Disclaimer: I do not own the PJO series. I own celestial steel, Forgotten, and Odessa.
Author's Note: This is the final chapter of this story. It is Zoë's joining of the Hunt, and then a brief history of her later accomplishments. Hope you enjoy it.
Thanks again to my reviewers.
I looked up, dull-eyed, to see Artemis standing in front of me, glowing faintly in the moonlight.
"Odessa is dead," I said. I probably should have tried to say it less bluntly, but I was in shock. Too late now.
Artemis nodded, her
face serene. "She chose her death, sacrificing herself to save
you. We shall never forget her. But that is not why I have come. Come."
She beckoned, and I stood up and walked after her, through the forest, until we arrived at the camp. There were a few sentries, and the wolves, but they stood there as if Artemis brought lost maidens into the camp every night. Maybe she did.
She led me into her tent, and gave me some water and ambrosia. For a moment, I was able to forget about Odessa.
I looked up. Artemis's silver eyes were fixed upon me. "Odessa is dead. I need a new lieutenant for the Hunters. Even before Odessa's death, you were a candidate for the next lieutenant. I don't expect an answer right away, but… Would you like to join the Hunters?"
I thought about it. I remembered Heracles, the hero I had loved. The hero who had left me to die. I remembered the sword that I had made, the sword that was in the grip of the kraken now. I thought of Odessa, the Huntress who had loved me, too, but as a sister. She had not betrayed me. She had died for me, to stop my other sister from killing me.
Aegle would still be hunting me. But I could have sisters who loved me. Sisters who would protect me, live with me. I thought of all I could have.
I raised my head and looked at Artemis. Words came to me, words I knew, that the Oracle knew. Words that Odessa knew.
"I pledge myself to the goddess Artemis. I turn my back on the company of men, accept eternal maidenhood, and join the Hunt."
Artemis seemed a little surprised, but all she said was, "I accept."
And, once again, I had a home.
I stayed with the Hunt for the next three thousand years. I accomplished much during that time.
I led the Hunters into battle many times during the Trojan War. We shot all the sentries as they saw the Greek soldiers sneaking through the city. Without us, Troy would never have fallen.
Later, we destroyed Rome, after its corruptness stretched to the stars.
Between 476 and the 1000s, I didn't do much. But in 1007, I sailed with the Viking Leif Eriksson to the New World. Exciting, but we didn't accomplish much. Leif was paranoid that someone would steal his treasure stash, although he did leave some Roman coins that he had found.
In 1776, using Odessa's ideas, I "helped" Thomas Jefferson write the Declaration of independence. I stayed in America for several decades after that, making sure that it was being followed. I also was sent to straighten out several people who were not obeying the new laws.
And now, in 2007, here I was, walking into the great garden, the same that Aegle had exiled me from, three thousand years ago.
I heard a gasp from behind me, probably from Percy. It was beautiful. My heart gave a leap as I saw Ladon, curled around the tree. I longed to reach out, touch him again. But I did not know what would happen. A lot can happen in three thousand years. Look at what Aegle did to me in just a couple days.
"The apples of immortality," I heard Thalia whisper. "Hera's wedding gift from Zeus."
Spectral singing sounded. It was beautiful, but terrifying, somehow. Percy reached for his sword, but I smacked his hand away.
They shimmered into view, Aegle in the lead. Hesperia stood at the back of the group. She caught my eye and gave me a strained half smile. I smiled back, not caring about Aegle. Then I turned and addressed all of them.
"We do not see any sister," replied Aegle coldly. "We see two half-bloods and a Huntress. All of whom shall soon die." Hesperia sent a withering look at Aegle.
"You've got it wrong," said Percy stepping forward. "Nobody is going to die." Boys.
The Hesperids turned as one to look at Percy. He seemed a little disconcerted by their hostile stares, but he stood tall.
"Perseus Jackson," mused Erytheia.
"Yes. I do not see why he is a threat," added Arethusa.
"Who said I was a threat?" asked Percy.
Aegle half-glanced toward the mountain. "They fear thee. They are unhappy that this one has not killed thee yet."
"Tempting sometimes, but no thanks. He's my friend." Thalia replied.
"There are no friends here, daughter of Zeus. Go back." Aegle responded.
"Not without Annabeth."
"And Artemis," I added. "We must approach the mountain."
"You know he will kill thee. You are no much for him." Aegle said. Will you doom your friends to accomplish your goals, Zoë? Again? Aegle added silently.
Shut up. "Artemis must be freed," I repeated. "Let us pass."
Aegle shook her head. "You have no rights here anymore. We have only to raise our voices and Ladon will wake."
"He will not hurt me," I replied. I fervently hoped that that was true.
"No? And what about your so-called friends?" Will you abandon them? It's fun to kill those who support the gods.
I replied with several words that I had learned in the modern generation. Then I steeled myself and shouted.
The dragon stirred, heads rising up from the tree, huge eyes blinking sleepily. Aegle yelped, and the Hesperids scattered, reuniting with the evening shadows. "Are you mad?!" yelped Aegle.
"You have never had any courage, sister." I replied. "That is thy problem.
"Zoë, don't. You're not a Hesperid anymore," Thalia whispered. "He'll kill you."
I ignored her. "Ladon is trained to protect the tree. Skirt around the edges of the garden. Go up the mountain. As long as I am the bigger threat, he should ignore thee."
"Should," repeated Percy. "Not exactly reassuring."
I glared at him. "It is the only way," I insisted. "Even the three of us together cannot fight him."
Ladon hissed, fetid breath searing my skin like acid. That ended the argument. They split up, and cautiously inched up the mountain.
I stepped towards Ladon. "It's me, my little dragon," I told him. "Zoë has returned."
Ladon shifted, obviously confused. I tried to mentally soothe him, with senses sharpened by Forgotten's aura that touched me so long ago.
"Fool," hissed Aegle, melting into shadow. Her fingers began moving in patterns, starting a spell.
"I used to feed thee by hand," I reminded the dragon. "Do you still like lamb's meat?"
Aegle hissed a word, and a blue mist shot into Ladon's nostrils. Uh oh. His eyes filled with rage, and he lunged at me, fangs clashing an inch from my face. A corner of my mind noticed that that particular head was missing a fang, and I knew where that fang was right now.
I spun, dodging snaps and slashes, coughing from the acid breath streaming around me.
Up on the hilltop, Percy drew his sword, clearly intending to attack Ladon.
"No!" I called. "Run!" But that moment of distraction gave Ladon an opening, and he took it. Fangs clamped in my side, and I could not suppress a cry of pain. Ladon hissed, and I wriggled out of his jaws and ran up the mountain, ignoring the pain in my side.
As we reached the peak, I nearly tripped over a black marble block. I looked down at it, and then I realized what is was.
"The ruins of Mount Orthys," Thalia whispered.
"Yes," I agreed. "It was not here before. This is bad."
"What's Mount Orthys?" Percy asked.
I suppressed a sigh of annoyance. "The mountain fortress of the Titans," I said. "In the first war, Olympus and Orthys were the two rival capitals of the world. Orthys was –" I winced, clutching my wounded side.
"You're hurt," said Percy, sounding worried. "Let me see."
"No!" If they realized how badly I was hurt, we wouldn't go further. They wouldn't want to risk my life. "It is nothing. I was saying… In the first war, Orthys was blasted to pieces."
"But… How is it here?" Percy asked.
"It moves in the same way that Olympus moves. It always exists on the edges of civilization. But the fact that it is here, on this mountain, is not good."
"This is Atlas's mountain." I stopped, staring ahead. "Where he used to hold up the sky."
Artemis, not Atlas, was standing under the vortex, holding it up. She was clearly in immense pain.
I rushed forward to help my goddess.
"Stop! This is a trap. You must leave now," she said, exhausted.
I shook my head, tears coursing from my eyes, and ran forward to pull uselessly on her chains.
I stopped, frozen. I knew the voice of my father. Hate coursed through me, more hate than when Heracles had abandoned me.
He was standing there, next to Annabeth and a boy that I assumed was Luke. HE didn't look so good, but his grip on his sword was steady, and it was held at Annabeth's throat. That could be a problem.
"Luke," growled Thalia. "Let her go."
He smiled. "That is the General's decision, Thalia. But it's good to see you again."
"So much for old friends," said the General, chuckling. "And you, Zoë. It's been a long time. How is my little traitor? I will enjoy killing you."
"Do not challenge him," wheezed Artemis. "Do not respond."
"Wait a second." That was Percy. "So you're Atlas?"
"So, even the stupidest of heroes can finally figure something out. Yes, I am Atlas, the general of the Titans and the terror of the gods. Congratulations. I will kill you presently, as soon as I deal with this wretched girl."
"You're not going to hurt Zoë," he shot back. "I won't let you."
"You have no right to interfere," sneered Atlas. "This is a family matter."
Percy looked confused. "A family matter?"
"Yes," I said. "Atlas is my father."
I resumed my glare at Atlas. "Let Artemis go," I demanded.
He walked over to her. "Perhaps you'd like to take the sky for her? Be my guest."
"No!" shouted Artemis. "I forbid you!"
"You see, daughter? Lady Artemis likes her new job. I think I will have all the Olympians take turns carrying the burden, once Lord Kronos rules again, and this is the center of our palace. It will teach those weaklings some humility."
"I don't understand," said Percy. "Why can't Artemis just let go of the sky?
Atlas laughed. "How little you understand, young one. This is the point where Ouranos and Gaia first brought their mighty children, the Titans. The sky still yearns to embrace the earth. Someone must hold it at bay, or else it would crush down on this place, flattening everything within a hundred leagues. Once you have taken the burden, there is no escape. Unless someone takes it from you." He smiled.
Moving forward, he examined Thalia and Percy. "So these are the best heroes of the age, eh? Not much of a challenge."
"Fight us," said Percy boldly. "And let's see."
"Have the gods taught you nothing? An immortal does not fight a mere mortal directly. It is beneath our dignity. I will have Luke crush you instead."
I stopped paying attention to the conversation. My side was hurting so much…
… "And after that, Olympus itself. All we need is your help."
"You aren't Luke. I don't know you anymore."
"Yes, you do," he pleaded. "Please. Don't make me… Don't make him destroy.
We looked at each other. Then Percy spoke.
I remember Atlas fighting Percy, and then Artemis fought, while Percy held up the sky. Atlas knocked down Artemis, and I charged him. He sent my flying, and I smashed into the unforgiving rocks. The rocks rumbled from the force of my body hitting it. So did I. Several ribs broke, as well as my leg. I knew right then, I would die. There was nothing anyone could do about it. If Apollo himself tried to heal me, I would die.
But Artemis picked me up in the chariot a short time later. Percy and Thalia were with her, both of them looking worried.
"Can't you heal her with magic?" asked Percy. "I mean… You're a goddess."
Artemis tried to set her hand on my side, but, weakly, I pushed her hand away. There was nothing she could do.
"Have I… served thee well?" I whispered.
"With great honor," she answered. "The finest of my attendants."
I relaxed. "Rest. At last."
I slowly turned to Thalia. "I am sorry that we argued," I whispered. "We could have been sisters."
"It's my fault," said Thalia. "You were right about Luke, about men – everything."
"Perhaps not all men," I responded, summoning up my last bit of strength. I turned to Percy and managed a smile. "Do you still have the sword, Percy?"
He nodded, pulling it out and setting it in my hand. I closed my hand around it, feeling it. Part of me was in it. The part that made it. "You spoke the truth, Percy Jackson. You are nothing like… Hercules. I am honored that you carry this sword." I shuddered, cold.
"Stars," I whispered. "I can see the stars again, my lady."
"Yes," answered Artemis, a tear trickling down her cheek. "They are beautiful tonight, my brave one."
"Stars," I whispered. I started to see black at the corner of my vision. MY last thought, as I drifted into oblivion, was this: Odessa would be proud.
I nearly cried while writing this. Rick Riordan didn't leave me with much of a choice. Oh well… Anyway, reviews would be nice. This is the last chapter of Forgotten. The next story will be called Child of the Titans. Until then!