Smoke on the Horizon

VIII. Hazel

VIII. HAZEL

Rachel Elizabeth Dare had been standing at the mess hall in Camp Jupiter for an hour before Hazel, Frank, and Reyna arrived from the Senate House.

She saw them and began to walk briskly over to them, meeting them halfway.

"Reyna, what has been decided?"

The praetor looked at her uncertainly, then to Frank.

"I believe it is the right course of action."

"But what if the others don't agree? I mean it does sound a little ridiculous. Getting the oracle here to decipher the books and having her leave three hours in?" Frank said.

Reyna looked thoughtful. "Yes, we'd have to make it more realistic if they're to let you go easily."

"What is that supposed to mean? I know what I saw and I'm telling you, it's coming soon! If they don't trust me then that's their problem. You two are like their bosses right? So let me go." Rachel was beginning to lose her patience.

"I wish it were that simple, but unfortunately we must have a vote within the Senate. It must be unanimous."

Rachel scowled and drummed her fingers against her side. She raised her hands in defeat. "So what are we going to do? I know I have got to get back to Camp Half Blood, that's not an option."

"Wait at least through tomorrow. Perhaps if we make it look like you're gleaning more from the prophecies while you’re actually here at the camp they'll follow us."

”And if not?"

"If not, then we'll just have to figure something else out. But let's hope it doesn't come to that."

Rachel nodded in hesitant agreement to the plan and the four of them walked into the mess hall.

The next day passed surprisingly quickly. Hazel wandered around the camp, just as disoriented as everyone else and still weary from the long journey back.

Rachel accompanied her for most of the day, only disappearing to speak with Ella about her plan to leave before reappearing at Hazel's side. It was like she was trailing her, not wanting to leave Hazel out of her sight incase they might go back without her.

Reyna called together another Senate meeting to which Rachel and Hazel were invited.

They made their way to the massive Senate House and entered beneath the archway, Rachel looking around in awe as she tried to take in every detail as they passed.

"This way." Hazel led Rachel to the great dome-ceilinged room where the senate had already gathered.

They were invited to sit and the meeting was begun.

"You all know why we are here," Reyna said, eyeing each of the senators in turn. "Our oracle wishes to return to Camp Half Blood after only a short time with us. She believes she has gleaned important information from Ella that must be given directly to the others in person. Who would like to speak against this?"

The centurion named Hank raised his hand. "I don't doubt what she says, I simply do not see the need to send her all the way back across the country. Why can she not transmit some kind of message to them instead? Speak to them that way?"

"I already have." Rachel stood from the table. "But I must speak to them all in person. It is the only way we can be sure they will understand and listen."

Hank shook his head and sat down again, unimpressed.

"Who would accompany you?" Brandon took his turn to speak now. "You can't possibly go back all that way on your own."

Rachel looked to Reyna for an answer.

"Hazel and Frank would go with her."

The eight other senators and Frank all stared at her in disbelief.

"Of course we would," Hazel jumped in. "We have friends back in Camp Half Blood and if this thing that Rachel is talking about is going to effect us, we can be sure it'll effect them too. We have to stand together."

"But Camp Jupiter with only one Praetor? Again?" Dakota said, even he skeptical of the idea. "I mean, no offense Reyna, you did an awesome job, but so soon after a battle couldn't that be a little risky? The camp will need to organize and we’ll need the extra leadership."

"We did well enough with one Praetor before. It will simply be like we never stopped. If the Greeks showed us one thing, it is that we must rethink our strategies. We must collaborate again, despite some of our personal beliefs. Shall we vote? All in favor of sending Praetor Zhang, Hazel, and the Oracle back to Camp Half Blood?"

Nine of the ten hands went up, Hank folding his arms uncomfortably across his chest. A harsh look from Dakota and an elbow from Brandon and he raised his hand too.

"Very good. Praetor," Reyna said, turning to Frank. "You will leave as soon as you are ready."

Frank nodded and followed Rachel and Hazel out of the Senate House. They looped around the lawn in silence, until finally Rachel said, "I'll Iris message Chiron. Let him know we'll be coming."

And with that she disappeared to a fountain across the courtyard.

"Not much of a welcome home," Frank said.

"Did you expect one?" Hazel asked.

Frank shrugged. "No, I guess not. But something would've been nice."

Hazel smiled and leaned up to kiss his cheek. "Your new status hasn't gone to your head already, has it?"

"What?" Frank exclaimed, worry spreading across his face. "No! No, I -"

Hazel laughed. It was too easy to fluster him. He never wanted to do anything wrong. If his status of Praetor had done anything, it hadn't made him over confident.

His expression softened as he realized she'd been joking and he began to laugh as well.

"We'd better get packing then.”

It took them not hardly as long as it should have to gather all of the supplies they'd need for the return (return) journey. Much was still crated up and sitting abandoned in front of the barracks and mess hall, so finding what they needed was easy.

No one said anything as the Hazel and Frank picked their way through the camp, removing objects from the boxes as they passed and putting things away when they could.

They were tailed by Don the faun who appeared quite happy to see them all again, though whether or not he was happier to see their money again was unclear.

Within an hour, the three had most of their gear packed and ready to go, and by morning they had set out for a second cross country trip to Camp Half Blood.

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