After breakfast, Annabeth dragged Thalia towards Cabin Eight. The daughter of Athena had been on edge since yesterday's events.
Mainly because when she took a short nap, she dreamed about a mystery guy who told her about Percy's reunion with Calypso. She almost woke up to decapitate them both, but the guy managed to convince her not to.
What a pity.
Then she dreamed of the guy again, in order to tell her that they'll be fighting another war. What lovely news that was. Then he delivered the worse news yet, Percy would end up having even more encounters.
Then this morning's events happened, she was ecstatic to see Thalia again, and extremely surprised to find out that said girl would end up being one of Percy's closures. A while later when Percy went to talk to Artemis and her daughter, Annabeth instantly knew the new girl was another closure. She had asked Thalia for more information, but the girl kept quiet. So, thirsty for knowledge, she headed towards the one with the answers.
It was when Annabeth reached the cabin that she realized how eventful the last few hours had been.
"Annabeth," Thalia whispered. "You heard Lady Artemis when she left, she doesn't want to be disturbed."
"I think she'll make an exception," Annabeth responded as she knocked.
Thalia fidgeted like she was expecting to be struck down. In the soon to be three years that she led the Hunt, no one had disobeyed Lady Artemis' orders. She wasn't sure how the goddess would react.
The door opened, revealing the eighteen year old goddess.
"Yes?" Lady Artemis inquired neutrally.
Annabeth bowed. "Lady Artemis, I would like an audience with you. It is of great importance."
"What proof do you have of its importance?"
Annabeth straightened, she looked around, making sure they were alone; or at least sure that there weren't any boys.
The coast was clear. Annabeth quickly lifted her shirt, showing the tattoo on her right breast. It was a sea green crown with a gray owl in the center.
Artemis' eyes widened when she saw it. She pulled both girls inside, instantly closing and locking the door.
"How did you get that?" Artemis hissed, pointing a finger at Annabeth.
Both girls looked at each other from their spot on the floor where they fell down when they were pulled in.
They were kind of scared at the moment.
Still, as they stood up, Annabeth explained her dreams, she told her about the mystery guy, about Percy's encounters, and about her suspicions about the talk that he and Selene were currently having.
She ended her story by pleading for Percy's life.
The cabin was uncomfortably silent for what felt like an eternity.
Annabeth was halfway mentally designing Percy's, Thalia's and her own shroud when Artemis finally spoke, "What I am about to tell you cannot and must not be repeated without my expressed authority. Is that clear?"
Annabeth and Thalia nodded eagerly.
"Come with me," Artemis commanded. She led the girls to a door at the back of the cabin.
"When did this get here?" Annabeth asked. She knew all about the cabins designs and she had never seen this division. It was similar to the division made to Percy's cabin.
Artemis smiled mysteriously. "This is to ensure our privacy. You can never be too careful." The goddess placed a hand on the door. It glowed for a second and when it faded, the girl's jaws dropped.
Emblazoned on the door was the crown emblem. This one was silver with a white bow shaped like the crescent moon and a nocked arrow in the center. But there were two other symbols flanking it; the left symbol was a white ring while the right symbol was a white sideways eight.
Artemis smiled at the girl's reaction.
Annabeth saw something else, a stylized M inside all three crown points.
"What does that stand for?" Annabeth asked.
"And what do the other symbols mean?" Thalia added.
Artemis glanced at what the demigods were pointing. "Well, this symbol on the left represent Eternity, while the right one represents Infinity," she answered her lieutenant. "As for the letter, that's the M for Emperor Monarch."
Annabeth was about to ask more, but stopped when the goddess raised her hand.
"We will speak more inside." Artemis opened the door and ushered the girls in.
The girls took a few steps then froze in their tracks. They were standing on the porch of the strangest yard they had ever seen.
The porch seemed to be placed at the top of a hill, giving view to an orange sky, snow-capped mountains, fields of red grass, and trees with silver leaves.
"Where are we?" Annabeth said, completely taken by the view.
"You are safe, Annabeth Chase," a voice said.
On the left side of the porch, a table for four was set up. Someone was already on one of the chairs, a girl about Annabeth's age with mousy brown hair and a simple brown dress.
The girl smiled, and Annabeth felt right at home. It was then that she recognized her.
"Lady Hestia." Annabeth bowed at the edge of the table. Thalia did the same.
"Sit children," the goddess invited. "We have much to talk about."
The girls sat down on one side while Artemis joined Hestia on the other.
Annabeth tried to gather her thoughts but all she said was, "My ladies, where are we exactly?"
"This place has many names," Hestia said.
"Mainly because its idiot owner calls it something different every time he talks about it," Artemis added.
"Nevertheless," Hestia carried on as if nothing happened. "It is usually called Utopia."
The girls digested that, then Thalia spoke, "Lady Artemis, when you first told the Hunt about Selene a few months back, you pulled me aside and you told me that certain things would end up happening and that I wouldn't be punished for my choices."
She glanced at Annabeth, who seemed to be making a conclusion.
"At first I was confused," Thalia continued, "but I'm guessing you knew about what would happen when I reunited with Percy and Annabeth. You were telling me that it was okay and that I wouldn't get in trouble."
"But why?" Annabeth interjected. "I mean, what about the Hunter's oath of being maidens? In the myths, you always punished girls who got together with boys."
"You shouldn't believe everything you read, Annabeth," Artemis said. "There is a reason there are so many versions of certain myths."
"What do you mean?"
"While the oath is indeed binding, it is overruled by the oath and teachings on which the Hunt was founded on."
Both demigods raised their eyebrows.
"The rule against dating was made in a time when women were nothing more than prizes," the silver goddess clarified. "It was meant to protect the girls from being with unworthy males. Before the rule was created, The Hunt was allowed to interact with boys up to a certain extent. But that was until the betrayal."
"The one Percy mentioned," Annabeth said, "about how this Cadmus guy was erased from history by the five gods in his dream."
The goddesses nodded.
"You see," Artemis started, "when Lord Cadmus informed me of Thalia, I had to ensure that she could act without fear."
Thalia gripped her cup tight. "You're telling me that because this guy marked me with his symbol, which is in a very embarrassing place by the way, that I would end up breaking my oath with Percy?"
"Pretty much," Artemis replied.
Hestia thoughtfully stirred her drink with a spoon.
"So far," the Hearth goddes started, "the boy has been with Annabeth, the Oracle, Calypso, and Thalia as of this morning and likely Selene at this very moment." She tapped the spoon on the rim of the cup. "While Calypso was a one-time thing, the rest are more or less permanent. That's an impressive lineup."
Annabeth gazed at the hills as she took everything in. Thalia stared at Annabeth.
"After all the complaining you did," Thalia said, "you just let Rachel have the guy like it was nothing?"
"No," Annabeth replied, still looking at the hills. "She and I had talked about it for a while now. She's a close friend to both of us. If anyone could keep Percy in check while I was in Olympus, it was her." She looked at Thalia with a dry smile. "Trust me, I didn't like it at the time and I'm still a little worried about it, but in the end it worked."
"And how are you feeling about this whole..." Thalia waved her hand helplessly, she couldn't avoid the term any longer, "harem thing that Percy seems to be at the center of?"
Annabeth could feel her face turn red. She wasn't sure if it was embarrassment or rage.
"I don't know," she admitted. "With Rachel alone I still felt a bit of doubt, not only would she not be able to calm Percy down, there was the fear that she would try and steal him from me." She took a calming breath. "Now I find out some god no one ever heard of is giving Percy multiple partners as an apology for sending him to war. I'm worried he won't have enough time for me."
"From what I've seen of the boy," Hestia imposed, "he does not seem the kind to actively hurt others. The girls are being forced on him in a way, but each one was a love that never bloomed. Lord Cadmus must not want the boy or his partners to have what ifs as mortals would say."
"Why is the guy doing that in the first place?" Thalia asked. "I mean, why does he care or what is he getting out of it?"
Hestia smiled. "An excellent question, as expected from one of his chosen."
"Did you expect any less?" Artemis questioned. "Lord Cadmus has always chosen girls with a good head on her shoulders; the gorgeous body that's usually attached to it is simply a bonus." She grinned at herself with Hestia imitating her.
Both mortal girls' faces felt like volcanoes.
"He is probably doing it," Hestia said, "because Percy reminds Lord Cadmus of himself."
Thalia couldn't help herself. "So Cadmus' the reckless idiot who always get in trouble?"
Her goddess responded with, "More like the brave, handsome hero that saves the gods from digging their own graves. And then goes home to beautiful girls unavailable to everyone else." She said with a smirk.
Hestia smirked as well but hid it by drinking her cup.
Annabeth and Thalia gaped at them.
It was an understandable reaction to two maiden goddesses talking about boys in a way counterproductive to their image. That would weird out anybody.
Hestia looked at the sky. "Perhaps we should cut this short. We wouldn't want others wondering where you disappeared to."
"And we definitely don't want rumors about the Hunt being spread," Artemis said.
In no time, Hestia was alone.
"Your children are searching for the pieces to counter the memory spell," she mused. "Percy and the others are being warned about the threat as much as they can be warned while also dealing their own confused emotions. Meanwhile our enemy are crossing the boundaries between worlds and gaining strength. It won't be long before the first attack reaches the camp. If we don't win, our world will be overrun by theirs."
She stared at the clouds.
"One man's fantasy is another's reality. Those were the words you use when you introduce us to the other realms of Existence. The Universe truly is an amazing thing."
She sighed. "And now one of those Realms is trying to conquer ours. I pray your daughters succeed in their missions. We'll need all the help we can get in this war, and even the weakened form you'll be given will be of great asset to us."
The goddess closed her eyes. "Come home soon, my love, and be safe."
A large man ran through the forest, hoping to escape his pursuer. He leaned against a tree as he caught his breath. His suit was in tatters, the result of near misses and constant falls to the ground.
He glared at the sky. There was a large cloud hovering over the forest he was running through. That alone wouldn't be cause for concern, but when the sky is completely shining and cloud free everywhere else except the forest and its single cloud, one doesn't need to be the Titan of Forethought to know that something was amiss.
Prometheus scanned his surroundings. The archer was nowhere in sight. That wasn't necessarily a good thing since it appeared that the archer had access to the shadows. His gaze flickered upwards.
And with this whole forest covered by that cloud, Prometheus thought. Everything is basically one huge shadow.
The sound of a string being pulled reached him. He looked everywhere, ready to bolt in a relatively safe direction. The sound of its release echoed around him. His heart pounded.
Prometheus grunted as the arrow glanced his left arm. It was a small cut, barely lethal, and he suspected that it was purposely made. He searched the area again, for the arrow and the archer but neither was in sight. He figured they must have blended into the shadows again.
Prometheus ran from the area. A moving target should make it harder for the archer to attack, and the Titan could use the trees for cover when necessary. He felt multiple arrows sent his way. The arrows flew by quickly, escaping from the shadows and sinking inside them again.
He dodged most, a few scraped him, and again Prometheus sensed it was intentional.
He ran for almost ten minutes, by the time the arrows stopped, he was bleeding lightly from multiple cuts, his breathing was labored and his sight blurred.
"What in Tartarus?" Prometheus cursed. He shouldn't be feeling this level of exhaustion with such small injuries, so why was he tired? His eyes widened in realization.
A paralyzing agent, he thought. Of course. The arrow tips carry the agent and transfer it to me on impact. The multiple cuts plus all the running around would spread the agent faster.
He had reached the middle of a small clearing when he fell on one knee with a loud curse. An arrow had embedded itself halfway through his left calf. The arrow was black from head to fletching. He tried to snap it but the shaft didn't budged. He was about to just take out completely when two arrow flew out of the shadows and into his arms.
The words that flew out of Prometheus' mouth were not meant for children.
"Such a filthy mouth," a female voice echoed in the darkness. It sounded as welcoming as a graveyard at midnight.
"Show yourself!" Prometheus demanded. He refused to be humiliated in such a manner. He was a Titan, not some lowly god. "What have you done to me?"
The exhaustion was getting worse. It wasn't just the agent; the arrows themselves seemed to pull at his consciousness, lulling him to close his eyes and lie down.
Steps came from the shadows. Slowly, the archer came into view. Black combat boots tucked into black jeans, a belt buckle with a strange crown design, black long sleeve shirt with a quiver strapped to the back, and an olive skinned freckled face with a kind smile that didn't fit someone who had just hunted down a Titan like simple prey; the intense dark brown eyes on the other hand did. Her black hair, almost as dark as the shadows she came from, was braided over her left shoulder.
"Who are you?" The Titan demanded once more. "What do you want from me? Why, why am I so, tired?" Prometheus was at his limits. It was only a matter of time before he lost consciousness.
"I don't want anything from you, Titan," the female archer said. "My Father on the other hand, he has plans for you."
Prometheus doubled over, his breaths heavy.
"As for why you're tired, it quite obvious." she knelt on one knee, forcing him to see her. "Stygian iron arrows blessed by Sleep himself. Nothing I shoot ever gets back up again."
The news sent a shiver down his spine as the agent finally sent him to sleep. He could only hope it wasn't an eternal one.
The girl stood, eyes fixed on the fallen Titan. "One down, two more to go."
She looked at the sky, the cloud was vanishing, it's job completed. She closed her eyes as the sun reached her face.
"I'll see you soon Nico, Percy. Try to stay alive, I would hate for either of you to die before you could see me again since my rebirth."