The Problem Child
Everyone at Camp Half Blood knew that little Annabeth Chase from Cabin 6 was just as smart and scary as the rest of her siblings, even as the youngest camper in almost five decades. She was resourceful, tricky, and always full of creative insults. She spoke Ancient Greek better than most of the head counselors and was trying her hand at Latin, too. She had started taking on some of the Ares campers with her bronze knife and had yet to lose a fight. In fact, the only time when anyone was reminded of her age was when she fell asleep at campfire and someone had to carry her back to her cabin because it as way past her bedtime.
Chiron was glad they were past the days of that first month, when she would sit at the top of the hill in silence beside the tree that stood where her friend (her sister) used to be. He knew she would cry up there, too, but no one but Luke from Cabin 11 could ever get close to her when she'd been up at the tree, and he knew better than to tell anyone if she cried or not.
Yes, Chiron was thankful those days were long over but he still wasn't used to such small children at camp. 10 was usually the youngest they came wandering over the property line. 12 was the average age. But 7 years old was an anomaly and one that camp was barely prepared for, even a year later.
Camp Half Blood was full of what most people call troubled kids. The instincts that make demigods warriors also make them troublemakers. It's simply what happens when you mix divine and mortal blood. Some were more problematic than others but, even after two millennia, he still believed they were all good kids at heart. However, even at 8 years old, Chiron had a feeling that Annabeth was going to be his problem child. (He was right, but that's another story.)
"I have a proposal," she lisped around her missing front tooth. A sheet of wrinkled paper was grasped tightly in her little hands.
"And what is that, Annabeth?" asked Chiron as he played another card. Mr. D sighed in defeat and summoned another can of Diet Coke.
"Head counselors get paid with camp store credits," she started, "Kids who don't have any contact with their mortal family can work odd jobs around Camp for drachmas and some of the Hephaestus kids like trafficking weapons around camp."
"Yes, the older campers have ways to earn profits," agreed Chiron with a hint of amusement. He knew where this was headed and was surprised she hadn't asked sooner. Annabeth was proving to an incredibly independent child, even for a daughter of Athena.
Annabeth patted back a blond curl attempting to escape her ponytail. "I want a job."
Chiron looked away from his cards and met her gaze. With a gentle smile, he set a hand on her shoulder. "My dear, I think it would be best if we waited. For now, train and learn. In a few years we can revisit this discussion." A shadow fell over her stormy eyes but was gone with a blink.
"That's what I thought," she said deftly. She straightened the knife at her belt and flashed a grin at Chiron. "I have archery. See you at dinner, Chiron." She jogged away, blond curls turning to gold in the sunlight.
A wave of unease washed over him. Annabeth never gave up, especially not that easily.
"Are you going to start the round or what?" grumbled Mr. D roughly.
Chiron dealt the cards and tried to ignore the unrest settling on his chest. Yes, Annabeth was proving to be a difficult one.
"What is the meaning of this, Annabeth?" inquired Chiron calmly. The little girl in front of him had a self-assured smirk and flinty eyes. In her hand was a neatly tallied chart.
"It's my small business venture."
"Please, child, do explain." Chiron knew he had been well within his right to be worried about her.
She shrugged. "Not all the campers like to groom the pegasi after their lessons but I don't mind it, so I told Chrissy from Cabin 10 what I was planning to do and she spread the word. They've been paying me in drachmas and store credits to do it for them." Chiron carefully swallowed an exasperated sigh at her remorseless, logical explanation.
"Meanwhile, Erica has been tearing the entire camp apart looking for you," he said. The normally-rational head counselor had been pushed nearly to the point of hysterics when she realized Annabeth was missing. Cabin 6 had been frantically searching for their youngest member for over an hour. "We were about to send a search party into the woods."
"She didn't ask the right people then," retorted Annabeth. Chiron held out his hand for the piece of paper, which she handed over reluctantly.
It was remarkably well kept, the neat, little tally marks detailing the name, cabin, and pegasi for each camper that had used her new service. A total sat in the corner. Somehow she had managed to get over 150 credits and 25 drachmas.
"Kindly inform Erica of your whereabouts. Then you will tell Chrissy to "spread the word" that you are no longer in service," said Chiron.
"Can I keep the money?" she questioned. He handed her back the paper.
"Please do not let this happen again, Annabeth."
"What are you doing, Annabeth?"
Chiron was not amused. It had barely been two months since the last incident. Apparently she had been charging a rental fee for the dummies in the practice arena. One of the older Ares kids had been in on it too, earning part of her profits for partnering with (*cough* beating the snot out of *cough*) the kids who refused to pay for the dummy.
She looked up at him from under her custom-sized helmet with a sly grin more commonly found on the faces of the Hermes kids. "Nothing against Camp rules."
"We will discuss the difference between illegal and immoral later, child," he admonished, "Now we shall speak of why you are charging the other campers to play Capture the Flag."
"Team fees," she corrected, though some of the assuredness in her voice had faltered. However, the prideful jut of her chin hadn't budged. "Each team has to pay a mass fee to enter the game. It's to keep allegiances stronger. Each cabin has to put in a share, depending on the size."
"And you keep all the profits?" he prompted. Annabeth fixed him with an insulted glare.
"Of course not. It's redistributed amongst the opposing team. The winning cabin gets the biggest share. It's higher stakes for making alliances." Chiron felt the pounding in his temple lessen slightly. Perhaps this was just a harmless project. "But I did take a small collection fee from each cabin." The pounding increased tenfold.
"Annabeth, please notify all the campers that for next week, and every week after that, all fees have been waived."
"They've already been charged," supplied Annabeth, "It has to be paid a week in advance in order to lock down teams."
"Then inform them for the next week. You will not be doing this again, child," he said firmly.
He trotted away, wondering what her next scheme would be. Because everyone knows that a child of Athena always has a plan.
"What is it this time, Annabeth?" demanded Chiron. His patience was being tested by the gods with this one, he knew it.
"Chrissy wanted to braid my hair," she shrugged, "I told her she could if she paid me a drachma."
"And a fist fight between Cabin 10 broke out how?" he pried. Annabeth shrugged again. Chiron wasn't sure if she was as indifferent as she claimed to be or simply a good actress.
"Apparently they like to play with my hair. I charged them each a drachma for braiding, two for anything else. And Erica knew where I was."
"Yes, but how did Gisela end up with a second degree burn on her arm?"
That had been the worst of the injuries but more than one of the campers were now sporting black eyes and scratch marks. Rose had a large chunk of hair cut much shorter than the rest.
"I charged them three drachmas each to use the straightener and the curling iron. Chrissy and Rose were going on about how much I look like a princess. They were all supposed to be taking turns but Gisela didn't want to wait her turn and Tyler didn't like that," she explained before adding defensively, "It's not my fault they got into a fight."
"You will apologize to Cabin 10, and then you will join your cabins next activity," ordered Chiron in resignation. "This is quite enough, Annabeth. Next time there will be repercussions."
"I have a job for you, Annabeth," announced Chiron. The nearly 9 year-old eyed him suspiciously. Since the Aphrodite Incident, as Lee Fletcher from Cabin 7 had deemed it, Annabeth hadn't attempted any more schemes and nothing had been mentioned again. Besides the usual camp gossip, of course, but that couldn't be controlled.
"What kind of job?" she asked. Chiron barely stopped a soft chuckle at her reluctant curiosity.
"One I believe you will excel at," he explained, "We have a new camper-"
"Charles Beckendorf, 11 years old, Cabin 9," she interrupted.
"Yes, child, him. And since Cabin 9 has been so busy at the forges since the start of summer, I have made the decision that you will tutor him in Ancient Greek."
"Me?" Surprise covered her face.
"Yes, my dear, you" assured Chiron. She straightened her narrow shoulders and a small smile crept over her features. Her stormy grey eyes twinkled. "When do I start?"
"Tomorrow afternoon I have told Charles to meet you in the dining pavilion. I trust you to teach him everything he will need."
"Of course." She nodded curtly and left the porch for the volleyball court. She joined back into the game he'd called her from and Chiron smiled to himself. All his problem child— his favourite child— had needed was a purpose.