On the sea the Romans had tried to prepare for sudden violent storms, but they knew it was impossible.
The worst had happened tonight; with no warning, total darkness prevailed as clouds thickened and the sky was stricken, blotting out the moonlight and stars.
The wind arose to push the still waters to choppy, which morphed into mountains of angry waves. The four guards struggled to get the sails down, and to tie them off. They slipped on the rain soaked deck.
When the others heard and saw how frightened the guards were, they panicked. The wind slammed the rain into their faces like tiny stones and pushed their helmets back.
The ship pressed, first up waves at forty-five degrees, and then crashed down jarring their bones. At one point the waves spun the vessel sideways. They held tightly onto the mast, onto ropes, onto anything. It was difficult to hang on. A bolt of lightning struck near, piercing the air and sending bells into each of their ears. The gulls were like tossed paper in a storm, flashes of white in the grey, tumbling as they struggle against the gale. Beneath them the sea rises as great mountains, anger in the form of water, turbulent and unforgiving.
The waves grew so large that the vessel was dwarfed, riding up and down the mighty swelling sea like a child's toy. Inside the ship there was no staying still unless the person was anchored in place, for the "floor" was whatever surface gravity flung the sailors upon.
In this state, they'd have prayed to Poseidon himself if they thought it would do any good.
There was no mercy in the wind, no grace in the waves, only wrath and tempest. The air was thick with a briny mist, the deck awash with salty waves. The morning would see them bobbing on placid water or several leagues down with the fishes.
The Roman soldiers fumbled around the deck desperately trying to stay on their feet, their red capes blowing furiously in the wind.
The second mast must have broken during one of the most recent waves and fell upon the slender warrior. His whole body was crushed and his entrails started to find his knees. This time his stomach found something within him and he was sick into his own hands. His sticky palms made one last attempt to grab hold of any rope and tie the sail down.
Underneath the deck the Romans were whipping the Spartans as hard as they could to get them out of this storm.
"Hurry up you bastards!" A middle aged guard screamed at the top of his lungs, the gold on his armour representing that he held some sort of rank. He threw the whip down on the men below motivating them to row faster.
Rowing the boat were prisoners of war, captured during the great siege of Sparta. The assault on Sparta was still continuing, her men holding strong, but the Romans were fierce and many.
On the left hand side of the ship sat Perseus, one of Sparta's greatest warriors. He was leading a devious expedition behind enemy lines to execute Pyrrhus of Epirus, the mastermind behind the Roman army, to end the war and save Sparta, however he was captured, along with his partner.
The biting cold chilled his fingers into clumsy numbness; cold water seeped into his toes and spread painfully throughout his feet as if it were his bare feet on the ice rather than the bottom of the boat.
His lips turned a more bluish hue and his teeth chattered. He began to loose his sense of time, had he been out there for hours or days? The frigid wind poked him like icy fingers and wrapped around him like a shawl woven from the snow itself.
Perseus pulled the oar back as hard as he could, leaning back to gain more momentum, the water strongly resisting his movements. He then reached down pushing the stick to the ground forcing the paddle out of the water and moving forward to pull the oar back again.
With each stroke his muscles burned a little more, gritting his teeth through the pain. The violent storm outside was blowing salt water onto his body, burning his cuts from the battle at Sparta.
Underneath the deck smelt like sweat and salt water, the kind of scent that made eyes burn.
Suddenly a crack of the whip sent a sharp lash down his naked back, causing him to flinch. The pain was harsh but bearable. With every whip his anger increased, making him row harder. Because Perseus was sat at the back, more often than not he was getting whipped. In front of him sat his childhood friend, and comrade Leon. His long curly brown hair stuck together with water and fell down his back.
"Still alive Percy?" He asked his voice hoarse from dehydration.
"Barely." Perseus responded in the middle of another grunt causing Leon to laugh.
"We're close." He stated openly.
"What do you mean?"
"The storms get worse close to Rome, were nearly there, perhaps another day or two." Leon spoke through his heavy breathing. He had made the voyage across a few times some years ago for trade.
"How do you know that's where were going?" Perseus asked again. Two loud cracks of lightening echoed through the sky interrupting their conversation.
"Where else would we go?" Leon responded smartly. Perseus looked outside the small hole to his side made for the oar. He noticed the midnight sky filled with dark clouds.
The thunder seamed to crack the air, as if the very heavens might split apart. It rolled like the ash could of a volcano, becoming a rolling booming rumble. It declared to all the raw power of nature and gave fair warning of the wrath that was to come.
"Reminds me of the city bells at home." Perseus yelled over the storm referring to the endless thunder outside the boat.
"I hope Sparta will make it." Leon said sadly after being reminded of their home under attack.
"She will." Percy responded in confidence. The survival of Sparta was in question, nobody knew if her army would withstand the Roman onslaught, however Perseus had hope.
Looking down he noticed the cuts the on his arms beginning to widen. His capture was bloody and he attained many injuries. Perseus would have preferred to die on the soil of his home but the Gods were not in his favour.
Another crack of the whip ripped him from his thoughts. He bit down preparing for the lash of pain, however it never came. Instead a cry could be heard across the boat.
Perseus looked to his right to see a young boy, a little older than ten winters. His skinny body was covered with lashes and burns from the whip and his body shook from the cold. He had short hair and a soft face that was soaked with tears of pain.
Percy felt bad for him, he must have been captured outside the city ; probably a farm boy he guessed, dragged into this mess.
"Are you alright?" Perseus asked, concerned about the young boy. Aside from a side-glance he didn't get an answer. Struggling with the oar, the boy was perhaps a little embarrassed at his display of weakness.
"Hold on lad, we're nearly there." Leon said encouragingly to the boy noticing his struggles. This time he gave a small nod and with a whimper he began to row harder.
Perseus looked away and out the window, praying that land was in sight, but he saw nothing, only an endless ocean. He closed his eyes and began to reminisce.
He visioned his life back home. The sound of the city bells rung in his head as he pictured the white marble buildings. Colourful drapery hung from the highest points and the sky was an endless blue.
Down below people walked the streets and markets filled the city. The conversations of a thousand people moulded into a singular constant sound.
The orphanage he grew up in was in the centre of Sparta. He smiled to himself as he remembered those times, the times where he would run the streets chasing his friends, too young to realise the cruelty of the world.
There used to be a baker across the street from the orphanage. His name was Lydos, a kind old man that used to bake young Perseus small cakes to take home.
When he was a boy he used to sneak out to the edge of the city and watch the soldiers spar.
He used to watch the clashing swords and shields and the grand chariots as they rode up and down the field. The long expeditions and voyages to foreign lands, it seemed like an adventurous life, a life of glory, for there was no greater glory than to serve Sparta.
Growing up with no family, it was hard for Percy. He had no one to guide him and no one to aspire to be, but those warriors that trained in the outskirts of the city, those were his heroes growing up.
Perseus always wanted to be a Spartan warrior, it was his dream, and as soon as he was old enough to leave the orphanage he was recruited for the military.
It wasn't everything he thought it would be, in the stories they never mention the bloodshed and the tragedy, but Perseus was glad that he spent his life defending his homeland. He would give anything to be there now fighting along side his brothers, but it wasn't meant to be.
Once they reach Rome he was sure they'd publicly shame them then execute them. If not he would be forced to fight in the famous Colosseum as a slave; either way death was a certain.
For every stroke of the oar was a stroke closer to death…
It was an early autumn morning and a frosty chill hung in the air. The sweet surrendering scent of the morning dew filled the grand forest.
Autumn leaves from the tall trees lay scattered on the forest floor; each of them turning brittle brown; there was a sound like dried leaves being crunched underfoot, pushing their papery remains deep into the soft soil. Carefully walking through the forest was a girl. She looked around twenty years old with long wavy hair that fell down her back, a colour somewhere between blonde and brown. Her silver eyes scanned the terrain like two moons in the night sky.
The dark shadows of the voluminous trees and the surrounding bushes had become the backbone of the forest, standing as passive protectors of a peaceful place.
The autumn sun had began to rise in a hurry as if trying to make up for setting too early the evening before, blooming into the pale sky with a warm mellow glow, sending what was left of the moon packing until its next shift guarding the night.
By mid morning the sky was a brilliant blue. As the morning developed the sound of young birds filled the air: chirping, tweeting and warbling incessantly. A movement in the woods caught her attention. The girl noticed a dear running in the distance, the sight bringing a smile to her soft face.
She dashed forward suddenly through the woods with excitement, leaping over thin winding creaks and the slippery rocks. She dodged and zipped past rotting oak trees and under lowered and snapped branches. Everything blurred into dizzying blend of earthly colours. The earth was wet and moist under her bare pink skin. She jumped into a muddy brook, swollen by the recent rains, soaking up her dress.
The woods began to widen and thin layers of fallen pine needles and sentinels disguised the perilous and rocky terrain. She ran beside the twisted creek, which was mirrored by the deep greens of the trees.
In a fluent movement she ripped her bow from her back and nocked an arrow. Looking down the landscape she followed the dear with her bow. She decided not to loose as she brought the bow and arrow to her side. The girl knew she could make that shot, she was desperate for a challenge.
She leaped over a fallen pine tree, which had damned the flow. She opened her ears to the mouth of the treetops and listened to the trees, as they sang the songs of life.
After traversing the terrain further down, she came across a lake and sat on a fallen tree beside it. The lake had been hardened by the sharp cold, the translucent water bound as a smooth solid.
As she sat there comfortably enjoying her morning hunt, she absorbed the forest and all its wonders; it was her domain after all. The strong wind forced some of the leaves to fall from their branches. The orange leaves floated to the ground like delicate snowflakes, some even landing in her hair.
She was beautiful.
The wildlife were bold yet cautious of figuring out their new visitor, daring to get closer to have a look at the foreign creature disturbing their peace.
As the day went on the forest came to life. The sun had assumed its place high in the sky and the trees danced in the wind; the sound of running water in the stream had the same hypnotic quality as music luring animals in to have drink, to taste the warm sweet sensation of fresh water.
Artemis had been sitting there all day pondering. She needed to escape the current conflict occurring on Olympus. It seems as though the war between Rome and Sparta was affecting not just people, but the Gods as well.
The move from Greek to Roman pantheons was changing their identities as well as their personalities; it was hurting relationships and inflating egos.
War being the Roman national pastime, her brother Mars was now the most prominent God of all Rome, and had assumed a position of power on Olympus, second only to Jupiter.
Even as Diana, Artemis had always despised her brother. His blatant disrespect towards others and his constant desire for bloodshed got on her nerves.
She would have dealt with him herself if she could, but as Mars he was too powerful, and she wasn't interested in embarrassing herself. If the need ever arose however, she was confident she could hold her own in a battle.
She took a deep breath trying to forget about the drama of Olympus so she could enjoy her pastime in the forest. Time to herself was getting rarer with each passing day. Her responsibilities as an Olympian were ever growing.
A deep sense of serenity overcame Artemis as she stared in rapture at the expanse of blue that lay before her. Rays of lights danced delicately across the water, birthed from the afternoon sun that both limited her sight and made the view all the more beautiful.
She dipped her feet into the cold below and swirled them around in the water, making shapes with the tiny waves.
Sometimes the forest was the only place she felt truly at home. Often Olympus was lonely for her, she had her brother Apollo, of course, but he was always out, for he was popular with the Gods. His good looks were only matched by his charisma and wit.
Artemis's best friend had always been Athena, however the change of pantheons had a negative affect on her. As the defences of Sparta weakened the power of Rome increased, forcing her to become Minerva, a minor Goddess. Despite the conflict, Artemis was determined to remain committed to her true self.
As if right on queue, thunder echoed above drawing Artemis's attention to the sky. She saw the wave of energy spread across moving clouds out of its way; whatever it was it was important.
Artemis absorbed energy from her surroundings and all the power from the life that lay within the dense forest. She closed her eyes as she felt it flow within her as she moved her body from one location to another.
When Artemis opened her eyes she was on Olympus.
Olympus was essentially a fortified palace complex, located just below the peaks of Mount Olympus. The three Horai guarded the golden gates of the heavenly fortress and it contained the palace of Jupiter.
Lesser palaces for the other gods were located down the bottom next to each other, all linked by streets that waved there way around the mountain. The buildings were built of stone with bronze foundations and were surrounded by cloistered courtyards with golden pavements.
The main structure was the palace of Jupiter. It had a fairly simple layout as was typical of ancient Greek palaces, with a central hall, private bedchambers and various rooms. The golden-floored hall served as both a council chamber and feast-hall for the Olympian gods and provided them an expansive view of the world below allowing them to observe mankind from the heights.
The golden tables and tripods of the feast were automatons animated by the divine smith Hephaestus, and trundled in and out of the hall as required.
Before the palace of Jupiter was a large, cloistered courtyard where the full assembly of the gods would gather, their respected thrones strategically placed around the courtyard. Artemis walked to her throne on the left hand side of the court; it was covered with an assortment of vines from the forest and had silver plating on the base in the shape of deer antlers.
It wasn't long before all the Gods flashed in and sat down on their thrones. There was little conversation in the court. It was because the war between Rome and Greece had forced Gods to choose sides, thus an uncomfortable tension surrounded them.
The Gods flaunted their chosen pantheons by their appearance. It was an attempt to gain admiration or envy.
Artemis had sided with Greece, against her father Jupiter and all her siblings. The only Gods to remain on the side of Greece were Poseidon and Athena. Unlikely allies but united in their loyalty to Greece.
Once all the Gods were settled in, Jupiter raised his hand to hush the noise so he could begin. He wore a middle aged look with long silver hair and a masculine beard to match. Jupiter had electric blue eyes and a voice firm and commanding.
"It would seem that in our time of weakness and discord, our enemies have taken the opportunity to advance on us." Jupiter spoke slow and clear.
"Cowards." Mars spat from his throne. Artemis rolled her eyes at the comment. Jupiter waved his hands in front of his chest and brought up a vision in front of the council. The vision showed Mount Othrys, a dark fortress similar to Olympus but much more militarised.
The council watched on in horror as the vision showed Kronos and the other Titans growing monsters out of the ground, hellhounds and harpies alike.
"How is it he is able to do this?" Mercury, shocked, asked the question that was on all of their minds.
"The Titans are using dragon's teeth to grow them from the ground surrounding Othyrs." Athena responded using her deep collection of knowledge.
"They need to be stopped. We are weak enough as it is we can't afford to lose anymore time, because if we do we will be defeated. The minor gods are recognising this and turning their backs on us, siding with Kronos." Jupiter spoke reason into the council, receiving multiple nods of agreement from the Olympians.
"Treason!" Mars yelled in outrage before getting out of his chair.
"We should launch an offensive effort on Mt Othyrs, take the war to them, surprise them." He suggested in the middle of the court, making his case.
"No. The further away we are from Olympus the weaker we are, the war must take place here, its where were strongest." Athena instructed as she sat there in golden Spartan armour.
Athena was the Goddess of battle strategy so it's safe to assume that she knows what she's talking about. The council took her words seriously and agreed that she should oversee the campaign against Kronos and his army.
Athena described her plan to the council that she would convince Hades to raise his army of the dead to help combat the numbers of Kronos's monsters. Without his help the Olympians will be severely outnumbered, and they'd be easily overcome.
"It's settled then, Artemis, you will travel to the underworld to inform Hades of the situation and retrieve this 'army of the dead." Jupiter commanded pointing at her.
"Why me?" Artemis questioned, denying the responsibility.
"My word is law!" Jupiter yelled angrily. His voice rose around the sky, capturing the attention of everybody present at the council.
"Obtain the dead soldiers and prove your loyalty." Jupiter instructed clearly. All eyes were on Artemis as they waited for her response.
"And what of my hunters whilst I'm gone?"
"Apollo will mind them as done in the past." He answered. She looked at her brother and he smiled and gave a wink, causing her to scoff in disgust.
"Athena, please ensure that necessary preparations are being made to our fortifications here on Olympus, I want increased defences and patrols. If Kronos decides to attack, I want ample warning." Jupiter continued and Athena nodded before flashing away.
"Council dismissed." Were his final words before he flashed high into the sky in a heap of lightening.
Artemis saw her brother stand from his throne. She walked up to him casually.
"Please take good care of them, be sensible." She asked gently. Apollo laughed.
"Aren't I always?"…