What It Means
Four years of being chased and hunted had taught Artie one thing, be grateful for even the smallest blessing.
This went through his head as they made camp in a marshy clearing a few hundred yards from the main road. The particular blessing happened to be Annabeth's love for the national geographic and nature shows. They always seemed harmless to him. Interesting maybe, but what good did knowing what year the battle of Saratoga was fought do when fighting monsters? Still, he relaxed a little when Annabeth told him what the snake in Medusa's hair were.
"Vipera aspis" said Annabeth as she remembered word for word what she read. "Or more commonly known as the aspic viper."
"Alright." said Artie, doing his best to fight off nausea. "How potent is the venom? Like, should I have Percy take my final thoughts or what?"
Annabeth struggled to remember, "I think it said, bites from this species can be more severe than from the European adder but only about four percent of all untreated bites are fatal."
Artie breathed a sigh of relief. "That I can handle."
Percy did a double take, "And if you're in that four percent?"
"Four percentof all untreated wounds." repeated Artie. "Plus, as demigods, we have a small tolerance to venom. Although I wouldn't recommend getting a black mamba for a pet."
They agreed to sleep in shifts with Percy taking the first watch. Normally Artie would have built a small fire but after the Furies and Medusa, Annabeth warned it might attract something else. He envied Annabeth as she fell asleep in seconds. Percy saw him watching and smiled.
"Go ahead man." he assured. "Catch some Z's"
Artie nodded. Sleep sounded like a great idea. "First things first."
Artie rummaged through his satchel and brought out medical supplies, a mix mortal and demigod provisions. A needle and thread followed by a canteen nectar. Artie frowned at his shoulder. He needed to see what he was doing, which meant one thing.
Artie looked at Percy,"I'm about to do something that might freak you out, so brace yourself."
Percy chuckled darkly, "After the Furies and Medusa I don't think anything can freak me o-o-o-o-o- . . . "
Percy's voice trailed off when Artie removed his sunglasses. It was as if he or someone replaced his eyeballs with brightly polished silver replicas. They seemed to glow in the faint moonlight. Percy thought it was a trick of the light as he tried to find Artie's pupils or the color of his irises, then he realized that he couldn't see them because Artie didn't have them. If Percy didn't know better he would though Artie was a monster and would have uncapped Riptide and charged.
Artie smiled slightly, "Thanks for freaking out."
"D-d-don't mention it?" offered Percy, surprised his voice even worked.
Normally he would have asked a million questions at once, but he decided not to. Artie had kept his eyes a secret for a reason and Percy figured he would explain if and when he wanted to. At the very least it explained why he always wore sunglasses, even at night or during meals. He got enough stares as it was and he clearly didn't want to add fuel to the fire.
Percy held his tongue as Artie went to work on his shoulder. Artie drew both his Bolo knives and stuck one his mouth. His other knife hovered over his injured shoulder and took a deep breath as he sliced open his shoulder. He winced as a moan escaped from behind the knife. The self inflicted wound bled very little or rather it bled very slowly. That meant the coagulants in the venom were starting to take effect. Artie rolled his eyes when he saw and realized what needed to be done, another cut or make the first one bigger. Artie cursed in Portuguese as he quickly made another slice a few inches behind the first. The second one bled slightly faster but something yellow was clearly mixing with his blood. An infection had started, but he caught it early.
Normally Percy would have called anyone who intentionally sliced themselves open crazy, but Artie seem to know what he was doing. Artie pressed down on his shoulder, squeezing out a lot of thick blood that came out like extra thick maple syrup. Clearly it was painful, judging by the look on Artie's face and the controlled grunting but he just kept pressing down. He then emptied a water canteen he kept at his belt and washed off all the blood sludge.
Artie let himself relax. The hard part was over. The venom was out of his system and the small amount that wasn't, would be cleared by the nectar. He sliced a piece of his shirt and soaked in nectar before sheathing his knives and setting the nectar soaked cloth in his shoulder.
He sat against a tree covered in sweat and noticed the stare from Percy, "You're wondering about the eyes, aren't you?"
Percy shook his head, "I've heard adding insult to injury, but never injury to injury. Shouldn't the nectar be enough?"
"Normally yes, but when it comes to more . . . exotic injuries. I'd rather be safe than sorry."
"You've done this before?"
"A couple of times. Some of this I picked up from the Apollo campers in the infirmary, but I mostly learned from a . . . friend who knew a lot about medicine."
Percy thought Artie was intentionally leaving him in the dark about certain things, but he decided not to bring it up. Artie would tell him when he told him. "And the eyes?"
Artie chuckled lightly,"A blessing from mummy dearest. I could always see better than most at night when I was little, but when I got to Camp Half Blood . . . Well, et's just say it doesn't matter if its day or night for me anymore."
"You can see in the dark?"
Artie nodded, "As long there is some moonlight. If there's a new moon though, I can't see any better than the next person."
Percy was about ask what a new moon was when he noticed Artie's shoulder, "Uh, you're shoulder is smoking."
Artie looked at the tiny wisps of steam escaping from under the nectar soaked cloth, "Oh, that's the nectar burning away the venom and the whatever germs Dodds left when she bit me."
"Oh . . . of course."
Artie looked at his shoulder and took off the cloth.
Percy saw it was looked alright, as alright as two long cuts could look like. Artie soaked the thread in nectar along with the tip of the needle. He threaded the needle and went to work stitching up his wounds. Clearly Artie had done this before as hummed to himself and didn't show the slightest bit of pain. He cut the thread with his teeth and stored everything back in his satchel.
Artie was careful was to not move his shoulder too much using his left arm as little as possible. As he did Tobias cawed gently and landed on the floor next to him. Percy guessed Tobias was following them from the sky and had lost them when the bus looked at Artie's shoulder and cawed like he was irritated.
"I'm fine." assured Artie. "Just a scratch or two."
Tobias turn to face Percy,staring daggers at him. He flapped his wings and made a guh-runk sound deep in his throat, clearly mad at Percy for some reason.
"Leave him alone." Artie told the bird. "It's not his fault."
"Whats wrong with him?" asked Percy.
"He's demanding why I'm the only one hurt." explained Artie. "He a little protective." Tobias chirped at Artie quizzically. "Already? I thought it wasn't until tomorrow night."
"The full moon." Artie answered. "I was sure it wasn't until tomorrow night."
As if to answer, a cloud moved to reveal the full moon which lit up the night with a dim light. The trees covered most of the clearing but moonlight shone through between the gap of leaves and branches. Artie closed his and smiled as the he bathed in moonlight like a tanning bed. It was if he was plant soaking up the sun's rays only it was the moon.
"Thanks" Artie said before he muttered to himself so quietly Percy almost didn't catch it. "That's all you're getting from me."
Percy noticed that the wound on Artie's shoulder began closing up. Like when the creek healed Percy's wounds from the hellhound, the moonlight was doing the same for Artie. It also did something else which Percy found unsettling, almost as much when Artie revealed his eyes.
All across his chest, arms, and legs were dozens upon dozen of white scars. Until then, Percy only thought Artie had two scars which Annabeth explained were from the monsters that attacked him in Rio. The star shaped scar on his right shoulder about the size of half dollar and the matching scar just below his left knee. Now with the moonlight, Percy saw Artie had been stabbed, stung, scratched, slashed, and bitten every which way all over his body. Only his face seemed to be fine except for three lines along his right cheek.
"How are you still alive?" Percy blurted out unable to control his ADHD.
Artie laughed to himself, "When I figure it out, you'll be the first to know."
"I'm sorry . . . I didn't mean."
"Don't worry about it. Let's just get some sleep. Tobias can keep watch. Won't you?"
Tobias flashed Artie an irritated look and flew up the branch on the tree Artie was leaning against. Artie waited for Percy to fall asleep which didn't take long, a minute at most, before drawing a knife and closed his eyes. Normally it took Artie a while to fall asleep but after the bus crash, the Furies, and Medusa Artie fell asleep almost instantly. And just as fast his dreams kicked in, Artie just hope HE wouldn't be there. Artie really didn't want to have to deal with him on top of everything else.
He should have known better as he watched two kids playing on the beach while their mother watched them from under an umbrella.
Artie always thought it was strange he relived all his memories in third person, like he was watching a movie. Artie continued to watch his five year old self playing with his eight year old step brother, Jacob. He knew exactly where he was, but he couldn't help looking at the Cristo Redentor statue on the mountain that overlooked the whole city. Not a cloud in the sky that was blue as the ocean. He could smell the food from the several carts pushed by vendor inviting people to buy. Several musicians played samba, the music his home country was known for.
No doubt it, Artie thought as he took a deep breath and enjoyed the smell of sea mixed with the vendor's food.
He was home. Back in beautiful Rio De Janerio.
He returned his gaze to himself back on the beach and sat down on a bench.
Artie laughed as he saw himself, fall, and cut himself on a seashell. The kid started to cry as he ran to his mother who smiled, like he did that a lot, and began brushing off the sand before putting a band aid on the cut. She kissed the band aid and told him to go back and play.
"Hmpf" snorted a rough a voice. "MY mother would have really gave me something to cry about and then she would have smacked me for crying in the first place."
Artie rolled his eyes and groaned. He hoped this guy had found a new demigod to torment. He had first dreamed about him when he arrived at camp and he seemed enjoy in pointing out how weak Artie was. It had been month since he saw him last so Artie just assumed he had gotten bored. No such luck.
Like usual he wore a red cape that dragged on the floor a few inches from his feet. He wore a dented and scratched bronze breast plate over a red Greek chiton. His bulging muscular legs were bare except bronze greaves on his shins and leather sandals. Like his the rest of him, his arms were huge as held a bronze shield with the Greek Lambda (Λ) painted on in red. Artie knew that it could cover him from the bottom his thigh all the way to his neck. In his other hand was worn wooden spear with a blood stained iron tip. On his hip was the warrior's sword. A double-edged single-handed sword made of common bronze. It was fairly short for a sword, only about thirty centimeters long, but it looked it had seen as much blood as the spear.
He had rough beard flecked with spot of white along with his long hair. Not long enough to tie back but long enough to be blown back in wind. His face was tanned with eyes that showed he was no stranger to war and conflict. The only blemish was a scar over his right eye, like someone ran a blade down his face.
Artie knew who this was, but anny sense of awe had long been washed away. This was the hero-king of Sparta. The seventeenth of the Agiad line and one of the sons of King Anaxandridas II of Sparta. A descendant of Heracles of himself, Leonidas.
"Hello, Leon." greeted Artie
Leonidas frowned, clearly he didn't like his nickname. "Count yourself lucky, boy. I've killed for less."
"I'm sorry." he apologized with false sincerity. "Greetings, your majesty."
"I see you've grown more insolent since we last spoke." scowled Leonidas. "But still the same scared little child."
"And so it begins." Artie muttered to himself. "Look, I'm not in the mood and I'd like to avoid the lecture."
"That's exactly your problem!" bellowed the Hero-King. "You avoid every fight you come across."
Normally Artie would have gotten mad, but it was a broken record to him now. "You need to find a new song." he said. "And speaking of songs, can you keep it down? Its bad enough I can't listen to decent samba when I'm awake." Artie returned his attention to his five year old self splashing around in the ocean.
Leonidas looked like he wanted nothing more to run Artie through with his spear. "I'VE HAD ENOUGH!"
He struck the ground with the butt of his spear and everything went black. No sunny beach or clear sky. No samba being played by street musicians or street vendors selling food. It was as if Leonidas had turned off Artie's dream like a father turning off a kid's television.
Artie glared at him as Leonidas pointed a finger at him. "You need to learn you can't run from — Where do you think you're going?"
Artie had began walking away from the King of Sparta. "Nowhere does it say I have to take this. I might not be able make you leave, but it doesn't mean I can't."
"Get back here!" he struck the ground again with his spear. "This is exactly what I mean. You can't keep running."
"I can try." he said defiantly before taking off like a rocket.
Since there was no terrain or landscape Artie couldn't tell if running in place or breaking the sound barrier. Still, that didn't stop him from pouring on the speed. He was sure left Leonidas far behind or he had simply left. He bent over to catch his breath, he didn't think he could become tired in a dream.
"You can't run from me." said Leonidas as he appeared next to him.
Artie gave him a look and took off again. He looked behind and saw Leonidas had disappeared, then he slammed into a bronze shield. Artie rubbed his face and saw the King of Sparta staring down at him.
"Pathetic." he said in disgust. "Not even fit to polish my shield."
"WHAT DO YOU WANT FROM ME?" Artie demanded.
"To stop disgracing the Spartan name!" He bellowed. "My men and I did not die just to have some scared little child disgrace what it means to be called a Spartan."
"In case you haven't figured it out yet, I'm not a Spartan. I'm the descendant of Artemis not Hercules. I fight with a bow not a shield and spear."
"And yet you continue to piss on everything I and all the Spartans have died for." Leonidas pointed his spear at him. "I'll fight every Olympian with my bare hands before I let an insult like that go."
"I don't understand."
"While I couldn't care less what the children of the other gods call you or what you call yourself. It is the children of Lord Ares I am concerned about."
"The Spartan of the forest?" asked Artie. "That's the big insult? How is that even my fault?"
"Do you what I said at Thermopylae when the Persian army asked my men and I to lay down our weapons?" Leonidas demanded as he removed his spear from Artie's throat. "Molōn labe! I assume you know what that means boy."
"Come and take them." Artie translated grateful Leonidas had removed his spear.
"And when a Thespian told Dienekes, the bravest Spartan of all my men, that Xerxes archers were so numerous that their arrows would block out the sun. Do you know what he said?"
"What does this have to do with me? Why are you telling me this?"
Leonidas ignored the questions, "Good! Then we will fight in the shade." Leonidas fixed him with a cold stare. "Never retreat. Never surrender. That is Spartan law. And by that law, I lived, I fought, and died. It's time you learned to accept that and do the same."
With that Leonidas turn and walked away. As he did Artie called out to him, "Why should I?"
Leonidas turn with a wicked grin on his face, "Because it's the only way you're ever going to get free of me. Farewell for now, child of Artemis."
As soon as he disappeared Artie's dream resumed. Everything faded back into sunny sky and beach. The music resumed where it been cut off and Artie saw his five year old self splashing in the ocean with his brother.
For some reason, the dream had lost it's allure.