Nothing ever seemed to happen to children of Apollo. It was a fact of life that Aella had long ago acknowledged and accepted. It was the big three's children and their companions who got to be heroes. She wasn't jealous per say. She knew how much they'd given up to save Camp Half-Blood and just to simply survive. She just wished that for once, she wasn't just another archer sitting around waiting for orders. That would never happen though. With Kronos at their doorstep, petty archers like herself hardly made a dent in the massive ranks of monsters.
It made sense. Percy could control water. Thalia was a daughter of Zeus and a Hunter of Artemis now, so she was a better archer than her and she could call lightning from the sky. There was no beating that. And then there were the chosen children, the ones who weren’t the children of the big three, but managed to keep up with them. Annabeth was crazy smart, smarter than Aella could ever hope to be when it came to battle strategy (Aella’s most complex plan was 'hide and charge'). Clarissa was wicked with practically any weapon.
Then there was her. What good was she other than to shoot a few measly arrows? She felt like the Hawkeye of the camp, although to be fair even he was cooler with his arsenal of changeable arrowheads and wit. Once she ran out of arrows, she was useless, good for nothing except for blurting out random facts that had little to do with the current situation. Still, it could have been worse. She could have been a child of Mr. D (although to be fair even his kids had fun powers).
Aella had none of the powers of her siblings. She had her bow, but that was it. Nothing special. No healing, no precognition, no talent at singing, and worse, she couldn't even curse people to speak in rhyme or limerick.
These were the thoughts that rolled around in her mind while worked on fletching some new arrows. It was currently winter and the camp was almost completely empty. The war against Kronos was heating up and most of the prolific demigods were away, either at school or on missions. Aella would have rather been at school rather than cooped up at the bare camp, but her mother had insisted she stay. She'd always been overprotective of her, no matter how many times Aella told her she never got anywhere close to the line of fire. She couldn't blame her mother though. The night that Aella had been forced to run away from home she'd burned down the house and destroyed the neighbor's garage all in one go.
Her mom was odd. Half the time she wanted Aella to be at camp, learning to fight under the watchful eye of Chiron. The other half of the time she asked whether or not Aella had gotten into trouble lately, her eyes alight with curiosity. Aella often wondered if the overprotective thing was just an act.
Fletching arrows usually worked to calm her moods, but today, she felt on edge. Sitting on the stoop of the Artemis cabin (she often felt more comfortable there than at her father's cabin), she couldn't help but glance up every so often at the sky, as if expecting it to open up. It was like the calm before the storm. That was ridiculous though. The Camp was as still as ever. Aella assured herself that it was just her usual stupid insecurities gnawing at her. Even so, she couldn't help but notice that the scent of strawberries from the fields was lost to her, replaced by a foul stench she didn't recognize. It was probably a new stink bomb formula from the Hermes' kids.
Aella drew herself up, settling her quiver across her back and unstringing her bow. She wasn't going to be attacked inside the camp, so there was no point risking the limb breaking from leaving it taut. One of these days she'd ask a child of Hephaestus to work her some "magic" into her bow. She still hadn't figured out a good enough bribe for their work though. They weren't cheap. The Hephaestus kids knew what they were worth.
Heading towards the Apollo cabin, Aella noticed the stink getting stronger. Surely the Hermes kids hadn't dropped it in front of her cabin? Gods she hoped not. She’d just cleaned the place for inspections earlier that morning.
A strange, echoing murmur began to roll through her head. Aella stopped, suddenly wondering if she should have left her bow strung after all. The sensation of falling nearly drove her to her knees and a humming began to reverberate in her head. Aella blinked. She was clearly still standing and not falling at all, yet she felt as though she were being disconnected from her own body. The pungent odor was overwhelming, and she found her vision was turning red. No alarms had been raised in the camp. They couldn't be under attack…so what was going on?
"Gods…father?" she whispered, terror starting to gnaw at her.
The voices were getting louder and the red was enveloping her vision. Aella bit her lip until it bled, trying to snap herself out of it.
"Travis? Connor? This isn't funny!" she snapped, "Whatever you're doing, cut it out!"
Her sight was beginning to sharpen again, only she discovered that as the red dissipated, she was no longer in camp. She was in a room, though it was too dark to clearly make out what was around her. She blinked, trying to pull everything into focus.
"Hello?" Her voice came out as a whisper.
Instinctively, she pulled her bowstring out of her pocket and uncoiled it, fitting it easily to her bow.
There were footsteps overhead. Dust fell down into her eyes and she hastily blinked it away. Deep voices, heavy boot falls—she had a feeling this wasn't somewhere she wanted to be.
"I'm a daughter of Apollo damn it," she growled quietly, drawing an arrow from her quiver and fitting it to her bow, "I will not be taken by surprise by who knows what."
"The reports all lead to this house," one of the voices said, sounding somewhat exasperated.
"Of course they do. The creepy abandoned house on the left. One of these days we'll get a job that's less cliché. Got that recording ready?"
"Yeah, but I don't think it's a demon this time. Ruby said—"
"I thought we agreed we weren't talking about her."
Aella heard a door open, followed by the sound of footsteps descending stairs—stairs leading to her. She bit her lip again, wincing as she felt the raw flesh. Shoot first, ask questions later? Generally, a good rule to follow, she'd discovered. She was a good enough shot. She'd just scare them.
Aella took up her stance, drawing back her bowstring, lightly cradling the arrow as she did. As soon as she saw a flicker of movement, she fired. She'd never liked the sound of metal hitting flesh, no matter how satisfying a hit was. It was a disturbing sound one never quite forgot. The sound was drowned out though by a loud proclamation of,
"Son of a bitch!"
Aella notched another arrow as one of the men tumbled down the stairs, landing with yet another profane proclamation. She didn’t draw the bow back yet (archery didn’t work like the movies after all—it was impossible to stand with a fully drawn bow for an extended period of time). Another man rushed down the stairs, holding up a gun. Aella didn't exactly like the odds of a gun versus her bow, no matter who her father was. The men didn't seem too keen on attacking though. The shorter of the two, the one she'd shot, was currently on the ground clutching the arrow, which sat just below his knee.
"Guess you were an adventurer, huh?" she muttered, unable to stop herself.
"Dude, I just got shot by a girl scout!"
The taller one regarded her from behind his gun, "Who are you?”
She kept herself loose, ready to draw back and fire if needed. Demigods weren't supposed to hurt humans, but what if it was a matter of life and death? Chiron never mentioned that scenario. Another warning shot would be effective if push came to shove, or so she hoped.
"Why're you breaking and entering?" Aella ventured.
As her eyes adjusted to the dark, she noticed she was in what looked like an old basement. Judging by the cobwebs and shattered lights overhead, the place was probably abandoned. She doubted these men had any more right to be there than her, but she hoped she might be able to distract them with the question, or at least throw them off guard.
"Where are your parents?" the tall man asked.
"Sam, the kid shot me! I don't think she has strong parental guidance."
"What's your name?" the one named Sam asked slowly, gun twitching in his hand slightly almost like an encouraging nod.
For a moment, Aella hesitated. She bit her lower lip, staring at the man's gun rather than his eyes.
"My name is Sam, and that's Dean. Look, let's both just lower our weapons, all right?"
"Lower our weapons? She shot first!"
"Just call me 'Han'," she muttered with a smirk before adding, "Call me Aella."
Sam lowered his gun and after a moment, Aella removed her arrow from the string.
"We're officers," Sam added, taking out a badge and showing it, "We were called to investigate after there were some reports of strange lights at this house. It's been abandoned for a while, so some of the neighbors thought it might be teenagers intruding."
"You're in big trouble, kid! Attacking an officer and trespassing!"
“And you didn’t say you were an officer at first why?” Aella looked coldly at Dean, "You didn't announce yourselves. You said it yourself, I'm just a 'kid'. You scared me and I didn’t know any better."
"Scared my ass! You shot me!"
"You've said that a few times now…"
Aella took a few cautious steps forward to take the offered badge, looking it over. She had to way of knowing whether it was real or not. It was a point in her education she now wished she had taken the time to expand upon. The badge felt heavy, which made her think it was real. After a moment, she handed it back.
"This doesn't mean I trust you two," Aella commented, "Anyone can show a fancy badge and you're not dressed like officers."
"Can we discuss this later? Like after I get this stick out of my leg?" Dean asked.
"It's not that bad. I didn't use that heavy of an arrowhead and I didn’t use the bow’s full power.”
"Have you ever been shot by an arrow?" Dean snapped back, breaking off the end and standing with Sam's help.
"Yes," Aella replied curtly, "Do you two know how to treat that?"
Then, she smelled it again—that strange, acrid smell that reminded her of the hot springs she'd visited in California with her mother on a business trip. Aella wrinkled her nose, sneezing.
"Sulfur," Sam said suddenly.
"Sulfur? You mean that yellow rock? I didn't know rocks had a smell."
"This one does," Dean replied, his demeanor suddenly rigid.
Aella noticed that he'd drawn his gun at some point. He was fast, she noted, much faster than her on the draw.
"Kid, get out of here now."
Aella gripped her bow, drawing strength from the smooth wood before asking, "Why? What's going on? I smelled that stuff, the sulfur, earlier before I ended up here. Does it cause hallucinations or something? Sort of like what mort—…what people think gave visions to the Oracle of Delphi?"
Dean looked at her sharply, "What did you see?"
"Erm…nothing actually, or all of this. Not sure if I'm hallucinating now, to be frank."
"You're not sure if you're hallucinating and you shot me."
"That makes it sound worse than it actually is. But, yeah, I mean, one minute I'm off doing my own thing and the next I'm here."
Sam moved towards the wall and propped Dean up against it, before walking past Aella, gazing intently at the floor. Sticking his gun into his waistband (which was terrible practice; Chiron had warned those who did use firearms not to do so for fear of shooting off their butt), he reached into his coat pocket, drawing out a large flashlight. Flicking it on, the floor was lit up with an intense brilliance in contrast to the dark basement around. Aella squinted her eyes, adjusting to the sudden burst of light.
As she did, she noticed there was a strange symbol on the floor, painted in what looked like dark maroon paint. The next thing she knew, both men were drawing their guns again, pointing them at her.
"I thought we were done with the gun thing!"
"No hard feelings, kid, we just don't know if you're possessed or not."
"Um, yeah, there was a whole big thing up in Salem for that wasn't there? I'll pass, thanks."
She knew for certain now that they weren't officers unless cops had decided to start taking up exorcism on the side to make money now.
Sam took something out of his pocket. It looked like an old fashion cassette player. Well, she decided it was better than a gun. He pressed a button and the player began to recite some Latin chant. Latin had never been a strong suit for her, although if she concentrated sometimes she could understand.
"Regna terrae, cantate Deo-"
"Vescere bracis meis." Aella interrupted, arching an eyebrow Sam who was still holding the cassette, "Oh? What? I thought we were speaking Latin now for fun."
"Dude, she isn't even twitching. Try turning it up."
The recording continued to play, but Aella couldn't follow what exactly was being said. It was difficult to concentrate though with the floor starting to shake. At first she thought it was in her head, but dust began to sprinkle down from the ceiling and she could hear the groan of old beams protesting to the sudden shift.
"Cut it out!" Dean shouted.
"I'm not doing that!"
Aella debating making a run for it to the stairs, but before she could move something grabbed her ankle and tugged.