A Step Forward
Artie awoke the next day feeling surprisingly well rested. His back still ached, but not unbearably so along with the rest his body, no doubt the quest was catching up with him. As was his habit whenever he awoke, he examined his surroundings. The bunks were all in the same place they had been the previous night and undisturbed. The walls were decorated with various animals skins and various kinds of bows and quivers filled with arrows hanging off various protruding the fireplace was a stuffed deer's head, but he knew it was not a common deer. It was the head of his mother's sacred animal, the Ceryneian Hind. It was a large deer with golden antlers like a stag and hooves of bronze and the same deer that pulled her chariot. With the hand stitched bearskin rug in front of the stone fire place, the whole cabin gave the illusion of a cabin lodge one would find in the deep forest. Only two things offset the cabin lodge feeling, the first was his DVD collection. It was so large that it took two shelves that went around most of the cabin forming a large 'U'. He had everything from early black and white silent era films to the latest Hollywood blockbuster, with the occasion TV series here and there. The other object was an old look, but still working, vinyl record player that you hand to crank in order to play anything. He had one back in Rio and it had taken only a few golden drachma to convince a child of Hephaestus to fix it after he found in a dumpster during one his rare visits to the city.
Tobias peaked his head from under his wing on his perch. He gave his usual good morning squawk which Artie responded with, "You too."
He stood up from his bed and walked into the bathroom. He always found it amusing that the shower was made of pure rock and shaped to look like exactly like a waterfall. The sink was also made in the same fashion, with a small spout that replaced the faucet and large depression to hold the water. He took an extra long shower, allowing the hot water to run down and sooth his sore muscles and back. He mentally complained to himself to finally get a haircut as he washed it, but decided in the end not to. As he dried it,he had noticed it had begun to acquire gray streaks, though they had a silvery sheen to it. He didn't give it a second thought, other than he was too young to have graying hair and it was probably a trick of the light.
Once dressed in only a pair of denim shorts and a belt with empty knife sheaths, he recovered an espresso mug from a small cupboard in the corner of the cabin and went the espresso machine that sat on a table near the window. He had found it sitting in the very same spot when he moved into the cabin, just after he returned from his quest and learned he was a child of Artemis. He found it added the the cabin lodge aura and he welcomed the smell of freshly brewed espresso made using dark roasted coffee Brazilian coffee beans. He pulled the lever and filled the small mug with espresso. He held the mug under his nose and savored the relaxing aroma as he pulled down the ladder that lead to a trapdoor to the roof. He carefully climbed the ladder and went outside on the roof, making sure to leave the door open so Tobias could fly out and join him.
It was rare for Artie to been seen at breakfast. He preferred to sip his espresso as he leaned against chimney with Tobias perched just over his head and enjoy a moment of peace. Like most demigods, he had dyslexia, but he didn't not have ADHD. He found that helpful, he could not hunt and stalk if he couldn't keep still when the occasion demanded it. That wasn't to say he couldn't keep himself from becoming bored, which happened more often than not.
It was one of those times as he set down the mug, now empty of precious espresso, and removed his pocket watch. It had gained a few scratches and a dent here and there. He admired the design before he twisted the top to wind the watch before pushing it straight into the watch. Like usual, it grew into a shiny polished guitar. He tuned it as he strummed it lightly. He mentally sorted the short list of songs he knew and chose one that suited his mood. He began to play a soft gentle melody he had heard his mother play and sing. It was playful melody, meant to be played during a beautiful day when spirits were high. After a few chords he began to gently sing to himself in his native language.
Vai, meu irmão,Pega esse avião
Você tem razão de correr assim
Desse frio, mas beija
O meu Rio de Janeiro
Antes que um aventureiro
Lance mão, Pede perdão
Pela duração dessa temporada
Mas não diga nada ,Que me viu chorando
E pros da pesada,Diz que vou levando
Vê como é que anda, Aquela vida à toa
E se puder me manda, Uma notícia boa
His fingers continued to dance along the neck and strings as he strummed. He swayed his head and hummed, allowing him to lose himself in the melody and the memories that came with it. As luck would have it, he had just finished the song and was about to begin again with a new one when a knock came at the front door below him. He leaned over the roof and saw it was Apollonia, wearing an orange Camp Half Blood shirt and jeans instead of her school uniform.
She knocked on the door again. "Artie? Are you in there?"
"Not technically." he called down, accidentally startling her. "But I am here."
She clutched her chest,"Mis dioses, don't do that!"
"Sorry about that." he said sincerely. "I'll be right there."
Rather then climbing down the way he came, he walked to the corner and slid down the wall. It was something he often did whenever he did not wish to use the stair and it was the few times he was grateful for his claws. Tobias swooped down and flew inside just as his bare feet touched the ground. He wondered at it, until he faced Apollonia and she yelped with a frightened look. She covered her mouth as if to stop herself from screaming
Artie looked down and saw he was barefoot and shirtless, though he couldn't understand she should be scared of that. He looked behind himself, "What? Is something in the woods?"
She removed a hand from and pointed with a trembling finger, "Su . . . sus ojos"
He understood instantly and brought his hands to his face. He felt around his eyes, where he always made sure to wear sunglasses. He wasn't wearing them. "Oh deuses! Don't scream. I-I-I can explain. Just . . . just don't . . . just calm down."
Tobias flew out of the cabin and dropped two things at his feet. Artie scrambled for the tank top and sunglasses. He quickly slipped on the shirt and instantly hid his eyes. The damage was done, but still there were still plenty of others who hadn't seen. No doubt he would have to explain them to her, but it was the least he could do.
"There all better." he said shakily as he adjusted the sunglasses on his face.
"All better?" she demanded, she grabbed his hand and began pulling towards the Big House. "You need to see doctor! How did I miss that?"
Artie politely resisted her pulling and said very calmly, "Apollonia. I'm fine. They've been like this for a while."
She stopped pulling to look at him. "But how can you see? You don't have any pupils! Not even irises!"
He set his hands on her shoulders and looked her in the eye. "I can see just fine." he assured her gently. "Better than most in fact. And in the dark too."
"Are you sure? I mean how is that possible?"
"Breakfast is over right?"
She looked confused by the question and took a moment to respond. "I . . . uh . . . I think so. Why?"
He walked past her and headed west toward the forges. He motioned for her to follow, "Come on, I got something I need to take care of. Its a bit of a walk so I'll explain along the way."
She frowned but nodded and walked with him to forges. Artie still had to speak with Beckondorf about his armor options and how long he would take forging it. Though Artie preferred to leave by the end of summer session, he wasn't about to head off into the wilderness with nothing but the clothes on his back to protect him from injury. He would wait as long it took. He reasoned if it was worth doing, it was worth doing right.
He looked next to him and saw Apollonia was still a little freaked out. He carefully explained what had happened. Normally he would have said Artemis had given him the gift of sharp vision and night vision, but something compelled him to tell her everything. He wasn't sure if it was because he owed her a full explanation or if he was finally tired of carrying the burden for so long. Regardless of the reason, he found himself pouring word on word as if just now acknowledging what had happened to him. She listened without a word, almost as if she knew he needed to vent.
He told her how he had been eight years in Rio when he was attacked and chased all over South and Central America, only managing to enter the United States by stowing away on cruise ship as it headed to Florida from Mexico. He was careful to leave out the death of his mother and brother. Despite his new compulsion, he found that still painful to talk about. His voice cracked several times with emotion, but found it easier as neared the ending.
"Though I didn't know it at the time," he said. "Artemis gave me a new set of eyes. From then on, I could see alot farther and clearer than before. I also learned that as long there was some moonlight, I could see in the dark."
"So they're just a blessing." she said making sure she understood. "A gift from Artemis, your mother."
"She may have claimed me, but she not my mother." Artie said calmly despite the turmoil of emotions. He didn't hate Artemis, but he was still unsure of what to do with what he learned on his quest two years ago.
"But I thought - - -" Apollonia began to say, but she stopped herself. The tone of Artie's voice remind her word yesterday when she said she didn't consider Apollo her father. She was fairly sure Artie felt similar towards Artemis.
They continued walking in silence until they reached the forge. Though Artie had shown her the forge yesterday, she hadn't seen the interior. As they got closer, they both could hear the sound of hammers banging on metal, the crackling of the forge fires, and numerous hisses of steam whenever someone cooled something hot in water. Artie walked in, followed by Apollonia. Of all the demigods at Camp Half Blood, Artie got along the easiest with the children of Hephaestus, well only one child of Hephaestus in particular.t was the same child of Hephaestus that Artie made his way to at the end of the forge, making sure not get in anyone's way as they hammered or smelt red hot ore.
Charles Beckendorf was near impossible to miss as he stood head and shoulders over Artie, despite being only two years older than him. The heat of the forge made his dark ebony skin glisten with sweat as he hammered on a massive red hot sword blade. His shirt was cut off at the sleeves which revealed his muscles that Artie had often heard described as 'like a pro ballplayer'. Artie could see his arms were bare except for the custom dragon skin smelting gloves on his catcher's mitts size hands that Artie had managed to make him before joining Percy on his quest. The gloves seemed to be doing their job as he threw the blade into fire and picked another half finished blade next to it, completely ignoring the various tongs that his siblings were using and hung right over his head.
Only when Beckendorf returned the blade to the fire and began drinking of a hanging waterskin, custom made by Artie to keep the water cold in the heat of the forge, did he approach. "Giving those gloves a workout I see."
Beckendorf wiped his chin and smiled as flexed his hand. "Couldn't ask for a better pair. Nice to see that little puppy didn't play too rough with you."
"That what I wanted to talk to you about."
Beckendorf raised an eyebrow, "You need armor don;t you?"
Artie chuckled, "Is it that obvious?"
Beckendorf chuckled, "I figured it was a matter of time. But you don't want a standard bronze breastplate I take it."
Artie shook his head and explained. He needed armor that was light enough for him carry for long periods of time and to run with. It also could not limit his mobility too much. He also explained he required a full set of armor which included protection to his hands and feet as well as his chest.
Beckendorf scratched his chin as he thought about it. "That's a tall order. Plate is out defiantly out of the question, even the Ares kids complain about the weight."
"My thoughts exactly." said Artie. "Leather is the exact opposite, way too easy for something to get through."
"It might help if I knew what you need the armor for." suggested Beckendorf.
"Hunting." Artie answered. Not a lie, but not exactly the whole truth.
Beckendorf frowned and answered after a minute of thought, "In that case, chain mail isn't the answer either."
"You can't exactly sneak up anything when jingle like bag of quarters in a bag."
"I hadn't thought about that."
They stood in silence as they considered various possibilities, each more unlikely than the next. Beckendorf and Artie were about to give up when Apollonia spoke up. Artie felt guilty, completely absorbed in thought he had forgotten she was even there.
"What about Kevlar?" she asked innocently.
Beckendorf cocked her head at the word, "Kevlar? You mean what they used for bullets?"
"Is that wrong too?" she asked unsure. "I just thought maybe you guys were thinking too old. Maybe something more modern was invented that your not considering."
"Invented . . ." whispered Beckendorf. "Hmm . . . maybe she could."
Artie was about to asked when Beckendorf walked to the nearest workbench were a girl of about sixteen was because twirling wire around what appeared to be a diamond the size of half dollar. She had short cropped red hair tied that framed her face. Like most of the Hephaestus kids working, her face scratched and sooty from working in the forge. She looked confused as Beckendorf brought her over and introduced her.
"Guys, this is Louise Kwolek." Beckendorf said with a hint of pride.
"Uh, hi." she greeted.
"Artie here needs some armor." Beckendorf explained to her.
"What kind of armor?" she asked Artie. He told her and she smiled. "You're in luck."
She and Beckendorf dragged over a mannequin that wore a strange piece of armor. It reminded him the weaving of a wicker basket with the pattern and color. He ran his hand over it and found it was bronze, slightly warm from the heat of the forge. He lifted off the mannequin and found it surprisingly light for such heavy metal. Though only half as heavy as a standard breastplate, he had an idea to fix that. He slipped it on over his head and saw it bent with his movements like a normal cloth shirt.
Louise beamed with pride, "I got the idea watching naiads weave baskets. The armor bends with the wearer's movements and body."
"How did you make this?" Artie asked as he flexed and stretched to test the armor.
"It was alot harder than you think." said Beckendorf. "Together we made a loom and she weaved several yards of bronze wire."
"Once the main shirt was made." Louise continued. "I reinforced the entire outside with the left over wire. Though there is one problem with it I haven't been able to fix."
She had Artie put the shirt back on the mannequin. Louise drew a knife and slashed as hard as she could across the belly of the armor. "It works like chain mail, perfect against slashing attacks, but . . ." She turn the knife and buried it to the hilt in the mannequin's chest. "Piercing attacking like stabbing . . . well, you might as well wear a plain t-shirt for the good it'll do."
Beckendorf agreed reluctantly, "And multiple layers won't work either. You have to separate the layers with something. Otherwise constant movement makes the wires rub against each other and too much of that will weaken the armor."
"Plus, even with two layers." added Louise with sigh,"You're back to the weight problem. Which - - -"
"Which defeats the purpose." Artie finished for her. "Will two layers be enough? If you ignore weight problem for now?"
Louise thought about it for a minute, "Ignoring the weight problem, it might be enough. You have to separate the layers anyway. So if you put something sturdy and flexible between them . . . it should be enough, its meant for people who like to move around."
Beckendorf watched his hand as he flexed the glove, "Like piece of rawhide or leather? Its defiantly light enough and very bendable."
"Artie could do that." pipped in Apollonia. "He is the camp's tanner right?"
Artie nodded. "I got plenty of dragon left over from your gloves and Jason's quiver. It might actually help the piercing issue, from long distance arrows anyway."
"The point is moot." said Louise. "There is still the weight issue. And you said you need a full set. If the boots, gloves, and helmet all have two layers then you might as well wear a normal breastplate and save us a lot of metal and time."
"I think I have a solution for that." said Artie. "Exactly how much moonsilver do you guys have in stock?"
"None." answered Beckendorf.
"Por que não me surpreende?" Artie rolled his eyes.
"Moonsilver?" asked Louise.
"Its regular silver ore." explained Beckendorf. "Mined under a blue moon and then exposed to the full moon for three months without exposing it to even the smallest amount of sunlight. If done correctly its as hard as celestial bronze but with only a fraction of the weight."
"But if it needs to be mined under a blue moon . . ." said Apollonia.
"Since a blue moon comes once every three years." Artie concluded. "It makes it incredibly rare."
"So rare in fact that we don't even have a pound of it." Beckendorf told them. "I'm sorry Artie. That would actually work especially with the dragon skin between the layers."
"But unless you have two dozen full pounds of the stuff." Louise said apologetically. "You're out of luck."
No sooner than she said that there was a bright flash of light. Everyone in the forge bellowed as they were blinded and dropped heavy object on their feet. Even with his sunglasses, Artie was forced to look away. Once the light had faded and they all had blinked away the dancing spot from their eyes, they saw a large wooden crate with the symbol of Hephaestus stamped in golden paint on the side. On top of the crate were two letters, one addressed to Artie and the other to Louise.
The rest of cabin nine gather around as Louise read the letter aloud. "Dear Louise, Nice job with that new armor. Keep up the good work. As good as Charlie is, I think it does him good to take the backseat once in a while." Several kids laughed at that. "Tell that Artie kid it's not for him, its for you. I never seem to work with the stuff and I need the space it was taking up."
Artie opened his let and found it was from Artemis. The message was short, barely worth the effort and time to write it. Even with his dyslexia, it only took him a minute or two to read it. Once he did, he had to wonder about that last line. Did Artemis sense something between him and Apollonia? He read the letter twice more.
Nice to see you've taken a step forward.
P.S. - I'll be watching you and that Apollo girl.
He watched her as she watched several kids open the crate to reveal dozens of moonsilver bars lined in straw, each the symbol of Hepheastus and Artemis. He would admit he had strange feelings toward her, but he wasn't sure what they meant yet. He found her nice and funny as well cute with that look of amazement to the crate of metal. He considered her a good freind, but she was something more. People don;t simply become friends after gooing through what they went through, it was different than his bond with Annabeth. This is was something far different.
She caught him staring. "What?"
He instantly became flustered as he fumbled for words, "I, uh, . . . nothing."
He was saved questions by Louise who hefted a bar and smiling as she could see how the armor would look, "First things first, I'm gonna need your shoe size."
A/N - My next chapter should be the end of this story. It should be fairly short since there are a few things I need to wrap up, mainly involving setting up Artie and the rest for the Sea Of Monsters. Once I finish this, I'll be taking a short break. In all honesty I'm found this is be hard, but immensely fun to do and I just can't wait until I start on Titan's Curse and answer alot of unanswered questions as well as show how the Hunters act around Artie when they have to share cabin eight.