The Titan's Curse

Happy Birthday

After all that had just occurred, when Artemis revealed her identity, Percy said something real intelligent like, "Um . . . okay"

He looked to Artie who nodded slightly but grimly.

Grover was far more subtle. He knelt hastily in the snow and began yammering, "Thank you, Lady Artemis. You're so . . . you're so . . . Wow!"

"Get up goat boy." snapped Thalia. "We have bigger things to worry about. Annabeth is gone."

Artemis gazed to a clump of trees, "You can come out now, it is safe."

Bianca and Nico both emerged from behind a tree. They watched everyone with a terrified expression, looking for even the slightest hint of danger. They especially eyed Artie who knew why and couldn't exactly blame them for it.

Bianca was first to speak, "Who . . . who are you people?"

Artemis's expression grew softer, "It might be better to ask, my dear girl, who are you? Where are your parents?"

Like you really care, Artie thought to himself.

"Our parents are dead." Bianca glanced nervously at her brother before she continued, "We're orphans. There's bank trust that pays for our school, but . . . " Her face faltered, thinking they did not believe her. "What? I'm telling the truth."

"Thou art a half blood." said Zoë. "One of thy parents was mortal. The other was an Olympian."

"An Olympian . . . athlete?"

Zoë shook her head."No — "

"She means one of the Olympian gods." said Artie, ignoring the death stare Zoë was giving him for interrupting. "Percy, here is a son of Poseidon. Thalia is a daughter of Zeus. And I'm . . ." Artie glanced at Artemis and her Hunters. "Point is, either your mother or father was a Greek god of Olympus."

"Cool!" said Nico.

"No!" Bianca's voice quivered. "This is not cool."

Nico danced around like he needed to use the bathroom. "Does Zeus really lightning bolts that do six hundred damage? Does he get extra movement points for — "

"Nico, shut up!" Bianca put her hands to her face. "This is your stupid Mythomagic game. There are no gods!"

Percy, despite wanting to desperately search for Annabeth, couldn't help but feel sorry for the Di Angelos. He still remembered when he first learned he was a demigod. Artie and Thalia must have been feeling something similar because Artie seemed to relax slightly and the anger in Thalia seemed to lessen.

"Bianca, I know its hard to believe, but the gods are still around." Thalia explained. "Trust me. They're immortal and when they have kids with regular humans, kids like us, well . . . our lives are more . . ."

Artie decided to finish Thalia's thought, "Let's just say, you'll never wish for more excitement."

"You mean more dangerous." said Bianca. "Like the girl who fell?"

"Do not despair for Annabeth." said the goddess. "She was a brave maiden. If she can be found, I shall find her."

"Then why won't you let us look for her?" Percy asked.

"Excellent question." Artie remarked. "I mean, its not like your one to let young demigods fend for themselves."

Artemis eyed Artie for a second before she spoke to Percy, "She is gone. Can't you sense it, Son of Poseidon? Some magic is at work here. I don't know exactly how or why, but your friend has vanished."

"Ooo!" Nico raised his hand. "What about Dr. Thorn? That was cool how you shot him with arrows. Is he dead?"

Not by a long shot, thought Artie.

"He was a manticore." said Artemis. "Hopefully he is destroyed for now, but monsters never truly die. They reform over and over again, and they must be hunted."

"Or they'll hunt us." said Artie.

Bianca began to shiver and it wasn't from the cold. "That explains . . . Nico, you remember last summer, those guys tried to attack us in D.C?"

"And that bus driver," said Nico. "The one with the ram's horns? I told you they were real."

"That's why Grover was watching you." explained Percy. "To keep you safe, in case you turned out be half bloods."

"Grover," Bianca stared at him. "You're a demigod?"

"Well, satyr actually." He kicked off his shoes and displayed his hooves. Bianca looked like she was about to faint.

"Grover, put your shoes back on." said Thalia. "You're freaking her out."

"Hey, my hooves are clean."

"Bianca," said Percy. "We came to help you. You and Nico need training to survive."

"Listen to him." said Artie. "I can guarantee that he won't be the last monster you see. You need to come to camp."

"Camp?"

"Camp Half Blood." said Percy. "Its where half bloods learn to survive. You can even stay year round, if you like."

"Sweet, lets go." said Nico.

"There is another option." said Zoë

"No, there isn't." said Thalia.

Thalia and Zoë glared at each other. Artie guessed he wasn't the only one with a history with Zoë and the Hunters. Still, he couldn't believe Artemis. He knew right away what she planned and didn't approve of separating a brother and sister. Especially when they were all each other had.

"We've burdened these children long enough." announced Artemis. "Zoë, we will rest here for a few hours. Raise the tents and treat the wounded. Retrieve our guest's belongings from the school."

"Yes, my lady."

"Bianca, please come with me. I would like to speak with you."

"What about me?" asked Nico.

"Another excellent question." Artie remarked.

Artemis considered the boy, "Perhaps you can show that card game you enjoy. I'm sure Grover would be happy to entertain you, as a favor to me?"

Grover nearly tripped over himself getting up. "You bet! Come on, Nico."

Artie watched them walk into the woods, catching words like damage points and armor ratings mixed with several important names from Greek mythology. He began walking the way he had followed Thorn and Percy back to Westover Hall, making sure to pick the tattered remains of his leather jacket. He didn't want to stick around and give Thorn too much of a head start. There was a slim chance he might find something useful, a clue to where Thorn might go to lick his wound and recover. Plus, he didn't trust himself around the Hunters anymore than they trusted him. This also looked a good as time as any, with the Hunters busy making camp and far too busy to notice him.

"Where do you think you're going?" asked Artemis.

"Hunting." he answered. "Thorn didn't bring anything with him. He might have left something back the school. Something that can point me in the right direction."

"You haven't fully recovered from your wounds." said the goddess

As if by some magic, and Artie was certain its just wasn't good timing on her part, a bout of dizziness overcame him. He swayed and held his head as he grabbed a tree to steady himself. He shook his head to clear it and forced himself to ignore his nausea. He did his best to hold back a cough and pushed himself away from the tree.

"You need to rest." Artemis told him.

"I'll get right on that." he grunted and continued walking, swaying slightly side to side as he did. "Boa viagem e boa sorte."

Artemis made a gesture and two Hunters blocked Artie's way, "Whether you are willing to admit it or not, you do have limitations. You're hardly in the condition to go tramping through the forest during a blizzard."

I was hardly in the condition to live in a jungle, but you didn't stop me then. Artie almost said aloud.

Although Percy couldn't blame Artie for wanting to leave, he hated to admit Artemis was right. No more than two minutes ago, Artie had nearly been ripped to shreds and then frozen. The nectar and ambrosia had saved him from the more life threatening wounds, but his fight with Thorn had left him weak. Also Artie made sure to keep it a well guarded secret that whenever he entered his feral state, when he came out of it he would lucky he found the energy to stand let alone hunt down and kill monsters. While he knew Artemis was right, he wasn't about to admit it aloud. Artie silently pouted and sat at the base of a tree, leaning against the trunk. He watched wordlessly around as the Hunters busied themselves making camp. Seven large silver tents were erected in seconds in a rough crescent as the white wolves formed a guard perimeter around the camp. He looked up and saw Tobias perched overhead along with several dozen falcons spread among the tree tops, keeping watch for anything that might pose a threat. Percy and Thalia joined him as Grover and Nico returned from their walk.

Percy asked, "Artie, you alright?"

Artie nodded. "Just a little sore. How's the arm?"

"Its green." noticed Nico.

"Hold still," said Grover he knelt by Percy. "Here, eat some ambrosia while I clean it."

"He's gonna need stitches." said Artie as he reached into his jacket. "Here."

Artie handed Grover a large knife. It was a huge fourteen inch survival knife with a serrated back for sawing and a hand modified leather grip. The blade had been professionally shined and honed to a fine razor edge. Grover turned it around and saw a compass in the butt of the handle. He looked at Artie, not sure how this was suppose to help with stitching Percy's arm.

"The handle is hollow." Artie explained. "Unscrew the compass and there should be a needle and thread along with a small vial of vodka."

Percy gave Artie a look,"Vodka?"

"Its for sterilizing the needle and thread." Artie explained. "I always try to keep some on me. It won't freeze in cold temperatures, it'll help keep you cool if you're stuck somewhere hot like a desert if smear it on your skin. And since its one-hundred percent proof, its incredibly flammable which helps starting a fire with wet wood or nice distraction in a pinch."

"You weren't kidding about the whole survival thing." said Thalia. "Rambo could learn a thing or two."

"Kinda runs in the family." said Percy as he rolled up his sleeve for Grover.

"What do you mean?"

"Artie is — "

Artie cut in, "Percy, are you trying to get me killed?"

Percy looked around and lowered his voice. "You mean the Hunters don't know?"

Artie shook his head, "I'm not entirely sure she told them yet.

Thalia looked confused, "She hasn't told them what?"

Percy looked to Artie who motioned to go on, "Artie is the son of Artemis."

"Are you crazy?" Thalia looked around frantically, "If she hears you . . . You can't joke about that."

"He's telling the truth." said Artie. "Its not something I like to announce to everyone I meet."

"And the Hunters don't know?"

Artie shook his head. "If she hasn't told them, I'm not going to be one to tell them."

"Yeah, I can imagine their reaction." said Thalia. "I'm finding it hard to believe myself."

After that they fell into silence, except for Nico's constant stream of questions. Artie and Thalia left Percy to answer them. Artie was sure Percy was about to throw Nico to wolves in a meat covered sack, and frankly Artie wouldn't have blamed him, when Zoë approached.

"Well, if it isn't Ethel Barrymore." said Artie, quoting Singing in the Rain.

Zoë eyed Artie annoyingly before speaking to Percy. "Percy Jackson, come with me. Lady Artemis wishes to speak with thee."

"I do hope you're going to favor us with something special tonight. " Artie continued quoting Singing in the Rain. "Say, Hamlet's soliloquy, or the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet."

Zoë faced Artie, "I'm afraid your juvenile attempts to mock me will not amount to a thing."

Artie shrugged and finished with yet another line, "That's what they said about the horseless carriage."

Artie and Thalia watched as Zoë led Percy to the last tent at the far end of camp.

Artie got up and began walking to where Thorn and Annabeth had gone over, "I'll be right back."

"Didn't your mother say for you to stay?" asked Thalia.

"She's not my — " Artie snapped as he stopped himself. "I'm going to see if I can pick Thorn's scent. There's a chance he just made it look like they disappeared. Its one thing to cover your tracks, but I doubt he had the time to cover his scent or Annabeth's."

Thalia nodded. "Good idea, come on Grover. We need your nose"

Artie shook his head, "I got it, Grover. Just make sure Nico's safe."

"Artie's noes is a little better than mine when it comes that sort of thing." Grover explained. "Plus, he knows what to look for."

Thalia followed Artie to edge of the cliff. As they walked, she couldn't help notice how the Hunters eyed him. She wasn't surprised that they did, after all they hated almost any boy without reason, but she was confused at how they did. They watched him with a mixture of hatred and fear. The hatred no doubt came whatever happened when first met him and the fact he was a boy. The fear she guessed, came from how he fought Thorn, like a wild savage animal. When they reached the edge, Artie had Thalia stand to side as he knelt in the snow. He picked up a little snow stained with Thorn's blood and stared at intently as he rubbed between his fingers. He then brought his fingers to his nose and sniffed. He stood up and looked annoyed.

"Problem?" Thalia asked.

"All I can tell that Annabeth and Thorn were here recently."

"I could have told you that."

"Talvez ele deixou cair alguma coisa," Artie said to himself.

"What?"

Artie whistled and a hawk landed on his shoulder. He whispered to it and it dove down towards the ocean. "Tobias is gonna do a sweep. His eye sight is ten times sharper than mine. Maybe Annabeth had the chance to leave a clue or something."

"But how is he going to see in the dark?"

Artie opened his bow and drew an arrow from his quiver, "I'm gonna give him some light."

Artie fired and the arrow's tip exploded into a half dozen bright red signal flares. Thalia watched as Tobias flew from left to right several hundred feet below, weaving between the flares as they fell. Artie fired twice more as Tobias performed two more sweeps before he flew back up and perched on a tree. He squawked and chirped a few times to report what he had or hadn't seen.

"Well, what did he say?" asked Thalia, eager for even the slightest clue.

"Nothing." said Artie as he sat, his leg dangling over the cliff edge. He buried his head in hands sighed deeply.

"Are you crying?"

"No." said Artie. "But I haven't ruled it out."

"Don't give up," Thalia told him. "We'll find Annabeth."

"Its just my luck." Artie muttered. "I spent four years just wanting to get away from him. And now, when I actually want to fight him, he disappears. I'm seriously wondering who or what has a grudge against me."

"Four years?" Thalia looked confused. "You met Thorn before tonight?"

"He not only met the monster before," said a voice. "But you'd be hard pressed to find another who knows him better than Artie."

Thalia and Artie turned to find themselves face to face with Artemis.

Out of the corner of his eye, Artie saw Bianca being led out by Zoë, "I guess Jessica is glad she not the greenhorn anymore."

"She was," admitted Artemis. "When Heather joined two months ago in Colorado."

"I suppose you gave her usual sales pitch." said Artie, looking out to the horizon. "I never thought there'd be someone worse off than me."

Artemis's eyebrows formed a dangerous looking 'V' when she frowned. "Thalia, would you please leave us. I'd like to have a word with Artie."

"Uh, sure." Thalia said and walked away, wondering what Artemis was about change Artie into.

Artemis folded her arms, "You know, most demigods wouldn't even think of being so rude to a god."

"My apologies, your most gracious majesty." Artie stood up and bowed. "You'd think I wasn't raised properly. I must have a word with those jaguars and wolves so they can add etiquette to the regimen."

"You're obvious distaste for me and the Hunters momentarily aside, what did you mean Bianca is worse off than you with immortality? And please don't tell me living with that Apollo girl has brought you over to Aphrodite's way of thinking."

"First off, that Apollo girl has a name. Second, she's eventually going to regret her decision and its going to be too late. Do you really think she can live with herself when she finally realizes she abandoned her brother? The only family she has left? He may get over it and even if he doesn't, he won't have eternity to dwell on it like she will.

Artemis half nodded half shrugged at Artie's arguments, "You actually have put some thought into it, but I sense something else. Jealousy perhaps? Do you find it unjust?"

"Unjust?, Perish the thought." said Artie innocently. "How could anyone think that a group that could be considered the first equal rights movement for women, equal being the keyword there, that offers immortality to women and only women be even the slightest unjust?"

"Are you done deconstructing my hunters?" Artemis demanded. "Or do you have more to say on the matter?"

"I would." said Artie. "But sadly, only one of us has the time and its not me."

"Now what were doing out here?" she asked.

"Trying to see if Thorn had left a trail I could follow."

"And you thought you could succeed where I couldn't?" the goddess wondered. "Becoming quite confident in our abilities, aren't we?"

"Well in my defense, there have instances where a supposedly omnipotent god overlooked something that a mere mortal didn't."

"I'm not entirely certain, but I think you just insulted my intelligence." said Artemis dangerously calm. "Then again, even you wouldn't be that dense."

Then Artie did something incredibly dense, "This coming from a sexist egotistical bigot who — "

His word were cut off as well as the air he breathed. It was as if someone invisible had wraps their hands around his neck and squeezed with almost enough force to crush his windpipe. His hands went to his neck as he tried to pull off whatever was cutting off his life sustaining supply of air. He went down on all fours like a dog, desperately trying to get even the smallest amount oxygen into his lungs. Panic began set in as he realized that Artemis had taken page out of one his favorite films, the Darth Vader Force Choke. She even went as far to make the same hand gesture made infamous by the Sith Lord.

"I tire of your insolence." said Artemis. "You will respect me as a goddess and as your mother. Is that clear?"

Artie used his last bit of breath to say three words between his panic gasps for air, "Not . . . . . . my . . . . . . . . . mother!"

Artemis released the magic around Artie's throat, "What did you say?"

Artie was too busy hacking and gagging as he filled his lungs with winter air, not caring how the cold air stung his throat and chest, to answer.

"Answer me." demanded the goddess.

"You may have created me,"Artie looked up with a look of absolute hatred, "But don't think for a second that makes you my mother. My mother, who you gave me to, was Maria Gallezi." Artie sat down as he breathed deeply. "She was the one that cared for and raised me while you were nowhere to be found."

Artemis rolled her eyes, "I've explained this to you at length when embarked on your quest. The gods are forbidden direct contact with their children."

"And do you remember what I told you?" Artie coughed, his throat stinging when he did. "If you were . . . cunning enough to have a child without breaking your vow, then you could have found some sort loophole. Even if you couldn't, the least you could have done was send a warning. How much effort would it have taken to send a letter?"

"I don't see how a warning would have helped."

"Then I'll do you one better." Artie growled. "Why even send me to Rio at all? You have easily left me at Camp Half Blood's doorstep or better yet, not even bothered to create me at all."

Artemis was surprised by the last part, "I saved your life. You would have died if I hadn't — "

"Taken pity on me and my family?" Artie finished. "You're right I would have died, and you should have let me. If it wasn't for you, Thorn wouldn't have come looking for me and they'd still be alive. Jacob could have been doctor, the next Pele, or the next Elvis. Instead he was killed before he could join the school futbol team." Artie's voice cracked with emotion. "Do you finally understand what you did? By giving me to them, you traded two innocent lives for one."

"I had no control over what happened to them or even the slightest inkling what could happen. Their fate, even yours, was beyond my power to control or even influence." Artemis explained.

Artie froze, at a lost for words. He had complexly forgotten, for years in fact, that even the gods were slaves to their fate. The gods may have immense power of the forces of nature and the world, but Fates had supreme control over everything. It was up to them to decide how long one's life would be and how and when a person would die. Still, Artie wasn't sure if they were entirely to blame. They still allowed some freewill and he severely doubted they would be so preoccupied with him in the grande scheme of the universe.

"Look, neither one of us is likely to convince the other." said Artemis diplomatically. "Nor do we have time to try. I'm about to embark on a hunt that I must attempt alone and I summoned your uncle to transport your allies and my Hunters to Camp Half Blood."

"You haven't told them about me, have you."

"No, but not for reason you think."

"That reason you being ashamed of me?"

"No, I just found it difficult to explain to them my reason for doing so."

"So you want me to be one who finally tells them? That;s gonna make Cabin eight a little awkward."

"I'm sure you'll be fine. You've survived worse things." Artemis gave him a quizzical look. "Your knives broke in the Underworld, correct?"

"Yes."

"And your birthday is when exactly?"

"You're the one who told me, December twenty first. The winter solstice. Its roughly a week from now."

"Then here." Artemis waved her hand. "Something tells me you might find need of these quite soon.

His leather jacket he had made for himself, torn to shreds and peppered with holes from his fight Thorn, began to weave and bend. The sleeves opened and melted back into the jacket as did the pockets and zipper. It also grew until the bottom lightly brushed the ground at his feet. The collar also grew out and around his head until it formed a hood. Before he knew it, a long warm leather cloak hung from his shoulders with silver fibula secured comfortably around his neck. He examined the fibula under his neck. He knew it was what the ancient Greeks and Romans used to secure garments, like cloaks and capes, and weren't meant to be decorative like modern day brooches. This one was simple and yet elegant. It was made of pure silver and shone like the full moon, although it designed to depict the moon as a crescent. Artie opened his arms and gazed at the pure black interior which contradicted the pure snow white exterior.

"That cloak will aid you when you find yourself in more frigid climates, here for example. As well as keep you from baking in the hot sun if you must enter a desert." Artemis explained. "It won't make you completely invisible, but it should aid greatly when you need to blend in with your surroundings. It can also be inverted allowing you to blend with shadows as well as the snow."

"As much as I hate to admit it," Artie slipped his quiver off and back on over his new cloak. "This much better than the wool socks Appolonia is planning on giving me."

Artemis frowned for a moment at the mention of his girlfriend, but regain her passive expression just as quickly. "And as much I'd prefer to let you learn the hard way how foolish it was for you to lose those knives, I cannot in good conscience allow you to continue without a suitable weapon for close encounters, except for those poor excuses you call claws." Artemis rubbed her chin for a moment. "Hold out your hands."

Artie did, his palms towards the floor.

"No, no." said the goddess. "The other way."

Artie turned his palms upward towards the night sky. Again, Artemis waved her hand. The light given off by the near full moon bent and condensed in Artie's hand, forming the rough size and shape of a sword. It was so bright, even with his sunglasses, Artie had to look away. When he looked back his hands, he held a strange looking sword. The blade, without the slightest doubt made of pure moonsilver,was single-edged that pitched forward towards the point. The edge was concave nearest to the hilt, but swelling in thickness towards the tip. The hilt was looked to be made of plain bronze with a simple leather grip.

"Its called a Kopis." Artemis said in response to his confused look. "The shape distributes the weight in such a way that it is capable of delivering a blow with the momentum of an axe, whilst maintaining the long cutting edge of a sword and a capability to deliver a thrust."

"You lost me after Kopis."

Artemis rolled her eyes, "Think of it as the predecessor of a machete. Like a sword, a machete is meant for slashing and cutting. However, to be hit with one is quite similar to be hit with an axe."

"Ohhh."

"I know your not much of a swordsman — "

"That's putting it lightly."

"But I'm sure you know enough to use it in an emergency." Artemis finished. "Just remember that the sharp bits go into the monsters, not the other way around."

"I'll try to remember that."

"Also, you'll have to either find or make your own scabbard."

"I can live with that." Artie said as he slide the kopis through his belt, careful not to slice it. "I think I can make a leather sheath with what I have in stock back at camp."

Artemis nodded, "Good. Now I suggest you rejoin your companions. Your uncle should arrive momentarily."

"Alright." He paused after only a few steps and looked back.

"What?" asked Artemis.

He looked he was about say something deep and meaningful, but he simply brought up the hood on his new cloak. "Thanks . . . for the . . . uh, cloak and . . . um, the Kopis."

A slight smile tugged at Artemis, "Your welcome."

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