The Titan's Curse

Athena Always Always Has A Plan

Artie saw that no one had noticed Artemis take him aside. Demigods and minor godlings danced to music played by the Muses. Some were seated at small cafe tables, eating and flirting, while stood with goblets in hand and talked. Artie saw Poseidon speaking with Percy and Zeus with Thalia. Grover was muttering over goblet, he didn't want to know. Athena was chatting with Demeter and they seemed to be sharing a joke. And Hephaestus was building a very accurate scale model of the Eiffel Tower out of silverware.

"Looking for your brother?" asked a sweet motherly voice. "After what you went through to get him, I doubt you want him to leave your sight.

Artie turned to see a tall, graceful, and very beautiful woman. Her hair was silver and was woven into a braid with gold ribbons. She wore a simple, yet elegant, white dress that rippled like oil on water when she moved. Her eyes were the color of warm chocolate and Artie found himself feeling quite soothed and safe. Suddenly the music changed from big band swing to gentle harps in perfect harmony.

"Queen Hera," Artie inclined his head deeply.

"King Artemis." Hera inclined her head as well, though it was more of a slight dip at best. "I know you prefer Artie, but it just does not have the same ring to it if you ask me. What do you think?"

"What's one more to the list?" Artie shrugged.

"Hmm, yes. I had forgotten." she smiled warmly. "So many names. Artemis Raposo Gallezi, Artie, Bane of Manticores, Spartan of the Forrest, The Foxy Archer, and now King Of The Hunt. You truly are your mother's son."

Artie understood. One of the many things that demigods learned at camp were the history of each god of Olympus. Artie thought back to what he remembered reading.

When she was three years old, Artemis asked her father, Zeus, to grant her a wish. She asked for a silver bow and to be called many different names. While most only knew Artemis her Greek name or roman name, Diana, Artie knew every single one. Agrotora, Potnia Theron, Kourotrophos, Locheia — ever single one a name mortals gave to her or ones she chose.

"Lady Hera?" he asked.

"Yes?"

"Is there something you wanted?"

"Only to chat for a moment. It's not every day I actually am happy with the result of my husband's affairs. I'm sure you remember how your mother and uncle came to be?"

"Um, you said Leto was forbidden from having them on earth?"

"It still rubs me the wrong way, but considering are not a direct result I don't see why we can't be civil." She gave him a warm smile. "As you know, I am the goddess of familial love. You must be very happy to have yours back after so long."

"More than happy." Artie responded.

"While I'm certain you thought otherwise, do not think you were without aid. It was me who saved you from that Talos contraption and it was I that sent your uncle to cure you after you bout with that nasty manticore. Had I not done so, you would be in the Underworld now and your brother on the side of Titans."

"Why didn't you save Bianca?" Artie asked. "She was less than five feet from me."

"I see you still blame yourself for her fate. A word of caution, Artie. Things can and will happen regardless of you do or don't do. I know of your flaw as well." Hera laid a hand on his shoulder. "As for Bianca, trust me when I tell you that it was for the best. She did not belong."

"Belong?"

"Let us forget such unpleasantness." Hera waved a hand dismissively. "You are alive, your brother is alive and the right side, and you have been granted a title no hero before you has been given. Artie, my dear, surely you see how I've helped. I would welcome a sacrifice for my efforts."

Artie wanted more than to tell her off, but he knew better. He could have promise to sacrifice his next deer in Hera's name and leave it at that, but he had a better idea. It would kill two birds with one stone. Hera would have her sacrifice and she would learn not underestimate Artie.

"You're right, Queen Hera. I wouldn't have survived without you. As for Bianca . . . I'll take your word for it." Artie reached into pouch on his belt. "I'm sure you it's been a while since someone handed one of these to you. Here."

Lady Hera, the queen of Olympus, stared at the Golden Apple in Artie's hand. "How did you . . ."

"Ladon was nice enough to let me have one since I cut his chains. After so many centuries, he really wanted to stretch his wings." Artie bowed low and held out the apple. "I was planning on giving this to Appolonia, but I don't think she'll mind. You are a goddess after all."

Hera took the apple and motioned for Artie to stand.

"I thank you for your gift." Hera said. "Now if you'll excuse me, there are things I must see to."

Artie watched Hera as she walked away, the crowd parting to let her through. Then he began looking around, looking for Jacob. Hera had been right about that. Artie was not about let Jacob out of his sight. He almost missed him, if the girls Jacob had talked to before had caught sight of him, smiled and quickly walked away. Then Artie saw, sitting at a table tucked in the corner, Jacob listening as Apollo spoke to him. Thalia had mentioned Apollo wanting to speak with him, but Artie wasn't certain.

Then he heard a loud thud mixed rattling glass.

Artie turned to his left, as did everyone for a moment, to see the god of war arm wrestling with two large demigods that seemed to be made of muscle, at the same time.

Artie rolled his eyes and walked over. Like it had when Hera spoke to him, the music switched. Now Artie heard, a song he first heard at the end of Ella Enchanted, was Elton John and Kiki Dee's Don't Go Breaking My Heart. Artie noticed she had changed clothes, she was wearing a pink business suit during the council, and she was now a redhead instead of a blond. Percy had mentioned how she had changed her appearance as she spoke with him and Artie guessed it part of her magic. Aphrodite was changing to suit his taste, or rather what he thought as beautiful. He could see parts of Appolonia, the shape of her eyes and the curve of her ears, but it was mixed with lots of actresses he had a crush on in their prime, Marilyn Monroe and Katherine Hepburn to name a couple.

Aphrodite was wearing, what he guess actresses would wear on the red carpet, a crimson red dress that had three strategically misplaced pieces. Those pieces, one on either side to display the world's most perfect curves and the third to show off her navel, would not be missed. Like her children at Camp Half Blood, her make up and hair were perfect and went flawlessly with pearl earrings and ruby necklace. While Artie wasn't familiar shoes, especially women's shoes, he guessed those high heels were enough to buy a small country before she had them studded with rubies and diamonds.

Ares was more or less dressed as usual. He wore black jeans, combat boots, a leather duster, and muscle shirt with a bulletproof vest and an iron padlock necklace. Like Artie, Ares' eye were behind ed tinted wraparound sunglasses, but Artie didn't have flame-filled eye sockets.

Aphrodite smiled when he approached and stood next to her. "My lady."

"Oh hello, Artie." Then she squealed in delight and held a piece of his cloak. "Oh my gosh! Is that real Ceryneian hide?"

"I don't know." Artie said honestly. "It was just a jacket I made from a plain deer hide before Artemis turned it into a cloak."

"Oh I should have guessed." Aphrodite pouted. "Your mother is very touchy about those hinds of hers. She wouldn't even let me have one as pet. Maybe you could put in a word for me? We've never seen eye to eye, but maybe she'll have a change of heart."

"Um, sure." Artie shrugged.

"Oh thank you." Then to his surprise, Aphrodite hugged him. "And don't think I'll let you do this for free."

"That's alright. You don't have to." Artie quickly protested. "I'm not even sure she'll say yes."

"Oh nonsense." She giggled and winked. "I always remember those who do me a favor, even small ones, especially ones as cute as a jack rabbit."

"Wait! What?!" Ares barked.

Probably not their best decisions, otherwise they would have known better, the two demigods took advantage of the distraction and pinned both of Ares' arms to the table and won the match. Ares eyed them and they took the hint, leaving quickly but respectively.

"What was that about?" Ares growled.

"Oh, I was just offering sweet Artie a reward for speaking to Artemis for me." She winked.

"Which I politely said she didn't have to." Artie quickly added.

"What kind of reward?" Ares asked hotly.

"Well, I was thinking of giving him a make over. He just became a king and he should look the part." Aphrodite ran her delicate finger through his hair. "But now I'm thinking something . . . more . . . mutually enjoyable." She gave both of them a looked that implied much.

"Um, Lady Aphrodite?" Artie gulped. "Not that I'm really flattered, but I'm — "

"His majesty here is spoken for." Ares chuckled. "One of Apollo's girls he saved."

"Oh really now." She smiled mischievously. "Is she prettier than me?"

"Yeah, your highness." Ares leaned forward in his chair so he wouldn't miss Aphrodite blasting him into bits. "What does your girl have that a goddess don't?"

"Nothing." Artie knew a trap when he saw one. "But we're both spoken for." Artie peaked out of the corner of his eye to see Hephaestus still fiddling with silverware, now working on Leaning Tower of Pisa. "You are married after all."

"That is true." She said like it was an inconvenient fact.

"Hasn't stopped me." Ares winked.

"Well, only the toughest of toughest would think of getting Hephaestus mad." Artie said respectively. "That's where you definitely got me beat."

"And don't you forget it." Ares smiled.

"But back to the question at hand." Aphrodite brought a finger under Artie's chin and bent low, staring lovingly into his eyes and asked sweetly. "If I wasn't married and you didn't have your sweet little girlfriend, who isn't one of my wonderful daughters, would you — "

"Ah, Aphrodite," said Artemis from Artie's left, smiling politely. "I was looking for you."

"Oh, hello, Artemis." Aphrodite rolled her eyes and stood straight. "Did you want something?"

"Actually, yes I did." Artemis said as a matter of fact. "It seems I am need of your expertise. Come, I'll explain over some nectar."

"You need my expertise?" Aphrodite was confused for a moment then smiled. "Alright." She turned Artie and gave him a peck on the cheek. "To be continued, but before I go . . ." Suddenly a gold ring with a ruby red rose appeared in her hand. "Here, Artie. Remember even the most beautiful rose has thorns."

Artie watched, wishing he could tear his gaze away, as Aphrodite slinked away. He noticed several other demigods, and a god or two, turn to watch as well. He felt a surge of jealousy, but shook his head to clear it. He forced himself to remember it was only her aura and his feelings weren't his own. Then he looked down at the ring she gave him. No doubt the band was made of the most expensive gold that could be found and the ruby was cut so perfectly to resemble a rose only Hephaestus could have carved it. He carefully slipped it into his belt.

"Don't get any ideas, your highness." Ares growled.

Suddenly the music changed again. Now it was some sort of heavy metal. Jacob would later tell him it was Pantera's Walk, but that wasn't what annoyed him. If Aphrodite wanted him, then what business was of this jerk? If he didn't back down fighting Atlas, he wasn't about to back down to this sorry excuse for a war god. Artie shook his head again, now it was Ares' aura, and it was making him just itching for a fight.

He sucked in a breath. "Wouldn't dream of it." He sat down in front of the god of war, Ares.

"What?" He laughed. "You wanna arm wrestle the god of war?"

"No." Artie leaned forward. "I wanted to ask you something?"

"Let me guess, swordsmanship training?" Ares smirked. "You're smart to come to me. If you wanna be the best, you gotta learn from the best." Ares fold his arms and leaned back. "First tip, get yourself a better weapon than that flimsy piece of silver."

"I'll keep that mind, but I didn't come to you for that." Then Artie relented so not to insult him. "Maybe some other time, I could definitely use any help you could give me."

"Go on." Ares said.

"What are the walls of Sparta?"

"Now there's something I haven't heard a mortal say in centuries." Ares picked up a goblet from a nearby table and it filled with magically with nectar. "Not since the gods were in Greece."

"What are they?" Artie asked again. "Who built them?"

"No one." Ares sipped from the goblet.

"What are you talking about?" Artie said. "Walls just don't pop up. Someone has to build them."

"They ain't actual walls." Ares grinned. "You hear ever of the agoge?"

"No, I haven't."

"That's funny, considering my kids call you the 'Spartan' of the forest." Ares motioned to him. "In a way, you're the only who's actually gone through it in centuries."

"Okay." Artie made a hold up gesture. "I'm sure you're getting to it, but what does this agoge and me have to to with the walls of Sparta?"

"The agoge was what the people of Sparta called the training program for their army." Ares paused to drink. "I don't see why you're trying to bore me with ancient history. That's my nerd of a sister Athena's shtick."

"Well if you don't know . . ." Artie made show of standing to walk away.

"Sit down!" snapped Ares. "I know everything there is to know about Sparta. What do you wanna know?"

"Well, for starters, what actually was the agoge?"

"Like I said, training regimen." Ares smiled fondly. " Basically it was a system to teach solders things they would need to fight and be the best at it. The training taught 'em things like stealth, loyalty, and hunting, but what it really taught to keep going well after lesser warrior would give up and die."

"How to take a hit." Artie translated.

"Exactly!" Ares agreed. "No point in teaching someone how to fight if they cry like babies every time they get a paper cut."

"And what did you mean I went through it?"

"Well you sissy mortals gave up the practice years ago. You got soft." Ares growled. "To have the best soldiers, you have to start young. At the age of seven is when most were enrolled. From there the next two decades, provided you survived, would not be pleasant."

"Survived?"

"This wasn't an aerobics tape that you could pop in and out. It was a way of life." snapped the god of war. "These kids were intentionally underfed and under supplied, forcing them to learn to steal food to survive. It was so during war, when food could become scarce if a supply train was cut, you had warriors that could tough it out. It was also to teach 'em how to steal." Then Ares laughed. "But boy you did not want to be caught. Some of those punishments would rival the fields of punishment."

"So how did I go through it if mortal stopped doing it?"

"I never said you went through the actual trials." Ares smiled proudly. "When you were tossed out into the wild on your keister, with hardly more than knife, you basically had two choices. Toughen up and live or give up and die. That's basically what agoge boiled down to. If you lived through it, then you earned the right to call yourself a spartan."

"Now back to my original question." Artie said. "What are the walls of Sparta."

"One of my kids, Lycurgus, saw how pathetic the army had gotten so he had the walls demolished." Ares smiled proudly. "Said those walls were making the city soft. The people were letting their guard down. Naturally, the people argued and begged to have the walls back, the pansies, and do you know what my boy said?"

"No idea."

"He agreed, but under one condition." Ares could barely contain himself. "He pointed to a bunch of kids wrestling, fighting over a ball or something, and said the wusses could have their precious walls back, but those boys would be the walls."

"So the walls of Sparta are actually . . ."

"The soldiers themselves." Ares said proudly. "So rough and tough that nothing could get through 'em. The best defensive walls known to mortal man."

"So if someone wanted to raise the walls of Sparta," Artie asked. "What would that mean?"

"Don't know." Ares shrugged. "Maybe someone wanted to bring my boys back. We could use 'em now that the Titans are aching for a fight, but I doubt Hades would let 'em out to stretch their legs." Ares looked over to see Aphrodite returning, alone. "We're done here."

"But — "

"You wanna know more?" Ares stood from the table. "Find your Aunty Athena."

Artie resisted the urge to demand the god sit back down and tell him more, Ares' aura was effecting him again, and sighed. "Alright. Thanks for talking to me, Lord Ares, and offering me to teach how swing a sword the right way."

"Sure whatever." Ares reached into his pocket and tossed something to the demigod. "Here, something tells me you'll be needing this."

Artie caught three large pieces of metal. When he looked down he saw he was holding a pair of brass knuckles. They were very large, he could have slipped both hands into a single one, and were celestial bronze instead. The third was a hand shovel,he had seen the children of Demeter use them, with a Chinese symbol on the head. Artie had the feeling that even though Ares had given them to him, they weren't met for him. Like Aphrodite's ring, he slipped them into his belt.

"Lord Ares, why did you — " Artie looked up to see the war god swaggering to Aphrodite.

"Allow me to guess." said a voice behind him. "My brother was less than polite?"

Artie turned to see another goddess, one he had seen twice in the past two days. It was the same goddess that had given him the vial of nectar and drakon fluid. Now , instead of a lab coat with her hair tied back, she wore an elegant sky blue dress and her dark black hair had been braided and adorned with silver and gold. She was also very beautiful, but more like Hera than Aphrodite. When Ares left he took the heavy metal with him. Now, with this new goddess, Artie heard classical music from Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He knew that from watching the movie Amadeus where Tom Hulce played the genius.

"Lady Athena." Artie smiled and bowed his head deeply.

"King Artemis." Athena inclined her head slightly, like Hera. "Congratulations on your new title."

"Thanks." Artie motioned to table. "Would you like a seat?"

"Thank you." Athena regarded Artie for a moment. "Go ahead."

"What?"

"I've seen that face on mortals for eons." Athena smiled. "You seek knowledge."

"More like an explanation." Artie said. "Do you remember what you asked me? What I would do if a source of water had dried up?"

"Yes." Athena's eye twinkled with excitement. "Simply look somewhere else. There is always water somewhere else."

"Water, in this case, being demigods." Artie concluded.

"Yes."

"Then you know about my prophecy." Artie guessed. "Or rather my mother's prophecy about me."

"Your uncle came to me with it some ago and I came up with several scenarios. I'm not sure why your mother wished to keep it a secret, but it was her right." Athena said proudly. "As I had guessed, one is showing more promise than the others. Luckily for you, it is the one that was easiest to plan for." Athena slid a piece of paper across the table. "Here, I have spent quite some time constructing this."

Artie picked it up and studied it for a moment, all of it gibberish. "What is it?"

"It doesn't make sense now and it won't as long as it is in the western world." Athena pointed to the paper. "Only Hecate can break the spell and she is not aware that list exists."

"A list?" Artie asked. "A list of what?"

"Names and locations." Athena said cryptically. "If understand your prophecy and what it entails, than that list will save you precious time."

"Thank you, Lady Athena." Artie said sincerely. "For everything."

"Don't thank me yet." Athena said grimly. "We still have no idea what the enemy is planning. Better to prepare for the worst and hope for the best."

"I couldn't agree more." Artie carefully folded the paper and placed it in his belt. "I think I'm starting to get why everyone is handing me gifts."

"They are aware that I have a plan in place, but not exactly what." Athena winked. "If anyone asks, they are birthday presents for the King of the Hunt's coming of age." Athena held a hand and a black cane appeared in her hand. "That reminds me. You will certainly need this. Do not forget to speak with the rest of counsel, but remember to not let on. We do not know if we have spied in our midst or not."

Artie took the cane. It was plain black wood with an iron tip. Rather than a curved head, the cane was straight with an owl perched on an olive branch for a decorative head piece. From head to to tip it was about three feet long and shined as if recently polished.

"I make sure of that." Artie said firmly. "Is there anything else?"

"Have you changed your mind about how you see my daughter?" Athena asked. "Do you still see her as a sister?"

"Yes." Artie wished he could said other wise, if only to make Athena happy, but he didn't. "I love your daughter, but as a friend and I think that's all she sees me as too."

"I figured as much." Athena stood. "Now please excuse me. I need a word with your friend Percy."

Artie chuckled and shook head as Athena left, not envying Percy a single bit. He stood, whispered into his goblet to refill it, and picked his way through the crowd to Hephaestus, god of fire and forges, who had demolished his scale model of the Eiffel Tower and Leaning Tower in order to build a surprisingly accurate model of the Taj Mahal.

The last time Artie had seen the smith, roughly four years ago, he was less than presentable. Normally he was a large man with his shoulders at different heights and a huge, bulging, misshapen head and his leg in a steel brace, with a wild brown beard that sparks fire from time to time. Now he was wearing, instead of an oil stained jumpsuit with his name embroidered over the pocket, he wore clean denim overalls over pristine white long sleeve shirt. His leg still had a brace, but it did not look like pieces of scrap metal jimmy-rigged together like it normally did. He was still wearing work boots, but they were brand new and polished. Even his beard, which still sparked and smoked in spots, was cleaner looking and was braided like dwarves in countless fantansy movies Artie had seen.

"Hello, Lord Hephaestus." Artie said warmly, taking a seat across from the god and noted the music had changed to Flight of the Valkeries.

"Hey," Hephaestus grunted, barely coherent. "Congrats on the whole king thing or whatever."

"Thanks." Artie said. "I wanted to thank you for the bike."

"Huh?" Hephaestus paused and looked the demigod. "Say again?"

"Apollo told me you designed and built my motorcycle." Artie repeated. "I wanted to say thanks. For that and quiver."

"And hows that quiver working out?" Hephaestus studied his model and held his hand. "Hand me that fork to your left, would you?"

"The quiver has saved my life more times than I can count along with the armor." Artie handed the god the fork. "Between the both of them, I couldn't pick just one to keep."

"Armor?" The god placed the fork on the southern wall before he looked Artie over. "Hmm, not bad. Glad to see someone made use of that silver. No one ever wants to use it, though I can't really blame 'em." Hephaestus motioned for another piece of silverware.

"Yep." Artie handed him a spoon.

"Is that real dragon hide?" asked the god as he began working on the roof. "How'd you give it malleability without sacrificing structural integrity?"

"What?"

"What did you do to make it bendable without making soft like plain leather?" The god translated.

Artie explained the lengthy process as Hephaestus continued with his model.

"Not bad." commented the god. "Maybe I should have a word with those Party Ponies. If they can teach someone like you how to do that then one of my kids could do wonders."

"Someone like me, Lord Hephaestus?" Artie asked trying not sound disrespectful.

"You ain't one for building or making." said the god. "That's life. No one can do everything. My kids can't live off the land like you and I doubt you could change the oil on one of my automatons."

"True." Artie went to stand.

"Before you go." Hephaestus reached into his back pocket. "Take this."

The god of smithing laid a small mallet on the table. It was barely a foot long and had several rawhide cords keeping a stone head securely fastened to the handle. Normally Artie would have eyed the hammer with skeptically, but he knew better and placed in his belt, noticing it was a bit heavier than it should be.

"Thanks." Artie said again.

Artie walked around the party a bit more, snatching snacks here or their and refilling his goblet with different drinks to match what he was eating. He continued speaking with the gods, sometimes the sought him out, and receiving gifts. Hermes congratulated him on stealing a Golden Apple, carefully so no one over heard, and gave him a pair of leather gloves, a lock pick, and a swiss army knife. Demeter gave him a small lecture on the benefits of becoming a vegetarian and a pair of hatchets. Persephone, whom claimed she had snuck away from the Underworld while Hades was occupied, handed him a beautiful flower from her garden that would never wilt or die. Dionysus gave him a halfhearted congratulation on being stupid enough to fight a titan and lucky enough to survive before handing him a wineskin and went to join his wife Ariadne. Even Apollo, after his conversation with Jacob, gave his nephew a golden vest with six throwing knives and a slingshot with a pouch and a couple of things that he said were from goddesses that had a secret or two to keep, like fountain pen from Amphritrite.

Artie was about to take a seat when Artemis, Apollo,and Aphrodite, sought him out. Artie saw someone was standing behind them, but he didn't say anything.

"Here." Apollo pressed a small roll of breath mints into his hand. "Something tells me you're gonna need this." He winked. "Now excuse me. I need to have word with Muses."

Artie just stared at the mints before he remembered two goddesses were still in front of him.

"I must say, Artemis," teased Aphrodite. "You're certainly full of surprises lately."

"I'll admit this is rare for me." Artemis said coolly. "But do not get any ideas. I still plan to keep my vow."

"Can I ask what you two are talking about?"

"Oh, just someone your mother thought you might to see." Aphrodite winked. "I added a few touches of my own, but she didn't need much."

Artemis and Aphrodite stood aside to reveal someone Artie did want to see. In fact, now that she was standing in front him, he remembered how he had left her at Camp Half Blood. She had tried to stop him from hurting Zoë and if she hadn't, he might have. Like when they first kissed during the fireworks display at Camp Half Blood two years ago, she was wearing perfect make up and her hair had been perfectly styled. Instead of the t-shirt and jeans she normally wore at camp, she was wearing a lavender dress and matching shoes.

Before he knew it, Artie was wrapped in the tightest hug Appolonia had ever given him. Artie hesitated, shocked by her presence and the fact Artemis had played matchmaker, but returned the hug. He looked up to see Aphrodite smiling adoringly at the couple and Artemis seemed to be resisting the urge to do the same. Artie mouthed his thanks and the two goddesses left them.

When they parted, Apollonia traced the scar over his left eye. "Oh . . . what happened?"

Artie took her hands in his. "You should see the other guy."

"Really?"

"Let's just say it was someone else's turn for once." Artie said gently, but firmly. "I'll tell you later. I promise, but not now. Its almost Christmas."

"Okay." Appolonia gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "But you're not getting out of it."

"Speaking of Christmas," Artie reached into his belt. "Its early, but I don't think he'll mind."

"What are you — awwwww." Appolonia's eyes lit up. "He's adorable. Like a little tiger."

"Mew!" Diego squeaked as nuzzled Appolonia's neck.

"He is actually." Artie scratched behind Diago's ears. "A tiger."

"You're kidding." Appolonia giggled as she rubbed the cubs belly. "What did you do? Steal him from a zoo?"

"A Museum." Artie smirked. "You had no problem helping me. He won't be much different. Plus, you're going to need him."

"What are you talking about?"

"Come on," Artie led her to an empty balcony. "There's something I need to tell you."

An hour later, on a deserted balcony overlooking the city, Artie had explained everything — how and why Artemis created him, the prophecy he had to fufill, and how he planned to do it.

"So you mean the only reason you're here is because — "

"Yes." Artie said quietly. "But that doesn't change anything about us."

"And the only reason you lived like an animal was — "

"To prepare me for what was ahead." Artie sighed. "I don't like it, but it makes sense now."

"I'm coming with you." She sniffed.

"No, you;re not." Artie kissed her forehead. "That's why I'm giving you Diego. It won't be long before he grows up and you'll have your own saber tooth tiger."

"But why do you have to go?" she pleaded. "Why not send Percy or someone else?

"Atlas sent Thorn after me for a reason. To stop me from fulfilling the prophecy." Artie hugged her tightly. "If I don't go, he wins and Jacob's mother died for nothing. How could I do that to her?"

"Alright." Appolonia wiped her eyes. "I don't like it, but alright."

"People are going to notice." Artie looked down at her. He wasn't that much taller, but he still had to look down. "You can't tell anyone. They're going to say I ran away and hid. Or that I went to join the Titans. Let them say what they want. I wouldn't be surprised if Luke has spies at camp. They'll notice that I'm up to something and look for me, but they won't find me, not where I'll be."

"I won't tell anyone." she said. "I swear on the Styx."

"I promise you I wouldn't do this if I didn't have to." Artie bent down and gave a quick kiss on the lips. "But if being apart from you for a bit means bringing this war to quick end and we'll be safe together, then I can make do with that."

"Me too." Appolonia returned the kiss. "They won't what hit 'em."

"There you two are!" said a female voice.

Artie and Appolonia turned to see Annabeth and Percy smiling.

"Get your own balcony." Artie frowned. "How long have you been standing there?"

"We just got here." Percy assured. "Come on, he's calling for you."

"Who?" Appolonia looked to Artie. "Apollo?"

"No." Annabeth took Artie hand's and pulled back towards the party. "Your brother."

"Wait," Appolonia shrieked. "What?!"

"I'll explain on the way." Percy took Appolonia and lead her after Artie and Annabeth. "Long story short though, Artie's brother when he was in Rio is still alive."

Less than a minute later, Artie found every single eye on Mount Olympus staring as he entered as Annabeth pulled at his arm. He wasn't sure what was going on until Jacob's voice came over a loudspeaker. He saw that his brother was standing on the small stage with the Nine Muses, holding a microphone.

"There he is!" Jacob teased. "Seems like the king didn't take long picking a queen."

Even Artemis cracked a smile while others laughed.

"But seriously." Jacob smiled warmly. "I remember when we were two little rugrats just getting into harmless trouble. We were inseparable. Where you found one of us, you'd find the other." Jacob pointed to Artie. "While our mother said he was my shadow, I think it's safe to say that today, on his sixteenth birthday, she'd agreed with me that's not the case anymore." Jacob's voice cracked with emotion, but he quickly recovered. "In fact, there's a song I'd like to sing, in her memory, that I hope she hears. I want her to hear, and everyone else here, after nearly ten years apart the Gallezi brothers are back!"

Artie wiped his eyes as the crowded applauded.

"But I can't do it alone." Jacob looked to his brother. "What do you say, brother? Get up here and help me out."

Now would be a great idea to take a mint, Artie heard Apollo say in his head. The menthol will help your voice from sounding scratchy.

Artie made his way to the stage, popping a mint from the roll Apollo gave him. It melted in seconds and Artie felt his throat grow pleasantly warm just as he took the stage.

"Let's make her proud."." Jacob handed Artie a microphone. "Just like she used to say, Sem música . . .

"Vida seria um erro." Artie finished and turned the Nine Muses. "Would you be so kind ladies?"

"Since when does Artie sing?" Percy leaned and whispered in Annabeth's ear.

"Don't you remember, seaweed brain?" Annabeth smirked. "At the bus stop back when we got the master bolt?"

"Oh yeah." Percy said.

"You don't have to be a child of Apollo to sing and play music." Appolonia giggled as she petted Diego. "We're just better at it."

"And Artie?" Percy asked.

"The crowd at Yojimbo's didn't mind during karaoke night." Appolonia shrugged. "He won't go double platinum by any stretch, but no one is about to starting throwing tomatoes either."

"Karaoke?" Percy laughed. "You're kidding."

"Just shut and listen, seaweed brain." Annabeth nudged him. "Or you're up next singing Madonna."

Percy quickly buttoned his lip as the Nine Muses began playing. Unlike before, Percy guessed everyone was hearing the same thing rather than what they preferred like before. What he heard was what Chiron liked to listen to, a taste Artie shared, crooning swing.

Like it was rehearsed, or Apollo was helping Artie a great deal, the Gallezi brothers switched line back and forth. Artie began which Jacob followed with a line of his own before combining their voices for the final two lines.

Like the wallpaper sticks to the wall

Like the seashore clings to the sea

Like you'll never get rid of your shadow,

Artie, you'll never get rid of me

Let all the others fight and fuss

Whatever happens . . . .

Weeeeee've gooooot uuuuusssss.

Without any visible signal, Artie continued sing as Jacob perfectly crooned along in perfect harmony. Percy couldn't help but notice how in synch they sound and he was almost sure Apollo was helping his nephew.

(Meee and my shaaaaadoooow)

We're closer than pages that stick in a book

We're closer than ripples that play in a brook

(Strooolling doooown the aveeeenuuuuue)

Wherever you find him, you'll find me, just look

Closer than a miser or the bloodhound's to Liza

Again with no signal, the brothers switched. Now Artie crooned while Jacob sang, the two throwing their arms around each other for the final line of the verse.

(Meee and my shaaaaadoooow)

We're closer than smog when it clings to l.a.

We're closer than bobby is to JFK

(Strooolling doooown the aveeeenuuuuue)

Not a soul can bust this team in two

We stick together like glue

Percy felt the song coming to a big finish as Jacob and Artie switched once more, the last line louder and full of passion.

(Meee and my shaaaaadoooow)

And now to repeat what I said at the start

They'll need a large crowbar to break us apart

Wee'rrre alone but faaaar frooooom bluuuuue

Now the brothers were done switching and sang together, thier voices in perfect harmony.

Before we get finished, we'll make the town roar

We'll make all the late spots, and then a few more

We'll wind up at jilly's right after toot's shore

Life is gonna be we-wow-whee!

Foooor myyyyyy

Shaaaaadooooow and

Meeeeeeeeeee!

The crowd roared with applause and cheers from both gods and demigods alike. The Gallezi took a few bows, but then Artie spoke and Percy couldn't help but laugh, as did everyone else.

"Say, Jacob?." Artie asked.

"What is it, Artie?"

"Do me a favor?"

"What do you want now?" Jacob demanded in mocked annoyance.

"Would you mind taking it just one more time?" Artie pretended to beg

"From the top?"

"No! From the ending!"

"Wonderful!" Jacob motioned the Mused. "Ladies?"

The music began again, but it was the big finish that everyone had heard just seconds ago. The brother threw an arm around each other again and sang for all they were worth and Percy was sure, deep in the Underworld, Maria Gallezi smiled at her sons finally reunited.

And while we are swinging, to mention a few

We'll drop in at Danny's, The Little Club too

But wind up at Jilly's, whatever we do

Life is gonna be we-wow-whee!

Foooor myyyyyy

Shaaaaadooooow and

Meeeeeeeeeee!

The music ended and again the crowd roared with applause and whistles.

"Jacob?" Artie asked. "I was thinking — "

"Oh forget it, Artie." Jacob pretended to snap.

"Alright." Artie shrugged.

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