Memories of a Hero
It was another annual full moon celebration for Artemis and her hunters. They were all celebrating, chatting with one another and placing bets on shooting competitions. There was nothing wrong at the moment for the band of immortal hunters. Zoë and Phoebe were having arm wrestles, Kate and Elissa were shooting targets, and Alice was having a dodgeball fight with her twin sister, Selena. Everyone was enjoying themselves... except for Artemis.
Normally, she would be as happy as her hunters. Normally, she would be talking with Zoë about their next expedition. Normally, she would relax and forget all troubles that followed her. Except today wasn't a normal day. Not for her.
"My lady, does something ail thee?"
Artemis flinched from the sudden intrusion of her thoughts, and was whirling around with a dagger in her hand before she realized that it was just her lieutenant.
"No, Zoë. Nothing is wrong."
"Mistress, I hath been with thou for centuries and longer. I have hunted beasts of tremendous power alongside thee, and I hath been with thou when Orion passed away. I think I know when something is wrong, and when thou art lying."
Artemis grimaced at her words. True, Zoë was a faithful and loyal friend and sister, but it sometimes came with unwanted skills. Like the ability to sense when she was lying.
"It is about him, is it not?"
Again, Artemis flinched... he was special to her. He was different from the typical male species. He was one of the very few men who Artemis did not hate or dislike. He was able to capture her heart, but at the same time break it.
Zoë sighed. She too, understood her mistress' feelings. After all, he did prove himself worthy to the Hunt, and displayed everything men do not usually show: Kindness, respect, compassion, sympathy... the list goes on. The entire Hunt accepted him, which was an unusual feat. Even Orion, Artemis' first love, did not manage to do what he did.
"Mistress, you must sto-"
"Silence, Zoë," Artemis interrupted quietly but sternly. "I could have saved him. It was my fault that I was careless. It was my fault that he is no longer with us. I wished I could have acted differently, fought better, and been more careful. Instead, I damned the life of the man who I loved."
Zoë wasn't surprised. Everyone in the Hunt had known that he had a relationship with Artemis. Strangely, he did not know that Artemis had loved him, or knew he had a relationship. He was just oblivious to everything. I guess no man could be perfect, thought Zoë. The relationship was strange, odd, and different in many ways, but Artemis cherished it. When they first met, Artemis had lashed out with venomous words and taunting phrases, but he did not take offense. He took it in stride, and just took the assaults. He was only 12 then, on his first quest but already he was showing signs of a great hero without any noticeable flaws. Zoë almost chuckled at the memory of their first meeting, almost 500 years ago...
"Zoë, take your group and go to the right of the hellhounds. Phoebe, head left. Surround them and do not give it a chance to escape us. We fire on my mark," Artemis ordered. "One... Two... Three... Fir-"
Almost immediately they heard the cracking of twigs the annoying telltale sounds of someone walking in the brush. The hellhound party of eight immediately perked up and charged at the sound.
Artemis cursed: the hellhounds have been attacking several demigods living here and she had been ordered by her father (with the help of her annoying brother, Apollo) to wipe them out for a couple of years. She almost turned and yelled at the offending hunter who made the sound before she realized what was in the brush. A boy. With a small hellhound following him. She almost shot the intruders herself before she realized the boy was a demigod. A Son of Poseidon no less, with the smell of the sea and the sea-green eyes.
Artemis frowned, there had been no sea spawns for decades since Poseidon had decided to be more faithful to his wife. And after she killed Orion... Artemis immediately slapped herself mentally. 'What is over is over; I cannot bring back the dead. It has been centuries anyways.' She refocused her attention at the boy, merely 12 to 13 years old.
His weapon was odd however. Instead of the customary sword or spear, or even the well known bow, he was carrying a C shaped weapon, a warglaive. Warglaives, she corrected herself. There were two strapped to his back but ready at an instant if he needed them.
He only seemed taken aback for a second by the pack of hellhounds, before he corrected himself, assumed a battle position and drew his deadly weapons, his pet also tensing up. 'Good reflexes,' Artemis thought. She almost widened her eyes in surprise when he, with his hellhound, charged forward instead of defending against the noticeably larger force charging at him. She considered helping him for a moment, but instead decided not to. The less men in the world there were, the less trouble there were for her.
He ducked underneath the first hellhound that leaped at him, and sliced the underside with ruthless efficiency, and then slicing the face of another hellhound. His pet, despite the small size, managed to claw another hellhound multiple times before dodging a claw. In the first few seconds, one of the eight hellhounds were dead, and two others were grievously wounded.
The hellhounds halted their charge and inspected their foes cautiously, deciding to surround them instead. The fact that three of their pack was killed and wounded in less than a second, and by a seemingly weak party, dropped their confidence level a notch.
The boy seemed content to wait, despite the hellhounds' slow surrounding of him, where they could attack in any direction. 'A fool,' Artemis thought. 'No one should underestimate their enemies.' She could sense her hunters itching to attack the hellhounds, but with a quick signal they sighed and released the tension on their bows.
The hellhounds charged as one at the boy and his pet, but just as quick the boy moved forward. Slashing the hellhound in front of him with 4 blindingly quick strikes and leaving it to vaporize, and instantly using his left warglaive to block a claw as well as gut another hellhound. He became a whirlwind of destruction, blocking, dodging, slashing and gutting each hellhound. The hellhound pet also seemed to be equal in its master's combat prowess, rushing forward, biting and clawing a hellhound twice its size. She watched, amused, when the boy was clawed across the back. He did not flinch and continued fighting. In a very short amount of time, there was a mountain of golden dust surrounding the once clean clearing.
The boy, instead of treating his own wounds first, treated his pet, checking it over and dabbing a small amount of nectar on to the cuts. When he was satisfied, he drank the rest of the nectar and wrapped his own wounds where the claw scratched him. Putting his warglaives onto his back, he started walking away, completely unnerved by the large amount of golden sand and destruction. The hellhound followed obediently.
Artemis decided now was the time to stand up and demand why this young boy came and took away her Hunt's fun. Making a signal to the rest of the hunters to surround him, she stood up. Before she was at her full height (which, mind you, was not very tall since she took the appearance of a twelve year old girl), the boy had turned around and held one of his warglaives in a throwing position aimed at and would have cleaved her in half if he threw.
The boy's eyes widened at the sight of a girl that was around her age, but he knew better than to decide it was a mortal. A mortal would not have been able to see the fighting in the clearing, nor the warglaives. The fact that he had not been able to sense her until she showed herself also proved that she could not be a mere demigod. Which left the option of a goddess.
The boy put the warglaive onto his back, and kneeled before the goddess, knowing that if she wished it, he could die at a moment's notice, even when he was on a quest for his father. He also told the hellhound who was supposedly his pet to stand down and stop growling.
Artemis watched him critically. Now that they were both in the open, she could study him more clearly. The boy had raven black hair, and his height was fairly average for his young age. His green eyes showed of intelligence and cunning, as well as bravery and respect for her. He had an athletic body, and his arms showed small signs of muscles, but not too much to become repulsive for her. She was amused by the boy's actions. He had studied her and assumed she was a goddess, and thus treated her with respect and reverence.
"What were you doing attacking my prey?" She demanded harshly. "I'll have you know, that I do now wish for males to watch or interfere with my hunts. Give me a reason quickly, or you'll suffer the consequences." Artemis winced inwardly at her own tone. She wasn't used to talking like this, but she had to act like she hated the other sex. If she goes soft, she'll let them into her heart, like Orion... and then...
She shook her head again (Mentally, of course. It wouldn't do for a boy to see her confused). "Well? Answer me quickly. And you might as well explain who you are, and why in the name of Hades you have a hellhound with you.
The boy was choosing his words carefully. If this was who he suspected, his words must be careful, or she would deal with him harshly. Very harshly.
"My lady, I did not mean to offend you or interfere in your hunt. I was merely headed towards my destination. I had no knowledge of the hellhounds or your party, and I am sorry that I have bothered you.
The goddess watched him with scorn, searching him physically and mentally, seeking any dishonesty in his words. He told the truth. 'A first for everything.' she thought.
"Why do you have a monster with you? You should know that these monsters are dangerous and should be killed upon sight, lest they wreck havoc upon innocents."
"My lady, Skia Dromeas does not mean any harm, I assure you. She is merely a baby, who was left behind by her pack for being weak. I took her in, and nursed her back to full health. She does not deserve punishment, and she has never spilled an innocent's blood before. She is innocent, and I intend to raise her as such."
'Skia Dromeas,' Artemis mused. 'Shadow Runner, a fitting name. "How do you know that it is a she? How do you know she is innocent? Hellhounds are mindless creature bred for destruction."
The boy seemed to be thinking this over, finding the most suitable answer before replying.
"I am not sure, my lady-"
"And stop calling me 'my lady'. It annoys me to no end, and the fact that you are a male is making your situation dangerous." The other hunters (especially Zoë) were taken aback by the threatening tone she used. They had never seen their mistress this angry.
The boy flinched visibly at her tone.
"Lady Artemis, (here, he seemed worried that he had gotten the name wrong) I have a gift that allows me to communicate and understand certain beasts at a level. I do not know how or why I have it, which is why I may not be able to answer any more questions on this gift.
Artemis simply nodded. The boy in front of her had been kneeling the entire time, not daring to meet her eyes for fear of disrespecting her. "My last question. Who are you?"
The boy seemed taken aback by the question, obviously not expecting it. He hesitated a few seconds, before answering.
"I am the son of Poseidon, the Earthshaker and god of the Seas."
"I obviously know that, boy, but what is your name"
The boy took a deep breath before replying boldly.
"With all due respect, I am afraid I am forbidden to do that, Lady Artemis. My father forbids me from telling others until the time is right."
Artemis merely just glared at the boy, mentally unshielding his thoughts, one barrier after a next, before coming upon an impenetrable barrier, probably made by his father himself.
"Fine. Now get out of my sight before I shoot you and your pet."
The boy seemed relieved, and still watching her carefully, he walked away. Artemis' hunters then showed themselves from the trees and bushes they were hiding in.
"Mistress, does he bother you? We could go after him and teach him a lesson if you wish," Phoebe offered.
Artemis merely sighed. "He confuses me. He shows deadly grace with strange weapons, but he is young. He is respectful and kind, yet he is a male. He is cunning and intelligent, but he does not offer his own name despite my reasonable questions. He talks about a destination, but he never revealed what it was. I almost mistook him for a child of Athena, if it weren't for the scent of the sea."
Zoë watched her mistress closely. "My lady, if thou wish it we will follow him and learn what we can from him, even if it means we must interrogate him..."
Artemis glanced at her lieutenant closely. "Zoë, relax. He merely confuses me, he does not disrespect me. Let's just find another monster to hunt, and tell my father of the discovery of a child of the sea."
Zoë chuckled inwardly. Despite the fact that their first meeting was noticeably short and Artemis was hitting him with her words harshly, he had not shown offense, only respect and gratitude when Artemis allowed him to leave.
Artemis watched Zoë out of the corner of her eye, seeing Zoë's eyes twinkle with laughter. "What is it Zoë?"
Zoë nearly choked trying to contain her small laughter and keeping a guilty look off of her face. "Forgive me mistress, I am just... remembering him, and the times together."
The goddess merely took an anguished look on her face as she was once reminded of how harsh she had been to the demigod. She thought of the last time she saw him. It was on his deathbed, after a fatal battle trying to save her. She wanted to tell him so badly that she loved him, but she could never say it. She was too afraid and unnerved by the feeling.
"Why? Why did you do it?" Her voice was shaky, and golden tears started to fall down her cheek.
He raised his hand to wipe the tear away, but realized that he did not have the strength.
"It was my duty. I did not wish to... see you in pain. Better me than you. My mortal life is not as valuable as yours. Besides, I-"
"Don't say that!" Artemis interrupted viciously. This only brought around a new batch of tears. "You are just as worthy as the gods themselves. You will survive and get through this. Don't leave m... us..."
He just chuckled, but this minor action made him cough weakly and spit out blood.
"My lady, I have served you faithfully for 50 years now. But you and I both know that I cannot live through this. Hyperion attacked with too much power, as well as cursed me. Look at me; I am barely a human anymore. I would rather endure the pain than let you take the curse. Knowing that you are safe, I can rest in peace, and die with no regrets. I am happy that I was able to fight by your side."
"No! Please don't go away, we can heal you..." Artemis said weakly. But inside she knew he was right. He was beyond saving.
"Take care of Skia please? I would hate to see her upset for long." The said hellhound, now the size of a truck, was lying down next to her dying master, whimpering and nuzzling his arm.
Artemis nodded mutely, not trusting herself to speak without crying. He smiled happily, before facing back up into the stars. "The stars are beautiful tonight, milady." His grin widened when he saw the Major Ursa, the bear that he once fought and found as an equal. Even in death, he seemed optimistic, not allowing anyone else to become sad. He stiffened for a few seconds, before his whole body relaxed.
Skia howled mournfully to the moon at the death of her master. The entire Hunt who surrounded the scene looked down sadly. He was like a brother that they never had, the big brother that cared for them. Artemis cried once more. "Goodbye, my love..."
Taking his weapons, she murmured slowly an ancient incantation that she had only done twice in her life. His warglaives, the ones that he used so often, shimmered once, before becoming ethereal and flying up to the night sky. The Hunters gasped when they looked where it was. In the place between Orion and Major Ursa stood several new stars, creating the picture of his weapons, shining brightly.
The other gods showed up at the scene a few seconds later, gasping at the still body of the hero. Poseidon showed up and frantically looked for his now deceased son. When he had seen the warglaives in the sky, he had transported immediately. He now looked shocked and downcast that his favourite son had died fighting against Hyperion and saving Artemis. One by one, the gods arrived, and paid their respects. When Hades showed up, everyone but Artemis and Skia stepped back. He too, surprisingly, looked upset. They all paid their respects to the hero, before burying him in the Garden of the Gods. Artemis mourned for months, before returning to her duties.
Artemis once again flinched from the sudden intrusion of her memories. She turned around to see that the entire Hunt had stopped what they were doing and were watching her carefully. She merely sighed and watched her favourite constellation again, shining brightly against the sky.
The other girls understood immediately, and left their mistress alone. Artemis regretted letting him die. Hyperion's curse had not only been painful to him, but to her as well. Seeing his body writhe under the pain but still fight hurt her. His eyes had burned out and in their place stood hellfire, and his back had sprouted black leathery wings. But despite that he still fought. And died. What made the situation worst was the fact that the curse not only changed his body, but his soul disintegrated when he died, which was why she could only turn the weapon instead of his body. If he was a soul, she could have visited him in Elysium, or when he tried for rebirth.
Artemis shook her head. That was enough tragic memories for one night. Skia, the hellhound who had followed her faithfully for 450 years watched her carefully, sensing something was wrong. Artemis just smiled and patted the hound's head softly. She called her hunters together and informed them to be ready to move out at dawn. They would be going to an area near Westover Hall to destroy a manticore and his small band of lethal monsters.
She sighed again.
I just wished I told you I loved you once before you died. I wished I had told you I loved you, Perseus Jackson.