Chapter 4: Silena Flips Out
CLARISSE LA RUE
Clarisse was studying the arrow she had just fired into a target dummy when she saw Joseph sauntering over. He was now wearing an orange Camp Half-Blood T-shirt and denim shorts. He held a piece of paper in his left hand.
“Hey, Clarisse!” he called, waving at her with his other hand.
“Hey, Joseph,” she replied, lowering her bow. Clarisse liked Joseph, even if he was a bit scrawny. It probably had to do with him helping her slay the Lampads yesterday, which added a torch to her impressive rack of trophies, and saved three of her siblings in the process. That was also why she had decided to forgo the usual initiation ritual of dunking new campers’ heads in the toilet.
“So,” he looked down at the paper, “I have archery now, I guess. Think you could show me? I’ve never even tried to shoot a bow before.”
Clarisse smiled. Normally, it was the Apollo campers who got to help the newbies with archery. Even Clarisse had to admit that they were better at it than they were, but she was still good. Joseph didn’t look like he had the makings of a good archer, but you never knew.
“Sure,” Clarisse said, with a meaningful glance at Michael Yew, one of the Apollo campers. She retrieved one of the smaller bows, while Joseph took a quiver and a handful of arrows. He took up a stance similar to the one she had been in, albeit with his legs much too close together.
“Stand with your legs wider apart,” Clarisse instructed him. He complied. “Better. Now, pull back…” Joseph pulled back, although not very far. “More!” The arrow moved another half-inch. Then, without being told, Joseph fired. The arrow flew through the air, landing on the ground about six feet from the target.
Clarisse rolled her eyes. This was going to take a lot of work.
Joseph shrugged, then took another, more studied look at the arrow. “On the bright side, at least it’s in line with the target.”
Clarisse didn’t smile. Yes, the arrow was in line. But good aim wouldn’t help Joseph if he couldn’t get an arrow to fly very far. “Come on. I’ll bring the target closer.” As she set off, she looked back to see him nocking another arrow. “And don’t point that thing anywhere while I’m downrange, or I’ll break your fingers!”
Ten minutes later, Joseph had fired off a dozen more arrows. Of them, only three had hit the target. Four had fallen short, and five had gone the distance but missed. He was angry. This was his first activity, and he wanted to make a good impression on the other campers. And Tzeentch’s followers were traditionally ranged specialists. But despite Clarisse’s tutelage, he wasn’t doing so well.
“Hey, Joseph!” Michael Yew called. “Maybe you should try learning from someone else! Say, someone whose dad is the god of archery!”
Clarisse shot them an angry look. Joseph ignored the remark. Maybe he just had to work at it, he thought. Maybe with time, he’d get better.
But then something else stirred in him. He’d felt it before, when he’d seen into the torches of the Lampads. It was the Warp. He looked at the target, and tried to imagine it was an enemy. He pictured a Necron warrior, skeletal and menacing, emotionless green eyes staring at him, metal hands grasping a gauss flayer. The energy burned hotter, and he felt a tinge of hatred. Of all the Chaos gods, Tzeentch had always opposed the Necrons the most.
He set down the bow, and raised his empty left hand, fingers spread outward. Tendrils of blue energy formed around his hand and forearm. Clarisse gaped, but Joseph wasn’t really surprised. As he had guessed, he was a psyker. Under his breath, he spoke a single word.
Three bolts of blue-white energy spat from his hand in quick succession, screaming downrange as fast as any arrow. They slammed into the target dummy, easily penetrating its armor, leaving three smoldering holes all the way through.
Joseph grinned, and unleashed a second salvo. This time, he didn’t say anything, he just pictured the three bolts. Then a third. This time one bolt missed, but the other two struck home. There wasn’t much left of the dummy at this point.
Joseph turned to Clarisse, then to the others practicing. Everyone was staring in shock, with mouths open. Joseph replaced the bow and arrows on the rack. He felt a little fatigued, just as he had been after firing the arrows, but he wanted to continue.
A thought came into his head, and he pulled the schedule out of his pocket. He took out a mechanical pencil, and where his schedule said “Archery Practice” he crossed out the word “archery”. Above it, he wrote “target”.
After archery, Joseph went down to the sword pit, full of confidence. Now that he knew what he was capable of, he felt ready to take on the world.
One thing that had surprised Joseph was how self-run the campers’ activities were. Senior campers handled most of the training and instruction. Here, a wiry Athena camper who could probably have played forward for the Knicks assigned campers into pairs.
“Joseph, you’ll be working with Silena Beauregard,” he said with a smirk. Silena, the stunningly beautiful head of the Aphrodite cabin, pouted for a few seconds before getting up and stepping into the arena. She was eager to help fit Joseph with a set of armor, and spent an unreasonable amount of time making sure he looked just right. Finally, she stepped back, and took up a fighting stance. Joseph tried mimicking it.
Silena sighed. “Hold your sword higher!” Joseph complied, although the sword was rather heavy. “Widen your stance!” Joseph did so. The next minute was spent perfecting his stance. Joseph sensed reluctance in Silena – she apparently didn’t want to do any actual fighting.
“OK,” she said, resuming her own stance. “Now, attack me.”
Joseph studied her for a moment. His body tensed, and he charged, hoping to overwhelm her defenses in a single blow. Silena was older than Joseph, but they were both about the same size, and she wasn’t particularly muscled.
But Silena moved quickly, swinging her sword to meet Joseph’s. Joseph flinched, and that was his undoing. Silena easily deflected his attack, and then knocked him on his back. Joseph groaned, and got back up.
Joseph attacked again and again. He tried feinting her out, but his attempts were clumsy and easy for her to see coming. And she turned out to be stronger and faster than him after all. He did get better at staying on his feet, but he couldn’t stop flinching when he saw her blade coming.
Then, he sensed something in her. A surge of aggression. She was going to attack! Joseph stepped back quickly, and Silena’s blade flashed through the air where he had been standing. She frowned. Joseph could tell she was disappointed that he had dodged her.
Silena looked at Joseph. The aggression had faded. She was studying him now. Joseph did the same. Only in addition to seeing her expression, hearing her breathing, and smelling her expensive perfume, another sense was at work. She lunged again, but this one was half-hearted, and Joseph easily avoided the blow.
A mental image appeared in his mind. He saw himself through the eyes of another. That person moved to Joseph’s right, then quickly shifted to attack his left. He realized that he was seeing himself through Silena’s eyes – and that he was seeing what she was planning to do!
When she moved again, Joseph moved to his left. He wasn’t as fast as Silena, but he took her off guard. It also helped that he was left-handed anyway. He caught her sword before it was in position, and knocked it aside as he stepped inside her guard. He brought up his armored forearm and struck her in the face. Hard. Silena cried out, and when she stepped back, her lip was split and her makeup completely smeared. She rubbed her face where he had hit her, and glared at him with renewed fury.
Another mental image appeared. It was Joseph lying in bed, wrapped in bandages, leg in a cast.
Silena attacked again. No tricks this time. Just raw anger. Joseph knew what she was going to do, but his advantage wasn’t enough. She was just too fast. She struck again and again, until their blades met, and locked guards. Silena twisted, and Joseph’s sword came easily out of his hand, falling to the ground. Joseph stumbled back. Silena looked at him again, with blood in her eyes.
Joseph did the only thing he could do. He raised his hand, and imagined the three bolts again. Only this time, they were blunted. They shot from his hand, striking Silena in the chest, knocking her back at least two feet before she fell down. She groaned in pain – and Joseph could feel it too. He didn’t feel it as if it was his own body, but he felt it just the same.
Everyone stopped what they were doing, and looked at Joseph. He turned scarlet, and ran off.
Chiron was sitting outside the infirmary when Joseph came up. He was still wearing his armor, and he wore a sheepish look on his face. His pale skin was streaked with sweat.
“Glad to see you didn’t run away,” Chiron said. It had been less than twenty minutes since the incident at the swordpit. Silena had been taken to the infirmary right away. While the Apollo campers had taken care of her, Chiron had waited here. He had expected Joseph to do one of two things. Either he would run away from camp, or he would come to the infirmary. “Where did you go, if I may ask?”
“I kinda hid behind the Ares cabin,” he replied. “I just needed some time to collect my thoughts. I did think about running away… but I decided that would be stupid.”
Chiron chuckled. “I suppose it would. After all, where would you go?”
Joseph shrugged, and his mouth twitched. He looked down, then at the door. “How is she?”
“She’s pretty bruised,” Chiron replied. “The blow to her face was nothing to be concerned with, but I’m afraid that little spell of yours cracked two of her ribs, and left her with some serious bruising. Fortunately, a little ambrosia ought to fix her up by tomorrow.”
Joseph sighed in relief. “That’s good to hear. That spell was at full power. If I hadn’t blunted it…” He smiled weakly. “Well, in the game, that spell can penetrate the power armor used by Space Marines. Against Greek battle armor… it would probably have killed her outright.”
Chiron frowned. He’d perused the background information in the core Warhammer 40,000 book. It had contained quite a bit about the dangers posed by psykers. The thought that Joseph might accidentally kill a fellow camper...
He shook his head. Half-bloods were sturdier than humans, and campers had always trained with real weapons and armor. Serious injuries did occur, often worse than what Joseph had done to Silena. It had been years since the last accidental death. And Joseph had blunted his spell.
“I would like to hear more about what happened before you knocked her down,” Chiron said. “Darryl Hayden was watching you with Silena. He said that you were possibly the worst fighter he’d ever seen… until you started dodging Silena’s attacks.”
Joseph thought for a moment. “Well, sir, I haven’t quite gotten around to mentioning this, but as I recall, the orientation video said that half-bloods are often diagnosed with ADHD, because of their natural battle instincts.”
Chiron nodded. “Even the daughters of Aphrodite, although they generally avoid combat when possible.”
“Well, I don’t have ADHD. Or dyslexia. And my schools had good support for kids with learning disabilities, so I don’t think they just missed me. I had next to no idea what I was doing in there.”
Chiron raised an eyebrow. “Are you sure?”
Joseph nodded. “I guess it’s because I’m not an Olympian half-blood. Silena was kicking my butt. But then I discovered another power of mine.” He took a deep breath. “I can read minds. I was able to dodge Silena’s attacks because I knew exactly what she was going to do before she did it.”
Chiron felt his heart beat faster. Can you read my thoughts, he asked silently.
“Yes,” Joseph replied, grinning now. “But I think you let me have that one.” He cocked his head to one side, and looked intently at Chiron. “Yeah, I think it’s just surface thoughts. I can’t search your memories.”
Chiron’s eyes narrowed. “You just tried to, I take it?”
Joseph nodded. “Yeah. I was trying to find out your favorite movie.”
Chiron felt relieved. “Oh. It’s Casablanca.”
Joseph smiled. “Good choice. Anyway, I think I can control it,” he continued. “It’s like not looking at someone. It takes conscious thought, but I can choose not to read your mind if I want.”
“It would probably be best if you avoided reading the minds of your fellow campers,” Chiron added.
“Agreed,” Joseph nodded. “Anyway, I think I ought to go in and apologize to Silena Beauregard.”
To Joseph’s surprise, Silena wasn’t angry at him anymore. “I just don’t like people messing with my makeup,” she said. She didn’t even frown when he mentioned his newfound telepathy, and she accepted his apology.
Afterwards, Joseph went to lunch. That afternoon, he studied Greek mythology with Chiron. Ancient Greek was a nightmare, given that Joseph’s own brain wasn’t wired for it. He’d managed to get down the Greek alphabet, but that was probably it for now.
That evening, Joseph joined the Hermes cabin at dinner. While Dionysus had agreed to allow Joseph to build his own cabin, there was still the camp rule that campers sat at their cabin tables, and there was no table for Tzeentch. So Joseph had elected to remain at the Hermes table, particularly as his own cabin was nothing more than a few markers out on the northern edge of camp, between the beach and the climbing wall.
When the campers approached the bonfire to give their offerings, Joseph said a silent prayer to Tzeentch. Thank you, father, for giving me your power. Joseph had no real love for Tzeentch, but he did not intend to insult his father by refusing him any favors. He tossed in a juicy cluster of grapes. He rather doubted that Tzeentch actually cared about the smell, but it was the thought that mattered. Especially when his gratitude was genuine.