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Before the Gate

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The first time Lou Ellen came to Camp Half-Blood she'd been with the Hunters of Artemis for three years. She was glad to meet Bianca, sad to see her and Zoë go and sadder still to see neither of them come back.

It was weird how Thalia got to be leader right away, though. Thalia was great, that wasn't the issue, but she'd not been a Hunter for more than three minutes before she got made the boss. Just because she was Artemis' half-sister didn't make her more competent than Phoebe or Melina or any of the Hunters who had been Hunters for thousands of years.

If Lou Ellen was honest, that was the moment she'd started having her doubts about the gods.

Then she'd met Luke. Luke Castellan had known exactly what to say to her -- he'd tracked down all the recent Hunters, gods and Titans only knew how, and of course she'd been the easiest to tempt -- and had offered for her to meet her mother.

He'd asked for such a small price for her life-long dream. She'd said yes.

So now here she was, kneeling in crossroad mud at dark of the moon, the only light that of her blessing of Artemis.
"Rise, my daughter," Hecate said.

Lou Ellen broke into tears. She loved her father, really she did, but it'd taken him time to accept that he had a daughter instead of a son and here was her mother, accepting her as she was without question.

"Join our war," Hecate said.

Lou Ellen wiped away her tears. She got to her feet. "I will not exchange one tyranny for another, will not fight for the Titans."

"Better the devil you know." Hecate's smile grew wider. Suddenly she was gone.

"This is the part where I kill you," Luke said. In the lack of light, his scar looked like it was eating his face and his eyes seemed to glow. He shrugged. "Sorry. It's nothing personal."

The night was dark, darker than it had been. Lou Ellen had lost her Blessing of Artemis. She would not fight for the Titans, she would not fight for Olympus; no masters, no gods -- Thalia was right, that was the only way to live. (Thalia was a hypocrite. So was Lou Ellen.)

Luke drew his sword.

Lou Ellen ran.