Disclaimer: I own nothing that the brilliant mind of J. R. R. Tolkien has ever put forth with pen, paper, or type writer. Nor do I intend to impose upon the astonishing masterpiece Peter Jackson so artfully created for the public eye.

1


The Wrath of Hera

Chapter 1:

Birds' song drifted from their perches in the branches. Squirrels played amongst themselves, chasing each others' tails. Chipmunks filled their cheeks with acorns, bloating their faces in a comic fashion. Light fought through the leafy canopy, struggling to reach the forest floor.

O, the sounds and smells of a late summer afternoon, she thought. The world is my home; tomorrow I may hunt a wild boar in Syracuse, while today I hunt in northern Sparta. The nymphs she regarded as both companions and family, dashed ahead as she stalked the leaf-strewn earth.

Suddenly Britomartis stopped. Motioning to her, the nymph morphed into a tree, her hair fanning out and up behind her, changing into bark, her arms reaching to the sky as branches, leaves sprouting. Her face was all that remained a beautiful maiden, until that too grew still and turned dark and smooth as wood. When she was done transforming, her fair face smiled at the hunter, motioning her to continue.

The hunter did so, moving on. The nymph had lead her to a clearing, which she knew to be the correct one when she approached it and found the remaining of her followers crouched behind bushes, watching, waiting. When they saw their Lady nearing, they silently retreated, as to avoid imposing on her glory in the hunt.

Peering between the bushes lining the clearing, she saw what she had been looking for. A deer was browsing along the tips of the bushes across the clearing, completely unaware of her.

Straightening, bow held erect, right elbow pulled back, the brush of fingertips meeting the corner of her mouth as she prepared to let the arrow fly. However, when she loosened her fingers, a twig snapped, sending the arrow completely off target. Turning, she found a sheepishly smiling Arethusa guiltily mouthing the words "I'm sorry," before retreating. Glaring briefly, she turned back to her prey, only to find it frantically searching the woods in her direction. No doubt correctly assuming a predator was near.

Quickly she strung another arrow and took aim. The gods were not on her side however. Just as she was about to let loose again, a beam of light glinted off one of the several molten gold streaks marring her flesh. The deer's innocent brown eyes saw this gleam and immediately leapt into the brush. Yet the unfortunate creature did not move swiftly enough.

The most skilled archer had seen her chance and taken it. She let the arrow fly, though the dear was leaving the clearing. As it leapt over the last bush into the assured safety of the forest's darkness, the arrow had already lodged itself in the poor animal's hindquarters.

Squealing in pain, the deer bound lopsidedly into the safe recesses of its home.

"Curse you, Apollo!" the woman cried, unsheathing a silver knife, much like her arrows, and racing after the animal. When she reached it, she put it out of its misery. Artemis gazed apologetically into its eyes as it died. Then she gave it the final rights fit for a king, putting a golden coin under its tongue.

"Apollo, how could you? Enough of your childish games!" She screamed into the afternoon's surroundings.

Her nymphs emerged from the depths of the forest, mourning the tragic loss of an animal. They hunted for food, yes; all creatures must sustain themselves. Nymphs were not immortal like the gods. But suffering was not their way. A swift and peaceful end was an admirable death.

Soon laughing was heard, and the handsome god of the sun was gracing them with their presence.

"Come now, sister, do not fret. You boast of your hunting skills so, I just had to toy with you." He flashed her with his most dazzling smile.

Artemis was not fooled. Glaring at him with much more vehemence than she had directed at Arethusa for her first interruption, she swiftly turned her back on her younger twin, pulling her arrow out of the limp deer.

"O, come sister; do not hold a grudge over me. It just irks me that you are so much better at hunting than I," Apollo pleaded.

"You should consider your status with pride that only the goddess of the hunt, and the great hunter Orion himself bests you in this ability. Mind your sunlight and songs, along with your other duties, and leave me to mine!" Rising to her feet, she stalked back to the clearing in search of her wasted arrow.

Rushing after her, he stopped before her, so she had to skirt him quickly lest she collide with her twin. "Do not be angry with me, we are related to Hera, you know. The jealousy that so clouds her mind runs in our veins also."

"Do not speak of her so! She has enough of a grudge against us already, do not provoke her! And do not use that as an excuse for causing unnecessary pain to my most sacred animal!" She whirled from him and yanked her arrow from the tree she had been leading the argument to.

"Alright, alright, I get your point. I shall be the ever humble archer, watching with festering jealousy as always. O, the woe is me." Apollo turned a pouting face to his sister.

"Don't do that! Stop it! I mean it, no sad eyes, Apollo, stop! It's not working, just give up!" Avoiding his gaze, she marched back to the deer.

"Fine, I see I cannot win!" Throwing his hands up in mock defeat, Apollo emitted a brilliant flash of light and disappeared back to whatever hapless maiden he was harassing at the moment. Later, the nymphs would learn the poor lass was Cassandra.

Artemis could not suppress her grin any longer. Turning to her companions, she set Britomartis, Arethusa, and Callisto to help the others carry the deer back to their dwelling.

After they left, she cleaned the area where the deer had lain, leaving nothing but a faint smell so as not to warn future game that hunters were nearby. Then she set to her task of cleaning her arrows. They would never dull or break, being gifts from Zeus. When she was little, she had sat upon her father's knee and demanded of him fifty hunting hounds, fifty nymphs for companions, a silver bow and arrows, and his promise to never demand her to marry.

The first three requests were expected. The fourth, however, was a surprise. To this day Artemis has always hated and feared men. She remained one of the three virgin goddesses. Her nymphs were to remain virgins also, or suffer severe punishment.

As she cleaned her arrows, Artemis was lost in thought, so she didn't notice the figure approaching from the woods.

Artemis was a beautiful maiden. No man who saw her would ever be able to live without touching her, thus it should have been no surprise when she turned to find Zeus looking upon her as he did to so many.

The gods did not concern themselves with relations; though this may be the cause of a Cyclops, Minotaur, or odd behavior. One such would be Zeus eating his child's mother so that the offspring may not pose a threat to his monarch status. They were often incestuous, Zeus among the most. No sister, daughter, or mother was beyond his roving eye.

So when Artemis found Zeus cornering her alone and in the woods, there was reason for her to be alarmed. Though she was a goddess, she was also a lesser god, while he was the king of all gods and the universe.

Soon, it was obvious of his intent. A lustful gaze roamed over her body, from her short leather skirt, to the tight and revealing leather shirt. Artemis wore sparse clothing while hunting, so as not to constrict her abilities of agility when she was hunting.

Fortunately, she was a goddess, armed with the very weapons Zeus had given her, made by the great and talented blacksmith god, Hephaestus, and a very protective, and less incestuous, brother conveniently on call with a more active and dominating power.

"Apollo!" she cried. Zeus narrowed his eyes and approached her menacingly.

"What? Dear sister, is this an apolog- giyahh! Father, what on earth are you doing to that poor girl?" Apollo cried. When Zeus ignored him, and he saw the urgent distress his sister was in, Apollo took action.

With a ball of fire in one hand, and a blade in another, Apollo lunged at Zeus. Zeus glared and backed away. The king of the gods was always one to involve himself in sexual practices, but he was not one to inflict harm on his own children. He would retreat and devise a plan to trick the object of his desires into allowing him to conquest.

Backing away, Zeus smiled, and disappeared in a flash of lightning, returning to Olympus.

"Artemis, are you all right?" Apollo knew his sister's fear and hatred to the other sex, excluding him of course.

"Yes, I should have known he would turn his sights toward me. My own father!"

"Shhh, do not worry, I shall protect you. If I sense Zeus anywhere near you again, I shall be back here to your rescue. It is well known that no woman on Olympus, Earth, or even in the Underworld may escape his prowling gaze."

"That may be so, but I will not join their ranks. Now, if you'll leave me, I intend to go cook a deer."

"You do not need me? Sister, you were just attacked! Surely you could use some company?"

Artemis stopped walking, looking quickly, alternately, between her brother and the direction of her camp in indecision. "O all right. But do not tell the nymphs about what has come to pass."

And so Apollo walked his headstrong sister back to her residence, though she was slightly relieved for his assuring presence.

Upon entering the clearing, they found dinner already cooking. Apollo stayed to partake in their meal, keeping a watchful eye out for his sister. Artemis laughed joyously while watching her friends dance, and her brother play his lyre, and her mother tend to dinner.

She loved her home, which was no question. She loved her role as goddess of the moon, forest, earth, hunt, and childbirth. She loved being the protector of animals and children. She could take life, while ensuring safe passage into it. She could be merciless, or strike someone with her painless silver arrows.

She was a goddess. She was worshiped, loved, feared by the people of the ancient world. She knew her name would carry on in pagan beliefs for millennia. She had a family who loved her, friends who adored her, a purpose to her life, and a will to carry it out.

She was happy, content, and carefree.

This was probably why she wasn't as worried as she ought to be.

When the festivities of the most recent hunt ended, she watched her brother return to his throne. She watched her nymphs fall asleep. Her mother cleaned up the spit fire, stored the remainder of the deer, wished her a good night, and then joined her daughter's comrades in slumber.

Artemis watched all of this.

Then she rose, to fetch more water by the stream.

Alone she left, with her bow and arrows as always.

Alone she walked silently through the wood, disturbing no animals with her presence.

Alone she approached the stream.

Alone she removed her clothing.

Alone she bathed.

Alone she was no more.

Hera approached her from the woods, so as not to alert her of her presence.

Hera knows all.

Hera sees all.

Never once has Hera attempted to punish Zeus. She was the goddess of marriage, married to a promiscuous god, bound by her natural right to uphold the laws of marriage, and never once did she punish him.

O no, she loved Zeus; she could never punish him.

She just punished the objects of his misplaced affection.

Leto, Artemis and Apollo's mother, was not permitted to give birth in any land. Not until she found the island of Delos, which had nothing to lose and therefore tempted no ill punishment from the queen of the gods. Even then, Hera delayed the goddess of childbirth, leaving Leto in stalled labor.

Echo was hounded by Zeus, only to be persuaded to delay Hera so Zeus may escape her wrath. Hera was no fool and cursed Echo to repeat what others may say, so as not to postpone others with a farce again. This proved to be a problem when Narcissus became the object of Echo's love and could not use her own words to inform him.

Eventually, Zeus will turn his attentions to Callisto, and Hera will change her into a bear, to be struck by a hunter with an arrow, though she will be put in the stars with her and Zeus' son, forming the Ursa Major and the Ursa Minor.

All of these are examples of Hera's wrath. And here the queen of the gods herself was approaching an innocent and unawares goddess.

"You love your home, don't you?" the vengeful queen whispered to herself. "You enjoy being worshiped, respected, and feared. You love your little following? What if you didn't have any of that? What if I put you where not even the mighty Atlas could find you? What better way to prevent Zeus' lust for you than to hide you where none would ever find you?"

The huntress hummed to herself as she bathed in the stream. Nonchalant, and caught up in her own pastime, she never noticed the change of atmosphere; the change in the direction that the stream flowed, her clothes sitting on a larger stone, her bow and arrows no longer resting against a tree, but laying on the forest floor. Or the fading figure in the forest.

She was just concentrated on rinsing the exertions from the hunt away, and filling her flask.

In fact, it wasn't until the male eyes fell upon her unclad body that she paused in her washing.


In Regards for Reviewers: I will gladly accept reviews. I have put years of stories, wandering thoughts, and English classes into this story and would love to hear all complements, criticisms, and helpful tips. If I have my myths crossed or events misplaced, by all means, inform me so that I may edit my mistakes. And I beg of you, leave your email address so that I may respond. I am told we are not supposed to respond in the next chapter and I intend to respond through email. I find it heartening when my reviews are responded to.