Percy Jackson: An Age Gone By
Hello! I am JustASimpleWriter1.
The story below is organized into different sections
Italic paragraphs signify that the narrative is taking place in the past.
Normal text signifies the present.
This story began as a simple side project, spawned from my churning mind while sitting in a college course on Alexander the Great. And now, it has become a serious work, that is fast approaching a size that I couldn't have dreamed of before! The story itself is very intensively researched, as I am incorporating the Percy Jackson Novels, The Landmark Arrian, along with various other texts that describe mythological aspects of the Near East into one continuous work. Blending it all together into a cohesive story sounds, well, daunting to say the least, looking back on it. I am writing this prelude as of the release of Chapter 14, and I will say that the story is just in its prime! The long hours of researching and writing alongside my schoolwork has given me the much-needed relief in daily rigorous life. It has been a privilege to write, and I hope that every reader enjoys this tale of adventure, of love, and most importantly, of the power that anyone can possess.
And now, let us begin, on the anniversary of a very fateful day:
ACT I, Chapter I
A full moon shone over a glistening silvery lake, illuminating the surrounding forest and shore, accompanied by a gentle breeze billowed over the water's surface. The currents swiftly brought light clouds across the night sky, which would catch the moon's rays from time to time as their outlines became etched in a silver hue. The thick lush forest that surrounded the lake basked in the light, which shone with an air of purity, that had no signs of human activity. Completely wild. Completely free.
It was here that Artemis found herself watching this scene, with a sad pang of regret. She stood on the pebbled shore of the lake, her sandals firmly burying the tops of her feet in the smooth pebbles, which had been rounded and gleaned over by the passage of time.
How poetic. Artemis bored her vision into the water's surface, a sudden feeling of rage and despair welling up inside her. How dare he.
The water lapped without a sound against scattered driftwood and odd rocks that were within touch of the mirrored surface of the water. A familiar dread welled up inside her: feelings of remorse unable to be contained. It was an eternal problem of being a goddess, being that she had lived through this moment more times than she could count.
That was a lie. She didn't know why she kept trying to convince herself of not being obsessed on this certain issue. Foolish… Selfish… Arrogant…
Artemis knelt and ran a finger across the still surface of the water, creating a small wake that transformed the reflected image of the full moon above into a series of ripples and wavy distorted images. Today marked the two thousand, three hundred, and thirty-third anniversary of that fateful day.
Tears suddenly sprang into her eyes and she furiously wiped them away. Her hands involuntarily reached back over her head instantaneously, gripping the smooth hardwood grip of her bow, which was slung over her back. The instinct was hard-wired in her being, but she had nothing to shoot. Nothing.
Slowly, with time passing undeterminably, her hand relaxed and she let it fall back to the water, finding a miniscule amount of comfort in tracing outlines of clouds within the water. Kneeling, she closed her eyes, feeling the presence of her hunters nearby, safe, secure, and most importantly, far enough away. They wouldn't believe or understand her situation. No one did.
"Sister, I thought I would find you here."
Artemis scowled into the water, which had cleared enough to see her own reflection. A slender face, with high cheekbones, wild auburn hair, and piercing silver eyes stared back at her, unfortunately, her eyes were rimmed with red. 'No one knew but one,' Artemis amended to herself. Standing up, she wheeled around to converse with her confidant.
Artemis was short in her mortal form as a twelve-year-old girl, however, she was always in her twenties on this day and had given up trying to not be. Her mind and body worked against her on this day of the year, which only served as another horrible reminder.
The goddess that stood just outside the tree line was tall, easily passing six feet, where she didn't even come close. 'He liked that though.' Her mind sang a mental stream which she ruthlessly suppressed into oblivion.
The tall goddess before her was cloaked in a pristine white toga, which was donned under a chest plate of the finest celestial bronze. The woman held nothing else, but her long double braided brunette hair and sympathetic grey eyes marked the Goddess as her wise half-sister: Athena.
Artemis looked over at her, standing rigid, putting up an instinctive front against any who questioned her at this annual time, but she immediately slumped her shoulders and promptly sat on the fine smooth pebbles under her feet.
"Hello, sister," Artemis said quietly, rolling a pebble in her slim hand.
Athena's godly presence and the quiet crunch of pebbles against leather sandals marked her approach until she could also see a reflection of Athena on the lake standing behind her. "You should not let your guard down."
Artemis almost scoffed. "You've told me this, hundreds of times. You know I cannot help it." That was the truth. Artemis was almost used to the vulnerability now, unlike other gods and goddesses. It was a mortal emotion and state of mind, but she relished it, on some occasions. This was, however, not one of them. Hate was something she was familiar with. Love… love was not. The two combined, to be felt for the same bygone person was something she would never hope to understand.
"Yes, I'm aware. I can always hope that your mind will heal eventually." Athena said, drawing her back into their discussion.
Artemis's fingers spasmed against the pebble, crushing it instantly. "I will heal when I please to heal." She snapped. The mere idea of forgetting that time long ago felt like a betrayal, likened to making a god fade. Such a horrible fate was something she wouldn't wish on most mortals, with a select few of those included on that list being men. He was certainly on that list.
Artemis saw Athena grimace in the reflection on the water, and she felt some sort of satisfaction flush through her body. Juvenile perhaps, but any emotion that liberated her from this annual grief was welcomed.
"Apologies Sister, you know I always have trouble relating."
Artemis sighed, knowing Athena's words to be true, "I know, but so did I once." She stood up from the lake's edge, turning to face Athena, "You promised counsel, two millennia ago."
"And I will always honor that promise, even without swearing upon the Styx. He loved you very much."
Artemis fell tears well up again, "Don't." She warned, but she knew her voice lacked conviction. Athena knew too. Too many centuries had gone by now to hide her emotions from Athena.
"He loved you and would have never asked you to do this to yourself repeatedly." Athena looked at her with sorrow and held out an arm to her. But she lashed out, letting her rage and fear flood outwards.
"You know nothing! I loved him too, do not forget! I don't want to tear my heart asunder year after year until all I feel is a pain in the shade of his memory, but it is all I have left of him!" Artemis yelled, sweeping her arm across her body, knocking away Athena's hand. Her strike continued back behind her, where she let loose a burst of her power.
Silver energy erupted from her fingertips, striking the water with a thunderous blast, which made the lake hiss violently. Steam billowed into the air obscuring the moon and stars above, and the silver energies rolled as if carried by the wind up into the sky, carrying with it the steam and smoke.
It was only then that Artemis felt herself sobbing, tears running down her cheeks, an eventuality on this night, but always an unwelcome feeling. She cursed his name, which she had sworn never to speak again. 'Why did you leave me!?' The internal scream tore at her mind, radiating so loudly that Artemis thought for a moment it became actual sound.
"Artemis, it is time you don't face this alone," Athena spoke gently, and this time, Artemis allowed her half-sister to place her hand on her heaving shoulder. She wiped a hand across her eyes, looking up to the heavens, seeing her empty chariot race across the sky, the moon securely in place.
"Artemis, you must tell your hunters. You know your old friend has started to wonder. She has always questioned you on this."
Artemis took in a ragged breath, closing her eyes. She had no need to, but the peace of darkness wasn't something she enjoyed often. Her half-sister was almost always right. This time was no different. Artemis had long wanted to share this with her hunters, and most importantly… Zoe. But the same fear that drove her terror of remembering him was also embedded in any thought of telling her hunters.
"Athena… they are everything to me, Zoe… and the others might not understand. How can I claim to hate men when I fell in love with one? A mortal at that!" She seethed, hurriedly repressing an image of him in her mind, where he was staring at her fiercely, wearing armor and wielding a xiphos without fear. His long, flopped hair, neat beard, where he was so much more kind and loyal than others…
"What?" She responded sharply, unwilling to admit her anger at losing her thought of him.
Athena looked at her with great patience, "I said, your hunters are more caring for you than you think. Zoe is holding a meeting as we speak to calm others above your whereabouts. They need to know."
She paused, errant thoughts forgotten for the moment. Telling her hunters of that time had crossed her mind before but never had she fully considered it. Time was a difficult thing for goddesses to measure, but after a long time pondering it, Artemis finally concluded that she could not attempt to deny it.
"You are right… I need to tell them." Artemis whispered, looking at Athena with resignation. Athena, always observant, seemed to notice her mood and nodded.
"I can assist you, in telling the story. I was there for all of it and will…"
"No," Artemis interjected, shaking her head, allowing her auburn curls to bounce around wildly. "I need to do this alone." Artemis had never told the story to a soul on the entirety of the world, heavens, and underworld alike. Athena had witnessed it, but Artemis needed to convey her own experience to her hunters. They deserved to know the whole truth.
"You are right, I only wished to spare you some of the pain Sister," Athena replied, before turning and walking towards the tree line.
"We are only half-sisters." Artemis pointed out, gesturing to Athena's turned back.
Athena paused and pivoted, looking right at her, "Not to me you aren't. Sister, I think that this will be good for you. Don't shy away from your past, let it flow." she said, with a cool tone. Athena turned before Artemis could reply, and disappeared into the shadows of the trees.
Artemis stood there for a while longer, before she took one last glance at the sky. He always loved the moon and stars, just observing them alone, he had said. The presence of the moon comforted his long and difficult nights. Artemis allowed that thought to pool inside of her. The moon, already shining bright, took on an extra amount of glow.
With that slightly comforting thought in mind, Artemis found herself walking back toward the Hunters' camp. Her hunting tunic and belt both caught stray rays of moonlight under the wide canopies of pine and oak trees. Her bare feet crunched into soft pine needles and grass that covered the forest floor. It wasn't a long walk back to the camp, and Artemis tried to think of a way to tell her hunters, to try to tell them of everything that had occurred so long ago. Only two were even alive at that time, the others would have no clue who she was talking about.
For many miles of walking, Artemis failed to even fathom the subject and how to begin such a tale. She was in such deep thought that too late she realized that in ten more paces, the hunter sentry would be able to see her approach. There was no use hiding in from the hunters any longer. She walked forward, sensing her hunter up ahead, the clustered tents just visible through extensive undergrowth and tree trucks.
In the next couple of steps, a teenaged girl stepped out from behind a tree, drawing an arrow back that lay on the bowstring of a silver bow. The girl, Artemis recognized her to be Angelina, her newest recruit. The girl had been with the Hunt now for five years. She was bright, only fourteen, with streaked blonde and brown hair, and a skinny frame. A good hunter.
Angelina quickly realized who she had drawn her bow on, and relaxed. "I am sorry My Lady, there was a hellhound earlier. Didn't check this time." The girl smiled ruefully.
Artemis smiled in response, her hunters always a source of pride for her. "I trust you sent it back to the underworld?" It was a loaded question. Artemis knew the outcome already.
The girl nodded, "First shot, missed the eye, but the upper throat worked too."
'Better than any camper at least' Artemis thought proudly to herself, before waving her hunter towards camp, "An adequate shot nonetheless, now come with me, we are holding a meeting of the Hunt."
Angelina seemed happy at this news, and Artemis didn't doubt that this was because her hunter would now not have to worry about being a sentry for the entire camp. Together, he two walked back, unfortunately, as they reached the tent line where wolves lay sprawled around the perimeter, all illuminated by two torches on the outside of a tent, Angelina spoke up.
"My Lady… you hardly are ever in your adult form. I can count the number of times one hand, this instance included, where you haven't been in your twelve-year-old form. What is the occasion?" Angelina questioned, looking slightly down at her.
Artemis pursed her lips, frowning as many wolves chose that instance to perk up their ears and look at her balefully. Of course, the Fates would conspire against her in this exact moment.
She made a quick reply, "I will explain now, go to the hearth and tell the others that I will be speaking to all of the Hunt. I will quickly pacify the wolves." Artemis did not pay Angelina another glance and quickly knelt by one of the wolves, soothing its raised hackles. She heard Angelina pause, most likely to draw breath for another question, before hearing footsteps that led into camp.
The wolf nudged her hand, and Artemis gave it a small smile, "Watch the camp for me, you and your pack. Do not worry, all will be well." The wolf complied and jumped up, shaking its coat before letting out a sharp howl. In seconds, a dozen wolves around the gap of tents all bolted upwards and ran into the dark forest around them. Artemis watched them run, the urge to slip into the woods as one of them never seeming so tempting than now.
But it was not to be avoided, telling her hunters this. She stole herself back into camp, passing by the torches into the ring of tents that surrounded her own tent and the hearth. They had set up this camp several days ago, in a small meadowed clearing which sat in the middle of the forest that enclosed the clearing. An excellent site, Artemis felt like the Hunt had camped here before, many years ago, but Artemis let that thought slip from her mind.
The hearth, which lay before her, was a wide pit that the girls sacrificed offerings in, as well as cooked their meals. A freshly killed deer was spat above the warm glowing fire, that caught all the white tent walls, making shadows dance around the camp. Her hunters sat around the hearth, all on the clearing's grass, only one was standing.
Zoe. She, like the other hunters, wore a silver tunic, covered by silver lined parkas, with a standard leather belt sashed firmly around her slim waist. Her quiver and silver fletched arrows were visible, as well as the others, but none had their bows in sight. The only thing that Zoe wore that the others did not was the shining silver tiara: Zoe had worn it for so long that it seemed odd to picture her without wearing it as she had been a lieutenant for a millennium now. Zoe was also extraordinarily tall, and Artemis felt her chest warm at the sight of her lieutenant. As always, she took charge in Artemis's absence, even in this kind of a meeting. They were all talking loudly, and Zoe was firing back, Artemis could make out Zoe's words trying to calm the hunters down. Angelina had just joined the hunters and was comically poking Zoe in the shoulder, who was brushing her off. It was chaos, as it seemed. She smiled sadly at the sight, and took a step forward, snapping her fingers once.
The hunters almost immediately noticed her presence, and Zoe whirled around, her long single braid whipping by. Artemis stared at her lieutenant, who stared back. Zoe wore a slightly guilty expression but was not apologetic. Artemis had to admit that she couldn't blame her hunt for anything they did, and to her surprise, she found herself amused by some of their guilty expressions. They all looked like kids who stole from the cookie jar and got caught by their strict mother.
"Girls, relax, I am not angry you are having a meeting without me. In fact, I sent Angelina back from her sentry duty to tell you all." Artemis said, slipping her bow over her head
Zoe paused and groaned audibly, "I am sorry Angelina, thy tried to help." Her thick old English accent easily leaked through her words. The youngest hunter shrugged.
"I tried to warn you." She said.
Artemis laughed, "Do not fret, it is all fine, now Zoe, what is the issue here?" Artemis looked to her lieutenant, anticipating the response that would force her secret to be told. Acceptance had replaced fear and worry, but she still looked at all her hunters and wondered darkly if they would all be with her when morning came.
Zoe's volcanic black eyes and pale face turned to her, "My Lady…" Zoe paused, and Artemis saw the hesitation in her friend's eyes to continue. However, Artemis saw Zoe's resolve harden, "My Lady, for thousands of years, every year on this day, you mourn. I am the closest friend of you, who hath shared much peril of many centuries. I have followed thy's bidding as your lieutenant. Hath we not earned thine approval to know of what troubles you?"
Artemis looked at her, then all her hunters. Phoebe. Elizabeth. Victoria. Mara. Kathleen. Sarah. Emily. Angelina. Jennifer. Winifred. Anna. Christina. And Zoe. All loyal and all had devoted their very souls to her. From the youngest, Angelina and Emily, to the oldest, Zoe and Phoebe. There was no questioning their resolves. Only experience, which Zoe held the most of. Zoe had been with her since the bastard minor god Herakles had betrayed her, and that was over three millennia ago. The younger hunters who knew little of the ancient times would be more disconnected than Zoe and Phoebe, who were her only surviving hunters that had firsthand experience of antiquity.
They all needed to hear this, they all had to or else the Hunt would never stay the same. She had to mend a broken trust, which she let fester for two millennia.
"You will hear of what you ask for. I have… decided to tell you why I mourn on this day, every year. But before I begin, I must ask you all to think of me kindly. I am still Phoebe Artemis, Goddess of Childbirth, Wild Animals, Hunting, and the Moon. I have not, and never will be something other than that."
There was a still eerie silence, only the crackling fire giving off any noise to supplement the unnatural silence. Phoebe broke the silence, "Milady… please, what are you talking about?"
Artemis sighed and sat down next to the fire, the girls nearest to her, Mara, and Christina shuffled over to make space. She looked around her hunters, all forming a semicircle around the fire, with her at the center. Zoe paused and sat at the edge of the hunters, next to Phoebe.
"It was long ago. In the fourth century B.C. where Greece was divided with itself, unification against the Persians long from Greek's thoughts. There were terrible wars raging throughout Greece, and mortals and monsters alike caused severe losses in the Hunt." Artemis glanced up at Zoe and Phoebe, whose expressions had darkened considerably in memories brought to the limelight. "Athens and Sparta had bloodied each other in the Peloponnesian War. Not long after, Thebes crushed Sparta, effectively ending their reign in the Peloponnese."
"Then, Greece was conquered, by the Northern Kingdom just south of Thrace and Dacia. A fledging Kingdom, that was surrounded in the mists of Fate. Macedon. The Olympic Council was in an uproar, although the Macedonian King greatly worshipped us all, the Macedonians were too proud, too boastful. Zeus was furious, as their King, Philip II, elevated himself to a Godlike status amoung the people of Greece. He had temples, coinage, and monuments, all advocating for his divinity. His actions in associating himself as one of the gods, even an Olympian, was an undertaking which we could not ignore. The Council was split on what to do, but I abstained from the vote, seeing no cause to worry. Tyrants, Kings, they all fell, and Philip's reign offered no direct threat to the welfare of my domains. But Eris, the goddess of Chaos, did not hesitate or abstain from the debates. She bewitched a mortal, Philip's bodyguard, and assassinated the Macedonian King. There was uproar, but many of the Council favored Eris's action, including Athena, Zeus, Demeter, and Hephaestus. But what followed could not have foreseen, for we all thought that that was the end of it. You all know of Alexander III, who succeeded his father and went on a campaign to the East which has never been eclipsed in success from any other journey, the Trojan War, The Odyssey, all pale in comparison. Alexander III journeyed to where we gods and goddesses could not interfere, and then came back from oblivion. I watched his campaigns, from my chariot every night, even beyond the limits of our power. I watched the Macedonians do what could not be done, repeatedly. I watched from afar. And came too close."
The hunters were all enthralled with her tale. Artemis knew that all had likely some knowledge of the campaigns of Alexander the Great, but none had personal knowledge, not even Zoe and Phoebe could claim that. But both knew how long the campaign lasted. That was all it took.
Then Zoe and Phoebe made the connection. Artemis saw it in their eyes, the shock, with fire illuminated in their pupils. "My Lady!" Zoe cried, "You were gone for twelve years! That entire time, you said you were hunting a great adversary!" Phoebe shared Zoe's outrage. Artemis distinctly remembered Phoebe had joined the hunt not a decade before that departure she made. She was a new hunter at the time, and with the numbers being low at that time, it must have looked harrowing to be left with a handful of hunters.
Artemis braced herself, looking over her hunter's faces one last time before she let out a ragged breath. "I did not lie about tracking a great adversary. During Alexander's campaigns, I followed the armies' movements, beyond the Mediterranean, into the Far East on Zeus's orders. I journeyed above the Macedonian army into a realm of Monsters, Gods, and Goddesses that were unknown to us Greeks. During that time, I… I fell in love. I fell in love with… a man."
Heat coursed through her face, as she finally admitted that fact. Blood rushed to her face and she hung her head, staring at the flickering fire, which seemed to shimmer at her admission.
The reaction was nothing short of pandemonium. All the hunters erupted in white noise, and Artemis tried to decipher their tones. There was rage, confusion, betrayal… she clenched her hands onto her shins and rested her forehead down onto her knees.
"What?! How!? Why?!"
"With a MAN?! Men are why I'm here! Why I follow you!"
"How could you!? You are a Virgin Goddess!"
"QUIET!" The hunters' shouting immediately silenced.
Artemis looked up, hearing Zoe shout above the rest of her clamoring hunters. All around, hunters were standing, some had leapt back from her as if she was afflicted with the plague. Zoe stood directly in front of her, outlined by the fire, looking down at her.
Zoe looked neither angry nor confused. Only hurt. That made the pain that lanced through her heart hurt, even more, seeing her closest friend is such distress.
"Why?" Zoe pleaded, her eyes searching. Artemis looked back to her lieutenant. She had to remedy this for her, and for her hunters. There was no running or deflecting anymore.
"I did not choose this to happen, nor do I deny that it did… at least not anymore. Please, hunters, understand that I still claim to be who I am. I am still a virgin Goddess. I always will be. But I did love, and still do love, a man." Artemis spoke quietly, considering the small flames that licked the wood within their reach.
Artemis continued, as she felt some of her hunters lapse from their outright hostile stances, "Alexander had a brilliant mind, who paved the way to victory in countless encounters over armies, gods and monsters."
A hunter shouted, interrupting her, "My Lady! You fell in love with Alexander the Great!?" It was Phoebe. She was soon echoed by the others, who steadily increased their arguments.
"Of course not!" Artemis said sternly. The mere thought of loving that man made her angry. Her hunters couldn't have known, something she planned on rectifying soon. "Alexander was a respectable man, as well as his friend, and advisor, Hephaestion. But both had their flaws and positions I found detestable."
"Then who, who did you fall in love with?" Winifred piped up, she was a young girl from England, who had been with Artemis since the end of World War I. Artemis saw the curiosity, although the shock and hurt were still there, on Winifred's face. There were similar expressions around the semicircle, except for Phoebe, who still looked angry.
'I need to pacify them all.' Artemis thought to herself, thinking of the consequences that could occur if hunters stormed out.
"Listen," Artemis said, gesturing to her hunters, "I will tell you all. I have decided this. I only want you all to promise to hear me out. I do not ask this as your Goddess of the Hunt, but as Artemis, and as a friend."
There was a general murmuring from all the hunters, and Artemis began to study them all, looking for signs of acceptance. Victoria, Elizabeth, and Kathleen all seemed willing to hear her out, the trio all very close, as they had all been accepted into the hunt during the French Revolution. Christina and Mara were nodding slowly, although Mara whispered something in Christina's ear that she couldn't hear. The only hunter who seemed ready to bolt was Phoebe, but Zoe had a hand clamped on her forearm, and Zoe looked over to her. Artemis met her friend's gaze, and to her immense relief, saw her give a subtle nod.
"We are all with thine will, My Lady. You hath not led us astray, and I do not think thy will now." Zoe's confident tone rang out across the camp.
"I love you girls. All of you, as if you were my own." Artemis said softly, before she steeled herself, letting forth a tale that had long be held back, "In the time of Alexander, I first followed his army as it crossed the Hellespont, the same place where Xerxes had crossed to invade Greece. That night, I rode my chariot over and observed the army. Fresh, and ready for battle. Many were enjoying… activities with camp followers, including Alexander and his personal guard. All but one. I did not know then, but his name was Perseus, one of the Companions to Alexander III."
Many hunters wrinkled their noses at the Macedonian involvement with the ladies of the night, then Laura spoke, "My Lady, Perseus did not participate?"
Artemis smiled fondly, "No… no, he did not." She couldn't ever forget meeting him for the first time. Her first memories of him. "I watched him, intrigued, until one of the women cried out, and he immediately leapt into action…"
Artemis scowled down over the nearby plains of Sestus, not far from the Hellespont, where the Macedonian army had made its encampment. There were no Persian forces in the area, and the army was enjoying their ease of invasion.
"Thank you, Father, for this lovely assignment," Artemis muttered darkly, flicking her reins. Her wild pegasi grunted and pulled her silver chariot across the sky, flapping their wings quickly. She was high above Alexander and his army but could see all below her, if she concentrated her powers on it.
Thunder rumbled around her, reminding her it was not the best idea to insult the God of Thunder while in the clouds. "Apollo would have been enough, you don't need me to watch this rabble as well," Artemis said exasperatedly. Macedonians had given her a constant migraine for years, and now they took away her Hunt, until whenever this expedition ceased. She looked down from her chariot, half tempted to shoot any man who irked her with a silver arrow to the throat.
The thought pleased her, but she knew Zeus would retaliate if she did so. He had given her orders to observe and report to the council every full moon. She knew it was one of his better moments, to observe the Macedonian army which had drawn so many divisions on Olympus. Artemis reasoned that there very well might be godly interference during this expedition, which is something that Artemis hoped would happen, as it would allow her to vent her frustrations into thrashing a God or Goddess that tried their luck against the will of Olympus.
Of course, she still wished someone else could watch the Macedonians. Selene for instance. She had nothing better to do.
She sighed and looked down to the encampment another time. She only had a couple more hours until her duty was done for the night, it was no use whining about her appointment anymore. However, something caught her eye.
From a bird's eye view, she saw Alexander exiting his tent, surrounded by his 'Companions.' He swiftly walked through the camp, flanked by his bodyguards. Soldiers everywhere stopped what they were doing and paid respect to their young King. Artemis scoffed, pleased that calling this Macedonian a boy would be accurate.
The procession walked for a while until Artemis saw their destination. The Follower's Camp. Any amusement she felt vanished instantaneously. She saw shamelessly greedy women, selling their body for riches, who she itched to shoot herself. But there were also slaves and women chained to posts, to be punished for their 'crimes.' That sickened her most of all.
Artemis could not watch as Alexander and his entourage descended on these women. There was laughter, moans, and cries of pleasure that seemed to echo right up to her chariot. Artemis shook her head in disgust and was about to snap her fingers, removing herself from the situation she was watching, when she heard the scream.
A woman screeched at the top of her lungs, drawing Artemis to peer sharply over the chariot. The source of the scream came from a woman, who was chained to a post, naked and blindfolded, was being groped by a Macedonian Companion. The woman twisted and squirmed, attempting to escape the man's grasp around her waist and chest, but it was to no avail. Artemis watched in horror as he kicked her legs apart, and chuckled darkly.
An overwhelming fury arose from her, and she felt the very air around her spark and roar with energy. She let the energy pour into herself and burst into her divine form, ready to flash down in an instant to save this woman and teach these Macedonian animals a lesson about the power of a Goddess of Maidens. But several shouts stopped her, and her curiosity got the better of her. She let her divine form flicker away, seeing a commotion going on below next to the woman.
A man, fully dressed in worn armor shouted while running up to the Companion. Before the would-be rapist could react, the man delivered a swift punch to the Companion's jaw, which sent him reeling backwards, away from the terrified woman. The Companion, who was drunk and heavily bearded as Artemis now saw, snarled and advanced on the man. He was youthful, but Artemis blinked in fascination as he ducked under the Companions wild punch with impossible speed. Without pause, the man pivoted to the left and slammed his elbow into the drunken fool's jaw, knocking him out.
The commotion lasted all but seconds, but, already, there were groups of soldiers and women crowding around, having watched the short fight. Alexander himself came out of a tent, two women following him, all of them half-dressed. The crowds parted for the young King, but Alexander paid no mind, Artemis guessed the only thing on his mind was to end this affair at hand. Artemis was at a loss for words, as she watched the King of Macedon approach the woman's savior. They had a one on one conversation until the King's bodyguards stood by their King, as well as other men, who all were armored with Macedonian craftsmanship. Artemis cocked her head, and concentrated, wanting to hear the conversation. After a moment, voices floated up to the chariot as if the men were standing on the chariot itself, speaking normally.
"My King, it was as I told you just now, Kleitos was about to force himself on that woman. I will not stand to watch that happen if there was anything I could do about it." The savior said.
"Nor would I Perseus, but we both know this hasn't been your first spat with Kleitos. Witnesses say that you blindly attacked him." Alexander spoke, and Artemis had to admit his demeanor was that of a man who was just. But she still soured as Alexander seemed to be doubting that the woman had been in peril. Alexander had gestured to a group of soldiers who all stood, holding Kleitos up. All of them were angry and had furious expressions darkening their faces. But the man who had intervened seemed to disregard them entirely.
"They are Kleitos's own men! Of course, they would say that. My King, I have grown up with you, you know me, I am not blind nor unreasonable. Ask the woman herself, I stopped Kleitos from forcing himself upon her." The gathering turned to the woman, who was silent. The reason was evident, and Artemis sighed as she saw that the woman had fallen into unconsciousness.
"My King! Our captain is unconscious with a head injury, we need to lock up Perseus for this crime! Hold him to trial!" A gruff man stepped forwards towards this 'Perseus,' and jabbed him in the collarbone with a finger.
Perseus stumbled back and narrowed his eyes. Artemis saw that he was older than Alexander, but not by much. Unlike the golden-haired King, Perseus had jet black hair that fell to the middle of his forehead, and a short, neat beard. He was tall and resembled Alexander. They both were built with toned muscles and an average frame. The older commanders in the gathering her all built like oxen, burly and having thick bushy beards.
"I am sorry Perseus, but until we get the woman's testimony, I must detain you." Artemis saw that Alexander looked apologetic, and he raised his hand. Two bodyguards, both wearing purple capes and helmets although with their armor, stepped forward.
Artemis paused, thinking quickly. She watched Perseus scowl at his King's words but did not move to resist. It was not right, Artemis decided, to not let this man be detained for saving a woman. She raised her hand, and snapped her fingers, looking down to the ground below.
The guards who had both grabbed Perseus's arm both muttered in shock, yielding their grips and backing away. Along with Kleitos's men and the rest of Alexander's guard, they stared in wonder. Alexander, however, laughed loudly, and Artemis watched in amusement as Perseus turned wildly, seemingly confused. Artemis fought back a snort of laughter, impossibly amused, and elated that the woman was safe from unwanted attention. She figured that this man…Perseus had earned a one-time reprieve.
"What is happening?" Perseus yelled, "What did you do this time Alexander!" Alexander seemed to find this funny as well, and finally, Artemis watched him gesture to above Perseus's head, "It seems you have a witness after all Perseus."
Artemis watched the young man look up at his King's word, and there, he finally saw what she had put there. The silver stag above him glowed brightly, clear to all who exactly approved of the man.
"The Gods are watching over us Perseus, soon they shall see what we will achieve in the name of Greece." Alexander stepped forward and clapped Perseus on the shoulder. The two bodyguards released him. "It seems Artemis approves of what you did." Alexander turned back to his bodyguards, and Artemis watched him raise his voice to the bustle of the entire Follower's Camp.
"Here me now, fellow Greeks and Macedonians! This is a sign from the Goddess Artemis! Unwilling woman are to be treated with respect. Any man caught breaking this rule will be castrated. This is the will of the Gods and I will see it done!" Alexander stalked down towards the tent from where he had come from, following the two women back inside. His bodyguards took positions outside, and slowly, Kleitos's men dispersed as well, taking the unconscious body of Kleitos with them, casting threatening glances at Perseus, but he only had eyes for the disappearing form of Alexander.
"My King?" Perseus called, "A word?"
Alexander only put up a hand and proceeded into the tent. Perseus scowled again, and muttered under his breath, "Thank you, you man whore." Artemis noticed, however, these words were not malicious.
Thus, only Perseus remained next to the fainted woman, and now he looked back up at the silver Stag. Artemis snapped her fingers, leaning against the chariot, as she watched the silver stag dissipate into thin air.
Perseus seemed to look straight up at her, as he gazed at the moon. He dropped onto one knee, "My thanks to Lady Artemis." Artemis nodded in satisfaction and grabbed the reins of her chariot.
One more string of conversation spiralled up to her before she shot off across the night sky.
"My Lord… thank you for saving me." The woman's voice weakly croaked, who had probably regained consciousness.
Perseus responded harshly, "Do not thank me, I do not wish to see women raped. But I hold no good feelings towards you. You betrayed your husband and are an adulteress. This you deserve, nothing more." Artemis leaned over once more to see Perseus toss his purple cloak at her, before turning away.
Artemis paused and looked back to Perseus. She didn't know what to think of the man. He looked up to her once more, before walking back towards the Macedonian camp, away from the revelling of the men and women around him.
Curiosity ate at her, as she snapped the reins and dashed across the night sky, towards the coming dawn. 'Perseus' she tested in her mind. She resolved to keep a watch out for him. He had seemed to be close to Alexander, in what capacity was unclear.
She revelled in the curiosity and quickly realized why she was so keen to learn. This would be her challenge in this forced observation, her own personal hunt. Perseus had shown honorable intentions of far, but Artemis wanted to learn more about this man. Something about him seemed almost fateful.
Those thoughts occupied her until she felt that her time was done in the sky. She wheeled her chariot around and set out for Mount Olympus, blazing across the sky, seeing the sun peeking over the horizon. It was Apollo's turn to watch the Macedonians. And her time to rest.
Artemis looked out from the fire, finished recounting the first part of the story.
"My lady, he really saved that woman?" Emily asked.
Artemis nodded slowly, "He did, and I decided to help him out with my sign. Of course, I didn't know she was an adulteress. But I agreed with his actions. No women ever deserved to be raped, but she should have been punished to do with what Hera saw fit." The thought of him in her mind sent chills down her spine, and she smiled inwardly, glad to feel a semblance of happiness at the thought of him, instead of grief and sorrow.
Other hunters nodded, satisfied. Then there was a roaring of questions.
"Who is Kleitos?"
"Did you love him then?"
"Who is Perseus, I have never heard of him before?"
Artemis smiled and quieted them. They were up and about long into the night before one by one, the hunters all had retired. Artemis usually ordered them to their tents, but tomorrow yielded no missions, and thy hadn't had a restful day in a while. Artemis knew however, there would be more questioning tomorrow.
"My Lady. You never answered who Perseus was." Zoe said. She stood by Artemis, and they stood there awhile.
The questions the hunters had asked were all revolving around her story, but she had been careful not to show anything when they asked their questions. "I will tell the rest tomorrow. It will be a long day, so get some rest."
Zoe, studied her, before complying, "My Lady." She bowed and walked into her tent.
Artemis watched her lieutenant walk briskly into the tent, snapping the flap back as soon as she had entered. Alone in the clearing, Artemis allowed herself to relax, at last free from any scrutiny.
There was the unexpected hoot of a nearby owl, and Artemis cocked her head to the sound, instantly recognizing her intrusive half-sister Athena. But she made no appearance, and Artemis, after waiting for a couple more minutes, realized the owl was either wild or a confirmation that Athena had heard her explanation to the hunters.
It exhausted her, mentally, which was a foreign feeling to have. But as she felt the weariness creep through her mind, she felt that warmth of resolution that thoughts of him drew out. Thinking of their first encounter again, she strolled to the center tent, and absent-mindedly pushed the flap aside. Her antler room was dominated by a massive bear rug and several tapestries and light wooden chairs. But she paid these no heed.
Walking over the bear rug with her bare feet, she treaded into her bedchamber, a simple room with a cot, nightstand, and armor rack for her bow and arrows. These, she deposited on the stand, before turning to her cot. Underneath it lay a long and semi-narrow chest, locked tightly with a magically enchanted mechanism.
She stooped and pulled it out, laying the heavy chest on her cot. On the lid were bronze decorations, including griffins circling in the sky, and a large golden sun star in the middle of the design. The Macedonian Argead dynastic symbol, a symbol feared long ago. For more than one reason. She pressed her hand onto the star, and it glowed dimly, before fading away. There were two clicks, and Artemis gently lifted the lid open. It was all there. Their trophies, including claws, talons, glass bottled water, a pouch of sand, and many others. All memories of their companionship. Artemis felt herself choke up, she had forced herself never to open this chest again after he died. But now… she ran her hand over some of their treasures, their story. She needed this.
Her eyes ran into the center of the center, the most prized possession of all the treasures that lay in the chest. It was a gleaming bronze sword, made up of a beautiful swirled metal design that had two similar shapes of bronze, dueling with each other up the blade until they met at the tip. It was a simple sword, with a worn leather grip, and a plain cross guard, with a leaf-shaped blade. But it was his blade, and he had given it to her. She ran her finger down the blade, still razor sharp, reflecting a pale image of herself as she looked fondly to the blade. A great desire surged through her, and she grasped the sword, quickly raising it from its resting place. Perfectly balanced. A sword capable of lightning quick strikes, much like its true owner. She gave it a few experimental swings, the two bronze metals catching the candlelight as it arced through the air.
Artemis paused, holding the sword up. She would carry it from now on. She reached back into the chest and grabbed the simple leather scabbard, attached to a leather belt, and sheathed the sword. Sword in hand, she carefully placed it next to her bow lovingly, before closing the chest on her cot, and sliding it back under to its usual resting place. Only then, did she allow herself to lie back, and let herself enter the realm of Morpheus, where she would dream a goddess's dream, one of her own choosing
For the first time since his death on this day, she went willingly into rest and slumbered peacefully.