through and the bass beat grew thumpingly louder from, then grinned and said goodbye and hurried on her way. Spreading goodwill and cheer, like a tiny, sleighless, female Santa Claus. Who being female, tiny and sleighless was in fact nothing like Santa Claus at all.

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She arrived at the party looking a little like a deer regarding a road upon which some headlights were gleaming in the far distance. Not quite frozen, but definitely in expectation of it happening very soon. A pretty girl with slightly sun-darkened skin, wearing a pale blue spaghetti strap top and brown cargo pants, with a thin dark brown vest over it and her brown hair done back in a functional ponytail that it had started stealthly working its way out of. Hanging by its string around her left shoulder was a short round bow made from silver.

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"Is this the party?" she asked the first clump of teens she saw. She felt silly for asking it, and that feeling showed quite clearly on her face and in her voice. "I mean, the one for..." she jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "...for the camp."

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Flirting because it was fun didn’t occur to her.

“I mean, is a Brittney Spears or Lady Gaga song going to send you fleeing into the safety of your parent’s cabin? If so, I also need to know which parent that is, so that I can find you later, if I want.” Tintaya struggled not to laugh as John blinked at her in surprise.
"Uh, no, I was merely joking... I don't mind what songs they play." Corbin was fairly well composed until she began flirting. He blushed and his neck and ears began to redden. "H-Hades..." He managed. His mind was spinning wondering why this girl suddenly was all over him and why, for some reason, he couldn't form complete sentences. By default his brain turned on his defense mechanism... useless trivia. "Uh... d-did you know that in some writings it was Apollo who gave King Midas his golden touch? T-truth is, it was actually Dionysus."
It was as if the Fates were looking over his shoulder and were on his side this evening because someone whom he'd never met before decided to interject and introduce himself. Despite the introduction he seized the opportunity to change the topic. "Um, no... I'm not... no." He shook his head trying to get his testosterone pickled mind off of Tintaya on focused on Jake. "Look, really, I'm just a Scion, like all of you. Really. No one special. These guys are making a big deal for nothing, they just wanted to throw a party and I was a convenient excuse." He shook Jake's hand, the grip was strong and firm. "It's nice to meet you Jake, I'm Corbin, as you seem to already know. Welcome to Six Rivers."
I swear when I find those to wine sipping... UGH. His inner voice was teeming with teenage rage. This wasn't the first time Team Alex had managed to put him in some sort of awkward social pickle, but it wasn't as bad as when the Hermes's kids dropped itching powder in his sparring armor.

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john_zpsfbb3cf38.jpg
“Golden touch?” Tintaya was a hunter and she zeroed back in on her prey with unerring accuracy. She leaned a hair close, her dark eyes meeting his with intense focus. “That sounds interesting, Corbin.” The way she rolled the ‘R’ in his name was interesting to his teenage hormones, too. “Is this something a son of Hades would know how to do as well?” ,,

As Jake realized he’d stumbled into something far more interesting than a meet-n-greet, John took Tintaya by the arm and gently tugged her back from Corbin a step. “Easy there, Tin. I don’t think Corbin is interested.”

,,

“Oh, I’m sorry, do you like men?” Tintaya asked with the same intensity, though her inquiry was tinged with polite curiosity, too.

,,

As Alex, somewhere in the party, felt his hope rise briefly, John released a sharp laugh. “You’re barking up the wrong tree; Corbin’s dedicated wholly to the art of war. Ladies, men – none interest this man other than the cause.” With an admiring smile, John clapped Corbin on the arm. “And that’s why we all know and love him. Tin, I wanted you to meet him because Corbin’s one of the better guides you’ll find here at camp. He’ll give you some excellent knowledge.”

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“That is a pity,” Tintaya purred, smiling at Corbin. “I was hoping that the golden touch involved… touching.”

,,

“Oh, it does.” John shook his head in exasperation. “Someone else wanna tell this girl about poor Midas?”

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Is this the party?" she asked the first clump of teens she saw. She felt silly for asking it, and that feeling showed quite clearly on her face and in her voice. "I mean, the one for..." she jerked a thumb over her shoulder. "...for the camp."

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"Phew!" Makaela exhaled, cheeks flushed and smile Colgate-white as she extricated herself from the throng of dancing teens. They were playing some unintelligibly slow, soulful R&B song now that she hadn't heard before, so it seemed an ideal opportunity to grab something to drink and make another round about the periphery of the party. She hadn't quite made it to the refreshments when Ariel asked her question, and paused mid-stride at the sound of it- just audible over the briefly more-subdued music. Instantly, her ears perked up and her head swivelled around so violently a normal person's neck would've cracked, her eyes searching for the source of the posh accent.

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"Oh!" The blonde's grin widened and she flung one hand up in a brisk wave as she caught sight of the newcomer just a few yards away. She was so excited to meet someone who spoke anything resembling English that she forgot completely about being thirsty and all but jogged over to greet the pretty young Scion with the bit of silver looped over her shoulder. "Hey!" she called out cheerily as she approached, "you don't speak American!" The group of teens Ariel had actually asked rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and laughed amongst themselves; less than 72 hours in camp, and the Aussie was already cultivating a reputation- not that she would've minded, particularly, even if she'd had any idea. "Sorry," she laughed as she came to a stop and rocked back slightly on her heels, the crinkling around her eyes and the sparkle therein a clear sign that the apology was only a polite one, and she wasn't actually sorry in the least. "Hope I didn't freak you out, there. I'm Makaela, and, yeah, this's the place! Some Corbin Something-'r-other made it home after bein' gone for a while, and I guess they reckoned that was good enough reason to have a bit of a rage."

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Jake took a few moments to connect the dots of what he had partially heard and what he had just seen. The end product made him start to giggle, which blossomed into a full laugh in a few moments duration. "Midas? Ok, I know this is a camp of children of Gods, but still. Worst pickup line ever." Corbin looked even more embarrassed, John could only shake his head even more, but Tintaya, not aware of the full context looked politely puzzled.

,,

"Why not?" She asked, with a questioning look. Jake grinned, getting into the talking now. As a writer he had looked into mythology a bit, some dabbling in the general recordings of Greek and Norse mythology, plus tidbits of Egyptian and East Asian stories. Plus, Tintaya was pretty hot, and he didn't mind flirting as well.

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"Golden touch literally meant, everything he touched turned to gold. Even people. Classic case of be careful what you wish for. Now - Pygmalion's more what you're looking for. He was a sculptor, who made the statue of a woman, so beautiful that he fell in love with the statue. Corbin, why don't you tell Tin-"

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"Tintaya," The Andean girl clarified, but anticipating with glee where this was going.

,,

"Tell Tintaya how the story ends."

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"Aphrodite blessed Galatea, the ivory statue, and it came to life." Corbin said rather flatly, unsure where Jake was going with this point. "Pygmalion and his new wife had a son and lived happily ever after."

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Talking to Jake was easy, the moment he turned back to face Tintaya his brain slipped back into 'derp' mode and he blushed. "At least, uh... that's the version I learned."

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“There are other versions?” Tintaya deftly removed her arm from John’s grip and took a step toward Corbin. As the young scion tensed as if a medusa were approaching him, Tintaya smiled, a secretive, knowing smile. It hinted at mysteries in dark places and delights that could nigh destroy his heart, mind and soul. The smile didn’t help Corbin’s nervousness.

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“I like that version, though. It’s romantic.” Tintaya sidled up to Corbin, feeling Emile’s arms tighten around her shoulders. “The man overcome by his art, the goddess who saw love in an unusual form, and gave it a form that allowed that love to blossom.” Tintaya kept her eyes on Corbin’s ignoring his flaming blush. Her voice was taut with desire as she murmured, “Any woman would yearn to be loved so much that it would catch the attention of a goddess.” Her dark eyes seemed to fill Corbin’s world as she asked, “Is it the same for boys, for men? Do they want a love that deep and powerful?”

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Their eyes were locked. Indeed, Taya was gorgeous. Her eyes glimmered perfectly in the light, lips glossed perfectly and her voice was like being wrapped in silk. The woman was just... wow. "A love that powerful is tragic." Was all he managed to say. Probably the wrong thing to say to a Scion of a love goddess, but Corbin was nothing if not honest. "We are not meant to have love like that. Pygmalion was not a Scion, he was just gifted mortal artist. We however, like Heracles, Theseus or Jason are not meant for love. For us to love is to invite tragedy. Heroes are destined for greatness, to define an age or to live in on an immortal legend, to invite love is folly. We must sacrifice love, for greatness."

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The skies overhead rumbled softly despite there not being a cloud in the sky. Someone up there didn't share Corbin's disdain for romance.

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He looked up to the heavens and then back to Taya. He murmured a silent prayer in Greek, then continued on. "I ask forgiveness, but I shan't allow my heart to be tricked into love's wicked snare. If I am to do my part I must remain focused and battle ready. I've no time for romance and I hope I've not offended you."

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"Oh!" The blonde's grin widened and she flung one hand up in a brisk wave as she caught sight of the newcomer just a few yards away. She was so excited to meet someone who spoke anything resembling English that she forgot completely about being thirsty and all but jogged over to greet the pretty young Scion with the bit of silver looped over her shoulder. "Hey!" she called out cheerily as she approached, "you don't speak American!" The group of teens Ariel had actually asked rolled their eyes, shook their heads, and laughed amongst themselves; less than 72 hours in camp, and the Aussie was already cultivating a reputation- not that she would've minded, particularly, even if she'd had any idea. "Sorry," she laughed as she came to a stop and rocked back slightly on her heels, the crinkling around her eyes and the sparkle therein a clear sign that the apology was only a polite one, and she wasn't actually sorry in the least. "Hope I didn't freak you out, there. I'm Makaela, and, yeah, this's the place! Some Corbin Something-'r-other made it home after bein' gone for a while, and I guess they reckoned that was good enough reason to have a bit of a rage."

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Ariel gave Makaela a grateful smile and nodded. She wasn't quite sure why the Australian girl would have thought she'd have freaked out, so filed it swiftly in her mental junk drawer, never to be referenced again.

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"Makaela," she said as she went over to shake hands. "Good to meet you, thanks. I'm Ariel Cole...very new here if wasn't obvious yet. Literally just finished unpacking when someone named Alexis found me and sent me off here. I uh..." she nudged the bow over her shoulder and gave Makaela an apologetic look. "I wasn't sure what to do with this. It didn't feel right to leave it in an empty house, but I've no idea if it's allowed to bring things like this here. Sorry...if it helps, I did leave the actual arrows behind. So we can just think of it as a sort of one-string guitar, maybe?"

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Oh good god, was that a joke? Honestly? I'd say I should keep my day job, but since I don't actually have one it wouldn't really help much.

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"Anyway," Ariel said quickly, trying to gloss over the stupid joke, "I've still got a bit of jetlag. Is there punch or refreshments or anything? I could use a punch in the arm right about now."

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Corbin’s words took the smile from Tintaya’s face, though once she spoke it became clear her frown wasn’t for her sake. “You should not say such things, though. Your gods are well-known for taking such words as a challenge or a threat. You are a scion of Death, but it may be that Love will force another lesson on you. A thought for you.”


Now a smirk crept in to replace her frown. “Another thought: you should not assume my purpose here, Corbin,” she said, her lips losing their lethally seductive twist and adopting a gentler teasing curve. “I never said I was looking for romance. I might yearn for such, but I know that my service to Erzulie does not involve such things, for myself.” Her destiny had never involved such kind emotions as love.


His rising flush delighted her. Quick as a snake, she reached out and brushed a finger along his jaw, leaving tingles on his skin as she retracted her hand. “Perhaps we can find less gentle amusements to share. Perhaps not.


“But for now, I find that I would be amused to eat - I am quite hungry and that pig smell very good. It was nice to meet you, Corbin.” Tintaya graced him with another perfect smile before turning to John. “Shall we?”


“Sure.” He gestured toward the food, then turned to Corbin. His expression said he was sorry for exposing Corbin to Taya as he said, “Catch you later, man.” Once they were away from the other two, John leaned close and muttered, “You’re evil, woman.”


“Erzulie did not chose me for my winning smile,” Tintaya remarked, giving John a cool look. Zyra, who had dashed off during their conversation, came back with a kitten. “The camp has cats?”


John snorted. “Please. Bast’s temple is cra-, er, Bast’s temple has several cats living there and they always have a kitten. Zyra, where did you get that?”


“Fatima has two.” At the mention of the young daughter of Bast and best-friend to Zyra, John nodded. “Don’t worry, I’m not bringing it home. She’s just letting me hold it.”


John smiled down at his sister as he gave her a one-armed hug. Tintaya smiled as she watched the siblings interact. Suddenly, she was glad she’d been taken in by Erzulie rather than accepting her father’s offer. There was power in her father’s blood, but there was power here, too, in the love of family.

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Jake blinked at the exchange between Corbin and Tintaya, particularly around the moment of Corbin's duty speech and how he took the rumble in the sky so seriously. John's previous warning had made more and more sense now, and Jake just quietly shook his head. Oh, he wanted to be a hero, and he'd get his pound of flesh for his parents... but Corbin sounded like this was his sole purpose in life.

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"Seriously... have you ever had fun? We're not bound to eternal war against the Titans, much less have to sacrifice so much. Not that we're not going to be involved...but we have far more control of our fates now, than mundane people." This served to Corbin as an immediate sign that Jake was most certainly a very recently visited Scion.

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"Come on," he offered warmly, without skipping a beat. "Let's get our plates of pig, sit by the fire and talk with people. If nothing else, we all have each other here, right?"

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Grim watched the dancers bob and gyrate and shout and laugh, and anyone observing him would have seen a faint smile curving his lips. The skinny Odinson was picking steadily at a large plate of roasted meat, his chewing slow and thoughtful, as though every mouthful was worthy of consideration. Which it was, to be fair. The food at Six Rivers was always of superb quality. The gods wanted their chosen to be properly inspired as to the rewards of good and faithful service in The Cause, so even the most shallow would throw themselves into the Titans mouths in order to choke them, just for the possibility of greater rewards. Some might have considered Grim's attitude cynical.

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He considered himself informed.

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After all, was not that the reason he was here? One of the mixed blessings of his preternatural insight into the workings of things was that he couldn't really hide his own motives any more than he could be blind to the motives of others. "You will know sorrows uncounted, you will know pain and toil and heartbreak. You will dash yourself on the rocks, break yourself on the wheel, hang yourself from the tree. And you will know the glory, wisdom and power that these things bring. Or you will know death." His father's words echoed around his head, and Grim reflected that at least the old bugger was honest about his expectations. Grim wanted that wisdom, wanted that power. He wanted the world to keep spinning, and to be part of that spin, to be at the center of all things and yet be able to observe.

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But the partying around him did make him smile a little. It felt good, he realised, to be at the center of the brightly-coloured fast moving throng, to feel the pulse of the music and watch the dancing youths in front of him. And of course, being sat on the ground in his little island of cushions against one of the cabin's pillars, he was a small oasis of stillness around which the storm of revelry circled, spun and raged. People didn't approach him, nor bother with him save in cursory greeting: "Oh, hey." They didn't lie, at least, and say that they were glad to see him here. There were a few who might be able to genuinely say so, people like Corbin, a knight born out of his time, full of courtesy and decency to all who did not prove that they deserved otherwise. Grim didn't know if he pitied Corbin or envied him. More envied, he felt, ruthless as always with his self-appraisal. Corbin was tall, strong and handsome, well-liked and sought after. A knight indeed.

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"And so am I become a knight - of the kingdom of dreams and shadows." Grim quoted softly, his smile turning bitter for a moment. He felt envious, and felt foolish for it. He didn't want to be sought after and well-liked, and if he did want to be he'd likely be lousy at it. He settled his inner turmoil with a deep breath and took another bite of barbequed pork. He was content, right now. He was in the midst of the party, seeing laughing, flirting faces everywhere, surrounded by it, yet apart and able to observe.

,,

Just how he liked it.

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"Seriously... have you ever had fun? We're not bound to eternal war against the Titans, much less have to sacrifice so much. Not that we're not going to be involved...but we have far more control of our fates now, than mundane people." This served to Corbin as an immediate sign that Jake was most certainly a very recently visited Scion.

,,

"Come on," he offered warmly, without skipping a beat. "Let's get our plates of pig, sit by the fire and talk with people. If nothing else, we all have each other here, right?"

Corbin breathed a soft sigh of relief and untensed his abdomen. Taya scared him, girls had that effect on him. It wasn't because she was scary or because she was intimidating, it was because she wasn't. He'd trained his whole life to become a weapon for the gods and through out it all he learned how to fight, how to act, even how to socialize... but it was all training. None of that compared to real socializing where he was forced to confront a gorgeous and have an actual conversation that dealt with him, his own thoughts, his own feelings... Corbin didn't have these things, he was conditioned to serve the gods, not be a normal seventeen year old boy. By the Gods... why do they all have to be so... pretty.

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Fact: Girls were icky. They distracted him and made his stomach knot up.

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"Fun?" Corbin asked, a bit confused by his question. "Of course, I've had fun. Everyday I spar in the arena. I run the shore line of the lake, archery at the range, several hundred push-ups and sit ups. There's all kinda of fun to be had here." It would have been easy to assume that Corbin was joking until he realized that the dark Scion was very serious... which meant, pretty much, that Corbin didn't really have a whole lot of conventional fun.

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They walked a few steps, avoided a few people by stepping sideways through the crowd and stopped a few times for Corbin to meet and greet several more campers. Often times Corbin wondered why he was such a celebrity around this place, he was no different from anyone else except for his father being one of the more powerful gods. In every pantheon the gods of death were often given a wide birth and a large amount of respect. Everything dies, even gods and no one wanted to be on their bad side when they passed on. Corbin however was unlike most Scions of his father (or so he'd heard, he was the only one at Six Rivers). He was fun, upbeat, charismatic, and if it wasn't for his fear of women, he'd be quite the lady killer (figuratively). He didnt' seem to suffer with the bipolar disorders of depression, anger, kindness any joy that his fellow cousins did.

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"You're certainly new, I can tell." He said to Jake after several moments. Before he ate any of his plated he walked to the fire, Jake followed. He, much like several of the other Geek and Egyptian Scions, tossed a portion of their meal in the flames and muttered a silent prayer. Corbin seemed no different. "Επιτρέψτε μου να σας τιμήσει βασίλειο, ο Λόρδος Άδη."

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Jame had no idea what he said, but with a shrug continued on.

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"We have very little control of our fates, Jake. We, mortals and Scions would like to think we do, but we don't." He took a few small finger fulls of barbeque and stuffed them into his mouth, foregoing utensils. "Well, more to the point, we have as much control as we'd like, but when the Fates come calling, we're at their mercy. We're all new here at some point, although some of us might not like to admit it." His smile was sincere and Jake assumed he would have laughed if chewing wasn't occupying his mouth. He swallowed and swigged from his cup. He drank like an Aesir, large gulps with no time for sipping or tasting. "If you have questions, feel free to ask or if you need a sparing partner, I'm around pretty much all the time. Don't be shy."

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Ok, apparently this was Corbin's sole purpose in life. Jake listened to Corbin while he also got his plate of barbecued pork and put a fair bit of extra sauce on it. Unlike Corbin, Jake chose to use a fork and knife for cutting his food. When Corbin tossed his portion into the warm fire and spoke words in a language that Jake did not recognize, he suddenly intuited that this was a traditional offering in place.

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It uncomfortably pinged his attention that there was an altar in the cabin of Xipe Toltec, devoid of offerings of any sort. Not that Jake had ever considered shedding any blood, his or anything else's for the wishes of his father - a term he still found it highly difficult to affix to the skin-swapping deity of the cycles of fertility. But the question for him was if being the odd one out would become a social problem.

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Jake suspected, his most recent bite sliding down like a lump in his throat that Corbin was not the guy to ask about this pondering.

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Also, being a Scion of very new introduction, Jake didn't understand entirely Corbin's point about Fate. Experience would end up educating him - but for now, he simply shrugged. "Ok." But Corbin's open offer was welcome, and Jake acknowledged that he sure as hell needed help with combat training. The few Aztec spirit warriors in Acopa who had the time and willingness (though most likely Xipe Toltec had ordered them to anyway) to give the 101 in melee combat had quickly found Jake's very first efforts to learn to be appalling.

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As a first world teenager in a nice part of town, Jake was bound to be a complete novice at first, but to the warlike society in which his instructors had been raised, he was an infant placed right in front of a hungry pack of wolves. If he had properly heard Naui Atl Yaotl correctly... a five year old Aztec from the 15th century could have made mincemeat of him. None of them had thought Jake worthy of merely touching the relic macquahuitl Xipe Toltec had gifted him with.

,,

"Sparring partner? I'd like that, thanks. I'd need it."

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"Anyway," Ariel said quickly, trying to gloss over the stupid joke, "I've still got a bit of jetlag. Is there punch or refreshments or anything? I could use a punch in the arm right about now."

,,

"Yeah!" Makaela replied enthusiastically, grabbing Ariel's hand with a smile. "No worries, we'll have you right as rain in no time, long as you don't mind pork. There's loads of food back here!" With that, the boisterous young Aussie dragged her new acquaintance briskly through the crowds of teens and young adults milling around the Dionysian cabin. "'Scuse us! Comin' through!" she yelled cheerfully, giving the other partygoers ample warning as she wove among them, heading (somewhat circuitously) for the picnic tables groaning under the weight of the plates of food and bottles of drinks they bore. "I was just headin' this way m'self, gettin' a mite thirsty. It'll be good for ya, if you're jet-lagged, to hydrate a bit." She grinned, pouring herself a cup of something orange and carbonated. "And don't worry too much about bein' the new girl, yeah? I've only been here a few days, and it's a blast so far!"

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"... metaphysical composition of the soul. There are seven components. Ren, which is one's true name, integral to one's existence. Sekem, the vital energy of the soul. Ka..."

,,

Nadya listened to Horace's droning recital just enough to nod or make encouraging noises at the appropriate time. The unfortunately named Horace Horusson was a tall, blond farmboy from the mid-west. He was serious and anal-retentive - he even organized the bills in his wallet the one time she perused it - trying to cram the rigid sensibilities of the (majority of the) Pesedjet down her throat. Having just buried her father and husband a week ago, being pronounce mahrime by the few remnants of her kumpania - however reluctantly - and being taken by her divine mother to dwell among those who were as family - if a distant kind - Nadya was hardly inclined to listen at the moment.

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Still, while holding strong to her loss and grief, family was family, and little was more important to the Romani. Most of Nadya's attention was on the cats prowling around the quad amidst of the cabins of the children of the Pesedjet, frowning doubtfully as Fatima - a younger daughter of Bastet - named each one with the grave seriousness of the young. She was far less annoying than Horace.

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Growing up with the idea of cats and most animals being unclean creatures, Nadya still wasn't accustomed to the insouciant creatures being allowed to roam at will and without restraint. She had screamed in surprise when she had found one curled up next to her while she was sleeping.

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"Boots," Nadya murmured in her husky, accented voice, taking a drag of her cigarette then blowing out a long stream of blue-grey smoke as she stared at the black, notched-ear devil with the gold eyes.

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"Because he's black, with white feet, " Fatima explained. The twelve year-old was gawky if cute, yet was already as tall as Nadya, though the young Romanian-Romani woman was far from tall. "He's very sweet."

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"I'm sure he is," Nadya replied, summoning a smile for the younger girl. Fatima was a sweet girl, and helped greatly with making Nadya feel less of an outsider in Six Rivers. Nadya found many of the Scions at Six Rivers young and sheltered in many ways, but at least Fatima had the excuse that she was young. Boots on the other hand, Nadya believed he treed bears with that scorching sun-eyed gaze.

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Into the Egyptian Quarter breezed Alexis Chao, her charming, vivacious nature coaxing even a welcoming grin from Nadya, cloaked as she was in melancholy. Alexis knelt to scratch Boots behind the ears, who preened under her touch - probably trying to lure Nadya into a false sense of security - then joined them on the bench lining one side of the Quad.

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"You're Nadya, right?" Alexis asked, though her tone suggested she already knew the answer. "I've seen you around the last few days. We're having a little party for a returning friend - just an excuse for throwing a party, really, but don't tell Alex. I hope you don't mind me saying, but you really look like you can use some fun, food, and dancing to take your mind off of... whatever."

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Grateful for Alexis not prying, Nadya sighed, the tip of her cigarette glowing orange in the growing dark as she pondered the offer. Losing Nicu and her Father weighed heavily on her heart, and finding her place at Six Rivers was an effort yet. But she was a naturally high-spirited woman and loved dancing and could do with setting her troubles down for a time.

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"Add in some booze, and you have a deal," Nadya said, her English heavily accented with Eastern Europe, quirking her lips in a smirk.

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"Not a problem," Alexis laughed. With her and Alex being children of Dionysus, scrounging up booze was never a problem.

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"Then I will see you there." Nadya stood up with an effortless grace she wouldn't be happy to have described as feline, smoothing out her maroon, tiered bohemian skirt. With the gauzy, hot orange, sleaveless peasant blouse over a fishnet top, and a leather bodice cinched tight over her modest bosom, Nadya had an eclectic fashion sense that somehow worked, for her at least. Several bracelets on each arm and a pair of genuine Louboutin boots with towering heels - liberated from a posh Parisian woman's shoe vault - completed the ensemble.

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"Wait," Horace objected, standing up. "She can't go. Nadya hardly knows anything about the Pese-"

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"You can come too, Horace," Alexis interjected, patting him on the cheek, then ruffling Fatima's straight, black hair. "You too of course, Fatima."

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Horace blushed red, looking down at he ground a toe in the ground. "I don't know how to dance."

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"Ah! This I can teach, you," Nadya chortled. "And it will be much more fun than hearing about how the Egyptians made the idea of the soul so much more complicated. I'll catch up with all of you there. Mai târziu."

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Nadya glided back to her cabin she shared with the other daughters of Bastet. It was designed like a miniature version of Bastet's temple in Bubastis, even to a small moat of flowing water around three sides. Nadya gathered up her small kit of camp utensils and tableware in its satchel, hooked it to her belt, and sauntered over to the Dionysus cabin, trying to leave behind the shadow of her losses.

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For the moment, it wasn't hard, the lively music already making her hips sway. Nadya slipped easily through the press of bodies, idly dipping a hand into a poclet here or there - just to keep in practice, honest! - making her way to the tables of food and drink. Opening her satchel, she filled her own cup with some of the choice alcohol the Dionysians had on hand and made herself a thick sandwich of ham on a bun, catching just the end of what Makaela was saying.

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"Oh? I am new to Six Rivers as well." She nodded at Makaela and Ariel, firelight glinting off the metal piercing her ears and between her brow. Though she smiled easily, there was a faint sadness to it. "Nadya. Been here for about a week, though I haven't... gotten out much. But the promise of dancing lured me. Do you know, are there many new to the camp, recently?"

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Ariel paused in the act of arranging food on her plate to look over and see Nadya there. She was smiling at Makaela...it was impossible not to...but hadn't had much to say in reply immediately. Instead she was carefully maximizing the portions on her plate to make sure she got the most of each dish she wanted without wasting any space. She was a good packer.

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At Nadya's question she lifted a hand and waved. "I'm the newest one I've met. Just got in today. Hi, Ariel. Good to meet you." She offered a very courteous and well-mannered English handshake, then nodded at Makaela. "This is Makaela, who's been here a few days now. I guess all the newcomers are coming out of the woodwork for this. I can see why...looks like quite a party."

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She hesitated, then her brows furrowed a little. "Ah...sorry...I don't know if this is taboo or anything...are we supposed to discuss...why we're here? Our parents and all?" Ariel cleared her throat. "Our real parents, I mean."

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She hesitated, then her brows furrowed a little. "Ah...sorry...I don't know if this is taboo or anything...are we supposed to discuss...why we're here? Our parents and all?" Ariel cleared her throat. "Our real parents, I mean."

"Well, of course you can!" Corbin smiled as he and Jake approached. The three ladies were new to the camp, which means they didn't know the iniude joke of flirting with Corbin to get him say stupid things. He hopped Taya hadn't gotten word of it, but she was coming on awfully strong. He was thankful to escape before he did something like vomit or begin to explain Homer's The Odyssey to her... then she'd probably vomit instead. Neither option was a very pleasing one.

Casual conversation was just what he needed to get his mind off of Taya. Why Taya was still on his mind, he didn't know... "Hi, I'm Corbin Dionekou. Everyone here just calls me Corbin Black, though, on account of my dad being Hades. Excuse me." He shimmied through the ladies and selected a few food items and a new beverage from the table they were standing by. I uh, noticed you ladies are new, some more than others," He looked at Ariel. "But look, hey, if you guys need anything, just hollar at me anytime I'll be glad to help you out, show you around, keep you out of, or into, trouble. There's plenty to be had around here."

He offered Ariel a reassuring, warm smile. "Relax a little. You wouldn't be here if your parent wasn't divine." With that he tugged on Jake's t-shirt and wanked him over. "This here's Jake. Jake, this here is...?"

He paused waiting for the ladies to introduce themselves.

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"Ariel. Ariel Cole. Good to meet you, Jake." She held out a hand for him to shake, then moved it to Corbin.

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"And you're Corbin Black, the man of the hour. Thanks for the tips. It seems my grasp of manners doesn't translate well to the divine set."

A rueful smile curved her lips. "The first thing that came tumbling out of my mouth when Artemis said I was adopted was, 'who's my real parent then?' I spent a night in the metaphorical and literal doghouse for that. It seems Artemis is fond of transforming mortals who piss her off."

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Ariel sighed and brushed a few flyaway strands of hair back out of her eyes. "On the other hand, it did wonders to cure me of my 'this can't be real' reaction. It hasn't done any good for my grappling with the theological implications, but..."

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She indicated the camp with a fluttering hand. "I suppose that's something we cover here, right?"

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"I'm not seeing why not," Nadya said to Ariel, "after all, we are all living in cabin-temple things... dedicated? Dedicated to our divine parents. It is not being a big secret, I am thinking."

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Then Corbin with Jake in tow made their way over. Nadya gave them a quick once over, noting their Mediterranean features, though they had little else in common. Corbin drew her attention more, something to the cast of his face or his bearing reminding her somewhat of the Roma. He also had the sweet stink of money about him, though he didn't flaunt it (he didn't even seem to be aware of it).

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"Nadya Lunălescu, likewise pleased to be meeting you, Jake, Corbin," Nadya offered, instead of shaking hands contenting herself with dipping her head in greeting and giving a small wave with be-ringed fingers.

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"Daughter of Bastet, though she left me to go my way." Lips used to smiling were edged with melancholy, but a tightness around the eyes suggested she didn't want to speak further on the subject. "Until I had little place to go. And so, I am being here." Her nose scrunched up cutely. "I'm still getting used to the cats allowed to run around wherever they wish."

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Once again trying to shove her grief deep down to dwell on later, she arched a brow at Corbin, grinning with brash confidence. "It is only getting into trouble if you are caught, yes? But maybe you can be showing me where the closest nightlife is. This is fun, but I am needing a city and dance clubs."

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The petite young woman gave Ariel a skeptical look, not so much in disbelief as the idea of being transformed into an animal (now that was a horrid thought) being completely outside her experience. "That sounds... dirty and unpleasant. On the other hand, not as dirty and unpleasant as tangling with with the shimulo." Seeing the uncomprehending expressions on the faces of the others, she elaborated. "Vrykolakas." She tried again. "Vampire. It did not sparkle."

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Despite her attempt of levity, it was obvious speaking of them was bringing up bad memories. Her fair complexion was even more pale, she trembled almost imperceptibly, and her gold-flecked green eyes were hard and bright like gems with unshed tears. "It was very bad - Excuse me."

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Nadya turned away, finishing her sandwich, then refilling her cup of wine. It was very sweet, very flavorful, and at the moment, she wished she could drown herself in it. Surreptitiously, she wiped her tears away with a handkerchief before turning back to face the others. "Sorry. It was only a week ago and the loss is still raw."

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Corbin smiled. "Really, I've done nothign to deserve a party, they just wanted an excuse for one. Really, though, it's nice to be loved." He was sweet and charming in a way that a lot of the others weren't. His bearing wasn't over the top, it was calm and subtle. Natural. Was the first thing Ariel thought, they guy probably had super powers too, but he didn't seem to wear them on his sleeve. "Your counselors will go over the theological stuff. We don't study theology, there's no point since we know gods are real. They cover stuff like history, mythology, things like that. They prepare us to face the titanspawn and protect the World."

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He turned to Nadya and they shared a handshake. "Not much night life to be had, unfortunately. Closest city is Rapid City, to the east. Population sixty thousand. That's why we're in the middle of nowhere, so titanspawn and others can't find us. You're not stuck here though. We can leave anytime, as long as we make the proper arrangements, and we leave on quests all the time for one reason or another. I got to go to Singapore last year. Almost got killed, so, yeah... that was kinda cool." That was probably not what new campers wanted hear, but he was in mid sentence and it was too late to back pedal.

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When Nadya spoke of her family and took a moment Corbin's expression didn't change. There was no pity in his eyes, no sorrow or remorse for those Nadya had lost. "I'm sorry for your loss." He managed, but his words were hollow. He wasn't sorry at all. People died, it was the nature of things. He knew Nadya loved and missed them, but he couldn't relate to her on that level. Scions who understood Death, understood how impartial it was and his mind was wired the same way. "Maybe all this is too much. Perhaps you should get some rest and take more time to mourn."

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Jake looked sadly and sympathetically at Nadya. "That makes two of us, not long ago either. My condolences." It was clear from his frown and expression that his words and implication were completely genuine. "There's a lot of things to digest by the time someone gets here."

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Though something about the words of Corbin chilled him, hollow and devoid of emotion. He wasn't entirely sure if coming here, becoming a Scion was a change for the better... something already established by the initial contacts with his Godly 'kin'.

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"Oh!" the blonde Aussie exclaimed suddenly, her tanned cheeks flushing a rather fetching shade of rosy bronze as she looked up from her rather intense food-arranging session; she had somehow managed to wedge a little bit of everything (precariously) onto a single plate. "Sorry, guys," she grinned somewhat abashedly, brushing her palms together briskly before extending one to Corbin, and then Jake, bypassing the more reticent Nadya. Her grip as she clasped each of their hands in turn was firm and enthusiastic, and she flashed them both the same earnest smile Ariel was already beginning to recognize. "Nice to meet you. You, especially," she added with a laugh as she nodded at Corbin. "I've heard you're pretty famous here, yeah? Apparently you're good at everything." Her eyes sparkled with genuine mirth and open appraisal, studying the son of Hades briefly before continuing. "Hope you don't mind being beaten by a girl!"

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Corbin laughed as he shook her hand. "Jack of all trades, master of none." He mused. "No, no I don't mind being beat by a girl just as long I can learn from my mistakes. I have to warn you though, I'm not going to go easy on you. Thrud will tan all our hides if we don't fight with everything we have out there. Short of killing each other, of course."

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Ariel glomped onto the conversational opening that most conveniently gave her an escape from the hideous embarassment of feeling like she'd provoked Nadeya into recalling something awful. What do you say to someone in that situation?

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Instead she blurted, "Thrud? That's someone's name?" She managed a wan smile and looked around, as if to get everyone to back her up on this, "What, is he an ogre or a cyclops or something? It sounds like the noise a club makes hitting the ground."

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Yes, a little humor would smooth things over...a little wry British wit; that always went over well. No one could fail to make a little innocent sport over a name like Thrud.

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"Apt." a dry voice uttered with, curiously enough, a British accent. The teens turned to see a boy who either had aggressive levels of disregard for his presentation or else made every effort to be scruffily nondescript re-loading his own plate from the section best described as 'lumps of meat'. Slender, gangly arms covered with hundreds of white scars protruded from the sleeves of his faded t-shirt, and his jeans and sneakers had definitely seen better days. Tousled dark hair badly in need of a trim had obviously been treated to nothing more than a wash and perfunctory finger-combing before being allowed to fall wild, locks of it straggling around his face as his gaze wandered the buffet table without raising to look at the others.

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"Thrud's name means strength, and she is the daughter of Thor and Sif. Her favorite weapon is a club, with which she is terrifyingly proficient. She's not killed anyone by accident since coming here, though." The strange young man's voice placed no particular emphasis on the words 'by accident', but those listening felt that it should have, somehow. The dark-haired youth grabbed a couple more items from the table and turned then, his eyes raising and scanning the group before giving them all a nod of acknowledgement. His gaze was arresting, not least because of the mismatched nature of it. The leaf-green pupil on the right would have been pretty if not for the muted steel-grey of it's neighbour, but the boy's gaze also glittered keenly in the firelight, measuring the whole world from behind the straggle of his hair and the pale mask of his face.

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"Welcome home, Corbin." he said politely to the scion of Hades. For a moment, he looked as though he would say more, but his gaze shifted diffidently, his expression closing in on itself. He nodded once more to the assembled Scions, his manner distant, and moved away through the crowd.

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Jake had heard Thrud's name bandied about by some of the other Atzlanti Scions, smirking at some private joke at that. Now some things became clearer... "Thanks-" A set of words which became moot and pointless as the unwashed other teen male moved away into the crowd. Jake blinked at the brusque display and shifted to look at Corbin. "Who was he?"

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Nadya glanced up at the blanket of night, pierced through with starlight, letting another silvery tear slide down the curve of her cheek, a faint smile on her lips. There was no shame in letting tears fall - it let the departed know they were cared for. They knew when the tears where for them, even if their names were not to be spoken, less their rest be disturbed by the living.

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Son of the God of Death or no, Nadya thought Corbin only had an academic understand of it, rather than actual experience. Charismatic he may be, but there was a distance about him, letting no one close in the pursuit of becoming the weapon he believed he had to be. It might keep the pain of losing family and friends at bay, but it kept the joy and fun they could bring at bay too, and without that, what was the point?

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Corbin did have one point: there was a time and place for mourning, and she would do so many a time over the next year, but she had come to the party to put it aside for a time. She wiped the wet track from her jaw and cheek, licking the salty tear from her thumb, then chased it down with the rest of her wine in one long pull.

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Listening to the care-free jubilation of the others at the party, Nadya wrapped it around herself like a cloak, emulating it enough to make it real - for her - for a time. When she make the gaze of the others once more, her smile was merry and her green eyes bright with mirth. Jake got a nod of gratitude, thanking him for his sympathy, but otherwise the petite woman made no acknowledgement of her prior melancholy.

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She raised a skeptical brow at the description of Thrud - with a name like that, she sounded like she had all the brawn, and the brains and grace as well, of a bull - but her lips quirked in amusement at Makaela's challenge.

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"Me, I am thinking the boys here, there must be getting used to being beaten by the girls, no?" Nadya opined mischievously, sharing a glance with Mako and Ariel.

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Nadya's other eyebrow rose up to match the first as Grim made his dour entrance and departure.

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"Who was he?" Jake asked.

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"I'm thinking a young man needing a wife to warm up his demeanor and make him smile," Nadya suggested with a smirk, though she hardly looked any older than Grim did.

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"That's Grim, of the Aesir. He's been here for a long time." Corbin said.

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Nadya shuddered, hoping she wouldn't end up like Corbin and Grim, if she was at Six Rivers for a long time, then looked at Corbin in surprise. "Aesir? That boy is a viking? Are they not supposed to be boisterous and loud, with a zest for life?"

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"He's the other kind. Besides, you're a daughter of the Pesedjet, Nadya. Why aren't you like... him?" Corbin added, jerking a thumb towards the unfortunately named Horace Horusson, standing straight-backed and awkward at the side of the impromptu dance floor.

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Nadya held a hand to her breast, a feigned look of horror on her face. "You wound me, sir. That is being a terrible thing to say. But bah! If I can set aside my grief for a night, the boy can set aside living up to his name for a time as well."

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Sniffing at the various bottles and decanters, Nadya filled her cup with mead, and filled one for Grim as well. He had seemed to missed getting a drink and mead was what the vikings drank, wasn't it? Then she caught up to Grim, flowing easily through the crowd, almost dancing, really, in contrast to Odin's Son's brusquely direct path.

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"Not leaving yet, I am hoping?" Nadya inquired, slipping up next to Grim, offering him the extra cup of mead. She casually gave him a once-over, to see if he had anything interesting she might want to have a closer look at later - purely out of curiosity. "I am Nadya, and you are being Grim, I hear." She pursed her lips, eying him with feminine mystique. "Too grim it seems to me, though to be fair, I am not being one to talk at the moment. Stay for a drink and a dance, at least. Be a good guest for our good hosts."

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He'd been standing by one of the pillars, eating as he'd returned to watching the throng. In point of fact the son of Odin had been considering leaving once his plate was empty, perhaps taking some scraps back for Strabo. But then a lovely young woman with quicksilver grace stepped up beside him and offered him the drink, and though Grim was indeed the other sort of Aesir, he was not such a vámr as to refuse a drink out of hand. Pretty girls approaching him were rare to the severe-faced youth, usually only happening because they wanted something from him, or as part of a practical joke at his expense. Habit caused the familiar hardness to settle into his soul, comfortable as an old suit of armor. The new girl was no different - she wanted something from him other than company, but would not say so at first. I wonder what it is? he mused sardonically. Someone to help with studies? That's the usual.

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Grim's reaction was unusual to the worldly Nadya. Boys, on finding a pretty girl slipping up to stand next to them, usually behaved in certain ways. Flustered, or at least appreciative of the attention. This Grim, his focus was entirely on the cup in his hand. Rather than a nervous shuffle, he took a very deliberate half-step away and turned, half facing her and scanning the crowd with narrow, glittering eyes, as though expecting to see smirking faces or someone waiting to sneak up on him. Then he reached out and gently took the offered drink, his eyes evaluating her as he brought the cup to his face and sniffed at it. By all the gods, was he checking to see if it was drugged?

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"Is there anything in this except mead?" he asked her, suspicion evident in the narrow gleam of his eyes.

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"No!" Nadya exclaimed, too taken aback for the moment to be offended, but her own brow darkened slightly as offense started to take root.

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"You're telling the truth." he stated, nodding as though satisfied. "Okay." He clacked his cup against hers. "Skol!" he said loudly, raising the cup and turning a slow circle to the gathering. A few Aesir scions nearby immediately returned the toast, raising their own cups to the bravery of their fellows and the honor of the gods as they chorused "Skol!" in turn. There was a chain reaction as Aesir near those ones picked up the toast, the word rippling out through the crowd. Grim completed his turn and regarded Nadya again.

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"Good health." he said solemnly, raising his cup to her before draining it in a single gulp, tilting his head back. Nadya could make out traceries of white at the base of his neck - apparently this aptly-named Grim carried scars on more than his arms. Finishing his drink, he set the cup down on the ground by the pillar and nodded to her as he rose.

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"Thank you for the drink." he said politely as he shifted the plate of food in his grasp. Mismatched eyes studied her, and Nadya got the uncomfortable sensation that he was trying to see inside her mind, before he nodded and started to shift his posture, clearly intending to move away again. "I don't dance, though."

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The boy's mismatched eyes were disconcerting, and thinking she drugged his drink was insulting, but at least his suspicion seemed a general one - a pity that - rather than the bigoted distrust she had often experienced as a Romani girl in Europe. Nadya grinned in amusement as Grim's toast made the rounds, that was more like the Viking behaviour she was expecting.

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"Noroc," Nadya replied in Romanian, clacking cups, then matching Grim in downing the mead in a single pull, though she took longer to finish, savouring the sweetness dancing on her tongue. "Good luck."

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She tucked her cup back into her satchel and idly mused on how Grim got those scars. She had her own and she was sure there was a story behind his, but she amused herself thinking he was terribly bad at shaving. She was about to ask him about them when her brows arched in surprise at Grim's assertion that he didn't dance.

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"No?" She made a show of looking him up and down, nudging his leg with the toe of her boot and nodding as he reacted, lips curving in a smirk. "Your legs seem to work, you, so you can dance, yes? It is being more proper to say, you have not danced."

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She held out a hand peremptorily, clearly indicating Grim should take it, vivid gold-flecked green eyes not shying away from his mismatched gaze. If she had to spend time here, she'd be damned if she was going to endure it surrounded by boys drowning in the bleak dourness of their perceived destinies.

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"Is easy and fun. Come, I show you. Secret is being in the now and not caring about the others watching." She quirked a brow up at him. "I am thinking you are not having trouble with that part."

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"No." Grim's tone had shifted from cool to cold, and his refusal was as curt as it was perhaps surprising to the newcomer. "You're attaching your own meanings to words that I speak. Ordinarily? That would be funny, or perhaps to my advantage, but I see no point in this." He stared hard at Nadya's hand until she lowered it, then met her gaze again. "I never said 'I cannot dance'." The words were dangerously soft. "I said I do not dance. My ability to dance is not a factor, because I have absolutely no intention of dancing. I do not want to dance. Do you understand, or shall I use smaller words?" If Nadya had found Grim to be disconcerting before, the simmering malice in his odd-matched gaze now was daunting.

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"You're a pretty girl. Beautiful even. I imagine it comes as a shock that there might exist a boy, or man, who would not give their left arm to dance and flirt and make a fool of themselves for your smile." He took one deliberate step backwards, then another. "But I am happy to leave that to others. You won't be short of admirers, I am sure." The gazes of those partygoers nearby had fallen on the confrontation, and Grim glanced round at them, then back at the momentarily stunned Nadya. "In future, it would be wise to listen to what people say and how they say it, rather than hearing the noises they make and attaching your own meaning to suit your own ends. Not all enemies come raging out of the darkness. Not all threats are obvious - until you realise that the signs were there all along."

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"I was just-"

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"Being nice? Trying to cheer up the gloomy boy: "How sad, I bet he needs a kind word"? Showing kindness?" Grim's eyes narrowed to glittering slits, and his voice dropped into a angry hiss that reminded Nadya uncomfortably of the enraged shilmulo. "I do not need your kindness. You do not know me: keep it that way. You will find it's no great loss to you." He spun on his heel and stalked from her, his spare form melting through the crowd like a hot knife going through butter as the other teens caught the look on the scion of Odin's pale face. Alex, aware of the conflict at his party the way a tree feels the rustle of it's leaves, stepped from the crowd and patted Nadya on the shoulder.

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"Welcome to Six Rivers, darling. You got Grim'd. Don't take it too personally - that boy's got more issues than Cosmo." The handsome child of Dionysus glanced critically in the direction Grim had taken. "I do wish he'd stop being a colossal douche to everyone that tries to be friends with him, though. He'd get beaten up less, at least. Silly little emo."

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Grim's thoughts were sad and angry as he stalked from the party, avoiding the tight-lipped Alexis and her questions with a minnow-like twist and evasion. He hadn't wanted to hurt the girl's feelings: she had seemed nice even through the dark glass of his suspicion. It had felt bad to bring out his old bitterness and anger and use them as weapons. But keeping people at arm's length required occasionally drawing blood. Didn't it?

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And he had to keep people at arms length. Didn't he?

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It would have been so easy to dance with her he mused as he headed down the beach towards the Aesir cabins. To stay, and talk more with them all. To laugh and be... be friends. He lifted one hand and dashed an errant tear away with his fingertips, anger stirring at his own weakness. Now was not the time for tears, not out in the open where others could see. When he got to the cabin, when he was safe from all eyes other than his Father's. I can't afford friends. One day, I might waver between doing what needs to be done and saving a friend's life. That could be the day of Ragnarok, and then where would the world be? He mounted the steps to Odin's cabin and suddenly turned to sit on the top step, on the wooden porch. Strabo stirred on his perch, bright eyes reflecting distant light as he regarded Grim, then the plate. Despite himself, the son of Odin smiled.

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"Yes, this is for you and me to share." he confided to his only friend. The great hawk spread his wings partially and hopped down from the perch, fluttering slightly before furling his mighty pinions and walking to Grim's side. The boy tore chunks of flesh from the bones and dropped them in front of the hawk, and as Strabo ate Grim watched him, taking comfort in the company of another living creature and putting off having to go into the echoing loneliness of his Father's house.

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