The Moon's Ally
As was his habit, Tobias had surveyed the games and gave Artie the play by play.
Artie wasn't surprised at the result, "So they won. Is Appolonia hurt?"
Tobias reported that not only she had escaped harm, but actually incapacitated three Hunters within seconds of each other. The first one with a snag trap that hauled the victim into the air and dangled them in the air by an ankle. Used an electric arrow that worked like a police tazer on the second while she hid above them in a tree. And while the third was distracted, she actually managed to haul the unfortunate Hunter into the tree by slipping her bow around her neck and held her thier until she passed out. Artie smiled at that. It was good to know that, despite all her nagging to take her along and the constant complaining of boredom that occurred when he finally relented, those hunting trips into the everglades had been worth it. As he ran, Artie passed few campers and a couple of Hunters, all them looking surprised at dark green blur sprinting through the woods. Artie slid to a stop when he saw a huge crowd of hunters and campers gathered around the creek. He caught the faint smell of reptile and saw a path of sickly green snow lead from the Big House. He pushed himself the crowd and froze at what he saw. The Oracle had left the attic, walked to the creek, and she was speaking to Zoë.
"I am the spirit of Delphi" said a hissing voice in his head. Artie guessed everyone else could hear it as well because several campers covered their ears. "Speaker of prophecies of Phoebes Apollo, slayer of the mighty python. Approach Seeker, and ask."
Zoë swallowed hard, but asked. "What must I do to save my goddess?"
The Oracle opened her mouth and green mist swirled. Artie, and everyone else, saw a vague image of Aretmis. She was kneeling and held her arms up as if to ward off an attacker. She was also in chains, fettered to the ground. And without a doubt, she looked to be in agony. Then the Oracle spoke again.
Five shall go west to the goddess in chains,
One shall be lost in the land without rain,
The bane of Olympus shows the trail,
Campers and Hunters combined prevail,
The Titan's curse must one withstand,
And one shall perish by a parent's hand.
That was when the mist began to retreat into the Oracle's mouth. Artie could not let that happen. He wasn't concerned with Artemis, but with Annabeth who was mortal and could very well die, unlike Artemis. Part of him wanted to slap Zoë for being so concerned with an immortal goddess who could survive anything. It was like trying to protect a heavily armed fortress when the enemy was attacking with water pistols.
He shoved Gene aside, not caring enough to find any joy in it. "Wait!"
To his and everyone else's surprise, the Oracle actually stopped and turned to face him. She did not demand he ask like she had with Zoë, but Artie didn't care. If there was a chance she would tell him, he was not about to throw it away like a piece of trash.
"Annabeth Chase." he said firmly. "Where is she? Is she alive?"
Like before, the green mist swirled to form an image. This one resembled a hooded archer fighting with a large cat, like a lion of some sort. The archer shot countless arrows before rolling to the side as the cat closed the distance and attacked with his claws and teeth. As the archer and cat fought, the Oracle spoke.
Begin as you have and the daughter will be saved
Control of the beast within regained
Vengeance taken and guardian freed
The king of hunt the mother's world shall heed
Then, as everyone watched, the mist swirled and retreated into the Oracle's mouth like a giant green serpent. She then sat on a rock and became as immobile as she had been in the big house attic, as if she would sit there for the next couple of centuries until she grew bored with the view and decided to move again.
(AN HOUR LATER)
As Grover and Percy returned from returning the Oracle to the attic, Thalia met with them. She had Grover relay her words, though Percy was standing directly next to him. She was still mad with Percy for not following orders during the capture the flag game against the Hunter.
"Tell Percy to get his butt downstairs." she told Grover.
"Why?" asked Percy.
She refused to look at him. "Did he say something?"
"Um, he asked why."
"Dionysus is calling a meeting of the council leaders to discuss the prophecy." she said. "Unfortunately, that includes Percy."
The meeting was held around a large Ping Pong table. Dionysus had summoned several bottles of Diet Coke, which no one drank, along with various kinds of snacks. Cheese Whiz, crackers, and couple kinds of cookies sat in the middle of the table, untouched by everyone who was too engaged in watching an argument between Zoë and Artie. Mr. D and Chiron, in his wheelchair, sat one end and observed while Zoë and Bianca sat on the other. Percy, Thalia, and Grover sat on the right while the head counselors sat opposite them. Charles Beckendorf from the Hephaestus cabin. Silena Beauregard from the Aphrodite Cabin. Appolonia was covering for Gene, who normally subbed for Lee Fletcher, from the Apollo cabin. Both of the Stoll brothers from the Hermes cabin. There would have been a representative from the Ares cabin, but all them had receive broken bones, courtesy of the Hunters. And finally Artie who represented cabin eight, the Artemis cabin. It was this that was a matter of debate between Artie and Zoë.
Artie's cloak, he gotten back from Appolonia, shook around him as used to hands to convey his confusion. "I don't see why you're making such a big deal about this? Mr. D called for all the head counselors, which I am for cabin eight."
"What am I?" demanded Zoë.
"Enough, Zoë." said Chiron. "Artie is the only camper of cabin eight. Like Percy and Thalia, that makes him head counselor for his cabin. As lieutenant of the Hunter, you are their representative. Now sit, so we may discuss more important matters."
Zoë sat down and began things on a positive note. "This is pointless."
"Cheese Whiz!" gasped Grover who scooped up ping pong balls and began covering them in topping.
"There is no time for talk." Zoë continued. "Our goddess needs us. The Hunters must leave immediately."
"Where will you go?" asked Chiron.
"West!" answered Bianca. "The prophecy said, Five shall go west to the goddess in chains. We can get five hunters and go.
"Yes." agreed Zoë. "Artemis is being held hostage. We must find her and free her."
"You're forgetting something as usual." said Thalia. "Campers and Hunters combined prevail. We're supposed to this together."
"No!" protested Zoë. "The Hunters do not need thy help."
"Your." grumbled Thalia. "No one's said thy in like three hundred years. Get with the times, Zoë."
"Please." mocked pleaded Artie. "I'm dyslexic and I can speak english, Spanish, Portuguese, and ancient Greek."
Zoë flashed an irritated look Artie's way as she tried for the word correctly. Yerr. . . we do not need yerr help."
Thalia rolled her eyes. "Forget it."
"Plus," said Artie calmly. "Its not that you don't need our help. You don't want it."
Everyone nodded and murmured their agreement.
"I fear the that the prophecy says you do need our help." said Chiron. "The Hunters and camper must cooperate."
"Or do they?" Mr. D waved his diet coke under his nose like a glass of fine wine. "One shall be lost and one shall perish. What if you fail because to tried to work together?"
"Mr.D " said Chiron. "With all due respect, who's side are you on?"
"Sorry my dear centaur." Mr.D sniffed. "Just trying to be helpful."
The rest of meeting went by slowly as they considered who might die, that much was certain, as well what was the bane of Olympus and the Titan's curse. Everyone offered suggestions, but each one sounded less likely than the other. Artie kept quiet as best he could. Though no one had acknowledged it yet, he knew he was not going on the quest to save Artemis which was fine by him. In his mind, he had the more important quest. Artemis may have been the most vocal about the every growing threat of Kronos, but he put more stock in Athena. She was Zeus's best strategist and she had to be aware of the threat as well. Zeus was wise enough to know if she advised him to do something, he should consider it at the very least. If by some reason the quest to rescue Artemis failed, Athena could still step in. But if she was too concerned with the safety of Annabeth, Athena might make a slight and possibly a grave miscalculation or not say a word and cost Olympus another year of war preparations.
"Percy is right." said Silena. "Two campers should go."
"Oh, I see." said Zoë. "And I suppose you wish to volunteer?"
Silena blushed. "I'm not going anywhere with the Hunters. Don't look at me!"
A daughter of Aphrodite does not wish to be looked at?" asked Zoë with fake astonishment. "What would thy mother say?"
Silena tried to get up, but Appolonia pushed her down.
"Stop it!" said Beckendorf. Like Artie, he had kept quiet. But when he spoke people tended to listen. "Let's start with the Hunters. Which three will go?"
Zoë stood. "I shall go, of course. And Phoebe, she is my best tracker."
"That's not saying much." said Artie.
Zoë turned to Artie. "What?"
"She fell for the basic tricks when she was tracking me yesterday in the snow." Artie reminded. "While I'm sure she wasn't expecting to be fooled, you should consider that."
Zoë looked like she didn't want to admit Artie was right. "She will not let her guard down on such an important quest."
Artie shrugged, "If you say so."
Zoë continued. "As I was saying, I will take Phoebe. And I wish for Bianca to go as well."
Bianca looked stunned, "Me? But . . . I'm so new."
"You will do fine." Zoë insisted. "There is no better way to prove thyself."
"Or get her killed." Artie remarked.
"I've nearly had it with thee constantly questioning my decisions" Zoë snapped. "Need I remind thee that I've been along side Lady Artemis since the Olympians were in ancient Greece."
"And I doubt you learned a single thing." Artie snapped back. "First you argue about something as petty as me being here. Only to then act insulted when we offered help. And now you're taking along a demigod who hasn't even held a weapon before yesterday."
"Artie should go." said Appolonia. "He's the only demigod who can pick up Artemis's scent and as well as the monster she was hunting. Plus the line about hunters and campers could mean him. He's camper, but the closest thing to a Hunter without actually being one."
"He cannot!" said Zoë . "He is a boy. I will not have the Hunters travel with a boy."
"Ela dizia que," Artie grumbled to himself. "O' hipócrita."
"Did you just call me a hypocrite?" demanded Zoë.
Artie shrugged again. "You tell me."
"Let us return to the matter at hand." said Chiron, trying to defuse the two. "Which campers will go?"
"Me!" Grover snapped to attention. "Anything to help Artemis."
"I think not, satyr." said Zoë. "Thou are not even a demigod."
"But he is a camper." Thalia pointed out. "He's got satyr senses and woodland magic. Can you play a tracker's song yet, Grover?"
Zoë frowned as she thought for a moment. "Very well. And the second camper?"
"I'll go." Thalia stood and looked at everyone, daring to question her.
That was when Percy realized the group had reached five members and he was not one of them. "Whoa, hold on a sec. I want to go too."
Grover then realized the problem. "Yeah, Percy has to go. He can take my place . . . I'll stay."
Zoë opened her mouth to object, but stopped when Artie muttered something to himself so quietly Percy was surprise she had even heard him, "Another thing I've overlooked?"
"That depends." said Artie. "On whether you don't two children of the big three just because one of them is a boy. You agreed on Grover without much problems."
Zoë folded her arms in front of her. "Grover is different. He is not technically a boy."
"Hey!" Grover protested.
"I insist on this." she said firmly. "I will take a satyr if I must, but not a male hero."
Chiron sighed. "This is the quest for Artemis. The Hunters should be allowed to approve of their companions."
"Thou are not even fully committed to this quest." said Zoë to Percy when she saw his disappointment. "Thou are more concerned with thy friend, Annabeth."
That was when Percy was reminded of something. "Fine. I'll go with Artie. The Oracle gave him a prophecy too. That means his quest is separate from the Hunters's."
Artie was sipping at cup of diet coke he had poured himself. He calmly set down his cup. "Sorry Percy, but you're not."
Everyone looked at Artie as he refilled his cup. If anyone wanted to save Annabeth as much as Percy, it was Artie. And since Percy was one of his only close friends, it was strange that Artie was denying him to come along. If anything, the question before that was who would be the third and final companion to accompany them.
"What do you mean I'm not?" Percy asked. "You don't want me along?"
"Begin as you have and the daughter will be saved." Artie recited. "The only way Annabeth is going to be saved on my quest is if I attempt it alone."
"I don't get it." said Thalia. "I don't remember the Oracle saying you had to specifically go alone."
"She was referring to my journey to Camp Half Blood and my quest to Yellowstone National Park." Artie drained the last of his coke. "Both times I began alone. So for me to begin as I have, I need to go alone."
"I'm afraid Artie is right, Percy." admitted Chiron. "Though I'm not sure why the Oracle insists on sending Artie alone. It made sense the first time, but now I haven't the slightest inkling why."
"He'll find her, Percy." said Appolonia. "If anyone can find her, it'll be Artie."
"Plus," added Artie. "She is more a priority than Artemis right now."
Zoë seemed taken aback. "A daughter of Athena is a higher a priority? How?"
"Simply put, Zoë." Artie said calmly. "Artemis is immortal and has all the time in the world, literally. While Annabeth can and will eventually die if she isn't saved."
"So this is has nothing to do with thy personal vengeance?" Zoë asked. "Vengeance taken and guardian freed. It seems quite simple to me why thee really asked the Oracle."
Artie held back a growl as he stood and began walking away.
Appolonia shot Zoë a look before addressing Artie. "Where are you going?"
"To pack." he grunted. "The meeting was for the quest to save Artemis, not Annabeth. I'm not going to waste what little time Annabeth has explaining myself when I don't have to."
Artie had just opened the door to leave when Zoë muttered. "Just like Orion."
Artie froze, his body tensing but his voice dangerously calm. "Care to repeat that, Zoë?"
"I didn't say anything." Zoë said innocently.
"You mentioned, Orion." said Thalia.
"As in the constellation?" asked Percy.
"He was the son of Poseidon and Euryale, the daughter of King Minos." Artie explained. "He claimed to be able to hunt any creature on earth."
"He was also a violent womanizing drunk who took an act of kindness from Lady Artemis as act of love." Zoë added bitterly. "When she rejected his advances, he hunted her so he could . . . " Zoë struggled to find the less vulgar way to say when she meant. " . . . have his way her. It was only when Lady Hera sent a scorpion to kill him that he was stopped."
"But when he was about to die, using what he learned from Artemis, he escaped into the stars." Artie continued. "So he would not escape, Zeus placed the scorpion in the stars to guard him as well as several animals to distract him by giving him something to hunt."
"But I thought it was a great honor to be placed in the stars" said Thalia. "Perseus is there and he never did anything evil."
"Most of the time, it is." Artie admitted. "But Orion was the exception."
"But he slips through every now and then." said Zoë. "To find Lady Artemis and finish his . . . heinous mission."
"I know." Artie held up the tooth necklace he always wore around his neck. "I was the last one to defeat him."
Percy was surprised. He had always assumed Artie had made the necklace himself or bought it when he was traveling. He never would have guessed that it was a spoil of war, like his minotaur horn. He fought revulsion at the the thought that such an evil person was his brother. He also wondered how exactly Artie had beaten him since Orion was clearly strong enough to hunt Artemis.
"Orion was the epitome of everything wrong with men." Zoë announced. "He took what pleased him, be it gold, wine, or women. Killed those who angered him. And cared for only himself." She stared at Artie's necklace. "Just like thee."
Artie's clenched his fist. "What?"
"Thee is more concerned with rescuing a demigod than rescuing thy own mother. A mother most would be beyond honored to — "
Her words were shove back down her throat as Artie seemed to teleport in front of her and slam her against the wall. His armored forearm pressed against her throat as he held in the air. She tried to pull off the arm, but something was making Artie stronger than her normally was. That was when she saw his sunglasses had come off and his silver eyes were blinking red as he tried to prevent himself from slipping into his feral state. His voice seemed to be a mix of some sort. It sounded like an angered animal spoke with Artie, making him sound deeper and with something constantly growling in the back of his throat.
"If you ever, EVER, say that again. I swear on the River Styx with the gods, titans, and very earth itself as my witness ; I will cast you so deep in Tartarus that even Hades himself won't be able find you, even I have to go down with you." Artie held out a clawed hand. "I've lost everything because of her. My mother, my father, my second mother, my brother, and even my childhood. You think I'm like Orion? Fine! Then I'll act like Orion."
Appolonia jumped on Artie's outstretched hand, "ARTIE! STOP!"
Artie did not even look as he shoved her off his arm and to the floor, "Stay out of this!"
Appolonia only gaped at Artie. He never dared laid a hand on her like that. Then she became angry. Not at Artie, but at whatever was making Artie act like this. She was becoming incredibly frustrated with Artie. She was tired of having to constantly keep him fed and busy so he would not rip someone's throat out. She had been tempted, not for the first or tenth time, to leave him and let Artie deal with it himself. It was that anger that probably saved Zoë's life.
"She's right!" she snapped. "You're no better than Orion."
Zoë closed her eyes.
When a moment passed and she felt no pain, except for weight pressing on her neck, she opened her eyes. Artie's claws were just hovering in front of her nose. She would have breathed a sigh of relief, if Artie hadn't still been pressing down on her neck.
Artie's eyes had returned to their normal shade of silver, but he still sounded furious. "Next time, you better find a giant scorpion."
Artie dropped Zoë and walked away without giving anyone a second glance. No one stopped him as he left the room and went outside. He removed a small metal figurine from his pocket and tossed it into the snow. Like before, his motorcycle grew to full size in the snow. He mounted the bike, not bothering with the helmet, and kick started the engine. He brought up the stand and speed off to the road at the bottom of Half Blood Hill, just on the other side of the camp's magical borders. He did not bother turning on the radio for music, but concentrated on the road. Or at least partially. He was aware how his tooth necklace bounced against his leather chest piece and thought back when he first saw it.
It was dangling around Orion's neck as he hefted a giant club.
(YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, WYOMING - SIX YEARS PREVIOUSLY)
The dark dense forest that was surrounding Artie would make anyone feel uneasy and unsafe. Most would be paranoid about the wild and dangerous animals that were lurking in the shadows of the tall slim dark trees. They might be willing to admit that in spring, beautiful lush green forests were great place for an amazing photo, but it certainly was not worth getting mauled by a pack of wolves or bear over.
But despite all the dangers, for mortals and demigods alike, Artie felt right at home. The fresh smell of clean water, fresh upturned earth, and the faint smell of crush pine needles was tantalizing to his sensitive nose. The grass gave his bare feet a familiar and pleasant tickle as he walked. Since it was summer, it had been warm enough to remove his shirt along with sandals, the wind blowing softly and gently as it kissed his exposed skin. Birds sang and chirped in the trees overhead, pausing only to see if this demigod posed a threat to their nest and edible eggs that would be their chicks. He had reached the end of his journey, but Artie was still lost. According to the brochure he acquired from a trashcan the park was so huge it encompassed parts of Idaho and Montana, boasting to be 2, 219, 789 acres. It had taken Artie much longer than he was willing to admit, but he learned a single acre was just slightly smaller than an American football field. That meant he had to search just under two million football fields on foot by himself. And each of the fields was comprised of a mixture of lakes, canyons, rivers, mountain ranges, and a super volcano known as the Yellowstone Caldera. And that was ignoring the possibility of running into monsters that were becoming more and more apparent than in South America. He'd be here for months if he searched each and every single inch of the park, and that was if he ever figured out what exactly he was searching for. He knew this quest was to discover his Olympian parent, but he didn't have slightest clue who it could be.
He mulled it over as he roasted a rabbit he had caught that evening just as the sun dipped below the horizon. He had stuffed the unfortunate rodent with wild mushrooms and herbs he chanced upon when he killed it. The only clue he had was the prophecy the Oracle had given him. He turned the rabbit on the spit as he considered each and every line.
All will be revealed in the forest of golden stone
Artie found that easy enough of decipher. Granted, it was Chiron who told the forest of golden stone was Yellowstone National Park, but he had barely been in the country for a month. So according to the Oracle, he would learn the identity of his Olympian parent in Yellowstone National Park. Artie gazed around and down at the brochure. Reach Yellowstone National Park in one piece, check.
Travel as you have, with humility and alone.
Once again, he had only understood part of it. It was clear that he would have to reach Yellowstone by himself, which Chiron had said was quite unusual. Normally he would be allowed to have two companions, but not for this quest. He had wanted Annabeth and Luke to come along since they had were the only ones still talking to him after his little incident with Clarisse, the reason for his quest, but he couldn't. He wished he hadn't asked Chiron what the 'with humility" part meant. Unfortunately for him, he couldn't travel with weapons of any kind, except for his mind and body. Artie's hand drifted to his belt where his knives should have been as he noticed the lack of company. Alone and weaponless, check.
Finding the master's forge, you will prevail
Artie had put that one together once he met Hephaestus in Nebraska. He might have nearly died three times over when he fought Ares, using the word fought in the loosest sense, but he had prevailed because he had found one of Hephaestus's forges, the master of metalworking and fire. Artie glanced down at the quiver resting against his leg. Found the forge of Hephaestus and survived, check.
Beware the moon's ally or you shall fail.
The last line was proving difficult. He wasn't sure what it meant for him. He tried to recall any myths of the moon and those associated with it. He guessed it could be a reference to Selene, but that was just another name for Artemis. He disregarded that possibility, a child of Artemis was impossible. Then again, it was far more likely that he had somehow he had angered Artemis in some way during his time in the wild and she had sent someone to challenge / kill him.
His thoughts were interrupted by the sound of a snapped branch and low huffing. Artie looked up and saw that would make most people faint from fear. Just at the end of the clearing, walking up to him without a care in the world, was a Silvertip bear or better known as a Grizzly Bear. He knew it was a Grizzly bear because it had pronounced hump on its shoulders and he most species of bear did not have this hump. Its fur was a typical brown in color with white tips. Judging from the size and the lack of cubs, Artie guessed it to be a male that was stretching its legs after a long winter. Artie was not undully frightened of the animal. He guessed that it had smelled the entrails and viscera of the rabbit, which he should have buried but left for Tobias when he showed up, and figured it could get an easy meal.
The bear reared up on its hind legs and roared, trying to scare him away.
Artie slipped on the quiver, just in case, and motioned to the rabbit guts, "I'm not gonna eat it, go ahead."
The bear cocked its head and Artie heard its voice in his head, "Really?"
Artie nodded, "I was saving for a friend, but you can have it."
The bear trotted up to the fire and sniffed the pile of bloody organs, "Thank you, master."
Artie often wondered why animals, no matter how large and dangerous, called him master. He guessed it had to do with his Olympian parent, but he wasn't entirely sure. As the bear ate the organs, he reached for the rabbit that just finished cooking. As he reached for it, he heard a branch snap loudly behind him followed by something large and heavy swinging through the air with wicked swish. Not bothering to look, he dived forward over the small fire he had built and came up from a roll next to the bear. His new friend stopped eating and roared, nearly deafing Artie as he turned to see a large club smash the space where had been only a second ago.
The man was giant, and near naked giant at that. He wore an animal pelt as a robe, a single strap holding up the garment on his right shoulder. Around his neck, dangled some sort of tooth necklace, though Artie wasn't sure what animal the tooth had originally belonged to. No pants covered the thick muscular tree trunks that were undoubtedly his leg. His feet, like Artie's, were bare. But the size were monstrous in comparison. He was covered in thick body hair, like a caveman, with only parts of his face devoid of it. His hair flowed in long unwashed clumps behind him that matched his full unkempt beard. Artie might have been tall for his age, but this man had to be close to giant height. And judging by the thick ripping muscles he possessed, he was certainly just as strong as one. He certainly smelled like one, but Artie knew this was not a monster. As horrid as he smelled, this man was demigod. But that did not make him a friend as he guessed from his surprise attempt to kill. He glanced at the weapon and gulped. He carried a hardened wood club that could have passed for tree trunk in his right hand. The bear charged the man, roaring in defiance. Artie took off, thanking his luck he had the thought to slip on his quiver. He made it to the edge of the clearing before he heard a pained yelp and turned. The man giant had the bear by the throat. It hung limp and lifeless in his massive hand. The man smiled at Artie as he threw the bear to ground and brought down the club, in one massive powerful blow to the head, and killed it.
The man casually placed the now bloodstained club on his shoulder and regarded bear with an unimpressed sneer, "You think after a few hundred years and just as many dead bears, they'd learn their lesson." He looked up Artie and gave him a quick once over. "A bit scrawny, but you're fast for a demigod."
Artie found his voice, "Who are you?"
"Orion," He leaned forward on his club like a cane. "Son of Poseidon and the greatest hunter in the world."
"Why did you attack me?"
"Thought you were someone else." Orion shrugged like it didn't really matter to him. "Don't take this the wrong way, but you look like a young girl from the back. Especially with your hair tied back like that."
"So you meant to kill a little girl?" Artie wasn't sure he understood.
"Not just any little girl." Orion scratched his beard. "I'm still wondering how you dodged my club. I've never seen anyone, not even other demigods, move that fast." Orion studied intently at Artie. "Funny, I know its impossible, and yet . . ."
Quick as lighting, Orion reached inside his animal pelt and hurled something towards Artie. Artie rolled forward and came up just as quickly. He turned to see a knife made of bone embedded in the tree he had been standing in front of. Artie switched his gaze to Orion as he charged with his club. Like an old fashioned, and incredibly dangerous, game of whack a mole, Orion began pounding his club into the ground as Artie dodged each and every blow. After rolling forward to avoid being pounded into the ground, Artie scrambled up a tree like a frightened squirrel. He was quite a ways above the ground when he looked down at Orion who was smiling as he had just confirmed something. And he was a giddy as school girl.
"So it is true." Orion gasped. "She really went ahead and sired a child."
"What are you talking about?" Artie called down.
"Only one person, one god, could have a child that moves like that." Orion answered. "A child that moves like an animal of the forest and speaks with the animals that roam them."
"I think you've mistaken me for someone else."
"Look at your hands, boy." Orion told him.
Artie did and saw what he meant. The nearest branch to ground was still a meter above his head. In his haste, Artie had assumed he was simply holding on for dear life, which he was no matter how looked at it, but he was wrong. His nails had grown into inch and a half long claws that dug into the bark.
"Get down here!" Orion stomped the ground with his foot to indicate exactly where.
Artie shook his head like a bratty child. "No!"
Orion didn't bother asking again and reared his club back. Artie wasn't guessed the club would turn into an axe so Orion chop down the tree, but he was only half right. The tree Artie had escaped was fairly thin and splintered when it met with Orion's club a few times. Then suddenly found the tree began to lean and lean until it fell to ground. Rather than continuing to being a literal treehugger, Artie leaped off the tree as it fell and took off in a sprint. Artie could help notice, as Orion gave chance behind him, that the forest had somehow gained an eerie aura to it. The full moon gleamed in the pitch black sky of the night, behind a cluster of clouds. In the distance owls chattered loudly sending chills down his spine. As he ran through the now suddenly deserted forest, twigs cracked under his feet. Beads of sweat gathered on his forehead despite the cool night air. The wind whistled over him and he could feel his own panicked fright consuming him bit by bit. His quiver banged against his back, useless without a bow, with each and every step. As he ran, he could hear Orion's thunderous footsteps as well as his voice.
"I can hunt any creature on the earth, boy." Orion bellowed, sounding a lot closer than Artie want him to sound. "I'm the greatest hunter the world has seen."
Artie glanced behind him as he increased his pace. He couldn't see Orion, but he could hear him. And judging by the sound he was making, any sound hunter would take care make the least amount possible, he was gaining ground. Artie was so busy looking behind him that he failed to see what was in front him. As he collided with something, part of him was glad it was not a tree. At his speed, running into a tree would have severely injured him and most likely rendered him unconscious. That wasn't to say running to a person was pleasant. Like in old cartoons, he and the girl he had run into tumbled head over heels and everything else. It was just bad luck that they had collided at the top of small hill and rolled entangled all the way to the base. Once the world had stopped tumbling, Artie sat up and looked at who he ran into. He guessed her to be older than him, though not by much. Probably sixteen or seventeen at the most. She had long, silky black hair that was now matted with blood. Artie guess her head had hit rock in the fall and it had rendered her unconscious since she continued to lay there. He also saw she had coppery-like skin, a slightly upturned nose, and a silver circlet around her head. It was when Orion roared in frustration that Artie was jerked out of his examination. Orion had mentioned he was trying to kill a girl, and this could very well be that girl.
He put his arms under her, grateful for her light weight, and threw her over his shoulder. He gazed around, unsure where to go. He knew he couldn't run fast enough with this girl on his back. This was normally where Tobias would screech as he flew overhead and gave Artie a direction, but he did not come. With nothing to lose, Artie cast his gaze upward.
He said to the night sky. "A little help?"
Suddenly a gust of wind blew, pushing a cloud past the full moon. A single bright ray of moonlight shone down a little distance away, illuminating a small river flowing gently through a field. He silently thanked whatever god had helped him and started towards the river. He began walking but quickly hastened to a heavy jog when he heard Orion closing in. When he reached the river, he wondered how was going to cross it since there was no bridge and it was too deep and wide to ford it with a sleeping girl on his back. He looked around and spotted a small rotting log. He quickly but gently, set the girl over the log and pushed it into the river. Once the log did not sink, Artie paddled and reached the otherside. Tired from running, carrying the girl on his back, and paddling across a river, Artie reached the other side slower than he planned. So much so, that Orion stood on the opposite riverbank just as he took the girl off the log and laid her down on the ground. Orion stared at the river and smiled.
"Son of Poseidon, remember?" That was when Orion began walking across it like it wasn't even there.
Artie raised an eyebrow and looked to the sky, "I meant a little help for me."
Once he reached Artie, Orion noticed the unconscious girl and looked surprised, "Well if it isn't little Zoë Nightshade."
Artie stood in front of the girl, Zoë Nightshade he now knew, with his arms out. "This is between you and me."
"Not anymore." Orion swatted the young demigod aside with his club. "Your mother would hate to lose this Hunter."
Artie was to busy flying back like a cannonball to catch that last part. Like Ares, Orion's club sent Artie flying into something hard and unforgiving, a large boulder. Artie could hear before he felt his bones break when he connected with the boulder. He was sure if he had been going faster, the sudden stop would have killed him outright. His mind was muddle mess of pain and dizziness as he tried to push himself up, his arms too far shattered to hold any of his weight. He then tried his leg, those were in better condition but still broken. He could just barely see Orion raise his club high overhead. He glanced at the girl at his feet, still out cold. His eye caught something gripped in her hand. It was a silver bow, now he just had to reach it. With his limbs in a broken heap, he wasn't sure how.
Then the clouds parted.
The pain seemed to just fade away as it bathed Artie in its radiant light. He saw the lumps that stuck out from under his skin, clear evidence his bones had snapped like twigs, shrink and melt back under the surface. He stood and found he was fully healed. Then he glanced at Orion, his club raised as high as he could reach, and took off like a rocket. Just as Orion brought down his club, Artie materialized in front of Zoë. He scooped up her bow, reached for an arrow from his quiver, and fired. Orion roared in pain as waves of electricity ran through his body, dropping his club next to him. Artie wasn't sure how the arrow had not frozen Orion like Ares, then realized that he had been thinking in the back of his mind that he doubted even one of Zeus' lightning bolts could stop him. What had Hephaestus told him about the quiver? He could have any arrow he could think of. The quiver was linked to his thoughts.
Orion fell to one knee and breathed hard, "Impressive, but not enough."
Artie racked his brain to remember what had killed Orion in the old stories. He brightened when he remembered. He reached for another arrow, aimed, and fired. When the arrow was only foot away from Orion, it exploded and covered him in black shiny spiders. No, not spiders Artie saw when the smoke cleared, but dozens upon dozens of tiny pit scorpions from depths of Tartarus. The same kind that Luke would use years later on Percy. Artie had focused on a giant scorpion like Hera had sent when he drew the arrow, but apparently the quiver had limits. Orion dared not move as the little arachnids crawled up, down, and around him. One false movement and he would be injected with enough venom to kill a hundred demigods, and that was just from one scorpion.
Orion stared daggers at Artie. "Still not enough."
Artie responded with throwing a fistful of dirt. Orion responded without thinking and moved to cover his eyes. It was like he had been injected with molten lead from every single pore on his skin. He fell back, crushing the few unfortunate arachnids that had skittered to his back. Artie saw the venom had become to take effect as Orion's wound had begun to smoke. Orion managed to turn his head and face Artie.
"Enjoy this little victory." he coughed. "I'll be back."
Artie tuned his head as Orion began to glow bright like the sun. When he looked Orion had disappeared, even the scorpions were gone. Artie fell to his knees and breathed hard. Now that he was gone, Artie remembered the story of Orion. He had been, for a time, Artemis's companion and friend. And since Artemis was the goddess of the moon, that made Orion her ally. Now Artie realized what the final line from his prophecy meant. Tobias landed on the log with a flutter of wings and looked at Artie quizzically, as if to ask what he had missed.
"Beware the moon's ally or you shall fail." Artie chuckled to himself. "Check."
He only had dwelled on his near death experience for a moment when he heard several footsteps behind him. He turned only to come face to face with nearly two dozen arrows, all held by young girls wearing white shirts, silver jackets, silvery camo pants and black combat boots.
Artie looked up at the sky with contempt, "What are you? Bored up there?"
Artie was jerked out his memory when he heard the unmistakable siren of police car. He looked behind and saw it was in fact several policemen, all of them on motorcycles. The gods only knew how many traffic laws he had broken in his trance. He did not have time to deal with them and looked around. He was halfway across the Verazano bridge heading into Staten Island. Like he had in Maine, Artie drove straight off the bridge at full speed. As he fell, he accelerated the engine to its limit so when he landed on the water, he and the bike would not shatter on felt no desire to look back the the gaping mouths of all the motorists and continued on his way. He switched on radio for some music to take his mind off his current misfortune, for a while at least. He would have like the song under any other circumstance, it was from a Ratpack classic Robin and The Seven Hoods and it was even Dean Martin singing, but not today.
Any man who loves his mother
Is man enough for me
Brightening her eyes, sending her flowers
Though it's no anniversary
Many men want fame and fortune
It's gold they love to see
But I say a man who loves his mother
Is man enough for me
Artie switched off the music with an angry flourish, "I'm not in the mood for your jokes, Apollo."