Some Things Won't Change
Artie felt the icy sting of melted ice water all over his face. He began to cough and gag.
"Enough of that." chided a voice.
Artie looked up to see an annoyed Hesperide holding a bucket.
"Thank you, Erytheia." said Jacob as he took the now empty bucket. He looked at Artie for a moment before he returned his attention to the rest of the Hesperides. "Can you give us some privacy?"
"As you wish." They all bowed and shimmered out existence.
Jacob offered a hand. "Sorry about that."
Artie took it, noting Jacob was wearing bronze plated gauntlets. "Don't worry about it."
"Hey, you ever have maté?" Jacob asked.
Artie cocked his head. "Yeah. When I was in Uraguay and Argentina."
"Come on then." Jacob motioned for Artie to follow.
Jacob led Artie to a fountain that sat opposite the dragon and golden apple tree. It was beautifully carved from gray stone and black marble, with water flowing from the mouths of nine heads that belong to a Hydra. The water was clean and smelled fresh, but Artie wasn't sure if the water in basin at the Hydra's feet was safe to drink or even touch.
Leaning against the fountain was an old looking sack. It reminded Artie of the sacks used in old westerns, white bags with the symbol for money on the side. Jacob opened the bag and retrieved the strangest things, things that could not possible fit inside. A a cafe table with an umbrella that was quickly followed by two high backed chairs. Jacob retrieved an old looking wicker picnic basket on the table and noticed Artie staring.
"Just like Felix." Artie whispered.
"I said the same thing when I got it." Jacob smiled warmly. "Remember the song?"
"How could I?" Artie grinned reluctantly. "It was the only cartoon that the teatro played before the movies back home." He chanted. "Felix the Cat."
"The wonderful, wonderful cat." Jacob said,
"Whenever he gets in a fix . . ." Artie added.
"He reaches into his bag of tricks." Jacob finished.
Jacob opened the basket and produced a few things. A large thermos, a hollow wooden gourd, a metal straw, and some kind of ground up green herb. He took out tea biscuits with butter, jam, and honey to spread on them with high quality silverware and china plates.
Artie watched Jacob prepare the drink as he recalled the first time he tried it. It was when he unknowingly crossed the border from Brazil into Uruguay and met an old man living in a wooden cabin in the middle of a dense forest a several kilometers west of the Rio Negro. The old man took the young boy in giving a warm bed while he tended to his wounds that he was unable to treat.
It was when Artie woke up the next morning that he heard the tea kettle whistle. Artie assumed the old man was making coffee or tea, but he wasn't. The old man smiled at him and chuckled innocently at the boy's ignorance of the country's national drink. The ground green herb was called yerba mate and it was poured dried into a gourd before hot water was poured over it after inserting a metal straw, the submerged end was flared with small holes or slots that allowed the brewed liquid in, but block the chunky matter.
Artie found it bitter and strong, but found enjoyable once the generous hermit, Jorge he introduced himself as, adding a few spoonfuls of sugar. Together they enjoyed a small simple breakfast of bread, fresh cow cheese, and maté.
Then Artie caught sight of Thorn skulking just at the edge of the clearing that Jorge's yard and bolted, leaving before he could properly thank the old man for the food and fresh clothes.
"Açúcar ou mel?" Jacob asked.
Artie shook his head. "What?"
"Sugar or honey?" Jacob repeated in english. "Never really liked it so bitter like the Argentinians drink it."
Jacobs added a spoonful sugar and poured hot water from the thermos into the gourd before sliding to Artie. "Saúde e fortuna, irmão."
Artie wordlessly drank from the gourd and Jacob spread some jam and butter on a biscuit. Then he paused, the metal straw a harisbreath from his mouth. "What am I doing?" he whispered.
"What?" asked Jacob.
"WHAT AM I DOING HERE?!" Artie shouted, slamming the gourd down on the table.
Jacob sighed and rolled his eyes. "Is it obvious?"
"Where are my friends?" Artie demanded.
"They went ahead." Jacob took a bite from his biscuit.
Jacob swallowed. "Well, I didn't give them much of choice. It was either go ahead," He motioned to the dragon guarding the tree. "Or Ladon here gets to see if three demigods can be split enough for all his heads."
"Three?" Artie did a quick mental count. "Thalia, Percy, Zoë, and me make four."
"Why would I want to kill you?" Jacob looked confused. "I wanna make you an offer."
"An offer I can't refuse?" Artie appeared suspicious. "How exactly how are you alive?"
"Yes." Artie snapped. "Jacob, the real Jacob, died when I was eight."
"You of all people know should be able to figure it out." Jacob said.
"Figure what out?"
"What can manticore venom do?" Jacob sighed. "Its hurts so bad that its like being set on fire from the inside out times a thousand, even more when you mix it with nectar, but is it lethal? No, all the manticore venom in the world can't even kill an ant."
Artie gasped. "You mean . . ."
"Check out the big brain on Brett." Jacob fished in a pocket as he quoted Pulp Fiction. "Here, let me show you." Jacob tossed a golden drachma into the fountain that the setting sun hit just right to make a rainbow. "Iris, goddess of the rainbow, accept my offering and show us the night our family was broken."
Artie watched as the rainbow swirled and he was gazing back through time into the room he and Jacob had shared in Rio.
( EIGHT YEARS AGO -RIO DE JANERIO, BRAZIL )
There were two small wooden beds that were so on the edge of collapsing even the most starving termite would turn its nose up at. The mattresses were just old futons that had been thrown out years before a merchant fished it out the ocean and sold it to Maria Gallezi when Artie had was growing to large for them to comfortably share the bed when he was just a small baby. At the end of each bed was an old looking chest that held their share of cloths with Artie receiving Jacob's hand me downs which were already hand me downs twice over. Most would find it strange to return to struggling to live in the slums of Rio, but Artie didn't. Yes the streets could sometime be filthy with garbage and money was hard to come buy, legally anyway, but it was home.
Maria's job at a local bakery was not glamorous and it didn't pay much, but it was enough to keep her children and herself fed. Between the rent, feeding three mouths, and uniforms for school, Maria's salary did not leave much for anything else. Once every month or so, if the tips had been generous enough, she could afford to send her children to the local cinema to forget their troubles, but that was the extent of it.
So naturally when Pele announced he would be signing autographs at the Estádio do Maracanã for one night only to raise money for charities, Maria could not send her children. Of course, children being children, there was shouting and arguing along with a good bit complaining before Maria sent them to thier room without dinner. Not to be denied, Artie proposed sneaking out, but Jacob argued against it. Like before, Artie lost his temper and left, not knowing the last words to his mother was wishing she was dead and telling Jacob he didn't need him or anyone.
Artie watched as he guessed it was that same night. Quite some time must have passed because twelve year old Jacob was laying in bed reading a magazine when a noise caught his attention.
"Artie?" Jacob called out as he went to open the window. "É você?"
Any of Jacob's other questions were cut short by a strong glove hand shooting out from the dark night and grasping his throat.
"Tente novamente!" hissed an all too familiar voice.
Artie watched Dr. Thorn bend under the window while maintaining a tight grip on Jacob's throat. Naturally Jacob try to cry out as he pounded on Thorn's wrist and kicked for all that he was worth, but Thorn hardly seemed to take notice.
Thorn gazed around before focusing on the struggling demigod. "Where is he?" he asked in perfect Portuguese. "Where is the other boy?"
Jacob made a rough croak and motioned to his throat.
"Oh!" Thorn's hand twitched a bit as he loosened his grip. "Now talk!"
Jacob sucked in a loud breath to scream.
"Fim!" Thorn clamped a hand over Jacob's mouth while simultaneously retightening his grip around the boy's neck. "Now talk or things will more unpleasant."
Jacob continued struggling, knocking an old tacky lanp that stood a little close to the edge of the nightstand. Thorn took no notice until it was too late and the lamp shattered loudly on the hard floor.
Suddenly footsteps could be heard running from down the hall.
"Rapaz tola!" snarled Thorn and threw Jacob aside.
Maria threw the door wide open. "Garotos, achei que dito — ack!"
"Oh, don't be too hard on them." Thorn said, lifting Maria off the ground by her throat. "Boys will be boys."
Jacob recovered enough to look up and see this strange man hurting his mother. He grabbed the remains of lamp, still connected to the wall, and drove it into Thorn's ankle. Electricity tore through Thorn's body and he dropped Maria. Jacob rushed to help his mother up, but he never made it to her.
Something felt wrong.
He looked down to see something sharp and bloody protruding from his left hip. His hand slowly touched the spot and stained his fingertips with his blood, warm against his skin and nearly black in the dim moonlight. As he looked down he saw another object exit from the right side of his chest.
Maria screamed as Jacob collapsed at her feet.
Thorn caught her just as she rushed to her son. She fought with all the force she was capable of and then some. She bit, punched, kicked, shrieked, and even used her nails like claws to reach her son, but to no avail. Thorn hardly seemed to noticed as he dragged Maria out by her hair, her screams and wails of protest echoing throughout the room and hall.
The rainbow swirled and distorted the image.
Artie looked to Jacob, his hand shaking as he brought another biscuit to his mouth.
"But . . ." Artie began to say, his voice barely a whisper.
"Keep watching." Jacob said just as quietly.
Artie turned back to the image floating in the rainbow mist.
Two men wearing blue vest, red beret's and tan shirts with the Brazilian national flag on the sleeves were bending over Jacob. They seemed to be calling for help as one took the boy's pulse and the other checked his breathing.
Artie had often wondered, out of curiosity, how the mortals of Rio would have reacted to finding his mother and brother dead with the house torn apart and not a single sign of him.
Another pair of EMT's rolled in a gurney and quickly, but gently as possible, lifted Jacob and placed him on the gurney. Their hands were lightning as one strapped Jacob in so he moved not an inch while another slipped a bright orange neckbrace. The remaining two ran an IV while simultaneously calling for others to clear the way.
As Artie watched his old home swarming with police, curious onlookers, and EMT's Jacob spoke. "You'd be surprised what you can live through." He paused. "Well, not really you, but I was."
The image swirled again and Artie found himself watching Jacob strapped to a hospital bed. He had several tubed connected to IV bag filled with a rainbow of liquid. Though he could not hear, it clear that Jacob was screaming in agony.
"Like I said, manticore venom can't kill." Artie turned to see Jacob lower his collar to reveal a star shaped scar. "The spine would have killed me, but like everyone else my heart is on the left. And the other barely nicked a kidney." Jacob motioned to the rainbow. "They did everything they could, but they couldn't even begin to understand what was causing the pain so forget treating it."
"How . . ." Artie asked, not taking his eyes off the image.
"Now that might surprise you." Jacob waved a hand over the image. "Luckily for me, lots of satyrs come to Brazil. They're always looking for Pan and the Amazon Rainforest is usually one of the first places they look. He took a bit of a tumble down a small hill and some tourists managed to get him into town. He found me and knew the mortal doctor's couldn't help me so he called a friend."
Now Artie saw the same room with Jacob, but with two new people. There was a satyr pacing back and forth, his shoes and hat tossed on chair so his horns and hooves could be seen, while a red headed woman in a wheelchair examined the boy.
"Eurphrasia?" Artie's voice hardly more than whisper.
It was her. The same glasses that gave her a bookish look her thick red hair tied back as she worked over a table filled with herbs, flasks filled with liquids, and an old fashion stone mortar and pestle. Artie had seen her make the very same cure she had made for him when Thorn ambushed him in the Everglades along with countless remedies to counteract infections and speed up the healing of broken bones.
"Apparently the satyr, Stamatis, met her when he was checking out the swamps in Florida." Jacob explained. "Took her all of two minutes to figure out what was wrong and all of five to make the cure." Jacob waved his hand over the image. "From there, Stamatis, or Stan as he preferred, took me all the way to America. Long Island, New York to be exact."
"Long Island?" Artie repeated. "But that would mean . . ."
"Camp Half Blood." Jacob confirmed. "In less than two weeks, I lost everything. My mother, my brother, and finally my home."
"But why did Chiron never mention you?"
"You know what the worse part of being a child of Apollo?" Jacob growled. "Yeah, we're the best archers and best musicians, but a lot of us have the gift of prophecy. I was one of them." Jacob pointed to the image. "See?"
Artie turned back to the rainbow and saw Camp Half Blood. It seemed to be some time after Jacob arrived at camp because he was wearing an orange camp shirt and jeans with a bow and quiver slug over his back. Jacob seemed to be arguing with Chiron on the porch of the Big House. Several times Jacob motioned and pointed to Half Blood Hill as if something important was happening. Chiron shook his head and spoke with a calm, if a bit concerned, demeanor.
"I spent almost a year at camp." Jacob said. "Apollo claimed me barely a month in and thats when the visions started."
"They were unclear and unfocused at first. I could catch pieces and clues to what I was seeing along with a whisper of a voice calling for help." Jacob grew cold. "Then they became clearer and I knew what I was seeing." Jacob looked his brother dead in the eye. "You! I was seeing you as you ran around the wild as Thorn chased all over the continent." Jacob thrust a hand at the image. "I begged and pleaded with Chiron and that useless drunk of a god telling them that my brother was alive out there and in danger, but they wouldn't let me leave." Jacob began mocking Mr.D "As much as I'd love to have one less brat running around, I'm afraid I would not here the end of it from your father." Then Jacob switched to Chiron. "It would not be wise, child. You could have very well seen the present than the future. There is no way tell either way and we have not a single method to go about locating him."
"He was right." Artie said reluctantly. "I never stayed in one spot for more than a day. Thorn wouldn't let up and I ran into other monsters too."
"I know that now, but I wouldn't hear it then." Jacob admitted. "Every night I'd have another vision and every morning I would tell Chiron, but he wouldn't change his mind." Jacob waved his hand over the rainbow and the imaged paused. "Until I had a vision of you arriving in a port in Miami. I'm not sure if that actually changed his mind or if he got tired of me asking every day, but he agreed to let me go."
"What did the oracle say?"
"Forsake aid of any kind and none shall pay mind." Jacob recited. "With the strongest of oaths you will be bind. Despite enemies and events both shall unite. Against their true enemy, brothers in all but blood shall fight."
"I don't understand."
"Like you, the first line meant I had go alone or monsters would attack left and right." Jacob explained. "The second line meant this." Jacob motioned to the image again. "Turns out Chiron was right. The vision I had about you and Thorn in Florida was one year too early."
Artie turned back to iris message and saw Jacob walking through the everglades.
(SIX YEARS AGO - EVERGLADES, NORTHERN FLORIDA)
He was covered in mud as he waded through water up to his knees. His orange camp shirt clashed horribly with brown and green of the environment and Artie noticed he was wearing the same golden leather trench coat, stained with mud and wet in several places, along with the same bronze gauntlets he wore now. Instead of a bow and quiver, Jacob had a curved celestial bronze knife in each hand. He was about to ask what child of Apollo preferred close combat with knives to ranged with a bow and arrow when two figures emerged when Jacob bent to drink from a creek.
The two figures were eight feet tall, wearing nothing but blue jeans. The rest of them were covered by shag-carpeted thick brown fur. They both had claws for fingers, a snout for a nose, and all their teeth being pointed canines. Both of them carried a javelin in hand and wicked looking knives at their waist.
Artie said nothing as the bear twins attacked, Argrius charged while Oreius threw his javelin. Jacob dived out of the way and landed into a roll just as Argrius buried the javelin's head into the dirt where had been standing. Jacob drew himself up and threw both of his knives.
As they flew in the air, spinning perpendicular to the direction it was heading, Artie saw they weren't knives, but sharpened celestial bronze boomerangs. As the bear twin scrambled for cover, Jacob threw open his trench coat to reveal half a dozen more deadly projectiles. He drew two in each hand and threw them as well, but Artie saw the drawback.
Each and every boomerang collided with a tree trunk or was slowed when it cut through foliage and branches.
Agrius and Oreius looked around and saw they had the advantage and slowly advanced. Then Jacob thrust out his hands and two boomerang that had been brought to a dead stop by a tree flew back to him like a bullet, not bothering to go around the bear twins.
The twins looked down and saw the holes left by the boomerang before collapsing into gold dust.
"I never returned to Camp Half Blood so Chiron naturally assumed I died and I doubt he wanted to tell that your only brother survived only to die on a quest to save you." Then Jacob severed the connection. "I spent a month looking for you and killing anything that got in my way, but I couldn't speed up time."
"So you gave up?"
"No!" Jacob snapped. "Never! I never gave up!"
"But . . ."
"Someone spoke to me one night. He told me all about you. How you were the child of Artemis and it was your scent that brought Thorn."
"I . . .uh, . . . um." Artie wasn't sure how to respond.
"I told him it wasn't your fault and you know what? He agreed." Jacob pointed to him. "It was your mother! That sexist goddess, Artemis."
"The voice you heard, it was the General wasn't it?" Artie asked.
"Yes." said Jacob. "He promised me everything I wanted. You and me would be back together. Thorn punished along with Artemis and Apollo."
"Apollo?" Artie asked. "What did he do?"
"Nothing! He did nothing!" Jacob snapped. "He and Artemis just sat back and watched while our mother was killed and we were seperated thinking the other was dead without lifting a finger to help."
"So you sided with the Titans." Artie concluded.
"And you sided with the gods." Jacob countered.
"Why?!" Jacob demanded.
"Because I don't have choice." Artie said simply.
"Yes, you do." Jacob assured. "Join us and stop being a pawn for the gods."
"Whereas being a pawn for the Titans is better?" Artie frowned. "You said Artemis and Apollo just sat back an watched? Well, what did the Titans do? The same thing, nothing!"
"They're helping us now." Jacob answered.
"And so are the gods." Artie opened his arms to show his armor and weapons. "Do you think I just walked into a store and bought this? No, Artemis convinced Hephaestus to give one of his children enough moonsilver to make this armor. This cloak and Kopis? She gave it to me because she thought 'I might need it'. Either way, they're using us to get what they want."
"Then why help them?"
"Could have fooled me."
"What did the General tell you?" Artie challenged. "That I was part of the quest to rescue Artemis?"
"No. That was they're quest. My quest was to save Annabeth."
"The blond girl?"
"Yes." Artie said. "Do you want to know what I think about this little fight between the gods and Titans? I couldn't care less. At the end of it all, nothing is going to change. Let them kill each other over the earth."
"Then why help them?" Jacob asked again.
"Because a fight between them would get the few people I still care about killed." Artie answered. "That's why I'm helping the gods. The gods may ignore us, but that's a lot better than being the Titans' playthings if they win."
"But the General promised our mother back." Jacob told him. "Imagine it! You, her, and me together like we should be."
"It won't be the same." Artie shook his head. "Look at yourself. Look at me. As much as I hate to say it, Artemis was right. Things can't go back to the way they were. We've changed too much. We've seen too much."
"What are you saying?"
"That the sons of Maria Gallezi died with her that night eight years ago." Artie paused. "So I'm not going to join you and the Titans."
"So you're picking your friends over your only brother?"
"No." Artie held a hand. "You're coming with me."
"I don't understand."
"Did you swear on the Styx to serve the Titans?"
"What were your exact words?"
"I swear on the river Styx to serve the Titans until Thorn pays for what he did along with those responsible."
Artie smiled and held out a hand. "That was the second part of your prophecy, With the strongest of oaths you will be bind."
"I know that." Jacob looked tempted to take his brother's hand. "But the General said I had to wait until Thorn stops being useful."
"I swear on the Styx, Jacob, not only he can't be used, but he's paying for what he did to us as we speak." Artie recited. "Vengeance taken and guardian freed, that was the third line of my prophecy. I took care of Thorn and now I'm here to free you, the guardian that the General appointed to the Hesperides."
"But . . ."
"Just because you gave up on your quest doesn't mean the quest gave up on you." Artie said, his hand still out. "Despite enemies and events both shall unite. The gods and Titans have kept us apart long enough, irmão."
Jacob reached for his brother's hand, but pulled back. He shook his head as tears formed in the corners of his eyes. "I can't! Thorn and Artemis were only half of it."
"You swore to serve until Thorn and the ones responsible were punished." Artie reminded. "Thorn is taken care of, but there is still the General and I can't fight him alone."
"The General?" Jacob repeated.
"Remember what I said about being used by either side?" Artie asked. "When I was in D.C. I caught the General yelling at Thorn for screwing up."
"He's always doing that."
"He said he gave Thorn a mission eight years ago. When he failed that, the General gave him a second chance which took him four years with nothing to show for it." Artie then quoted the General verbatim. "I will choose lieutenants who get me results! Not ones who retreat when their target if half dead."
Jacob fell to his knees and held his head. "Oh meus deuses. Todo esse tempo. . . que era ele. . . e eu nunca pensei. . . ele estava me usando . . ."
"I know." Artie knelt and embraced him tightly as he could without hurting him. "It took me forever to figure it out, but now I'm almost sure he sent Thorn."
"But why?" Jacob sniffed. "What could we do to them? We're not children of the Big Three. We can't decide the fate of Olympus."
"I have no idea." Artie stood up and brought his brother with him. "But I'm gonna find out." Artie wiped Jacob's eyes. "Are you going to help me?"
"You can't beat the General." Jacob protested. "No one can."
"Do you know what Artemis said to me after Thorn nearly killed me in Florida? As I stumbled around in the forest?" Artie smiled grimly. "Show me only the gods themselves can stop you."
"I don't understand."
"If I asked the General if he is a god, what would he say?"
"Then we should be fine." Artie chuckled reluctantly. "Since he hasn't seen Ghostbusters."
"What?" Jacob cocked his head. "You lost me."
Artie smirked. "When someone asks you if you're a god, you say 'yes'."
"Oh, that." Jacob chuckled reluctantly. "Its been a while."
"Once all of this is over, we are having a movie marathon." Artie promised. "Just you, me, my DVD collection and we're not stopping until we run out popcorn."
"I'd like that." Jacob looked up at the summit. "I'd like that a lot."
"But first we have to get up there, beat the General, free Artemis and Annabeth. And we need to hurry."
"Yeah, the whole winter solstice thing." Jacob asked. "Why is it always before the solstice?"
"No, we need to hurry so I can make back to Miami before Christmas." Artie said.
"Let's just say I have a better chance of surviving a fight with a Titan than I do if Appolonia is mad at me." Artie smiled. "Tartarus hath no fury like a women scorned."
A/N - Sorry for such a long time between updates. Apparently Hurricane Sandy thought that me, and a large portion of NY, should return to the times of reading by candle light and cold showers. Plus the snowstorm a week later didn't exactly speed things up. So I'm back with power and internet and hopefully I can get back into the swing of things.