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The Titan's Curse

By Artie Gallezi

Adventure

Ignorance Is Bliss

Artie was beginning to wonder where and how Zoë learned to drive as she swerved through traffic which shook him, and the rest of group, like rag dolls. It was when Artie nearly crashed through the back window, he swore Zoë did that last one on purpose, that he saw a helicopter. It looked similar to the one that had appeared at Westover Hall. And it seemed to be following them.

"Zoë?" Artie asked.

"I told thee to use thy seat belt." Zoë jerked the wheel to the left.

"Noted." Artie peeled his face from the window. "But I think, unless I'm being paranoid, we're being followed.

Percy looked up and cursed. "They know the van! We have to ditch it."

"Maybe the military will shoot it down." Grover said hopefully.

"This is the nation's capital." Artie said. "Nothing gets into the air without someone giving the order."

"The military probably thinks its one of theirs." Percy agreed. "How can the General use mortals, anyway?"

"Mercenaries," Zoë said bitterly. "It is distasteful, but many mortals will fight for a cause if they are paid."

Artie reluctantly nodded."Money's only something you need in case you don't die tomorrow."

Percy would have remarked how deep that sounded, but he knew better. "Whats that from?"

Artie managed to buckle his seat belt, "Wall Street."

Thalia closed her eyes and prayed. "Hey, Dad, a lighting bolt would nice right about now. Please?"

The sky stayed gray and cloudy without the slightest hint of a helpful thunderstorm.

The kitten peaked its head out of Artie's belt, "Mew."

Artie rubbed its head and smiled fondly, "You get used it."

"There!" Bianca shouted. "That parking lot!"

"We'll be trapped." said Zoë.

"Trust me."

Zoë shot across two lanes of traffic into a mall parking lot on the south of the Potomac river. They left the van and followed Bianca down some steps.

"Subway entrance." explained Bianca. "We can head south. Alexandria."

"Anywhere." said Thalia.

They bought their tickets without too much trouble, expect for Thalia having to manipulate the Mist when the kitten poked its head out of Artie's belt, and were on a train heading south away from D. C. When their train came above ground, they could see the helicopter circling the parking lot before taking off after the train.

"We have to change trains." Percy said.

Artie stood up with an exasperated sigh, "Alright, let go."

"Um, where are you going?" Thalia asked.

Artie pointed to emergency window on the roof, "I've done this before. Trains are always passing each other."

"I think Percy meant change trains at the next station." Bianca turned Percy. "That is what you meant, right?"

"Hold on," said Grover. "You were actually planning juming from the roof of a moving train onto another?"

"No." Artie sat down quietly and saw they were staring at him. "Why are you looking at me? Percy's the one who said change trains."

They did eventually change trains, several times in fact, and escaped the helicopter. Unfortunately, they found themselves at the end of the line at an industrial park with nothing but railways and empty warehouses. And snow, a lot of snow. Artie shivered and adjusted his cloak while Percy did the same with his duster. They all wandered the rail yard in hope of finding another passenger train, but Artie had to places like this before. With the mixture of rust and snow covering an endless row of empty freight cars, Artie was sure this rail yard was mostly abandoned. He was about suggesting making camp inside on of the freight cars when they ran into a homeless man huddled by a trashcan fire. Artie tried to keep a straight face when he saw it was the same homeless man he saw back at D. C.

He waved them over. "Y'all need to get warmed up? Come on over."

They all huddled around the fire, even Artie's kitten poked its head out, as Thalia said with chattering teeth. "Well, this is g-g-g-great."

"My hooves are freezing." Grover complained.

"Feet." Percy corrected for the sake of the homeless man.

"Maybe we should contact camp." Bianca said. "Maybe Chiron can — "

"No." said Zoë. "We are beyond help. We must finish the quest ourselves."

Bianca turned to Artie. "What about you?"

Artie shrugged. "I'm used to be working things out for myself. Just focus on your quest."

The kitten poked its head out of Artie's belt. "Mew!"

Artie's voice grew gentle as he scratched behinds its ears. "I know, but there's nothing here you can eat."

"You know," said the homeless man. "You;re never really without friends. You kids need a ride west?"

"They do." Artie motioned to his friends. "You wouldn't happen to know which train is headed that way?"

They all turned to see as the man pointed behind them. It was a freight train, gleaming and free of snow and rust. It was one of those automobile-carrier trains lined with iron curtain and three levels filled with luxury cars. On the side of the frieght train was a sign that read, SUN WEST LINE.

"That's . . . convenient." Thalia said. "Thanks, uh . . . "

But the man was gone. Not only that, but trashcan fire was gone as well. It was almost as if he had taken the warming golden flames with him, leaving them with an empty and cold trash can.

An hour later the train depart and they were rumbling west. There would be argument to who would drive, because everyone got their own luxury car. Zoë and Bianca occupied a Lexus while Grover played race car driver behind the wheel of a Lamborghini. Thalia crashed in a black Mercedes and hot wired the radio to catch alternate radio stations from D. C. Artie on the other hand, nearly broke eighty-eight miles an hour himself when he saw a 1985 DMC Delorean. Percy thought Artie was seconds away from stealing the car when Artie jumped into the driver's seat.

"You alright?" Percy tapped on the window.

"Alright?!" Artie exclaimed. "Do you know what this is?!"

"A car?"

"Not just any car." Artie rubbed the wheel fondly. "Oh, what I'd do to drive this car."

"Why?"

"If my calculations are correct, when this baby hits 88 miles per hour" Artie could barely contain himself. "You're gonna see some serious stuff."

"Oh right," Even Percy knew that classic time traveling comedy. "Back To The Future."

Percy said good bye and went to join Thalia in her Mercedes as Artie laid the backrest down and allowed the kitten to come out from his belt. He smiled as the kitten kneaded his claws against his armored chest and curled up to sleep. Artie wasn't sure what had made him take the little furry creature with him. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks as he remembered what the homeless man had said back in D.C.

"Poor little guy." Artie repeated as he scratched the sleeping kitten's head. "Left all alone with no one to take care of him."

Just like me, Artie thought to himself.

It was true. This little defenseless kitten had be callously created and then tossed aside into the cold cruel would to fend for himself. In a way, he envied the kitten. He doubted it would ever found out how and why it was created. Something that he wished he had never learned.

(YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING - SIX YEARS PREVIOUSLY)

Artie looked up at the sky with contempt, "What are you? Bored up there?"

The group of girls parted to make way for a smaller girl passage, but they did not lower their bows. Artie saw that she was not armed, but he was not about to make the assumption that she was any less dangerous for it. She couldn't have been more than twelve with silver streaked auburn hair and eyes just like his, though she did not wear sunglasses to hid hers like he did.

"What is your name, boy?" the young girl asked.

"Artie." he answered politely.

"Your full name." She corrected.

"Artemis." he said and noticed the girls seemed to be insulted. "Artemis Raposo Gallezi. Who are you?"

"I am also Artemis," The young girl smiled slightly, "But you are not the goddess, I take it."

Artie shook his head, knowing this was in fact the goddess. "No."

"That is good to hear," said Artemis. "Otherwise that would have made the past two millennia rather confusing." Artemis glanced at Zoë. "Zoë is injured. See if she can me moved and we will tend to her back at camp."

Two girls lowered their bows and rushed to examine Zoë. They did a quick assessment and both agreed that while injured, none of her wounds were serious. They did wrap her in thick blankets before lashing her to a board. Artie watched as they worked, not daring to move in case the archers should loose their arrow if he so much as scratched his noes. Artemis motioned for the Hunters to lower their bows which they did, but still watched Artie like a hawk.

"Boys and men are not allowed to see my Hunters." Artemis said plainly. "The last one, just last month, I turned into a jackalope."

"Why a jackalope?" Artie couldn't stop himself from asking. He figured he at least deserved a reason before he grew taste for grass.

"I enjoy making jackalopes." Artemis said simply. "But since you have not only protected one of my Hunters, but rid the earth of Orion. I will refrain from doing so."

"I think he might come back. I'm not sure if I really killed him."

"You didn't." Artemis clarified. "Orion is a powerful warrior, but he fears death. He returned to the stars to recover. It will be many a year before he returns to hunt me once more."

"Or me." Artie said.

"If you are not already dead when he finally dose return." Artemis motioned for the Hunters to leave and returned to camp. "I know why you have come here, Artie."

"You do?"

"Yes." The goddess motioned for Artie to follow. "You must recover from your journey. In that time, you shall learn the identity and truth of your Olympian parentage."

Artie spent nearly two weeks 'recovering' with the Hunters. In that time, Artemis granted Artie a Hunter's bow so he use the magic quiver that Hephaestus had given him. Zoë had also instructed him, begrudgingly, how to properly use the bow. Since Artie had never held a bow before in his life, he was grateful for the lessons, even if his teacher was less than enthusiastic. Though he was as polite as he could be, the Hunters didn't seem glad that Artemis had allowed him, a boy, to stay with them. However, that did not stop them from eating the fresh deer and rabbits he brought to camp, at Artemis's request. It was one of those night, as he fed Tobias piece of roasted rabbit, when Artemis sent Zoë to bring Artie to her tent. He followed without question and Zoë led him to the tent at the opposite edge of camp where his small tent was. Zoë opened the flaps and stood aside to let him inside.

Artemis sat upon a wooden throne decorated with various pelts of animals, many of them no longer roaming the earth. The floor in front the goddess were silk rugs and pillows, should she decided to grant an audience, which she had. Her silver bow, carved so that it resembled a gazelle's horns, hung on a polished oak display behind the goddess. In the center, burning without wood or smoke, a golden brazier that kept the tent warm and comfortable.

The goddess stepped down from her throne and sat cross legged in front of the brazier. She motioned for Artie to sit next to her. "Please, join me."

Artie obliged. "You wanted to see me?"

"Yes. You recall that you would learn the truth about your Olympian parent?"

"Yes." Artie nodded. "You know who it is?"

"Why do you want to know so badly?"

Artie shuddered when he recalled the incident during capture the flag, the reason for his quest. "Something happened at camp . . . I . . . nearly killed three campers. I don't know how or why, but it was like I lost control." Artie took a breath. "The scariest part was, I could see everything I did. It was like something was controlling me and I couldn't stop no matter how hard I tried."

"And you think this is connected to your Olympian parent." Artemis finished. "But have you considered it could a result of your time in the wild?"

"You know about that?"

"I know more about you than you realized." Artemis stared into his eyes. "The reason you wear sunglasses even at night, how your nails grow into claws when you're scared or angry, and why you can speak with predatory mammals regardless if they are the sacred animal of a god or not."

"You've been watching me." Artie realized. "Not since I arrived at camp, but before that."

"I have been watching you from the very beginning." Artemis reached out and tapped a finger between his eyes. "A beginning that you are not even aware of."

A spark of light flashed when the goddess touched his skin.

Flashes played behind his eyes. A woman, a man, and a child running through a forest during the night as it snowed. Artemis turning a second man into a deer as wolves took off into pursuit. Three balls of white moonlight, a bright flash, and Artemis holding a baby in her arms. Then he saw flashes of his life, though as if he was observing himself. He saw himself playing soccer with his brother, at the beach with his mother and brother, and learning to play the guitar as his fingers struggled to move properly. Then came his memories from the jungle. Forcing himself to eat grubs and insects. Running and hiding from Thorn. Learning the hard way which plants were safe to eat while others caused him pain. Running and hiding from Thorn. Honing his noes and other senses to any and all predators that might make a meal of him. Running and hiding from Thorn. Huddling around a fire to keep warm as he shivered from the cold. Running and hiding from Thorn. Going without food and water for days at a time. And, of course, running and hiding from Thorn.

Then just as quickly, Artie was back in Wyoming as he stared into a goddess's eyes, the same eyes he knew that she had given him when he reached Camp Half Blood. In that split second, he learned everything about his lineage. His mother had been Megan Beretti and his father was William Star. They had a son, him, and named him Artemis, though he lacked a middle name and his surname was Star rather than Gallezi. They had sacrificed themselves so Artemis could use their life force, after he lay dying in their arms, so he could live. Somehow, the process had made him a baby again and Artemis took him to live with a surrogate family in Rio De Janerio, Brazil. The woman knew his name had been Artemis and given him the middle name Raposo, the Portuguese word for fox, as well he her surname, Gallezi. He spent the next eight years as a normal child believing Maria and Jacob Gallezi were his biological mother and brother, only to be chased for the next four years after Thorn killed them and tried the same with him.

"You understand now." Artemis said gently. "You are the first and the only of my children."

"I . . . you . . . him . . ." Artie cradled his head, his mind swirling with new old memories. "Why?"

"Why?" Artemis repeated.

"Why didn't you help me?" Artie felt his eyes swelling with tears.

"I didn't — "

"What?!" he demanded. "Didn't care?! That I was scared? That that thing killed my mother and brother and tried to kill me?!" Artie fell to his knees, his hand holding his head. "I thought I was alone and all this time you just watched."

"It is against the ancient laws." She explained. "The Gods are forbidden from directly interfering with the lives of their children."

"No!" he shook his head. "If you could have child and keep your vow, you could have helped me."

"I sent you Tobias," Artemis said soothingly, doing her best to calm him. "He watched over and helped you where I couldn't. Thanks to him you wouldn't have survived." Artemis tried to embrace her son, "Shh. Its over now."

Artie scrambled away from the goddess. "Nothing is over! Nothing! You just don't turn it off! I don't feel safe anywhere. Not even at camp, the only place in the world where it IS safe for me." Artie was close to hysterics. "I can't sleep without a knife in my hand. I keep looking over my shoulder when I eat. I can't even stop myself from checking the air for strange smells."

"I did not want that life for you." Artemis pleaded. "But — "

"What about what I wanted?!" he shouted. "Others want money or to be famous. All I wanted was to go back home. Was that so much?! To go back to the way things were? To just be happy?!"

"For demigod." Artemis said grimly. "I'm afraid so. I am sorry, Artie, but you can't go back. Even if you return to Brazil, things will not and cannot go back before your family died."

Then Artie ran.

He ran out of the tent.

He ran out of the camp.

He ran until he could run no more and collapsed just as he crossed the border into Montana. But no matter how far, or fast, he could not run from the knowledge that Artemis was right and he could not return to the life he left back in Rio almost five years ago.

(CAMP HALF BLOOD, NEW YORK - SIX YEARS PREVIOUSLY)

With no place to go, Artie returned to the only semblance of home he had, Camp Half Blood. Though it had taken him much longer to reach Wyoming, nearly ten days, it was the four day journey back that felt longer to him. He crossed the magical border of camp and reached the Big House just a few hours after dark and Chiron was on his way to bed.

"Artie?!" he rushed to the demigod's side, should he be injured. "You're alive! Its been nearly a month."

It took a moment for Artie to respond. "Feels longer."

"Were you successful?" asked the centaur. "Did you learn which Olympian you belong to?"

"Chiron?" Artie's voice nearly a whisper from exhaustion.

"Yes?"

"Don't ever ask me that again." He pleaded. "I just wanna forget this ever happened."

"I don't understand, child." Chiron knelt by the weary demigod. "What did you learn?"

"That somethings shouldn't exist." he began to walk toward cabin eleven and whispered to himself so softly Chiron almost didn't catch it. "Including me."

The next day, Chiron watched as cabin eleven ,and the rest of the cabins, filled the dining pavilion for breakfast. He was concerned with what he saw. When Artie had first arrived, he seemed like he had reached the Isles of the Blest. He laughed and fooled around with members of other cabins as well as those of cabin eight. For all intents and purposes, Artie was a normal happy child without a care in the world. But he now, he seemed utterly defeated as he quietly brought up the rear of cabin eleven, his heading hanging low and dragging his feet. Chiron promised himself that once breakfast was over, he would have the child explain what had occurred during his quest. The members of cabin eleven were ecstatic that one of their members, gone for a month and thought dead, had returned. But their cheers and jubilation faded when they saw the blank stared on Artie's face. They pestered him with questions and urged him to recount the events of his quest, but he would not. Eventually they got the hint and figured that he had failed the quest.

Chiron raised his goblet, "To the gods!"

Everyone raised their goblets, except for one. "To the gods!"

It was when everyone was returning from scraping a portion of their food into the brazier, that Luke noticed Artie had not moved. Luke had relived when Artie had returned from his quest unharmed, and with magic weapons, but that was about to be for nothing if an angry god blasted the kid for not offering a portion of his meal.

He went to the young demigod and nudged him playfully. "Thinking which part to give up and which to eat?"

"I'm not hungry." Artie stared at his food.

"Not hungry?" Luke chuckled. "When you first got here I thought we're actually gonna have to start rationing the stuff."

"Not anymore."

"Come on, whats the matter?" Luke leaned closer to whisper. "Was it your quest?"

"Yes."

"Did you find out who — "

"Yes, and I wish I never did."

"It can't be that bad." Luke laid a hand on his shoulder. "Unless it was Ares."

"Worse."

"Aphrodite?" Luke smiled. "Can't say I blame you, I wouldn't be eager to share a cabin with them even with eleven as crowded as it is."

"No." Artie pushed his food away. "Just please leave me alone."

Luke sighed. "Alright, but I'd offer something up unless you wanna get blasted by Zeus."

Artie stood up without a word, taking his plate with him, and walked to the brazier just as everyone was returning to their places and began eating. Artie stared at the fire and then to sky for a moment. He was sure that Artemis was watching him right, wondering what he would do. Artie was sure that even as low as he felt then, and after all she had done, an angry Artemis could make things much much worse.

He scraped every last bit of food into the brazier and whispered almost in audibly, "Artemis."

Then something happened he wished hadn't and would have allowed him to stay in cabin eleven. Everyone turned their heads when they heard the sound of howling wolves and froze when they saw the floating symbol over Artie's head.

A crescent moon that resembled a bow and arrow.

The reactions were varied. Some gagged as they drank milk while some spewed out the liquid in a fine mist. Others choked on their food and their siblings rushed to aid them. But just sat there in silence, silverware clattering as they fell from their hands, and gaped at the impossibility.

Chiron was the first and only to speak, though it was barely an audible whisper. "It is determined."

"No . . ." Artie shook his head, pleading for Chiron not to continue. "Please . . ."

Chiron gulped. "Hunter, Protector, Maiden. Hail, Artie Raposo Gallezi, Son of the Moon Goddess."

From then on, Artie was alone once more.

Chiron, as per the rules, moved him to cabin eight. The children of eleven avoided him. The Demeter children ignored him. Ares children and Aphrodite children gave him a wide berth. Charlie and the rest of cabin nine followed suit with the two children of Dionysus and shunned him. But the worst was the Apollo cabin. Before he was claimed, Artie had gotten along best with them. They shared his enthusiasm for music and often enjoyed when he played songs of Brazil for them. But now, if they were not afraid of him, like Annabeth's cabin, they down right hated him.

Chiron was concerned what was going through the child's mind as all this unfurled before him. Even after all he had seen, Chiron was having a hard time accepting Artemis had claimed the child as her own. But what concerned him most, was the child slowly disappeared over the next week. He could be found on the edge of archery range practicing with a silver longbow and quiver, the Apollo cabin snickering at his poor skill. Or resting in a tree watching the saytrs tend to the strawberries, but eventually came the day when Artie did appear at all. Not for meals, not for activities, or in his cabin. Even when the campers gathered for capture the flag he could not be seen. Dionysus had assured that the boy had not left the borders of the camp, but it was possible that if anyone could slip past without detection it could be Artie. After all, he had spent a good portion of his life avoiding detection.

But Annabeth, always the clever observer, had noticed things.

Some of the practice weapons had gone missing, but had reappeared the next morning with new leather grips. The same had also happened with the Apollo cabin's quivers and even been replaced with brand new ones. Luke had noticed that some of the water skins and sandals that the camp store sold had somehow been replaced with higher quality handmade products. She had also overheard the cleaning Harpies commenting on how some food, mostly vegetables and small amounts of salt, were missing from the food stores. And during the last capture of the flag game, some campers had been yanked up off the ground by snare traps that were meant for rabbits and such.

"I think he's still here." she said to Grover as they trudged through the woods. "Chiron said that Mr.D would have noticed if he left."

"But what about food?" Grover asked.

"These woods aren't just stocked with monsters." Annabeth told him. "He knows how to live off the land. A bunch of Ares campers got snared by traps. I'm betting he's set up a bunch of them all over to catch rabbits and stuff. "

"Alright, but why sneak back into camp to steal food if he can get it himself?"

"Wouldn't you get sick of eating the same stuff over and over again?"

"True." Grover admitted. "But do you seriously think we can find him? In the forest of all places? This is the son of Artemis we're talking about."

"He's probably stopped making an effort to cover his tracks." Annabeth frowned. "Its been a week and no one's come looking for him."

"Then why are we?" Grover asked.

"Because that could have been me." Annabeth snapped.

"The daughter of Artemis?"

"No." Annabeth shook her head. "I hadn't been on my own for that long when Luke and Thalia found me, but Artie wasn;t that lucky."

"It seems he's used to being alone." Grover remarked.

"That doesn't make it right." Annabeth said. "Just because he's used to being alone doesn't mean he likes it."

"So how are we gonna find him?"

"We;re not." Annabeth smiled. "You are."

"Okay, how am I gonna find him?"

Annabeth pulled out a whistle. "I had Beckondorf make this. It'll mimic the call of his bird. He'll come to investigate and you ask him where Artie is."

"And if he doesn't wanna tell us?" Grover asked. "That bird has been with him for years. He's probably the closest thing he has to a friend."

"We'll cross that bridge when we come to it. Keep your eyes on the sky." Annabeth brought the whistle to her lips.

Grover gazed to the sky as the screech of a hawk echoed through the forest. "That's pretty real sounding."

"That wasn't me." Annabeth looked around. "There!"

Grover turned and saw Tobias perched on a branch just over their heads. He fluttered to floor and cawed and chirped at them. Then he took off and disappeared into the sky.

"What did he say?" Annabeth asked

"He's hiding in a cave just a little ways north of here." Grover translated.

"Good!" Annabeth trudged ahead. "Come on!"

True to his word, Grover and Annabeth found a large rock formation tucked behind a cluster of trees. They would have easily missed it, had Artie not chosen that exact moment to emerge from a small hole cleverly hidden behind a small bunch of branches made to resemble a bush. Artie froze when he saw them an empty water skin fell from his hand. No doubt he had on his way to refill it in a nearby stream or creek and since he was completely clean, Artie had also used it to bath and wash.

Artie took off in a flash.

Annabeth tried to give chase, "Wait!"

Luckily for her and Grover, not so much Artie, his foot snagged one of the traps he had laid earlier and yanked him into the air. They both watched as Artie dangled from an ankle, his knives clattering to the floor.

"Well, that works." Annabeth said. "Artie? We just want to talk."

Artie folded his arms across his chest.

"We want you to come back to camp." Grover told him.

"I don't." Artie said simply.

"What have you been doing out here?" Annabeth asked, changing tact.

"Hunting."

"Hunting what?" she asked.

"Food." Artie seemed to be stuck on single word responses.

"There's plenty of food back at camp. Why don't you come back?"

"Yeah," said Grover. "There can't be many pizza herds around here."

"I don't need pizza."

"You can't have everything you need out here." Annabeth said.

"Plenty of food and water." Artie grunted. "All I need."

"Plenty of monsters too."

"So?"

"So aren't you scared?"

"I can run."

Annabeth motioned to the rope. "And look where that got you."

"Why can't you leave me alone!" Artie snapped. "Everyone else did."

"I'm not everyone else." Annabeth said sternly. "You need to come back to camp."

"Why?!" Artie wheeled to face her. "I've been gone a week and no one even noticed."

"We noticed." Annabeth said. "Their just scared. You have to understand this is a little weird for everyone. A child of the Big Three may be improbable, but a child of Artemis is impossible."

"Thanks."

"That's not what I meant." Annabeth shook her head. "You need to give people time to adjust."

"Time to adjust?" he spat. "It took them one day."

"They're just jealous." Grover explained. "You know how cabin eleven is."

"And everyone else?!" Artie demanded. "Their jealous too?"

"You know how many people would kill to be a child of Artemis?" Annabeth asked. "They envy you."

"You have no idea what I went through!" Artie snapped. "While you and everyone else were playing with dolls and making friends, I was huddling in the dark trying not die" Artie began to sob. "Do you know what its like?! Not knowing when or what you're going to eat the next morning? Not even knowing if you would see the next day?"

"I do." Annabeth said quietly. "It may not have been the same as you, but I went through the same thing." Annabeth took a deep breath. "Look, Artie, you can't keep living in the past. There's nothing you can do to change it. Bad things happen, sometime to the best of us, but you can't keep running."

"Why not?" He sniffed. "Its the only thing that seems to work."

"Because you're eventually run out of room to run." Annabeth said gently. "Try to think of these bad things that happen, as challenges. Challenges that we need to rise above."

"Or what?"

"Or give up." Annabeth looked up. "Like now, you can choose to stay here in the woods because of what others say or you can rise above it and prove them wrong. Which is it?"

Artie did not answer.

"Keep in mind," Grover said. "That if you choose to stay here, you're gonna have to figure out your own way down."

Artie growled. "Cut me down."

Annabeth and Grover escorted Artie back to cabin eight. Artie was grateful that everyone was at lunch when they arrived at the cabins. Artie walked up the steps and looked back at Annabeth and Grover.

"Welcome back, Artie." Annabeth smiled.

"Are you sure you don't wanna come with us to lunch" said Grover. "Plenty of pizza."

Artie hid an amused smile, "No thanks. I ate already."

"Alright," said Annabeth. "Just don't go running off again."

"Trust me, Artie." Grover nudged Annabeth. "You don't want her mad at you."

Artie watched them walk off toward the dinning pavilion as Tobias fluttered to the wooden railing next to him. Artie was about to enter the cabin when he heard a faint pop next to him and a flash of light. Artie turned to see a middle-aged man with salt-and-pepper hair wearing mailman's uniform and a winged pith helmet. He was carrying a large box in his arms and a bright smile on his face.

The man set the box down in front of him. "Artie Raposo Gallezi?"

"Yes?"

The man held out pad and pen, "Sign here."

Artie signed, but asked. "You're Lord Hermes, right? God of travelers and roadways?"

"Right on both counts." the god smiled. "Though you're not one for roads."

"You know me?"

"You've been the meat of gossip for month now." Hermes said. "I mean, a god of the big three may unlikely, but a child of Artemis is — "

"Was impossible." Artie corrected. "I've heard it before."

Hermes adjusted his hat, "Well, I'd like to stay and chat, but I got a tons of deliveries."

Artie motioned to the box. "What is it?"

"Open it and find out." And Hermes disappeared in a flash of light.

Artie drew a knife and sliced through the tape holding the box closed. It was filled dozens upon dozens of DVD's, all from different eras and genres. He saw classics from the silent film era all the way to the latest Hollywood blockbusters. He even saw countless foreign film from dozens of different countries. On top on the neatly stacked plastic cases was a pristine portable bronze DVD player. On top of that was a folded note sealed with wax and stamped with a picture of a lyre. Artie broke the seal and opened the note.

Dear Artie,

While I know you couldn't always afford to go to the movies back in Rio, ten bucks for a small soda is just plain extortion if you ask me, that dosen't mean you can't enjoy them now. I've been meaning to give this to you for a while now, but you didn't exactly have the time. Think of this as four years of missed birthdays and Christmases for my favorite nephew.

Yours Truly,

Your Tio Apollo.

Artie smiled and looked at Tobias. "Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton?"

Artie was jerked out of his memory when he heard the sound of screeching metal and felt the train slowing. He gently stowed the kitten back in his belt and glanced out the window. He caught a glance of a sign that said New Mexico and smiled grimly. He wished he could have remained with his friends, even if that meant tolerating Zoë, but Annabeth was in danger. He might love Annabeth like he did Appolonia, but he loved dearly like a sister.

And he had lost enough family members for one life time.

He drew an arrow from his quiver and smiled when he held the deadly shaft in his hand, "Back in business."

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