Demigods : Version 3.0 { Closed, Started }

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Elizabeth climbed down from the roof of the building after timing the movements of the guards to her liking. She hoped a fence separating the two properties and snuck up onto the roof using a secured rain gutter as a way up. Once on the roof she crept to a hidden spot near the sleeping guard and stole a dagger from its sheath on his person. She then pulled her arm back and soundly hit him in the head with the blunt end of the weapon, not aiming to kill the man. She didn't know if a guard switch was soon and she didn't want to arouse suspicion with a dead body. He would wake up eventually but it would buy her the time she needed. Knowing there was nobody else on the roof she continued her recon mission.

From there she crept over to one of the ceiling light common to these types of warehouses and quietly opened one up. She peered in and listened as best she could while making sure she would still be out of sight.

'Alright after this I go back and tell the others what I've found.' She thought.

Gabe and Ambrose's journey into the subterranean depths had commensed, with the two descending down a few flights of stairs into the moist, dingy, High St. subway station. It was as crowded as Gabriel anticipated, but there were people around nonetheless. Those that managed to get a good look at the younger girl's very defining features, couldn't seem to take their eyes off of her as they strode past. "Stay close. Keep the cat in the bag." Gabe told her, moving further into the station. There wasn't much to the stop, a vacant booth and broken ATMs to his right, turnstiles and train tracks to his left. He would've scolded himself about not having money to get through the metal swivels, but then again, he never paid to get through one of these things. With nary a second thought, he vaulted over the turnstile before turning to the Hypnos child, still on the other side.

"You can crawl under if you can't jump it." He told her. As she carefully made her way under, a familiar, almost rhythmic sound was coming from the tracks. Ka-dun dundun...Ka-dun dundun. The two were greeted with a blast of stank air as a metal tube blasted into the station. Gabe stepped closer as it began slowing down, and entered when the doors slid open. The train resumed motion shortly, and the two found seats adjacent to one of the windows. "We're going uptown. 72nd St. Don't go to sleep, 'cuz we'll get there soon." He blankly instructed, turning his attention towards the window he sat next to. To be honest, there wasn't much to look at, seeing as they were travelling through a dark tunnel n' all.

The cooling air felt refreshing to Freya. Almost felt like back home in Iceland, even though it wasn't actually all that cold like many people assumed. It was good that they were rid of Janus. Like Royce had said, only a mild inconvenience at best. Who was he to refer to himself as one such as her father?

They came across a weird incline in the following hallway, and Jia started to give them some orders. Which she didn't like. "You're not the boss of me." But she checked behind them to make sure they wouldn't be ambushed. Even though she didn't want to be bossed around by anyone, except maybe Chiron, she still understood the importance of keeping an eye out for ambushes. She'd just preferred it if Jia hadn't started to act like the leader of the group. If anyone should be leader, it should be Freya. But she kept her trap shut about it because getting through the mission was more important than arguing with her fellow teammates.

Brandon was a bit disappointed that Jess pulled back so quickly, but that second or so was exactly why he was willing to go to her despite the games she liked to play with her position. "All right, guess I can put up with the Baskin-Robbins treatment. That Liz's got some wheels, sure nuff. Still, I don't think this here's gonna amount to a whole lotta anythin'. I could be back trainin' right now, or gettin' other kinds of exercise. Know what I mean, Jess?"

Royce raised an eyebrow at Dorofei's slightly brutish, but still clever, tactic. A large wall was all well and good, but it hindered their progress forward. And there was no way backwards, since the gate they had passed through had turned into a solid stone wall. It didn't look like there was another way around. There was not a lot he could think of doing, except to examine the holes cut into the sides of the tunnel. Curiously, above each one was carved some symbols in various languages. The Greek one, he translated to mean 'sanctuary'.

Experimentally, he stepped into a niche and turned around to face the other three. It was surprisingly roomy, despite his size and armour. Had it been built for bigger people than himself? Maybe. Or maybe it was -

CRUNCH.

A scraping noise began further up the tunnel, past the ice wall. Stone on stone. Something was moving. Had Royce set off a trap? No, surely not. If there had been a trap in the 'sanctuary' niche, he would have spotted it. The sounds grew louder... something was coming towards them. Judging by the shape looming in the ice wall, Royce quickly figured it out. He'd seen it before in books and such.

"It's a sliding stone trap! Get to cover in case the rock smashes through!" he yelled to the others above the grinding of stone. He indicated the other niches nearby.

Behind the group of demigods, a square patch of floor crumbled away, revealing nothing but a deep black pit the same width as the tunnel. Presumably for collecting the sliding stone once it had run its downward course.



Jess gave a short laugh at the mention of 'other kinds of exercise'. "True enough... though if there's an emergency, it makes sense that we should check it out. Even if it turns out to be nothing, it's better than not knowing what it was at all." She kissed Brandon a second time, teasing him a little bit more by touching his lip with her tongue before she pulled away again.

"Tell you what, big guy. When we get back to camp, you and I can have a one-on-one training session tonight," she suggested, undoing a button on her top to clarify her meaning. Of course, Brandon probably knew perfectly well what she meant, as well as why she was holding back right now. There was a time and a place to dance the horizontal tango, and being out on a mission in broad daylight was neither... especially since Jess thought she heard footsteps. Elizabeth was probably on her way back. That or someone was walking past. She'd seen a fair few people walking around as they had pulled up earlier.


Meanwhile, inside the warehouse, Russ and his drakaina assistants continued to talk, unaware of the daughter of Hermes listening in. "How long mussst we wait? You half-godsss and your orderssss," one of them complained. "We mussst feed ssssometime."

"You know the plan. The team at Eolus is making sure the beast is settled back in its old lair. Once it re-acclimatises to the land of the living, it'll be the vanguard in our assault on that blasted camp," the demigod reprimanded. "Patience. You'll have your feast soon enough."

"Thisss... love-child. Can she be trusssted?" the other queried.

"Carolina has been an operative for us for a year now. She knows everyone in that camp, their strengths, their flaws. My plan is perfect. Take out the demigods and their bastard leader, and the pantheon at Olympus will be entirely helpless to resist the coming assault. They may be gods, but they are bound by their laws. We are not."

"And our father?" the first one spoke again.

"We took control of his mountain easily enough. The restoration links will supply him with plenty of power in due course. We just have to wait to watch the tree bear its fruit. Now go. I must attend to some of the finer touches of the plan, thanks to Carolina's recent developments." The drakainas promptly slithered away, out of Elizabeth's sight. Russ pulled out a pen and journal and began to write in it as he too walked away from the table.

Elizabeth's eyes widened at the mention of Carolina's name.

'That is more than enough information for me to go on, thank you Hermes for the skills you grant me. They have come in quite handy for serving you this day.' She thought in ancient Greek before quietly climbing back down and hopping over the fence before getting out of sight of anyone who may have been nearby and going back to the van. She snuck up to the vehicle and picked the lock before throwing open Jess' door since it was closest to the curb opposite the warehouse.

"We're going to need to move quickly, we have a mole. One of your sisters actually Jess, by the name of Carolina. She's in there right now with a guy by the name of Russ and more than a dozen guards. They plan on an assault on the gods after they kill the lot of us. Something about the mountain of the father of the drakaina and having taken it back to supply him with power." She said quietly enough that it would only be the three of them hearing it.

"Mmmmm, you know I'm always down for some one on one action," Brandon confirmed, still savoring the second serving he got from the Aphrodite counselor. He was still enjoying the opening to the balcony when he heard the noise at the door. Dang the girl moves quick.

As Elizabeth divulged the information, Brandon was getting a bit angry. Not only was there now something that actually had to be dealt with, but a demi-god working for the enemy? That was treason, and there was only one way to deal with treason in Texas. Death. Whether or not Jess would be on board with offing one of her campers would remain to be seen, but Brandon was pretty sure it was the path to take.

"If they wanna try and take us out, then they are more than welcome to try," Brandon said, reaching back for his guns. "I ain't gonna make it easy for 'em, one. 'N two, I say we kill 'em first. That goes for that Carolina Liar too. She weren't even that hot anyway."

"Whoa, hold up there. Killing them? That's a bit much," Jess interjected, redoing the button as she turned over to face Elizabeth. "I vote we take prisoners. If they have a plan of some kind, we can probably get them to spill the beans if we subdue them and bring them back to camp." She pulled her knife from her pack and fitted the sheath into its place on her belt, trying to think over what was the best course of action. Elizabeth's mention of a mole distracted her, though.

Carolina... how? How could she turn her back on us? On the gods themselves? The idea was entirely alien to the counselor. Demigods were often the last line of defense against the enemy. They fought not just for the pantheon, but for humanity as a whole. But Jessica set the thoughts aside for the moment. Now was the time to act on what had happened, not to question it.

"If they have more than a dozen people, plus the demigods, we'll need some way to even the odds... Liz, did you see any monsters in there with them? If there are, and we can get the jump on them, we'd cause a bit of a panic," she suggested, climbing out of the van just in case. "Maybe you can pick some of them off from a distance."

"Shit!" Freya said as she saw the giant shape behind the ice wall and heard the scraping noise after Royce called to warn them. "That ice better hold it!" She'd noticed the gap in the floor that had appeared before Royce's warning, and she wasn't about to fall through it. Looking around, she saw the niches in the wall and quickly got into one of them. The ice was penetrated by many nails made of bronze, each sticking about an inch or so out of the wall. Cracks were forming on the ice, showing signs that it may be about to break. "Hold on, damn you!" Freya yelled at the ice, as if it would help.

Ambrose motioned to her bag, and Lethe hopped right in. She had already made it to Brooklyn: everything else that happened at this point was gravy. Yummy, yummy, gravy.

Somewhere in the back of her mind, a few thoughts formulated, aggravated by the persistent caffeine in her blood. ... ... ... Heh heh. Keep the cat in the bag. She walked straight into a turnstile with a surprised grunt.
"You can crawl under if you can't jump it."
The plant kid was already on the other side, waiting for her. She could probably jump it.
Nah.
Ambrose slowly got on hands and knees and wiggled under the bars.

There weren't any subways in California. This was Ambrose first time in one. And it was... interesting. She was hesitant to even sit on the benches with her white dress...

The boy was quiet next to her. Lethe had gotten out of the bag and was exploring the sights and sounds and... smells. See this was why Ambrose didn't like being awake. She drummed her fingers on her knees for a few seconds before breaking the silence. "So do you think they'll remember you? The dryads? I mean, they have a really long life. And you didn't really know them for a long time, if you think about it."

"For the moment I agree with Jess. Once we have their plans however, I'm not sure mercy is required in the case of deicide. As for monsters yes, there are some drakaina in the ranks. As for anything more feral I didn't take the time to look after I heard mention of something this time sensitive. Whatever we plan to do I suggest we do it quickly, who knows how long they will remain there." Elizabeth replied. Already loading an arrow without pulling back the string in order to keep it ready to be fired without exerting herself.

"72nd St. station, inbound. Transfers to outbound B and C trains will be available..." Was the garbled announcement to gurgle its way through a ceiling-planted speaker, indicating to the two that it would soon be time to move on. Gabe began to stand, still mulling over the Slumberchild's questions as the speedy metal tube rushed into its next destination. "...And you didn't really know them for a long time, if you think about it."

"Six years isn't a long time?" He retorted with his own query, slinging his bookbag over his back. Diing-dooong. The train's doors slid open people began to pile in, the two began their way out. One quick ascent later, the children breached the surface, with the immense Central Park right in plain sight across the street from where they stood. "I don't need 'em all to remember me...just one." He added, traversing the wide street to reach his destination. Like a switch, soft, familiar, wispy murmurs danced through his head as he stood before the park. He began stating more directions as he hopped the small stone wall that divided the park from the street.

"We'll get going into the trees once we get deeper into the park." He told her, giving her another gesture to keep close. Following into one of the many forking concrete paths, Gabriel eventually came to a halt at the center of one of the forks. There, a wide oak tree stood its ground. He placed a hand to the rough bark, and ladder-like protrusions began...protruding...from one of the tree's sides. "C'mon." He began scaling the towering plant, beginning to disappear in its canopy. Once finding a branch thick enough to support him, he took rest on it, feet dangling as he looked down below. Ambrose still lurked around the base of the tree, not even considering to make the climb.

"Guess she's afraid of heights or something." He thought with a shrug. Putting his hands up to his mouth, he let out a shrill, undulating whistle. A few seconds after the echos died down, some of the nearby trees sprung to life. As the rustling grew closer, Gabe decided to ascend further into the tree. Reaching a certain point, he realized there was another being already waiting there. One with a familiar green hue to her skin tone, and dressed in a collection of various sized leaves. The wood nymph Gabriel knew as Willow smiled as she bent down to help him up to her level.

"Where've you been?" She asked simply, dusting off the slightly taller human. "You know how dangerous it is for you to be out in the wilderness all by yourself." She mothered the boy, causing a bit of a sheepish expression to gather on Gabriel's face. "I know, I just...I..." While he tried to find the right words to say, the dryad's gaze lowered, noticing the white haired girl still loitering about the tree.

"Huh, an awake sleepling. That's a rare sight. Though I don't think Red Oak's gonna appriciate 'er mucking about her tree like that." She stated, beginning to let out a warning call. "She's with me. I was uh...found...in Long Island." He stopped her. Willow grinned at his reaction. "Ohhhh. Well, let's go meet her then, shall we?" She quickly began down the tree. With a sigh, he conjured a quick vine from one the nearer branches to hurry down after her.

"Well yeah, we have a sayin' back home," Brandon agreed with Liz's deicide stance as he finished loading the magic-treated bullets into the chambers of his guns. "Ya talk 'bout killin' me, better do it before I find out, cause I'mma kill ya first." He turned around to look for where on the floor his bat might have rolled off too, but it was still in behind him. "I say we gut 'em all 'cept for one see if we can't coax some info outta him, and if he ain't talkin' we'll off 'im too. Or her if ya wanna save that little traitor of yours for last Jess."

"Alright..." Jess weighed up the options briefly. "If you're dead-set on killing some of them, fine. But we need information on whatever mad plan their leader's concocted, so we'll take him alive. Carolina as well. If we subdue them and keep them under guard, we can get them back to camp for interrogation. If my traitorous half-sister's been selling secrets to the enemy, we have to know if she's leaked anything sensitive. Maybe a hole in our defenses that we need to plug before it's exploited. Monsters are fair game, take out as many as possible."

Three against over a dozen... the odds were kind of dicey. Still, Brandon and Elizabeth would hopefully be able to take out a good portion from a distance.

"Let's go then. No sense in waiting around." The three quickly hurried over to the warehouse. Thankfully there appeared to be only one way inside the building itself: the front door. Two guards were hanging around outside, one noticeably taller than the other. A centaur and a drakaina. Soon these guards spotted the trio walking into the area, and raised weapons of their own.

"Suggestions?" Jess queried of her fellows. In response, Brandon raised one of his two guns and pulled the trigger. The round split in half in mid-flight and both halves spun off in different directions. Jess raised her eyebrows when each half caught a guard perfectly through the torso, disintegrating the pair into piles of ash. Brandon looked over at the other two and noted, "How's that for ya?"

"Works for me. But they'll know we're here 'cause of that. Let's move." Jess led the way into the warehouse. The entrance hall was dark. A blade whipped out and touched her bare throat. "Who are you... I ssssmell food - " The drakaina didn't get the chance to finish, as Jess drew her knife and, holding it backhanded, stabbed the creature through her sword-arm.

Lights flickered on as the snake-woman became a cloud of sulfuric-smelling ashes. Revealed was... eight more monstrous inhabitants. Three centaurs were among them, all carrying bows and quivers, along with more drakainas and one small thing Jess recognised as a Telchine. The grey, dog-headed seal creatures were demonic artificers, known for crafting Poseidon's trident, his symbol of power.

Then the inevitable happened. The Telchine screamed, "INTRUDER ALERT!" and flopped away on its weird flipper-paws. The drakainas, however, drew swords and readied shields before rushing the trio of demigods, the centaurs retreating a short way and readying arrows.

Four feet simultaneously land at ground level, causing a bit of shock to race through the Slumberchild's body. Willow was quick to approach the white haired wonder, and made no hesitations to inspect her. Ambrose seemed hesitant to give any answers, so the dryad decided to point her questions at the guy she came with. "So, what's her name?" The wood nymph asked, still eyeballing the girl. "This is uhh...uhhhhh..." Gabriel tried to answer, but realized that the two hadn't truly introduced themselves prior to the event.

"This is Sleepy." He decided, said decision sounding unsure in his tone of voice. Willow raised an eyebrow as she crossed her arms. "Gabriel Emile Aeckard. How can you let this girl straggle along with you without learning her name?" She playfully scolded the boy. "What were you doing in Long Island, anyway? What's all the way out there for you?" She asked, beginning to lead the two into a thicker formation of trees (with Gabe signalling for Ambrose to follow). "I was...wandering, is all...After last week's attack-" Gabe struggled to find the words he wanted to tell his impromptu guardian.

His hesitant explanation was cut off by the quick-replying wood nymph. "You didn't have to just up and leave because of it! Being who you are...what you are, that's something you can't control, you know that! I've yet to blame you for those attacks, and I won't start today." She stopped, and turned to face the Harvestchild. She leaned in close, bringing Gabe's head down to her level, their foreheads touching. "So get over it, okay?" She said with a reassuring smile.

They continued moving, yet Gabe couldn't seem to give his guardian true attention. Her kind actions and caring disposition plagued him as he tried to get his words out. "It's not that easy, Wil. My age is causing tensions to rise amongst the sisters. I...I just don't want to see any more of y'all get hurt because of me." He rebutted.

"What are you trying to say, Gabe?" As Willow talked, the three entered an enclosed opening, a fairly circular spot surrounded with intertwining trees of varying species. Said opening was alive and thriving with wood nymphs of all sorts of ages, shapes, and sizes. The three entering the communal area caused a bit of a standstill amongst the closest dryads. Those setting eyes on Gabriel either smiled at his return, or frowned (or scowled) at his reappearance. The Harvestchild could feel all the stares burrowing into him.

"...Goodbye." He managed to get out. Before Willow could protest in any way, another green-hued girl stomped up to the trio, a nymph much taller than Willow, and about as broad shouldered as Gabe. The rigid body language she displayed as she pointed and yelled, insinuated that her attitude towards the Harvestchild might be somewhat malicious. "You have some nerve showing your face around here, dae-blood! My sister is dead because of you!" She growled as she approached, Willow stepped in front of the two to stop the huskier nymph from putting hands around the boy's neck. "I should kill you right here, yeah? Hang your arse right along my branches, and let the hellhounds finally get what they've been wanting!" For once, Gabe didn't display any anger at the threats. Instead, he hung his head. To him, The threats felt justified.

"I'm sorry Ash...I really am-" He tried to apologize, but instead the nymph's attention managed to set upon the seemingly quiet (and, to a point, awe stricken) Ambrose. "And not only did you decide to show your infected face around here again, but you brought one of your dae-blood buddies, too! The rank stench of that budding sleepling will bring every-damn-thing out of the wood work! You all see this?!" Ash broke away from Willow, now making sure that everyone in the vicinity was paying attention in some way. "This bastard and his bastard pals means to end us just by existing! And i'm tired of just letting this slide!" By this point, Willow had felt that she had her fill of what the bulky dryad had to say.

"Okay, that's enough. Why don't you lay off, huh? S'not like I've saw your ass out fighting when it came down to it! When there was attacks, you'd bet your ass Gabriel was working as hard as he could to keep us safe. And if it happens once more, then you know that he'll save you personally from being quartered by a couple of drakaina. So back off, before I make you back off." Willow's spiel ended with her brow furrowing, to match the bigger nymph's expressions.

Elizabeth in the mean time had gone back around the side to climb up the building again. She put an arrow in a guard as he rounded the corner before climbing back up the side of the warehouse as she had done before. The unconscious guard remained so but this time she pulled out her knife and slit his throat. She was in no way adverse to killing and with the stupid alarm Telchine going off stealth non-deadly stealth wasn't helpful anymore.

She crouch walked over to the skylight before letting loose two arrows in rapid succession, one landing in the throat of the Telchine and the other embedding itself in the back of one of the guards below her. She notched another arrow and stayed somewhat away from the skylight itself.

"Yeah! Bring all your little buddies on, Flipper!"

Brandon shouted as the retreating Telchine. While unaware that Liz had made sure there wouldn't be any more guards coming due to it's actions via an arrow to the neck, he spun around and grabbed an axe that was propped up near the door. Combining that with his bat, he wielded both blunt objects and turned back to the remaining guards. "Ya'll ain't worth the bullets, so I'mma havta do this the old-fashioned way. Now line up for some free ass-kickins!"

The drakainas charged at the Warchild, but Brandon caught the leader with a bat to the jaw, spinning to slam the axe blade into the back of it's neck, dropping it to the ground in a cloud of ash. Another came at him, slashing at him with the sword, only connecting with the handle of the axe. The tool splintered, not meant for true combat, but it gave Brandon the opening to crack the drakaina's arm with the Louisville Slugger, forcing it to drop the sword. The Texan chucked the axe handle at his opponent, buying enough time to beat it to it's own weapon. The drakaina lifted the shield up for defence, but every time it successfully blocked the sword, the bat came in for a smash at the sides. On the third attempt, the bat connected with the shield arm and the defences were officially down on the ground. Brandon ran the sword up into the drakaina's neck, sending the beast crumbling to the floor.

Looking at the back, the centaurs appeared preoccupied with someone up above. Brandon looked over at Jess to make sure she was handling the guards who came at her, and was ready to head over as backup.

The wall began to crack under the pressure behind the Celestial Bronze nails. Dorofei didn't like the idea of his magic breaking so easily. Every inch of him wanted to stand behind the wall and push against the oncoming force. But then he thought of his father. He never went for the prideful option. He always did the smart thing.

Moving as quickly as his giant frame would allow, he grabbed Jia and threw her into the nearest opening in the wall. In a second motion, he stepped out of his armor as though it were made of mist, and it braced itself against Jia as a shield. He didn't bother to check the wall anymore, he knew it was after him now. With all his strength, he dove to the nearest of the open alcoves.

While Brandon was beating down on one drakaina, Jess was fending off two at once. She dodged and weaved to avoid their strikes, though when she tried getting a hit in herself they always had a sword or shield ready to ward off her stab or swing. They began to drive her backwards, working in perfect harmony to push her into a corner where she had nowhere to run to.

Jess knew they would try that. It was standard procedure when you had the advantage of numbers: pin down your opponent. So she countered it: she rolled beneath the raised shield of one of her foes before she came up on one knee. Immediately she switched her knife to her left hand and plunged it into the monster's back. The sword and shield clattered to the floor without their owner to carry them, and the Aphrodite girl somewhat awkwardly scooped up the defensive item before standing again to engage the second drakaina. It was heavier than she was expecting.

The fiend hissed at her, exposing a set of sharp fangs and a forked tongue. In response, Jess raised her knife, having returned it to her right hand, and spat, "Back off!" Her tone of command, enforced by semi-divine willpower, caused the drakaina to involuntarily recoil, if only temporarily. But its guard was down for a second.

A second was all Jess needed to lunge in and put her blade through its throat. More weapons clanged on the concrete floor. Jess spun around to find the rest of the guards in a bit of a disarray: the centaurs were panicked without their Telchine leader, and the lone remaining drakaina hissed before an arrow found its mark in the creature's back. Jess rushed the centaurs, slaying one with a deft knife in its flank. The two that remained fled, perhaps hoping to ambush the demigods at a fall-back point.

A slow clap rang out from a room a short distance away. "So you got past the first guards. Perhaps you heroes do have some skill after all," a voice rang out, closely followed by the figure Elizabeth would recognise as the speaker from earlier... and Carolina shadowing him. Both were armed and armoured. The man was rather tall, with features that clearly marked him as a Caucasian child of Athena: blond hair, grey eyes and a calculating expression. A pair of sheathed swords were strapped to his back, while Carolina carried her own weapons - two daggers - openly.


The dryads weren't the only ones who had shown interest in the two demigods making their way through Central Park. A small flock of harpies - human-sized, vulture-like birds with women's heads - had taken notice of the pair, and had begun to hop from tree to tree in pursuit of a potential meal. Originally three, the flock had grown in size as it traveled. As the prey talked with the plant-folk, a dozen of the creatures waited on the outskirts, trying to hide themselves in foliage.

"Food... we should charge in. Slaughter them all," one of the harpies muttered to its 'sisters'.

"No, you idiot, we wait until they're separated from the others," another chided, cuffing it upside the head with a wing. "You lack patience."


CRUNCH.

Another sliding stone? Surely not. Unless there was some sort of automated mechanism releasing them. Whichever it was, it mattered little. Dorofei's ice barrier, already weakened by the first one, couldn't stand up to a second driving the nails further in. The barrier shattered, both stones rumbling past the hiding demigods to meet the wall at the end of the trap. There the first stone sank into the pit below, and the second soon followed.

"Where are they going, I wonder," Royce mused briefly before turning his attention to the far end of the hallway.

CRUNCH.

"Oh, for Zeus' sake, not another one!" Sure enough, a third nail-studded sliding stone passed the team before sinking into the pit at the end of the hallway. The instant it passed his niche, Royce moved. He dashed out of his hiding spot and ran up the hall... the glint of an arrow in what little light there was convinced him to find another 'sanctuary' niche. He ducked inside it.

An arrow flew past his new hidey-hole. "That was a warning shot! If you get past my boulders I won't be inclined to miss a second time!" a voice rang out. Male, with a hint of a Greek accent. Soon Royce heard hurried footsteps retreating.

He hoped the others would follow his lead, and move up when the stone had passed them by. The archer had probably been loud enough to carry his voice down to his teammates.

"Your guards weren't that good to begin with. I could've gotten past them when I was 12. Though I'm sure a child of Athena could see the problems in their defense here." Elizabeth replied as she rolled behind a large vent sticking out of the roof and popping out to train her bow on them.

"Seeing as you haven't tried to kill me yet I suspect you want to chat or gloat. If you want to chat that's fine, but if you are here to gloat how about we skip to the part where the pretty one tries to rush me and I put an arrow through one of the holes in her armor. Then you make your escape and brag while leaving her behind because at the end of the day she's as expendable as your guards. I've run into too many of the braggart types as it is in my life."

"Could'na said 'er better myself, Liz," Brandon agreed, dropping the axe and pulling out one of his pistols. "Thought you'da been smarter than this here little show ya'll are puttin' on, but I guess your little bimbo over there would exclude that. Now ya'll just wanna get this over with, or you wanna talk some more? Cause either way ya'll are gonna waste my time."

Ambrose stared up into the tree, thoughts fading out as they were wont to do. She could hear the soft dreams of sleeping nymphs. A small tremor made her come back to earth, and she was confronted with the one she assumed was Willow? She looked almost exactly the way Gabe remembered her. She started inspecting her, brushing her dress and pulling her scythe, and poking Lethe. By the time she had caught up to everything Willow had said, she was already walking off with Gabe. Ambrose jogged to catch up to them. "My name's... ah... Ambrose..." She let her voice fade off. They weren't listening anymore anyways.

They eventually emerged into a clearing with filled with dryads. Ambrose would have been annoyed with the loud forest noises had they not stopped as soon as they entered. And then shouting. One of the Dryads was shouting at them. Amrbose just stared, and her mouth might have been hanging open a little. She didn't get to see Dryads up close too often. She might have seen one once before.

Hey! Hey Ambrose! Ambrooose! There's someone there! Ambrose there's someone there!
Lethe started batting at Ambrose hair from her place in the bag, trying to direct her attention to the monster stench that was growing on the edge of the glade.
"Yeah, Lethe, they're Dryads..."
Nuh uh! They smell like plants. They smell like garbage.
"That's not nice..."

"Willow, no..." Gabe's stifled pleas went ignored as his protective guardian continued bickering against the towering behemoth of a wood nymph known as Red Ash. "Oh yeahh Willow, you can talk realll big when your little weapon's at your disposal! Step to me when he's not around, then see what happens!" The dryad retorted, receiving a boisterous scoff from the shorter nymph in return. "Please! I could lay your arse out any time of day!" Was her confident rebuttal, a glowering scowl and crossed arms being the cherry atop her threatening sundae. With her anger reaching it's peak, Ash unsheathed the stone dagger looped to her belt. "Shit." Gabriel jumped in between the two before a blow could be struck, this situation was quickly getting out of hand.

"This is my problem. Take it out on me." He told Ash, this being one of those rare times you could note the tonal emphasis in his words. Almost taken aback by Gabe's intrusion, Ash seemed to only get angrier at it. And in reply, she grabbed him by the collar of his tattered t-shirt, pressing her sharp dagger to his jugular. "You seek redemption, boy? You don't deserve it. How's about I just put you down like the dog you are?" She leaned in close, seething through gritting teeth. The sharp, crudely serrated edge of her knife began to crawl across his flesh.

"That is enough." The call for ceasefire boomed from the opposite edge of the commons, from a tall, abundantly multi-leveled, wide-trunked tree. A regal figure adorned in a flowing gown of willow and sallow leaves descended from the Metasequoia's staggering heights, a tall staff of twisted wood in her hand. The woman barely looked a day over 40, but the expression she wore easily revealed her true age. With the appearance of this particular dryad, Ash considered her tussle to be over. She shoved Gabe away before putting up her weapon. With eagerness in her gait, the aged wood nymph approached the four, receiving salutes and bows from the nymphs in the vicinity along with Ash and Willow. Gabe showed his respect by kneeling before her.

"You may rise, Harvestchild." The Elder Sister Dawn Redwood addressed the young demigod, placing a soft hand on his shoulder. "Sister Dawn-" Ash began to protest, only to receive a stern, yet reserved gaze from the Elder. Defeated, the hulking dryad backed away. Sister Dawn began back towards her tree, beckoning for the three to follow. "I once considered your presence to be prophetical, Gabriel. But the tension between your blood and my sisters is escalating to undesirable thresholds." She stated, guiding them clear away from the crowded commons, down a dirt path that lead elsewhere. "You've endangered that Sleepling's life by bringing her here, as well." Dawn added.

"I know...I wasn't plannin' on staying long." Gabriel answered with solemnity, eyeing his feet as the group traversed through the thicket. "Gabe-!" Willow began to protest. "Wil, no. We can't argue this. Y'all shouldn't hafta live in fear because of me." He halted his stride, his reply was stern, yet laden with sadness. "I don't want to leave. But I will if it means the colony survives another day." Willow paused with him, her frown beginning to match his. Sister Dawn intervened there. "If we must, we can go to the Elder Tree. She can help decide your strife." She suggested. Gabe looked towards her with weary eyes and a nod.

Freya had followed Royce closely, quipping "Tsk, I'd say for Hades' sake rather than Zeus'.", and like him, found another hiding spot inside the walls as an arrow flew past them. Once the voice was done talking, Freya replied to him in her own way. "You little shithead! Bring it on, you think we're afraid of you?! If giant boulders aren't going to stop us, some tiny arrows that don't do shit aren't going to either!" She had the decency to only stick her head out when she yelled at the voice, since another boulder came down and the four of them were hidden inside hiding spots again. At least now they were a bit higher instead of at the bottom.

Dorofei was now without his armor or his axe, was the end of a hallway full of spiked walls to amble through, and gods know how far from the group at this point. He heard his armor shatter, so he knew Jia was unharmed. For now, his priority was getting to the group. He watched the first wall pass, then heard another grinding sound up the hallway. He counted backwards from the first wall.

5 seconds apart. I have to get to the group or another alcove in that time, he thought. He saw the second wall slide past, then scrambled like mad out of his alcove.

1 He leapt over the remains of his broken wall.
2 He saw his broken armor on the floor. No sign of Jia. She must be with the group.
3 Closer now. He could hear Freya cursing from up the hall.
4 A whizzing sound from up the hall. Out of the darkness, an arrow strikes Dorofei above the clavicle.

He fell over backwards, dazed from the sudden bolt of pain. He tried to keep his mind focus, working to keep himself from going into shock. He could still breath, so he knew the shot was clean and missed his lungs. Now he just had to move to cover.

5 The next wall came down.

Dorofei was screaming in his mind now.

GET UP YOU IDIOT! MOVE! NOW!

He scrambled to his feet, the nearest alcove barely in sight. The wall was closing in on him. He braced his Celestial Bronze shaft against the floor and threw himself towards the opening. He made it within an inch of the spiked wall and slammed into the alcove.

The path to the Elder Tree was virtually uncharted, a barely traveled dirt path obscured by low branches of tall trees and thickets. This particular sanctuary was hidden away from the common world to prevent any land beasts or naive human from defiling the elder. "Because of your mother's blessing, Gabriel, you've been able to hear her clearer than even I." Sister Dawn said to the Harvestchild as they cleared the brush. "It is only best that you receive her blessing once more."

The Elder Tree was a mighty sequoia, her expansive canopy seeming to go on indefinitely. Her trunk was dozens of feet in diameter, with giant roots that seemed to spread out in all directions. To Gabe, when in her presence, all the voices of the forest became one. What would usually be described as barely audible whispering, would become something much more pronounced in form. As Gabriel slowly stepped to her base, Dawn motioned to Ambrose and Willow, having them all take a few steps back to give him some space. He fell to his knees, leaning over and hanging his head as he put his hands to her bark.

Ambrose shrugged and stepped back, looking up at the branches. There was something powerful and old here, but that was expected. Unless Lethe had a thing for touching trees. She looked over Willow again, who was looking at the big tree with reverence or something. Lethe meanwhile, was wriggling out of her bag. She landed on all fours at Ambrose's feet before trotting over to the grotto's entrance, growling as much as a kitten could. She could smell the thin traces of rotten meat on the wind. She had goten close enough to some at the camp to know the scent. Harpies, and not the nice maid kind that knew their place. Wild harpies that ate stray dogs and sewer rats.

"Great Elder Tree," Gabe spoke out in a hushed tone. "You've thrived before me, and will continue to do so far after I've faded into the earth. Your wisdom is far beyond mine years. Today I seek your blessing, so my sisters may seek the sunrise of tomorrow." The mantra filled the air only momentarily before silence replaced it. Gabriel took a deep breath, and focused on the whispers that began to fill his head. Though, as he listened, only he few words could be clearly heard. "You are in danger."

"Huh?" His eyes blinked open. He heard her again, she kept repeating the phrase. "N-no." Gabe hopped to his feet, and spun to face the others. "We have to go, now-" the violent rustlings of the surrounding trees drowned out his urgent words. Something had found the group, and it wasn't alone. The Harvestchild closed the gap between himself and his companions as a trio of harpies descended from the canopy of a nearby tree.

"We've come for the children!" The middle one announced, taking a strong whiff in Ambrose's direction. "We have no qualms with your kind, wood nymphs. Relinquish them to us or we'll take them by force!" One of the others spouted. Gabe scanned above, he could feel the obscured sights of other harpies watching the situation play out. "We're outnumbered." He mumbled with a scowl. As he flexed his fingers, Willow stepped forward. "Like hell! They're not for sale!" The harpy leader scoffed in reply.

"Fine. Sisterrrrs, leave no survivors! We'll have vegetables to go with our meat!" More harpies fell from the treetops as she squawked, with one barreling straight into Ambrose. The attack was promptly interrupted however, by an outstretched dryad arm rushing up to meet the avian beast's throat. Willow's wicked clothesline sent the opposing harpy slamming into the dirt. "Can she fight?!" She called back to the two. Barely ducking away from the claws of an oncoming attacker, Gabriel managed to stay out of arm's reach as he began for the sword in his backpack. "She brought that big ass scythe with her, so I would hope so." He replied.

"Now ya'll just wanna get this over with, or you wanna talk some more? Cause either way ya'll are gonna waste my time."

"Bold words from a brute outmatched in intellect," the Athenian retorted. "Your kind will never match me and my half-siblings. As a side note, it almost sickens me to hear that accent of yours, if you could call it that."

"Oh, shut your gods-damned trap, unless you want to fight," Jess shot back. "Or would you rather just surrender now?"

"Ah, the cheapest whore in the state thinks she can fight me too. With what? That little butter knife of yours? No, wait, don't tell me! You'll try to seduce me into giving up. Dream on, 'Roxanne'. They really did send a pack of rejects this time. What, did the real heroes go off to take down the big scary Chimaera?" The Athenian rogue began to pace back and forth as he spoke, bored of the conversation.

"Don't kid yourself, Russ. I've seen this generation of demigods up close. There are no heroes among them," Carolina interjected, taking a step forward to place herself in front of the rogue demigod.

"Well, then you should have no issue eliminating this band of losers, my dear. Go right ahead." The Athenian, Russ, strode over to a nearby wall and leaned up against it to observe the proceedings. Carolina, however, leapt into action. She rushed at her half-sister, unleashing a flurry of blows that Jess was hard-pressed to defend herself against even with the shield she'd scavenged.

Jess tried to exploit a weakness in Carolina's fast attacks, but she left nothing open to counter. The younger demigod was good, more so than she had thought. The traitor aimed a strike at her ex-leader's throat: she raised her shield higher to block the blow, and Carolina turned the blow into a feint, plunging one blade straight into Jess' side instead and tearing it back out with her next movement. The whole fight took less than thirty seconds.

As the Aphrodite counselor flinched backwards with a short scream of shock, Carolina delivered a deft spin-kick to her foe's abdomen, knocking her to the floor. With the first one down - even if only temporarily - the traitorous demigod made a beeline for Brandon, seeing as Elizabeth was out of reach.


"Tsk, I'd say for Hades' sake rather than Zeus'."

"Whatever floats your boat," Royce muttered, feeling that now was not the time. Deal with the trap system first. Witty banter second. Another block of stone rumbled down the corridor; no sooner had it passed his alcove than Royce was moving again, the others close behind. There had to be some way to defuse the boulder trap, otherwise it would keep sending blocks at the four demigods. Royce began to hurriedly think through possibilities out loud.

"This guy's probably got some sort of portal set up to reset the trap each time a block falls into the hole at the bottom..." he began to muse. "So could we block the hole? No, they move too fast to build another wall." Based on the time it took to build his first wall, I doubt Ruskie Bear's quick enough for that. "There's gotta be some other way... where's a power drill when I need one."

Another boulder thundered down the path, and again the son of Hephaestus moved... though not quick enough for the resulting arrow. The shot flew straight and true - and pinged off of Royce's armour. The only real damage it did was the impact of the blow, and even that was negligible.

"Well... That was anticlimactic." Royce glanced over to the others. "You guys! Suggestions for how we stop this damn trap?"

"A portal, eh?" Freya responded as she thought of the current situation. So the same giant boulder was coming down towards them continuously and meanwhile, the guy, whoever he was, was shooting arrows at them in an attempt to stop them. They were lucky to have the alcoves to hide in, but they couldn't hide forever. Once the boulder went past them again, she went up with the others, hiding again.

That's when she had an idea. "I could use my shadow traveling ability to reach him quickly." Before she got an answer from the others, she disappeared into the shadows, literally, and reappeared shortly higher up on the path in another alcove. This should be quick. she thought before she disappeared again, only to reappear again higher up. She did this a few times before she was near the top of the path. A bit tired out by the shadow traveling, she still had some fight in her.

As the defector whore tried to take out the leader of her siblings, Brandon was almost amused by the lack of respect that they seemed to have for him. Almost. It was overtaken by the rage that he felt instead. You seriously think you kin try and take me on like that? Like I'mma baby bull or somethin'? I dare you bitch, come at me. Come at me and see what happens. Instead the Latina went for Jess and was actually fairly efficient in dispatching the counsellor for the moment. Her mistake was thinking that she could springboard that take down into an attack on the Ares leader.

Brandon slammed his bat onto the floor as Carolina began her charge at the hulking war-child. "Come on now, girl! Show me you got more than suckin' face power!" The child of Aphrodite kept making a direct line for him, so he showed no mercy. "Bring it on!" She tried the same tactic that had worked so well on Jess, faking for the throat while looking to go for the side, but her problem was that Jess actually tried to defend. For Brandon, the best defense was a good offense. So to counter the blow, Brandon swung his bat forward, smashing into Carolina's wrist. The impact forced her to drop her weapon and Brandon followed with his own shot to the torso, sending Carolina crashing to the ground.

"Now what're you thinkin' tryin' to pull that trick on me?" he asked rhetorically as he walked to where his opponent fell. "I'm Latino too, girl! I ain't fallin' for that shit!"

Carolina got up, grabbing her knife as she turned back to the counsellor. "Really? You fall for everything else, you fucking redneck. You're no Latino so don't even try to claim we have any similarities."

"Why don't ya call me a fuckin' redneck one more time? See where that gets ya?"

Carolina leaped forward, knife drawn. "Redneck!"

Brandon was set to end it so he swung for the fences, but Carolina was quick and ducked under the rage-induced swing, catching the Colt in the side as she planned with one of her knives. A pained grunt came out of Brandon's mouth, but he swung the bat backwards, catching the child of Aphrodite in the face with the butt end of the bat. Carolina flew back again, hitting the cement. As Brandon checked the spot where he got stabbed, Carolina ended up spitting a couple of teeth out onto the warehouse floor.

"Heh, ain't so pretty anymore, huh? Not with that new gap in ya face!" Brandon was enjoying this. Carolina had been something of a snotty brat in camp, so having a valid excuse to beat her senseless was most welcome. "Come on, Strahan! Let's keep this goin'! I'm good all night!"

"We'll see about that." Carolina saw an opening in Brandon's bravado and jumped at the opportunity, stabbing at Brandon's left leg. The knife cut deep into the side of his calf and he crumpled down to Carolina's level.

"Arrggh! Hssssss, argh, you li'l skank!" Brandon whipped the bat around smashing into Carolina's arm. The blunt strength of the weapon shattered the clavicle on contact and once again smote Jess' sibling to the floor.

"Auggh!" she let out in anguish. The paid was evident but she was not whining as much as Brandon.

"Fuckin' damn it! I'm done withis!" Brandon slammed the bat down and pulled out one of his revolvers. Hobbling over to where Carolina laid he fired one round into her kneecap, another pained cry coming out with this move. "If I drop from the first round 'causea you being fuckin' stupid, I'mma turn your fuckin' grave into a communal pisser!" He turned his attention to her other leg, and shot that knee out as well, eliciting another curse. "Only reason you ain't down below suckin' Hades off right now is cause Jess said ta let ya live to pay proper for your double-crossin'! So thank your ass for that!" He moved over to make sure he hadn't already dispatched her. She was still breathing, her arms still moving so he stepped on the left to make sure another thrust of the knife wasn't coming, and knelt down, taking the other knife from her other hand and tossing it aside. "Cause ya know, I actually got some respect for 'er, and what she gotta put up with. So Im'ma willin' to listen 'n spare a garden slut like yurself for now. So do somethin' smart for once in your life 'n stay down there 'n keep your mouth shut."

Carolina moved her head towards the Ares counsellor, enough to tell him one more time, "Go fuck yourself, Brandon."

"That'd be your department." One final punch upside the head knocked Carolina out cold. "Bitch."

Brandon got up, gingerly putting weight on the wounded leg but it was clear he was going to operating on a busted wheel for the remainder of the mission. He gritted his teeth and turned back to the other Demi-God who had pissed him off in Brooklyn. "All right smart-ass, ya wanna take your turn getting the shit kicked outta ya? Or you gonna wise up 'n surrender? Cause I got plenty a swings left to rattle your cage with too, ya limp-dick bastard!"

Sharp claws stopped inches short of Ambrose's face as Willow quickly and fortunately parried the first attack. Harpies? Ambrose had to duck quickly to avoid another Harpy. They were everywhere. And of course Ambrose wasn't one for ducking quick. She did end up on the ground, partially knocked over, but avoiding too much damage. Well, there was nothing else to do but fight now. This was her... what, third real fight ever? I should practice more... Ambrose yanked her pedant off, wrapping it around one hand as she grabbed for her scythe. Fighting was pretty basic right? Hit, don't get hit? But her scythe wasn't going to do her any good with the harpy so close. She mustered her strength and caffeine and kicked the bird woman off and away, swinging her scythe. The Celestial Bronze cut right through the monster, and with her momentum bringing it almost in a full circle, another low flying harpy. "Lethe!" The kitten jumped out of her bag and scampered off into the underbrush. She knew how to keep out of the way.

The harpies had separated them, which wasn't hard. Willow was going to obviously stay with Gabe, so Ambrose had to make do. She raced her brain for any spells that would come in handy... Sleep spells were pretty much the only thing in her arsenal right now. And right now they were coming in too fast to do anything big scale.

Gabriel mumbled an expletive as he realized the divide-and-conquer tactic the harpies were beginning to take. And before he could close the gap between himself and Willow, three more of the beasts flanked him from her direction, swiping at him with absurdly shaped claws. "Shit, they'll surround us at this rate." The bravest harpy took a lunge at him, the force of the tackle putting the Harvestchild on his back. He could hear and feel the small pot in his backpack breaking as the avian beast snapped at his eyes. He noticeably grimaced at that.

"This bitch just smashed Marcy's pot!" He put on a wild grimace as he thought, and tried wriggling out of the harpy's clutches. The monstrous adversary leaned in close, her beady, red eyes gazing into his. "You're a virile specimen, Harvestkin. Maybe i'll have my way with you before the otherrrrs. I can't wait to sink my teeth into you~" "Ew. No." Quicker than Gabe could recover, the black-feathered bird woman stood upright, letting out a quick cry before taking to the skies with Gabriel wrapped in her talons.

"Gabe-!" The wood nymph called out from beyond the chokehold she had on one of the harpies. Meanwhile, at about fifteen to twenty feet up, the hardest scowl one could possibly muster was apparent all over Gabriel's face. This whole predicament was becoming a little humiliating in the boy's eyes. "I'll be damned if end up some bird brain's conquest!" As he wriggled against her clutches, the contents of his backpack began to jostle. As the zipper stretched open, a collection of vines and branches exploded out, binding the harpy with haste. The harpy let out fearful squawks as she felt her legs being bound, and her flight began to falter as the expanding sapling began overtaking her wings.

One independent branch slithered around his arm and into his hand, leaving the shrunken sword in his grasp. At twenty-five feet, the harpy was entirely engulfed, and the two began to plummet back to the earth. "This might've been a bad idea..." He realized this as he stared down the monstrosity that laid atop him. Her angry, muffled screams annoyed him. "Shut it." He rapidly shanked at what parts of the harpy he could reach, and with enough strikes, the bird crumbled into ashes. With the load lightened, the jungle of tree parts quickly shifted to Gabe's front, thickening into a large shield of sturdy bark. "Oh man-"CRASH!crahgss"Ngh-"hhcasCRACKhahs"Ouff-"rha"Fuc-"shaCRRKshc"Dammit-"harash"Shi-"shsasah! A brief bout of tumbling through a tree canopy, Gabriel smashed into the ground about as violently as you would expect. The bark shield, thoroughly smashed and having served its purpose, weakly began receding back into his tattered rucksack. "Good job, Marcy."

His limbs were incredibly sore, he was out of breath, and he was almost certain something in his chest was fractured. Yet he arose still, abeit a little slowly. He reentered the fray, to see the two girls still holding their own against the harpy horde. By the looks of things, the combined bunches of ash piles scattered around Willow and Ambrose's feet, and the thinning crowd of harpies that still dared to fight told the story of a turning tide.

"I wasn't even in the air that long..." He found himself momentarily distracted at the sight of his dryad guardian suplexing one harpy into oblivion, one lithe monster rushed at him from his left, and her feral slash dug into and through his shoulder. Now alert of the attack, Gabe tried distancing himself from the bird. Yet she persisted, and another claw ripped into his chest. He bounced back, sloppily swinging the shrunken wooden sword in her direction.

She seemed to be much more experienced than the other harpies he's faced (she wasn't, Gabe's just never dispatched a harpy with hand-to-hand before), as she deftly dodged his blows, and continued her fierce offence. She seemed to smirk as she toyed with him, letting him throw a slash before easily dodging it, and replying with a connecting punch or slash. One of those punches left him disoriented, and a following kick put him back on the ground. Gabe's thoughts lingered over to the non-reactive dagger that he just couldn't get to work. "C'mon, you piece a' shit! Work!" He exchanged glances between the amused harpy and his malfunctioning weapon. This was becoming embarrassing for more than one reason. As he stumbled to his feet, his sword finally responded by extending out to it's normal form...and further still. He fell back down, as the sword became too big and too heavy to properly wield. "Goddammit." He sighed. The harpy, now standing over him, snickered at the spontaneous growth.

"Aww, looks like someone's happy to see me~!" She cooed and giggled, stomping down on Gabe's dominant hand. "All y'all're perverts." Gabe spat back, an idea forming in him as the aviary straddled him. She lunged down with fangs bared, eager to take a bite out of the Harvestchild. Quick enough reflexes smushed his free hand into her face, buying him enough time to incorporate Marcy back into the battle. "Don't flaunt it if you're not gonna give it up, babe!" The harpy angrily hissed at him. "I didn't even know birds could hiss. That's a new thing."

"Bite me. Wait. No." In the time inbetween clever exchanges, the hardened branches of the sapling had wrapped itself around his dominant hand, seeming to resemble a giant arm and fist as it grabbed the sword. The harpy sat up, planning to hit Gabe from another angle. In that short window of time, Gabriel kicked away from her and scrambled to his feet. Somehow, his idea was a success, the impromptu super-limb was reinforced enough to lift up the sword. It became doubly efficient, when Gabe relinquished his arm from the formation, giving him three arms to fight with. "Could never do that before...let's see how it works."

He rushed towards the monster, the sword picking up dust and ash as it was dragged through the ground. He threw a predictable right haymaker, and swung his foot around for a roundhouse. Both were simply deflected or dodged, but with a new variable introduced into the equation, the harpy couldn't prepare for the following attack. As soon as his foot came back to the ground, his third arm fell through the air, the blade of that heavy sword cleaving the harpy right down the middle. Panting, Gabriel scanned the battleground. The crowd had definitely thinned out, with Ambrose bringing her scythe down upon a slumbering harpy, and Willow giving her all against a big harpy, one they seemed to have saved for last. The visibly exhausted wood nymph was covered in dripping gashes, and found herself resorting to defensive maneuvers as the towering harpy laid on the attacks with overpowering vigor.

Gabe tried entering her fight, wanting to jump on the hulking monster's back and give his all...but he couldn't. His feet were cemented to where he stood. He was hesitating. "Is this...happening right now...?" He couldn't explain why, but his body refused to charge forward, his hands trembled. In the back of his mind, this whole situation, the sight of his dryad guardian fighting a losing battle (to ensure the survival of both he and a girl she barely knew, no less) filled him with...fear. "So move, Gabe! Save her! SHE WILL DIE IF YOU DON'T FIGHT! GODDAMMIT GABRIEL DON'T LET HER DIE! MOVE!" He yelled at himself.

At the other side of the fight, Willow caught her surrogate child at the edge of her vision, frozen. As she dodged away from another of the harpy's blows, she could also see a straggler bird, lunging towards Gabe. She took her attention away from the colossal beast to yell out to him. "Gabe! Behind you-!" The call snapped him back into action, where he spun on a heel to meet the descending harpy, the momentum throwing his blade around to impale the avian she-devil. "Urk-"SHLUK! He returned to his original stance, eyes widened as he witnessed Willow, suspended in the air by her neck, a imposing claw emerging from her torso. "WILLOW!" He yelled for the first time in years as he raced towards her. Ignoring the furious boy speeding towards her, the feathery monstrosity decided to turn her attention to the closer demigod: the unsuspecting Sleepling, Ambrose.

"WRONG MOVE, BITCH! FIGHT ME!" He screamed as loudly as he could, emitting a exasperated wail as he raced toward the harpy. With his third arm raised as high as it could go, it was brought down once Gabe got in range of the avian colossus, his sword impaling the beast with extreme prejudice. What harpies that stuck around decided to retreat after witnessing their champion be slain.

Jia readied her crossbow, wishing she'd brought something a little more suitable for this. "Royce! Lay down some covering fire!" She twisted around the corner and fired at their assailant - she wasn't expecting a hit, just to get him to put his head down, then sprinted out, drawing on all her divine speed and agility, dancing into and out of cover as she charged up the ramp. As she ran she slung her crossbow and drew the Rose of Sunrise, willing it to shine brightly.

"Covering fire? With what?" Royce called out to Jia as she passed. A flamethrower was a close-range suppressor, not a long-range one. Not a very genius move there.

Meanwhile, Freya found herself at the top of the path. No-one was there, but there were no more niches to hide in. Instead a large stone altar stood in the center of a square room. Two stone brick columns were protruding upwards from the altar, and each housed a large stone lever. There was no sign of the archer, only a stone door set in each wall and a hole from which the nail-studded boulders continued to drop. Freya was soon joined by Jia due to the latter's increase in speed, leaving the two males behind in their niches.


"Oh, I could finish the three of you and not break a sweat," the Athenian rogue retorted in response to Brandon's claims, chuckling. "But then who would carry a message to that feeble old centaur you call a leader? Not even Chiron will save you from the destructive force that will raze Olympus to the ground."

Jess groaned from her spot on the floor, having half-sat up. Her knife and the stolen shield were both discarded in favour of trying to stem the blood flow from her injury. "Even the gods... make mistakes. And when you... aah." A hiss escaped gritted teeth. "When you fuck up... you'll know. Cause we'll be there to remind you." Cerberus' teeth, that hurts. Dear Mother, please let someone have a first-aid kit.

The rogue just laughed at her. "I'm not scared of you, queen of the bedsheets, nor any of your other friends with benefits. Maybe we'll meet again, maybe we won't. And I would love to stay and chat, but I gotta go. The Chimaera was just the first step in my grand design." He snapped his fingers and vanished in a puff of white-grey smoke. The sounds of retreating feet and hooves from adjacent rooms indicated any other inhabitants of the warehouse were beating a hasty retreat, leaving the three demigods alone with their unconscious prisoner.

"If you ain't scared, why you runnin' like a wounded dog, ya chicken-shit bastard?!?" Brandon shouted out as if the Athenian could still hear him while fleeing the vicinity. "God damn little smart-assed brats, think they're king shit."

With nothing left to fight, the rage was dying down, and clearer thoughts were beginning to reign once again. With the only captive being incapacitated, Brandon turned his attention to the wounded Jess, grabbing a left over shirt that had been tossed aside. "Here, c'mon Jess," he said, pressing the shirt into the wound to try and stop the bleeding. "Easy does'er now. You're gonna be all right. Let's get ya up an outta here." He looked up, unsure where the third member of their trio was. "LIZ! C'mon down and grab the leftover trash, we gotta get outta here!"

The air became still as the last sound of retreating wings grew quieter and quieter. Ash fell upon the kids as that pillar of a harpy began to dissolve. And as the gray soot softly cascaded onto their faces and shoulders, Gabriel's expression lowered. The battle may have been won, but the cost of victory was much too great for him. "Willow..." He raced back to her, falling to his knees to tend to her. He lowered his hands to her, to check her pulse, to cradle her the best he could. "N-no...this wasn't supposed to happen...this is what I was trying to prevent!" "What have I done?" "I fucked up...O-oh God, I fucked up..!" Their foreheads touched as he berated his follies.

"Gabe...Gabe..." Willow whispered to him in short breaths, a cooling hand cupping his cheek. Even through the mortal injury, her cracking voice remained calm and comforting to the Harvestchild. "It's okay Gabe...I saved you..." His head slowly rised, and his eyes slowly opened, to see the weak, wavering smile of of the dryad that's sheltered him for the past six years, the tears rolling down her face. Her expression contrasted his own, the exhausted, awestruck frown that accompanied lowered eyes and a crumpled disposition. "No, Willow, I...I didn't deserve..."

"Gabriel...you have to live...live, for me." She shushed him with her words, her grasp growing lighter. "Willow, wait...please..." As he pleaded, he could feel the warmth fading from her as her body grew still. His person began to tremble as he pulled her closer, and wrapped her in an embrace. "God...goddammit."

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