"Seriously dude - How do you run that fast? That intercept was incredible!" A stocky dark haired senior punched Cal playfully on the shoulder as the two of them walked through the city on their way home from football practice.
Cal shrugged and repositioned his kit bag on his shoulder. "It was okay, I guess."
"Nah dude it was totally schway - there's no way coach can bench you now - you're the best Safety we've got."
Cal grinned and rolled his eyes. "Thanks, man."
"I'm serious - check the team sheet tomorrow and you'll see."
"Alright. We'll see, Dan."
They reached the corner of Cal's block and made to go their separate ways.
"Oh, Wait - Cal - I was planning on going to the Saints vs Titans game this weekend and I was wondering - Do you wanna to come?"
"Yeah, sounds good."
"Cool - I'll text you the deets."
Suddenly Cal felt a massive surge of energy, surging through and past him. He staggered back with his eyes closed and dropped his kitbag, nearly passing out from the strength. As it passed it seemed to try and drag his magic with it, forcing him shut his power away in a mental cage lest it explode out of him uncontrollably.
Dan caught his arm as he stumbled. "Dude - You alright?!"
Cal nodded as the dark spots vanished from his eyes. "Yeah. I think I'm just dehydrated or something," he lied.
He waved Dan off as the other teen persisted.
"Seriously, I'm fine - I'm going to go home."
"See you tomorrow then."
Cal picked up his bag and started to walk, shaking the tiredness away and pulling his water bottle out. As he swiped his black ring against the lock on the door to let himself into the house he dumped his bag and ran up to his room, skipping steps, not bothering to pretend to be tired now that he was out of sight of Dan. Knocking his crystals off the shelf he pulled the only magic book he owned off it and started leafing through it for an answer to what has just happened. He was half way through when his dad poked his head round the door.
Vincent was a kind man in his mid fifties (a rare age for Demigods) with salt and pepper hair and tanned skin but despite his age he still kept in shape as a Martial Arts instructor.
"Cal, how was-" He paused when he saw the book- "You haven't touched that book in at least six months. What's going on?"
Cal looked up. "I don't know. I felt a massive wave of energy, like a really powerful spell. And my magic has felt.. Off.. for about a week now."
"So.. you think it's to do with what happened last year?"
"It must be.." Cal sighed, dropping his shoulders as he thought about the events of the labyrinth. "I don't know what but it must be."
"So what are you going to do about it?"
"I don't know."
Vincent sighed and sat next to his son and placed a hand on the boy's knee. "Listen Cal. I know you think that the no one at camp wants you but maybe they need you. You said that the only reason that Artemis is still a goddess is because of you."
"Yeah but I brought the book with the spell I used back to camp - They'll have given it to Lou-Ellen and she can perform the spell."
"Alright, How about this - Think about it over dinner. If you really don't want to go to camp then I'll support you but if you do decide to go to camp I'll take you there myself tomorrow. I'll even stay and fight if I can find my Warhammer."
Cal shut the book and placed it to the side, hugging his Pops as a single tear rolled down his face. Vincent smiled and held his son close, ruffling his hair. "So how was the rest of your day?"
The blond boy shrugged and wiped his tears away. "It was Okay. Dan asked me to go to a Football game with him-" He slapped his forehead, joining the dots at last. "I just got asked on a date, didn't I?"
Vincent laughed. "Come on Kiddo - You can text him later to clarify, but I'm making spaghetti for dinner."
Cal smiled and went down stairs with Vincent to help. Cooking helped him to take his mind off the dilemma but even when the two sat down to eat he felt lost and left the table with his plate half full.
"I'm going to clear my head."
Vincent nodded - knowing full well where his son would end up - Cal was always drawn to the same spot whenever he was upset. "You taking a weapon?"
Cal shook his head, picked up his cellphone and headphones and left, closing the door gently behind him. He lost himself in the music, not noticing where he walked, letting his instincts guide him. After a while he found himself in a wooded area and sighed to himself. This little copse had been a place of solitude for Cal in his early days in the city. It had taken him a while to adjust into regular life but whenever he felt overwhelmed he had come to this small patch of nature to meditate and shut out the noise of the city. Finding a battered old oak with thick, conveniently placed placed branches, he climbed up to the thickest one and sat there staring off into the distance as he thought everything over.
When the sun started to set he climbed down and as he went to go he saw a group a silver clad girls about 50 yards from him. They were lead by a black haired girl wearing a circlet of moonstones and a bald girl covered in scars where the skin appeared to have been melted. Recognizing the group he turned quietly, although definitely not stealthily, to go past them in a wide berth the way he had come. The last thing he needed was to have to talk to them. As he did so he stepped on a branch causing the many girls to draw bows. Their leader called out loud enough to be heard over his music.
"Stop where you are!"
Cal stopped in his tracks and put his hands carefully in the air to show his good intentions then slowly removed his headphones.
"Slowly turn and face me."
He did so reluctantly and saw the recognition trigger among the teenagers. The tallest girl's face lit up with glee - 'Magic Boy!' She signed making big movements with her hands.
"Really guys? - Is that how you treat an old friend?" He called out, slightly hostile, wishing he were anywhere but there. Instantly Thalia gestured to put their bows down. Several of them ran up to hug him but pulled away when they saw his reaction to their presence. Thalia came up and punched him on the shoulder. "Where in Hades have you been? No one could find you anywhere!"
Cal said nothing, edging backwards subconsciously to take him away from the situation.
Thalia looked him over noting the wisps of hair growing on his chin, the stronger muscle definition shown off by his T-shirt and the harder look in his eye. "You've changed Cal. What happened to you?"
"What happened to me?! You guys happened to me - That's what!"
Thalia took a step back in shock - not expecting that response.
"What do you mean?"
"I meant what I said! A thirty one year old in a sixteen years old body doesn't fit anywhere so I left and came home. I went back to school and I had to relearn everything - new slang, new tech, new history, new science. But I joined the football team. I finally have friends and I'm finally happy after you guys left - You do not get to come back into my life now and say 'What happened?'!"
Thalia looked down as the others looked away. Kara, the blonde daughter of Apollo, stepped up to fire back at him but Carrie put her hand out to stop her. Suddenly Cal noticed an important gap in their hierarchy.
"Where is Lady Artemis?"
Thalia sighed. "We have a lot to discuss."
"It's okay.. I should probably get going. My dad texted me.."
"You're not getting out of it now, Cal. Come on."
The two leaders took his arms and practically dragged him with them.