AN: Yes, I am an asshole. I'd like to apologize to those of you who enjoy this story... if there's any of you still out there willing to continue. I've been working on this chapter off and on since the last update over two months ago. I have no idea why this one was so hard for me - I had to rewrite it multiple times - and even after all that I'm still not a hundred percent on this one. Just know next chapter will come much faster than this one.
Just a heads up, there will be no old speech for Zoe. That crap is too hard to write.
Across the ground around them spread a thick layer of frost that was quickly turning into a sheet of solid ice. The trees immediately surrounding the two groups had gained long thin icicles that threatened to snap the smaller branches under the sudden added weight. Every breath taken left a lasting mark on the air; it was as if they were no longer in New York with less than a week before summer break, rather it felt like a harsh early January morning.
Until now, Perseus had been unaware that the moon goddess had any control over ice, but as a wave of the substance stopped just inches away from him and his group, it was very clear to all that Artemis was the one controlling it.
"I'll ask only once more, boy!" Perseus felt his temper rise at the beautiful girl's use of the word 'boy.' "Tell me why her scent is on you, or I'll give my hunters the right to do with you as they please." Perseus glanced at each of the gathered hunters to see them all giving him and Grover looks that spoke volumes about what they would do if they were to get the 'go ahead' from their mistress.
He couldn't stop the exasperated sigh that escaped him as he dropped his arms that had previously been raised in a sign of surrender. "Why in the hell does everyone have to talk about how I smell?" Perseus turned to look at Annabeth, Thalia, and Grover. "Is it that I smell bad, or is it that everyone involved with the hidden Greek world just so happens to have trouble with olfactophilia?"
"What?" Thalia asked looking bewildered by the word.
"Olfactophilia," Annabeth repeated, a small smile gracing her small pink lips. "It's a sexual perversion; a person who has it has a fetish for smells."
It became apparent right away that the now laughing Thalia and the uncomfortable looking Grover hadn't been the only ones to hear what the word meant. All around them growls from the group of female hunters could be heard.
"How dare you accuse Lady Artemis of such vile behavior?" One of the group had taken an angry step forward, as she bellowed at a confused Perseus.
"Die swine!" The large beefy girl unleashed the arrow she had stringed in her deadly-looking bow, straight for his heart.
There would have been no time for the son of Poseidon to move out of the way of the approaching arrow. He only had time to see the look of alarm on the face of the moon goddess before a blur jumped in front of him and the arrow meant for his heart.
Thalia was only just able to get her shield, Aegis, in front of the speeding projectile and bat it harmlessly away. The sight of Medusa's face on the front of Aegis caused the entire group facing them to flinch, the exceptions being Artemis and the girl Perseus had thought looked like a Persian princess.
"Phoebe! I did not give an order to fire that arrow!" Artemis had turned her golden eyes onto the one who had just tried and nearly succeeded in killing Perseus. "If you can't control yourself in the proper manner, then you will stay with the youngest of our group, back at camp tending to the wolves."
"But Lady Art-" Phoebe tried pleading with the goddess who appeared to be so young, looking heartbroken about being called out by her mistress, but to no avail.
"Enough! Leave us!" Artemis ordered, cutting the girl off. Sending Perseus a glare that promised pain, Phoebe turned and marched into the woods. "Now then," the goddess said, turning her attention back to him and his group, "tell me why it is that Hestia's scent is on you, like Aphrodite's would be on any male? If you continue to not answer my question, I'll have to assume the worst."
Perseus felt his anger skyrocket as he took in the meaning of what Artemis was suggesting. He had no idea why, he only knew he felt a deep need to protect the flame goddess and her honor - and that what the stunning girl before him had said had hit a nerve with him.
"I'm sorry," Perseus said, chuckling without any real amusement in his voice. "I don't think I heard you correctly. It sounded to me as if you were implying that Lady Hestia had broken her vow." As he spoke he reached out and pulled Thalia behind him at the same time as he took a step forward.
Artemis was slightly taken aback by the steel in the boy's voice, but refused to show any weakness to a male. "What else am I to assume when you continuously refuse to answer my questions? To not answer my question is the act of a guilty person."
"I haven't refused anything, yet. What has happened is that one of your girl scouts here heard something that she misconstrued and threw a hissy fit as a result." Perseus knew that his words could very well get him killed, but at the moment he was going to defend Hestia's name and honor, even if it was the last thing he did. "But since you're a goddess it must look bad on you if you're wrong, so allow me to aid you in your quest to always be right. I refuse to tell you what it is that Lady Hestia came to me for, as I don't see how it's any of your business what she does. Especially when you insinuate that she has broken a vow she has kept longer than you have been alive."
By now Grover's knees were shaking as he stared straight at the moon goddess, looking for any sign that she was going to attack. And she surely would after being spoken to in such a fashion, and by all beings a male. Annabeth and Thalia were looking to Perseus in shock. The steel in his voice and the readiness in which he had jumped to the goddess' defense was both frightening and awe inspiring.
If Artemis had been shocked before it was nothing compared to what she was experiencing now. This young male had spoken down to her, a goddess of the ruling twelve, as if she was a misbehaving child. The last male to do so was her father and she only let him do so because he was the ruler of all the gods. And yet, even if he was a male, she found herself respecting the amount of courage it took for him to stand up to her - it didn't hurt that he was doing so for one of her closest friends. Had it been any other goddess he had stood up for in such a way, she would have assumed the goddess in question had ensnared him in some form, but Hestia was as pure as she was and Artemis knew without a doubt that Hestia would never use anyone, male or female, in such a manner.
Before Artemis could speak, one of her hunters lowered her bow, sneering at the boy as she did so. "Do not speak of things you know not! Lady Artemis took the vow well before Lady Hestia did. If you're going to speak to a goddess, Lady Artemis no less, then get your facts straight first!" After snapping at Perseus the girl sent him a superior, victorious look.
"Maybe you should check your facts little girl," Perseus sneered back. "Hestia is the older sibling of not only Zeus, but Hades, Poseidon, Demeter and Hera. Meaning she has maintained her virtue longer than any of the Olympians have existed. And unlike Lady Artemis who became a virgin goddess because she feared the act of childbirth, Hestia did so in a selfless act to bring peace between Apollo and Poseidon. Both of whom were on the verge of war to see who would gain her hand in marriage - neither of the fools, had enough brains in their heads to realize that she didn't desire either of them."
Silence filled the park after Perseus had finished saying his peace. He truly hoped that all of the information he had given was a part of what the mortals had gotten right. Otherwise, he may have just gotten himself killed by spouting off incorrect information.
"Perseus," Grover whined, breaking the silence as he pulled on his friend's shirt. "Insulting gods in front of one is bad enough, but did you have to bring up the reason why this one took her vow of virtue?" Anyone with half a mind should have known that pointing out a god or goddess' weakness to them was a sure fire way to get killed... or worse.
Perseus shook his friend's hand off before he continued to speak. "It's my advice that if you really want to know what Lady Hestia came to me for, you go ask her yourself." With nothing further to say he turned to leave, hoping as he did so that one of the hunters wouldn't put an arrow in his back. "Come on guys, we have to get moving if we ever want to make it to camp."
"Wait where you are," Artemis ordered, it shocked everyone, however, when she spoke without any traces of anger in her voice. "You say that the four of you are traveling to Camp Half-Blood, correct?"
Perseus looked to his three friends to see if they knew where the goddess was going with her question, but found them all still a little unsettled by his disagreement with Artemis and her bow carrying maidens. Sighing deeply, as he was drained from all that had been thrown at him in the past thirty minutes, he answered. "We would be, if we could go but five minutes without running into those who want to kill us... mainly me."
"Then my hunters will travel with you." Perseus made to object, but was cut off when the Persian princess beat him to it.
"But Lady Artemis, we cannot travel with two... males." The way she said the word made it sound dirty and vile. "And what of you my Lady, will you make us travel with them alone?"
"A meeting of the gods has been called that I must go to," Artemis informed her hunters. "While I'm away, I will go to Hestia and find out what the motive behind her actions was. I know not when I'll be back, and that is why you will all go to the camp."
"My Lady, I find this decision an unwise one. After the way he has spoken to not only my sisters, but you, it is beyond me to see either of the males making it to Half-Blood Hill alive." Perseus could only raise a disbelieving eyebrow as murmurs of agreement traveled through the group of hunters. "Furthermore, we would have to travel through heavily populated towns and cities to reach our destination, since we would be without your ability to connect all wooded areas. Our numbers alone would draw unwanted attention and place my sisters into further contact with members of the opposite sex."
Perseus was amazed by the girl's cool use of logic and her willingness to disagree with her mistress. "She must really hate the thought of traveling with us, Grover." Said boy nodded, but quickly stopped when he saw that both Artemis and the girl look at them.
"His words hold truth to them, my Lady." The girl admitted, though it looked to pain her to do so.
Artemis looked between the girl and Perseus for a time, an unreadable look gracing her stunning features, before slowly giving a small nod. Reaching out she took the girl by the shoulder, as a mother would her daughter when about to bestow life altering advice. Needless to say, it was a strange sight to see a twelve-year-old act in such a manner to a girl who appeared to be a year or so older than her current appearance.
"Zoe, you are the most trusted of my hunters. Your bow has been by my side for many a full moon, and far longer than any of your current sisters." The now identified girl seemed to swell with pride as the goddess spoke. "That is why I will ask of you, what I would not your sisters. I need you to go with them to the camp and keep an eye on the boy for me. If it does come to pass that he has aided Hestia in breaking her vow, or has acted in an unfavorable manner toward her, I will be coming for his head. Until I know what my actions will be, you will keep him under your constant watch!"
A silence filled the park that wasn't broken until Perseus spoke. "Um, not no, but hell no! We have four people right now; any more would be an unlucky number." Annabeth opened her mouth to speak, but was cut off by him whispering to her and the other two. "Yes Annabeth, I know four isn't truly a lucky number. I'm just trying to keep Grover and myself from suddenly sprouting arrows from our ass cheeks." The other three thought his comment funny, Perseus, however, had meant every word of it. The way the female hunters were glaring at him, left little doubt in his mind that if they were to accompany them on their journey, then he and Grover would experience an unfortunate hunting accident of some type.
"That's why I'm sending Zoe with you," Artemis said, halting the others' laughing as they realized she had heard his words. "She will follow my orders, even if she doesn't agree with them. Will you not, Zoe?" She asked turning to look at the dark-skinned beauty.
"Yes, my Lady," Zoe nodded stone-faced. "I shall go pack my things at once."
"Uh, hello," Perseus called out, stopping Zoe from moving and turning the attention back to himself, "male with an idea here! If I understood what Zoe said, then why not let us," he gestured to the others and himself, "travel with you through the forest-connection... thingy, that you have? Would we not get there faster that way?" Artemis was nodding before he had finished speaking.
"That is an acceptable proposal. But be warned; do not lag behind once we set out. To become lost while traveling as my hunters and I do, would be fatal for all those present, myself excluded." Giving her warning she turned and headed for the woods, her hunters closely following her lead.
"Why is it that I get the feeling she wouldn't be too upset if I were to get lost?" Perseus asked, looking to his friends while ignoring all the glares he was receiving from the hunters. "Or better yet, why in the hell did I suggest us traveling with them, when I can tell how much her girls want me dead?" Thalia reached up and patted him on the head.
"Just count yourself lucky that you're not dead, or a jackalope," she informed him, as she and the others made for where the hunters and their mistress had disappeared into the woods. Since they were already moving they each failed to see Perseus' questioning look. "I've heard of people suffering Lady Artemis' wrath for far less than what you did here today," the punk princess called out over her shoulder to him.
"I was thinking the same thing," Annabeth commented, stepping into the tree line. "I think the only reason she didn't punish him for his disrespectful words and tone, was that he was attempting to defend one of her closest friends."
"Was there any real chance of me ending up as mythological bunny-deer?" Perseus didn't know if it would be cooler, or scarier to be a rabbit with antlers... cooler, definitely cooler, he decided.
Thalia chuckled. "Actually, there was! Artemis likes to turn men who draw her ire into Jackalopes." She glanced back at him, her gaze lingering over him before she nodded approvingly. "You'd be alright; you'd definitely make a cute bunny-deer!"
"I'm happy to have your approval," he commented dryly, making the others laugh at him.
The quartet stopped all talking once they entered a clearing where groups of tents were set up in a loose circle. The campsite was buzzing with activity; the group of solely female hunters was busy doing all manner of chores and duties that had become second nature to them during their time as part of the goddess' pseudo daughters.
Perseus smiled when he spotted a small gathering of little girls, the oldest of which, a cute curly-haired blonde that reminded him of Annabeth, was showing the others how to safely play with the wolf cubs as the parents of the pups watched on.
"It's peaceful, in a hectic sort of way." Grover, Thalia, and Annabeth nodded their agreement as they gazed at the activity taking place around them.
Perseus and his group turned to find Zoe standing behind them looking at the four of them expectantly.
"You three can sit by the fire and wait until camp is packed up. It's normally a fast process, but at the moment we have a number of obligations we must tend to before we move on. As for you," she said, turning to Perseus, "I'd like you to follow me until it's time for us to leave."
He quirked an inquiring eyebrow at her. "I was under the impression that you couldn't stand me - why would you want me to follow you around?"
"Even though we will be traveling with my Lady and sisters, I have yet to be relieved of the mission my Lady has set forth for me. As it is, I have duties that I must complete before we leave this place, and it would help a great deal if you were to cooperate with me by staying where I can keep an eye on you."
"I'm fine with that... I'm not going to be attacked because I'm following you, am I?"
"Are you suggesting that I'd break an order given to me by Lady Artemis?" While it was clear she was better tempered than the rest of her sisters, her dislike for males was just as strong as the rests'.
"No," he denied, sounding exasperated, "however, can't you see how your quick-to-anger sisters might see me following you around as me trying to hit on you? I've already had four people try and kill me today; you'll have to forgive me if I'm not eager to add to that number."
Crossing her arms under her small breasts she unknowingly pushed them up, adding a rather sexy emphasis to her chest, as her midnight colored gaze bore into his sea-foam green eyes. It took all of his will power not to glance down at her budding chest, or what had once been her budding chest - now that she was frozen at age thirteen, her body having matured as far as it ever would. Nonetheless, to a hormonal teenage boy, he needed little excuse to want to trail down her body with his gaze.
"Fine." Perseus sighed, throwing his right hand up as he ran the other through his hair. "But if I get killed I'm going to come back and haunt you and all your sisters. It doesn't matter if you're using the bathroom, or cleaning your tree hugging granny panties, I'm going to be hanging over your shoulder moaning like Grover on enchiladas." Zoe's glare had shifted to a dry look that bordered on condescending, succeeding in merely annoying Perseus.
"If your words come to pass we will only have ourselves to blame." Before Perseus could form any type of response she had turned her back on him and walked away.
"And to think, she's never had a boyfriend." Perseus snarked sarcastically, marching after the man-hating beauty.
"Hold on you three," Perseus said, bringing Grover, Thalia, and Annabeth to a stop, and their focus onto himself. They watched inquisitively as the impressive black blade they had only seen once before appeared in the hand of the son of Poseidon.
Spinning the onyx shaded sword skillfully in hand, Perseus sliced through a length of thin cord that was tied between two trees, hidden by a clever combination of the dense underbrush of the forest they were traveling through and the darkness of the hour. It was clearly placed where no one would see it - an attempt to trip its creator's desired target. From what Perseus was guessing, it was made to send him headfirst into the giant fallen log just a few feet ahead.
"Phoebe's work no doubt." Perseus noted offhandedly, bending down to examine the thread he had cut. It was one of many he had 'come across' during the past nine days they had spent with the moon goddess and her hunters.
While all the other huntresses had settled with merely glaring frostily at him, Phoebe, the same large, beefy girl who had attempted to shoot him in the heart with an arrow, had tried everything in her power to harm him. From petty pranks to serious threats to his life, she had tried it all - snares aimed at tripping him and breaking his ankles, 'accidental' miss-shots with her bow, attempting to push him into the campfire on more than one occasion, and trying to impale him with a sword the time she witnessed him practicing with his bronze blade and offered to help by starting a 'surprise spar.' Everything she had attempted so far had failed, adding to her dislike of him and the danger that came with her next 'prank.'
Perseus had kept his head about him so far, knowing that even if he were to retaliate for justified reasons, that he'd more than likely earn the wrath of every female he was traveling with, bar Annabeth and Thalia. The danger of letting his anger flow freely aside, he wasn't sure how much more he could take lying down. It was well known to those who had attempted to bully him in the past that he wasn't the type to put up with people trying to push him around, and yet, thanks to Thalia, Grover and Annabeth - and the amount of time they had spent teaching him how to handle a blade - he had managed to keep from testing how the robust huntress faired against someone who favored dual-wielding swords.
Seeing that the huntresses were steadily pulling away from their small group, the foursome started after them, Artemis' warning about getting lost fresh in their minds.
"I don't see why you simply don't inform Lady Artemis of Phoebe's actions," Annabeth asserted, her distaste of the girl and her attempts to harm him melting into her voice.
Raising his sword, he tapped the flat of the blade against his chest. "It's doubtful that if it came down to my word versus hers, that I'd be taken seriously." All three of his companions started to respond that they would confirm that what he had to say was true, but were cut off when Perseus shook his head, giving them a thankful smile.
"The hunters' and their Lady's prejudice of my sex isn't the only the reason I've yet to say anything to Artemis, or even Zoe for that matter. If I were to run off and tattle-tell it'd be the same as if I were to lick Phoebe's dirty boots - and I can assure you, she's the type to get as much enjoyment out of my admitting that she's gotten to me as she would the latter."
Annabeth, Thalia and Grover chose not to respond, being unable to find a fault in his logic. It was a very real possibility that if he were to go to Artemis about Phoebe, that the moon goddess might not believe him over one of her huntresses - that her well known hatred of men could cloud her judgment and what she chose to believe. However, while they could only speculate about Artemis' reaction to her hunter's behavior, none doubted Phoebe's. Annabeth and Thalia had met the large girl in the past and knew of her vindictive and sadistic nature - two traits that she had always been able to hide from Artemis and her sisters.
For a time silence hung between the four as they carefully treaded through the dense forest, it wasn't until the darkness around them had thickened to levels where they could barely see the group they were trailing behind, that the only other male present besides Perseus spoke.
"She is a daughter of Ares..." Grover admitted, giving a weak grimace as he stared off into space. Perseus glanced over to his friend, a crooked smile adorning his handsome features, surprise clear in his eyes.
"You're still on about that?" Reaching over he lightly patted the worry-prone satyr on the shoulder. "Calm down; Phoebe, nor any of her sisters, are going to bother you. Just keep your head down and I doubt they'll even notice you - probably be too busy glaring at me," he said chuckling.
"But," Grover objected weakly, gazing longingly at the barely visible figures ahead of them, "they're so..."
"Snobbish," Thalia offered, cutting into the conversation and Grover off.
"Bitchy," Perseus smiled, glancing over Grover's head at the daughter of Zeus, who smiled impishly back.
"Immortal hippies with anger issues."
"In denial lesbians?" Perseus glanced over at Thalia to see the punk princess shaking in silent laughter, bumping into trees as she stumbled through the forest trying her best not to trip. At her side, Annabeth rolled her eyes, shaking her head disapprovingly, even though her soft-looking pink lips were turned up at the corners.
"No!" Grover hissed, red tinting his cheeks as his mind trailed off to places he'd rather it not go for the time being. "They're so into nature and pure..." Whether or not he meant to, Grover released a strange noise that was halfway between a moan of pleasure and a goat's bleat. "They're perfect!" Thalia snorted loudly and terribly unladylike, while Annabeth settled with eyeing the satyr incredulously.
"Says the masochistic goat," Perseus joked, earning an annoyed laugh from the boy. Before anymore could be said, the voice of the moon goddess drifted back to them cutting off all conversation, stealing not only Perseus' and his group's attention, but that of the entire traveling party.
"We'll be stopping here tonight, my hunters. Go ahead and start setting up camp," Artemis ordered in her soft, yet commanding, tone of voice, leaving them no chance to disagree. "Be warned, to the south of here lies a large, highly populated city. I would suggest that you all take precautions and do not wonder away from the rest of the group."
As the clearing came alive with the activity of the immortal maidens, Artemis continued undeterred. Fully aware that her huntresses were paying her as much attention as they worked, setting up their tents, preparing the fire, and creating an area for the wolves and their young to stay, as they would if they were sitting around her, seemingly enamored by her every word.
"When I return in the morning from my duties as goddess of the moon, we will set out for Half-Blood Hill and will arrive before noon. As you all know, I will be leaving you at the camp for a time. Until I return I expect you all to show the type of behavior that is expected of you as a representative of the Hunters of Artemis. Do not bring shame on yourselves, or your sisters. Do not bring shame onto me."
As Artemis commanded the attention of her huntresses, Perseus and Grover had set to work on their own tent, one that had been provided for them to use during their time with the Hunters of Artemis.
"Looks as if I'll finally get to see this camp you and the girls have been telling me so much about," Perseus commented lightly, driving the final stake that held the tent in place deeply into the earth.
When Grover didn't answer him or respond in any way, he looked to his friend, only to find him staring longingly at the hunters as they worked on setting up the camp.
Perseus released a deep sigh as he took in the number of glares and sneers the satyr was receiving, not that the boy himself actually noticed. It was quite obvious that Grover lacked any type of tact when it came to dealing with the fairer sex, especially those of the huntress variety.
Reaching over, Perseus slapped the back of the satyr's head, sending the unprepared boy flying face first into the ground.
"If you don't want to die before the night ends, I suggest you put it back in your pants..." He gained a pensive look as he pulled out his ever present music player and inserting his earbuds. "Or would it be more accurate to say, put it back in your fur?" Unbeknownst to Perseus or the now moaning satyr, Artemis and many of the hunters surrounding them, including a certain coal-eyed daughter of a Titan, were listening in on their conversation.
Sitting up, his head cradled in his hands, Grover glared at the son of Poseidon with watery eyes. "What in the underworld was that for?" he moaned, rubbing the back of his sore crown.
"You need to stop leering at every pretty face you see and start showing the hunters the respect they deserve" Perseus told him, leaning against a tree as he searched for a song he wanted to listen to. "It's starting to weird me out, and from the looks being sent your way, piss them off. Besides, aren't you supposed to be in love with a berry bush, or something?"
Grover had the decency to look abashed. "I do love Afina. I was just..."
"Harassing the hunters in their own home?"
"You kinda did - are," Perseus said, cutting him off, doing his best not to sound too chiding. "Out here in the woods is where they live... Away from the prying eyes of the world and modern society, but more than anything else, away from men. You and I are probably the only form of male contact that they've had for a long, long time, and with the way you've been gaping at them, I'm sure they're extremely uncomfortable and more than a little pissed off." he finished, clueless of how Artemis was staring at him.
By now the young satyr was completely red in the face and was refusing to look up from his lap, afraid he may meet the eyes of one of the huntresses, or worse, see a look of disappointment in the eyes of what had quickly become his closest and dearest friend.
Staring at his best friend with more than a little melancholy in his sea-foam shaded gaze, Perseus reached out and patted the older boy on the head. "Look, why don't you go crash for the night. The sooner you fall asleep, the sooner you'll get to see Afina again. Who, by the way, I'm looking forward to meeting with once we reach camp."
Giving a small jerk of his head, Grover sent him a weak smile. "I think that's a good idea." Rising to his feet - hooves - he gave a small wave as he disappeared into their shared tent, not to be seen again until the next morning.
Unaware of the approving looks he was receiving from the female hunters around him, Perseus turned his music up as loudly as he could, enjoying the throbbing of the mini-speakers in his ears. Closing his eyes, he allowed the sound of one of his favorite bands drown out everything around him.
Nine days. Nine days of nothing but varying forest scenes, hiking through said forests, a handful of spars with the girls, and attempted assaults and manslaughter by a bear of a maiden. Nine days Perseus had been trailing along behind the group of immortal female warriors. And at the end of each of those nine days, the prospect of a rendezvous with something that would want to kill him (bear maidens excluded) was looking better and better.
While the constant moving had made him all the better at using a sword (who would have guessed learning to handle a blade, while avoiding falling over shrubbery and into traps, would help improve his sword-work as much as it had), it failed at keeping him and the other three from being bored out of their damn minds.
Perseus, Thalia, and at times Annabeth (when she wasn't reading one of the many books he had thought to bring with him), had taken to testing his abilities as they moved through the numerous forests they had traveled through. Grover had used the copious amount of free time he now found himself with as a chance to better his reed playing, much to the auditory distress of those around him.
With Annabeth's knowledge of the previous sons of Poseidon, they had tested his ability to use some of the better known gifts and abilities his half-siblings had possessed. They all knew he could control the earth around him - a feat that was beyond impressive for a son of the sea god, even though all he could really do was create widespread earthquakes (not the most inconspicuous of abilities) and at times of great emotional stress form spears that shot up from the earth. That said, everything else he had tried, involving bending the earth to his will at least, had failed to take off.
He had far more success when it came to accessing the abilities that were water-based, as opposed to those that were more along the lines of the children of Hades (controlling the earth). Annabeth had informed them that one particular son of Poseidon had been strong enough to call upon powerful and devastating storms, much like Thalia and former children of Zeus could do. His power had been so great, that it had drawn Zeus' wrath. The King of the Gods had felt that the lowly demigod had been encroaching upon his territory, and, as a result, had seen to his punishment personally.
Needless to say, it had only taken Perseus the amount of time it required to nod at the now grinning daughter of Zeus standing next to him, for them to start on him trying to learn how to bend storms to his will. Annabeth had watched the two run off, muttering something incoherent under her breath. All that the two children of the big three had been able to decipher was 'impudent,' 'trouble makers,' and 'death wishes,' making them both laugh uproariously.
To their surprise, it hadn't been but a short time later that Perseus succeeded in calling down an outrageously strong storm, after receiving only a few small pointers from Thalia on the subject. High winds pushed and shoved their group in an attempt to throw them across the forest floor, rain that painfully lashed at their faces and pounded against their skulls, and, towards the end of it all, small icy balls of hail had been unleashed upon them. What had really surprised them, more so than the fact that Perseus had been able to do what only one previous son of Poseidon had been capable of in the span of a few minutes time, was the sound of rumbling thunder that had shook the very ground the hunters had hastily erected their tents upon.
After earning a telling off from Annabeth for almost getting them killed (either by the storm, or Zeus almost discovering his parentage, Perseus and Thalia didn't strictly know) they had moved on to working with water exclusively. Though he had no one to guide him in its use, or any prior experience besides when he had called for the storm, Perseus had no trouble getting the water to do what he wanted it to. He could make water rise up and take any shape he pleased, completely stop the flow of a raging river and increase the speed of a stream, and could even heal his and others' injuries.
Some of the experiments he was envisioning he was afraid might hurt the wildlife, so he had taken to carrying around a number of bottles filled with water that he used for the sole purpose of pla- working with. Doing so had led him to the discovery of his ability to increase and decrease the temperature of the life giving liquid. Whether it was freezing the water until it nearly burned those who touched the bottles containing the liquid, or making it boil so hot that the plastic melted around it; both were in his grasp - and if he was being honest with himself, he felt that he could have pushed both farther if presented with the chance and a suitable environment.
One thought that continued to play in his mind was how much water the human body actually contained, or a monster's or a God's body for that matter. If he pushed hard enough, was it possible for him to bend others to his will? Or boil/freeze them alive? This line of thought had disturbed him, though not as much as it had when he had been hopeful that his ability to control water could extend to other liquids.
Could he control blood?
The only real drawback from using his abilities, besides how they all tended to draw the eye, was that they were taxing both mentally and physically. Thalia had informed him that this was a common occurrence for her when she used her powers to call on storms and lightning, but that with time and practice the aftereffects would lessen.
All in all, Perseus may have been bored out of his mind during his nine days spent with the Hunters of Artemis, but knew that he had gained a lot of experience as a result. Not only with his demigod powers, but in his control of his hunger as well.
After being around not only Annabeth and Thalia, both of whom were mouthwatering to him, but also Zoe, who smelled as good as the first two, and Artemis - the moon goddess' scent was only outshined by Hestia's - he no longer felt as if he wanted to drain them dry. No, now he wanted to put his lips on the girls for entirely different reasons.
Evil. Fucking. Hormones. More fearsome than any monster...
Perseus was pulled away from his own little world by the weight of a small, warm body pressing shoulder-to-shoulder with his own. Knowing of only one person in the camp that would dare act so familiar and intimate and that also held a scent that was reminiscent of fresh rain, Perseus opened an amused eye to find himself staring into a pair of intense, electric-blue eyes.
Slowly, his other eye joined the first in opening, giving him a better view of the pretty features of the girl next to him, putting him on equal ground with the daughter of Zeus as she drank in his slightly angular features. Without breaking eye contact, Perseus handed over one of his music blaring earbuds, which she gladly took.
How long the two would have continued to stare at one another was unknown, and they would never know, as at that moment Zoe came up to them, effectively breaking the trance the two teens had found themselves in.
"My Lady would like to see you, Perseus."
Tearing his eyes away from his pretty friend, he looked to the equally beautiful huntress to see her looking annoyed. "Do you know what she wants of me?"
"It's not my place to question Lady Artemis, I simply do as is asked of me." she replied evenly.
Perseus raised an eyebrow when he noticed the distinct lack of contempt in the girl's voice that usually reared its head when she spoke to him, but shrugged it off as her attempting to avoid their normal back-and-forth so he could hurry on to her mistress.
"Where is she?" Pulling out his other earbud he handed it and his iPod to Thalia, as he rose to his feet and headed off in the direction the Titan daughter had pointed.
Zoe stood in front of the pixie-haired girl, watching her with an appraising eye. Eventually, it became too much for Thalia and she pulled an earbud out, gazing at the Persian-looking girl questioningly.
"Would you like to listen with me?"
Zoe continued to stare at her silently for a time. "Are you certain he wouldn't mind my use of his property?"
"Perseus wouldn't mind, he's good about things like that." Thalia answered knowingly. "Plus, with how you've been staring at it since we started traveling with you and your sisters, it's clear you're interested in giving them a try."
Zoe's eyes narrowed a fraction, unaware of how the small change made her dark eyes look deadly. "I have not been staring at them." she denied, sounding slightly upset.
Thalia sent her a knowing impish smile. "Is that so? Then what other reason would there be for you to stare at Perseus as much as you do? I had assumed it was because he almost always has them in," she said, holding up the music player. "If that's not the case, then what is?" The longer she spoke the smugger her tone became. It didn't help any that the more Zoe heard, the redder her dark skin became.
"I do not stare at him!" Zoe hissed, her eyes flashing dangerously. "And if I did, I would only do so as a requirement of watching him as a part of my Lady's orders."
Giggling slightly, Thalia held up her hands in surrender. "Do you want to listen or not?"
Eyes still narrowed, Zoe gave a small nod of the head. In one swift, fluid motion she was beside Thalia, taking the offered earbud. "Strange..." she muttered as she examined the tiny speakers. "I've lived for many a moon, and yet, I know very little about the current world and its many technologies." Placing the black and silver device in her ear she listened intently.
Slowly her nose scrunched up cutely, looking puzzled. "This is the music of today?" she asked, sounding unsure of what to think of what she was listening to.
"Not the only type, no." Thalia answered, slightly amused at her reaction. "This band is a Finnish rock group; the genre is referred to as 'love metal.' This type of music isn't really all that popular, unfortunately."
Zoe watched as Thalia fiddled with the device in her hand, connected to the music 'releaser' in her ear. Suddenly the music died away, leaving a silence that was far louder than the music. The question of 'why did it stop' was on the Titan daughter's lips, however, she stopped when Thalia spoke.
"Here, listen to it from the start," Thalia offered, sitting back and enjoying the sound of the lyrics and the melody as they flowed into her. "Listen to what it says - don't judge it too quickly. Who knows, you may come to enjoy it." Zoe nodded, feeling a tad uncertain.
Together the two sat against their tree and watched as the many huntresses went about busying themselves and finding ways to pass the time. Unknown to each other, listening to the music and people-watching weren't the only thing they had in common. Every few seconds electric-blue and onyx shaded eyes would glance off in the direction that Perseus had walked off in.
It was as one of her sisters passed her line of sight, as she gazed off after the green eyed boy, that Zoe realized what she was doing. Shaking her head, she silently chided herself for her abnormal behavior.
"What's the name of this piece?" she asked to distract herself, realizing as she did so that she was truly enjoying the song. Somehow, it was speaking to her in a way music from her own time never had.
"'The Funeral of Hearts." Zoe nodded, it was a fitting title.
Slowly time passed and the girls continued to sit in silence as song after song passed through the small speakers.
Thalia, who had closed her eyes some time before, opened them as a song she had never heard before came on. What she found made her eyes narrow. Zoe was staring off in the same direction she herself was meaning to look, with a fair bit of longing in her eyes. She was looking at where Perseus had disappeared to.
An intense wave of jealousy passed over the short-haired girl, making her want to grab the 'older' girl by the hair and make her look away, only for it to pass as quickly as it came. 'Even if she did like him, there's no way she would turn her back on the vow she took so long ago.'
"So," Thalia said, drawing the eyes of her current music listening companion. "Is it still a part of your duty to watch him when he's with your Lady?"
Artemis was pulled from her private musing by the sound of light, but still noticeable, footsteps. Turning away from the crescent moon that hung high above her, she turned to find the young male demigod that she had called for, approaching, looking as if he hadn't a care in the world.
"You summoned me, Lady Artemis?" he asked, as he sidestepped a tree and walked into the small clearing she was standing in.
She eyed him curiously as he came to a stop an arm's length away. "I did..." Her silvery-yellow eyes that so reminded him of a full moon, bored into his own, a burning intensity in their depths that made him want to turn away.
Perseus was consumed by an overwhelming feeling that she was trying to peer into his very soul with her sharp intelligent orbs. Though he was able to keep a lax 'air' about him, he was quickly losing himself - his mind flooded with visions of her angelic visage as brief sparks of silver danced across her exposed skin, his head swimming as his nostrils filled with her beyond tempting scent; trees covered in dew, that somehow managed to mix with a frosty early morning wind and... cherries. Both she and her scent were highly delectable to him.
"I called for you so I could thank you for your help with the satyr." she said, surprising the son of Poseidon. "I have given my hunters orders not to instigate an altercation of any kind with you, or any of your companions. Had the boy continued to leer at them the way he was, I would not have been able to guarantee his continued safety. Thank you."
Perseus chuckled lightly, shaking his head softly as he did so. This was done as more of a way to clear his head of the overload of moon goddess he was experiencing than it was from amusement.
"And here I thought you were going to kill me or turn me into one of the legendary bunny-deer, I've been hearing so much about." He paused to chuckle again, not expecting to see the small smile that the goddess gained at the mention of her love of the jackalope punishment.
His stomach gained a strange flipping feeling as he watched her lips that made him press on. "You're welcome, I guess," he said, sounding unsure of himself. By the time he had finished speaking the smile that had graced her lips seconds before had vanished, making Perseus want to mourn its absence.
"Thanking you on mine and my huntresses' behalf isn't the only reason I've called you here. I also wanted to know if you had changed your mind as to whether or not you'd divulge why it was that Hestia's scent was upon you?" She gazed at him expectantly, but knew right away she would not receive the answers she desired.
"I'm sorry Lady Artemis, but if you want to know why she came to me, then you know how to get your answers." he replied firmly. "I would not - could not, disrespect her by betraying her trust. I'm sure you understand." His eyes had taken on a pleading look, hoping she would drop the subject altogether.
"I do," Artemis nodded, her tone surprisingly understanding. She became silent for a time. Perseus was seconds away from breaking said silence, when the goddess beat him to it. "I know who your father is."
Perseus' eyes widened before quickly narrowing. His hands itched - begging and calling for his swords, so he might protect himself if the goddess before him decided to drag him before her and Thalia's father. The only reason he didn't make his swords appear was that her use of ice would, without a doubt, be more powerful than anything he could do.
He didn't reply, instead he stared at her unblinkingly. Ready to move at a moment's notice.
"Calm yourself," she ordered in an impassive tone. It was enough to make him snort.
"Yes, because I've found having a goddess who hates men, know that you're not supposed to exist, is the best way to relax," he said, his voice dripping with sarcasm.
"I'm not going to inform my father." This brought Perseus up short.
"You're not... Why?"
"You've lost me."
"Hestia can see an individual's past, present, and depending on the choices one makes, future family. She would have known that you were his son. And yet, despite knowing she would be punished for keeping you a secret from my father, she kept you hidden. Not only from the King of the Gods, but the entirety of the council of twelve."
Perseus winced. "Lady Hestia could come to be in trouble over me?" Artemis nodded.
"Why would she risk herself for me?" he asked in a tone that sounded as if he was in pain. "For that matter, why would you risk yourself for me? A male!"
"Hestia has always been a good judge of character. I've always known if I could trust someone by how she acted when in their presence." she informed him. "Knowing I could trust her, I watched you and how you interacted with those around you in an attempt to see if you were trustworthy."
"I'm guessing since you're not turning me over to your father that you found me worthy of your trust?"
"Correct," she answered, giving a small nod. "I have found you to be unlike the rest of the male species - that you are in fact a good man. You defended Hestia's honor, even when threatened with death. While my huntresses were not looking, you would help around the camp - attempting to make things easier on everyone. While your satyr companion would leer like a dog in heat at my huntresses, you showed them the proper respect they deserve, even when they did not deserve it."
Perseus knew right away what she had meant by her last statement. "I-"
"Did not retaliate against Phoebe, even after continued attacks against you. I admit that I did nothing to halt her childish and petty, yet often dangerous actions. I did nothing in an attempt to see if your kind nature would continue even when tested repeatedly."
"It was on the day I was going to come to you, to thank you for your continued patience and to inform you that Phoebe would be punished accordingly, that I witnessed you call down that storm. After that I watched you continuously - my original intention for seeking you out forgotten. I had to figure out who your father was." Perseus released a deep sigh at that.
"I knew you were a good man, who did not deserve to die simply because of who your father was. That is why I will keep silent about your lineage, and will continue to do so until who you are comes to light."
"It's good to know that that's how you found out whose son I am. For a second there I was worried that gods and goddesses could tell who your godly parent is just by being near the person in question." He smiled charmingly at her, happy that she wasn't going to drag him to his death. Soon, however, his smile slowly slid away, a look of puzzlement taking its place. "Is that why it's taken us so long to get to camp - you buying yourself time, so you could figure out who I am?"
"No," she answered him, as her eyes took on a distant look. "After living for as long as my generation of immortals have, the concept of time and how fast and/or slow it moves is vastly different than it is to those of demi-blood and mortals. For instance, the meeting my father called for, that I spoke of the day you joined us, has yet to take place and may not take place for some time."
Silence fell between the two in which Perseus thought over how it must feel to be as... experienced in living as the gods were.
"I must leave soon, the moon is calling to me," Artemis said mystically, breaking him from his musing. "Know that I will pass down a suitable punishment for Phoebe's actions. Not only has she tried to harm an innocent, but has broken a direct order from myself... I will not be disobeyed." To the young demigod it felt as if her words were wrapped in the very ice he had once seen her control during their first encounter. It was strangely... attractive. Not that there was anything about the lunar goddess he found unattractive, he quickly realized.
"Understood..." Running a hand through the portion of his hair that was longer than the rest, his gaze trailed after the small random burst of silver that appeared across her skin.
"Goodnight, Perseus Jackson." Artemis turned from him and started for a faintly glowing silver chariot that stood proudly behind her. Tethered to it by bridles made of the same type of silver as the chariot were four large handsome deer with antlers made entirely of gold. Where the animals and sleigh came from was as much a mystery to him as that of how they had appeared without his noticing.
"Safe journey, Lady A," Perseus whispered, as she climbed aboard the chariot, taking the reins in hand. "Thank you for taking such a risk for one like me."
He wasn't sure why he said what he did next, but by the time he realized what words were passing his lips, it was too late to stop them. "It makes me genuinely happy knowing my favorite of the ruling twelve doesn't hate me for simply being alive." the smile that accompanied his words was as fragile as any Artemis had ever seen in all her many years.
Reins still in hand, her faithful companions stood at the ready for her gentle, yet firm tug of command; she stood watching the young abnormal demigod, his gaze mirroring her own.
The loaded silence that had descended between them was finally broken when one of the logs in the fire, way back at the campsite, snapped from the heat of the flames that were engulfing it. Though they were quite a distance away, both heard the snapping of the log perfectly.
"Goodnight, my Lady."
"Pleasant dreams... Perseus"
Giving the reins she was gripping with more force than was strictly necessary a sharp pull, the bucks took off in a sprint, pulling her and her chariot into the sky, leaving a brilliant, but quickly fading trail of silver in their wake.
Perseus reentered the ring of the campsite just in time to witness Zoe storm off from where he had previously been sitting, leaving behind Thalia, who was somehow managing to look both smug and upset. Shaking his head at the girl's antics, he swiftly crossed the distance separating the two, being careful not to draw the ire of any of the huntresses.
"You're about as much trouble as I am." Plopping down against the tree and leaning against her more than he strictly needed to, he reached across her and stole the earbud from her opposite ear. "It's probably why we get along so famously. You know, similar to the old adage 'thick as thieves'."
The slight scowl she had been wearing before his arrival disappeared instantly, a mischievous smirk appearing upon her shiny lips. "So now we're going to be thieves, huh?" Placing a hand to her chin, she took on a mock pensive look. "We certainly have the reflexes for such a lifestyle."
Perseus nodded sagely. "And we already know you can pull off the amount of black required to be a cat-burglar," he quipped, earning a light punch.
"What's that supposed to mean?" Her dainty eyebrow rose menacingly.
"I didn't mean it in a bad way," he defended, his voice light with his amusement. "I like your punk-princess look - it's..."
"It's what?" she asked dryly.
"You really want to know?" he asked her seriously.
Thalia quickly nodded.
He could just spot the sliver of uncertainty in her eyes, it made his next words all the easier. "Very... attractive." His tone became thicker as his gaze met hers.
Thalia blushed, the red mixing with the scattering of freckles across her nose, making her all the more beautiful to Perseus. "You paused before answering," she accused, trying to distract him from her flush.
"Only because I felt it would be tacky, or even corny, to talk about how hot I think you are." He chuckled when he saw her lips quirk. "Besides, many of the words I think of when trying to describe you would more than likely get me castrated by our current traveling companions."
Thalia's laughter filtered across the camp, drawing attention to her as she buried her face in Perseus' shoulder while attempting to stifle her giggles. Her actions drew more than a few disapproving huffs and narrow-eyed glares.
Hit with a sudden reminder of what Artemis had said to the group at large earlier, Perseus leaned down, his eyes full of mirth; a pleasant aftereffect of her tinkling laughter, earning himself a tantalizing whiff of the fresh rain smell that was her scent as a result.
"Would you like to go on a date with me?"
AN: So yes I know not a lot happened in this chapter, but there is a reason for this. I had to end this one where I did because so much is about to happen. I won't go into any details, but I will leave you with the title for the next chapter. "The First Taste."
Before I end this chapter I'd like to thank Joe Lawyer for beta'ing not only this chapter but all the others as well. And finally Hestia will be in the harem, bringing it to Thalia-Annabeth-Zoe-Bianca-Hestia. I'm hesitant about bringing Artemis in, but if you guys can give me a good reason for her to be in the pairing - and no I don't mean something like 'Artemis/Percy pairing is the best' - then I'll consider it. So Review! Let me know what ya think!