III. The Consuming Panic
Zeus sat on his throne. "To your joint forms," he said, and everyone groaned.
"Mars is boring, why can't they have their own council?"
Athena sniffed. "Brutes, the whole lot of them. They have no appreciation of what is precious!"
I snapped. "Just because they worship you the way you deserve to be worshiped, it doesn't mean they are barbarians."
Athena went red. The Romans thought her little better than Hebe. "The endless war, the bloodshed—"
"Oh, she wasn't disagreeing." Apollo interrupted her, true to character. Usually he would have gotten out his iPod, but he needed to be alert to help me weasel my way out of getting punished.
"I was only pointing out why you hate them. That being said," I crossed my legs, "they could use some art classes."
Zeus growled at us from his throne, "Joint forms, now, children." He said children like a particularly bad insult.
Without any more complaints, I pulled Diana from the northeastern part of the United States and straight into Olympus. She resisted, not recognizing me immediately, but then she gave in. We merged our minds together. It was a peculiar thing, to have two personalities within you at the same time. Slowly, the two of us fused completely, and I felt whole.
Diana assimilated my memories since the Post-War Meeting a month ago. She usually didn't do this, but she instinctively knew something important had happened to me since the last time we had been anywhere near the other.
"Artemis, Apollo. Explain your actions."
I looked at Apollo, and he looked at me. "I have asked Annabeth Chase to become a part of my Hunt several times. I would never force a maiden to remain one, but Athena's daughter has disrespected me."
Hera perked up, eyes shining, "In what way exactly?"
"I sympathized with her due to her recent rupture with Percy Jackson." Poseidon straightened up in his throne, studying me with eyes that bothered me simply because of their likeness to Percy's. "Due to this, I did not kill her for raising her voice at me two weeks ago when…" I blushed at my mistake. I shouldn't have brought that up. "When I mistook Percy Jackson for an… enemy." I tried to make my error—confusing a demigod for a Titan, honestly—less ridiculous, but I failed.
I cleared my throat, and spoke clearly, not letting the sniggers get to me. "She spoke disrespectfully to me today, once again. Enough is enough, I say. If she wishes to challenge an Olympian, then let her feel our wrath."
I looked straight at Hera. A small smile crept on her lips. She gave me a small smile of agreement and a nod. For now, against Annabeth Chase, we were allies despite how much we hated each other.
Athena didn't miss our exchange. "She is not in her right state of mind. It is all because of that boy of yours." She glowered at Poseidon. "I warned her. Heroes are bad news to women everywhere." I couldn't argue with her there. I did agree.
Ridiculous, how I couldn't follow my own advice.
Poseidon smiled, most of his teeth showing. "It's not his—nor my—fault she didn't listen, is it? If someone ignored wise counsel," He laughed at his own joke, but Athena only gritted her teeth, "then they are the only ones to blame. Regardless of whose fault it was, the girl crossed the line. Artemis wished to kill her, and you intervened." Poseidon met my eyes. I knew he wasn't on my side, but neither was he on Athena's.
"My daughter has been appointed as the Architect of Olympus. She may not be harmed, and yet Artemis tried. It was my duty to thwart her attempts." Athena looked quite dignified at the moment, sitting straight and eyes raking over the other gods. In the end, her eyes settled on the minor gods, who would in reality decide the vote. I pursed my lips when I remembered Percy's idiocy. Rejecting godhood had been noble, surprising, and had endeared him to a lot of the gods, but it had lessened the power of the Council of the Gods.
Any of us, with the use of some threats, could get away with trying to destroy Olympus. Which was why Athena was more worried about her image as the goddess of wisdom than someone punishing her. This argument was meaningless.
But the gods have eternity to fill in.
Poseidon scoffed. "You did not act because of your duty to Olympus, but out of love for your daughter. We must not fight our children's battles."
Athena sneered at him. "Like you are one to talk. You favor Percy Jackson so much it is a small wonder you haven't offered immortality to him." Poseidon's lips tightened in obvious anger, and Athena's ticked off expression turned into one of childish glee. "Oh, my. You have. And he rejected you! Your own child." Her chuckles turned into full-out laughter. She laughed so hard that when she stopped, she was slumped halfway off her throne. "This is the highlight of the next decade, I swear."
I had to keep myself from defending Percy. I had always had a positive outlook on his deeds, but I had never been terribly offended by someone insulting him. Something told me to keep quiet, that it would be a terrible mistake to defend the son of Poseidon.
"If you are quite finished," growled Zeus.
"Wait a damn second." Poseidon sprung up from his throne, his trident in his hand. Athena followed his example. Aegis and Dikastis, her spear, shimmered into existence. The two gods stood poised for battle. "I have never appeared in a battlefield and fought someone in Percy's steed. I send him help. I answer his prayers!"
"You favor him above your heir, you dimwitted—"
Athena was cut off by Father's bellow, "QUIET!"
The room was bathed in silence. When Zeus commanded, we obeyed (unless Poseidon chose to mock him, which never ended well). He spoke to Poseidon and Athena, "Sit." They did so in quick order, Poseidon sporting a satisfied grin at having had the last word. "Athena, don't you ever do that again. Your daughter is meaningless." I could tell she didn't like that by the way her jaw tightened. I didn't have time to taunt her with a glance because Father then directed his attention at me, "Artemis, this still doesn't explain your actions. A mortal isn't worth Olympus." His tone of voice was noticeably gentler with me.
I put on my best kicked puppy expression, with my bottom lip slightly jutting out. "I know, Father." I was properly demure when I said, "But Olympus was never in any danger of being destroyed." There was an abundance of raised eyebrows in the Hall of the Gods. I controlled the urge to roll my eyes; doing such a thing would lose me my father's support. How irresponsible did they think me? "As Goddess of the Hunt, I see the weaknesses of my prey, and whatever stands between me and it." I couldn't resist grinning at Athena, who was fuming. She may have been Zeus's most trusted in the battlefield, but I held his heart. "I knew Athena would not let Olympus be destroyed, and purposefully shot an arrow with just the right amount of power so that she could prevent the fall of Olympus in short notice."
"Clearly, Artemis, you just proved yourself guilty."
Apollo came to my aid. "She knew you would stop her, and took measures to allow you to do so. This is her domain. Do you presume to know it better than her?"
Dionysus waved a hand. "Oh, who cares? Athena violated an Ancient Law. The guilt's on her. Let us vote." I was surprised. Dionysus almost always took Athena's side. Whatever she had done to get him on her bad side had undoubtedly been bad.
In the end, only Athena and Poseidon voted to have me punished. The rest of the gods abstained. I smiled and said, "That is not a majority. Those in favor of punishing Athena?"
Dionysus, Apollo, Poseidon, Hera and I raised our hands. At the last moment, so did Aphrodite.
Athena gripped the armrests of her throne. "You two-timing—!"
Aphrodite raised her other hand to inspect her nails. "My interest in your daughter was limited to her relationship with Percy Jackson. But he dumped her." Aphrodite dropped her hand on her lap, and said, a smile playing on her lips, "Remember, Athena?"
Athena clenched her teeth together. She bit out, "Of course, Aphrodite."
Zeus cleared his throat, not liking the tension that had formed around the two goddesses. It didn't help that none but the two of them seemed to know what was going on. Instead of asking for an explanation, my father said, "That is not a majority." He looked around at the minor gods. "That is all, isn't it?" He grudgingly said. I understood; asking for a minor god's confirmation… Ew. None of them had spoken a single word in the meeting. Soon after the Post-War Meeting, most of them had realized that being in the Council wasn't all it was chalked up to be.
Yes, we had power; power which they had diminished by worming themselves in our Council, but most of our time together was spent bickering like twelve-year-olds with a slightly better grasp of the English language. The minor gods were several millennia too late to understand the dynamics of the Council. They didn't understand.
They were in the Council, but they weren't of the Council.
An assortment of moody assertive replies later, my father said, "Be sure this never happens again, or you will be punished, regardless of what this Council dictates. That goes for all of you." He addressed the room. "Hades, if you would?"
"Oh, you finished." He looked up from the stack of papers he had been going through, and rolled his eyes. "Right, so Thanatos is missing."
The Waning Moon
Percy was swimming and I shamelessly stared at him from my place perched on the broadest branch of the sturdiest willow tree around. I would have preferred a more sturdy tree, like an oak, but there was none around, and I was pretty sure that Percy would notice me if I made a tree sprout out of the ground.
I was mulling Hades's words during the council meeting. The fact that Apollo's sister prophecy and Thanatos's kidnapping had come in such close succession was not a coincidence. The Giants were stirring. A month ago, I had hoped that Rachel's prophecy did not come to completion for a long time, but now Apollo had informed me of this new one, I hoped the first one wouldn't be displaced. Whatever I had told Apollo, I knew my theory had no credence. Apollo, as the God of Prophecy, knew his domain better than I did. If there was anything to be done, only he could do it.
Or a Hero, but never a goddess.
The prophecy worried me. If Apollo was right, and it did concern Thalia, then I might be the immortal the prophecy was talking about. Maybe she would betray me. Only now did it dawn on me how foolish it had been to try, and fail, to kill Annabeth. I had always assumed the danger would be Athena, who was half-blinded by her notions of her own superiority—whatever anyone thought, she had her mortal moments, like the rest of immortals. It had never occurred to me that those same mortal emotions I exploited against Athena might be my undoing. If Thalia let herself get carried over by her emotions, if she chose to side with Annabeth over me, then I might have just triggered the prophecy.
However, because Apollo hadn't called me up yet, I assumed I was still safe. Despite his words in his palace, I knew that Apollo would keep me informed of things as important as this if he thought they involved me in some level.
I contemplated killing Thalia, but the thought was sickening. Of all the immortals, I was the fairest. Always, I had a reason for turning against a mortal. Polyphonte had fallen in love with a bear, but I hadn't known how Aphrodite had put her in a trance. Callisto had broken her vow, but I hadn't known the way my father had forced her into doing so. I hadn't killed Orion knowingly. Niobe had deserved her punishment. I would take my revenge on Annabeth with time. But Thalia had done nothing but be loyal to me. How could I kill her? Just because I wanted Annabeth thrown into the deepest part of Tartarus didn't mean I wanted her friend gone, too.
And there was also the slim possibility that if I was the immortal the prophecy spoke of, and if I did try to kill Thalia, she would be betray me if she escaped, somehow deciding my fate. The demigods have always dramatized their role in life, claiming that prophecies are their eternal doom, and that the gods are selfish. And yet the gods had it worse. If a demigod died a hero, where else but in Elysium would he remain for the rest of eternity? In contrast, if a god fell into Tartarus, centuries would pass before they were able to escape with someone's help, and years before they regained a semblance of their power.
It was better to bide my time where Thalia was concerned, I decided.
Years later, I would think of this day and curse myself for my decision. Now, there is no doubt in my mind that not choosing to kill Thalia Grace is the gravest mistake I have ever made.
The Waning Moon
A few minutes later, Diana fell on the branch nearest to me. The impact was so strong that with a crunch I honestly hoped Percy didn't hear, the branch was torn in half. Diana reacted fast, jumping up and taking hold of a branch above her. The branch stopped falling, hovering in midair until it made its slow ascension to the place where it had been ripped. A soft blue glow wove the branch back to the willow tree. Not a second later, Diana fell softly on it and sat down, glaring at the branch. "I hate willow trees. Why couldn't you choose something better to sit on?" Before I could answer, she continued, "Anyways, that wasn't what I came here for."
I sighed, knowing what she wanted. "Percy." My eyes were drawn back to his figure, swimming laps around the greenish lake. I had followed him here, curious. I wondered if he came here often, to relax; to get away from the worries of his life as a mortal. I knew it wasn't easy for demigods to juggle the stress of their two lives, and Percy didn't even get the courtesy of being a low-profile demigod. Not one god in Olympus would hesitate to have a piece of him. As far as trophies went, he was a very valuable one.
"Why are you so interested in him?" Diana didn't want to say we. Always, she was the most cautious one. Always, she was the level-headed one. My Roman self was more like Athena than Minerva herself, so change—accepting boys—was harder for her than it was for me, even if she felt as drawn to Percy Jackson as I did.
"He's different." I tried to explain myself, but the words wouldn't come to me. I didn't know how Percy was different. He just was. There had been, before Percy, boys I could stand, but never before had I gone looking for them. I felt at ease with him, much more comfortable than I ever had ever been with Orion, or even Apollo.
Diana looked at me sadly, and I knew why. She and I were creatures of logic, mostly untouched by the madness induced by Aphrodite and Venus. Even Athena was unable to separate herself from men completely, hand-picking men she thought deserving and birthing children the same way she was born.
I don't look—nor claim to be—a creature of logic anymore. My days of acting rationally are long past. Years have gone by, but I don't regret turning my back on Athena's way.
Diana examined her sandaled feet. "Let me speak to him. Only me. Only this afternoon." I considered Diana's request. After some deliberation, I had to agree. "He's swimming now to the edge." Diana nodded her head in his general direction. I turned my attention back to the son of Poseidon, moving through the water so gracefully I envied him for it. More than once I had wished to have been born as a daughter of Poseidon. I yearned for the sea like the moon itself did.
I tore my eyes away from Percy to find Diana still staring at Percy in jealousy. I snapped her attention back to me with my voice. "You'll be alright?"
Diana stood up on her branch, hands clasped behind her back. "Of course. I copied all your memories of him—and Annabeth Chase—at the meeting. I'll be fine, sister." She stepped off the branch and landed nimbly on the grass bellow. I only stayed long enough for Diana greet Percy.
I flashed out of the forest.
The Waning Moon
I watched them all day from the privacy of my palace. Doubtlessly, my Hunters were worried about me by now. Usually I spent all but a few days a year with them, but in the last week I had been perpetually absent. I wasn't worried they would inform anyone of my behavior, however. They knew better than that.
Percy had been less surprised by Diana's appearance than I had expected him to be. Maybe immortals dropping in to hand him a towel to dry himself was a common occurrence in his life. I had almost gone back on my word, simmering with rage at Diana's careless attitude. She wasn't as good in acting like me as she thought she was. She exaggerated every gesture of mine, and every sentence that fell from her lips lacked the veiled purpose behind mine. The only reason I didn't mesh our two minds together was because… because Percy seemed to enjoy it.
I didn't know if it was because he was happier right now, or because Diana wasn't correcting his archery stance every two minutes, but he liked her more than the average Greek should like a Roman goddess.
The two of them ended up hunting a pack of small hellhounds, since Percy didn't want to practice archery, much to Diana's (and mine's) disappointment. I was severely tempted to ignore Diana and merge the two of us together so that I could talk to Percy, but I decided that if I did, Diana wouldn't leave me alone until I gave her the time she had asked for with Percy. It was better to let her have him for a little while longer, since it wouldn't be permanent.
As soon as Diana entered my palace in Olympus hours later, however, I knew it wouldn't be a one-time occurrence for her to ask me to leave the two of them alone. She slid under the covers on the bed, besides me, and we stayed in silence until she mustered the courage to tell me what I already knew.
"He… is different." She licked her lips, and then met my eyes. I could read a mortal's emotions without trying, and a demigod's was hardly any more difficult, but Diana's were hard to decipher when she was conflicted. A goddess was a much more complicated being than a normal mortal. They had, at most, a hundred years to change, but I was five thousand years old and yet was still considered young. When we lost our sense of direction, or when we ceased to want to keep on living, there were only two paths open to us: Adapt, or fade.
And when you were a goddess, adapting too many times could get your domain ripped away from you.
"Why don't we see him together?" I was too stunned to answer her for a while.
"Are you sure?" My brow creased with worry. What she was suggesting… It wasn't like her to be so careless. Diana hadn't managed to surprise me since she had sworn she would not make any more Hunters after her whole entourage had broken their vows in a period of two years in the 70s.
Diana bit her lip, and that, more than what she had just suggested, scared me. She had forsaken her Hunters more than a decade ago. It wasn't like her to exhibit such mortal mannerisms. Her disquieting descent into an existence so removed from the mortal world was what prompted me to spend few days away from my Hunters—afraid that if I left, they might lose faith, and if they did, that I stopped believing in myself and faded.
Each immortal showed different signs of fading. Were these Diana's? Would they be mine one day soon? I was certain Diana needed more contact with those outside Olympus. If she was willing to take up my life, to become Greek once again, then why should I say no? Why, since her leaving me would leave me vulnerable to the passage of time? My choice wasn't one I had to think about much. "Yes, together." Diana beamed at me, and I cringed.
We touched our palms together. I closed my eyes, and pulled my other side into me. We were one once again. For a long time, we remained like that.
The Waning Moon
After that, there was this irresistible urge to visit Percy as soon as I could. I didn't act on it the next day—or week, even—mostly because I was stuck day after day on emergency Council meetings. Apparently, Tartarus had been leaking much more than Hades had thought. Demigods were being put on alert. The satyrs were recruiting as many demigods as they could, but there simply weren't enough to spare. In the end, Zeus heaped upon my Hunters the task of combing though Europe for them. I gave Hermes a letter to hand to Thalia, informing her of the Hunters's new mission. I explained my absence for the last week by blaming Apollo.
A separate group of demigods was gathered to hunt the remaining demigods in what was left of the West. Annabeth was dismissed from her role as Architect of Olympus to join in on the search, as she was one of the best Greek fighters. The Roman camp remained unperturbed. Quite simply, the way of Rome was to keep only those who proved themselves worthy to Lupa. No one asked Percy's help. No one informed him of the happenings in Olympus. It was unspoken among the Council members, but he had already done enough.
My father was under the impression the Giants would be lulled into sleep once again if we kept all the demigods who couldn't defend themselves somewhere the monsters would be unable to get to them. I disagreed. I knew war was coming just as surely as I knew Zeus would in a short time announce Olympus would be locked away from mortals indefinitely.
I went to visit Thalia.
When I arrived in the clearing I had designated for our meeting, she was waiting for me. "My lady," she said.
I acknowledged her with a nod. "I'll be brief. I don't have much time, Thalia. Our father wants to lock the Gods away, and he blames Percy Jackson."
Thalia's eyes widened. "Why?"
"He believes that the gods have shed too much of our essence in the last years, especially in the last months." I hesitated. Zeus had forbidden the whole Council from speaking about Gaea. A hint was the best I could do; I hoped she commented this to Phoebe. "He pretends to lull the evils that stir back into the ground by alienating ourselves from our children and companions."
She tilted her head to the side, her bangs falling over one eye before she flicked them back. "He doesn't want us to prepare?"
"No, but we must anyways." I gazed at the moon, high on the sky.
"Are we in greater peril than we were a summer ago?" I looked up at my Hunter, since she was taller than me in my eight-year-old form. Thalia's eyes were inquisitive as her feet slowly parted the grass bellow us, making random patterns on it that disappeared as soon as her feet stopped moving.
I smiled despite how grim our topic of conversation was. This was why I had made Thalia my Lieutenant over Phoebe; why I couldn't bring myself to kill her. She was so smart, so reliable. "Yes, much greater peril."
Thalia grimaced. "I understand. Your orders, other than looking for the demigods, my lady?"
"Don't answer to dreams. Don't believe your dreams. No matter what, Thalia. It doesn't matter what you see, don't. Tell the other Hunters the same thing. Your mind can be manipulated so easily when you are unconscious."
"Is that all?"
I could tell she expected me to dismiss her immediately afterwards, but I said, "No. I have a question to ask you." To her credit, Thalia didn't even stiffen. She trusted me. "Have you heard of what happened between Annabeth Chase and I?"
Face blank, Thalia answered, "Yes."
"Is your loyalty still to me?"
Thalia didn't even hesitate. "Yes, my lady."
I nodded, and left after a quick goodbye.
The Waning Moon
I visited Percy next. He was shooting balls at the basketball hoop on one side of the court, which was deserted. Two of the basketballs went through the hoop before I made it besides him. "Wouldn't it be more productive to practice your swordsfighting, if you want to blow off steam?"
Percy made an exasperated noise, and threw away the ball he had picked up with a huff. "Oh, Gods, now what do you want?" He crossed his arms as he turned to me.
I was taken aback by the way he spoke to me. "Is there something I did?" It didn't occur to me until later that as a goddess, I didn't apologize, nor did I ask if there was something I should be apologizing for.
Percy rolled his eyes. "Obviously, something's up in Olympus. I can't make any Iris Messages. Every time I use a phone to try to contact a demigod, the call falls through. My internet connection was literally useless as of yesterday. And," he tapped his foot on the floor, "I've had no less than five Olympians visit me today, if I include you."
I blinked. "Five? Who?" I used the tone no demigod dared defy.
Percy answered me promptly. "Hermes, Apollo, Aphrodite, my dad and you." He shook his head, as if he couldn't believe his words. "I didn't just tell you, did I?" He pinched his nose.
I didn't deign him with an answer. "Hermes?" I figured it was best to leave the most complicated questions—such as Apollo's appearance—for later.
"He officially apologized for cutting me off from the rest of the camp. It's not fair that you can do that after I've done so much for you."
"It's to protect you." I covered my mouth, but the words were already out. Percy smiled. I wondered if he had intentionally left me that opening to see if I volunteered some information. I tried to ascertain for sure, but Poseidon was still keeping his mind locked away from me. "And Apollo?"
Percy shrugged. "He asked if I wanted archery lessons." I could tell he was hoping for me to derail into a lecture on the importance of archery, but I kept my cool. I knew Apollo wouldn't visit him just because he wanted to pay back a favor. Did my brother think Percy had anything to do with the prophecy?
In that moment, I knew that, at least subconsciously, I had assumed that he was part of it. He had been so monumentally important in the second Titan War that there was no way he wasn't involved in this one. Annabeth was his ex-girlfriend and Thalia was his friend. One way or another, he would be involved, whether he fought Gaea himself or led an army. He was a leader. More importantly, he had defeated Kronos this time around. If Gaea was going to be hunting anyone down, it would be Percy.
"I don't think you want to know about her." There was a trace of amusement in his voice that I knew was real. I probably didn't want to know. I sensed a sudden change in him I identified as fear. Percy started talking very fast. "But if you insist, she—"
"And Poseidon, Percy?"
He gave me a tight smile. "What, you don't want to question me about Aphrodite? I'm sure she would be insulted."
"What did he tell you, Percy?" I didn't mean to make myself sound as threatening as I did, but it came out that way.
He narrowed his eyes at me. "Is there a reason why you're here, Artemis? I'm tired and I was practicing okay?" I didn't see why he would need to practice shooting a stupid ball into a stupid hoop for, but I had more important questions to ask him than that one.
In a second, I was so close to him our noses were touching. I had turned into my sixteen-year-old form purposefully, since staying in my usual one would have forced me to look up at him more than I was comfortable with. My Celestial Bronze knife was poised against his throat. It was for show; we both knew he wouldn't be harmed there. "I'm not Ares, Percy." I made sure my voice was soothing, but not at all patronizing. I didn't want him to think I believed him to be a child. I respected him. "You won't survive me." My left hand settled on his forearm. I knew without needing to look into his emotions that he was going to mouth off, so I said, "Please tell me what Poseidon said. I swear on the River Styx I will not tell anyone."
Thunder boomed, signifying the recognition of my oath by the Fates.
Percy was staring at the blade of my knife. "Get that away from me."
"I will if you tell me what I want." Despite my words, I let the hand holding the knife fall to my side. Percy didn't relax, and I never once expected him to. This close, with my other hand holding on to the arm which would go for Riptide, I could kill him in an instant if I wanted to. Wherever my knife was at the moment didn't matter. "Percy, Zeus is going to make a terrible mistake, and I need to know if Poseidon's plans coincide with my own."
"Artemis, I'm not an idiot. My dad doesn't trust you. I shouldn't trust you either, where he is concerned." And would he lay down his life to protect his secrets? "I could kill you."
Percy gulped. "I'm long overdue, anyways."
I stared him down, but Percy didn't back down. I didn't believe for a second that he wasn't afraid of dying. Even if he had Elysium guaranteed, I knew he wouldn't bear leaving his friends. "Tell me. You're making me think it's a lot more risky than it probably is."
I don't know why, but he told me. "He wants me to go under the sea. To Atlantis. He thinks I might not be safe above the surface. Will you tell me what's going on?"
I sheathed my knife. "Thank you."
"Artemis, am I really in danger or is my dad overreacting?" He looked down.
I looked into his deep green eyes. "If you're not careful, you'll be dead before you reach seventeen." My gaze scanned the court. Not a single shadow. "I must go."
Percy nodded absentmindedly, still reeling from my confession.
The Waning Moon
A mile away from the court where I met Percy, Apollo was waiting for me. I turned back to my usual form. Apollo didn't comment. "You heard it all?"
He nodded. "Poseidon won't be able to hide him."
"Why? Was there a line missing from the prophecy?" Apollo shook his head.
"A feeling," he said is casually, but when the God of Prophecy said that, there was a very slim chance of him not being right.
I said out of the blue, "I won't kill Thalia."
"I think you should, but whatever you say. More importantly, I think we should tell the Council." He sat down on the grass and leaned back against a tree.
I looked at him suspiciously. "Why?"
He shrugged and closed his eyes. "A feeling." Oh, but how I hated it when he got prophecies. How I hated it.
I walked up to him so my shadow fell on him. He opened his eyes, annoyed. "I think the immortal it speaks of… is me."
"I know," Apollo said quietly. He held out his hands. I considered ignoring them, but I needed the support. I sat down besides my brother, and his arms wrapped around me as he pulled me onto his lap. Apollo smelled of laurels and lemons. The moment his skin touched mine, a pleasant warmth spread through me.
"Completely, Artemis. I'm sorry. I want you to kill all your Hunters." He grinned down at me.
I swatted his shoulder as best I could from my position. "You can't. They're maidens. I've thought about it."
"Not even Thalia?"
"Especially not her. I feel responsible for her more than I do for my other Hunters."
Apollo sighed into my hair, tickling me. "Apollo!" I screamed in fury, turning around to hit him. By the time I managed, he had dumped me on the grass. My hands clawed at thin air. "You will pay, you insufferable boy!"
I heard Apollo's laugh, carried over by the wind.
The Waning Moon
Apollo swore the Council to secrecy before he revealed what a sister prophecy was. There were cries of outrage from everyone who hadn't known about the last one—before Zeus quieted them down. When Apollo revealed the words of the prophecy, all eyes turned to Athena, who was pale. She remained silent as an argument arose around her children. Most of the gods agreed the first two lines spoke of Annabeth Chase, who was the only female child of Athena or Minerva with hubris as a fatal flaw.
"Let's kill her!"
"No, Ares, trying to impede the prophecy could set it off!" Apollo screamed at him. All the blame was being heaped on him, especially because almost everyone in the room hadn't been allowed to have a say in the first sister prophecy.
"But if we kill her—and all of her children—then we are safe. An oath on the River Styx that Athena won't have any more children, and that's it!" Aphrodite waved her hand. "She shouldn't have children anyways. Virgin goddesses." She tsked.
Hades gave Aphrodite a condescending smile. "Because that worked out so well last time."
The Goddess of Love went red in anger. "Yes, but they did it for the sex. She can't have sex!" She pointed one finger at Athena.
"No one's killing my children unless we kill Artemis's Hunters too!"
I gritted my teeth. Now that she had dragged me into it, I had very little options left. "Oh, yes, just because they're mentioned in the prophecy. If that's the case, why don't we hurl ourselves into Tartarus? If there are no Olympians left to crown another, then there's no problem."
"Everyone is being ridiculous." Hera said. "No one will be killed."
"Actually," Poseidon said, lounging on his throne, "let's kill everyone that might be involved in the prophecy. Everyone must sacrifice something."
I pursed my lips. "Oh, I agree. Especially since our dearest Savior of Olympus is entrenched in it!"
Poseidon sat bolt-upright. "What?" In any other circumstance, I would have been quite happy to have Poseidon worried over my words, but my little victory felt hollow.
"Apollo can confirm that Percy Jackson will, one way or another, one prophecy or the other, be deeply involved in them both."
All eyes turned to my brother. He rolled his eyes. "Yes, yes, I swear on the River Styx." A peal of thunder met my ears.
"Now we have all the more reason to kill everyone!"
Hera sighed loudly. "Oh, but how I miss Mars." She turned to Zeus. "Why couldn't we hold a joint meeting?"
Zeus ignored her. "I have made my decision." There were protests from virtually everyone in the room, myself included. He couldn't choose to kill my Hunters! Or Percy. "No one will be killed." One half of the room sighed in relief even as the other half raised their voices in fury. "We will seal ourselves away, and prevent the prophecy from coming about!" Zeus raised a hand, stopping the cries of outrage. "Percy Jackson's wish will be our downfall if we continue the way we are. If the boy accepts it, I propose we give him godhood in exchange for allowing us to go back on our oaths."
Poseidon slammed his trident against the cold marble floor. "He will not accept. Godhood would have to be forced down his throat."
Aphrodite piped up. "An oath on the River Styx must be revoked by choice. He won't be able to free us, then."
Silence settled down on the room like the weight of the sky. "We lock ourselves then, and don't acknowledge our children any more than we have to."
I opened my mouth to argue, but with one look my father quieted me down.
The Waning Moon
The bridge out of Olympus was made out of Imperial Gold. It shimmered on its own right, not needing the moon's glow to reflect light. I tiptoed quietly down the dissolving bridge, careful to not step on the clouds below. If I did, then Zeus would be alerted of my purpose. I took a step back and jumped the particularly large hole left by the dissolving Imperial Gold, landing easily on the tips of my feet. The spaces of Imperial Gold I could step in were too small for me to walk normally. The moon gave me its strength, and the night was my ally. In broad sunlight, distinguishing Apollo's light from the Imperial Gold's would have been almost impossible, even for someone with eyes as good as mine.
The doorway out of Olympus was only a few feet away when I realized that the Gold directly connected to the doorway was about to disappear completely. At the rate I was going, I would never reach the doorway. Risking capture, I danced over the clouds to the unstable railing. I ran with expertise down the thin stretch of gold, never wider than half the width of one of my feet. Five feet from the doorway, the railing ended abruptly. Without stopping, I jumped with as much precision as I could manage—which was a lot. The tip of right foot barely touched on the thin sheet of Gold before I was airborne once again, the Gold dissolving once I had jumped away.
I could see the Celestial Bronze doors slipping away, dissolving under the might of the sky. I slammed into them. My nails clawed at the Bronze, finding purchase in the Gold handles. I yanked them open, and broke into a exhilarated run when I realized I was surrounded by darkness. Darkness so all-encompassing I knew at once where I was.
I couldn't help it. I screamed. No longer did I care to save Olympus, my Hunters, or Percy. I cried for my father, to come and save me. I cried for my brother, who would always protect me from threats I myself didn't see. It was useless. I knew that in here, no one would hear me.
The pain hadn't set in yet, but soon, I knew, it would. Athena's voice reached my ears just as the golden tears started to leak out from my eyes. "Artemis, now, don't cry. You'll only be gone for a few millennia at most."
I growled, but I didn't even know if Athena was really here, or if she had recorded this. "I'm speaking to you directly. I had to get my revenge. It was so helpful for Hera to slip out before you. I barely had time to set the entrance to Tartarus before you reached the gates. It's…" she laughed "connected to Typhon's. Have fun for me, sister?"
As Athena's voice faded, terrible screams filled my ears, making me shiver. Soon, my own screams joined the cacophony as I crossed the part of Tartarus that crushed mortals to nothingness. My throat went hoarse with the effort. My eyes bled ichor, as did the rest of my body. When I mustered enough strength to look down at myself, the darkness of Tartarus was illuminated by the pure golden hue of my blood. The pain weakened me, and I could only ask myself why.
Why had I ever wanted to leave Olympus? For the salvation of the Gods? For my own pitiful existence? That existence was being snuffed out bit by bit as I fell towards Typhon. I couldn't die, I couldn't fade, but even my father would become a shade if he spent mere days at Typhon's whim. What would he do to me? What kind of torture would he bestow on me once he heard my desperate cries for help?
Curse Athena and her blasted daughter. I didn't care how long it took me, but I would rise from this prison Athena had locked me in. Apollo would never stop looking for me, and eventually he would brave the entrance containing Typhon. Apollo, I knew, would never leave me.
The pain intensified until my thoughts splintered and all I had left were fragments of memories, feelings I couldn't identify neither then nor now. I grasped in vain at my sanity, but my hands came up empty. Before Tartarus swallowed me whole, however, I saw a beacon of light among the darkness. There was black, but never one quite as black as the one I was surrounded by. There was green, bottle green like the sea, the shade of the most coveted emeralds. A thousand good feelings flooded me, all coming from a source that reminded me of my brother but wasn't, exactly.
I realized, after a few minutes, that it was the image my mind had conjured up of Percy Jackson. The tears still fell down my torn cheeks, mingling with the ichor. The pain was worse than anything I had ever experienced, but I was coherent.
I don't know how I did it, but ironically, Athena's own creation saved me. This plan, engineered by the biggest hypocrite I have ever met, was her downfall. Somehow, I managed to bind myself to Percy. Somehow, through means that baffled both Hermes and Apollo, I bound myself to him in a plane that cannot be explained.
Percy Jackson kept me chained to the world, and away from Typhon's clutches. Yet still in Tartarus, I waited for the son of Poseidon to help me out of the pit that could end my existence.
The Waning Moon
A/N: You have no idea how terrible the last two weeks have been. The chapter itself wasn't hard, though it was a terribly daunting task to try to make a filler anything but dull. I hope I managed.
So no, my problem wasn't the chapter, but my life. I hate visas. I really, really do. I hate them. This chapter would have been finished a week ago if it wasn't for that. It's not that I didn't have the time, though I had less free time than usual for vacations. It's that I've been worrying about when things are going to arrive by mail because you can't trust mail here. It's worrying about my interview and getting mad because I just messed up my nails. It's teenage angst, and I hate it.
I don't think I'll be able to update for a while, and if I do, then after that the chapters will pretty much stop until October. I'll probably be too busy.
To Guest Reviewers: Look, you guys, I answer everyone's reviews as long as they let me, but I can't PM you. Therefore, any questions you have, I can't answer because I'm not one of those authors who write author notes longer than the true chapter. A Guest reviewer left some great theories in Chapter II, but I can't answer him/her because he/she doesn't have an account. If you want me to answer, just take that into account. You're welcome to leave reviews as a Guest, I'm okay with that.