While Jacob had been plagued with vision of his brother for years, he had never seen him like this. Artie snarled and growled like a wild animal, often dropping to all fours to pounce and dodge. His finger nails grew into razor points and his canine teeth grew into fangs. His whole body shook with all the rage as he fought the Titan Lord Atlas.
Jacob had a hard time processing what occurred between his brother, Atlas, and the other demigods. It was almost as if someone hit the fast forward button on Artie while everyone moved at normal speed. At first, Percy and Zoë paused as if waiting for something then quickly joined in the fight, but making sure to stay out of Artie's way. Jacob guessed the snarling wasn't just for effect and he was so intent on fighting Atlas, he'd go through anything and anyone that got in the way. But despite Artie's speed and ferocity, Zoë's near countless arrows, and Percy's superb skills with a sword, Jacob knew it was not enough to defeat Atlas.
Then Artie's words from a earlier rang in his head, The gods and Titans have kept us apart long enough, irmão.
Jacob threw open his trench coat and drew two boomerang in each hand just Atlas kicked Percy so he slide against the ground and stopped in from of Artemis. Atlas went to finish him, but Artie pounced and sank his teeth into his neck. Atlas bellowed as he shook and reached behind him. Artie snarled and twisted hard and he managed to turn Atlas enough for some of Zoë's arrows to hit. Artie went to bite again, but the Titan grabbed the demigod and threw him against a brick wall, the citadel of the Titans continuing to materialize around them. Before Artie's feet could even touch the ground, Atlas gripped him by the neck and raised his javelin to impale the son of the moon goddess, Artie futilely scratching and biting the Titan's arm.
Jacob saw Zoë reached for an arrow, but she would not have the time to fire and save Artie.
Jacob let his boomerangs fly, two flying left while the other two went right.
Just as the javelin's point was an inch from Artie's eye, two boomerangs collided with Atlas, one knocking the javelin from his grip while pierced his armored forearm and buried itself in his flesh. Just as quickly, two more hit the Titan from the left. The first one knocked his head to the right, dazing him for a moment, while the other went low and found Atlas' ankle. It was enough for the Titan to stumble and turn just in time to catch Zoë's arrow in his throat. To finish the maneuver, Artie dropped low and struck upwards with his claws.
All three charged the Titan Lord Atlas. Artie with tooth and nail, Zoë with her moonsilver hunting knives, and Jacob used a pair of sharpened boomerangs as knives.
But it was not enough.
Atlas roared in protest and caught Artie by the throat, stopping him mid air. Then he shot up to his full height, Artie still his grip, and swept his daughter aside with the back of his free hand, sending her flying into the black rocks with a thunderous ker-ack. In the half second Jacob saw Atlas defeat two powerful demigods, he felt the Titan's boot in his chest slam into him and send him crashing onto the ground.
Naturally, Jacob went to move, but Atlas lifted his foot and stomped on the demigod's chest. Jacob nearly blacked out as he felt his sternum break and three ribs crack. He looked up to see the Titan that had not only sent a monster to his home, killing his mother and chasing his brother all over two continents, but the Titan had actually made him believe someone cared for him, the closest thing he had to a father.
"Don't leave us yet, Jacob." Atlas grinned, despite the dirt and wound across his face along with two missing teeth. "I want you to see this." He brandish Artie, still struggling and snarling. "The skies will rain fire. The oceans will boil. The streets will run red with the blood of billions, but I want you to watch as the life leaves this vexing gnat at my hands. Only then will I allow death's sweet release."
Atlas slowly tightened his grip around Artie's neck.
"No!" Jacob croaked, his insides feeling as if filled with shards of white hot broken glass as he tried to move. "Let . . . him . . . go . . ."
Artie's struggling became slower and weaker as he desperately pounded and left deep gashes on the Titan's forearm. Atlas did not so much as wince as golden ichor, the blood of immortals, ran down his armor and dripped on to the floor. He seemed pleased as Artie's eyes flickered, like a car's headlight when the battery begins to die, from red back to his silver.
"Aw, what's the problem?" Atlas shook him like a rag doll. "Has the great beast tired himself out?" Atlas squeezed tighter. "Well?"
Artie tried to gag and cough, but he just didn't have enough air.
"Oh, I'm sorry. What was that? I didn't catch that." Atlas mockingly held him to his ear before holding him out again and growled. "Too bad, I'll never know!"
"Why . . ." Artie gasped with the last bit of air he had. " . . . did . . . you . . . send . . . Thorn?"
Atlas cocked his head, but did not released the demigod. Then he hissed and looked down at Jacob, two boomerangs stuck out of his boot.
"You two are not easily deterred."Atlas conceded. "I will give you that."
"Então dar uma resposta!" Jacob barked, his anger numbing the pain enough to speak. "Why did you send Thorn?"
"Very well, you both can take this to the Underworld." Atlas looked down at Jacob. "As he said earlier, I sent Thorn after this one." Atlas shook Artie. "You and your dolt of a mother merely got in his way."
Artie snarled and his eyes flashed red at the mention of his mother, but quickly returned to silver. His body was beginning to do what his mind would never do, give in.
Atlas ignored him and smiled down at Jacob. "As to why, you'll just have to use your imagination as you spend eternity in the Underworld." The Titan looked up at the son of Artemis in his hand. "Now who's going first?" He looked down at Jacob and smirked. "I think it's only fair you watch him die this time."
Then something that no one saw coming, least of all Atlas.
There was bright flash of silver light and Atlas went flying through a black wall, dropping Artie, as if a cannonball had hit him directly in the chest.
Jacob felt something land next to him. He strained to turn his head and was relived. It was Artie. He was coughing, bleeding, and looked utterly spent, but he was alive.
When he looked past his brother, Jacob saw something strange. Percy, the son of Poseidon, was straining under the weight of the sky. He was down on one knee and looked he would collapse at any moment, his teeth were gritted, and his a streak of white appeared in his hair. But what held Jacob's attention was not Percy. It was who Percy had taken the burden from.
Artemis held bow and walked slowly as she nocked another arrow. Despite terrifying expression she aimed at Atlas, her words shook Jacob to bone. "Do. Not. Lay A. Finger. On. My. Son."
The goddess looked down at her son, pushing himself up. She couldn't help, but be impressed. This demigod had nearly died countless times as a manticore chased him for four years. He had just about met his end fighting the same manticore in Maine. He practically broken every bone in his body when he fell from the Talos automaton in Arizona. And near about driven to insanity after being poisoned with the most agonizing venom known to Olympians. And yet, he continued to live, to fight. Children of Athena had intelligence and the children of Ares had strength. Descendants of Apollo were legendary archers and the children of the Big Three were always powers to be reckoned with.
Artie had none of this.
He was not a great state gist nor a powerful warrior. He was talented with a bow, yes, but even after vast amounts of time devoted he was not on the same level as the children of Apollo. But he had one thing that no other hero had before him.
Like the great ancient Greek spartan warriors of old, Artie would never give up. He would never surrender. To Artie, to surrender was to die. He could've given up when Thorn attacked his home in Rio, he didn't. He could've surrendered when he reached America and Thorn ambushed him in the everglades, he didn't. He most certainly could've conceded when Orion tried to kill him in Yellowstone Nation Park, he didn't. And not a single soul would have blamed him for sitting out a fight against an immortal Titan warrior, but he didn't.
"You have done enough." Artemis said gently.
Artie spat out a globule of blood and stood up. He swayed to side and his breathing was ragged and raspy. He stumbled and threaten to fall, but he snarled and steadied himself.
"You can barely stand." said the goddess.
"Listen to your mother, child!" spat Atlas.
Artie collapsed onto a knee.
"Why do you continue to fight?" Artemis asked. "You are but flesh and bone. He is an immortal. You cannot win. What do you wish to gain?"
"Ha!" Atlas chuckled. "Are you really still that surprised at the stupidity of mortals, goddess? Of heroes?"
Then Artie began to laugh. "You just don't get it. Neither of you do." Artie pushed himself up again. "You think I'm fighting for me?" He stared at Atlas. "That's why you'll never win. Look around you!" Artie motioned to Percy, Jacob, Thalia, Annabeth, and Zoë. "I'm not fighting for me. I'm fighting for them! And that's something you'll never understand, Titan!" Artie brandished his claws. "It's the very thing that makes us human."
"Very well," Artemis waved her hand and silver light engulfed her son. "But that does not mean you have to fight as one."
Jacob turned as there was a bright flash. It was like the sun itself had come within a few feet of him, minus the heat which at the surface is over nine thousand. Even after turning and closing his eyes shut, it was too bright. But just as quickly, the light vanished and Jacob turned and his jaw dropped when he saw his brother, or where his brother had been standing.
Jacob knew of Artie's mishap on the Isle Of Circe, but now he was seeing the results firsthand.
The base coat of his kind was generally a tawny yellow with blackish rosettes for camouflage in the forest, but his was the most beutiful and purest shade of silver. He was over nine feet long from his nose to the base of his tail, which was three feet long itself as it flicked back and forth with impatience. His legs, all four of them on the floor, were short, but thick and powerful. He was the size of small truck, just under four feet at the shoulder. His eyes were now glowing red, instead of their normal silver, and combined with the small thunderstorm in his throat, it was clear Artie was not happy. Jacob also saw how his paws clawed the ground, eager use the Titan as a scratching post.
Artemis had turned her son into a giant silver jaguar.
"Ar . . . Artie?" Jacob gasped.
The jaguar padded over and sniffed Jacob's face. Jacob reached up and scratched under his chin. The giant man eating cat cocked his head and looked over the broken body of the demigod. As terrifying as it could be, Jacob smiled reassuringly and felt the animals throat hum as it began to purr.
"Do you really think that will make a difference, goddess?" Atlas spat. "Then again, Lord Kronos could use his pelt for a welcome mat!"
Artie made a sound similar to a snarl mixed with a hiss, like he could not decide which one to make.
"Come, boy." Atlas beckoned. "Test your meddle again."
"How little you know of cats, Atlas." Artemis came over and scratched behind his ear.
Artie snarled and growled.
"Really? Even now?" Artemis asked.
"What?" asked Atlas.
"He quoted another film." The goddess rolled her eyes. "He has a taste for them."
"Oh, the mystery is killing me." Atlas sneered. "Tell me, my dear, what did the child say."
"It was a response to your invitation to test his meddle." Artemis smiled. "Cats come when they feel like it. Not when they're told."
As soon Artemis spoke, Artie pounced.
Artemis quickly followed behind.
Jacob quickly lost track of time and of the fight. The pain mixed with his low point of view, he could only catches glimpses of the fight. There was Atlas of course, laughing manically as he jabbed and parried with his javelin. Artemis was a silver blur. She fought with two wicked looking moonsilver hunting knives, each as long as her arm, and slashed wildly at the Titan, leaping and dodging with unbelievable grace. Only Artie seemed to match her, scratching and biting whenever he pounced. And unless Jacob was seeing things, the goddess and her son were working together. Artie would leap onto Atlas and attempt to crush a piece of the Titan in his mouth, but he dared not stay long enough to accomplish it. It was long enough to remove Atlas' armor, piece by piece, and Artemis would aim for the chinks Artie created. Atlas roared with pain each time it happened, shaking the ground with the force of it, but affected him like bee stings. He simply got madder as he fought and kept going.
Atlas advanced, pressing Artemis and Artie. They were both fast, but his strength was unstoppable. His javelin slammed into the earth where Artemis had been standing only a split second before, and a fissure opened in the rocks. He leaped over it and pursued her, Artie pursuing him. Jacob pushed himself up on an elbow, cursing his curiosity, and saw she was leading the Titan back to where Percy was threatening to collapse under the weight of the sky.
He laughed. "You fight well for a girl." Artie pounce and Atlas backhanded him without even looking. "And a kitten. But you're no match for me!"
He feinted with the tip of his javelin and Artemis dodged, but she did not see the trick coming. Atlas's javelin swept around and knocked Artemis's legs from under her. She fell, and brought up his javelin up for the kill.
"NO!" Zoë shouted.
She seemed to appear from nowhere as she fired an arrow right in the middle of her father's forehead, where it lodged like a unicorn's horn. Atlas bellowed and swept her aside with the back of his hand, sending her flying into the black rocks once more.
Then Atlas turned back to Artemis with a look of triumph on his face. Artemis seemed to be wounded. She wouldn't even get up, but she had an expression of pure hatred and defiance.
"The first blood of a new war!" he gloated. Then he stabbed downward.
As fast as thought, Artemis grabbed the shaft of his javelin. It hit the ground next to her and she pulled back, using the weapon as lever, but Atlas saw the trick coming and firmly braced his feet. The goddess's feet simply stopped at the Titan's ankle. Atlas smiled for he knew as long as he stood firmly planted, Artemis would not be able to bring him down that way. But he forgot one thing, or rather one person. The person who he woul not have reason to fight if he had simply left the boy to his life in Rio De Janerio.
Artie landed on the Titan's back.
Any cat owner in the world would know the feeling of of their adorable pet leaping from their lap to a higher position. A common house cat can clear a distance of eight feet without much effort, but their much larger ancestors can several times that with just as little effort. An average jaguar can kill an eight-hundred pound bull and actually drag the carcass into a tree.
And Artie, at that moment, was far from an average jaguar.
So when Artie landed on Atlas's back and leaped off. It was like being struck by a fully stocked eighteen wheeled truck, just enough to make the General of Kronos's forces stumble. Artemis tried again and kicked the Titan lord as she pulled back on the javelin, sending him flying over her.
Now while no one, but Artemis and Percy knew, this was exactly what she wanted. Percy loosened his grip on the sky, and as Atlas slammed into him, he did not try to hold on. He simply allowed himself to be pushed out of the way and rolled for all he was worth. The weight of the sky slammed onto Atlas's back, almost crushing him flat, but he managed to get to knees, struggling to get out from under the weight of the sky. But it was too late.
"Nooooo!" he bellowed so hard it shook the ground. "Not again!"
Percy, now free of the sky, tried to stand and fell back, dazed with pain. It felt as if his body was burning up. He was vaguely aware of Artie nudging him with his snout and licking his cheek.
Then Jacob, and everyone else, turned to see the fight between Thalia and Luke continuing to rage on.
Thalia had backed Luke to the edge of the cliff, but they still fought on, near the golden coffin of Kronos. Thalia had tears in her eyes and Luke had bloody gash across his chest and his pale face glistened with sweat. He lunged at her and she slammed him hard with her shield. Backbiter, Luke's sword, spun out of his hands and clattered to the ground. Thalia held up her spear to his throat.
"Well?" he asked, trying to hide the fear in his voice.
Thalia trembled with fury.
Behind her, Annabeth came up, now free of her bonds. Her face was streaked with sweat, dirt, and blood. "Don't kill him!"
"He's a traitor!" Thalia said. "A traitor!"
Percy noticed Artemis running towards the black rock where Zoë had landed. He felt something large and furry nudged him. Percy turned to Artie, still a giant silver jaguar, and he shook his head. He didn't want Percy to follow. They both turned their attention back to Annabeth, Thalia, and Luke.
"We'll bring him back." Annabeth pleaded. "To Olympus. He'll . . . he'll be useful."
"Is that what you really want, Thalia?" Luke sneered. "To go back to Olympus in triumph? To please your dad?"
Thalia hesitated, and Luke made a desperate attempt for her spear.
"No!" shouted Annabeth.
But it was too late. Without thinking, Thalia kicked him away. He lost his balance, terror on his face, and fell.
"LUKE!" Annabeth screamed.
They all rushed to the edge of the cliff, and looked below. Below them, the army from the Princess Andromeda looked down in amazement. They were staring at the broken form of their comrade and commander, Luke.
One of the giants looked up and growled. "Kill them!"
Thalia was stiff with grief, tears streaming down her face, Percy pulled her back as a wave of javelins sailed over their head while Artie did the same for Annabeth with his teeth. They all ran for the rock, ignoring the curses and threats form Atlas as they passed. Except for one. Artie ran to where his brother still lay.
"Hey, buddy!" Jacob smiled weakly. "I always knew you were a cat person."
Artie nudged his side gently and Jacob yelped.
"Broken sternum and three broken ribs." He laughed the confused look Artie was giving him. "Son of Apollo, remember?"
Artie looked to where Artemis, holding Zoë in her arms, and his friend were and back at where Jacob lay.
"I get it." He sighed. "You need to get me over there."
Artie plucked a boomerang off of the floor and placed in Jacob's mouth so he had something to bite down on.
"Orrkrray!" Jacob grunted between the piece of bronze. "Orrn thrr courrrnt orrf treee. Orrne . . . trrwo — "
Artie knew from experience it was best to do this sort of thing when it was least expected. As quickly and as gently as he could, Artie dragged his brother across the floor to where his friends and the goddess stood. Jacob grunted and cursed up a storm, but unintelligible due to the boomerang and the only one able to speak Portuguese and call him on it was incapable of forming words himself.
"The stars, my lady." Zoë murmured. "I cannot see them."
"Nectar and ambrosia!" Percy shouted. "Come on, we have to get her some."
No one moved and grief hung in the air. The army of Kronos was just below the rise. Artemis was too shocked to stir. Artie was about to go meet the army, giving his friends time to form a plan and escape, when they all heard a strange buzzing noise.
Just as the army of monsters came over the kill, a Sopwith Camel swooped down across the sky.
"GET AWAY FROM MY DAUGHTER!" Professor Chase shouted over the roar of the engine and machine gun fire. The group stared in disbelief as he swooped down again and he called down to them. "RUN!"
Artemis raised her hunting horn to her lips and blew, a clear sound echoing down the valleys of Marin.
The gunfire peppered the ground with bullet holes, startling the front lines into scattered. Dr. Chase swooped down again and this time was received with expectation. A few giant threw javelins and one actually sailed clear through a wing of the plane. It became apparent that the good doctor had somehow acquired celestial bronze and fashioned them into bullets. The first row of snake women wailed as the machine gun's volley turned them into dust and scattered in the wind.
Just then, the moonlight brightened and a silver chariot appeared from the sky and landed next to them. Instead of horses, the chariot was drawn by eight hinds, eight golden Ceryneian hinds.
"Get in!" said Artemis.
Annabeth helped Thalia on board and Percy helped Zoë, wrapping her in blankets. Artie took Jacob by the teeth and began dragging him toward the chariot as Artemis took hold of the reins and looked.
"Stop!" Artemis held up a hand. "Not him!"
Artie snarled and growled threateningly.
"That's his brother!" Percy protested. "We can't just leave him."
"Yeah," added Annabeth. "He was tricked into helping the Titan by Atlas. Its not his fault!"
"I know." Artemis looked perplex. "There is simply not enough room him. My son shall have to carry him."
Artie instantly calmed down and made a concerned yowl.
"Oh!" Artemis waved a hand and moonlight surrounded Artie's feet. "Thank you for reminding me. That would have been embarrassing."
Jacob screamed a string of cursed in Portuguese as Artie snaked his head under him and got him onto his back.
Artemis cracked the reins and the chariot sped off into the sky. Percy looked back to see Artie, expecting him to slide down the mountain side or something and follow by running across the water, but Artie followed alongside the chariot.
Seeing them safely away, Dr. Chase turned his plane and followed alongside like an honor guard, staring in amazement at the jaguar running on the oppisite side of the chariot.
"How is he doing that?" He called out. "I'd swear he was running on an invisible road, if I didn't know any better.
Artie made a growly snarly sound in his throat and Percy swore that Artie was smiling.
"What do you think he said?" Percy asked Annabeth.
"Roads?" Artemis answered. "Where we're going, we don't need roads."
They were the strangest sight for the Bay Area. A silver chariot being pulled by eight golden Ceryneian hinds, escorted by a Sopwith Camel and a giant silver jaguar carrying an injured demigod. But they would see much stranger if they could see Mt. Tam.
Behind them, the army of Kronos roared in anger as they gathered on the summit of the mountain, but loudest of all was Atlas, bellowing curses against the gods as he struggled under the weight of the sky.
The darkest curses, he reserved for the two brothers of Maria Gallezi.
A/N - Sorry, I know I promised a little after the holidays, but I got distracted (I recently discovered the wonderful world of ). Plus, I admit to a bit of writer's block. If it happens to the best of authors, then its definitely gonna hit me with earnest. It won't be a problem as I've had the ending in mind for a while now, its just matter of actually putting pen to paper, so to speak.
A/N II - While this was the one I couldn't wait to write, I find myself ecstatic to get started on book four and all the naughty things (hehehehe) I have planned for Artie, but I'll be taking a break to edit some of my other stories. Don't worry, I won't change anything. I'm just sick of staring at my grammitcal errors and the continuity holes I've made along the way.
So until then, KEEP CALM AND ALLONS-Y!