The Goddess and heroes landed at Crissy Field just after nightfall.
Once Artie's paws touched the ground, and he laid Jacob gently as he could on the floor, a sliver light engulfed him once more. When the light dimmed and winked out, Artie was kneeling over his brother. He had somehow regained all of his clothes and weapons, including his quiver and belt.
There was screech and Tobias landed next to him, laying Diego on the floor before properly landing.
"What the?" Jacob looked up to Artie.
"Long story." Artie replied. "Later, I promise."
While Artie tended to Jacob, Annabeth ran to father and hugged him tightly while Artemis and Thalia treated Zoë.
Thalia called to them. "Annabeth, Percy?"
They ran other to help, but there wasn't much they could do. They had no nectar and ambrosia and mortal medicine would not help. It was dark, but they could see Zoë was not doing well. She was shivering and the faint glow that usually hung around her was fading.
Artie was torn between Zoë and Jacob. He wanted to help both, but there wasn't anything he could do for either of them. Jacob's injuries were not magical induced like Zoë's. Artie emptied his belt onto the floor and looked for the few medical supplies he hadn't used or lost along the way. There was a small roll of gauze and adhesive tape to stop a wound from bleeding. Small tubes of ointment for treating burns and rashes sat next to an empty bottle of painkillers. He even had a needle and thread for stitches, but nothing to mend broken bones and stop internal bleeding caused by them.
Artie couldn't stop the tears. His brother, whose death he carried for years, had survived and returned to him only to die in his arms not even a day after they had been reunited.
"Apenas esta única coisa. . . é a tanto?" he whispered. "O que fiz sempre. . . isto. . . isso é injusta."
"Hey," Jacob whispered back. "Its gonna be fine."
"How can you say that?" he croaked. "Wait! My boot!"
Artie quickly removed his left boot and retrieved his flask.
But it was empty, Artie had drunk it all when he and his friends fought Talos in New Mexico.
"Caramba!" he snapped and tossed it aside in anger. "Parte inútil de bosta."
Then the strangest thing happened, Jacob began to laugh.
"Why . . ." Artie wiped his eyes. "Why are you laughing?"
"You just reminded me." Jacob coughed.
"That we're really brothers." Jacob smiled weakly. "Check my right boot."
Artie went to his feet and gently tugged off the black leather combat boot from Jacob's right foot. He turned it upside down and out fell something made of brightly polished metal.
The goddess Artemis always had an affinity for silver, the same shade of silver the moon took every now and then. Her Hunters used enchanted silver weapons and they wore silver jewelery. As her child, Artie had always felt drawn to the metal. Which was why he opted for a silver hip flask, the shape of crescent move engraved on both sides, to carry his emergency supply of nectar. Jacob on the other hand decided on modern stainless steel for his, with same coat of arms as his belt buckle, the one for Rio De Janeiro. But it was not the subtle differences that Artie was concerned with.
Like him, Jacob carried nectar in his boot.
"What did mamãe used to say about us?" Artie choked back a sob.
"Gêmeos não pensa como vocês dois." Jacob responded.
Artie lifted Jacob head and rested it against his lap. "Just hold on." Artie's trembling hand made it difficult to unscrew the cap.
Jacob seized his wrist. "Espere!"
Artie looked down. "What?"
"Give it to the Hunter." Jacob said weakly, but firmly.
"But — " Artie began to protest.
"You don't have to be a child of Athena to figure it out." Jacob said. "I was helping the Titans. How do you think she's going to see it?" Jacob motioned to Artemis.
Artie shook his head. "She'd — "
"Blame me and you." Jacob finished. "Me for choosing to save my neck and you for letting one of her Hunters die."
"I just got you back." Artie whimpered.
"Even if you save me now, I'll still eventually die. Demigods might as well as have expiration dates." Jacob coughed as he chuckled grimly. "And I'll probably end up in the Fields Of Punishments for my trouble. Is that what you want?"
"No . . ." Artie sniffed.
"Then give it to her." Jacob said gently. "And we'll see each other soon enough."
"Dizer Olá a ela por mim." Artie whispered as tears ran down face and fell onto the floor. "E sinto muito por tudo."
Jacob nodded. "Eu prometo."
Artie rose slowly as if his body weighed several tons and each movement pained him. He indulged in one more look over his shoulder at the prone broken body of his brother. Then he nodded once and walked to the crowd around Zoë Nightshade, lieutenant of the Hunters of Artemis.
Artemis was speaking and looked troubled. "Life is a fragile thing, Percy. If the Fates will the string to be cut, there is little I can do."
Everyone looked as Artie fell to his knees by Zoë's head and cradled it in his lap. "How do the gods stand living forever?"
"Artie . . ." Zoë's voice sounded weak. "What are . . . "
"Don't talk." Artie's voice sounded even weaker. "Or I'll change my mind."
Percy saw Artie held a flask like the one he kept in his boot that he filled with nectar. "When did you — "
"It's not mine." Artie's hands trembled as he went to unscrew the cap. "I drank mine back in New Mexico."
"Its Jacob's." Thalia said. "Isn't it?"
Artie choked back a sob. "Yes."
Artemis spared the demigod a glance. "But he is not . . ."
"Not yet." Artie paused as he fought to urge to break down. "He wouldn't let . . . he . . . he . . . he . . ."
Suddenly, like Jacob had done, Zoë's hand shot up and grasped Artie's wrist. Zoë looked into Artie's for a moment, but she turned to Artemis. Some kind of silent exchange between them.
"Have . . . I served thee well?" Zoë whispered to the goddess.
"With great honor." Artemis said softly. "The finest of all my attendants."
Zoë's face relaxed. "Rest. At last."
"Zoë . . ." Artie croaked. "I have nectar. You don't have to . . . "
"How would you judge?" Zoë said. "One who has outlived empires chooses to save herself rather than allow another their fair share of time on this world?"
Artie couldn't answer.
"Thank him for the offer." Zoë's hand went to Artie's cheek. "I am sorry for what I've said, but I see now. You are nothing like that monster Orion, you truly are the child of my goddess."
Artie cupped Zoë's hand and looked to Artemis.
"Go," whispered the goddess. "The both of you have suffered enough without each other."
Artie bent down and kissed Zoë's forehead before he whispered. "Esteja em paz, irmã da lua. Você não será esquecida."
Zoë turned her head and kissed Artie's cheek. "Perhaps in the next life." Her eyes went to Thalia and she took her hands. "I am sorry we argued." She said. "We could have been sisters."
"It's all my fault." Thalia said, blinking hard. "You were right about Luke, about heroes, about men — everything!"
"Not all men." Zoë murmured as her gaze drifted to Artie for a moment and she smiled weakly at Percy. "Do you still have the sword, Percy?"
Percy opened his mouth to speak, but couldn't find the words. He took out Riptide and laid in Zoë's hand.
Zoë grasped it fondly. "You spoke the truth, Percy Jackson. You are nothing like . . . like Hercules. I am honored you carry this sword."
A shudder ran through her body.
"Zoë . . ." Percy said.
"Stars." Zoë murmured. "I can see the stars again, my lady."
A single glistening tear ran down Artemis' cheek. "Yes, my brave one. They are beautiful tonight."
"Stars . . ." Zoë repeated. Her eyes fixed on the night sky. And she did not move again.
Thalia and Artie lowered their heads. Annabeth choked back a sob and her father rest his hands on her shoulders. They all watched as Artemis cupped her hand over Zoë's mouth and spoke a few words in Ancient Greek. A silvery wisp of smoke escaped from her mouth and caught in the goddess' hands. Zoë's body shimmered and disappeared.
Artemis stood, said another bless in ancient Greek, breathed into her cupped hands and released the silver dust into the sky. It flew up, sparkling, and vanished.
The onlookers watched as the stars grew brighter and formed a new pattern. The constellation resembled a girl's figure — a girl's figure with a bow and arrow, running across the sky. And unless Artie was seeing things, he thought he saw Orion's constellation flinch and turn to run.
Artie smiled and thought, Give him hell, Zoë
"Let the world honor you, my Huntress." said Artemis. "Live forever in the stars."