"So he just left?" asked Thalia.
Percy nodded as best he could as they all rode a giant boar. "Said his quiver was working again and he just hopped on his bike and left."
"But how dose Artie know where thy friend Annabeth is?" Zoë said. "His prophecy did not mention a direction like ours had."
"I said the same thing." Percy told them. "I figured he could do a tracking spell or something."
"He cannot." said Zoë. "That is woodland magic that only a satyr can cast."
"She's right." Grover confirmed. "But, and I hope he doesn't take this the wrong way, Artie's like a bloodhound. Once he catches a scent and sinks his teeth in, he ain't letting go. He'll find her."
They all continued riding the boar until sunset, which was proving all they could stand. It was like riding a steel wire brush over gravel all day. Percy was not sure how much distance they had covered, but mountains had faded into the distance and were replaced by miles of dry flat land. Grass, shrubs, and other plant life grew scarcer and sparser until they found themselves galloping, if boars did indeed gallop, across the desert. As night fell, the boar came to a stop by a creek bed. He started drinking the muddy water then ripped a chunk of a cactus and began eating, needles and all.
"This is as far as he'll go." said Grover. "We need to get off while he's eating." They all watched as the boar ate another cactus and galloped back east. "He likes the mountains better."
"I can't blame it." said Thalia. "Look!"
Ahead of the heroes was a two lane road covered with sand. On the other side of the road was a cluster of buildings too small to be town ; a boarded up house, a crusty closed taco shack, and whit stucco post office with a sign that read GILA CLAW, ARIZONA. Beyond that were hills . . . at least at first glance. The countryside was too flat for that. The hills were actually enormous mounds of junk like cars, appliance, and other scrap metal. It was junkyard that seemed to go on forever.
"Something tells me we won't find a car rental place here." Thalia looked to Grover. "I don't suppose you got another boar up your sleeve?"
Grover casted a woodland spell with acorns and his reed pipes. "That's us." He pointed to a cluster of acorns before pointing to a single one. "That one is trouble."
"Why do I have the feeling that's me?" asked a voice.
All of the heroes wheel around and aimed their weapons. Percy drew Riptide as Thalia opened her spear while Zoë and Bianca aimed arrows. Even Grover brought his reed pipes to his lips in alarm. Before them stood a bare chested demigod with long silver streaked hair tied back and silver eyes. On a belt, that has various kinds of leather pouches and bags, was leather sheath that held a short bright sword.
Percy lowered Riptide. "Artie?"
"Hey, you were expecting maybe uhh, the Addams Family?" said the demigod with a smile.
Everyone lowered their weapons, everyone but Zoë.
"It could be an illusion." she said.
Artie raised an eyebrow. "Hey, Zoë , how'd your brain implant go, good?"
Zoë lowered bow. "Never mind."
"Which were those from?" Thalia asked lazily.
"Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III: Turtles in Time." Artie motioned to them to follow. "But I'd recommend sticking to the original. Its really the only worth watching of the three."
Artie lead them to where he had set up camp. He had dug a hole and filled it with scrap wood from the boarded up buildings. He then had surrounded the hole with left over bricks and rocks so it formed a foot tall wall. Artie explained it was so nothing would see the light from the fire and come to investigate, but still provide warmth and a way to cook food. Percy had noticed that Artie's appetite had increased exponentially since they were changed into animals on Circe's Isle, but he was surprised how much food Artie had caught just for himself. Two rabbits were roasting on a long spit of wood in between a large bird that Artie had pointed out was a vulture that been stupid enough to think it could scare him off while he skinned the rabbits. And around the fire were small sticks that had skewered small animals, namely snakes, scorpions, and lizards.
Artie plopped himself down next his armor and cloak and petted a the kitten as it munched on the remains of a rattlesnake. "Help yourselves."
"Um, Artie?" asked Grover.
Artie plucked a stick by the fire and bit into a scorpion. "Yeah, Grover?"
"You know we satyrs are vegetarians right?"
Artie tossed the stick into the fire, the unfortunate scorpion gone. "Lucky for you, I know I can't survive on meat alone." Artie tossed a small sack the size of basketball. "Here."
Grover opened the bag. "I didn't see any farmers markets close by."
Artie chuckled. "Annabeth once told me, there are more wild edible plants in the Arizona-Sonoran Desert region than anywhere else on Earth." Artie snatched another scorpion. "There prickly pears in there with Christmas Cholla berries and American Wild carrots. I even found some saguaro cactus fruits that looked ripe." Artie tossed the stick into the fire.
"Whoa." Bianca gasped and looked up from rabbit she and Zoë had split. "This taste amazing."
"I bought some salt on my out of Cloudcroft." Artie admitted. "I used a little and seasoned them with some watercress and Yerba Porosa I found when I was refilling my water skin."
"Yerba what?" asked Thalia.
"It is known as summer cilantro." Zoë explained as finished her portion of rabbit. "But this seems like quite a lot of food for a single person, were thee waiting for us?"
"Honestly?" Artie snatched a snake and began slicing it into smaller piece for the kitten. "No, I wasn't. I was planning on smoking whatever I didn't eat and going on my way. It was when I caught your scent a little while ago and came to investigate."
Thalia sucked the meat from a vulture wing and smacked her lips. "My gods, where were you when we were digging through dumpsters."
"Probably learning which mushrooms were poisonous." Artie said flatly. "The hard way."
"I'm sorry," Thalia said. "I didn't mean . . . um, I didn't"
"Forget about it." Artie swallowed a large chunk of rattlesnake. "On the bright side I learned which mushrooms make you all dopey."
"You've taken Shrooms?" asked Percy.
"I've also drank liquor when I couldn't find water and smoked cigarettes to try to cover my scent." Artie snapped. "The law is the last thing on your mind when you're trying survive the day."
"Alcohol and tobacco cannot cover thy demigod scent." said Zoë.
"I'll make sure to stitch that on a pillow." Artie sneered.
"She's just trying to help." said Bianca.
"Why?" Artie demanded.
"Because Chiron showed us what happened to you." said Grover as he swallowed a prickly pear.
"How much?" Artie's eyes narrowed.
"Everything." said Zoë quietly. "From thy family's death in Alaska to thy life in South America until thy arrival in the United States."
"Great." Artie muttered as he hugged his knees. "Just great."
"Look, Artie." Percy laid a hand on his shoulder. "When I lost my mom— "
"Don't . . . even." Artie growled. "You got her back."
"You have no idea what its like." Artie stared daggers. "You couldn't even begin to understand what its like to have person after person die in front of you." Tears began to form in the corner's of Artie's as his voiced cracked with emotion. "All because you're too weak and force everyone to take care of you."
"You're not weak, Artie." said Thalia. "Who else could fight a manticore with their bare hands?"
"Tell that to my family." Artie sighed and rested his head against his knees. "Both of them."
"You were just a small child." said Zoë. "From Chiron showed us thee were barely more than an infant. Your mother had to carry you so you would not fall behind."
"And my mother and brother in Rio?" Artie had not removed his head from his knees.
"Chiron said thy cous — brother was child of Apollo." Zoë said gently. "Monsters begin to challenge heroes when they smell their scent. For most, it is at age twelve or so. It is unfortunate that he managed to attract such a powerful monster, but he must have possessed quite a powerful scent for one so young."
"Or Thorn came looking for me and they just got in the way." Artie countered.
"Tis unlikely, thee merely eight." Zoë said.
"If Chiron showed you the night they were killed, then you know what he said to my mother." Artie spoke Portuguese. "Diga-me onde ele está e que eu poderia fazê-lo rápido." Artie sucked in a breath. "Tell me where he is and I might make it quick. Why would he ask for Jacob when he was already dead in the other room?"
"I do not know." Zoë said.
"I know. I've known since I learned it was our scent that attracts monsters." Artie sniffed. "I may have been eight, but I was first child of Artemis so of course I'd have a really strong scent. Thorn killed Jacob thinking it was me and then killed my mother once when I came home because he didn't need her anymore." Artie began to sob, not caring he was being watched. "They're dead because of me."
"That's not true." Percy said. "Back in D.C, the General said he — "
"And I can never take it back!" Artie wailed.
"Take what back?" Thalia asked.
"We wanted to go to stadium because Pele was supposed to be there signing autographs." Artie said, trying hold back his tears. "But she wouldn't let us go. We didn't much money, but we wouldn't listen." Artie looked up, tears running from his silver eyes and his lip trembling. "The last thing I ever said to her, to the person who loved me like her son, was that I hated her and wished she'd die so Jacob and me could finally do things she would never let us do."
No one could think of anything to say as Artie began to sob uncontrollably. Even the kitten paused from eating to stare at the demigod that had rescued him from the cold and given him food. This was all foreign territory for them. Thalia had parental issues as well, but they were the exact opposite. She never got along with her mother and it was the death of her brother, Jason, that finally made her run away. Zoë had had similar problems with her father and sisters. Percy might argue and be embarrassed on a daily basis my his mother, but he still couldn't think of living without her. Grover's family not have been a typical one, but it was still a loving and nurturing one. And Bianca couldn't even remember her family or how they had been, other than Nico.
"I swear I didn't mean it!" Artie was in hysterics at this point. "And when Jacob tried to talk me out of sneaking out, I told him I didn't need him. I didn't need anyone."
Zoë stood up and rested Artie's head on her lap as he continued sobbing. "Shh . . . let it out . . ." Zoë crooned gently. "Let it out till there is no more."
"Why couldn't she just let me die?" Artie whispered as he gasped for breath. "None this would have happened. Jacob, Maria, Luke, and Annabeth . . . they'd all still be here if it wasn't for me."
"I do not know, Artie." Zoë brushed a lock of hair from his face. "I've been with Lady Artemis for countless ions and even I do not fully comprehend her actions or decisions."
Artie began whispering to himself in Portuguese and Percy could of sworn Artie was either begging or praying, or maybe a little bit of both. "Por favor, me desculpe. . . Eu não quis dizer isso. . . Eu só quero de volta. . . tudo culpa minha. . . demasiado pequena. . . muito fraco."
Tobias flew down from the sky and watched for a moment before chirping to Grover. "What?" Tobias chirped again as he flapped his wings. "Are you sure?" Tobias screeched angrily. "Okay, okay." Grover motioned for everyone to cover their ears. "Not him."
Grover began to play a slow gentle lullaby on his reed pipes. Everyone watched as Artie and his kitten both began to fall asleep. The kitten fell to its side with a slight puff of dust as Artie's laments began to cease and was using Zoë's lap as a pillow. They all lifted their hands from their ears once Grover stowed his reed pipes.
"What was that?" Percy asked.
"A little bit of Mozart." Grover smiled slyly. "Puts most who hear to sleep."
"Why?" Bianca laid the sleeping kitten in her lap and smiled sweetly as it purred when she began petting.
"Tobias asked me to." Grover looked to to Tobias again who chirped and squawked. "Yeah, I could tell."
"Could tell what?" asked Zoë. "We cannot understand Tobias, Grover."
"You guys probably couldn't tell." Grover said. "But Artie was kinda relieved."
"Relieved?" Percy repeated.
Tobias began chirping and Grover nodded. "Sure, no problem." Grover then looked to everyone. "Tobias wants me to translate." Grover took a deep breath. "He's relieved because he's been holding all that in for the past eight years."
"That was when I saw him last." Zoë gasped. "He just ran out of camp and we did not see him again."
"Until we all met up in Maine." Thalia said.
"Yes." Zoë confirmed. "That must have been when Lady Artemis revealed his past to him."
"Precisely." Grover continued translating. "But she did not realize how he would react. She was not aware of his fatal flaw."
"Fatal flaw?" asked Bianca.
"All heroes posses one." Zoë explained. "It can be anything, like undying loyalty or egotistical arrogance." Zoë looked to Tobias. "What is Artie's?"
"Guilt." Grover translated. "He blames himself completely for the death of his family. He blames for the death of countless animals that died at the hands of manticore so he could escape. He even blames himself for putting Annabeth in danger."
"But that wasn't his fault!" Percy protested. "If its anyone's fault, its mine."
"It is what he believes to be true." Grover responded for Tobias. "He believes if he had been able to kill it when it ambushed us in Florida, she would not have fallen trying to protect you."
"That's over thinking a little bit, isn't it?" Percy asked.
"Is there anything we can do to help him?" Bianca said. "Like a spell or something?"
"No." Grover said. "He must face that alone."
Artie awoke to the taste of fresh rainwater on his tongue and the smell of wet mud in his nostrils. He quickly sat up and gazed around, confused by his surroundings. He was in the middle of a rainforest, but not any rainforest. This particular one held great importance to him. He had spent months learning and fighting to survive here. What he learned here, had helped as he ran all over the rest of the continent and would continue keeping him alive. He sniffed the air to be sure. The scent was exactly as he remembered. There was no doubt about it in his mind. He knew the trees, dirt, and the creek only a few feet to his left. Somehow he had been transported to Brazil, and if memory served him right, he was only fifty miles from Rio de Janerio.
Artie rolled his eyes and stamped his foot. "Not this again!"
Artie looked down at his clothes. The last time, when he was tricked into drinking a magic milkshake on Circe's Isle, he wore blue short with a yellow Pele jersey and soccer cleats. Now, he wore his moonsilver armor, cloak, and belt. He flexed his left hand and his silver longbow sprang from his ring. He collapsed the bow and reached over his shoulder and felt his quiver. While he was glad that he was armed, even his Kopis was on his hip, he was confused to why he was here again. Artie knew he was not in fact really the rainforest, but back in his mind. He was certain that he did not drink a magic milkshake, but he vaguely remembered falling asleep as he heard reed pipes being played by Grover. So Grover, hopefully not intentionally, had mentally transported Artie back to where Leonidas, his alter personality, had a panther sink its teeth into his skull to release him from the spell. That however, resulted in some minor side effects. Artie's appetite would increase nearly tenfold along with taste for fish and fowl. As he discovered when he returned to Camp Half Blood, his temper had also inflamed. No longer did he turn the other cheek or brushed it off. Gene, Clarisse, a purse snatcher, and one failing Spanish student could all attest to that. Working from memory, Artie decided to return to the clearing with the waterfalls. If this was going to be anything like the last time, he was going to have be released again.
He just prayed that it did not involve Leonidas and Lutar again.
With his luck, he'd wake up with no qualms of ripping out a throat for giving him a sideways glance.
Artie reached, using the treetops and branches like he had learned to do in the real jungle, in minutes. He recalled that it had taken hours the first time, but he didn't give a second thought since this was his mind and susceptible to change. Exactly as he remembered, it was a huge clearing with three beautiful freshwater waterfalls hundreds of feet tall. At the base of each waterfall, the rock formations formed a large pool. None of pools fed into a river nor did they overflow. It was as if the pools only took the water they needed to stay full and the rest simply disappeared. He knew now there must be some hidden meaning behind the falls, but it would have to wait until later. Just like the waterfalls, Artie saw that both pools opposite each other had a large animal drinking from them. Drinking from the pool on the far left was a Ceryneian Hind, the sacred golden deer of Artemis, Vôo. Opposite the deer on the pool to the far right was large silvery white panther, cautiously watching him as it lapped up water. Lutar.
But rather than his mother and brother in the middle pool. Leonidas sat on stone throne. Like usual, he was clad in a dented and scratched bronze breast plate over a red Greek chiton. He wore no pants, leaving his legs bare — except bronze greaves on his shins and leather sandals on his feet. a large bronze shield with the Greek Lambda (Λ) painted on in red rested against the throne along with a worn wooden spear with a blood stained iron tip. On his hip was a thirty centimeter long double-edged single-handed sword made of common bronze. His face was also the same with a rough beard flecked with spots of white that matched his hair. His hair was the same length it had always been — not long enough to tie back but long enough to be blown back in wind. His face could be considered handsome, in brutish like way, with the only blemish being a scar over his right eye, like someone ran a blade down his face.
Leonidas threw his arms wide and gave a bright smile. "Welcome back!"
Artie was in no mood. "How do I get out of here?"
Leonidas took in Artie's armor. "Maybe you shouldn't have gone with the batman look."
"Then speak up next time!" Artie snapped. "Look, I don't have time to sit here and talk fashion with myself."
"Really?" Leonidas asked mildly puzzled. "Why is that?"
"You know why." Artie clenched his jaw. "Annabeth is in trouble and she's running out of time."
"Annabeth?" Leonidas eyes narrowed. "I had Lutar release you so you could hunt down Thorn not go around chasing some girl that stuck her noes where it didn't belong."
"That girl," Artie growled. "Is in trouble because of me."
"So the monster that killed your family and chased you like animal is less of priority?" Leonidas asked dangerously calm.
"Yes!" Artie paused. "I mean, no . . . uh, I mean . . . "
"Take your time." Leonidas chuckled.
"I don't have time for this!" Artie shouted.
"Make time!" Leonidas snapped. "Either revenge for your family or saving that Athena girl. Which is it?"
"What do you mean which is it?" Artie asked. "The prophecy said — "
"I don't care what it said!" Leonidas leveled a finger. "You wanna get out of here? Pick one! And make sure its the right one."
Artie was stunned. All he ever wanted for the past eight years was revenge. To payback the monster that ruined his life. He envisioned it every night before falling asleep and every day when he hones his archery and tracking skills. He wanted nothing more than to see Thorn beaten, broken, and begging for mercy as he laid in front him bleeding and desperately clinging to life. As far as Artie was concerned, he could die with a clear conscience and absolutely no regrets so long as Thorn was made to suffer for every second he stole from Maria and Jacob Gallezi as well as the four years of his life in the jungle.
But at what cost?
Even if he killed Thorn, the monster would only reform and return as monsters were known to do. He could continue hunting Thorn, but he would just continue reform while Artie would age and grow weaker until Thorn could turn the tables and kill him. Unlike monsters, demigods tended to stay dead when they died. Then was the cold fact that killing Thorn would not bring back his mother and brother, nor would it change the four years of surviving in the jungle. While he would not hesitate to kill Thorn if he stood between him and Annabeth, he could not live with himself if something happened to a friends because he was being selfish. Plus, he could always hunt down Thorn once she was out of harm's way.
"Well?" Leonidas demanded, tapping his foot impatiently.
"I'm going after Annabeth." Artie told him firmly.
Leonidas nodded once. "I thought so."
Faster than Artie thought possible, even with his reflexes, a fist collided with his jaw and sent him to the floor. Artie glanced up and barely managed to roll to the side when he saw a bloody spear tip rushing toward his face. He shot to his feet as he opened his bow and nocked an arrow. He saw Leonidas's shield and spear had magically appeared in his hands and he was just itching to use them.
"What are you doing?" Artie asked.
"I've been stuck here twiddling my thumbs for almost a decade." Leonidas growled. "While you've been taking your sweet time tramping across the country and ocean with your stupid little friends." His grip tightened on his spear. "It was insulting enough that you went to help that blasted son of Poseidon and that spoiled brat of hunter instead of finishing off Thorn, but now when everything I've worked is so close to fruition," The angry warrior leveled his spear. "You throw it all away to save some pathetic daughter of Athena!"
"I'm not going to let one of my only friends die just to kill a monster that's just gonna reform." Artie pulled back the string, but didn't aim the arrow. "Even if I kill Thorn, it won't bring them back."
"Have you forgotten what that monster took from you?" Leonidas demanded. "Your mother, your brother, your home, even your very childhood!"
"And how does killing him change that?" he countered.
Leonidas had enough of words and charged.
Artie loosed the arrow only to have lodge itself in the Leonidas's shield as he charged. Artie may have been accustomed to being charged, anyone with half a brain stem knew to close the distance when fighting an archer, but not by someone who could match his speed. He was so surprised by the Spartan's speed, he nearly was skewered by the spear on the first lunged. Leonidas forced Artie to move in every conceivable way as he jabbed with his spear with blinding speed. It was only when Leonidas jabbed then spun backwards to his left that he actually hit his target. Luckily for Artie, it was not with his spear but the bronze shield. Still it was enough to send Artie to the floor and knock the wind out of him.
"You've had eight years." Leonidas held the spear tip to Artie's throat. "Now its my turn."
"What?!" Artie asked.
"This time Lutar is going to release me." Leonidas growled. "Not you. With me in control, I'll be able to do what you were too weak to do."
"And my quest?" Artie demanded.
" Here's the thing . . ." The Spartan King grew cold and paraphrased Gangs Of New York. "I don't give a tuppenny f #$ about your quest, you meat-headed s #$ - sack. All I want is to laugh like a clown as that pathetic excuse for a creature begs for mercy at my feet."
With lighting speed, Artie drew and slashed through the wooden shaft of his attacker's spear with his Kopis and rolling to side and to his feet. While Artie was not one to fight hand to hand, he knew that Leonidas would give him the opportunity to use his bow. He may have been denied his most deadly weapon, but Artie still had his Kopis, claws, and a belt full gadget to even out the playing field. While Leonidas tossed aside the wooden spear shaft and drew his Xiphos short sword, Artie reached into his belt and retrieved a small cylinder. Not giving Leonidas the chance, Artie charged. His opponent saw him coming and brought up his shield. At Artie's speed, it would be like running full sprint into a brick wall, if Artie had not planned on it. Artie slowed enough and actually used the shield as ramp, throwing the small cylinder into Leonidas's face which covered the Spartan's face in white sparkling powder.
Leonidas bellowed in rage as he learned, the hard and painful way, that the powder was finely ground glass.
Artie leapt off the shield and retreated a few feet. "Metsubushi!" Artie explained. "Used by the ninja assassins of Japan. I learned that from that little pathetic Athena girl."
Artie charged, intending end the battle quickly, only to have Leonidas hear his footsteps and bring out his massive python of an arm which flipped Artie up and over onto his back. For good measure, the spartan brought down his foot hard on Artie's chest. While none of this had actually happened in the real world, his last visit to this place had taught him he could feel pain all too real.
Leonidas placed his foot on Artie's chest and leaned in. "And you learned that from Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler."
Artie coughed as he tried to laugh. "You know what I'm thinking? Two words . . . RE - MATCH."
"Sorry, kid." Leonidas threw out his arm and the splintered, but still sharp, wooden spear shaft shot back into his hand and he held it high over his head. "Like you said, I don't have time to waste."
Leonidas brought down spear and Artie closed his eyes, not wanting his last image to be of this ugly part of himself laughing at his triumph.
But no pain came.
Artie opened his eyes and couldn't believe what he saw.
Both Lutar and Vôo had caught the shaft with their teeth, stopping it mid strike. But they were not the only ones there. Two pairs of hand had also caught the shaft. The smallest pair belonged to his brother, Jacob Gallezi, that looked exactly as Artie remembered him at age twelve. The other pair belonged his mother, Maria Gallezi, and all of them staring daggers at Leonidas.
"What are you doing?" Leonidas demanded.
"My duty!" snarled Lutar.
"Our duty." corrected Vôo, though he sounded as if he regretted doing so.
"Go away!" snapped Jacob. "And don't come back."
"You have plagued him long enough." said Maria firmly.
"Its his fault that you're dead!" roared Leonidas.
"What mother wouldn't sacrifice herself to save her child?" Maria asked simply.
"And his brother?" sneered Leonidas.
"I was his big brother!" announced Jacob. "Big brothers are supposed to protect their little brothers."
Altogether, they threw Leonidas back and he simply stared
Artie sat up and looked at his saviors. "Mom? Jacob?"
Maria smiled. "Like I told you last time, these things happen. Its not your fault or anyone else's."
Jacob nodded and smiled. "And the sooner you get that through your thick head, the sooner you can move on with your life and be happy."
"Just like coward you are." Leonidas spat. "Hiding behind others to protect you."
"Where as the Spartans of ancient Greece didn't!"" Artie grew angry and stood up. "The Ares campers aren't the smartest group of people. I was the farthest thing from a spartan. They were the great warriors because they relied on each other."
"And look where that got you! Both of your families are dead because of you! Your mother and father died because you slowed them down."
"Again, what parent wouldn't sacrifice their life to protect their child?" Maria asked. "A three year old child wouldn't slow down two adults any more than a backpack."
The spartan ignored her. "Face it! You stole the lives of four innocent people so you could live."
"I couldn't protect my parents at three any more than I could have protect my mother and brother at eight." Artie growled. "I done dwelling on the past. If by some reason I make a mistake, I'm not going to wallow in it. I'm going to do what I should have done in the first place and own up to it."
"Luke!" grunted Leonidas. "He turned against the gods because of you."
"No!" Artie said firmly. "He turned against the gods because of his father. Its not my fault he was jealous that Artemis claimed me."
"Annabeth." Leonidas seemed to be grasping at straws. "You said it yourself, she's in danger for protecting you."
"And I would have done the same for her." Artie countered. "Which is why I asked for this quest to save her."
"You're not going to be rid of me." Leonidas warned. "I am part of you."
"Were." Artie corrected. "Do you remember what you told me last time I was here? When you told me who you really were?"
Leonidas drew himself up like a king. "I am what you wished to be every time you cried yourself to sleep over your family. Brave enough to never run from a fight and strong enough to win everyone of them."
"You were wrong." Artie stared coldly. "You were born and continue to live out of my desire for revenge." Artie then said with absolutly authority. "And since I don't want it anymore, you no longer exist."
"No!" The Hero - King's eye grew wide. "You need me!"
"I did, but not anymore." A ghost of smile appeared on Artie;s face as he quoted the 1956 classic, High Society. "End of story."
And with that, the hero king of Sparta simply faded from sight.
Artie watched as Lutar and Vôo returned to their pools without so much as a backward glance. Artie was left with his mother and brother, both of whom smiled at him proudly. Artie knew they were not really his family, only his memory of them, but he had get one final thing off his chest.
"About what I said," Artie almost whispered. "To the both of you, I'm — "
"Its alright." assured Maria. "I knew you didn't mean it. People, kids too, say things they don't mean when thier mad enough."
"Yeah," agreed Jacob. "Plus, it was Pele after all."
Artie wiped his eyes. "So how do I get out of here?"
"Just wake up." said Maria gently. "You don't need anyone to release you like last time.
"Thanks." Artie closed his eyes. "It was nice to see yo again."
Artie awoke for the second and real time. He saw that Bianca, Thalia, and Grover were speaking with a mean looking biker as he leaned on a luxury limousine. Artie recognized the biker as Ares, the god of war, and Percy's absence meant he was probably speaking with someone in the limo. Artie jumped slightly when he felt a soft hand on his shoulder.
"My apologies." said a concerned looking Zoë. "You were tossing and turning quite bit in thy sleep. A bad dream?"
"For someone." Artie said with a hint of smile.
Zoë examined him for a moment. "You seem different somehow."
"I feel different." Artie smiled wholeheartedly and settled on a quote from In the Good Old Summertime. "Psychologically, I'm very confused, but personally I feel just wonderful."