Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter XVI: Warm Welcomes
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Ace Iverson and the Fabric of Fate
Season I: The Veil of Reality
Chapter 16: Warm Welcomes
November 22, 2004
The Big House
The light was the first thing Ace saw after succumbing to the darkness that had closed in on all sides while he saw the opposing army cut down on top of Halfblood Hill. It was an odd sort of light, for it was neither truly dim nor bright. He could see it, but somehow, it seemed muted. The state he found himself in for his first few waking moments wasn’t one that lent itself to deductive reasoning, so he had to let his head clear before he could look around the room and put together exactly where he was.
The setting itself was unfamiliar. He was lying in a bed — a well-made, king-sized bed with white sheets — but even that was confusing. He most certainly had not fallen asleep in a bed, and it took him a moment to come up with a feasible solution that didn’t pose the threat of a heart attack upon more careful consideration.
They had been trying to enter Camp Halfblood. At the tail end of the conflict, the residents of the camp had poured onto the field of battle, driving off the oncoming force of monsters and presumably winning them the day, provided the enemy didn’t have reinforcements.
Seeing as he was currently still alive, Ace thought it a safe bet to say the enemy most definitely did not have reinforcements.
So he presumed he was somewhere in the camp. This fit, for the room he was in, seemed extremely plain. It was unfurnished and the walls were a dull white that didn’t exactly express whoever owned this place, and the only window in the room was covered by semi-transparent curtains. At least, that explained the odd balance of light.
“You alright there, bubba?”
Ace sat bolt upright, sending a spasm of pain up his back. It wasn’t anything horrendous, but it wasn’t the world’s most pleasant experience either. He had been so focused on observing his surroundings that he hadn’t noticed the man sitting on the edge of his bed. He had been facing away from Ace, eyes intently on the door, but the youth lying prone in the bed didn’t fail to recognize him when he turned his head.
“How ya feelin’?”
“Not horrible, not great. My back doesn’t seem to like me much right now, but I don’t feel awful.”
“Sounds about right. I’d be surprised if you didn’t feel somethin’.”
“What happened? The last thing I remember was a bunch of kids in armour coming over the side of the hill. I’m guessing the campers, but it’s hard to say.”
“That was them, yeah. All of ‘em came to bail us out. The monsters retreated and haven’t come back since. It doesn’t seem like it’d matter even if they did. This place has wards or somethin’ around it. No monsters can get in unless they’re wanted apparently. That’s what I’ve been told, at least.”
“Cato… how long has it been since that fight?”
“Four days, bubba.”
The blood drained from Ace’s face. “Four days?”
“Yup. You were out cold on top of that hill. Lucky ya didn’t get trampled. Not sure how much attention most of the campers were payin’.”
“So it’s… the 22nd?”
“Sure is.” Cato was grinning for the first time in their conversation and Ace wasn’t entirely sure why. “Big day comin’ up soon.”
Ace frowned. “We… do that earlier in Canada. Yours is… this Thursday?”
“And it’s… what? Monday?”
Ace genuinely wasn’t sure if he had ever seen Cato this enthusiastic about anything, and he told his friend as much. The maniacal grin that widened on his features was equal parts comical and terrifying. “Oh, bubba. If there’s anythin’ I like more than blowin’ shit up, it’s food.” He looked like a kid in a candy store. “And trust me, I’mma eat a lotta food!”
Ace and Cato talked for another five or so minutes before the strangest looking man Ace had ever seen entered the room. He was very tall and muscular — that much was obvious even through his suit — but that was far from the weirdest thing about him. Ace’s stomach did a sort of horrible summersault when he realized this man — or whatever the hell he or it was — didn’t seem to have a square inch of skin visible that wasn’t covered by a wide, unblinking eye. He wondered for all of three seconds whether the skin that wasn’t so visible was plagued by this same oddity, but he quickly decided it was really better if he didn’t know, all things considered.
“That’s Argus,” said Cato after the man had delivered a brief message and left.
Apparently, Ace’s presence was wanted by a Chiron. Ace’s immediate reaction to that was to ask Cato whether or not it was the Chiron. He felt as though the affirmative answer he had received really should have come as more of a surprise than it did. The thing was, surprising Ace after the last week and a half was going to be no mere feat.
“I’m guessing that’s also the Argus?” asked Ace. “The one from the myths who was killed by Hermes?”
“Argus Panoptes, yeah. He’s quiet; that’s actually the first time I’ve heard him talk since we got here.”
“How’s it been since getting here?” Ace asked.
Cato’s eyes lit up. “Oh, bubba, wait ‘til ya see everything goin’ on! This place is great! Speaking of which, we should get you to that meeting with Chiron.”
“You’re coming with me?”
“What’d I say back in that tent? We watch each other’s back. I might be here and I might love it, but that don’t mean I trust everyone. Luke still gives me weird vibes and Annabeth is real quiet. They fought with us in that battle, though, so I’m givin’ ‘em the benefit of the doubt for now.”
“Fair enough,” said Ace, shakily getting to his feet and following Cato out of the room. “Any idea why my back hurts like hell?”
“Probably cause you fell fuck knows how many feet and landed right on it.”
“Shouldn’t being a son of Zeus sort of stop that from happening? It’s worked well for me every other time I did something crazy involving heights or jumping out of something lately.”
“It’s kinda complicated from what I can tell. Chiron’ll explain it, but you sorta used up all your energy. Had nothin’ left by the time that tornado died out.”
Ace nodded slowly. That fit pretty well with what he remembered; he had never felt so physically exhausted in all of his life. Given his competitive escapades over the years, that was actually saying a lot.
“I still have no idea how I did that,” he said as they stepped out the door and onto a wooden, wraparound porch.
From this vantage point, Ace could see a large part of the camp. The vast valley stretched out all around them, with a dense forest off in the distance on one side, the ocean on another, expansive strawberry fields immediately ahead of them, and the hill on which they had valiantly fought off to their right.
That was only speaking of the natural landmarks. Ace could make out things that were very obviously manmade, and they captivated him far more than the pretty bits of scenery. He could make out what appeared to be a forge or something, as well as what he thought resembled an Ancient Greek arena, in which would be held live sporting events.
“That’s an interesting tale.”
Ace had expected to see a centaur like those depicted in pop culture that he’d seen growing up. He certainly hadn’t expected a somewhat scruffy man who appeared to be sitting in a wheelchair. He shot a sideways glance towards Cato, but the man just nodded. Beside Chiron was another, more portly-looking man.
“It’s good to see you awake, Mister Iverson.”
“You too, uh… sir.”
The wheelchair-bound man smiled. “I don’t see a need for such formal addresses. Please, call me Chiron.”
Ace took the man’s offered hand and shook it firmly, taking a seat opposite him as he did so, still a bit bemused by the whole situation. “Ace for me then, if you don’t mind.”
“Not at all,” said Chiron, sitting back in his wheelchair and watching the two boys sat across the table from him with interest. “Now, I’m sure you have questions, even though you received more background than most of our other campers ever receive.” Ace nodded warily. “Very well. How about we start with your questions and we’ll go from there.”
“Um… how did I do that, exactly? The only thing I had ever done knowingly before that was manipulating the wind. I’ve done some other things without realizing it before that fight, but nothing like summoning a tornado or lightning.”
“The interesting thing, Ace, is that you weren’t the one who summoned either the tornado or the lightning.” When the boy across from him looked suitably confused, Chiron offered him a small smile. “You of course know by now that your father is Zeus, Lord of the Sky?”
Ace nodded and Chiron twirled his beard thoughtfully. “One thing you must understand is that the gods are held to different standards than mortals. They are the forces that rule over the world. They are immensely powerful, but they also have an immense amount of responsibility.”
The man beside Chiron snorted quietly, but Ace paid him no mind. He was far too focused on the lecture he was receiving, and he gave a gesture of affirmation for Chiron to continue.
“There are very ancient laws that govern the Olympian council. Perhaps the most noteworthy of them all is that the gods aren’t supposed to interact too directly with the mortal world. They’re supposed to do their part in maintaining their given field of control, but they aren’t supposed to have a direct impact on the events of the world.”
The twirling of Chiron’s beard suddenly became a lot more agitated, and Ace couldn’t help but notice how his eyes darted up towards the sky several times before he next spoke.
“The thing with rules and laws is that breaking them has punishments.” He shot a furtive glance to his side. “Mr. D here can attest to that, I’m sure.”
Ace’s attention focused on the portly man for the first time. He was handsome enough and Ace might have been able to call him rugged if he wasn’t mildly overweight. His features had the appearance of those that had once been chiselled. He was nursing a can of Diet Coke and looking down, but he now looked up for the first time. Ace did not flinch under his gaze, but it was much more intense than what he had been expecting. His eyes were odd; a vivid purple which seemed to have an odd glow to it.
“There are certainly punishments, yes,” the man said, and Ace thought he had put two and two together.
“You’re a god, aren’t you?”
The man sneered at him. “I am a god, yes.” The way he spoke made it sound very clear that was not an acceptable conclusion, and Ace’s brain began to work.
It didn’t take long.
Mr. D, he had been called.
“Dionysus,” Ace breathed in barely more than a whisper.
“He’s our Camp Director,” said Chiron. “He… got a tad too close with a nymph who was off-limits some time ago and was mandated one-hundred years of service here.”
Ace quirked a brow at Mr. D, but he just shrugged. “She was lovely,” was his only, half-hearted response.
“Er, yes, thank you, Mr. D. Anyway, there are laws and rules.” He paused, seeming to consider his next words very carefully. “Rules and laws are only as important as their punishments are effective. The more powerful one is, the less these punishments logically matter. Swearing a vow on the River Styx, for example, is the strictest vow anyone can make. Breaking a vow of this nature would result in instant death.”
“But the gods are immortal,” Ace filled in. “I’m guessing by the way you’re setting this up it wouldn’t take something else from them?”
“Your guess is correct. The same goes for other punishments in the same way. Your father is Zeus. He follows these laws most of the time because there would be an uproar on the Olympian council if he didn’t. But… every so often, if he thinks he can get away with breaking one…” Chiron shrugged as he let his sentence tail off. There was really no need to finish; his meaning was clear enough.
“So my father summoned the lightning and the tornado?”
“He did, yes. What you had that night was called a blessing. It isn’t technically breaking the rules… in most cases, so long as it is done very sparingly.”
“You said most of the time?” Ace asked with narrowed eyes.
“Ah, yes,” Chiron said awkwardly. “You see… that’s where the River Styx comes in…”
November 25, 2004
The Dining Pavilion
Ace’s first few days at Camp Halfblood had been a whirlwind.
The news that his birth should have never happened hadn’t exactly been the most uplifting start. His very existence apparently served as a breach in a seventy-year-old pact made by the Big Three. Or, in other words, the three Olympian sons of Kronos — Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Their children had, according to Chiron, been influencing the events of history far too much. They just had powers other demigods didn’t, so their birth had been outlawed at the end of World War 2. As far as Chiron knew, there had only been one violation of this pact before Ace’s birth. That had been when Zeus had broken it the first time by siring a daughter named Thalia, whose story was tragic enough to effectively kill Ace’s mood even without the whole ‘you shouldn’t be alive’ bit.
Ace was the only living demigod child of the Big Three that Chiron knew of, so the pact had presumably never been broken again.
That really killed Ace’s mood. Being told you shouldn’t be alive was a morbidly spectacular way of making somebody feel like hell, but it didn’t end there.
Whatever the hell had spoken to Ace during his most recent nightmare in that cave-like place had unfortunately been very close to correct. Not much had changed. Not in the ways he wanted, at least.
When Artemis had told Ace about his parentage and what it would mean, one of the first things he had silently mourned was the death of his sporting aspirations. He hadn’t had much time to allow his brain to linger on the thought, but it was definitely there. It was much stronger now that he was out of mortal peril, but even that wasn’t all.
That same night, when Artemis had broken the truth to him, Ace had at least hoped that the attention might lift off of him now. The one positive thing about no longer being able to do what he loved was that he wouldn’t have the attention of everyone around him at all times.
That had gone out the window the moment he had been made aware of the Big Three’s pact.
Everywhere he went inside the borders of Camp Halfblood, people gawked and pointed as though he was some sort of exhibit on display. It bothered him immensely, and he had been quite snappish those first days as a result. Andreia had tried talking to him about it once, but she had quickly gotten the hint it wasn’t a subject he was interested in speaking about. Neither Cato nor Blaze had pressed him, though all three of them had said they were open to talking whenever Ace liked.
The three of them had all wound up in the Hermes cabin, which apparently took all new campers who hadn’t yet been claimed by their godly parents. Zeus technically hadn’t claimed Ace in the traditional sense, but ordering a quest and blessing his son had served as an apt substitute. Blaze was a bit moody regarding his living arrangements, and Cato wasn’t thrilled either. Andy had been very gloomy the first day or two when she realized she wouldn’t likely be returning home to her father, but she had cheered up after a phone call with the man. He had told her his mother must have been the goddess, but Ace and Cato weren’t sold.
That first night back, Cato had snuck into Ace’s cabin. It was pretty easy, seeing as Ace was the only one occupying it. They had stayed up late talking, and one of the topics to arise was the parentage of their two friends. Both of them had to grudgingly admit that Blaze was a mystery. He hadn’t shown any obvious signs of being associated with any Olympian yet, but Andy was less ambiguous.
She had been given a magical harpoon by a man named Triton and she could control water. It seemed a no brainer to both boys that she could only be the daughter of Poseidon.
They hadn’t told her this. Partially because they saw no reason to bring her the same oppressive feeling that Ace was now experiencing, and partially because that would involve calling her apparent father a liar. She seemed very close with him, so that wasn’t something they wanted to do. Especially not now that she was so happy. After getting over the initial shock and acquiring her ‘father’s’ blessing, Andy seemed to thrive in the Hermes cabin. She was definitely a people person, unlike the other three.
Ace’s mood did also improve, just not as drastically as his female friend’s.
He did finally get the opportunity to speak with his mother and stepfather. His stepfather had been… surprised. Taken aback or aghast might have been more accurate. Ace just hoped the man didn’t collapse from shock. His mother had apparently known all along but had kept it from him in the hope it wouldn’t affect his life. His real father had once told her that so long as Ace stayed on the northern side of the border, he might get away with not feeling the effects of being his son.
She was very apologetic for not telling him but now that he was in the States, she very much encouraged him to stay at camp. It was obvious through her tone alone that doing so was the furthest thing from easy, but she got through it. His stepfather did the same, even though he was clearly a bit annoyed with his mother. It didn’t sound to Ace like he was truly angry. Hurt seemed more on the money, with perhaps a bit of frustration mixed in.
Ace had promised to contact them via Iris messaging — a form of communication used by those who dwelled on the less mundane side of the Mist — as well as the phone calls to family the campers were granted once a month. Supposedly, cell phones attracted monsters to such an extent that even in the borders of Camp Halfblood, they didn’t dare use them more than that.
Once that immense burden had been lifted off his shoulders, Ace had felt a bit better. Said burden notwithstanding, nothing had done more to lift Ace’s mood than the camp itself.
It was incredible.
A sword-fighting arena, an amphitheatre, a forge, a weapons lockup, a ridiculously dangerous rock climbing wall that could spew small gouts of lava on command, and so much more. Camp Halfblood was the most amazing place Ace had ever imagined, and that wasn’t even including the activities.
They had lessons in archery, sword fighting, hand-to-hand combat, Ancient Greek, and so much more. The latter had been very amusing. Chiron had been quite incredulous when Cato had immediately displayed an encyclopedic knowledge of the language. Watching the shock on the centaur’s face had really been something, and now it was Cato who was teaching Ace, Andy and Blaze the subject.
They had weekends off, but Friday evenings were always a spectacle of some kind.
It was a four-week rotation that would restart itself at the beginning of each calendar year. The first week, campers would draw random names from a hat and duel them their chosen name in the arena with weapons of their choosing. Of course, these duels were officiated and highly regulated, as well as being fought under a very specific ruleset. It was done for the sake of training, not maiming.
The second week started in the exact same way, with campers drawing names from a hat. On those days, however, they wouldn’t be duelling with weapons. They would instead be testing themselves in Pankration. Or, in other words, hand-to-hand combat; a mix of striking and grappling that ended after the time had elapsed, one opponent had yielded — usually due to a grappling hold of some kind — or the referee — Chiron, in this case — thought one contestant had taken enough damage.
Campers only took part in these two activities if they were willing; no one was ever forced to do so. The vast majority did though, primarily because nectar and ambrosia could heal almost any injury sustained in either in a relatively brief period of time.
The other two weeks in the four-week rotation were more team-based.
One was referred to as Game Night, and it would see the campers teaming up and playing several battle-based strategy games. Nothing like chess or anything of the sort, mind you. These were custom-made games put together by the Hephaestus and Athena cabins.
The final week in the rotation — the one Ace was most looking forward to — was Capture the Flag. The unfortunate thing was that it wouldn’t be happening for several weeks now. It had happened the day after their arrival at camp, but none of the new arrivals had been in any state to participate.
These were the things that excited Ace most about Camp Halfblood. Cato was also eager for them, but there was something that appealed to him far more.
The outdoor pavilion was lined with jack o’ lanterns, all of which seemed to glow impossibly bright, casting the dining area in bright, yet eerie, light. Scattered here and there were cornucopias. Some of them appeared to be fake, but Ace could have sworn he saw one of them spew forth a full plate of mashed potatoes for Mr. D about halfway through the meal. Some of the horns were scattered across the tables, while others were hung around the pavilion.
Ace got a surprise about five minutes into his meal when somebody pulled up a chair beside him. Being the only child of Zeus meant that he ate all of his meals alone. Nobody had ever sat with him before, so his attention immediately raised from his plate.
It was Cato, setting not one but two heaping plates of food down in front of him as he took a seat. “Is that… allowed?” Ace asked, shooting glances towards Chiron and Mr. D.
Cato just maneuvered a massive piece of turkey into his mouth. “Don’t care,” he said when his chewing had subsided.
Ace glanced towards where Mr. D and Chiron sat with the camp’s satyrs. Chiron caught his eye and glanced from him to Cato. After an obvious moment of hesitation, the centaur just nodded and went back to his food.
Ace breathed an internal sigh of relief as he turned back to Cato. “You’re only that far through your first two plates?”
Cato laughed. “Bubba, this ain’t my two first plates and it ain’t gonna be my last two plates.”
Ace rolled his eyes and pondered a response, but he was caught off when not one, but two more chairs pulled out from nearby. Blaze and Andreia had made their way over to the Zeus table and sat down, not sparing any of the other campers so much as a glance.
Chiron still didn’t look up from his food, but many of the other campers were watching them now. Ace disliked the stares, but they were more than worth it to have his three closest friends with him.
But of course, they couldn’t enjoy a moment of normality; that would have been far too easy.
Just as Andreia opened her mouth to speak, it turned into a gaping gesture as she — along with most people who had been looking in their direction — stared open-mouthed at Cato.
There was an odd, silvery glow surrounding him, and a holographic-looking owl loomed above him. Within seconds, the whole pavilion had noticed and were all staring at him, wide-eyed. Ace heard a great deal of muttering — mostly from the Hermes cabin — about how they had waited so much longer to be claimed. He hadn’t known this to be a claiming, but it made sense, and the symbol was obvious.
“Campers,” boomed Chiron, “we have our newest designation. Rise and show respect to Cato Anders, son of Athena; the Goddess of Wisdom and Battle!”
“Of course it would be Athena,” Ace told Cato through the thunderous stomping and applauding that dominated the dining area as they all took to their feet. He was beaming despite his jab, and even Cato looked euphoric…
For all of three seconds, until he began to look annoyed.
After ten, he cleared his throat, gaining the attention of the entire pavilion. “Look y’all,” he started, “I appreciate everything but I have a request.” When no one spoke, he went on, deadly serious. “Can we all sit the hell back down and get back to eatin’? I wanna finish my damn food!”
The air that had been filled with applause and other sounds of celebration, not a moment earlier, was now dominated by the joyful sound of laughter as they all took their seats.
There really was nobody quite like Cato Anders.
This chapter was originally going to cover more time, but the first few scenes took on a life of their own. This is now the third to last chapter of season 1, not the second to last. Two more chapters after this, then season 1 will be in the books.
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