Hail To King
Saying their goodbye was not easy. The thunder and lightning continued boiling over Mount Tamalpais in the north. As Artie carefully poured the nectar into his brother, he switched his gaze from the mountain to Artemis. He had expected Zoë's death to greatly upset her, but silver light flickered around her. Artie knew that if she lost control, even for a second, she would reveal her true divine form and they would disintegrate by looking at her.
"I must go to Olympus immediately." said Artemis. "I cannot take you with me, but I will send help." She laid a hand on Annabeth's shoulder. "You were brave beyond measure, my girl. You will do what is right."
Then Artemis looked quizzically at Thalia, as if she wasn't sure what to make of her. Thalia seemed reluctant to look up, but something made her, and she held the goddess's gaze. Something passed between them and Artemis's gaze softened with sympathy. Then she turned to Percy.
"You did well." said the goddess. "For a man."
Percy wanted to protest, but he realized it was the first time she hadn't called him a boy.
Artemis paused as she walked to her chariot and regarded her son. "While I'm sure they did not envision this, I wish they could have seen you fulfill my promise."
She held out her hand and Artie's tooth necklace flickered and disappeared before reappearing in her hand a second later. Artemis mounted her chariot, which began to glow. They all averted their eyes. There was a bright flash of silver and when they turned back see, she was gone.
"Well, she was impressive." Dr. Chase sighed. "But I still prefer Athena."
Artie and Jacob, still laying on the floor, watched as Annabeth hugged him and he hugged her back.
"Hey," Jacob nudged Artie. "What did she mean?"
"I was born mortal." Artie said quietly. "It was when I was dying and my parents sacrificed themselves that I became a half blood." Artie wiped the corner of his eye. "Before she did that, she promised them that I'd turn my name into a title."
"I don't understand."
"Artemis is normally a girl's name." Artie helped his brother sit up. "But it can be used for boys, if they earn the right. That goes double for demigods. As far as I know, there hasn't been a single demigod that reached adulthood with that name."
"Until you." Jacob smiled weakly.
"I hope so." Artie smiled back.
"Why did she take your necklace?" Jacob grunted as he tried to push himself up. "Its not magic or something is it?"
"I don't think so." Artie let Jacob lean on him. "I got it when I defeated Orion in Wyoming."
"You killed Orion?" Jacob looked impressed.
"I defeated Orion." Artie clarified. "He's still alive in the stars. I'm sure he'll pop down sooner or later." Artie scanned their surroundings and sighed. "Hmm . . ."
"Nothing." Artie said. "Yet."
Tobias screeched and Artie turned his head to see three pegesai descending from the clouds. Two of them were white from head to tail and the other was pure black. They landed in the clearing and trotted up to Percy, but they paused when they passed Artie off to the side. Artie watched they regarded him, supporting his brother, and they made a strange gesture. They all bent their right left foreleg and held out their right foreleg far out in front of them as they lowered their heads. Unless Artie this was a strange pegasus greeting, he was fairly sure they were bowing before him.
"Uh, Percy?" Artie asked once they rose and resumed walking to son of Poseidon. "What was that?"
"Hold on, I'll ask." Percy rubbed the black Pegasus's neck gently and gave him a quizzical look. "Blackjack says their not sure, it just felt right."
"What do the others say?" Annabeth asked.
"Couldn't they have confused Artie for Percy?" offered Thalia. "His dad did create horses out of sea foam right?"
"No. They say they know who Artie is," Percy confirmed after a moment. "But that's exactly why they bowed." Percy seemed to remember something. "Look, we can figure that out later. We need to get Olympus."
Artie watched Percy mounted Blackjack and Thalia nervously mounted one of the white pegasai, Guido and Porkpie were practically twins, and Annabeth talked with her father. Then he counted and saw they were at least one pegasus short.
"Um, Artie?"Jacob tapped his shoulder. "Your belt is glowing."
"Huh?" Artie looked down and saw one one of the pouches on his belt was emitting a bright silver light. "That should be empty." He retrieved a small metal figurine. "Oh yeah, I forgot about that, but it can't fly."
Artie tossed the figurine in front of them. Out from the figurine, sprang his motorcycle, the Ceryneian Davidson. To his surprise, the engine was running which was impossible since Apollo had said it was solar powered and the sun had already set. He peered at the gauges that displayed things — speed, temperature, gears, etc. There was little red blinking bar that said "Remaining Battery Life" tucked into the corner.
"Okay, so it can drive at night." Artie admitted. "But it still can't fly."
At those words, little particles of silver dust began to float and sparkled around the wheels.
"Alright, so it can fly." Artie decided to try something. "But it doesn't a built in DVD player with surround sound and espresso dispenser." Artie noticed everyone staring at him. "What? Too much?"
"Just get on." Percy frowned.
"I think we'll survive without espresso for a while." Annabeth motioned for Artie to hurry up
"If you say so," Artie helped Jacob onto the motorcycle.
Together they all soared over the bay and flew, or in Artie's case steered, toward the eastern hills. Before long, San Fransisco was only a glittering crescent behind them, with the occasional flicker of lightning in the north.
Artie was brought up the rear as the pegasai flew in reverse 'V' pattern. Thalia was fast sleep on the lead as Percy and Annabeth flew along side each other, speaking as they did so.
"So where did you get the bike?" Jacob asked.
Artie smiled at Jacob's reflection. The nectar had healed Jacob's more serious injuries and he looked infinity better than he had been. Still, Artie resolved to have him rest once they landed.
"Early birthday present." Artie said.
"From who?" Jacob wondered. "Hephaestus?"
"Sort of." Artie paused for a moment, considering if he should tell Jacob the truth. "Your dad had him design and build this."
"Oh." Jacob sounded guarded and Artie felt him tense.
"I think he knew I'd need it." Artie said diplomatically. "To reach San Fransico in time."
"You don't say." Jacob still sounded angry.
"He thought you were dead." Artie decided to go head on.
"When you . . . uh, . . . when the General tricked you." Artie fumbled for the right words. "He probably hid you from his view to make sure no one knew about you, in case I got wind of it. When I asked him, Apollo thought you were dead. I think it wasn't until this whole race for the Ophiotaurus thing that he saw you were alive and sent me."
"But you said your quest was to save Annabeth."
"But its his Oracle." Artie sounded as if he had just thought of it. "Percy told me he tried asking, but the Oracle wouldn't talk to him. I think he pulled a string or two and gave me my quest knowing I'd run into you." Another thought came to him. "I didn't even save Annabeth. Percy did that."
"So you failed?"
"No." Artie shook his head. "Begin as you have and the daughter will be saved. The oracle never actually said I would save her. Only that she would be saved."
"So what now?"
"I don't know." Artie admitted. "There's still the last line of my prophecy."
"What was it?" Jacob asked. "The whole thing.
"Begin as you have and the daughter will be saved." Artie recited. "I had to go on my quest alone and Percy saved Annabeth."
"And the rest of it?"
"Control of the beast within regained."
"What does that mean?"
"Let's just say becoming a giant silver jaguar isn't exactly new to me." Artie recited the third line. "Vengeance taken and guardian freed."
"You killed Thorn and freed me."
"Yes and no." Artie corrected. "Thorn is still alive, but he's suffering and will be for the rest of eternity."
"And the last line?"
Artie took a deep breath. "The king of hunt the mother's world shall heed."
"I don't like the sound of that." Jacob said after a moment. "What did it mean?"
"I don't know." Artie said quietly. "It hasn't happened yet."
"I think it meas I might have to fight Orion again." Artie frowned. "Or somehow my quest released him and entire animal kingdom, Artemis's world, is gonna be on the run from him."
"But you're not sure."
"Nope." Artie shrugged. "I could be wrong eight ways from Sunday and not know it. I'll just do what I always do and wait it out. Sooner or later its going to happen."
"Well, mine took its sweet time." Jacob forced a smile.
"Let's just forget about it." Artie suggested. "I think we're entitled to a little fun, don't you?
Jacob lifted eyebrow. "Fun?"
Artie grinned wolfishly, "Let's see if they can do ninety!"
Jacob barely had time to tighten his grip around Artie's waist before he forced the accelerator to the max. Jacob managed to turn his head just as they blurred past Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia. It was as if time froze and they were simply hanging in place. When he peered over Artie's shoulder into the mirrors, he saw their pegasai were struggling to adjust at the sudden gust of wind they left in their wake.
"Hold on!" Artie shouted over the G-Force winds. "How about some background music?"
Artie pressed a button and then turned a knob all the way to the right, blasting music before he went into rapid dive, corkscrewing as he did so. Suddenly the world became a massive swirl of blacks and blues with bright lights dotted her and there. Like a roller-coaster they dived and rose at frightening speeds, all while either corkscrewing and hanging upside down. And all of it to one of the most famous sons of Apollo, Freddie Mercury.
I'm a shooting star leaping through the skies
Like a tiger defying the laws of gravity
I'm a racing car passing by like Lady Godiva
I'm gonna go go go
There's no stopping me
Jacob's breath caught in the back of his throat, making it difficult to breath. His heart pounded in hsi ears as knew one mistake from Artie could kill them both. They could dip too low or collide with a tree or house. They could smash head onto a passing airplane or caught get in one of the turbines and send the plane down with them, killing thousands. Or Orion could choose that exact moment to send an arrow and knock them off balance, sending them plummenting to thier deaths.
It was the most fun the brothers had since their childhoods in Rio.
I'm burning through the sky , Yeah!
Two hundred degrees
That's why they call me Mister Fahrenheit
I'm traveling at the speed of light
I wanna make a supersonic man of you
Artie, just as the song began to fade, leveled out the motorcycle and looked back at his brother. "Well?"
"Sure beats Aladdin's carpet ride." Jacob admitted weakly, but smiling widely.
They looked down and saw they were whizzing by an island of lights surround by the dark. They had reached New York City, the island of Manhattan to be precise. Artie saw Percy, Annabeth, and Thalia were catching up.
"There it is." Jacob pointed to Empire State Building.
Artie looked and saw an island of light floating far over the famous building. It was a floating mountain peak set ablaze with bright white marble buildings and burning torches braziers.
Artie heard the sound of nickering horses and the whoosh of flapping wings. They turned to see Percy and his friends had caught up and were flying alongside them.
"It's started." Thalia said.
"What's started?" Percy asked.
"The Winter Solstice." said Annabeth. "The Counsel of the Gods."
"And something tells me that they're not planning a surprise birthday party for me." Artie said grimly.
"It's your birthday?" Percy asked. "I had no idea."
"No one does." Artie said. "Didn't want to be reminded every year."
"Reminded of what?" Thalia wondered.
"Thorn." Jacob answered. "He came when Artie just turned eight."
On that cheery note, the heroes circled over midtown Manhattan and made one complete orbit around Olympus. Percy and Artie had only been to Olympus once before. For Percy it was when he returned the master bolt while Artie had visited when he learned he was the child of Artemis and sneaked into Athena's library. Annabeth had been seen it once or twice during Camp Half Blood field trips. Thalia had never seen it and neither had Jacob.
In the early morning darkness, torches seemed to glow every shade of every color in a rainbow and made the mountain side palace glow anywhere from indigo to bloodred. Artie wondered if New York was really called the city that never sleeps because of Olympus was floating over it. The twisting streets were full of demigods and nature spirits and minor godlings, riding chariots or sedan chair carried by Cyclopes. Thankfully for Artie, since he just plain hated the cold, winter didn't seem to exist. His sensitive noes caught the scent of gardens in full blooms, jasmine and countless fruit trees and flowers. Music drifted up from many windows, the soft sounds of reed pipes, lyres, and singing.
Artie landed just as the Battery Meter began to blink, next to the pegasai that landed in the outer courtyard. Artie stared at giant silver and gold gates, no doubt handmade by Hephaestus himself, and they slowly opened by themselves with a creak or groan.
They all regarded the palace.
"Feels like Westover Hall all over again." Percy said.
"You got that right, seaweed brain." said Annabeth and they shared a smile.
"You guys should head back to camp." said Thalia. "Percy and I are dangerous to them."
"I'm not going anywhere." Annabeth said firmly.
"Neither are we." said Jacob. "And I have just as much chance of getting blasted as the two of you." He frowned. "On second thought — "
"Anyways, you need people of intelligence on this sort of . . . mission . . . quest . . . thing." Artie said quoting Fellowship of the Ring.
"Well, that rules you out, Artie." Jacob said, finishing the quote.
"I suppose you think that was terribly clever?" Artie raised an eyebrow and waited to see if Jacob would take the challenge.
"Guys?" Thalia said knowing Artie was planning. "We're late enough as it is."
"I'm never late." Artie said as they began walking towards the palace.
"Nor is he early." Jacob limped alongside him. "He arrives precisely when he means to."
"So that's one off the list." Artie remarked. "What about the other two?"
"Gods have mercy." Annabeth hung her head.
Percy and Thalia laughed.
Twelve enormous thrones made giant U around a central hearth, exactly like cabins at Camp Half Blood. The ceiling glittered with constellations — even the newest one, Zoë the Huntress making her way across the heavens with her bow drawn and drawing in close to Orion. Each of the seats were occupied by fifteen foot tall gods and goddesses. They all turned their gazes as the heroes entered and they all briefly considered if fighting monsters was actually far easier to do.
"Welcome heroes." Artemis said. "Artie. Jacob."
"Artemis." Artie bowed his head slightly.
"Lady Artemis." Jacob bowed lower, anything to avoid being blasted.
Artie turned his attention to the rest of the gods as Grover made his way to Percy from reporting to Zeus. He wanted to see if Jacob, or Thalia and Percy, were on any of the gods list. Then again, he considered Percy had seemed to make it his mission in life to anger as many immortals as he could. Zeus was staring intently at Thalia, but Artie couldn't tell if that was bad or not. Poseidon kept a straight face, but Artie could have sworn he was holding back a smile as he regarded Percy. Hades was giving Artie a death stare. Not a litteral one, but it was clear Hades did not like him being there. Ares was of the same mood no doubt wishing he could blast Percy. Aphrodite looked pleasantly amused and seemed to be eyeing Percy and Annabeth. Artie had an uneasy feeling about that and resolved to warn Percy if he got the chance. Dionysus looked bored, no surprise there. Demeter looked indifferent to them.
Apollo, Hermes, and Hera on the other hand seemed pleased at thier presence. Although, it could be one of his favorite songs had begun to play since Apollo was wearing earbuds. Artie then settled on Artemis. She seemed to be conflicted and he didn't like the way she was watching Jacob. It was like she couldn't decide if it was worth blasting him or not and how Artie would take it. Then she spoke.
"Heroes." she called.
She slid down from her throne and shrunk to normal size, a twelve year old child with silver streaked auburn hair, perfectly at ease in the midst of giant Olympians. She walked towards the heroes, her silver robes shimmering. Now there was no conflict on her face Artie noticed, there was no emotion at all. And her aura made it as if she walked in a colum on moonlight.
"The Council has been informed of your deeds." the goddess told them. "They know that Mount Othrys is rising in the west. They know of Atlas' attempt to freedom and the gathering armies of Kronos. We have voted to act."
Artie noticed a lot of shuffling and mumbling, as did the others, among the gods. They seemed less than happy, but no one protested.
"At my Lord's Zeus' command." Artemis continued."My brother Apollo and I shall hunt the most powerful monster to prevent them from joining the Titan's cause. Lady Athena shall personally check on the other Titans and their various prisons. Lord Poseidon has been given permission to unleash his full wrath on the Princess Andromeda and send it to the bottom on the sea. As for you, my heroes . . ." She turned and addressed the rest of the Olympians. "These half bloods, my own child among them, have done Olympus a great service. Would any deny that?"
There was a definite pause as Artemis met each Olympian eyes.
"I gotta say, " Apollo broke the silence. "These kids did okay." He cleared his throat and began to recite. "Heroes win laurels — "
"Um, yes, first class!" Hermes said quickly as if to avoid one of Apollo's haikus. "All in favor of not disintegrating them?"
Two hands went up — Demeter and Aphrodite.
"Wait just a minute." Ares growled. He pointed to Percy and Thalia. "These two are dangerous." Then he pointed to Jacob and Artie stepped in front of him. "And he was working for the enemy. It'd be safer, while we got 'em here — "
"Ares!" Poseidon interrupted. "They are worthy heroes. We will not blast my son to bits.
"Nor my daughter." added Zeus. "She has done well."
"That goes double for my kid." Apollo stared daggers.
"Well, look at you." Ares sneered. "Father of the millennium. Not even a day ago that kid wanted you and your sister under the sky. What's to stop him from trying again?"
"I believe I can answer that." The goddess Athena cleared her throat and sat forward, addressing Zeus. "When the master bolt was stolen, Kronos whispered into Ares' mind and deceived him into doing his bidding. If it is possible for a Titan to accomplish that with a god, then it requires for his second in command considerable less effort to do the same with a mere mortal. I have no proof, but I deduce Atlas was using Apollo's son to lure Artie over to their side. Surely the first and only child of Artemis would be a powerful pawn."
Artie mouthed his thanks when Athena finished, even if she did sort of insult Jacob.
"I doubt he would have made difference." Ares folded his arms across his chest. "All the runt can do is take a hit better than some."
Artie had the strangest feeling the god of war, who had tried to kill him when he was twelve, had just complimented him.
"And as thick-headed as Ares is." Athena continued. "He has a point. There is a serious risk with these two."
"Mother!" Annabeth exclaimed. "How can you — "
Athena cut her off with a wave and firm look. "It is unfortunate that only Hades has kept his word, a fact I find ironic. But as we all know, children of the three elder gods . . . such as Thalia and Percy . . . are dangerous. As much as I hate to admit it, Ares is right on this matter. Even a blind gryphon finds a meal now and again, I suppose."
"Right!" Ares said. "Hey, wait a minute . . ."
Ares went to stand, but a grape vine bound him to his throne like a seatbelt.
"Oh, save the fighting for later, Ares." said Dionysus lazily.
Ares cursed and ripped away the vine. "You're one to talk, you old drunk. You seriously want to protect these brats?"
Dionysus gazed down at the heroes wearily. "I have no love for heroes. Athena, do truly think it safest to destroy them?"
"I do not pass judgement." Athena said. "I only point out the risk. What we will do, the Council must decide."
Artie had an urge to mumble 'no good deed goes unpunished' but he refrained. Knowing his luck, everyone would hear it.
"I will not have them punished." Artemis said firmly. "I will reward them. If we destroy heroes who do us a great service, then we are no better than the Titans. If this is Olympian justice, I will have none of it."
"Calm down, sis." said Apollo, apparently confident that no one would blast his son after what Athena had said. Or perhaps, he knew the outcome already. "You need to lighten up."
"Don't call me sis. I will reward them."
"Well." Zeus grumbled. "Perhaps. The monster must be destroyed at least. Do have an agreement on that?"
There was a lot of nodding heads.
"Bessie?" Percy wasn't sure he understood. "You want to destroy Bessie?"
Poseidon frowned. "You named the Ophiotaurus Bessie?"
"Dad," Percy pleaded. "He's just a sea creature. A nice really sea creature. You can't destroy him."
Poseidon shifted uncomfortably. "Percy, the monster's power is considerable. If the Titans were to steal it or — "
"You can't" Percy insisted. He looked Zeus right in the eye as he continued. "Controlling prophecies never works. Besides, Bess — the Ophiotaurus is innocent. Killing him would be like . . . Kronos eating his children. All because of something they might do."
Zeus seemed to consider Percy's words and his gaze drifted to Thalia ."And what of the risk? Kronos knows full well, if one of you were sacrifice its entrails, you would have the power to destroy us. Do you think we let that possibility remain? You, my daughter, will turn sixteen tomorrow, just as the prophecy says."
"You have to trust them."Annabeth spoke up. "Sir, you have tor trust them."
"Trust heroes?" Zeus asked.
"Then don't give them a reason to." Artie spoke up as well. "You're right. Percy and Thalia could destroy you, but they have a choice not to. Kronos is planning on them turning against you just based on that alone."
Zeus scowled. "What are you implying?"
Artie scowled right back. "Nothing, sir."
"Annabeth and my son are right." Artemis said. "Which is why I will make two rewards. First, my faithful companion, Zoë Nightshade, has passed into the stars. I must have a new lieutenant. And I intend to choose one. But first, Father Zeus, may I speak with you privately?"
Zeus beckoned his daughter forward and he bent down so she could speak in his ear. Artie had developed an excellent sense of hearing, but he couldn't catch a single word. It also didn't help that Percy and Annabeth were exchanging hushed whispers. Artie thought Percy was being an idiot. After everything that Percy had done and risked, did he really think Annabeth would leave him to join the Hunters. If Artemis had asked to speak with Athena then he might have been worried, but speaking with Zeus meant only one thing.
"What?" Thalia asked him when she noticed him staring.
"Nothing." Artie said.
"I shall have a new lieutenant." said Artemis. "If she will accept."
"No . . ." Percy murmured.
"Thalia, daughter of Zeus."Artemis asked. "Will you join the Hunt?"
Everyone but Artie stood silent, stunned by the question.
"I will." Thalia said firmly.
Zeus rose, his eyes full of concern. "My daughter, consider well — "
"Father," she said. "I will not turn sixteen tomorrow. I will never turn sixteen. I won't let this prophecy be mine. I will stand with my sister Artemis. Kronos will never tempt me again." Thalia knelt before Artemis and recited the same word all Hunters must upon join the Hunt. " I pledge myself to the Goddess Artemis. I turn my back on the company of men, accept eternal maidenhood, and join the Hunt."
Thalia, after hugging Grover and Annabeth and exchanging a few words with Percy, went to stand by Artemis.
"Now for my second reward." Artemis said and produced Artie's necklace. "This once belonged to Orion. He took it as a prize for defeating the mightiest bear that we even known. You might remember it better as the constellation of Ursa Major."
There was some nodding and Artemis beckoned for Artie to approach.
"When I was born, I swore to on the River Styx to remain a maiden." Artemis continued. "A vow which had prevented me from having children among the mortals. Since then, I have upheld my vow. But as you know, I still created a child of my own. Much like Athena has done for some time."
"This child, Artemis Raposo Gallezi, is that child. He is my son." Artemis said proudly. "Many heroes have come before him. Orion who possessed considerable hunting prowess. Hercules with his strength. Daedalus with his superb intellect." Artemis held up the necklace. "But none possess my child's will. What other could continue stand with shattered bones and blood boiling from the most agonizing venom known to us?" Artemis motioned to Artie. "What other hero would dare fight a Titan with his bare hands after barely finding the strength to stand? I ask you, what hero would refuse to give his foe a single inch? My son!"
The gods regarded Artie and mulled over his mother's words. Artie knelt at her feet, something he wouldn't have done a few day ago when they met in Maine.
"Which is why I will bestow on to him something that no other hero has ever achieved." Artemis hung the necklace around Artie's neck. "Let it be known this trinket is now the crown of a monarch."
Artie, still kneeling, looked up at Artemis.
"Artemis Raposo Gallezi." said Artemis.
"Bane of Manticores." Athena said suddenly.
"Spartan of the Forrest." said Ares reluctantly.
"The Foxy Archer!" chimed in Apollo.
"And now the King Of The Hunt." Artemis finished. "Let the my world of predators and prey heed."
The king of hunt the mother's world shall heed. Artie thought as he rose. Check!