Click me to sign-up! The Other Camp // PJO Roleplay // Adv. Apps
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17 | Son of Hermes | Thief
Beau Elliott was flush off a victory. But in his current condition, sleep-deprived, shivering, his already dismal mood souring at the second, you’d never guess it. He was wedged into the crook of a tree where the branch intersects the trunk, his bad leg throbbing beneath the touch of the wind’s icy fingers, and avidly awaiting the arrival of his unwitting rescuers. From his vantage point, the lush green hill, the crest of which marked the entrance to Camp Half-Blood, was clearly visible, the dragon known as Peleus coiled protectively outside. It appeared to be sleeping, but after having watched long enough, Beau knew that was just an act; the dragon would rouse to wakefulness in a heartbeat if a stranger were to step within a quarter-mile radius of the camp. Good thing Beau lurked at the half-mile mark.
A few years ago, he used to be a member of the camp himself, and so he figured that there was some possibility that Peleus might recognize him and stand down if he were to approach, but Beau hadn’t exactly departed on good terms, and the chance that Peleus would lunge for his jugular instead was just as likely. Best not take his chances. Plus, he’d managed to slip past the dragon and sneak into the camp undetected on several prior occasions. Tonight was no different.
The sky had lightened from obsidian hues to darkest ultramarine. Dawn was an hour or so away, and already, as he fought to keep his gaze trained on the narrow dirt path bisecting the hill, his eyelids felt like they weighed a million pounds. In place of a stuffed animal, he lovingly cradled a sapphire-studded cane in his arms. His chin suddenly jerked up, having lolled toward his chest of its own accord, and when he saw the ground was a vertigo-inducing twenty feet below, his heart gave an agonizing lurch and he nearly slipped from his perch. That should have snapped him awake, but still, moments later he found drowsiness dragging at his bones. His resolve caved. If his body insisted on an immediate power nap, he was not about to fall out of a tree in exchange for one.
Tucking the snake’s head cane under one arm, his gloved hands found his belt buckle and unfastened it in a single deft motion. He twisted, ran the length of braided leather around the circumference of the slim but sturdy branch, and then cinched it snugly at his waist once more. The belt had fit a bit too loosely on his wiry build to begin with; he’d had to cut new holes into it in order to accommodate his angular hips. Now it securely hugged his body to the branch, so that he would not plummet to his potential death if he happened to shift in his sleep. Finally, gratefully, Beau crossed the ankle of his aching leg atop the other, and let the sugar-sweet darkness envelop him.
Some time later, he awoke to a crescendo of rhythmic footfalls ascending the hill, winding their way up the dirt path. Not human footfalls, rather, the solid plunking of horse hooves. Exactly what he’d been waiting for. From a young age, Beau had acquired the necessary habit of a light sleep, a habit that served him well now. He snapped to attention the second his eyes opened, ready to burst into action, his fingers already fumbling on the belt buckle that affixed him to the tree branch. He peered through the pocket of dense foliage concealing him from sight.
At the base of the hill, he was greeted by an engineless hay wagon constructed of wooden slats bolted together, a glaringly outdated means of conveyance. The wagon’s tires were relatively small, not offering much space between the vehicle’s underside and the ground. Where a tractor normally would have been hitched on a more modern wagon, this one was fronted by a proud Thoroughbred with a gleaming mahogany coat. At the head of the cart was a makeshift coach—really, no more than a slab of bench slapped in splotchy green paint—where two men were perched, one of them handling the reins.
The hay wagon’s cargo was a myriad of wooden crates containing what Beau intrinsically knew to be hundreds upon hundreds of strawberries. Considering the camp used the undercover name Delphi Strawberry Service, it wasn’t a tough connection to make. Also, he’d spent enough time around mortals to intrinsically know that any one of them would have taken one glance at the obsolete horse-drawn hay wagon and seen nothing more than a simple pickup truck with a sizeable bed. It took a trained eye to see through the Mist, even for demigods.
The man without the reins gave his companion a hard nudge with his elbow and pointed halfway up the hill, at a section of road mostly veiled in shadow. “You see that?” he asked, his tone edged with a note of urgency. “Stop the cart!”
The driver appeared to have a moment of indecision, squinting into the semi-darkness precedent of the dawn, before the wagon began to reluctantly slow. Then Beau heard the man swear loudly as he tugged sharply on the reins. The horse obeyed and the wagon skidded to an abrupt halt. The man clambered from his seat. When his companion made no move to do the same, he whirled on him, hands on hips, and said exasperatedly, “Well, you gonna get your lazy ass out of the wagon and help me with this godsforsaken tree?” He hefted one end in his arms. Grumbling to himself, his fellow moved to follow suit.
What the man referred to was a sapling which at first glance appeared to have been uprooted to inconveniently obstruct their path. It was a slender thing, nothing that the combined force of two men couldn’t move with a few minutes’ effort, but the amount of trouble it caused was just enough. Still crouched in his own tree bordering the narrow road, Beau’s mouth twisted slyly. That had been his doing. Initially, he’d worried that the men would get suspicious as to why the tree had been supposedly uprooted, and yet no roots were visible. Evidently, the tree had been sawed, deliberately cut, a thing of sabotage, or at least that was an observation evident to one as shrewd as Beau. He had been counting on their laziness. It was late and both men wanted to get home. By voicing concern for a suspiciously felled tree, it’d prove that much more work for themselves before they could end their shift. Apparently, he’d guessed right. If either man noticed, neither seemed to care.
Pulling his coat a bit closer around his body, Beau carefully lowered himself from his branch and shinnied down the trunk. He released his hold and fell the last few feet, letting gravity take hold of him, and dropped noiselessly onto the ground, any telltale sound he may have made muted and absorbed by the grass his boots crunched underfoot. Amply preoccupied, the two drivers didn’t notice the slip of a silhouette approaching their hay wagon from the back. Beau, flattening to the dusty gravel, slipped beneath the cart and began the tedious task of latching himself onto its axle. With such low tires, it was a tight fit, offering a mere fingerbreadth of space between his back and the ground, but it was nothing the Shadow Thief—the pseudonym he’d acquired after his latest monumental heist had ended in victory—couldn’t handle.
When at last the drivers had triumphantly dispatched the sapling to the roadside, mounted their bench, and resumed their journey to Camp Half-Blood’s entrance, they were oblivious to the fact that their cargo was mysteriously one hundred and forty pounds heavier. Only the horse who had to bear the added weight gave a slight whinny of protest. Beau clenched his walking stick, which served not only to balance his uneven gait but also as his weapon of choice, between his knees to keep it from falling.
Then came the final test, the trial by fire. Literally. Sneaking past Peleus was risky business, because if caught, the consequence would not be an admonishing lecture on right and wrong or even the inside of a jail cell, but Beau would be burnt to a crisp. It was his understanding that infiltration attempts upon Camp Half-Blood were not taken lightly. First they were fifty, then fifteen, then five yards away. The undercarriage of the wagon obscuring most of his view, he caught only a partial glimpse of the massive dragon uncoiling itself in a shimmer of slithering scales. Peleus eyed the wagon with what verged on a glare. Beau held his breath, willing his heartbeat into steady calm against the frantic thundering that came instinctively. But Peleus made no move to intercept the scheduled delivery of strawberries. The beast stepped slowly, sinuously aside, its low-slung body sliding lazily over the ground to grant the small wagon access to the camp.
It wasn’t until they were well inside that Beau released his bated breath. The wagon rumbled almost directly past his destination: the Big House. Up top, the two drivers were conversing baseball, comparing the batting averages of several hot-shot players whose names Beau only vaguely recognized. Baseball wasn’t as much of a Canadian pastime as hockey. When he was confident that their conversation had grown rowdy enough that they wouldn’t hear him slip away, Beau dropped from the wagon and hit the ground in an instantaneous roll, his cane clutched against him, narrowly missing the vehicle’s wheels. Ignoring the protest of pain in his leg, he came up standing and surveyed his surroundings. The little wagon diligently chugged off toward the strawberry fields at the far end of the camp.
Living up to its immortal status, the deserted camp hadn’t changed a bit over the course of two years. Wind still whispered through the willow trees bordering the forest’s edge with that sly, gossiping sound. Rivulets of lava still sputtered and hissed as they wove their way down the climbing wall’s surface, ignorant of the fact that all of the camp’s rule-abiding inhabitants should have been in bed at this ungodly hour. And still there stood the unkempt Hermes cabin, its peeling brown paint in desperate need of replacing, just as it’d been when Beau had left.
There was no time for sentiment. The sky was lightening rapidly, with the modest blush of dawn staining the underbellies of wispy cirrus clouds raspberry pink, providing too great a source of illumination for his liking. While no one was lurking the grounds within sight, that didn’t stop eyes from straying out window panes, and every second he wasted he chanced being seen. Broad daylight was the enemy of the stealthy breed of thieves, and there was a reason few chose to act during it. Dusting off his black waistcoat as he went, Beau hastened toward the Big House, Camp Half-Blood’s three-story sky blue administrative building that had clearly seen better days. One of its windows was boarded up and the deck where Chiron and Dionysus played pinochle looked as though it had been recently vandalized, with a few of its wooden posts reduced to half their original size and ending in a tangle of jagged splinters.
Beau bounded up the front steps with as much spring in his step as one could manage with a crippled leg and approached the main door. Breaking in through the upper-story windows was achievable, but would prove time-consuming. Plus, he remembered as he reviewed his mental map of the Big House, the infirmary was kept on the upper level, and if it housed any patients currently, he certainly didn’t want to appear before an audience. Beau flicked his sleeve, and two slender rods of metal appeared between his fingers. The lockpicks danced briefly over his leather-clad knuckles, and seconds later, the door was swinging open on silent hinges to reveal a dark interior beyond, gaping like a yawning mouth. No one worked locks better than a son—or daughter, he supposed—of Hermes. He ducked inside.
Hideous was the word that immediately came to mind when Beau reflected on the room’s furnishings. Putrid purple wallpaper that might have come from the set of an 80’s movie, silver chandeliers missing half their bulbs, and adorning the center of the room was a soda-stained ping-pong table. Sliding the deadbolt back into place, he quietly eased the door closed. But Beau knew firsthand that locks only offered so much protection, and just in case anyone had been watching him, he wanted to take precautions against eavesdroppers.
He scanned the room and quickly found an item conducive to his purposes. A sizeable glass vase so fragile it appeared as though it might shatter beneath anything more than a feather-light touch. How such an object had survived so long in a place so careless was beyond him. He snatched it up from where it rested on an antique table. Gently, he placed the vase on the wooden slats of the floor directly at the foot of the door. This way, if that door opened anytime over the next half hour, the door would collide with the delicate vase and it would shatter upon impact, instantly alerting Beau to an intruder. The surreptitious information he planned to disclose was meant for one person’s ears only.
The cozy little office that doubled as Chiron’s apartment was on the second of the three stories. Beau slunk up the rickety set of stairs without provoking even the smallest of creaks. At the top of the stairs, the room opened up to some disaster almost identical to the one downstairs minus the ping-pong table. The one other difference was the small hallway that branched off to his left, and there stood the very doorway, closed and locked. But Chiron, always an early riser, should have been emerging from his office any minute now. Beau plunked onto the edge of a windowsill in one corner of the room, his left leg propped up on a handy footstool he’d found, cane leaning against his thigh, to wait.
Less than ten minutes later, there emerged the promising sound of hooves moments before the door swung open. Backlit in a burst of sun from one window behind him, Chiron’s features were indiscernible, but it was distinctly a centaur’s form greeting Beau. A bit of early morning archery practice? he mused to himself when his dark gaze fell on the longbow his old mentor wielded and the quiver strapped to his back. Before announcing his presence, he observed a moment more, expectant. Would Chiron be able to sense his company and call him out? Or would Beau have reveal himself to the old centaur?
As wary and wise as he was, Chiron did not notice his ex-pupil lying in wait, made evident when he started toward the staircase, oblivious. Feeling accomplished to have gotten one past the renowned trainer of heroes, Beau stepped forth from his corner and disentangled himself from the shadows he wore like a cloak, letting the rays of sun go to work sketching a visible portrait. Now you see me, he thought.
“Chiron. We’re long overdue for a chat.”
OOC: You guys can come in with your characters, but please don't have them interfere with the situation at hand here-- Beau and Chiron are about to have the conversation that sets up the whole quest, and I already have it all planned out. I just thought I'd break it off here so that I'm flooding you guys with only 2.5k words instead of 5k. Sorry about that. They won't all be this excruciatingly long.