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The Hidden Oracle... +One.

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My name is Artemis; I used to be a god.

In my four thousand six hundred and twelve years, I have done many things. But in all my immortal life, I have not once been turned mortal.

The same cannot be said for my brother Apollo.

That idiot has been turned mortal twice before now, none them without injury.

Anyways, the first thing I was aware of was that I was falling. I did not know why I was falling, or how I had started falling. But I was falling.

The wind rushed through my clothes, making them flap wildly against my sides. It was quite unpleasant.

If I am to be honest, I have always despised the feeling of falling. Of what mortals call gravity dragging me down to earth. I always find myself falling at the most inopportune times.

Falling is very inconvenient.

I am a goddess, why does gravity have to affect me when I don't want it to?

The rushing wind plastered my hair against my face, it went in my mouth and into my eyes.

I am going to punch Bores for that insult. Eventually. I very much doubt I will get the chance to punch him anytime soon.

Skyscrapers flew in and out of view as I fell. Flames streamed off my body; Zeus must have been very angry.

I tried to turn into a cloud or bird or even teleport across the world, all of which should have been easy for me.

Despite that, I kept falling.

The second thing I realized was that I wasn't alone, someone was falling next to me. I could feel the air parting around their form.

My brother. Apollo. 

My first thought was just "What the actual fuck" my second was: "Welp okay then."

I can honesty say that I don't know how I knew it was him, but something just told me it was.

It was in all honestly quite confusing.

He was screaming. That was happening. His voice was dreadfully high pitched and utterly terrified. The thing was, it was not, in fact his voice.

One might think that might lead me to belive that this is not him. Yet, I knew for a fact it was.

Yet the high pitched screaming was still coming from him.

His throat sounded almost hoarse from yelling, somthing that cannot happen to a god. Much less him. He's the god of music, if his voice were to get hoarse after singing? That would be a travesty. He almost sounded like he had been crying. Almost.

I wondered why.

Something told me I knew why this was happening, but I just couldn't remember.

I didn't know why I couldn't remember.

Immortals have a near perfect memory. I shouldn't be able to forget.

I kept trying to do something, anything, to slow our descent. Nothing worked.

It seemed as if we were stuck falling. 

The ground was getting closer and closer.

Apollo was still screaming. He seemed almost desperate. He sounded acutely terrified, something, somewhere deep inside me, told me this was my fault.

I just didn't know what was my fault.

We just kept on falling. We plunged into a crevice between two buildings, and I braced myself for impact.

BAM.

The air was knocked out of my lungs, how? I do not know. I felt.. Almost dizzy. I did not understand why, I'm a goddess, falls do not hurt me as much as one would a mortal.

Then I realized we had landed in a dumpster. How quaint.

Sadly, this wasn't the first time this had happened to me. (Long story short, I had lost a bet with Hermes. It was not my finest moment.)

My eyesight dimmed for a moment and I felt like crying out in pain. All I could smell was rancid meat and rotting something- I didn't want to know what was rotting. But something certainly was. I wasnt to keen on finding out.

I felt queasy, if I had had anything in my stomach I certainly would have puked.

My ribs felt broken.

This shouldn't have been possible. A fall from that high shouldn't have even hurt me.

Apollo was silent.

I realized in horror I had landed on top of him.

I am a horrible sister.

I rolled off of him, struggling to sit up. I couldn't remember what had happened. How had I got here? Why couldn't I do anything about it?

YOU SHOULD HAVE JUST LET HIM BE, ARTEMIS. My father's booming voice echoed in my head. IT IS HIS FAULT. THIS IS HIS PUNISHMENT. YOU DON'T NEED TO JOIN HIM.

Oh. I remembered now. Zeus had stripped him of his immortality. I couldn't defend him well enough. Fates there wasn't even a real trial. Just Zeus screaming accusations. For a god of justice, he doesn't exactly do it well. I felt angry. I felt weak. I felt so so painstakingly mortal.

IT'S HIS FAULT ARTEMIS. ABANDON HIM NOW, AND I WILL RECALL YOU TO OLYMPUS. I remembered Apollo trying to tell me that defending him was pointless and would only get me in trouble. Zeus's word is law. I didn't let that deter me. Now look at us.

Mortal. Isn't this just great?

I am a pitiful joke. I couldn't defend him. I had failed him. Now we were both mortal.

I was not going to leave him. No! This is not a world where you give yourself a life, an identity, with just a name. Not anymore at leasr, and the things that can happen to mortal teenagers? Especially homeless ones? Leaving him to fend for himself would practically fratricide.

I knew what I was doing.

He wouldn't make it alone, not right now at least. Before, like thousands of years ago, he could just go to a demigod king and work for a year. But this is modern New York. There arnt kings. He didn't stand a chance.

I'm not leaving him. IT'S YOUR CHOICE THEN. I was left with my own thoughts. Wonderous.

I tried to remember the details of Apollo's sentencing, had Father told us how long it would last? How to become immortal again? My mind was too fuzzy.

How utterly infuriating.

I knew what had happened before, my memories were clear enough for that. A war with the giants. Apollo had fallen for one of his spawn’s flattery. 

I still don't understand how HE would get punished for this and not Ares or Hermes. Like, its quite imbecilic to blame Apollo for his spawns actions while Hermes's son litterally almost brought back Kronos? And how Ares litterally helped steal the McFucking master bolt?

Zeus had literally declared Apollo at fault for a war that was prophesied way back in the roman era. By a prophet that wasnt even Apollo.

It made absolutely no sence, but alas, Zeus's judgement is final.

This isn't an era where you can just get a job. This isn't an era that he could just became a servant in. I dont know what Zeus was thinking. But, I do know one thing. Apollo needed me, despite how much he may deny it later.

I wasn't going to leave him to fend for himself.

I already knew Zeus wasn't going to reconsider, but I had to get to my feet.

I needed to get us to safety.

I wasn't going to let us get hurt. Not so soon anyway.

I gripped the rim of the dumpster tightly, my ribs throbbed and my stomach clenched.

I didn't even want to think about how badly Apollo must be hurt.

I had landed on him after all. If my ribs were broken, I can only imagine his.

I clawed my way out of the dumpster and toppled over the side. I landed on my back, and knocked the wind out of my lungs. I laid there for awhile. Trying in vain to catch my breath.

I had to get up. I had to get us to safety. Getting up, to put it nicely, was horrific. My head spun and my body screamed in agony.

Why are you humans so fragile? Prometheus did a shit job designing them. I only fell a measly few hundred feet.

I somehow managed to stand. We were in a dead end alley, about 50ish feet from the exit. This looked like the west side of Manhattan. Zeus must be really angry... At least that hero, what was his name again.... Fates I know this! Perry... Peter.. Perseus! Perseus Jackson.

Jackson lived in New York. We could go there. I leaned against the dumpster, my hands refused to stop shaking. Why? Why wouldn't they stop shaking? What in the names of the fates is wrong with mortal bodies? How was I going to get both of us in one piece across town?

Hopefully, Zeus was kind enough to leave us some cash. We could hail a taxi if he did...

First thing first. Check how badly off Apollo is, mortals are terribly fragile, if he was hurt to badly it could spell disaster.

Who am kidding? This entire situation spelled disaster.

Apollo came first. I was not going to fail him again. (Why do I keep saying that? Why do I feel like this was my fault? I knew this! I just couldn't recall...) I took a deep breath, steadied myself, and turned to face Apollo. I wanted to scream and cry and swear to all the gods not above at the same time when I saw him.

He was.. horribly pale, his eyes closed tightly and his breathing irregular, he looked about 15.

I could hardly recognize even him. He had curly brown hair and looked nothing like he was supposed to. The last few times he was mortal he retained his looks, apparently we did not this time.

Wonderful.

Now for the hard part, lifting him. I hooked my arms under him and dragged him out of the dumpster. He whimpered pathetically despite the fact he wasn't conscious.  

I hoped I hadn't aggravated his injuries too much.

Despite that I had dragged him out, he didn't wake. Not even when I propped him against the wall.

Had he hit his head when we fell? I wouldnt put that past Zeus.

He was wearing a polo shirt and jeans. Something Apollo would never ordinarily wear. He looked nothing like he usually did. We were both Caucasian, and if we looked anything alike then I probably had a killer case of acne. Fun. I inspected my new body, I didn't appear any older or younger than Apollo was.

I guess being 16 is better than being 12 as a mortal. But if someone flirted with me they were dead.

I felt sick, weak, and so, so, human.

How do you mortals even tolerate this?

You can't do anything fun. You can't send death arrows across the land. You can't flatten disrespectful men with a snap of the fingers. You can't even summon a weapon! I don't understand how you manage this.

I started searching my pockets, looking for something, anything useful. I found a cheap wallet and a New York State Juniors license.

So we WERE in New York.

The name read Livia Papadopoulos. I cringed. Livia?! Papadopoulos?! Why.. Why couldn't he have just put something like... I dont know. Artie Olympia or something along those lines. My face wasn't bad, but then again, I didn't really care what I looked like. The flimsy wallet contained a hundred dollars cash. Score. With that money, I could get us to Perseus’s house. I checked Apollos pockets, he also had a license and cash. Cool.

Apollo’s eyes fluttered open, I breathed a sigh of relief. Thank the fates.

“Hey, Apollo.” I murmured, sitting next to him.

“Artemis..?” His voice was quiet almost spurred.  He sounded pained. I felt like just gathering him in my arms and sheltering him from the world. From the from reality we found ourselves.

He sounded scared

“I'm here ‘Pollo” I put a tentative hand on his shoulder. Tears welled up in his eyes.

“You're okay,” He said quietly. Relived. I felt confused, why wouldn't I have been okay? I mean, we are mortal. But I landed on him, not the other way around.

“I'm fine, Apollo” He nodded and let out a shaky breath. He closed his eyes and he relaxed a bit. He grabbed my hand. I let him.

“Hey Cade, would you take a look at these losers”

I whirled around, two men stood in the alley's entrance. One was platinum blond and the other had flaming red hair, reminding of that one Norse god... what was his name? Thor? I don't know. Both men wore oversize hoodies and baggy pants. For some unknown reason, they both had serpentine tattoos wrapping around there necks. I doubted they were just overly enthusiastic Slytherins.

Apollo froze at their voices, his eyes wide open again. Glued to them and the snake tattoos around their necks. He's afraid of snakes. Always has been, probably always will be.

One time, Hermes dropped a snake on his shoulders and he screamed. I had laughed until he ran out mortified. Only I’m allowed to make fun of his fear of snakes. From that point onward, I threatened anyone under the pain of blunted arrows who dared prank him with snakes.

Anyways, the two men basically screamed thug. Males like them were why I hate their kind. Brutish and completely worthless. Truly the pinnacle of human filth.

Their eyes zeroed in on the wallets I was holding. I was not going to let them mug me. I needed the money to hail a taxi. If they took it we would have to walk, and I doubted either of us could make it very far in our present state. Why are mortals so fragile?

“Now Mikey, be nice. These two look friendly enough” He pulled a hunting knife from his belt. This could get ugly fast. “In fact, I bet they want to give us all their money”

“No.” I stood up, hoping to be intimidating. “I am the goddess Artemis. If you know what is good for you, you will leave me and my brother alone. You have two choices, leave now or become a jackal.”

“I don't know, should we leave Mikey?”

“Nah Cade. I don't see her turning us into a.. what was it, jackal?”

“I will destroy you,” I said evenly.

Mikey snorted. “How about we destroy you instead?” He stepped forward.

I slipped the wallets into my back pocket, raising my fists. I didn't want to kill mortals, but some things couldn't be helped.

Then, I heard a voice from just behind.

“Don't hurt her” Apollo staggered to his feet. Blood dripped from a cut in his cheek. The sight made me stumble back.

It was red.

He was bleeding.

We really were mortal.

“Oh? I doubt you could take a single punch loser”

“Try me” His eyes had a dark gleam in them as he stumbled in front of me. “Apollo. You can't." I tried to stop him.

“I've had worse Artie” He murmured, but his legs were nearly giving out under him. “Please. Just let me do this for you.” He sounded terrified.

"Fates no. You get behind me-"

“I am Apollo” He ignored me, shoving past my arm. I didn't want him to do this. I put a hand on his shoulder, intending on shoving him behind me if they took even a step towards him.

“My powers are far beyond your comprehension. Flee or face destruction”

Mikey laughed and lumbered forward, Apollo went to punch him. I went to hold him back but he was already charging.

My current thoughts were somthing like "shit oh shit oh shit oh shit"

He missed, (Great job brother. Ten out of Ten) the thug ducked. He stumbled forward, caught in the force of his punch. The man kicked Apollo in the back, and my dear brother fell on his face.

I was frozen. Then reality crashed into me and I rushed forward, but the Cade guy held me back, I fought and twisted in his grip.

He wouldnt let go.

What I would have done for my hunters right then. Apollo didn't get up. He laid there for a solid 10 seconds before he rolled over.

“Cade, are you comprehending this guy's power?” The thug holding me gave no indication of him letting me go.

“Nah Mikey.”

“I.. I will destroy you”

No you wont moron. I wanted to scream at him to just back off.

“But first, how about we have some fun.” My head was forcefully turned to look at Apollo. Mikey raised his foot over Apollo’s face and stomped down.

Chapter Text

I had not witnessed my brother beaten so badly in a fight since that time he decided to fight Poseidon in hand to hand combat was a good idea a few hundred years ago.

That had easily been one of the worst ideas he’s had.

I couldn't look away. I couldn't take my eyes off the scene unfolding directly in front of me. It was almost like I was paralyzed. I do not recommend being paralyzed under any circumstances. It is a very unpleasant experience.

Despite the fact that Cade was holding my head to face my brother, I doubt I could have looked even if my head was free. It was as if I entered some sort of trance like state, and I know ALL about trances. (I'm looking at YOU Hecate)

I'm not a god of healing, but I've had enough experience with mortals to know that Apollo really shouldn't be being kicked in the chest while he had broken ribs. In fact, mortals shouldn't be kicked like that ever. Your kind are much too fragile to sustain such damage.

I watched as he curled into himself, trying to protect himself from their savage kicks. I could tell from here that his broken ribs made it even more difficult to curl up much smaller than a loose fetal position.

I could not belive that this was happening.

He was dealt blow after blow, kick after kick. With every passing moment I felt more panicked.

Every time Mikey’s foot collided with his body I flinched, and Apollo yelped.

I needed to get out of Cades vice-like grip. I needed to get Mikey away from my brother. Struggling did nothing, I couldn't budge his arms a centimeter.

Every time Apollo cried out in pain I fought harder against him. Apollo had tears running down his cheeks and I couldn't break out of this mortals grip.

Apollo tried to crawl away, he tried to protect himself.

He couldn't. Kick after kick after kick after kick.

I couldn't do a thing. I was useless.

The first time he blacked out I thought he was dead.

He went completely limp all too suddenly and it was like my brain screeched to an absolute halt.

I found that I couldn't pull air into my lungs after a few moments black rimmed my vision. I couldn't make a sound. I couldn't even scream.

Everything felt numb. I was shocked. That's all my mortal brain could manage. For a good 10 seconds, I was unable to react, them what just happened smacked me in the face and his name was violently torn from my lips by some unknowable force. Then I was screaming. Thrashing and yelling and fighting as hard as I could. Scratching and biting and then a hand clamped over my mouth and shushed me. I somehow struggled harder, thrashing in Cade's arms.

Then a shudder ran through Apollo’s body and he started retching again. Relief washed over me. He was alive. He wasn't dead. That initial relief was followed by a mind consuming panic that resulted in more struggling.

He might be alive, but I needed to get them away from him. Passing out was never a good thing.

He just kept kicking him. He wouldn't stop kicking him. I heard the snap of ribs breaking. He wouldnt give him a break.

Apollo passed out a grand total of 8 times during Mikey's assault.

When we became gods again, I am going to make Hades give these two a special spot in the fields of punishment.

Eventually, the one holding me, Cade wanted a turn.

It made me sick how these mortal males thought that beating up my brother was a GAME! They reminded me of some of the more... unsavory... roman emperors, Commodus especially. That man enjoyed decapitating defenseless ostriches and slaughtering lions.

I never could understand what Apollo saw in him. Despite that, I knew how attached to that certain mortal he had been. After Apollo killed him, he had been absolutely devastated.

I was the one to find him sobbing over the emperor’s body in that bath.

I needed to protect my little brother.

Cade dropped me and I rushed towards Apollo, a fist collided with my stomach and I doubled over.

Mortal bodies are unfathomably weak. So weak I cannot even begin describe it. How do you not die? How do you survive so long?
Mikey’s arms held me back. “You can't help him, why not just enjoy the show?” I knew struggling was pointless, but that didn't stop my futile attempts to wiggle free.

My arms are weak as noodles in this wretched form. I watched helplessly as Cade hit Apollo over the head with a bag of garbage.

He let out a sharp shriek of pain. I wanted to cry.

Coffee grounds and fruit peels exploded out of it, covering him in rotting trash. He curled into a tighter ball. They patted him down, finding nothing they turned to me. They then patted me down, taking the wallets.

The moment they let go of me, I was by Apollo’s side. He was out like a light, I cradled his unconscious form to my chest. He felt so small. He was scrawny I realized with a start. My brother was never scrawny.

Bloody bruises covered his viable arms, there was a bleeding gash on the side of his head. His nose was gushing blood. I put myself between him and the thugs. 

“There ID’s read Livia and… Lester Papadopoulos. That's worse than Apollo and Artemis!” Cade snorted. I didn't care. My mind was racing. I had to get us out of here quickly. Maybe.. Maybe I could ask a favor… I looked up at the sky. “Hermes!” they looked at me oddly. “Do me a favor and transport us to Perseus's apartment.” I waited for a reply. A stray can rolled across the ground and into my hand. Trash.

So that's a no then.

Fuck you Hermes. I will beat your ass when I regain godhoos.

Apollo’s nose had swelled up, I feared it was broken.

“Hey, Livia, care to explain why you don't have a phone or credit card?” I ignored them. Cade took a step closer to me. “The boss said these guys would be loaded.”

Boss. They had a boss.

"Boss?"

“That’s right, Livia.” Cade took a step towards us. I tried not to flinch. "'Go to that alley,’ the boss told us. ‘Easy score.’ He said we should rough you up, take whatever you had. But this” he waved the bills around. “this isn’t much of a payday.”

“Who’s your boss? Is it Ares?”

They looked at each other like “Can you believe these two?” Before Cade picked up his knife and Mikey took off his belt and wrapped it around his first.

Shit

I was prepared for the worst; completely ready to shield Apollo from their wrath. I doubted his new mortal form would be able to take much more abuse. The thugs took a step forward and I leaned over him, gathering him in my arms and curling over him, hoping this would be enough to shield him. Suddenly, a voice yelled “HEY!”

The thugs turned. Above us, a girl about 12 was perched on a fire escape. She wasn't one of my hunters, but she was the age of one I would recruit.

Maybe I wasn't about to be beaten up. This girl could be our savior yet. I couldn't help but notice that she was dressed like a traffic light. I could tell from here she was strong. The expression on her face told me could easily drive away the thugs.

The thugs, however, did not seem impressed.
“Get lost kid.”

The girl stomped her food. “My alley my rules!” So she was homeless. She would be a wonderful recruit to my hunt. “Whatever these losers have is mine. INCLUDING their money”

“You’ve got to be kidding me. Beat it, you brat!” Cade glared at the girl, his face was almost as red as his hair. He picked up an apple and threw it at her. The apple landed harmlessly at her feet

The girl didn’t even flinch. She would be an EXCELLENT recruit.

“You want to play with food?” The girl says slyly. This was gonna be interesting. “Okay.”
I didn’t see her kick the apple, but it came flying back and hit Cade straight on the nose. Pacifism is sweet my friend, but payback is sweeter. Mikey made an angry snarling noise, not unlike a jackal. He made his way to the fire escape ladder, but he gracefully stepped on a banana peel and fell on his ass. Wonderful . “OWWW!”

I carefully dragged Apollo away from the thugs, I wondered if we should make a run for it, but I knew we wouldn't be able to make it far. At least not without hurting Apollo further. The girl climbed over the railing. She dropped to the ground without missing a beat and grabbed a garbage bag from the Dumpster. I was going to recruit this girl when this was over.

“Stop! Let’s talk about this!” Cade sounded nervous. Great.

Mikey groaned and flipped on to his back.
The girl’s lips were chapped. She had wispy black fuzz at the corners of her mouth. I felt obligated to protect her. If they made a move against her I will intervene.

“I don’t like you guys,” she said. “You should go.”

“Yeah!” Cade said. “Sure! Just…” He reached for the money. The girl swung her garbage bag. In mid-air the plastic exploded, revealing a ton of rotten bananas.

“Leave my alley. Now.” in the dumpster, trash bags burst and exploded. Showering the thugs with trash.

Despite their injuries, they scrambled to there feet and made a run for it. I turned to the girl, grinning weakly. “Thank you.” I still stood between her and Apollo.

I wouldn't hurt her, well, unless she aimed to moved to hurt Apollo. Then I would defend him. I gently laid Apollo down flat on his back. He was out cold.

The girl had two rings with crescents on them.

My symbol.

I knew she wasn't one of my hunters so obviously I was confused. Maybe I had blessed her as a child. My memory was still painfully fuzzy.

“Don’t thank me,” she said. “You’re still in my alley.” She walked a full circle around us. Studying us like Apollo used to with those cows of his. “Your gods?”

“WERE gods.” I corrected bitterly.

“You don't look like gods.”

“Well, we were just mugged. Our father expelled us from Olympus.” I paused, then cringed eternally as I realized I said that purely for dramatic effect. Apollo was rubbing off on me. “And who are you?”

She smelled faintly of apple pie, which was surprising since she looked so dirty.

“The names Meg.”

“That's a good name, Meg. Are you a demigod?”

She didn't respond. I figured she hadn't heard that word before.

She pushed up her rhinestone glasses. “Why would you think that?”

“You clearly have some sort of power. You chased off those two with rotten fruit. Quite the talent, if I were immortal I would offer you a place in my hunt. As for your parent… Controlling garbage in an interesting power. My brother here once dated a Roman goddess, Cloacina, she protected the city's sewer system. Perhaps you're related?”

Meg frowned, Did I say something wrong? “I think I'll just take your money.” My eyes widened. “Go on, get out of here.”

“Wait! I- I need a bit of assistance!” I hoped this girl was at least slightly sympathetic.

It felt… odd to ask for help from a mortal in this manner. But I couldn't drag Apollo uptown alone… At least not without him paying for it.

“Say I believe you” Her voice turned singsongy, reminding me of Hermes when he was planning something. “Say I decide to help. What then?”

“That's.. That's a good question... We ARE in Manhattan right?”

“Mmm-hmmm. Hell’s kitchen.” I nodded gravely. I knew that going to the empire state building was a dead end. The security would either call police or Zeus would smite us.

Camp half-blood was our only option. Camp Jupiter was too far, and I have always disliked Romans. (What they did to Athena was horrible.) But getting to camp would be dangerous, two defenseless mortal gods would be top targets for monsters. Then there was Cade and Mikey's boss.

“I know a guy who lives on the upper east side. If you can get us to him, I will reward you.”

Meg made a sound between a sneeze and a laugh. A sound Hermes would make. But children of Hermes don't have garbage powers. “Reward me with what?” She twirled around, snatching the 10 twenty-dollar bills off the ground. “I’m already taking all your money.”

“Give it back!” I'm not sure how much of my panic made it into my voice. I NEEDED that money to hail a taxi.

She threw me the wallets, now empty except for the ID’s and our junior driver’s licenses.
“I’ve got your money, I’ve got your money.” She sang.

I stifled a rude remark. “Listen, mortal, we won’t be like this forever. Someday we will become gods again. Then we will reward those who helped us—and punish those who didn’t.”

She put her hands on her hips, laughing. “How do you know what will happen? Have you ever been mortal before?”

“No. But he has. Twice now. His punishments only lasted a few years at most.”

Then it dawned on me that I was arguing with a toddler instead of making sure Apollo was alright.

Hopefully Zeus gave us fast healing. If only to make us able to suffer more faster.

“Oh yeah? And how did he get back to being all goddy or whatever?”

“Goddy isn't a word.” Apollo would make a shitty haiku with it. “But our father required him to be a slave to an important demigod. I suppose those rules apply to me also. The person uptown I mentioned, he’d probably be the demigod we are too work for. As long as we behave, we should be allowed back to Olympus.” I explained impatiently.

“How do you know what demigod?”

“Well… I don't really know-”

“I’m Meg McCaffery! And I claim your service!” Overhead, thunder rumbled. It echoed through the city, almost sounding like laughter.

“Well… I walked right into that one. I guess that's that then.”

“I'm a demigod.”

“Well yes, our father confirmed that with the thunder”

“And now I have two sidekick gods, Lester and Livia!”

I groaned and put my hand on my forehead. “Father, I am not abandoning Apollo, but please recall us back to Olympus... I beg of you…”

There was no response. I had made my choice the moment I refused him what felt like hours ago.

“Cheer up,” Meg said. “Who’s that guy you wanted to see, the guy on the upper east side?”

“A demigod.. one of the most powerful of your generation. He beat the war god in a fight when he was 12, that was what? 6 years ago? Ares still hasn't lived that down. If anyone can get us to camp in one piece it's him.” My stomach growled. I realized I was hungry. Mortal bodies are pitiful things.  “And food” I added silently.

“Good food?”

“Yes, I suppose.”

“Then that's my first order, we're going to find this guy to take us to that camp you mentioned.”

I nodded. “As... As you wish..let's find Percy Jackson."

Chapter Text

I gently shook Apollo's shoulders, attempting to wake him.

He didn't look like he was going to come to anytime soon, so I decided to lift him.

My shoulders strained and my forearms burned, and despite my weak mortal form I was able to lift him.

Mortal bodies are so weak.

There was no way for me to throw him over my shoulder and spare his broken ribs at the same time. If anything we should be carrying him in a gourney, to make sure his ribs dont puncture his lungs.

I trudged out of the alley we had landed in. Our new master following close behind. Meg tried to hail a Taxi. Emphasis on tried. The driver took one look at us and kept driving. This happened 5 times before we gave up. After all, who wants a beat up kid dripping blood all over your seats? Sometimes, the mist is useless.

I maneuvered Apollo into a more carryable position, I didn't really know how to move him. He was a 16 year old teen, what was I supposed to do? Drag him?
As we walked pedestrians stared at us. But they didn't question it. Either the mist made it look like I was carrying a huge dog or new yorkers have seen some shit. When I asked Meg, she responded with the flattering statement of “You smell.” 

“Well yes.. I did land in a dumpster. Also, I've been enslaved by a 12-year-old.”

“It's not slavery.. It's more mutual cooperation..”

“I don't exactly have a choice in following your orders now do I?"

“Exactly.” Apollo made a sound close to a whimper. Maybe he was waking up?

“How are you so calm about this? You're a demigod. You're walking with two ex-gods. And you're headed to a camp to be with others of your kind.”

“I've seen some strange shit”

“Oh.” There was a long silence. “Say, Meg, where are you from?”

“I told you. The alley.”

“What about parents, other family, friends even?”

Discomfort passed over her features. “Not important”

“I see… You're a feral demigod then.. Rare but not unheard of.”

“I guess” the moment after she spoke it started raining a mix of sleet and rain. Just wonderful. Neither of us had coats. Even better.

Apollo groaned, his eyes slowly opened slowly and he made a sound between a groan and a whimper. For a moment he was still, Then his eyes snapped open and he struggled against my grip. Staggering away from me.

“Apollo!” I yelped, stumbling away, Apollo stumbled to a wall and leaned against it. Shoulders heaving.

I grabbed his hand and dragged him to a bench. He was still for another long moment. "Artie..?"
"Yeah, I'm here." I said quickly. "They're gone. You're safe." He abruptly tried to stand up, before I could warn him he was sitting again, gasping in pain. That only seemed to make it worse though. It took a moment but he started taking light shallow breaths. “What in the Fates...” he muttered, his eyes squeezed shut. I put my hand on his shoulder.

“Hey..” He didn't look at me.

“Artemis..?”

“Yeah.. You took quite the beating..”

“I.. I can feel that much…”

“We’re almost to Perseus’s house.”

“..good..”

“You're awake!” Meg chirped. Apollo visibly recoiled from the unfamiliar voice, he looked up.

“What are you supposed to be?”

“She’s our new master” I deadpanned.

“..No” 

“..yep”
“But- she’s little more than a mere child Artemis! Why couldn't-” His breath hitched and he started coughing. His entire body seized up and he let out a choked sob of pain. He shuddered and his hands balled into fists. His jaw clenched. It seemed like forever until he spoke again. “Broken ribs take… take 4 to 6 weeks to heal… for mortals... I- we don't have that amount of time..” Apollo murmured weakly. “There were thugs. What.. What happened to the thugs?” He almost sounded terrified. Almost.

“Meg here chased them off.”

“Oh” Apollo fell silent, we continued to sit in silence for a bit. I was about to help him up so we could start moving again “This is all my fault!” Apollo suddenly blurted out. “If I hadn't been such an idiot than Octavian never would have risen to power and we would have never been mortal! It's my fault you can get hurt now-”

“No. It isn't” I said. “I chose to stay with you. Father gave me a choice, reclaim immorality or help you. I chose you” Apollo blanched as he went completely silent other than his pained shallow breaths.

“Artemis..? Why would you ever..?”

“Because I don't want you to be alone this time.”

“You.. Gave up immortality for this loser?” Meg asked.

Apollo turned to look at her. "Loser? I'll have you know I'm the god of music, poetry, and archery!" I lightly elbowed him in the arm.

“This loser right here is the only man alive who can best me at archery. And the best musician ever” I wasn't lying. I was stating a fact.

“That's true..” Apollo looked like he might laugh but was clearly in too much pain to do so.

"Were." Meg reminded him. Apollo turned to look at her, confused.

"You were the god of archery, music, and the other one." He frowned, I laughed humorlessly.

I glanced around, we were on 82nd street. “We should get going. The faster we get to Perseus’s the better. Do you think you can walk?”

Apollo muttered a quick yes and stood up. We only made it maybe two blocks before I grew tired of his whimpers.

"Lean on me."

"What?"

"I'm not saying you can't walk there, I'm sure you could. But you are hurting, dont deny it, you are. So lean on me. It will help."

"...no."

"Apollo."

"..There isnt a point. I can walk on my own."

"Yes. You can. But you shouldn't."

He glared at me, and I glared right back. After a moment he just sighed, and started leaning on me.

While we were in a hurry, it didn't like seem like he could go very fast. I slowed down a bit. By a bit I mean I went about a third of my previous speed.

He didnt say anything, so I knew he was secretly thankful.

We had only walked maybe 6 blocks when I made Apollo stop for a break. He was clearly out of breath, and and he would have just kept walking if I hadn't made him stop.

If only Zeus had had the decency to have left us some ambrosia or nectar.

That's when I came to the startling conclusion that we weren't even demigods.

We were mortal. Would nectar and ambrosia even heal us? Would it burn us to ashes? We couldn't take a gamble like that. But Apollo's shallow breathing made me sick. He needed to be healed someway or another. I was going to destroy Cade and Mikey.

One more thing bothered me, how had the thugs boss have known where we would have landed? No god other than Apollo could have gotten that clear of a look into the future. Had some other religions deity have paired up with him?

Me and my brother have no shortage of enemies, a near endless supply really. It a burden that comes with existing for so long.

I could only think of one foe that could possibly tell the future. One of Apollo's oldest and greatest enemies.

Python.

Just thinking his name made me angry. The immortal had regularly appeared in my brother's nightmares over these last thousands of years. I hated that snake. I remember all too clearly Apollo trudging back to Olympus, ichor streaming from his various wounds.

I was the only one who saw him before he cleaned up, I never told him. If I did I have a feeling he would get angry.

I remember when he came to the throne room, telling us a story of pure triumph. A story that certainly didn't match his ragged appearance from the night before. I remembered him spreading his arms as he spoke of how easy it was to defeat the serpent, a single arrow to slay it. 

Lies.

I remember seeing the two puncture wounds from its fangs in his right bicep. No one else noticed. He said it was easy to defeat. But I could tell he was lying.

I knew that serpent was one of the hardest foes my brother had ever faced. If he came hunting for us while we were mortal? Let's just say it would be bad. Very bad indeed.

I ended that train of thought right then and there. There is no point in overthinking mere possibilities.

No point in worrying over completely probable outcomes.

We passed a Prius with the unmistakable pattern of pegasus prints across the hood. About half a block down I recognized the building. Apollo muttered a weak confirmation, he was dreadfully pale.

He needed to rest. Mortal bodies need to recharge, the more damage they sustain the faster they lose energy, and Apollo looked about a minute away from collapsing. Not that hw would admit it though. My brother hates admitting to weakness. Hates succumbing to pain. He powers through injuries that would leave most curled up screaming. His pain tolerance is beyond terrifying.

We walked up the front steps, my hand on his shoulder. He stumbled, almost falling. If it wasn't for me, he probably would have fallen flat on his face. I steadied him. He murmured a weak thanks.

Meg froze as if she had walked into an invisible wall, and let me tell you, invisible walls are the absolute worst.

“Is there an issue?” I inquired.

“Thought I saw them again.”

“Them?” I scowled, “the thugs?”

Apollo audibly winced. The fields of punishment would be merciful compared to the punishments I was going to bestow upon them once we were gods again.

“No”

Apollo exhaled, losing a bit of tension in his shoulders.

“A couple of.. Shiny.. Blobs.. I first saw them way back of Park Avenue." 

“Shiny blobs? Why didn't you say anything?!” Apollo said, I bet he wanted to sound angry, but all he managed was to sound out of breath and slightly exasperated.

“I've seen a lot of weird stuff. Things don't really bother me much”

My eyes swept the streets, I saw nothing amiss. I didn't doubt Meg had seen the blobs, spirits can take many forms. But I couldn't help but be reminded of that time my father seduced a woman by turning into a blob.

Disgusting.

“We should get inside quickly if there are blobs..” Apollo nodded in agreement. Meg just seemed nervous. It's amazing how she could go from pelting thugs with trash but be second-guessing herself about ringing a doorbell. It occurred to me that she might have had some.. unsavory meetings with demigods before. “Meg, I realize that some demigods are not good. I could tell you countless stories of men I have had to turn into jackals. My brother here has turned his fair share of demigods into herbs.”
“Herbs?”
“But Perseus has always been reliable. I let him into my camp. He is the only male this century I've allowed that privilege without them ending up as a woodland creature.” I smiled reassuringly.

“So let's go up.” Apollo took an unsteady step towards the buzzer, I set my hand his shoulder.

“Allow me. You should save your energy.”

“I'm fine Artemis.. I can ring a stupid doorbell” I gave him a pointed look and allowed him to press the button. “Yes, I suppose you can do that.” There was a buzzer and the garbled voice of a woman answered. I stepped in front of Apollo. He made an offended face. I only specified he could ring the bell.

“This is Artemis.”

Static.

“The goddess. Apollo is with me” I continueded.“Is Perseus here?”

More static, followed by two voices in a muted conversation. The front door buzzed, signaling they were letting us in. Apollo and Meg went inside, just before I stepped in I thought I saw a flicker of movement in the corner of my eyes, but when I turned I didn't see anything.

“Did you see something?” Apollo asked quietly.

“Possibly.” Apollo took a shaky breath.

“Let's not keep out hosts waiting” I stated, hoping there was an elevator.

Sadly, it turns out there was no elevator. Only stairs, and the Jacksons lived on the fifth floor. It took so much longer than it should have to climb up the stairs, every step caused Apollo to whimper or wince. I made him test between each flight in fear he would fall.

It was.. Jarring to see my brother like this. He wasn't supposed to be.. Hurt. To be weak. To be unable to climb a flight of stairs. He was supposed to be strong. Invisible. Godly.

He wasn't supposed to be incapable of climbing stairs.

I didn't expect much for our greeting. Maybe a prayer or an offering, something that showed their respect. What I didn't expect was for Perseus to swing open the apartment door and say “Why”

But of course, that's exactly what happened.
It once again shocked me just how much he resembled his father, however, it seemed Perseus did not favor Hawaiian shirts and beach shorts.

Meg inched back into the hallway, hiding behind Apollo.

“Perseus-”

“Its Percy.”

I sighed. “Percy Jackson, our blessings upon you. We are in dire need of assistance.”

Percy's eyes darted from me to Apollo, then to Meg.

“Who’s your friend?”

“This is Meg McCaffrey,” I stated, “She’s demigod who must be taken to Camp Half-Blood. She rescued us from street thugs.”

Apollo looked mightily uncomfortable. His nose had started bleeding again.

“Rescued…” Percy scanned Apollo’s battered face. “You mean the ‘beat-up teenager’ look isn’t just a disguise? Dude, what happened to you?”

“There were thugs.” I said curtly.

“But you’re a god..ess”

I squinted at him. Deciding not to comment. "About that…We were immortal.”
Percy blinked. “Were?”
“Yes. Were. Was.” Apollo said sharply. "Also, there is a good possibility we’re being followed by malicious spirits.”
He looked like he was about to punch Apollo in his already broken nose. He sighed. “Maybe you three should come inside.”

Chapter Text

The Jackson residence was not as grand as I would have expected for a hero of his caliber. With the many quests he’s completed, I’d have expected a mansion. But, he lived in a Manhattan apartment, and as it was a Manhattan apartment, I didn’t expect much. But I DID at least expect a place for flying chariots to land.

Apollo nearly stumbled as he walked into the apartment, he looked absolutely shocked. His eyes were wide as plates. I can only imagine that he was shocked by the drabness, as he would put it. In matter of fact, he probably was thinking about it.

Standing behind the kitchen counter was a woman, Sally Jackson I presume.

She looked to be the sort of women Apollo would flirt with.

If he tried anything, broken ribs or not I was going to punch him.

She stepped out from behind the counter. I quickly realized something important, she was pregnant.

Apollo’s eyes about bugged out of of his head. “Ma’am there is something wrong with your midsection!”

Here we go...

“Well I'm seven months pregnant”

I swear if he goes on a rant about this...

“How can you bear it?” He asked. “My mother, Leto, suffered through a long pregnancy, but only because Hera cursed her. Are you cursed?”

Apollo no…

I cleared my throat. “Brother.. She’s not cursed..”

“Can we not mention Hera?” Percy asked.

“You poor woman.. A goddess would give birth as soon as she felt like it!” Apollo gaped.

“Apollo..” I murmured, sighing. This is not how you greet someone.

“That would be nice” Sally agreed. Yes. Best to just go with it.

“So, anyway, mom, This is Apollo and Artemis, and their friend Meg.” Percy introduced us. “And this is my mom”

Sally Jackson smiled and shook our hands. “Call me Sally.”
Her eyes narrowed as she studied Apollo’s battered appearance, specifically his swollen nose. “Dear, that looks painful. What happened?”
Apollo recoiled from the question, taking a step back. He choked on his words.

“There were these two thugs, and this was the result.” I deadpanned, Sally frowned. She reminded me of my own mother, When was the last time me and Apollo took her out to dinner? 2010?

“I tell you what.” Sally patted Apollo’s shoulder. I took a half step closer to him. “Percy can help you get bandaged and cleaned up.”
“I can?” asked Percy.
Sally gave him the slightest motherly eyebrow raise reminding me of Mother. “There’s a first-aid kit in your bathroom, sweetheart. Apollo can take a shower, then wear your extra clothes. You and Apollo are about the same size.”
“That,” Percy said, “is truly depressing.”
She cupped Meg under the chin, concern in her eyes. She then turned to me, taking note of my filthy clothes. “I have some clothes that might fit you two,” Sally said. “Pre-pregnancy clothes, of course. Then we’ll get you something to eat.”
“I like food,” Meg muttered.

I was still hungry from earlier, if not more so now.
Sally laughed. “Well, we have that in common. Percy, you take Apollo. We’ll meet you back here in a bit.”
I glanced at Apollo, he smiled weakly. He looked exhausted, he should really be resting. Or at least taking a nap. Percy led him away while I followed Sally. In an abbreviated list, I showered, dressed in some of Sally’s old clothes, and worried about Apollo. Sally had offered me ambrosia, (I had nearly forgotten that my ribs were broken too, Adrenaline is one hell of a drug kids.) but I refused. I didn't know if I could consume it safely. I didn't want to self combust. After I had changed, I stared at myself in the mirror. I felt more nervous about the future than when I was imprisoned by Atlas- And nope. Stopping that thought there. Moving past that.

It was unfair that we were being punished… and suddenly, my memories cleared!

I had fought Zeus’s sentencing of my brother adamantly for the last few months… He had hidden my brother away from me, Apollo and I couldn't communicate by telepathy or iris messages. I had managed to find him, but Zeus sent us both to earth without a second thought.

If I had been more patient maybe we wouldn't be in this mess.

I took a deep breath. At least fast healing seemed to be among my abilities, my ribs still ached but it was duller than earlier. Hopefully, this meant Apollo was faring better.

Sally had given me a light blue shirt and an older pair of jeans. It wasn't the clothes I was worried about, they were perfectly practical and fit me decently. I was worried about what we did next. Was going to Camp Half-Blood the correct course of action? The last I checked Delphi was still taken by Python. That serpent caused more trouble than he was worth. If our end goal was to defeat him.. That would be bad.

I took a deep breath and walked out of the bathroom to face the world.

Sally was preparing food, and Meg was about to enter the bathroom, I let her pass me and went to find my brother. I knocked on Percy’s door, “You can come in” I opened the door, expecting to see Apollo sitting on the bed or somthing. Instead, Percy was leaning on the wall, and Apollo was fast asleep on his bed. Dead to the world. I suppressed a laugh. He looked so.. tiny asleep like that.

“He practically passed out the moment I looked away. We were talking for a bit, then he asked if he could lay down. The next thing I knew he was asleep.”

“He did need sleep..” I said trying not to laugh. “What were you talking about?”

“To sum it up I’ll drive you to camp but I'm not getting involved in another prophecy”

“That’s… disappointing. But I understand.”  Percy had served the gods on multiple occurrences, even assisted in my rescue from- haha nope not finishing that thought. He was in my favor. The only mortal male in my favor for years now. I sat on the bed next to Apollo, studying his injuries. The swelling on his nose had gone down, thank the fates, and bruises covered his visible arms. There were more under his shirt.

I shuddered, remembering having to watch as Mikey kicked Apollo again and again. I took a shuddering breath. Even asleep he looked terrible. I tore my gaze away from him. Trying to block out that terrible thought.

“Are you alright?” Percy asked.

I debated telling him. Eventually, I said to myself a saying mortals use quite frequently. Fuck it. What’s the harm in saying what's bothering me? “I.. The thugs in the alley forced me to.. to watch them hurt him.. It was.. It was.. Terrible..” I stared at Apollo’s nose, remembering just how swollen it had been not even an hour ago.

They had stomped down on his face. They had purposefully broken his nose. I fought back tears. “They were going to fight me, but Apollo told me to stand down. I tried to convince him to let me fight but-” I choked up. Staring at Apollo. I threaded my fingers into my hair. “They held my head in place and they just kept kicking him. I couldn't look away..” My voice hitches. Tears collected in my eyes, I scrubbed furiously at them. Trying in vain to get them to go away. “They just.. They wouldn't stop… He passed out and I was scared he was dead- I thought.. I…” I couldn't go on. I choked back a sob. Apollo looked so.. So mortal. So painfully mortal. He could die at any moment. We both could die. I took a deep breath, forcing myself to calm down. I figeted anxiously with my hair. I blinked away my tears.

“Oh. Um. Okay.. wow” Percy looked genuinely concerned.

“I.. I apologize for my outburst..” I looked down at my brother, trying to picture him as he usually appeared as a god. I failed quite spectacularly.

“You don't need to apologize… If I were forced to watch Tyson get hurt like that.. I don't know what I’d do.”

We sat in an awkward silence for awhile. “Are you certain you aren't willing to help us?”

“I promised Annabeth I wouldn't die while she was gone, and I want her to come back to find me in one piece. Sorry.”

“Alright…” I took another deep breath, then glanced down at my sleeping brother. ‘Lets get food and let my brother sleep”

Chapter Text

Sally, as it turns out, was quite wonderful at picking out clothes. Meg was no longer dressed up like a street light, instead, she was shockingly pretty in the black leggings and knee-length frock. She gave off a bright springtime feel, almost reminding me of a dryad. I wondered what Apollo would think. Sally glanced around. “Where’s Apollo?”

“Asleep. I’ll wake him up when there’s food.” I said quickly. “He’s exhausted. He needs to rest for a bit.” He really did need rest, he looked like he was about pass out when we had first gotten here. If we were to leave he wouldn't fare well, in a fight or otherwise. It was best to let him gather his strength before we set out.

Sally sent Percy a worried glance.

“Artemis, even I could tell he was exhausted. We can postpone leaving until he wakes up.” Percy said. I sighed in relief.

“Thank you.. It would be best to leave when we are at our best.” I took a shaky breath. He needed to be okay. If he got hurt because of his injuries.. I don't know what I’d do.

Meg was sitting on the edge of the couch. “Percy, your mom is so normal.”
“Thanks, I guess.” He picked up a small tower of test preparation manuals from the coffee table and threw them aside.
“I see you like to study,” I said.
Percy snorted. “I hate to study. I’ve been guaranteed admission with a full scholarship to New Rome University, but they’re still requiring me to pass all my high school courses and score well on the SAT. Can you believe that? Not to mention I have to pass the DSTOMP.”
“The what?” Meg asked.
“An exam for Roman demigods,” I told her. “The Demigod Standard Test of Mad Powers.”
Percy frowned. “That’s what it stands for?”
“Apollo wrote the music and poetry parts. You wouldn't believe how many times he recited horrible haikus to me while writing that.”

“That sounds horrible.” Percy laughed

Meg turned to Percy “So you’re actually a demigod? Like me?”
“Afraid so.” Percy collapsed onto the armchair, leaving me to take the sofa next to Meg. “My dad’s the sea god, Poseidon. What about your parents?”
Meg’s expression darkened. She suddenly seemed very interested in her nails. “Never knew them…much.”
Percy hesitated. “Foster home? Stepparents?”

Looks like we were entering dangerous territory. Meg didn't answer, she seemed to shrink under his gaze.
“Sorry. Didn't mean to pry.” He looked at me curiously like I might know. I may have been a god but Meg McCaffrey was a mystery to me. “So how did you guys meet?” He looked at me, I took a deep breath remembering what I had said about the thugs earlier.

“I woke up falling, landed in a dumpster. There were two thugs. They tried to steal my money. Meg chased them off.” I didn't want to start crying again. That would be completely embarrassing.

“That's not a story, tell it right.” Meg complained.

I sighed, and started actually telling it. Just as I finished speaking Sally Jackson returned. She set down a bowl of tortilla chips and a casserole dish filled with a layered dip.
“I’ll be back with the sandwiches,” she said. “But I had some leftover seven-layer dip.”
“Yum.” Percy dug in with a tortilla chip. “She’s kinda famous for this, guys.”
Sally ruffled his hair. “There’s guacamole, sour cream, refried beans, salsa—”
“My brother’s sacred number is seven” I blurted out before I could stop myself. I pressed my hand to my mouth, color filled my cheeks. “I- Um- Sorry.”

“It's fine dear.” I laughed weakly and tried some. It was almost as good as ambrosia nachos.

“Wow.. this is good” Meg said. She ate like some sort of squirrel, she shoved more food in her mouth than she could possibly chew.

I drank my smoothie and the turkey sandwich in near silence. All I could think about was Apollo and how easily those thugs took us out. I kept seeing Mikey kicking him every time I blinked.

How were we supposed to accomplish anything if two mortals managed to put him out of commission for a few hours? Percy and Meg chatted about random things, I tuned them out, by now I had come to the conclusion our end goal was definitely retaking Delphi. But I couldn't think of a single way to go about doing that. Finally, Percy addressed me. “So back to your story… You two have to be Meg’s servant now? You hardly know each other.”
“Hardly in an exaggeration. But yes, me and my brother’s fate is now linked with Meg here.”

“We are cooperating ,” Meg said.

From his pocket, Percy pulled out a ballpoint pen. He tapped it against his knee. “And this whole turning-into-a-mortal thing…you’ve done it twice before?”

“Apollo has. I haven't managed to anger Zeus that far until now. The first time my idiot brother tried to overthrow Olympus.

Percy winced. “I’m guessing that didn’t go well.”
“Apollo and your father got most of the blame. They had to serve a king of Troy..” I trailed off. I hated the man they were forced to serve. I had watched as my brother was forced hours of backbreaking work, he wasn't even properly treated. I decided to change the subject, I didn't want my thoughts to dwell on that dark year. “The second time he was turned mortal Apollo killed some Cyclopes”

Percy frowned. “My brothers a Cyclops. Not cool.”

“They made the lightning bolt that killed his favorite son. It was really an act of petty revenge, to be honest.”

“Percy’s brother is a Cyclops? That’s crazy!”
“Yes, Poseidon has quite the variety of offspring. His next master was nicer, Apollo made his cows have twin calves.”

“I want a baby cow-”

“Trust me you really don't.” I interrupted “Cows eat a lot . And that means they poop a lot. Back in the good old days, cows were great, but, where would you keep it? What would you feed it? Cows are annoying.”

“What do you have against cows?” Percy asked.

“Lots Perseus. I have a lot against cows.” Meg snorted, I laughed to myself.

“Guys,” Percy interrupted. “So, just to recap, you have to be Meg’s servant for…?”
“Some unknown amount of time,” I said. “Probably a year. Possibly more.”
“And during that time-”
“We will face trials and hardships.”
“Like getting me my cows,” Meg said.
I groaned. “What exactly we have to do, I don't know. If probably has something to do with Delphi, but if we succeed Zeus will forgive us and restore us as gods”

Percy did not look convinced, probably because I didn't sound very convincing. I had to believe our mortal punishment was temporary, for both of us. Zeus had created a strict rule for baseball and prison sentences: Three strikes, you’re out. I could only hope this would not apply to Apollo.
“I need time figure out a plan of action. Once we get to Camp Half-Blood, We can talk with Chiron, and we can figure out which of our powers remain in these mortal forms.”

“If any,” Percy said.
“I have retained quick healing, I must have others.” I replied defensively. If healing was my only remaining power...

“That's good I guess. Any idea what kind of spirits are following you?”
“Shiny blobs,” Meg said. “They were shiny and sort of…blobby.”
Percy nodded, a grim expression on his face. “Those are the worst kind.”
“It doesn't matter, what does matter is getting to camp safely. The pine will protect us.”

“If you are 100% mortal, how do you know the camp will let you in?” I felt the color drain from my face. I hadn't thought of that. “I- Please don’t say that. We need to get in.. we have to get in”

“But you could get hurt in battle now…” Percy mused. “Then again, maybe monsters would ignore you because you’re not important?”

“Shut up!” My hands started trembling. Being a mortal was bad enough. The thought of being barred from camp, of being unimportant… That would be horrible. I stood up suddenly. “I'm going to check on my brother.” I went to walk away.

“Stay,” Meg ordered. The command jarred into my body and I sat down again, I glared at her.

I guess she really could control me.

“What about you? Do you have any abilities, Meg? I heard you can control garbage.”

“That's not a power..”

“Oh? Some of the best demigods have gotten their start by exploding toilets.”

I snorted. That clip had played on Olympus Funniest Videos for years.

“So we leave when Apollo wakes up?”

Meg reached for the land sandwich. I stopped her. “Save it for my brother” She looked at me and frowned, but left the sandwich alone.

“I guess.” Percy shrugged. “I just have to be back by tonight. I have a lot of studying.. If it wasn't for Annabeth-”

“Who’s she?” Meg asked.

“My girlfriend.” Meg pouted.

Sally Jackson walked in with a plate of fresh-baked chocolate chip cookies. For some reason the cookies were blue. They smelled wonderful.

“Mom, don’t freak,” Percy said.

Sally sighed. “I hate it when you say that.”

“I'm going to take these two to camp when Apollo wakes up That’s all. I’ll be right back.”
“I think I’ve heard that before.”

“It'll still be a few hours probably…”

 

________

 

Over the course of the next few hours I found myself checking on Apollo almost every 34 minutes. After he hadn't woken up for an hour Sally had thrown a quilt over him. As he slept, color had returned to his face, and he looked much healthier than earlier. His nose had healed almost completely. I wanted to check on his ribs but I was afraid of waking him. Meg and Percy were discussing demigod things, and they had been for the last few hours. Just as I was about to leave I heard Apollo shifting on the bed, he sat up slowly, looking around drearily. I walked back over to him. “Hey..”

“Artemis? Why am I on Percy’s bed?”
“You fell asleep. We decided to let you rest.”

“Artemis I was fine-”

“No Apollo you really weren't.” I deadpanned. “You looked like you might pass out at any moment. You needed rest.. And I was worried about you..”

Apollo stared at me for a moment, then he smiled and shook his head, swinging his legs over the side of the bed. “How long was I asleep?”

“Five or six hours, it's still early enough to get to camp before dark.” I informed him. “And Apollo.. How are you doing? Do your ribs still hurt?” Apollo took a moment to consider this.

“I mean, I am a slowly dying flesh sack. But I'm not in pain or anything.”

“That's good.” He gave me a pointed look.

“The not in pain part, I’m a meat sack too brother.” I offered him my hand to help him up. He took it, the moment he was standing I pulled him into a tight hug. I buried my head into his shoulder, ignoring the fact that tears welled up in my eyes. He sat there surprised for about 3 seconds before he hugged me back.

“Artemis..?”

“Yeah?” My reply was muffled by the fabric of his shirt.

“I’m okay now.. You don't need to worry”

“Okay..” I murmured, but I could still see Mikey kicking him. I could still hear their taunting voices as they kicked him. I will never forget the crunch his nose made when they stomped on it. I’ll always worry about him. Always.

Finally, I pulled away, scrubbing furiously at my eyes. Apollo smiled weakly. “You look fine sis”

“Apollo.. I.. I can still see them.. Kicking you.. They wouldn't stop.. Whenever I close my eyes I see them I just- he just kept kicking you- He wouldn't stop-” I'm not sure what my voice sounded like, but Apollo stiffened.  

“Hey hey hey.. Look at me.” he interrupts, I look up, he’s smiling. I can tell it's fake. “I’m fine now. I’m not hurt. When we’re gods again we can destroy them. Okay?”

“Okay..” I manage, he looks genuinely concerned.

“Let's go see what our young master is up to alright?” He goes to lead me out of the room, I grab his wrist to stop him.

“I.. I need a minute to collect myself..” I said, going and sitting in the chair at the desk in Percy’s room. Apollo leaned against the wall.

 

________

 

It took a bit more than a minute but I managed to get my eyes to stop watering with tears. Apollo smiled gently, assuring me that I looked fine and it wasn't obvious I had been crying. We left the room. I was sure my eyes were bloodshot and puffy, but no one noticed or just didn't comment. Meg waved at Apollo, he seemed to observe everyone, his eyes fell on Meg. He froze in place and made a sound that was something between a whimper and a cough.

Meg pouted. “Do I look that bad?”
“No, no,” He managed. “It’s just…”
Just what?

Oh.

Oh.

Oh.

I suddenly realized with startling clarity that Meg didn't just remind me of any old Dryad, she reminded me of the one who had broken Apollo’s heart. Daphne. He looked away, a pained grimace taking the place of his forced smile. I turned to Meg and smiled weakly.

“It's not you Meg,” I said, attempting to be reassuring.

Apollo stared at the ground, I patted his shoulder.

“Well.” Sally Jackson said with forced cheerfulness. “We saved you a sandwich Apollo, you can eat it as you drive, oh and Percy?”

“Yeah?”

“I have another batch of cookies in the oven, it would be a shame if Paul eats them all when he gets home.”

Percy’s expression turned grim. He turned to face us. “You hear that, guys? A batch of cookies is depending on me. If you get me killed on the way to camp, I am gonna be ticked off.”

Chapter Text

The Jacksons did not have any spare bows and quivers to lend us. Percy said he sucked at archery, unsurprising for a son of the sea god… If he were a talented archer it would probably dredge up some painful memories best left unsaid. Apollo said something about planning for his needs, I didn't really pay attention. Sally had lent us some proper coats, Apollo’s was blue and mine was a dark red. Apollo randomly asked me if Blofis was some sort of word to ward off evil spirits, where would he have even gotten that idea from?

When we got to the Prius, Meg called shotgun. Apollo sulked for a bit after that. I guess he was used to the front, he drove the Sun “Chariot” after all. (Ha! More like Sun Sports Car) He appeared to be carsick after not even 5 minutes. Even I can last longer than that.

Percy wasn't the smoothest driver, or maybe he was. I can't say I have much experience with New York driving. The car lurched and breaked, New York Traffic was a mystery to me.

“Doesn’t your Prius have flamethrowers?” Apollo demanded. “Lasers? At least some Hephaestian bumper blades? What sort of cheap economy vehicle is this?”

I nearly laughed. “Apollo… This is a mortal vehicle.. They have laws about destroying cars-”

Percy glanced in the rearview mirror. “You have rides like that on Mount Olympus?”
“We don’t have traffic jams, that, I can assure you,” Apollo complained

Meg fidgeted with her crescent rings, why did she have them? The moon was my symbol. She wasn't one of my hunters. I couldn't think of a good reason for why she would have them.

Meg was gazing out of the rear windshield, I assumed she was checking if any of the shiny blobs were pursuing us. “At least we’re not being-”

“Don’t say it,” Percy warned.

Meg looked annoyed. “You don’t know what I was going to-”

“You were going to say, ‘At least we’re not being followed,’” Percy said. “That’ll jinx us. Immediately we’ll notice that we are being followed. Then we’ll end up in a big battle that totals my family car and probably destroys the whole freeway. Then we’ll have to run all the way to camp.”

I mean, that seemed like a stretch but Percy had been on six quests. He must have learned that somewhere along the line.

Meg’s eyes widened. “You can tell the future?”

“Don’t need to.” Percy changed lanes. This lane was going ever so slightly faster. “I’ve just done this a lot. Besides” he shot Apollo an accusing look “nobody can tell the future anymore. The Oracle isn’t working.”

“What Oracle?” Meg asked.

Neither me Apollo or Percy answered. For a moment I swear all color left Apollo’s face. “It.. it still isn’t working?” He said in a small voice.

He didn't know?

“You didn’t know?” Did Percy read my mind? Only a few immortals can do that, and Poseidon isn't one of them. “I mean, sure, you’ve been out of it for six months, but this happened on your watch.”

“I just… I assumed…. I hoped this would have been taken care of by now-”

“You mean by demigods,” Percy said, “going on a big quest to reclaim the Oracle of Delphi?” I didn't miss the bitterness in his voice. I couldn't stand him making the crude assumption it was Apollo’s fault Delphi was taken because it ISN'T.

“It is NOT my brother's fault that Delphi was taken.” I snapped, glaring at the back of Percy’s head angrily. Apollo looked at me curiously. “Zeus was angry, like really, really angry. Like sear every last molecule in your body angry.” Apollo visibly cringed at that sentence, looking down. I wanted to hug him, reassure him, tell him that everything was going to be alright. But I knew better, I knew these trials would be anything but easy, and I wasn't done speaking, not yet at least. “We didn't know that Gaea would resurrect that vile serpent ! It wasn't like he could go fight that damned creature with the constant risk of lightning bolts flying down from the heavens. Bolts sent by our own father.” Apollo looked taken aback by my harsh words. The truth hurts sometimes.  “And, by any minuscule chance are you aware, that if we took even a single step off our island, we would be incapacitated by pain? Neither me nor my brother could shoot our bows to kill that idiot legacy Octavian . The arrows turned to smoke at 200 feet! We were stuck there, on our island. Leaving was futile and pointless.”

“Artemis-” Apollo tried to interrupt.

“I'm not finished brother.” The anger disappeared from my voice as I addressed him. “Our minds were split in half Perseus . It is not my brother's fault Delphi was taken. Do not make that mistake.” I seethed.

Apollo stared at me for a moment, before exhaling slowly.

“Artemis…” Apollo said slowly. “Did you…” He took a moment to compose himself. “Did you really need to include-”

“The part about Father searing every molecule in your body?”

He nodded once, glancing away. Those memories were painful, years and years ago when we were young gods still learning the way of Olympus.. Zeus used to.. Punish him with the bolts. I can still see his terrified expression the first time Zeus got mad. I can hear his scream as he was shocked. I clenched my fist. I have always hated seeing my brother hurt. I remember him once telling me that it was easier to hate the lightning bolts than hating our father. When he killed the Cyclopes that made the bolts he told me it wasn't just for revenge for his son, he partially did it because he hated the lightning bolts. I took a deep breath. “If.. If I was to get my point across about how serious Zeus’s anger was, yes. Yes, I did.”

Percy didn't comment for a moment, he seemed to be thinking of something, although I couldn't imagine what.  After what seemed like ages he spoke. “Oh.”

Apollo took a long shaky breath, putting his head in his hands. I put a hand on his shoulder, he didn't pull away. I really shouldn't have said that.

“Sorry..” He nodded weakly, I retracted my hand and tried to ignore the pit of guilt in my stomach. Some memories shouldn't be stirred.

There was a long silence before anyone spoke again.

“I.. Chiron must have just forgot.” Apollo murmured quietly. “When we get to camp I will see about Chiron dispatching a quest”

Percy sighed. “You see, so here's the thing. To go on a quest, we need a prophecy, right? Those are the rules. If there's no Oracle's, there are no prophecies. So where stuck in a-”

“A Catch-88” Apollo said quietly, glancing at me.

I snorted. That was a joke I had made years ago.

Meg threw something at Apollo. Lint? Fabric? I didn't see. “It's a Catch-22 dummy”

“No, It's a Catch-88. Which is four times as bad.” Me and Apollo said in perfect sync. He smiled weakly, I laughed to myself.

Meg stared at us. “So you can do the twin talking in sync thing! That's so cool!”

“No Meg,” I said, still laughing. “It's an inside joke from ages ago… How many years now? 62? Something like that”

Apollo nodded. He seemed to be thinking about something, I realized he looked pale. I debated slinging an arm over his shoulder but decided against it.

I thought about the Oracle dilemma. Python lay curled in Delphi as we speak, growing stronger every day. We are weak mortals bound to an untrained demigod. There was a slim chance to retake Delphi in this state.

But someone had known where we would land. Someone had sent those thugs to mug us in that accursed alley. I scowled. They were going to die. Whoever sent them is going to pay . Whoever hurt my brother like that is going to be destroyed. No one, and I mean no one messes with my little brother and gets away with it.

Nobody can tell the future anymore, Percy had said.

But that wasn’t quite true.

“Hey guys,” She threw lint at us. So that's what she threw at Apollo. Where was she getting this lint?

I realized I’d been ignoring her.

“Oh, sorry, Meg,” Apollo said with forced cheerfulness. “You see, the Oracle of Delphi is an ancient-”

“I don’t care about that,” she said. “There are three shiny blobs now.”

“What?” Percy asked.

She pointed behind us. “Look.”

I turned around like a bullet, looking for the blobs. Sadly, she was right. The blobs passed through the traffic easily and were closing in on us rapidly. There were three glittery, vaguely humanoid blobs. I noticed Apollo was looking just as concerned, but there was a slight grimace of pain on his face. “sit down,” I commanded. “You’ll hurt yourself, you may have slept a few hours but you're still hurt.” Now that I mentioned it, my ribs were throbbing, turning around hadn't been the best idea. I turned around, holding in a wince. Of course, Apollo had to notice, I saw the worry flash in his eyes as he turned forward.

“Your hurt.” He deadpanned, looking at me.

“Apollo. I broke a few ribs when I fell, its nothing.”

“Just.. you didn't tell me. Why?”

“It didn't seem important..”

“Tell me next time okay?” He sounded truly hurt.

“I will.” He glanced at me, then sighed.

“You’d better.”

“Just once I’d like an easy commute,” Percy grumbled. “Everybody, hold on. We’re going cross-country.”

 

Percy’s definition of cross-country was very different from ours.

I knew there was no true countryside near here, so I assumed we would be taking side streets or something. Instead, Percy steered us down the nearest exit ramp, sped across the parking lot of a shopping mall, then flew through the drive-through of a Mexican restaurant. We turned into a more industrial area full of warehouses. The blobs were still closing in behind us at an alarming rate.

Apollo’s knuckles turned white on my seat belt shoulder strap, his eyes wide. He had always hated high-speed chases. “Is your plan to avoid a fight by dying in a traffic accident?” He demanded.

“Outrun and outlast,” I said. “I'm assuming You has a plan of that sort?”

We sped north, the warehouses abruptly gave way to a mix of apartments and old abandoned shops.

“I’m getting us to the beach. I fight better near water.”

“Because Poseidon?” Meg asked.

“Yep,” Percy agreed. “That pretty much describes my entire life: Because Poseidon.”

Meg was bouncing with excitement. It seemed pointless, as the car was already bouncing a lot.

“You’re gonna be like Aquaman?” she asked. “Get the fish to fight for you?”

“Thanks,” Percy said. “I haven’t heard enough Aquaman jokes for one lifetime.”

“I wasn’t joking!” Meg protested.

Apollo glanced out the rear window, then winced. Either from pain or the fact that the three spirits were still gaining on us. If it was from pain Apollo, I told you so.

One of them passed through a middle-aged man crossing the street. The mortal instantly collapsed.

“Ah, I know these spirits!” Apollo practically screamed. “They are…um… they are...”

His mouth was half open and he looked like he forgot what he was going to say. Great job brother.

“What?” Percy demanded. “They are what?”

“I’ve forgotten! I hate being mortal! Four thousand years of knowledge, the secrets of the universe-”

“He forgot. Spend time trying to remember not being dramatic.”

“Hold on!” Percy flew through a railroad crossing and the Prius went airborne. Meg yelped as her head hit the ceiling. Then she began giggling uncontrollably. Why? Why was she giggling?

This is not funny!

The landscape opened into actual countryside, fields, vineyards, and orchards of bare fruit trees.

“Just another mile or so to the beach,” Percy said. “Plus we’re almost to the western edge of camp. We can do it. We can do it.” He sounded desperate.

So as it turns out, we couldn’t. One of the shiny smoke clouds pulled a dirty trick, appearing from the pavement directly in front of us.

Instinctively, Percy swerved.

The Prius went off the road, straight through a barbed wire fence and into an orchard. Wonderful work Perseus. He managed to avoid hitting any of the trees, (I would have hit all the trees) but sadly the car skidded in the icy mud and wedged itself between two trunks. For some reason, the airbags did not deploy. Thank the gods.

Percy popped his seat belt. “You guys okay?”

Apollo looked pale but nodded. “We’re fine.” The tremor in his voice said otherwise.

Meg shoved against her passenger-side door. “Won’t open. Get me out of here!”

Percy tried his own door. It was firmly jammed against the side of a peach tree.

My door wouldn't open either, for a panicked second I thought we were trapped, but Apollo managed to kick his door open. “Back here,” He said. “Climb over!”

He staggered out nearly tripping over his own feet, I followed him.  Apollo stumbled over to me, a look of mild panic on his face. I steadied him by wrapping an arm around his unsteady shoulders. He was leaning on me now, he looked like he was trying to hide it, but he could hardly stay on his feet.

“..Thanks...” He murmured quietly, so only I would hear. He really wasn't fit to be doing this. I imagined that he was bruised badly from the thugs, and the car crash couldn't have helped. His face was skewed up in pain.  

“Do you want me to carry you? Your swaying..” I asked uncertainly, I knew I could carry him from earlier, and he looked like he was going to fall over.

“‘M fine..” He managed, but it was obvious he wasn't .

The three glittering smokey figures had stopped at the edge of the orchard. Instead of there speedy advance, they crept forward slowly, taking on clear shapes. They had arms and legs, their gaping mouths too wide and too big.

Apollo froze, his eyes widening. “I know these.. I know these… I know these.” I could practically hear Apollo thinking, his teeth started chattering, and his grip on my shoulder tightened. His face was so pale he looked like he might faint. Then his hands started shaking, and I knew he was starting to panic.

I could feel my own heart rate pick up as they stumbled forward, my palms started sweating. What do we do? Oh gods there getting closer oh no no no I glanced helplessly to the Prius, Meg and Percy hadn't made it out yet, and they needed time. Apollo pulled away from me, nearly falling as he did so. Did he remember?

“STOP” Great. He’s bullshitting his way to success. This won’t work. This won't ever work. I won't let them hurt him. I won't let them hurt him.

“Apollo-”

“I am the god Apollo!” I was preparing to drag him away.

To our surprise, the three spirits stopped. They hovered in place about forty feet away.

The Tartarus? Okay. Maybe this will work. Maybe we’ll be fine. Maybe he won't get hurt. Maybe we’ll be okay. He’ll be fine. He’ll be fine. He Will Be Fine.

Meg grunted as she tumbled out of the backseat. Percy hurried after her.

Apollo advanced toward the spirits, frozen mud crunching under his shoes. He raised my hand in an ancient three-fingered gesture for warding off evil. This might just work yet. I did the same gesture.

“Leave us or be destroyed!” He told the spirits. “BLOFIS!”

Idiot. I TOLD you that wasn't a word of magic

The smoky shapes trembled. Maybe he had dispatched them? I dared to hope. Maybe we wouldn't need to fight. Maybe it was okay. I half-heartedly waited for them to dissipate or flee in terror.

Sadly, they solidified into gruesome corpses with sunken yellow eyes. Their clothes were in rags, their limbs covered with bloody wounds and disgusting sores.

“Oh, dear.” Apollo whimpered, stumbling back and nearly tripping over a hole in the ground, he somehow looked paler.  “I remember now.”

He stumbled over to me, his eyes wide. He looked terrified. I slung an arm over his shoulders, trying to steady him. He made a sound between a sob and a whimper. I could feel him trembling.

Percy and Meg stepped to either side of us, Apollo’s breath caught in his throat as he stared at the walking corpses. With a metallic shink, Percy’s pen grew into a Celestial bronze sword.

“Remember what?” he asked. “How to kill these things?”

“No,” He murmured quietly, his voice trembling. “I remember what they are: nosoi, plague spirits. Also…” He took a shaky breath “Also they can’t be killed.”

Nosoi. We’re dead.

 

Chapter Text

“Nosoi?” Percy went into a practiced fighting stance. “You know, I keep thinking, I have now killed every single thing in Greek mythology. But the list never seems to end.”

“You haven’t killed me yet,” Apollo muttered, I heard the slight tremor in his voice. He was terrified .  

“Don’t tempt me,” Percy responded. Rude.

I took a small step back. Apollo was trembling. I could practically feel how scared he is. But he took a deep breath, steeling himself. “These creatures are not myths,” He said. Yes, brother. The monsters in front of us aren't myths. How surprising. “Of course, most things in those old myths are not myths.” Yes. Do go on. That isn't obvious at all. “Except for that story about how I flayed the satyr Marsyas alive. That was a total lie.”

I blinked. Did mortals actually think that was true? Ares started that rumor thousands of years ago. Hermes spread it. Did they actually believe it? “That is a lie,” I agreed.

Percy glanced at him, he couldn't hide the angry edge in his eyes. “You did what?” Did he NOT just hear what I said?

“Guys.” Meg picked up a dead tree branch. “Could we talk about that later?”

“Yes. Discussing that later seems like a wonderful idea.” I agreed.

The middle plague spirit spoke. “Apollooooo…” Its voice sounded like Hephaestus when he was sick and angry. “We have coooome to—”

Great, they came for a reason. Were they hired by this boss too? Before I could ask Apollo spoke.

“Let me stop you right there.” He crossed his arms, stepped away from me and pretended to be indifferent. Key word. Pretended. I could see right through his act. His hands fidgeted with his pockets and the hem of his shirt, his eyes darted between the spirits then over to me then back to the spirits. He was doing that thing with his mouth where he’s making that not-smile that looks convincing, but I know its fake because I've seen him break into tears while making that same fake expression. He only ever does when he’s bluffing. But then again… I am his twin, and I have been observing his mannerisms for milenia.. Maybe he looked convincing to a more untrained eye. “You’ve come to take your revenge on me, eh?” He glanced between us. In that mere millisecond he met my eyes I could see the raw fear lingering in them. “You see, nosoi are the spirits of disease. Once I was born, spreading illnesses became part of my job. I use plague arrows to strike down naughty populations with smallpox, athlete’s foot, that sort of thing.” His voice somehow remained level, but then again, he had four thousand six hundred and twelve years to learn how to keep his voice steady when addressing father when he’s angry. Stumbling over words with an angry Zeus is not a good experience. His hand twitches towards the lightning bolts and his voice just gets that much louder and it makes him just that much more terrifying. Then if you stutter again he does that thing where he rests his hand on the bolt and you know if you mess up again he’s going to be pissed and he becomes more dangerous so you force yourself to talk smoothly and you somehow get it over with without angering him... I may have gone off on a tangent there, sorry. But Apollo’s voice control was remarkable nonetheless.

Back to the story.

“Gross,” Meg said.

“Somebody’s got to do it!” He said, voice still remarkably steady.. “Better a god, regulated by the Council of Olympus and with the proper health permits, than a horde of uncontrolled spirits like these.” I mean.. I guess. Yeah. he’s right. But I never really trusted him with plague duties. The spirit on the left gurgled. “We’re trying to have a moooment here. Stop interrupting! We wish to be free, uncontroooolled—”

“Yes, I know. You’ll destroy me. Then you’ll spread every known malady across the world. You’ve been wanting to do that ever since Pandora let you out of that jar. But you can’t. I will strike you down!” I abruptly realized his plan. We were supposed to be planning. Oh.

“What will you strike us down with? Where is your booow?” One of the spirits rasped.

“It appears to be missing,” Apollo agreed. “But is it really? What if it’s cleverly hidden under this Led Zeppelin T-shirt, and I am about to whip it out and shoot you all?”

The nosoi shuffled nervously.

“Yooou lie,” said the one in the middle.

Percy cleared his throat. “Um, hey, Apollo…”

Did he have a plan? Oh please let him have a plan.

“I know what you’re going to say,” He told him. “You and Meg have come up with a clever plan to hold off these spirits while we run away to camp. I hate to see you sacrifice yourselves, but—” Do you really think that's a good idea bother? We already have father angry. And if Poseidon's only son dies he will be angry. And what gave you the idea we were leaving them? I thought miserably.

“That’s not what I was going to say,” Percy said, speaking only a moment before I planned to talk. He raised his blade. “I was going to ask what happens if I just slice and dice these mouth-breathers with Celestial bronze.”

The middle spirit chortled, his yellow eyes gleaming.

“Bad things happen.” I murmured quietly.

“A sword is such a small weapon. It does not have the pooooetry of a good epidemic.”

No. Poetry is my brother’s thing and I will not allow a stupid spirit to take that from him. He may be terrible as haikus, but they make him happy and he deserves to be happy dammit.

“Stop!” I growled, cutting Apollo off. “You can’t claim his poetry!”

Apollo muttered something under his breath in ancient Greek. I only caught a few words. Don’t, Attention and my name, Artemis.

“You are right,” said the spirit, turning to us. “Enough wooooords.”

I suddenly realized what he said. Don't draw their attention Artemis.

The three corpses shambled forward. I waved my arm in a violent dismissal gesture, hoping to blast them to plague dust. Nothing happened. Did I ever mention just how infuriatingly useless you mortals are?

Meg speared the nearest spirit with her stick, the branch stuck hard. Smoke started swirling down the wood.

“Let go!” Apollo warned. “Don’t let the nosoi touch you!” His steady voice was gone, he sounded absolutely terrified. Like I'm going to puke terrified. I took a step closer to Apollo as Meg let go of the branch and hurried away.

As this went down, Perseus ran into battle. He moved through the attacks like water- Pun not intended. Sadly, whenever his sword made contact, the spirits dissolved into mist— not the good kind- and resolidified when the danger had passed.

A spirit lunged at him, its fatal grasp almost closing in on him, thankfully Meg scooped up a frozen peach and threw it with the force of one of those people in a gym class who throw the dodgeball so hard it leaves bruises. But what she threw wasn't, in fact, a dodgeball. which means it leaves more than bruises. The peach embedded in its forehead, knocking him down before he landed on Percy.

I breathed a sigh of relief, Apollo made a sound like a strangled cat. I spared a glance in his direction. His face was pale, and he watched the spirits every move. Even from here I could see his eye twitching. That only ever happened when he was really freaking out. I tried to even out my breathing. I didn't know how to get us all out of this alive.

“We gotta run,” Meg decided.

“Yeah.” Percy backtracked toward us. “I like that idea.”

Apollo shook his head, I knew exactly what he was thinking. You can't run from disease if you could Medieval Europeans would have just gotten up and run from the black death. (Not my brother's fault. Just going to say that again. We took a century-long vacation with Mom to a beach in Cabo, and when we come back a third of the continent was dead.)

He opened his mouth to respond but Meg and Percy had already run off, I grabbed his arm and pulled him along. We bolted after them, my hand never leaving his wrist.

Percy pointed to a row of hills around a mile ahead. Both me and Apollo knew we would never make it. “That’s the western border of camp. If we can just get there…”

 

We sprinted past an irrigation tank on a tractor-trailer. With a flick of his hand, Percy made the side of the tank to rupture, sending a wall of water into the three nosoi behind us.

“That was good.” Meg grinned, the joyful expression out of place with the current scenario. She skipping along in her new green dress. How could she be happy right now?  “We’re going to make it!”

No, we’re not. I thought. Apollo was slowing down, but I wasn't about to let him stop. Stopping meant death. I could hear each breath he took, each one a wheezing sound that he really shouldn't need to make.

His ribs. I realized abruptly. Mine ached, but I could only imagine the pain he was in. His ribs were so much worse than mine, he should be resting. He shouldn't need to run from his life from the living embodiment of sickness. But we couldn't slow down. His breathing only grew worse as we ran, and the pain in my chest only grew as I ran.

 

“We can’t—” He wheezed. “They’ll just—”

“Save your breath!” I practically yelled. “You—”

Before I could finish, glittering pillars of smoke rose from the ground directly in front of us. I banked sideways, pulling Apollo with me, Meg did the same. Those two spirits solidified. One had a third eye peach, the other a branch sticking from his chest. But the third? Percy didn't see it and ran directly into the smoke.

“Don't breathe!” Apollo wheezed. Which was funny because he could hardly breathe himself. That wasn't funny. Gods he needed rest.

The son of Poseidon's eyes widened and he fell to his knees, hands clawing at his throat. Surely he could breathe underwater, but that meant nothing when he wasn't taking in any oxygen.

Meg grabbed another peach, but I doubted it would do much against the nosoi.

Apollo looked pale, I tried to think of a way to save Perseus, but the Branch Nosoi changed at us, I jumped out of its path, dragging Apollo with me. I went to bolt but stumbled over a tree root. My stagger caused Apollo to fall. He found himself flat on his back.

“ARTEMIS. GET BACK” He yelled, desperation in his voice. I jumped back, hoping the Nosoi would follow me, it didn't, all it did was loom over my brother.

“Which fatal illness shall I use to kill the great Apolloooo?” the spirit gurgled. “Anthrax? Perhaps eboooola…”

No. Please no. I can't let it hurt him I won't let it hurt him. I went to tackle the spirit, anything would be worth saving him. Even my own life.

“Hangnails,” He suggested, but his voice was little for than a pained whimper. He tried desperately to back away from the nosoi. “I live in fear of hangnails.”

I took a step forward, he glared at me but I wasn't letting him stop me.

Before I could act, the spirit struck.

“I have the answer!” the spirit cried. “Let’s try this!”

He dissolved into smoke and settled over him like a glittering blanket of death.

I screamed.

I fell to my knees and pressed my hands to my mouth.

I can't say it was even a dignified scream. It was shrill and high pitched and I sounded like The One Who Dies First in a horror movie, but I couldn't hold it in.

No no no no no no no no this couldn't be happening I cant watch him die I can't.

Chapter Text

Apollo was dying.

My brother was dying.

My little brother was dying, right in front of me.

I will confess something, we gods fear death. We fear nonexistence. But I fear one thing above that, I fear losing my brother. I fear him dying or fading or somehow ending up trapped and away from me. I fear being truly alone. If he were gone… I don't even want to think about that.  

I don't really remember much of the next few seconds. I remember that suddenly I felt like everything went numb, my eyes widened and the scream that had torn It'self from my throat moment ago still rang in my ears. I launched myself forward.

I remember screaming his name as he tried not to breath and rolled around, he tried in vain to rid himself of the plague cloud.

I remember feeling like ice was filling my veins and feeling so cold suddenly I wanted to scream and cry and I just felt scared.

I couldn't let him die.

I remember pressing my hands to his nose and mouth. I wouldn't let him breathe it in. I wouldn't let it kill him. I wouldn't allow it.

I remember smothering him, suffocating him,  I remember seeing the glittery cloud going for me, but I couldn't let it hurt him. I wouldn't allow it.

Out of the corner of my wide eyes I saw meg running, she yelled something but it was lost amongst my panic. Everything seemed far away, Apollo didn't struggle against my hands. I saw it in his eyes he knew was I was doing.

The glittery smoke was surrounding my nose and mouth, I refused to breath. I refused the growing urge to pull the poisonous air into my lungs. I will keep him safe. Even if it kills me. Even at the expense of my own life, as long as he’s safe it's alright.

My eyesight began to dim.

Apollo’s eyes were wide.

Somewhere to our left, water erupted from the field, Percy dragged himself towards it and dunked his head in the water.

My ears began to ring, and Apollo’s face was beginning to go blue.

Percy staggered to his feet to his feet. He ripped out the source of the water—an irrigation pipe—and turned the water on us.

I hate being unexpectedly douched in water, and Apollo does too. (I Wake him up with water to the face whenever we go camping) But as the water disrupted the smoke, I didn't mind.  I let go of Apollo’s face and dragged him away. I gasped for air, Apollo started wheezing again. Our nosoi friends reformed a bit away, their yellow eyes shown with hatred.

Meg yelled again, this time I understood. “GET DOWN” I practically tacked Apollo down. He made a sound between a wheeze and a pained yelp.

In our four thousand six hundred and twelve years, me and Apollo have seen many things. I can't say for certain with Apollo, but neither of us have seen an uprising of fruit.

Percy hit the ground as every peach in the garden rose off the ground, they shot around. If we had been standing, or even sitting we would have been killed. Meg simply stood there unhurt as frozen dead fruit flew around her.

The nosoi collapsed, riddled with holes. Every piece of fruit dropped to the ground.

I took a shaky breath and turned to Apollo.

He looked dazed. He smiled weakly at me, I helped up into a sitting position. I then pulled him into a hug. Desperately trying to get some comfort out of him being okay. I knew I would wake up in the middle of the night for years to come reliving that experience. I tried to keep myself from crying, but the tears in my eyes spilled over. He gently rubbed my back, I didn't realize I was sobbing until Apollo started speaking.

“Hey… It’s okay now.. I’m okay.. We’re both okay…”

I didn't want to pull away. I didn't want to do anything. I didn't know what to say. So I stayed there head buried in his shoulder, tears streaming from my eyes.

Percy’s voice broke through my despair. Apollo glanced in his direction. Or at least, I think he did. I couldn't really see anything.

“Whah jus happened?” he sounded like he had a cold. So water diluted the effects. At least he wasn't dead, that was a good sign.

“I don’t know,” I heard Apollo say. “Meg, is it safe?” I pulled away from Apollo, feeling worthless. I had been useless this entire fight? What had I done? Smothered my brother. I wiped furiously at my eyes, I felt Apollo put a hand on my shoulder. “I’m okay Artie. See?” he smiled, albeit a bit weakly. I laughed a bit hysterically, my heart was still racing in my chest. I held back sobs. Apollo was looking at me concern shining in his eyes.

He shouldn't need to be concerned about me.

He’s hurt. He shouldn't have to deal with me being all emotional.

I should be strong.

I have to be strong for him.

Meg was staring around the orchard in amazement at the mess of fruit, mangled corpses, and broken tree limbs. “I- I’m not sure.”

“How’d you do thah?” Percy snuffled.

Meg looked horrified. “I didn’t! I just knew it would happen.”

One of the Nosoi began to stir. It got up, wobbling on It's hole filled legs.

“But you did doooo it,” the spirit growled. “Yooou are strong, child.”

The other two corpses rose, they swayed to their feet and I could feel my already rapid heartbeat pick up. My breath caught in my throat. Apollo gripped my shoulder tightly.

“Not strong enough,” said the second nosos. “We will finish you now.”

Please no.

They should be dead!

Why aren't they dead?

The third spirit bared his rotting teeth. “Your guardian would be sooooo disappointed.”

Guardian ? She had a guardian? What kind of guardian lets a 12-year-old live in an Alley? When I’m a god again I’ll kill them.

Meg looked sick. Her face paled, Her arms trembled. She stomped her foot and yelled, “NO!”

More peaches flew into the air. Instead of peach blasting the Nosoi, they blended together into a fruit tornado, until suddenly standing in front of Meg was a creature not unlike like a pudgy human toddler wearing only a linen diaper. Protruding from his back were wings made of leafy branches. His babyish face might have been cute except for the glowing green eyes and pointy fangs. The creature snarled and snapped at the air.

“Oh, no.” Percy groaned. “I hate these things.”

The three nosoi also did not look pleased. I shuddered as they edged away from the snarling baby.

“Wh-what is it?” Meg asked.

Apollo stared at her in disbelief. Probably thinking what I was thinking. She was the cause of this fruit carnage, no doubt there. Meg looked as shocked as we were. Alas, if Meg didn’t know how she had summoned this creature, she probably wouldn't know how to make it go away, I didn't particularly like Karpoi (I have lost a few hunters to them over the years..) but they, while annoying, are bearable. A single arrow kills them. Usually. But if you have the unfortunate luck of hitting their arms or legs, no, a single arrow only enrages them, alerts them to your position, and ends with either death or maiming. But if you hit their head or chest…. BAM! a pile of grain (or fruit in this case) is where the creature last stood.

“It’s a grain spirit,” Apollo said, I could hear the veiled panic in his voice. This one time Demeter sent a swarm of them after him… That was a mess for all parties involved. “I’ve never seen a peach karpoi before, but if it’s as vicious as other types…”

“we’re dead” I muttered quietly, I honestly just wanted to sit in a dark room and calm down. Or even just take a five-minute break to sort my thoughts and get that sickening image of my own hands cutting off my brothers air supply out of my head. But I didn't see that happening anytime soon. The demon peach baby turned toward the nosoi. For a moment, I suddenly felt like my heart was going to explode from my chest it was beating so fast. I feared it would make some alliance. The middle corpse, peachhead, inched backward. “Do not interfere,” he warned the karpos. “We will not allooow—”

The karpoi launched himself at the nosoi and bit his head off.

I felt relieved, and I heard Apollo sigh next to me.

But when I say it bit his head off, I am not exaggerating. The karpos’s fanged mouth unhinged, expanding to an unbelievable circumference, then closed around the cadaver’s head, and chomped it off in one bite.




In a mere moment, the nosos had been torn to shreds and devoured. As I said a while back, pacifism is sweet my friend, but watching your foes torn limb from limb is satisfying. I may have said that differently, but no matter.

The other two nosoi retreated, but the karpos crouched and sprang. He landed on the second corpse and proceeded to rip it shreds.

The last spirit dissolved into glittering smoke and tried to fly away, but the peach baby spread his leafy wings and launched himself after them, He opened his mouth and inhaled the sickness, snapping and swallowing the smoke was gone.

He landed in front of Meg and burped. His green eyes shone with… pride? He didn’t appear to be sick, which is not very surprising considering human diseases don’t infect fruit trees. Instead, even after eating three whole nosoi, the little fellow looked hungry.

He howled and beat his small chest. “Peaches!”

Percy slowly raised his sword. His nose was still red and runny, and his face was puffy. “Meg, don move,” he snuffled. “I’m gonna—”

“No!” she said. “Don’t hurt him.”

Meg put her hand tentatively on the creature’s head. “You saved us,” she told the karpos. “Thank you.”

I looked away, waiting for her scream as it ripped her hand off her arm. But to our surprise, the peach karpoi did not bite off Meg’s hand. Instead, he hugged Meg’s leg and glared at us as if daring us to approach.

Odd.

“Peaches,” he growled.

“He likes you,” Percy noted. “Um…why?”

“I don’t know,” Meg said. “Honestly, I didn’t summon him!”

It was blatantly obvious on who summoned him. I also have a clue on about parentage, but if it is her, then she’s top-level stuff for her demigod parentage..

“Well, whatever the case,” Apollo said, “we owe the karpos our lives. This brings to mind an expression I coined ages ago: A peach a day keeps the plague spirIt's away!”

Even I managed a weak smile at that, Apollo glanced at me, I forced myself to smile wider. I could tell he saw right through it. His eyes seemed to take in my bloodshot eyes. “You okay?”

He whispered so only I hear. I nodded once. He smiled weakly, it was genuine.

Percy sneezed. “I thought it was apples and doctors.”

The karpos hissed.

“Or peaches,” Percy said. “Peaches work too.”

“Peaches,” agreed the karpos.

Percy wiped his nose. “Not criticizing, but why is he grooting?”

Meg frowned. “Grooting?”

“Yeah, like thah character in the movie…only saying one thing over and over.”

Me and Apollo shared a look of confusion. “We haven't seen it.” He said. “But this karpos does seem to have a very…targeted vocabulary.”

I laughed hysterically, I just wanted to get to camp and get to my cabin and.. And then what?

“Maybe Peaches is his name.” Meg stroked the karpos’s curly brown hair, which elicited a demonic purring from the creature’s throat. “That’s what I’ll call him.”

“Whoa, you are not adopting thah—” Percy sneezed with such force, another irrigation pipe exploded behind him, sending up a row of tiny geysers. “Ugh. Sick.”

“You’re lucky,” Apollo said. “Your trick with the water diluted the spirit’s power. Instead of getting a deadly illness, you got a head cold.”

“I hate head colds.” His green irises looked like they were sinking in a sea of bloodshot. “None of you got sick?”

Meg shook her head.

“I have a good constitution!” Apollo stated, the forced positivity leaked out of his tone. Neither of us were okay.

“I.. I made sure he didn’t breath any” I muttered weakly.

“Its okay.” He murmured quietly. “I'm fine, you didn't hurt me.”

“And the fact thah I hosed the smoke off of you,” Percy said, possibly trying to ease the tension..

“Well, yes,” Apollo said, glancing at me then to Percy.

Percy stared at us as if waiting for something. Me and Apollo shared an awkward look, confused. After a long awkward moment, it occurred to me that he was probably looking for gratitude.

“Oh! Thank you,” I said, keeping my voice steady and repressing the nervousness.

Apprehension dawned in his eyes. “Ah.. Thank you”

He nodded. “No problem.”

Apollo relaxed a bit next to me. Good.

“Can we go now?” Meg asked.

“An excellent idea,” Apollo started, his voice sounded forced, but more genuine than I expected.. “Though I’m afraid Percy is in no condition—”

“I can drive you the rest of the way,” he said. “If we can get my car out from between those trees…” He glanced in that direction and his expression turned even more miserable. “Aw, Hades no….”

I shifted uncomfortably. Drawing the attention of our uncle wasn't the best idea, then I saw what “Great,” Percy muttered. “If they tow the Prius, I’m dead. My mom and Paul need thah car.”

“Go talk to the officers,” Apollo said. “You won’t be any use to us anyway in your current state.”

“He means your sick. You probably can't fight in your state.” I said quietly, edging towards my brother.

“Yeah, we’ll be fine,” Meg said. “You said the camp is right over those hills?”

“Right, but…” Percy scowled, I assumed he was struggling to think straight over the ailment inflicted by the nosoi. “Most people enter camp from the east, where Half-Blood Hill is. The western border is wilder—hills and woods, all heavily enchanted. If you’re not careful, you can get lost….” He sneezed again. “I’m still not even sure if you two can get in if you’re fully mortal.”

“We’ll get in.” I could hear the fake confidence in his voice. But we did have to get in. We had no other alternative. If we couldn't get in….. We had already been attacked once by monsters, and once by mortals. There is no other way for us to stay alive.

The police car’s doors opened.

“Go,” Apollo urged Percy. “We’ll find our way through the woods. You explain to the police that you’re sick and you lost control of the car. They’ll go easy on you.”

“Good luck,” I said, smiling weakly.

Percy laughed. “Yeah. Cops love me almost as much as teachers do.” He glanced at Meg. “You sure you’re okay with the baby fruit demon?”

Peaches growled.

“All good,” Meg promised. “Go home. Rest. Get lots of fluids.”

Percy’s mouth twitched. “You’re telling a son of Poseidon to get lots of fluids? Okay, just try to survive until the weekend, will you? I’ll come to camp and check on you guys if I can. Be careful and—CHOOOO!”

Another pipe burst in the ground.

Muttering unhappily, he touched the cap of his pen to his sword, turning it back into a simple ballpoint. A wise precaution before approaching law enforcement. The mist would probably make it a gun or something. He trudged down the hill, sneezing and sniffling.

“Officer?” he called. “Sorry, I’m up here. Can you tell me where Manhattan is?”

Meg turned to us “Ready?”

Me and Apollo were both soaked to the bone. In winter weather, I could feel my rapid heartbeat slowing, leaving me open to the wind and cold. I started shivering, and I know  Apollo was cold too. I am the moon goddess. I shouldn't be able to get cold. This was the worst day in the existence of days. Me and Apollo were mortal, injured, and I felt like I was on the verge of crying. Again. Apollo had a grimace of pain decorating his acne-ridden face. We were stuck with a… Insane? Terrifying? Misguided? Unknowing? I don't know how to describe her, girl as our master, and a freaking peach demon. I was not ready to traverse those woods, and I'm the goddess of hunting. The idea of entering those cursed woods terrified me. I knew the moment we entered, something bad would happen. But we also desperately needed to reach camp. I might even encounter some friendly faces there. Or perhaps I might find a way to contact my hunters. “Yeah. I'm ready.” I lied. “Apollo?”

“Sure,” He said, glancing at me. I could tell he saw directly through my lie. “Let’s go.”

Peaches the karpos made a sound between a yak grunting and a wilting plants scream. He gestured for us to follow, then scampered toward the hills. I didn't want to follow it, I didn't trust that… creature in any way shape or form. Meg skipped after him, swinging from tree branches (Splinters. How did she now get splinters?)and cartwheeling through the frozen mud as she somehow managed to act joyous after such a near-death experience. By the way she was acting I might have mistaken our previous affair to be a pleasant picnic rather than a life or death battle. Apollo turned to the sky “Are you sure, Zeus? It’s not too late to tell us this was an elaborate prank and recall us to Olympus. we’ve learned our lesson. I promise.”

“Father, please” I added.

No response. Not even a crackle of thunder. With a sigh, I jogged after Meg and her homicidal new minion.

Chapter Text

Apollo sighed as we walked, I spared a glance in his direction. He was shivering, I grimaced. “My coat isn't as wet as yours, and you're clearly shivering. Lets trade.”

“No.” He said immediately.

“No? Apollo your cold. I don't mind-”

“Artemis. Keep your coat. I don't need it, your cold too. Don't deny it, I can tell when your lying.”

“But-”

“Artemis.”

“Okay.. Okay fine…”

“It should be easy to get to camp right..?” Apollo asked walking towards the border.

“I doubt it. Seems like a straight path ahead, but woods are easy to get lost in. It’ll be anything but easy ‘pollo” 

“Hmm... Say, Meg,” He turned to our young master.

“Yeah..?”

“I didn't get a chance to ask. It your name short for Margaret or Meghan?”

“Margaret McCaffery, but don't call me Margaret” Meg stated.

“Alright, then Meg.” He turns to me “Artie, did she agree to be a hunter?” Apollo asked.

“What..? Apollo, I can't accept hunters as a mortal.." I frowned. Could I? Its unlikely but maybe I could.. "probably cant. I didn't ask, and I'm going to wait until this is all over”

“Wait, hold up. You're telling me you didn't ask the homeless maiden to join your girl's club?” He asked incredulously. 

“...Yes?”

“Slow down. Join your girl's club? What are you talking about?” Meg inquired.

“My hunters. I explained them earlier did I not?”

“Yeah but… I didn't know I could join.”

“You can't. Not right now anyway.” Meg pouted.

“Anyway,” Apollo cut in. “We can see camp from here.”

I glanced up, expecting to see the vague outlines of the buildings, but the sight in front of us was breathtaking. The camp was about 3 square miles in size, full of meadows, woods and strawberry fields. On one edge it boarded long island, and the other borders were rolling hills. Below us was a dense woods.

I always forget the beauty of this place. Beyond the woods, you could see the buildings, the cluster of twenty cabins. (You could see Apollo’s shining from here. I always ask myself why the entire building had to be gold. Yeah, it's pretty, but hard to look at sometimes) The Hearth glowed warmly from this distance. The amphitheater, The arena, the dining pavilion, and even the canoe lake were visible from here. It looked beautiful. With seeing the camp came a dull sense of comfort. We were so close to safety. The big house loomed in the distance, Chiron would be in there. We were so close, yet so far.

In the far distance, my sister's statue glistened in its full glory. The Athena Parthenos. After thousands of years it was finally where it belonged. Athena had always been my favorite sister, the hours we spent debating the best strategy for hunting certain monsters are some of my fondest memories with any of my sisters, I could feel the power from the statue from here.

Apollo probably wished the statue was of himself, but he’s like that. I looked at him again, my eyes lingering on the red marks around his nose and mouth. caused those. hurt him. He noticed that I was staring. “Artie. I'm fine ” He insisted. He really was shivering a lot.

“I hurt you,” I said miserably.

He looked up at me, frowning. “You protected me.” He countered, he sounded completely sure of himself. I envy his confidence sometimes.

“Not well enough!” I took a step back, If I had protected him we should have never been in that situation in the first place. If I had protected him we would still be gods on Olympus and none of this would have happened. Nothing he said would change that.

“But you did protect me. I would have breathed in that smog and died if not for you. Alright? You did fine”

Before I could argue, Meg spoke. “How come I’ve never heard about this place? Do you need tickets?”

“It's a secret haven for demigods” I responded, forcing my voice to stay steady. Apollo glanced at me sideways. Our conversation certainly wasn't over yet. “The magical borders keep mortals and monsters out. It's safe here. Humans would only see farmland, and if they come in they will find themselves wondering out-”

“I ordered a pizza one time!” Apollo blurted out. I stared at him for a long moment before I found myself laughing. Actually laughing. I had forgotten how pleasent laughing is.

“Did you now brother? Tell us the story of the time you ordered a Pizza.”

Apollo stared at me before he smiled brightly. The first actual smile I had seen from him all day. It was good to know he was still capable of it in these dire circumstances.

“Well, it was… what? 8 years ago? I was at the camp, I had gotten quite the offering to heal this girl. And after I had finished, these two Hermes kids, looked like they might be twins but they certainly weren't, they asked what would happen if they ordered a pizza. And as it turns out, no one ever tried that before. So bam! I take out my phone and dial for pizza. They seem a bit iffy about sending the guy all this way, but I'm a god, I convinced them. So then this mortal guy, ends up so lost, appearing randomly on edges of camp, He kept trying to get in but the wards didn't know how to handle it, so it was hilarious. Anyway, yeah. I could probably go into more detail but that's the jist of it.” As he spoke his voice gained back some enthusiasm. I smiled.

Before anyone could speak, Peaches took a mouthful of dirt. Then spit it back up. Yes, peach demon. Dirt tastes bad. How surprising.

“He doesn’t like the taste of this place,” Meg said.

“No kidding. It's dirt.” I stated pointedly stepping around the prechewed soil. Apollo snickered.

“Maybe at camp, we can get him some plant fertilizer to eat. I’ll try to convince the demigods to allow him in, They let in a hellhound dog, what's the difference between that and a dirt munching peach toddler? but it would be helpful if he doesn’t bite their heads off” Apollo studied Peaches, the fruit being clung to Meg as it muttered something about peaches.

“Something doesn’t feel right.” Meg started chewing her nails. A bad habit. “Those woods…Percy said they were wild and enchanted and stuff.”

“No kidding.” I deadpanned. “My hunters complained about it.” Trying to get them into camp was a nightmare. But, in all honesty, being in the forest felt more natural than the city. “Come on, the woods aren't that bad!” I was already beginning to recognize where animals had recently been. Apollo looked apprehensive, I smiled at him. He has always felt out of place- No… that's too strong of a statement. Uneasy? Yeah, I’ll go with that. Apollo has always felt uneasy in forests, being surrounded by trees brings back some painful memories for him. Painful memories that shouldn't be poked at.

He stumbled over roots and plants. I laughed under my breath. This is what I lived to do. Make my way through dense forests, hunting with my maidens, living life in the wilderness. I hardly struggled with making my way forward. But Meg and Apollo? My young master and brother could hardly make their way forward through the greenery.

“Artie! How do you walk through this.. This mess so easily? It's like walking through spaghetti!”

“Do you want to know how?” Both nodded, eager to learn my secrets.

“Practice. Hundreds of years of practice.” Apollo groaned and Meg looked annoyed.

Apollo was looking around like he expected the Dryads to lunge out of the trees and strangle him. He got this pained look in his eyes and I knew what he was thinking about. I slowed down to match my pace with his.

He looked at me, I smiled weakly, wanting to reach out and just pull away the thoughts of Daphne. Gods... I still want to strangle Eros for what he did to my brother. Daphne’s death absolutely destroyed him. For hundreds of years, he seemed like he was always on the edge of tears. Then came Hyacinthus and he was happy and then Zepheros came and killed him.

I would have torn him limb from limb if not for the fact he was under Eros’s protection. I couldn't have him hurting Apollo any more than he already has.

It took years for him to even become a semblance of happy again. And here we were, nearly 3000 years later and he still nearly breaks into tears whenever they are mentioned.

I attempted to meet his gaze but he shifted his eyes away “You okay?” I asked quietly, hoping he would respond.

He stared at the ground, stumble walking over roots and brush. “I’ll be fine Artie..” He murmured, still not looking up.

“Okay. Just.. tell me if you want to rest a bit okay?” Code for: If being surrounded by dryads gets top overwhelming we can take a break.

Meg watched out whole exchange wordlessly.

We hiked for what felt like hours, and my mortal body was starting to get hungry. Normally, Apollo could navigate by the sun and me the moon, but the canopy was so thick we couldn't see the sky.

I realized we had passed the same boulder 3 times. Not even I can hike flawlessly it seems.

“Don't you have any hiking skills? Reading Tracks-”

“Yes. Yes, that is literally what I do. But this forest is enchanted… And as it seems, not even I can navigate it flawlessly.”

“Maybe Peaches can help.” Yes. What a wonderful idea. Ask the demon peach baby for directions. Meg turned to her karpos. “Hey, can you find us a way out of the woods?”

For the past few miles, Peches had gotten quite nervous. Muttering peachy warnings under his breathHis face flushed bright green. He made a scared barking squawk sound, then dissolved in a swirl of leaves.

Meg shot to her feet. “Where’d he go?”

It was nowhere in sight. Megs summon must have only had so much time. Or He’d sensed danger and abandoned us. The latter was more likely. Though meg had grown attached to the peach demon, I didn't want to hurt her. (But we god's got attached to humans, so I had no room to judge.)

“Perhaps he went scouting,” Apollo suggested. “Perhaps we should—”

My brother's hands flew to his forehead and he stumbled back, his eyes widening. He looked like someone had slapped him,

“Apollo?” I stepped forward uncertainty. “What's wrong?” He made a gasping sound, he whimpered stumbling over to me.  

“Assist me, sister, we cannot remain here.” My eyes just about bugged out from my head. He only reverted to old English when something was seriously wrong. Or when he was trying to be sophisticated or really angry. But I doubted the two latter

“What's going on?” I demanded.

“Just- let's go!” He grabbed my wrist, dragging me forward. We fled blindly until we reached a significantly clear stream over a bed gravel.

“Apollo, we can't go through the water, we’ll freeze-” That fact did not deter him. He waded shin-deep into the ice cold stream before he fell to his knees. A pitiful yell bubbling through his lips.

I didn't have much of a choice now did I? I ran in after him, the water was so cold it felt like needles biting into my skin. Meg was not far behind. “Brother, you need to get up-”

“You didn't…? You didn't hear it..?” I felt my stomach drop to my feet, hear what?

This eerily reminded of a memory I still had from thousands of years ago. When Apollo first became the god of prophecy, the first prophecies he delivered made him physically sick, he didn't know how to channel them into tangible ideas and words. But of course, that was thousands of years ago. But it did remind me of that.

“Hear what!” Meg asked.

Apollo didn’t respond. Instead, he cried out in pain and collapsed face first into the stream.

So it looks like I'm carrying him. “Help me lift him.” Meg and I pulled him from the stream and I stumble-dragged him across the water. We set him on the ground. Apollo was shivering violently. I pulled his sodden coat off and threw mine over him. Good thing we didnt swap earlier.

“What did you hear. Don't go crazy on us.” My voice was serious. He laughed hysterically, I felt my own heartbeat start to pick up as goosebumps crawled up my arms. Why was this happening? He was fine! A few broken ribs, but this isn't warranted! I felt my blood run cold as I came to a shocking realization. What if the Nosoi had poisoned him? That was the only answer I could think of.

“I.. I heard..”

Before he could finish his face screwed up in pain, a violent shudder running through him. He audibly whimpered. Steam started rising from his clothes and I wanted to scream and cry and curse at Zeus. If the Nosoi DID poison him, there was a good chance he would get worse very quickly. His eyes glazed over and his mouth hung ajar.

All I could hear was the blood screaming in my ears. I found myself shaking him awake, telling him to get up. I couldn't lose him. I need him. I can’t do this alone.

I was blind to my panic.

I wouldn't watch him die.

I wouldn't watch my baby brother die.

Meg shoved me and slapped him. Hard. “GET UP!” She yelled. That seemed to break through his trance, he sat up, and immediately started retching. He vomited, I dragged him to his feet after a moment. He made a weak sound of protest. “Meg, help me carry him.” She rushed to his other side. He murmured something under his breath. I didn't catch what. He was pale, and his shivering only grew more violent as we stumbled along. He suddenly started giggling, it sounded wrong. Unnatural even.

“Keep it together brother. Please. We’ll get to camp soon, okay?” He didn't respond, instead, his head lolled to the side as he passed in and out of consciousness. My palms were sweaty, my steps misplaced, and I was terrified we were too far to get him to camp quick enough.

“We need to get him to camp, right now,” I told Meg. From the steam rising from his clothes and the heat burning through his clothes, I assumed he was running a high fever of 106 or so. Dangerously high. He only woke up to laugh hysterically, as we stumbled forward he finally went completely limp in our arms, his eyes rolling back into his head. My heartbeat steadily rose, but I had to stay calm. I had to get him to safety.

As we were running, my foot got caught in a dip in the ground, I stumbled forward, my ankle twisting, pain shot up my leg for a moment, It took a lot to ignore it, but we had to get him to safety. I bore most of his weight. Finally, finally we reached the edge of camp. We exited the woods by a campfire where a group of teens were making smores, as soon as they saw us they went for there weapons. “DEMIGODS!” I screamed, not even bothering to mask the panic in my voice. “I AM ARTEMIS. WE ARE IN DIRE NEED OF ASSISTANCE”

 


 Hermes Prank Drabble

 

I was peacefully sitting on Olympus, tuning a guitar, and before I knew what was happening, I felt something warm, solid, and scaly on my neck. Scaley, long, skinny, all the requirements checked off. Snake. Why the Tartarus did some asshole put a snake on my neck.

I screamed, and before I could even register what I was doing the snake lay dead 10 feet away, the fiery arrows mutilating its corpse. Hermes was cracking up behind me, I even heard Artemis chuckle. Not funny sister.

Ichor rushed to my cheeks.

I stared at the snake for a long second before I rushed out of the room. It wasn't like I could explain myself without Artemis finding out about Python, and I don't want that. The mere idea of her finding out just how bloody that fight had been terrifies me. She shouldn't need to worry about a trivial matter such as my fear of serpents. She already worries enough about me. She probably- No, she certainly already suspects something is going on. There is no way she hasn't heard me wake up in a cold sweat. That she hasn't heard me scream his name as I wake up, hands positioned to attempt to hold back his fangs, stop then from piercing my flesh. The mere thought makes me anxious. But on the other hand... if she knew she would have brought it up by now.

The last thing I want is for her to know that I was practically bedridden for a week after that fight. Unable to move as the snake's venom ran through my veins.

I don't want her to know I was too cowardly to ask for help. Too ashamed to admit the monster had nearly defeated me.

She would probably get angry at me not telling her, or try to coddle me. That's the last thing I want.

I sat down on my throne, closing my eyes for a moment.

Serpents, Snakes, I fear hate them.

Chapter Text

The demigods rushed over, at out sides in moments. I stumbled forward, my eyes wide. “Please help.. He’s hurt..” Meg watched them grow closer, she looked nervous. I couldn’t imagine why.

“Your Artemis?” One of them asked quizzically.

“Yes!” THAT ISN'T IMPORTANT. HE’S HURT. I DONT MATTER RIGHT NOW HELP HIM. I wished I could have screamed that, but instead my voice came out shaky and terrified. “Apollo’s hurt- he, he has a fever-”

“I’ll get Will!” One of them ran off, presumably in the direction of “Will” Who I assumed was a son of my brother. A strange thought given our current predicament. The demigod who went to fetch him appeared to be a son of Hermes. His face looked terribly similar to his father's. Another demigod took a step forward, by the look of her she was a daughter of Demeter.

“Lady Artemis, what's going on? Why are you here?” Wow! Some respect! That's new! First time anyone bothered to respect me all day! I'm a goddess! At least some of my dignity remained.

“In a long story short, We’re mortal,” I said quickly.

Her eyes widened. “How..? How could you be mortal? Your gods!”

“Not important right now,” I responded

“Of course it's important!” She screeched, I flinched away from her loud voice. Why did I flinch away? She wasn't going to hurt me..

“Who’re you?” Meg asked, pulling away from us. That left me to hold Apollo on my own. A horrible idea honestly, Meg is the one out of the two of us with the least reason to not want to support his weight. Pain shot up my leg again, radiating out from my ankle. Did I sprain it? If it weren't for the daughter of Demeter’s quick response time, I would have both fallen and dropped Apollo. She dashed over and caught him before he hit the ground, she audibly winced at his burning fever. Yes, demigod. He has a burning fever. Why isn't anyone doing anything about it? As she caught him, I, in a glorious, graceful manner, crumpled over to the ground like a sack of potatoes. My injured leg giving out beneath me like that one time my moon chariot fell out of the sky because SOMEONE (cough*HERMES*cough) send a BIRD to scare MY DEER.

Meg’s eyes widened. “Sorry! I didn't mean to-”

My ankle throbbed but I couldn't bring myself to care. I was just glad Apollo was alright. “Meg. Meg its fine.” I said assured her, staggering to my feet. Pain spiraled up my leg and up my spine. I stumbled over to a convenient tree and leaned on it. I could hear frantic shouting from nearby, AT LEAST SOMEONE SEEMED TO CARE. a blond teen was running over. The demigod I assumed to be Will was here.

Apollo was rushed to his cabin, While I was helped along by Meg, unable to put any weight on my ankle. Great going Artemis! You sprained your ankle! It's not like you’ve spent hundreds of years hunting without so much as a stumble ! I assumed I hadn't realized It was twisted because of adrenaline or something. I don't know, I'm not Apollo. I don't know why human bodies do what they do.

I watched as Will went about treating Apollo, bandaging the cuts and scrapes he had gotten as I and Meg dragged him out of the woods. We hadn’t exactly been careful as we ran. He checked Apollo’s ribs for more severe breaks, I had given a brief overview of the possible injuries he could have. Glazing over the details of our encounter with the thugs. (I would not start crying in front of my brother's son.)

“Let me try the nectar first.” I insisted right before he gave it to Apollo. “There is no way to tell if it will make him spontaneously combust. A mere drop shouldn't destroy me if it does harm us.” Will frowned, but handed me the cup of nectar. I put my finger in the drink and put it to my lips, immediately I jerked it away as violent burning sensation assaulted my mouth, steam started rising from my lips as they started bleeding. Will jumped up and grabbed a tissue from across the cabin and handed it to me. I held it to my bleeding lips. Not fun. Gods unable to consume the food of the gods. Oh how far we’ve fallen. My lip after a few minutes of burning grew numb and swollen. Fun.

“Welp. No Nectar or Ambrosia then.” He murmured. “Apollo’s stable, why don't you let me wrap your ankle”

“No, tend to Apollo. I’m fine.” I refused to let him wrap my ankle until he was certain Apollo was alright. Certain he didn't have a plague. Certain that he was going to wake up.

“He isn't sick. Or contagious.” Will quickly said, once again I wondered if what I was thinking was that obvious. Can demigods read minds or something? Do they have a secret power? He glances in my direction momentarily before turning back to his father. That thought made me uncomfortable in this 15-16 year old body. Will looked about as old as our bodies. Strange. I didn't know what to think of that. My nephew was as old as me. I shuddered, but I was relieved that he wasn't going to die from some fatal plague. I fell back onto the bunk bed, my ribs throbbed and I exhaled slowly.

“Thank the gods…” I closed my eyes for a moment.

“I probably have broken ribs too.” I murmured. “But he’s worse off than I am, when we landed in the dumpster I landed on top of him”

He glanced at me quickly. “Why didn't you say anything?!’ he demanded, stepping away from Apollo and over to me. “If your hurt you should lay down.”  

“I'm fine,” I said stiffly. “Apollo had a fever, he hallucinated in the forest, I’m fine”

“But you're not fine.” He says slowly. Like he’s talking to a child.

I glared at him but relented. “Fine. Get a cot.”

He walked over to a bunk and pulled a cot out from under it. He set it up flawlessly. “Come, I’ll help you over.” He helped me over to the cot, I laid down all while grumbling under my breath about how I was fine and how unnecessary this is. His mouth twitched up. I didn't bother commenting. He started wrapping my ankle in a bandage and propped.it up on a pillow. I closed my eyes, suddenly aware of how exhausted I was. Sleep sounded good. “Wake me up if Apollo wakes up, alright?”

“Alright,” He said. I fell asleep in moments.

Chapter Text

I found myself in the sun chariot. Sun sports car. Apollo was driving, his face in the mirror looked contemplative. He looked happy, a relief. He didn't see me, or even notice me. His current favorite song, Alabama Shakes’ “Rise to the Sun.” blared on the radio. I realized he looked like himself. His usual god form. I glanced down at myself, hoping to see my silver jacket. Sadly, I remained Livia. Why does HE get to be in his normal form when I can't? That's just unfair.

A woman popped into the passenger seat. The seat I was in. Somehow she forced me out of the seat, leaving me squashed between the passenger door and seat.

Apollo jumped an inch into the air, jolting away from her. He looked so surprised if I had gotten a photo I could have used it as blackmail.

I didn't recognize the woman. But she was familiar looking. She was dressed as an old Libyan queen. Her hair was long and dark, and she wore a tiara crown that looked like a curved miniature ladder—two gold rails lined with rungs of silver. She looked kind . Not Hera. Also, the last place our stepmother would be was with us. I think she smiled at Apollo. Hera would never smile at us.

I knew I knew her. It was a fact I had interacted with this lady.. Queen.. Before. I had a million questions but when I opened my mouth to speak I found myself mute.

Who are you? I asked in my head.

“Who are you?” He asked, mimicking my thoughts. Seriously. Are my thoughts that visible? How come people keep reading them? I wanted to scream at him. Why did we BOTH forget who this important looking lady she is?

Even from halfway behind her, I could tell she wasn't too happy he didn't recognize her.

“Follow the voices.” She said. I felt a shiver travel down my spine. What was she talking about? Voices? Then I remembered. Apollo has said something about hearing something in the forest. Was she the one who made his freak out? Was it her fault? Did she do this?!? I felt like punching her. How dare she?!?

“I heard you in the woods….Were you—were you speaking a prophecy?” That only confirmed my suspicions. I lunged at her, or well, I tried to. I Didn't move from the spot I was in.

“Find the gates.” She grabbed his wrist. I wanted to scream at her for touching him. She caused him to have a fever so high he could have died.  “You’ve gotta find them first, you dig?”

“But—”

The woman burst into flames, but she turned to face me, then smiled.

Apollo practically lunged for the wheel as the chariot spiraled into a nosedive. The sports car morphed into a school bus, I found myself in the seat directly behind Apollo. Smoke filled the cabin and I felt panic rise in my chest. Somewhere behind us, a nasally voice spoke.

“By all means, find the gates.”

I turned around, my eyes locking on the man. I found myself unable to move at all. Like someone had locked my muscles in place. I couldn't even breath or blink. The man was in an ugly mauve suit. He lounged across the backseat. Why? How is that even comfortable? He had a weak jawline, an overlarge nose, and a beard that wrapped around his double chin like a helmet strap. His hair was curly and dark like Apollos.

“Who are you?” He yelled, desperately trying to pull the chariot out of its dive. “Why are you on my bus?”

I locked eyes with the man, his crooked smile made me feel sick. I couldn't move. I couldn’t breathe.

“My own forefather does not recognize me? I’m hurt!”

Who is he? I didn't recognize him. Why didn't I recognize him? I KNEW HIM. I knew he was dangerous and I knew he shouldn't be here. But why ? Who IS HE? Why does seeing him make me feel like those thugs were staring me down again? He screamed danger.

“I—I don’t,” Apollo stuttered. “I’m sorry.” No. No, don't be sorry. He’s dangerous. I KNOW he’s dangerous.

The man laughed as flames licked at his purple sleeves. What the Tartarus!?! Is being burned alive a sport to you?  “You’re not sorry yet, but you will be. Find me the gates. Lead me to the Oracle. I’ll enjoy burning it down!”

The fire consumed us as the sun bus careened toward the earth. I still couldn't move. I didn't know what was going on, but I heard Apollo screaming behind me. His screaming grew louder and louder. Then we collided with something

I woke up.

I felt like my throat was constricting. I could still feel the smoke in my lungs. I gasped for air, my eyes staring at the ceiling. I doubted I could sit up, so I didn't. I heard the cot beside me creek, so Apollo woke up with me.

“Easy.” I heard Will say.  “Don’t try to sit up.”

The cot creaked again, signaling my idiot brother tried to sit up anyway.

“Those flowers…” Apollo voice was hoarse as if he’d inhaled the smoke from (his? our?) dream. “Those are from Delos, my sacred island.” My. Brother. Brother, we were both born there. Our island.

“Yep,” said the young man. “They only grow in and around Cabin Seven—your cabin. Do you know who I am?”

Oh please tell me he recognizes his own son. Don't let him embarrass himself like that. There was a three-second pause, and just when I feared the worst, he spoke.

“You’re Will Solace,” He said. “My, ah…erm—”

“Yeah,” Will agreed. “It’s awkward.”

Apollo audibly gasped, and I dragged myself into a sitting position, just in time to see he fall sideways. “Whoa, there.” Will steadied him. “Artemis filled me on on your er.. Situation.” Situation was a way to put it. “You’re recovering quickly from your injuries, but your vital signs are completely human.” The healing part was a good thing, the human part, not so much.

“Don’t remind me.”

“Yeah, well…” Will placed his hand on Apollo’s forehead, no doubt checking his temperature again. “Artemis is asleep, I

promised- Oh!” He seemed to only now realize I had woken up. “You’re awake.” I nodded, Apollo struggled to get a view of me.

“Where’s Meg?” I asked, swinging my legs over the side of the cot.

“Outside doing.. Things. I don't know.” He checked Apollo’s pulse. “You seem to be about my age, fifteen or so. Your heart rate is back to normal. Ribs are mending. Nose is swollen, but not broken.” All of those were good. Very good. Will turned to me. “Your ankle healed you as slept, I assume you two have quick healing?”

“Yeah. If only to let us experience more pain faster.” Apollo said bitterly. I glanced at him. Was that comment really necessary?

“Oh..kay..” Will muttered. “Are you feeling any better Artemis?”

“I’m still a mortal, But yeah, I guess I feel better than earlier.” Will nodded, turning back to Apollo.

“And I have acne,” Apollo complained.  “And flab.” Yes, brother. You do not have an 8-pack. What a shame.

Will tilted his head. “You’re mortal, and that’s what you’re worried about?”

“You’re right. I’m- We’re- me and my sister are powerless. Weaker even than you demigods!”

“Gee, thanks….” He sounded like he was going to add something, but didn't.

It wasn't very difficult to think of Will as my brother's son. They even looked similar. Well, he looked similar to his usual form. They had same lips and jawbone. I think there are some similarities in the way his ears were sticking out from his head, and the curliness of his hair, straight from my brother. He was definitely my brother's son. But now me and my brother are 15-16-year-old mortals. Which makes things strange. The corner of his mouth was twitching upward. I had learned earlier that Will would rather laugh then freak out.

“Are—are you amused?” He demanded. I nearly laughed. Of course, Will isn’t amused.

Will shrugged. “Well, it’s either find this funny or freak out. My dad and aunt, the immortal deities Artemis and Apollo, are fifteen-year-old mortals”

“Sixteen,” Apollo corrected. “Let’s go with sixteen.”

“I second that.” We have licenses, so it's reasonable to assume us to be 16.

“Fine. So you two are sixteen-year-old mortals. My own father is practically bedridden in a cot in my- your cabin. Do you understand how crazy that is? Not even with my healing abilities, I can't fix you.”

“There is no fixing this,” He said miserably. “We are cast out from Olympus. Our fate is tied to a girl named Meg. It could not be worse!”

“Well. Actually.” I cut in. “You could be stuck with Ares instead of me. Or be completely alone”

Apollo shuddered, clearly unhappy with those ideas. “Yes. You are correct. I would much rather have you here than no one.” He smiled weakly. “But! I still don't understand why you stayed mortal Artie.”

“I didn't want to leave you. Let's talk about his later, okay?” I pleaded. Apollo nodded.

Will glanced between us for a moment, but didn't ask. “Anyways, Meg seems cool. I haven't talked to her, but according to what I've heard She’s already poked Connor Stoll in the eyes and kicked Sherman Yang in the crotch.”

“She did what?” Apollo looked shocked.

“Oh, gods….” I murmured, pinching my nose.

“She’ll get along just fine here. She’s waiting for you outside—along with most of the campers.” Oh. Wonderful. I really don't want to deal with them. Will’s smile faded. “Just so you’re prepared, they’re asking a lot of questions. Everybody is wondering if your arrival, your mortal situation, has anything to do with what’s been going on at camp.”

Apollo frowned. “What has been going on at camp?”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

The cabin door swung open, me and Apollo turned to face the door. Two more demigods stepped inside. One was a tall boy of about thirteen, (A/N Ricks description ahead.) his skin burnished bronze and his cornrows woven like DNA helixes. In his black wool peacoat and black jeans, he looked as if he’d stepped from the deck of an eighteenth-century whaling vessel. The other newcomer was a younger girl in olive camouflage. She had a full quiver on her shoulder, and her short ginger hair was dyed with a shock of bright green, which seemed to defeat the point of wearing camouflage .

I could see Apollo in both of them. More nieces and Nephews I see.

“Austin,” Apollo said. “And Kayla, isn’t it?”

I have a feeling Apollo expected them to bow. But I doubt anymore would bow to him right now, he was pale and looked horrible, not to mention he was half laying on a cot. I don't think he knew how pitiful he looked.

“So it’s really you,” Kayla said. Ignoring me.

Austin frowned. “Meg told us you two were beaten up by a couple of thugs.” I probably flinched at that comment. I hoped Meg hadn’t gone into specifics about that. “She said you had no powers and you went hysterical out in the woods.”

Apollo looked nervous, and he grimaced like there was a bad taste in his mouth “Meg talks too much.” He said quickly.

“But you’re mortal?” Kayla asked. “As in completely mortal? Does that mean I’m going to lose my archery skills? I can’t even qualify for the Olympics until I’m sixteen!”

“And if I lose my music…” Austin shook his head. “No, man, that’s wrong. My last video got, like, five hundred thousand views in a week. What am I supposed to do?”

These two are definitely his kids. No doubt.

“My problems should not affect you,” He promised. “If Zeus went around retroactively yanking my divine power out of all my descendants, half the medical schools in the country would be empty. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame would disappear. The Tarot-card reading industry would collapse overnight!”

Austin’s shoulders relaxed. “That’s a relief.”

“So if you die while you’re mortal,” Kayla said, “we won’t disappear?” I found myself digging my hands into the cot. Why did she have to bring up dying?

“Guys,” Will interrupted, thank the gods. “why don’t you run to the Big House and tell Chiron that our…our patients are conscious. I’ll bring them along in a minute. And, uh, see if you can disperse the crowd outside, okay? I don’t want everybody rushing them at once.”

I was glad he suggested that. I seriously doubted I could take a million questions right now.

Kayla and Austin nodded and exited the cabin. As soon as they were gone, Will gave me us apologetic smile. “They’re in shock. We all are. It’ll take some time to get used to…whatever this is.”

“You do not seem shocked,” Apollo said.

Will laughed under his breath. “I’m terrified. But one thing you learn as head counselor: you have to keep it together for everyone else. Let’s get you on your feet.”

It was not easy getting Apollo on his feet, he swayed dangerously. I practically held him up. He fell twice , each time he crashed into the ground with a pained yelp, and I felt more furious at myself for allowing him to fall. He shouldn't have fallen, hades he shouldn't even be hurt. That woman hurt him. She’s the third person on my hit list for when I become immortal again. Maybe i’ll just yell at her, she seemed important. I had an arm over his shoulders, holding him steady. As we got in a more maneuverable position Will acted as spotter in case he fell again. He managed to get his arm around my neck, and my arm around his shoulders. He could easily lean on me. There was no doubt he was anxious to leave. The cabin was beginning

to get stuffy. Me and Apollo both agree that everything is better done outside. For him its his music and poetry. He says it's more inspiring. For me, its hunting. Can you imagine hunting inside? How boring would that be? Archery is definitely easier outside. One time, years and years ago, Apollo tried target practice in our father’s throne room. I don't like thinking about that day.



Anyway , with Apollo leaning on me for support, we stepped outside. Kayla and Austin had succeeded in shooing the crowd away. The only one waiting for us was Meg, who had apparently now gained fame at camp as Crotchkicker McCaffrey.

She was still wearing Sally Jackson’s green dress, not a surprise really. It's not like she had money for the camp store. Her leggings were ripped and torn, on her bicep, a line of butterfly bandages closed a nasty cut she must have gotten in the woods. I couldn't help but notice that the bandage was in the same spot Pythons fangs had sunk into Apollo’s bicep all those years ago. I winced. That was the last thing I should be thinking of right now.

She took one look at us, scrunched up her face, and stuck out her tongue. “You look yuck.”

“And you, Meg,” Apollo said, “are as charming as ever.”

“I heard you poked Connor Stoll in the eyes”

Meg just nodded and adjusted her glasses until they were only slightly crooked. “Thought you were going to die.”

I glared daggers at her. Even though I thought he was going to die too, it wasn't polite to point it out.

“Glad to disappoint you,” Apollo said bitterly.

“Nah.” She shrugged. “You still owe me a year of service. We’re bound, whether you like it or not!”

Apollo sighed. Here we are, back with our overlord.

“I suppose I should thank you….” Apollo murmured. “How did you two get me out of the woods?” I didn't really remember. I just followed Meg, to panicked to do much more than that.

Her expression turned guarded. “Dunno. Luck.” She jabbed a thumb at Will Solace. “From what he’s been telling me, it’s a good thing we got out before nightfall.”

“Why?”

Will looked like he was going to answer, but didn't. “I should let Chiron explain. Come on.”

We started across camp.

I never really went to camp half-blood. Occasionally my brother dragged me here, but I never came here just because. I didn't have a reason too. I was always out with my hunters, and if I needed something done I could ask them. I imagined the last time Apollo was here was when he dropped off by hunters.

The thing was, I just hadn't expected the camp to be so barren. Most demigods came in the summer sure, but I had only seen approximately a dozen campers. I knew some campers found the camp the only place to reside during the school year. Still, I found it odd. If Apollo’s cabin was anything like the rest, a cabin housed 20 campers at most. If the rest of the cabins had 20 bunks, then the maximum capacity of demigods is 400.

As we walked, I saw a lone girl climbing the lava wall. On the lake 3 demigods were sailing.

A few campers were outside just to stare at us, I could practically feel their eyes digging into my soul. There was an Ares camper putting up barbed wire outside of his cabin. By the way he walked, I assume he was Sherman Yang

In the doorway to the Hermes cabin two girls giggled and whispered at us, Apollo looked like he was going to either start laughing or crying. His cheeks were flushed, and somewhere in the back of my mind, I wondered if he actually was, in fact, sick and had some sort of twin brother killing plague.

Making our way across camp was horrible. Apollo couldn't walk on his own, hell he could hardly even stand.

“Apollo?”

“Yeah, Artemis?”

“Did.. Did you have a dream where you were in your sun chariot and a lady appeared and-”

“Then the spyder morphed into a bus and a.. Purple suit guy appeared” He finished, looking at me with wide eyes.

“Yeah..” I murmured.

“How did you know..?” He asked, sounding thoroughly confused.

“I was there. You couldn't see me I don't think.. But-”

“Did you recognize anyone?!?” He asked urgently.

“No.. But the purple suit guy is dangerous. I just know he is.”

Apollo nodded, looking shaken.

The three of us made our way through the strawberry fields, from where we stood we had a great view of half blood hill. The golden fleece glinted on the lowest branch of Thalia’s pine tree. My lieutenant has told me about her tree many times. Peleus the dragon lay coiled around the tree

Next to the tree, the Athena Parthenos glinted red in the sunset. Halfway into the hillside was the Oracle's cave. It's entrance covered by curtains. The torches remained unlit, signaling Rachel Elizabeth Dare was not inside. If this was what the lady was referring to find, then I didn't know what to think. The gates were curtain flaps. Unless the dream was referring to something else, I could not imagine what she was talking about. Apollo must have been thinking the same because he was staring at the cave intently.

Finally, we reached the big house. On the porch, a dark-haired teen was waiting for us. He wore faded black trousers, a Ramones T-shirt, and a black leather bomber jacket. At his side hung a Stygian iron sword.

“I remember you,” Apollo said. “Is it Nicholas, son of Hades?”

“Nico di Angelo.” He studied us, his eyes were sharp and colorless. “So it’s true. You’re completely mortal. There’s an aura of death around you—a thick possibility of death.”

I winced. Death omens from a son of Hades were always bad, and the last thing I wanted to think about was the high possibility of death.

Meg snorted. “Sounds like a weather forecast.”

“Nico, we need to have another talk about your people skills.”

“Hey, I’m just stating the obvious. If they really are Apollo and Artemis, and they die, we’re all in trouble.”

Will turned to us. “I apologize for my boyfriend.”

Nico rolled his eyes. “Could you not—”

“Would you prefer special guy?” Will asked. “Or significant other?”

“Significant annoyance, in your case,” Nico grumbled.

“Oh, I’ll get you for that.”

Meg wiped her dripping nose. “You guys fight a lot. I thought we were going to see a centaur.”

“And here I am.” The screen door opened. Chiron trotted out, ducking his head to avoid the doorframe.

From the waist up, Chiron looked every bit the professor he often pretended to be in the mortal world. His brown wool jacket had patches on the elbows. His plaid dress shirt did not quite match his green tie. His beard was neatly trimmed, but his hair would have failed the tidiness inspection required for a proper rat’s nest.

From the waist down, he was a white stallion.

He smiled, though his eyes were stormy and distracted. “Apollo, Artemis, it’s good you two are here. We need to talk about the disappearances."

Chapter Text

Meg’s eyes just about bugged out of her head when she saw Chiron. “He- He really is a centaur!”

“How observant of you Meg. Do we assume him having the lower body of a horse is what gave you that startling realization?” I joked. Meg glared at me.  

“Shut up!” Meg snapped.

My mouth snapped shut against my will, I found myself unable to speak. How to describe it.. I felt like my voice just stopped, and my jaw locked into place.. I can't describe it. I glanced at Apollo helplessly, he took a deep breath before turning to Meg.

“Meg,” He sounded annoyed. “Shut up, is, in fact, a direct order. So unless you want my sister to be mute for the foreseeable future, I’d advise you to allow her to speak.” Apollo’s voice was clipped and furious.

Meg nodded, a surprised look in her eyes.

“Um- You can speak, Artemis” I took a deep breath, Apollo looked something between furious and pained..

“Thank you. Never do that again.” I massaged my jaw, wincing. I turned to Chiron. “ Anyway. Chiron, This is me and Apollo’s new.. master. Meg. Meg McCaffrey.”

He looked amused. Does he find this funny?!

“You were saying something about disappearances? Apologies for taking forever to get here.. We had a slight issue with the fact that I’m hurt.” Apollo muttered sheepishly.

Chiron’s tail flicked as he glanced between us, last I had seen Chiron he had looked much younger, his hair looked greyer and he definitely didn't have so many wrinkles. Whatever is happening must be taking its toll on him.

“Welcome, Meg.” He attempted to sound friendly, and surprisingly, he managed. A feat considering the havoc she has been causing all day.

“I understand you showed great bravery in the woods. You and Artemis got Apollo here in one piece, despite the many dangers you made it. I’m glad to have you at Camp Half-Blood.”

“I helped” I muttered.

Meg snorted. “No, you were crying and panicking and generally freaking out. I got you two here, you just helped carry him.”

Apollo looked concerned, I forced a smile.

“And thanks,” Meg said. “Also! You’re really tall. Don’t you hit your head on light fixtures?”

Why? How was that relevant? At All?

Chiron chuckled. “Sometimes.” Wow. Just… just wow . “If I want to be closer to human size, I have a magical wheelchair that allows me to compact my lower half into…Actually, that’s not important now.”

“Disappearances,” Apollo repeated. “Please continue.”

“What has disappeared?” I added.

“Not what, but who,” Chiron said. Oh shit. “Let’s talk inside. Will, Nico, could you please tell the other campers we’ll gather for dinner in one hour? I’ll give everyone an update then. In the meantime, no one should roam the camp alone. Use the buddy system.”

“Understood.” Will looked at Nico. “Will you be my buddy?”

“You are a dork,” Nico announced.

The two of them strolled off bickering.

If you’re wondering how I saw them as a couple? I couldn't care less. No matter their gender, I’ve sworn off romance of all forms, I know what your thinking, No . Orion does not count. That was one time and resulted in one of the worst mistakes of my life. No , I'm not elaborating.

Chiron led us to the living room, There were two couches arranged in a V facing towards a stone fireplace. Above the mantel, a stuffed leopard head was snoring. Probably Dio’s work.

I steered Apollo to the couches, the trek to the big house had clearly taken it out of him.  

He didn't even try to protest when I practically pushed him onto one.

“Lie down ‘Pollo, you look like you're about to fall over.” I plopped down on the couch next to him. He tried to look annoyed but he was smiling.

“Move over, your big ass is taking up the entire couch!” He shoved me over. I fell sideways, I hadn't been expecting him to push me.

“Apollo!” I was laughing too hard to even pretend to be offended. My eyes were watering and I was smiling so wide my cheeks were beginning to hurt, Apollo maneuvered into a more comfortable position as I got ahold of myself, I could hardly remember the last time I laughed like that. Apollo had his head rested on my lap, I felt a smile tugging at my lips.

Meg was throwing things at Seymour the leopard head, trying to wake him up, while Chiron got into his wheelchair. I couldn't care less about what they were doing.

At least, I didn't care, not until I glanced at Chiron. His legs were… very feminine. (Fishnet stockings? Really?) “Chiron- Your er.. Legs” I stared at them. They did not mesh with his professor aesthetic.  

Chiron glanced down and sighed.

“Let me guess… The Stoll brothers? Connor and Travis?” Apollo guessed. “I've heard about them from Hermes.”

“No, I doubt it.” Chiron reached for a blanket from a nearby basket and covered his “Legs”. “Connor has mellowed ever since Travis left for college last autumn.”

“I poked that Connor guy in the eye.”

Chiron winced. “That’s nice, dear….At any rate, we have Julia Feingold and Alice Miyazawa now. They have taken up pranking duty. You’ll meet them soon enough.” Those girls in the Hermes cabin doorway came to mind. The ones who were giggling at us.

Meg looked over from playing on the Pac-man machine. When had she even gone over there?

Meg stepped away from the Pac-man game, it entertained her for a full twenty seconds. Apollo spoke up when she began to climb on the walls. Literally. She was scaling it by the grapevines. “Meg, Why don't you go watch the orientation video while we talk?” Apollo asked, pleaded, something along those lines.

I actually wouldn't mind watching it myself, if only to see Apollo’s normal form. It took him ages to make that film. Guess who had to man the camera? Me.

“I know plenty,” she said. Welp, we’re stuck with her. “I talked to the campers while you were passed out. ‘Safe place for modern demigods.’ Blah, blah, blah.”

“Oh, but the film is very good,” He pleaded. “I shot it on a tight budget in the 1950s-”

I cleared my throat. “You shot it?” I asked rhetorically. “Because I remember it differently. Didn’t you come barging into my camp because you broke-”

“Shhh” He reached up and covered my mouth. “As I was saying-” I bit his hand. “ARTEMIS!”

“Don't cover my mouth. How many times have we gone over this.”

He squinted at me. “ As I was saying, some of the camera work was revolutionary. You should really—”

The grapevine gave out from her weight, and Meg crashed to the floor she shot up directly after, her eyes honing in on a platter of cookies. “Are those free?”

Meg. Meg, it's a plate of cookies. Why wouldn't they be free?
“Yes, child,” Chiron said. “Bring the tea as well, would you?”

Meg laid down on the couch beside ours, her legs hanging over the armrest. She was holding something like 8 cookies in one hand and was eating them religiously. Throwing crumbs and Seymour when Chiron wasn't looking.

I helped Apollo into a sitting position as Chiron poured us cups of tea. “I’m sorry Mr. D is not here to welcome you.”

“Mr. Dee?” Meg asked.

“Dionysus,” Apollo explained. “The god of wine. Also the director of this camp.”

Chiron handed Apollo his tea. “After the battle with Gaea, I thought Mr. D might return to camp, but he never did. I hope he’s alright.” He passed me my tea.

The centaur looked at us expectantly, Apollo shrugged and I tried to think of where Dio was. “Apollo here can't remember anything from the last six months.. As for me, I was to busy trying to appeal his- our punishment. I guess I was hoping for you to fill us in.” And my memories are startling blurry. Why couldn't I recall where Dio is?

Chiron did a poor job hiding his disappointment. “I see….”

I quickly realized he was hoping that we could assist him, he was looking for advice. I mean, he shouldn't have expected much, especially considering that we arrived beat up, soaking wet and half dead. I mean, just look at us. Bruised, beaten, cold, mortal. Hell, Apollo still looks like a gust of wind could knock him over. I might look the same, forgive me but I haven't looked in a mirror recently.

In a strange way, Chiron looking at us for advice was a little overwhelming. As a goddess, lesser beings relied on me, but now? The idea of people begging and praying for me to assist them felt a tad terrifying.

“So Chiron, what's going on? You look distressed.”

“Like Cassandra when Troy was falling,” Apollo grumbled. I would have elbowed him if not for the fact I feared hurting him.

Chiron didn't comment on his comparison, he cupped his hands around his tea.

“You know that during the war with Gaea, the Oracle of Delphi stopped receiving prophecies. In fact, all known methods of divining the future suddenly failed.”
“Because the original cave of Delphi was retaken,” Apollo said with a sigh.

“Not his fault,” I said immediately. Apollo glanced at me warningly, like Do not have a repeat of earlier.

Chiron raised an eyebrow.

Meg threw a chocolate chip at Seymour the leopard’s nose. It bounced off. “Oracle of Delphi. Percy mentioned that.”

“Percy Jackson?” Chiron sat up. “Percy was with you?”

“For a time,” Apollo replied.

“There were some monsters-” Chiron looked concerned. “No, he did not die, don't think like that, he just got a head cold. Nosoi are nasty things.”

“Basically, to sum it up quickly, Artemis saved my life,” Apollo glanced at me pointedly. “Meg used fruit as missiles, Yes Meg, that was you, and Percy also saved our lives with his water bending abilities, and-”

“A demon fruit toddler devoured the Nosoi in the end” I Interrupted.

“A…. Demon fruit toddler..?” Chiron inquired

“His name is peaches.” Meg cut in. “I think Percy called him a carp-oy.”

“Karpoi” I corrected.

“Whatever.”

“Anyway, Percy said he would drive up here over the weekend if he could.”

Chiron looked disappointed. Was Percy that much more pleasant than us?

“At any rate,” he continued, “we hoped that once the war was over, the Oracle might start working again. When it did not…Rachel became concerned.”

“Who’s Rachel?” Meg asked.

“Rachel Dare,” Apollo said. “The Oracle.”

“Thought the Oracle was a place.”

“It is.”

“Then Rachel is a place, and she stopped working?”

Apollo groaned, then sipped his tea.

“The original Delphi was a place in Greece,” Apollo told her. “A cavern filled with volcanic fumes, where people would come to receive guidance from my priestess, the Pythia.”

“Pythia.” Meg giggled. “That’s a funny word.”

“Yes. Ha-ha. So the Oracle is both a place and a person. When the Greek gods relocated to America back in…what was it, Chiron, 1860?”

Chiron seesawed his hand. “More or less.”

“18...1856 I think it was” I answered quietly

“I brought the Oracle here to continue speaking prophecies on my behalf. The power has passed down from priestess to priestess over the years. Rachel Dare is the present Oracle.”

Meg grabbed the only Oreo, the cookie I wanted.

“Mm-kay. Is it too late to watch that movie?”

“Yes,” He snapped. “Now, the way I gained possession of the Oracle of Delphi in the first place was by killing this monster called Python who lived in the depths of the cavern.”

Oh.

I have to feign indifference. How does one pretend not to know that their brother’s mortal enemy nearly defeated him and that he’s terrified of the snake, I have no idea. I made my best slightly worried face.

“A python like the snake?” Meg asked.

“Yes and no. The snake species is named after Python the monster, who is also rather snaky, but who is much bigger and scarier and devours small girls who talk too much"

"That's cold,” I muttered, sipping my tea.

“At any rate, last August, while I was…indisposed-”

I coughed.

Apollo sighed. “While I was stuck on Delphi, my ancient foe Python was released from Tartarus. He reclaimed the cave of Delphi. That’s why the Oracle stopped working.”

“But if the Oracle is in America now, why does it matter if some snake monster takes over its old cave?”

“It’s too much to explain,” Apollo said. “You’ll just have to—”

“Meg, The original site of the Oracle is like the deepest taproot of a tree. The branches and leaves of prophecy may extend across the world, and Rachel Dare may be our loftiest branch, but if the taproot is strangled, the whole tree is endangered. With Python back in residence at his old lair, the spirit of the Oracle has been completely blocked.”

“Oh.” Meg made a face at Apollo. “Why didn’t you just say so?”

Apollo looked livid, I set my hand over his. Chiron refilled his teacup.

“The larger problem,” Chiron said, “is that we have no other source of prophecies.”

“Who cares?” Meg asked. “So you don’t know the future. Nobody knows the future.”

She.. really shouldn't have said that.

“Who cares?!” Apollo shouted. “Meg McCaffrey, prophecies are the catalysts for every important event—every quest or battle, disaster or miracle, birth or death. Prophecies don’t simply foretell the future. They shape it! They allow the future to happen.”

“I don’t get it.”

“Apollo. She’s 12.”

He grunted in response.

Chiron cleared his throat. “Imagine prophecies are flower seeds. With the right seeds, you can grow any garden you desire. Without seeds, no growth is possible.”

“Oh.” Meg nodded. “That would suck.”

“So where is Rachel Dare?” Apollo asked, forcing himself to sound calm “Perhaps if I spoke with her…?”

Chiron set down his tea. “Rachel planned to visit us during her winter vacation, but she never did. It might not mean anything….”

Apollo leaned forward. From the little I've heard of Rachel, it wasn’t like her not to show up at all.

“Or?” Apollo asked.

“Or it might be part of the larger problem,” Chiron said. “Prophecies are not the only things that have failed. Travel and communication have become difficult in the last few months. We haven’t heard from our friends at Camp Jupiter in weeks. No new demigods have arrived. Satyrs aren’t reporting from the field. Iris messages no longer work.”

“Iris what?” Meg asked.

“Two-way visions,” I explained. “Demigods throw a drachma into a rainbow as an offering the rainbow goddess, Iris.”  

“Iris has always been flighty….” Apollo murmured.

“Except that normal human communications are also on the fritz,” Chiron said. “Of course, phones have always been dangerous for demigods—”

“Yeah, they attract monsters,” Meg agreed. “I haven’t used a phone in forever.”

“A wise move,” Chiron said. “But recently our phones have stopped working altogether. Mobile, landline, Internet…it doesn’t seem to matter. Even the archaic form of communication known as e-mail is strangely unreliable. The messages simply don’t arrive.”

“Did you look in the junk folder?” Apollo offered.  

“I fear the problem is more complicated,” Chiron said. “We have no communication with the outside world. We are alone and understaffed. You are the first newcomers in almost two months.”

“Huh. I mean.. I’d assume my relatives have more children out there. But who knows, the titan war sent the population of demigods lower than it's been in generations."

Apollo frowned. “Percy Jackson mentioned nothing of this.”

“I doubt Percy is even aware,” Chiron said. “He’s been busy with school. Winter is normally our quietest time. For a while, I was able to convince myself that the communication failures were nothing but an inconvenient happenstance. Then the disappearances started.”

In the fireplace, a log slipped from the andiron and into the fire. Beside me Apollo practically jumped out of his seat, tea spilled from his cup into his lap. He visibly deflated as he weakly attempted to brush the drops off. A pointless endeavor.

“Oh dear...” I murmured, standing up to fetch Apollo a napkin, then I realized I didn't know where any were. “Do you have any napkins? Paper towel?”

“Yes, paper towel. Around the corner on the counter.”

I had.. A difficult time finding the paper towel, but I managed. I may or may not have required more information from Chiron. But I managed, bringing a few back to Apollo, who was trying to ignore Megs snickering. “Here”

“Thank you.” He murmured, fervently attempted to dry his pants.

“Don't mind me” He grit out. “Please continue”

“Alright.. Three demigods have gone missing in the last month Chiron said. “First it was Cecil Markowitz from the Hermes cabin, One morning his bunk was simply empty. He didn’t say anything about wanting to leave. No one saw him go. And in the past few weeks, no one has seen or heard from him.

“Children of Hermes do tend to sneak around,” Apollo interjected.

“At first, that’s what we thought,” said Chiron. “But a week later, Ellis Wakefield disappeared from the Ares cabin. Same story: empty bunk, no signs that he had either left on his own or was…ah, taken. Ellis was an impetuous young man. It was conceivable he might have charged off on some ill-advised adventure, but it made me uneasy. Then this morning we realized a third camper had vanished: Miranda Gardiner, head of the Demeter cabin. That was the worst news of all.”

Meg swung her feet off the armrest. “Why is that the worst?”

“Miranda is one of our senior counselors,” Chiron explained. “She would never leave on her own without notice. She is too smart to be tricked away from camp and too powerful to be forced. Yet something happened to her…something I can’t explain.”

The old centaur turned to face us, a haunted look in his eyes. “Something is very wrong Letoides, These problems may not be as alarming as the rise of Kronos or the awakening of Gaea, but in a way, I find them even more unsettling, because I have never seen anything like this before.”

Apollo seemed to be lost in thought. “These demigods…” He said. “Before they disappeared, did they act unusual in any way? Did they report…hearing things?”

Chiron raised an eyebrow.  “Not that I am aware of. Why?”

I turned to face him, he never did say what happened in the woods.

He seemed reluctant to say more, I understood where he was coming from. Causing a panic was a bad idea. Chiron studied us.

“Nevermind. Our first priority should be helping us regain our divinity. Then we can assist with other problems.”

I couldn't say I didn't agree, but we would be a mortal at least a year. “Apollo. You know these punishments last a year. There isn't much point in trying to sway Father.”

Chiron stroked his beard. “Artemis is correct, but on the other hand,  what if the problems are connected, my friends? What if the only way to restore you both to Olympus is by reclaiming the Oracle of Delphi, thus freeing the power of prophecy? What if Delphi is the key to it all?”

That… made sense. Python controlled Delphi. Meaning we had to kill the serpent. Meaning many things that I will think about later.

“In our present state, that’s impossible.” I pointed at Meg. “Right now, our job is to serve this demigod, probably for a year, as Artie pointed out. After I’ve done whatever tasks he assigns me, Zeus will judge if our sentence has been served, and we can once again reign immortal.”

Meg pulled apart a Fig Newton. Why? I couldn't tell you.Those are the best cookies.. Eat them normally child. “I could order you to go to this Delphi place.”

“No!” Apollo’s voice cracked mid-shriek. “You should assign us easy tasks—like starting a rock band, or just hanging out. Yes, hanging out is good.”

I glared at Meg, Strike one. I reached over and put a hand on his shoulder. “Meg. We are currently in no shape to fight anything. Much less get to Delphi"

Meg looked unconvinced. “You could take a plane”

Apollo stiffened and I laughed humorlessly. “You mean get thrown from the sky by our father so we die in the flaming wreckage of a plane. No.” Chiron glanced at me curiously. I ignored him.

“...well, Hanging out isn't a task.” Meg resorted.

“It is if you do it right. Camp Half-Blood can protect us while we hang out. After our year of servitude is up, we’ll become immortal again. Then we can talk about how to restore Delphi.” Apollo argued.

But I knew immediately after he’d order some demigods to do it for him, and Zeus wouldn’t like that.

“Apollo,” I sighed. “We may not have a year.”

“What do you mean?” He questioned.

“If demigods keep disappearing, the strength of camp weakens, and then they can't protect us. Besides, you are far from helpless.”

“I’m mortalHe responded.

I’m mortal.” I repeated, gesturing to myself. “‘Pollo, we are both mortal, we’re in this mess together,”

Apollo gestured angrily. “Artie we can die-”

“and! Apollo, Delphi IS your responsibility.” I added.

Chiron nodded thoughtfully.

Apollo groaned and put his head in his hands. Even he can't argue with logic. “Why us?” He asked rhetorically. “ I didn't open the doors of breath and let Python out! Zeus’s bad judgment got us in this mess in the first place!”

“Apollo..”

“When the giants started to wake, I drew up a very clear Twenty-Point Plan of Action to Protect Apollo and Also You Other Gods, but he didn’t even read it!”

“Yes. I do remember. ‘Pollo. You refused to let me edit.. But, to be honest, your plan was better than Zeus’s ‘wait till the last minute plan’.”

“Thank you.”

Meg tossed half of her cookie at Seymour’s head. “I still think it’s your fault. Hey, look! He’s awake!” Meg spoke in a way that made it sound like the Leopard had woken up in his own, was like he wasn't nailed in the eye with a Fig Newton.

His fault? I bristled at her statement because this so wasn’t his fault. Before I could argue Apollo just looked at me and shook his head. His message was clear. It's not worth it.

“RARR,” Seymour complained.

I felt the same.

Chiron wheeled his chair back from the table. “My dear, in that jar on the mantel, you’ll find some Snausages. Why don’t you feed him dinner? The twins and I will wait on the porch.”

 

~0~

 

I helped Apollo to his feet, a task in it'self. He didn't fall like earlier, thank the gods, but he swayed for a moment, almost falling, he steadied himself on the back of the couch.

Chiron looked wary.

“Do you think you can walk?” I asked quietly, he nodded quickly, staggering into a standing position. Once we reached the porch, Apollo started leaned on the railing heavily.

Chiron turned his wheelchair to face us. “She’s an interesting demigod.”

“Interesting is such a nonjudgmental term,” Apollo stated.

I smiled weakly.

“She really summoned a karpos?” Chiron

“Well…the spirit appeared when she was in trouble. Whether she consciously summoned it, I don’t know” Apollo replied.

Chiron scratched his beard. “I have not seen a demigod with the power to summon grain spirits in a very long time. You know what it means?”

Apollo’s legs began to tremble. I immediately took a step closer to him. “I have my suspicions. I’m trying to stay positive.” He muttered.

“She guided you two of the woods,” Chiron noted. “Without her—”

“Artemis would have gotten me out.” He interrupted, looking at Chiron.

“Apollo-” I attempted to speak.

“You would have gotten us out, Artie. I trust you.”  He replied I felt my lip twitch upward.

Chiron chuckled. I turned to him. He had this.. Look in his eyes. A look I've seen mirrored in my previous lieutenant’s eyes as she looked over recruit's. The look of someone scanning for new talent, I’d never imagined someone would look at me like that. It felt.. Objectifying.

“Tell me,” Chiron looked at Apollo, “what did you hear in the woods?”

Apollo froze, he laughed dryly. “I- well.. When I was in the woods.. There was a distinctly feminine voice.. And she was.. Screaming. Screaming from inside my head, I think. You couldn't hear it… Screaming stuff about fires and finding her and-” his voice was trembling. “She said- I'm quoting here- “The sun's fall, the final verse” and-” His voice broke, I reached over and grabbed his hand.

“I won't let you die,” I said quietly. “I’ll continue with the dream, okay?”

“That.. That would be nice” He looked out of it, his eyes on the ground. I squeezed his hand, hoping I was reassuring. I'm not going to let him die.

“When.. When I took a nap in the cabin while Apollo was unconscious, we shared a dream. In the dream we were in the sun chariot, a lady was there. She.. Looked like a queen. Not Hera. Hera doesn't smile. She was talking about following the voices and finding some gates.” I said. “Apollo you said something about a prophecy didn't you?”

“Uh- Yeah. I just- I don't know what I meant by that…”

“That's fine ‘Pollo.  After that, she disappeared and the Chariot went into bus form. There was this… man in the back. I don't know why but.. He’s bad news. I know he is. The chariot was in a death spiral and he said something about burning down an Oracle. He was laughing.” Apollo’s grip on my hand tightened as I spoke.

Chiron’s hands curled into his lap blanket. He looked about as worried as it is possible for a man to look while wearing fishnet stockings.

“We will have to warn the campers to stay away from the forest,” he decided. “I do not understand what is happening, but I still maintain it must be connected to Delphi, and your present…ah, situation. The Oracle must be liberated from the monster Python. We must find a way.”

I translated that easily enough: Apollo and I must find a way.

Chiron smiled weakly at us.

“Come, come, Apollo,” he said. “You have done it before. Perhaps you are not a god now, but the first time you killed Python it was no challenge at all! Hundreds of storybooks have praised the way you easily slew your enemy.”

I winced. The biggest lie my brother has ever told. Apollo glanced at me curiously.

“Yes,” He muttered. “Hundreds of storybooks.”

As I've said before, Python was not an easy fight for my brother. I saw the aftermath. He doesn't know I know how badly he was injured, but he’s had nightmares about the Serpent forever. My brother told everyone he killed it quickly, called out the serpent, and BAM! A dead snake, Apollo became lord of Delphi, and everyone was happy. From the bit's I've heard, and what I've seen, Python was no pushover. I doubted we could even pose a threat without our divine powers, the ability to teleport and our bows. We would die in mere minutes.

What kind of chance would we have as a sixteen-year-old mortals? We are not going to charge off to Greece and get ourselves killed.

Apollo looked frustrated, anxious, and angry. He looked like he was going to speak but before he could speak a conch horn in the distance.

“That means dinner.” The centaur forced a smile. “We will talk more later, eh? For now, let’s celebrate your arrival.”

Chapter Text

Celebrating our arrival? Why would we? We arrived at camp under terrible circumstances. Apollo had a burning fever, we were covered in bruises and scratches. Why on earth would we celebrate that?

Chiron led us to the dining pavilion. He pointed out the tables.

I’m assuming he expected us to sit at our respective tables, or, gods forbid, Zeus’s table.

I looked Chiron dead in the eyes and sat down at the Apollo table, dragging Apollo after me. The dining pavilion was beautiful, it reminded me of better days of ancient Greece the way it was built. Thankfully, the camps magical borders sheltered us from the worst of the weather. There was no snow in camp, and as we were surrounded by torches and braziers, I only felt the slightest bit of cold. Long Island Sound glittered in the light of my moon, that I should be driving. The Athena Parthenos glowed brightly. Even the woods didn't seem as foreboding with the pines blanketed in silvery fog.

But I didn't want to enter them anytime soon.

The scene was beautiful, and once again I found myself wondering why I never come here.

My dinner? Far less beautiful. A hot dog, potato chips, and a red liquid that was definitely kool-aid, but we were told it was Bug Juice.

Apollo seemed shocked, almost like he believed that.

Apollo’s kids- My nieces and nephews were sitting with us. Also Nico Di Angelo for some reason.

There was no discernable difference between Apollo’s table and my table. Mine should be better than his, more elegant and made of pure silver. I am going to turn it silver when I become a goddess again.

Apollo’s table was just a slab of stone with benches on either side.

I sat next to my brother, Austin and Kaylah asked endless questions about Olympus, The war with Gaia, what it felt like to be a god, and human. They probably didn't mean to be insensitive, but the questions were painful reminders of what we once had.

I do not know why, but my memories got blurrier and blurrier as time passed. It was alarming just how quickly they deteriorated. Usually, my memories were clear and without a flaw, now they were.. smeared writing on a schoolkids arm reminding them to study for that math test.

Will and Nico sat across from us, Apollo was staring at them. He looked something between sad and longing.

It took me a moment to realize why, and when I did it felt like a slap in the face.

They reminded him of Hyacinthus and himself so very long ago. Before the accident. Before any of Eros’s bullshit.

“Hey ‘Pollo,” He looked at me, but whatever I was going to say evaporated from my mind leaving me sitting open mouthed and confused. Why me. “I- I forgot. Nevermind.”

Thats never happened before

Apollo shook his head, his mouth twitching upward. He turned to Nico. “Nico, shouldn't you be at the Hades table?”

He shrugged. “Technically, yes. But if I sit alone at my table, strange things happen. Cracks open in the floor. Zombies crawl out and start roaming around. It’s a mood disorder. I can’t control it. That’s what I told Chiron.”

“And is it true?” Apollo questioned, a smile playing on his lips.

I smiled weakly. This reminds me of Apollo and me as young gods, when we would lie about how we felt sick if we sat anywhere but next to each other during feasts.

It also reminds me if the lengths I used to go to insist me and Orion were just friends-

Nevermind. I am not discussing that.

Nico smiled thinly. “I have a note from my doctor.”

Will raised his hand. “I’m his doctor.”

“Chiron decided it wasn’t worth arguing about,” Nico said. “As long as I sit at a table with other people, like…oh, these guys for instance…the zombies stay away. Everybody’s happier.”

Will nodded serenely. “It’s the strangest thing. Not that Nico would ever misuse his powers to get what he wants.”

“Of course not,” Nico agreed.

Okay. I have to admit they make a cute couple. Gods... I must sound like Aphrodite…

Apollo glanced around the dining pavilion, his eyes landing on Meg. Meg was sitting at the Hermes table, the table unclaimed campers get sat at. She was currently shoveling hotdogs into her mouth like it was the end of the world.

The two children of Hermes, Julia, and Alice, were watching on in horror.

Across the table from Meg sat Connor Stoll, and despite the growing darkness he was wearing sunglasses. I assume to protect himself from being poked in the eyes again.

I counted the campers in the pavilion. There were only 19 in total. Sherman Yang at Ares, a girl I didn't recognize for Aphrodite, Miranda Gardiner for Demeter, and two girls who were clearly twins at the Nike table.

Chiron, in full centaur, form stood at the head table, sipping his “bug juice” while he chatted with two satyrs that looked anxious. They kept glancing at us, then eating their silverware. 6 dryads walked between tables, offering us food and drink. I recognized a few of them from my sparse visits to camps. Apollo kept his eyes on his food, eating quietly.

Apollo’s nose was still slightly swollen. His body was still bruised. He was still injured because of my incompetence. Arriving in camp didn't change any of that. I no longer felt hungry, in fact, I was starting to feel sick. “Hey, Apollo?”

“Yeah..?”

“Are you- Are you certain you're alright? Certain I didn't hurt you?”

“Yeah Artie, I’m fine.” Apollo smiled weakly at me.

I took a shaky breath, then sipped my juice. It was tasteless.

Apollo nodded, biting his hotdog. The mere idea of eating made my stomach churn now.

Despite how revolting the feeling of eating was, I opened my bag of chips, the salty smell washed over my face. I couldn't help but feel sick. I wasn’t hungry. Despite that, I half-heartedly ate some.

“Do you want my hotdog Apollo?” I asked quietly. He frowned.

“You need to eat Artemis” I shrugged.

“I’m not hungry.”

“Just… Eat it for me, okay?”

I picked up the hotdog and took a small bite. Just chewing it made me feel nauseous. I set it down. Apollo frowned

“You can have my chips,” Apollo said, the concern in his voice made me feel ashamed of my lack of appetite.

“Okay.” I set his chips in front of me, already knowing I wouldn’t eat them. I continued eating mine, a single chip at a time. I wasn't hungry.

“Please just eat a bit, okay?” Apollo pleaded

“I will.” I lied, I don't usually lie, but I couldn't stand that concerned expression he was making. Apollo nodded, he forced a smile.

Apollo turned to Will, who was watching us curiously.

“Where are the…others?” He asked Will.

Will took a bite of his pizza.“Were you looking for somebody in particular?”

“What about the ones who went on that quest with the boat?” He asked.

..Now that he mentions that, where are they?

Will and Nico exchanged a look that probably meant, Here we go.

I wonder how often they got asked about those seven demigods who had fought with us against Gaia and the giants.

“Well,” Nico started, “you saw Percy. He and Annabeth are spending their senior year in New York. Hazel and Frank are at Camp Jupiter doing the Twelfth Legion thing.”

“..Oh. Right.”

Camp Jupiter. That place. I haven't set foot there since 1876 when Hermes stole my bow and hid it in the elephant stable.

I mean, seriously.

Hermes. Why.

Anyway, that wretched nephew of mine had resided there. That boy twisted Apollo around his finger with flattery and promises. Its that idiots fault Apollo was sentenced to being mortal in the first place. It's his fault that we are both here.

“Shut up,” Apollo murmured.

“Excuse me?” Did I say that out loud?

“What?” Nico asked.

“Nothing. Continue.” Apollo was drumming his fingers on the table to a beat I recognized, I just couldn't remember what it went to.

“Jason and Piper are spending the school year in Los Angeles with Piper’s dad. They took Coach Hedge, Mellie, and Little Chuck with them.”

“Uh-huh.” Apollo nodded. I got the feeling he didnt recognize any of them.

“And the seventh hero…Leo Valdez?”

…..Of course he doesn't know. Leo Valdez died in the explosion killed out great grandmother.

Nico raised his eyebrows. “You remember his name?”

“Of course! He invented the Valdezinator. Oh, what a musical instrument! I barely had time to master its major scales before Zeus zapped me at the Parthenon. If anyone could help me, it would be Leo Valdez.” Apollo gushed.

“You played it horribly. You sounded like a dying pigeon.” I deadpanned.

Apollo glared at me. “I’m great at the-”

“Don't overstep your talents, Apollo. Your great at every instrument, except the valdezinator and the clarinette.”

“Shush!” Apollo looked mortified. “I am wonderful at the clarinette”

Austin smiled.

Nico’s expression tightened with annoyance. If it was at Leo or the fact we interrupted him, I don't know. “Well, Leo isn’t here. He died. Then he came back to life. And if I see him again, I’ll kill him.”

Will elbowed him. “No, you won’t.” He turned to us. “During the fight with Gaea, Leo and his bronze dragon, Festus, disappeared in a midair fiery explosion.”

Leo had been looking for something, hadn’t he?

“He was looking for the physician’s cure,” Apollo recalled before I could begin to think back. “the way to bring someone back from the dead. I suppose he planned all along to sacrifice himself?”

“Yep,” Will said. “He got rid of Gaea in the explosion, but we all assumed he died too.”

“Because he did,” Nico said.

“Then, a few days later,” Will continued, “this scroll came fluttering into camp on the wind….”

“I still have it.” Nico rummaged through the pockets of his bomber jacket. “I look at it whenever I want to get angry.”

Nico eventually found the scroll in question.

As soon as he spread it on the table, a flickering hologram appeared above the surface: Leo Valdez, looking as short and unimposing as usual with his dark wispy hair and his mischievous grin. He wore jeans, a blue work shirt, and his tool belt. All of which were speckled with machine oil.

“Hey, guys!” Leo spread his arms, almost like he was asking for a hug. “Sorry to leave you like that. Bad news: I died. Good news: I got better! I had to go rescue Calypso. We’re both fine now. We’re taking Festus to—” The image flickered. “Back as soon as—” Static. “Cook tacos when—” More static. “¡Vaya con queso! Love ya!” The image winked out.

“That’s all we got,” Nico complained. “And that was in August. We have no idea what he was planning, where he is now, or whether he’s still safe. Jason and Piper spent most of September looking for him until Chiron finally insisted they go start their school year.”

“Well,” He said, “it sounds like Leo was planning to cook tacos. Perhaps that took longer than he anticipated. And vaya con queso…I believe he is admonishing us to go with cheese, which is always sound advice.”

I ate another chip, feeling slightly sick.

This did not seem to reassure Nico.

“I don’t like being in the dark,” he muttered.

I felt my mouth twitch, it just seemed like an Ironic thing for a child of Hades to say.

I wondered when Leo Valdez would show himself, and if Calypso was involved, so be it. But, she had stalled odysseys for 8 years, its perfectly reasonable to assume they had gotten sidetracked

It seemed unlikely they would be back in time to assist us.

I stared at my hotdog, before pushing it forward. I'm not eating it.

Apollo frowned.

Kayla and Austin had been quiet, listening to our conversation no doubt.

Will glanced at me for a moment, then at my hotdog. He looked like he might insist I eat, Kayla spoke first, she scooted closer to us.

Now Kayla scooted toward me. “What did you guys talk about in the Big House? Chiron told you about the disappearances…?”

“Yes.” Apollo looked uncomfortable.  “We discussed the situation.”

“And?” Austin spread his fingers on the table. “What’s going on?”

Apollo avoided their eyes, he looked pale.

“I need time to think about it,” He said. “Perhaps in the morning, I’ll have some of my godly powers back.”

Austin leaned forward. “Is that how it works? Your strength comes back over time?”

I glanced at Apollo, it’s not like I know any of this.

“I—I think so.” He looked lost, scared even. I wondered if he was trying to remember his years of servitude with Admetus and Laomedon. I hope he doesn't remember many of the darker moments.

If his memories were anything like mine, they were disappearing terribly quickly.

It terrified me. Every moment of the present seemed to be more and more important. Time for mortals is terribly limited.

I didn’t know the answer to that question.

“We have to get stronger,” He decided, his voice broke a bit in the end. “We must.”

I looked up, concerned.

Kayla squeezed his hand. “It’s okay, Apollo…Dad. We’ll help you.”

Austin nodded. “Kayla’s right. We’re in this together. If anybody gives you trouble, Kayla will shoot them. Then I’ll curse them so bad they’ll be speaking in rhyming couplets for weeks.” He looked at me for a moment, then returned his gaze to Apollo.

I felt like I was intruding on a private moment.

“Thank you,” Apollo managed.

I wondered if I should have sat at my own table. He never gets to be with his kids. I should have let them have a moment. I should have let him spend time with his kids. I should have just sat alone. I felt tears poke at my eyes.

“Hey…” Will patted his shoulder. “It’s not so bad. At least with everybody being on high alert, we might not have to do Harley’s obstacle course tomorrow.”

Kayla muttered an ancient Greek curse, I silently ate another tasteless chip.

“I forgot all about that,” she said. “They’ll have to cancel it, won’t they?”

I do not want to do a silly camp activity.

Apollo frowned. “What obstacle course? Chiron mentioned nothing about this.”

Yeah, He didn't mention that.

Apollo went to say something, but before he could speak, one of the satyrs blew a conch horn at the head table.

I flinched at the sudden loud sound, my breath catching in my throat. The tears poking at my eyes fought to fall, I had to blink rapidly to keep them at bay.

I’m fine. I’m fine. I'm fine.

Apollo squeezed my hand. I felt like my lungs were tightening as I choked back a whimper.

I am not going to start crying. I can’t cry. Not right now. Not in front of everyone.

I focused on steading my breathing.

Chiron raised his arms for attention, my eyes remained zeroed in on a small crack in the floor. I shoved my free hand in the pocket of the jacket Will had gotten for me from the camp store earlier.

“Artemis?” Apollo sounded concerned.

I am not going to shed a single tear.

“I’m fine Apollo,” I whispered. “You don’t need to worry.”

I wanted to just run to my cabin and hide for twenty minutes while I get myself together.

“Artie-”

“Campers!” Apollo was cut off by Chiron’s booming voice. I felt myself tense at the sudden sound.  Chiron’s voice filled the pavilion. He could be quite loud when he wanted to be. I understand why he makes a good teacher. “I have a few announcements, including news about tomorrow’s three-legged death race!”

Oh gods no.

Chapter Text

As Chiron spoke, I gripped Apollo’s hand. Trying not to cry.

I was failing miserably.

Every few seconds my shoulders heaved, I didn't know why I felt like this.

Everything is fine. He isn't hurt. He’s fine. I didn’t hurt him.

I just felt so guilty.

Eventually, I just put my head down, hiding my face in my arms.

I knew it was painfully obvious that I was crying.

Apollo put his hand on my shoulder. “It’s okay.. I'm not hurt.”

I knew. I knew he wasn't hurt.

I just couldn't shake this guilt.

I felt a tear roll down my nose.

I just wanted this to be over so I could go to my cabin. When I get to my cabin I can cry all I want and no one will be there to judge me.

I didn't want to worry anyone, but by doing this, I most definitely was.

My shoulders heaved again, another tear dripped down my nose.

I could vaguely hear Chiron talking in the background, Apollo reached over and put his hand on my arm, befoee he could pull away I grabbed his wrist.

I just wanted to make sure he was there.

I felt like I was holding his wrist too tightly. But I didn't want to let go.

I didn't feel much. I suddenly realized. I just felt.. Numb.. no different than a half hour ago. No different than when I was at Percy’s. Isn’t crying supposed to help you feel less dull? Aren't you supposed to feel something? Any difference whatsoever? Not just dull.. numbness?

Why am I even crying? Nothing is coming out of it other than worrying Apollo and his kids… This is pointless.. Just be happy. You’re happy.

I felt another tear trace down my nose.

I’m fine. Why am I crying? Why am I crying?

I loosened my grip on Apollo’s wrist, despite that I wanted to hold it tighter. I didn’t want to hurt him.

You’re happy. You’re happy. You’re happy.

I took a shuddering breath. I didn’t have the strength to look up.

“I’m fine Artie, okay? I promise.”

“I know.” My voice was shaking and quiet. I felt another tear drip down my face.

I’m fine.

You shouldn't even be crying. You are only causing issues. This solves nothing.

You don’t have a good reason to cry. Get up. Get up.

I forced myself to sit up, and wiped the tears from my eyes.

I felt like everyone was staring at me. I took a shaky breath, Apollo’s eyes were wide, but he managed a small fake smile.

Apollo’s hand hovered in the air, unsure.

I’m fine.

“I’m fine.”

Apollo lowered his hand slowly.

Everyone had to be staring at me, right? Who wouldn't stare at the fallen Olympian reduced to tears over virtually nothing? But as I looked around, no one other than the Apollo table had noticed that I had started crying.

I wasn’t sure if I should be relieved or mortified.

I scooted closer to Apollo, taking a shuddering breath.

I’m fine”

Apollo nodded once, he squeezed my hand.

The entire table was staring at me, almost like I had grown a third eye. I shuffled uncomfortably under their gaze, Austin was the one who broke the silence.

“You’re included in that promise, Artemis.” He smiles weakly. “If anyone messes with either of you, I will curse them.”

Kayla nodded in agreement.

I managed a watery smile, I wiped a remaining tear from my cheek. “Thanks.” My voice sounded hollow even to me.

“Apollo table!” Chiron called. “Pay attention! This information is only being said once!”

Apollo glared at Chiron, who was back to talking about the disappearance of Miranda Gardiner. He turned back to me, the annoyance fading from his eyes.

“I love you” He murmured. “Even if you did hurt me, which you didn’t, I will always love you, sis.”

I nodded, trying to smile. “I love you too ‘Pollo.”

I rested my head on his shoulder for a moment, trying to just… pour my appreciation for his existence into him without talking.

He smiled weakly.

Chapter Text

I am perfectly fine.

I am fine.

I am fine.

I did not just cry over absolutely nothing.

That did not happen.

Chiron's voices was a constant in the background, I tried to pay attention, I really did, but his words just flowed over me.

I heard him, but I already knew I wouldn't remember much of what he was saying. Rules, rules, time, rules, participation, rules. I literally don't care.

Eventually, he called up a young son of Hephaestus to talk about the three-legged death race. It was clear he orchestrated this... death maze activity.

I wasn't looking forward to this.

Exploding chainsaw frisbees? No. We are not doing this. I am not letting My brother get hurt because some kid made a death maze. I’m not risking my very fragile life in a game.

As I watched the kid speak, I have to admit his enthusiasm got to me.

“And they’ll be like, ZOOM!” He bounced up and down with excitement. “And then BUZZ! And POW!” He made all sorts of gestures with his hands. “You have to be really quick or you’ll die, and it’s awesome!”

Or you’ll die.

We are not doing this.

We are not risking our appendages in a silly camp activity.

Campers around us grumbled.

I was about to stand up and veto this idea with my Olympian authority but Chiron spoke first.

“Now, I know there were problems last time,” he said, “but fortunately our healers in the Apollo cabin were able to reattach Paolo’s arms.”

What.

At a table behind us, a teen boy stood up and began screaming in another language. It sounded like Portuguese. He wore a white tank top, and I could see faint white scars wrapping around the tops of his biceps. He cursed rapidly, pointing at Harley and my table.

Rude.

“Ah, thank you, Paolo,” Chiron said, clearly baffled. “I’m glad you are feeling better.”

….Chiron he was cursing . Oh my gods why is everyone here such an idiot.

I took a sip of my “Bug Juice”.

Austin leaned towards us and whispered, “Paolo understands English okay, but he only speaks Portuguese. At least, that’s what he claims. None of us can understand a word he says.”

I only knew the mere basics of Portuguese. Once upon a time, Athena lectured us about learning it, how we might migrate to Brazil someday and how we should be prepared. I learned a bit before deciding I had better things to do.

Like hunt things.

“Paolo seems agitated,” Apollo noted.

“No shit Sherlock” I muttered.

Apollo poked my shoulder.

Will shrugged. “He’s lucky he’s a fast healer—son of Hebe, goddess of youth, and all that.”

“You’re staring,” Nico noted.

“I am not,” Will said. “I am merely assessing how well Paolo’s arms are functioning after surgery.”

“Hmph.”

Now that I overheard that conversation, I have to admit that Paolo is the type of male Apollo would date.

Is taste in men genetic? Is that a thing? I wouldn’t know.

Paolo finally sat down. Chiron went through a long list of other injuries they had experienced during the first three-legged death race. None good. All of which convinced me that there is no way in hell I’m doing this.

...But. If APOLLO is doing it.. I have to, don't I?

I am not letting him participate alone.

The lone demigod at the Athena table raised his hand. “Chiron, just going to throw this out there….We’ve had three campers disappear. Is it really wise to be running a dangerous obstacle course?”

No.

No, it is not.

Chiron gave him a pained smile. “An excellent question, Malcolm, but this course will not take you into the woods, which we believe is the most hazardous area. The satyrs, dryads, and I will continue to investigate the disappearances. We will not rest until our missing campers are found. In the meantime, however, this three-legged race can foster important team-building skills. It also expands our understanding of the Labyrinth.”

I felt my blood run cold.

No.

Nope.

Never.

Never ever.

Apollo turned to Austin. “The Labyrinth? As in Daedalus’s Labyrinth?”

Austin nodded, he was fidgeting with his camp necklace.

I wish I had a necklace.

“During the war with Gaea,” Austin said, “the maze reopened. We’ve been trying to map it ever since.”

“That’s impossible,” Apollo said. “Also insane. The Labyrinth is a malevolent sentient creation! It can’t be mapped or trusted.”

“That is true. I have lost many hunters to its clutches.”

...But I couldn't remember how. Or their names. Or even why they were IN the maze.

...Why is my brain dying?

“It’s different now,” Austin told me. “Since Daedalus died…I don’t know. It’s hard to describe. Doesn’t feel so evil. Not quite as deadly.”

I nearly laughed.

“Doesn’t feel evil. That's so reassuring. That maze is evil.”

Apollo frowned. “Be nice Artie.”

I huffed in exasperation. “Apollo. It's literally a maze designed and engineered to kill whoever is in it by leading them to monsters.”

Apollo frowned. “I mean.. That's true. I just don't understand why you decided to do three-legged races through it.” He continued.

Will coughed. “The other thing, Dad… Artemis…Nobody wants to disappoint Harley.”

Apollo and I glanced at the head table. Chiron was still going on about team building.

Bullshit.

You can build a team in ways other than risking lives.

You can build teams without having to nearly die.

Harley was bouncing up and down, I shook my head.

“But he is just a child. He should not be tasked with planning possibly life-threatening events. No matter how adorable he is, he but a child.”

“A child with Hephaestus’s mad gleam in his eyes,” Apollo adds. “Whenever Hephaestus gets that look the thing he’s built goes berserk and starts destroying cities.”

“Also keep in mind,” Chiron was saying, “that none of the unfortunate disappearances has been linked to the Labyrinth. Remain with your partner and you should be safe…at least, as safe as one can be in a three-legged death race.”

Partner? Welp. If I have to do this Apollo is my partner.

“Yeah,” Harley said. “Nobody has even died yet.” I may be insane, but I swear he sounded disappointed.

“In the face of a crisis,” Chiron said, “it’s important to stick to our regular activities. We must stay alert and in top condition. Our missing campers would expect no less from us. Now, as to the teams for the race, you will be allowed to choose your partner—”

The campers around up all launched after their preferred partner.

Apollo grabbed my hand. “Artie, you’re with me.” I pretended not to notice the hint of concern in his voice.

I’m fine.

Yes, I did just cry for a few minutes. But I’m fine now.

“Who else?” I smiled.

But, when we looked up, we saw Meg McCaffery pointing at Apollo.

Oh hell no.

Apollo is my teammate. Meg can partner with PEACHES for all I care. I’m with my brother.

Chiron stomped his hoof against the floor, I hate to admit it but I flinched at the sudden sound.

What is wrong with me?

“All right, everyone, settle down! The race will be tomorrow afternoon. Thank you, Harley, for your hard work on the…um, various lethal surprises in store.”

“Fun……….” I muttered.

Apollo nodded. “Fun indeed.”

“BLAM!” Harley ran back to the Hephaestus table to join his older sister, Nyssa.

“This brings us to our other news,” Chiron said. “As you may have heard, three special newcomers joined us today. “First, please welcome the God Apollo and the Goddess Artemis!”

Apollo shuffled uncomfortably beside me, I felt like I was shrinking under the nervous looks sent in our direction.

How wonderful. I glanced at Apollo, he looked….. nervous

Well… That makes both of us then.

Even from here I could see how Chiron was struggling to maintain his smile. “Now, I know this is unusual,” Unusual… Ha! More like unheard of. “but gods do become mortal from time to time. You should not be overly alarmed. The Letoides presence among us could be a good omen, a chance for us to…” Oh, Chiron… What good could possibly come from this? Other than the world going haywire. Chiron seemed to lose track of his own argument. “Ah…do something good. I’m sure the best course of action will become clear in time. For now, please make them feel at home. Treat them as you would any other new camper.”

Please don't.

I have heard stories from my hunters.

At the Hermes table, Connor Stoll raised his hand. “Does that mean the Ares cabin should stick Apollo’s head in a toilet?”

Apollo stiffened.

..Why Only Apollo? Am I that much more respected? “‘Pollo if they try I will kick their asses,” I said quietly.

At the Ares table, Sherman Yang snorted. “We don’t do that to everyone, Connor. Just the newbies who deserve it.”

I did, in fact, notice how Sherman glanced at Meg, who was obliviously chomping on her last hotdog. Connor grinned at Sherman, and I knew shit was about to go down. The open backpack at Connor’s feet spoke loads about what would soon occur.

Apollo was looking at the backpack too.

“Should we warn her?” He asked tiredly.

I shrugged. “She’s the one who bothered them.”

Apollo nodded, but still tried to catch our masters eye. She remained focused on her dinner.

I was still supposed to be eating, wasn't I? I half-heartedly shoved a handful of chips in my mouth. They tasted like ash. My hotdog sat forgotten in front of me, the sight made my stomach churn again.

“Thank you, Sherman,” Chiron continued. “It’s good to know you won’t be giving the god of archery a swirly. As for the rest of you, we will keep you posted on our guest’s situation. I’m sending two of our finest satyrs, Millard and Herbert”—he gestured to the satyrs on his left—“to hand-deliver a message to Rachel Dare in New York. With any luck, she will be able to join us soon and help determine how we can best assist our guests

There was grumbling from around us, I heard the words Oracle and Prophecies in there somewhere. A girl nearby muttered in Italian: The blind leading the blind.

Apollo glared at her, then he blushed.

Brother, no.

He turned back to our tablemates. “Um…yes, satyrs. Why not send that other satyr, the friend of Percy’s?”

“Grover?” Nico asked. “He’s in California. The whole Council of Cloven Elders is out there, meeting about the drought.”

“Oh.” I could practically see his spirits fall. Was that Satyr one of the ones who rescued me way back when I was forced to hold up the sky? I think…. My memory isn't exactly the best right now, sorry.

“Finally,” Chiron said, “we welcome a new demigod to camp—Meg McCaffrey!”

She stood up.

At the Ares table, Sherman Yang rose. Here we go. “Now this one—this one deserves a special welcome. What do you think, Connor?”

Connor reached into his backpack. “I think maybe the canoe lake.”

“Meg—” Apollo started.

Then all Hades broke loose.

Sherman Yang strode toward Meg. Connor Stoll pulled out a golden net and threw it over her head. Meg yelped and tried to squirm free, while some of the campers chanted, “Dunk—her! Dunk—her!” Chiron did his best to shout them down: “Now, demigods, wait a moment!”

A guttural howl interrupted the proceedings. Peaches.   From somewhere above us a swirling tornado of leafy wings and peach flesh hurtled towards the ground and landed on Sherman Yang’s back, knocking the child of Ares to the ground.

How wonderful.

The peach demon stood and screeched, pounding on his chest like a tiny gorilla. Its eyes glowed green with anger.

Fun.

It launched itself at Connor, locking its legs around his neck and started pulling out his hair.

Poor demigod.

“Get it off!” Connor wailed, thrashing blindly around the pavilion. “Get it off!”

Slowly the other demigods overcame their shock. Several drew swords.

“C’è un karpos!” yelled the Italian girl.

“Kill it!” said Alice Miyazawa.

“No!” Apollo cried.

I glanced at him skeptically.

It’s a peach demon.

I watched with mild interest as Kayla nocked an arrow in her bow. Her form is good, if not a little rushed. But with the given situation, I can understand her haste.

“Peaches, get off him!” Meg screamed. She untangled herself from the net, threw it down, then ran toward Connor.

At least Meg has some sense.

It hopped off of Connor’s neck, and stopped at Megs feet, hissing angrily. The campers had formed a sort of semicircle around them with their weapons drawn. Connor Stoll staggered away, hands pressed to his head.

“Meg, get out of the way,” said Nico di Angelo. “That thing is dangerous.”

“No!” Meg’s voice was shrill. “Don’t kill him!”

I spared a glance at Sherman Yang, there was a bloody gash on his forehead. But head wounds bleed a lot. The sight enraged the rest of the campers.

Hurry up and kill it.

Kayla drew her bow. Julia Feingold unsheathed a dagger.

“Wait!” Apollo pleaded.

Why did he even care? It is a monster.

To be honest, what happened next was a bit to fast for me to process.

I know Julia charged first, because I heard the twang of Kayla’s bow after she started moving,  Meg thrust out her hands and suddenly she was holding two weapons I hadn't seen since the fall of Rome, each a curved blade in the old Thracian style, siccae made from Imperial gold.

Huh.

Not your typical street urchin after all.

The swords seemed to have appeared from nowhere, but I could only assume her rings changed into them. Both her blades whirled. She simultaneously sliced Kayla’s arrow out of the air and disarmed Julia, sending her dagger skittering across the floor.

Alrighty then .

She can fight.

We might not be doomed.

“What the Hades?” Connor demanded. His hair had been pulled out in chunks. It reminded me of that time Apollo could not think of another rhyme for same that made sense in his limerick.  “Who is this kid?” Connor asked rhetorically.

If only I knew, Connor. If only I knew.

Peaches sat crouched at Meg’s side, snarling, as Meg fended off the confused and enraged demigods with her two swords.

Then I noticed something.. A glowing light above her head.

Oh?

I recognized the symbol.

Okay then.

Child of Demeter.

Not unexpected, not very rare either.

“Look.” Said Apollo, pointing.

The demigods seemed confused. Then the glow became brighter: a holographic golden sickle with a few sheaves of wheat, rotating just above Meg McCaffrey.

A boy in the crowd gasped. “She’s a communist!”

...Child no.

That's the best way to get Demeter to kill you.

A girl who’d been sitting at Cabin Four’s table gave him a disgusted sneer. (Yes! Tell him off!) “No, Damien, that’s my mom’s symbol.” Her face went slack as the truth sank in. “Uh, which means…it’s her mom’s symbol.”

I nodded. Apollo looked utterly shocked at this development. Suddenly, the rings made sense.

Not moons, sickles.

By the gods... Even I am an idiot.

As the only sensible, not flabbergasted Olympian present, I should probably make her title official.

I sighed, stood up and gestured to Meg. “Meg McCaffrey is no longer unclaimed!” I tried to sound enthusiastic, I really did. But with the chips churning in my stomach I probably only managed slightly pleased.

The demigods knelt with ‘respect’. “I present to you, Meg McCaffrey, daughter of Demeter!”

Chapter Text

I don't think anyone knew what to think of Meg.

I mean, I certainly didn't.

I don't think Apollo did either.

She.. really was something. If it's a good something or a bad something, well, that is yet to be determined.

I hope it's a good something.. If not? Well.. We’re kinda screwed aren't we?

So, anyway… She’s a daughter of Demeter.

Okay.

Sure.

That’s fine.

At least she isn't an Ares kid. Can you imagine? Gods! Imagine, Just- so many fights- and the endless bickering- Don’t even imagine.

I don't even want to think about that...

Eurgh…

Her being a child of Demeter made enough sense. I mean with Peaches the fruit demon, and the garbage control, and I can't say I'm entirely surprised. Or really surprised at all.

Just..

Mildly ashamed of myself for not realizing.

...I’m fine with her being a daughter of Demeter. But.. I don't know.

Athena would have been better, for planning, or Hermes for lockpicking expertise,

But… Meg’s powerful.

That's a plus.

A big plus.

Like… She is the strongest child of Demeter I’ve ever seen. Most Demeter kids can only make crops grow, or, for that matter make them wilt.

But Meg?

Summoning a karpoi? That’s… that’s like. Top shelf stuff.

Apollo… Well, Apollo looked far from pleased.

I don't really remember but, I’m certain he dated a Demeter kid at one point… and.. A few mountains were destroyed.

Why though? Was Demeter just angry over him being a god? Or did Apollo do something? Did they die?

Why can’t I remember?

WHY CAN'T I REMEMBER?

I know all of this.

I know so many things.

But I Just. Cant. Remember.

Why can’t I remember?!?!

WHY CAN’T I REMEMBER?!?

First I forget the names of my fallen hunters, my sisters! Now I can’t even remember a simple fight between Apollo and Demeter?

Why.

Why can’t I remember? Am I just that weak as a mortal? Am I?

Am I just that pitiful?

Is this Zeus being angry over me picking Apollo over immortality?

Or am I just a weak mortal who can't remember anything.

I felt my smile drop from my face, well, if there was a smile to even begin with.

I twirled my hair in my fingers.

I’m fine.

All of these sporadic, pointless thoughts flew through my mind as Chiron dispersed the crowd, he urged everyone to put away their weapons.

An unlikely outcome, considering there is a literal peach demon among us.

I watched as Chiron led Billie Ng, the only Demeter kid currently present (as Miranda Gardiner was missing) over to escort Meg to her cabin.

They quickly left, the peach demon bouncing behind them.

I frowned at the sight.

I don't like Peaches.

Nothing good ever comes from monsters.

Ever.

Meg glanced at us, looking worried, I tried for a reassuring smile, but I couldn't even manage a fake one.

Good job me.

Unable to even fake positivity.

Apollo gave her two thumbs up. “See you tomorrow!”

...How the Hades did he manage to sound so happy?

His encouragement made little to no difference as they quickly disappeared into the darkness of the camp.

Will was tending to Sherman’s head injury, and Kayla and Austin stood over Connor, debating the need for a hair graft.

..I hate to say that they deserved it, as Meg did provoke them, but.. The net was a little overboard.

That left me and Apollo alone to make our way to our cabins.

...I found myself wishing I could spend just a bit more time with him…

Maybe just five minutes, just talking.

It doesn't even matter what about.

That’s stupid, isn't it?

Wanting to speak with him over nothing?

Nothing is wrong.

I shouldn't be worried.

I shouldn’t be sad.

I shouldn’t feel like I’m about to burst into tears over absolutely nothing.

I’m fine.

I’M FINE.

Gods… What is wrong with me?

Why? Why am I freaking out over nothing?

There is nothing to worry over, (except that we are mortal, we can die ) nothing even happened, (We were mugged in a street and attacked by monsters.) no one is hurt, (Apollo’s hurt.)

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.



I’m fine.



I’m fine..



I’m fine...



Everything is fine….


I’m fine.

Me and Apollo split ways, I headed toward my cabin, and he walked towards his. As he turned away, I felt.. Lonely.

I’m alone without him.

He has his kids.

I only have him.

I didn't want him to leave me alone.

I very nearly called out to him.

But I didn't.

I mean, what would I say? What could I say without worrying him?

Nothing.

I couldn't say a single thing without worrying him. (Bothering him )

So, I let him walk away, the chips I had eaten churned uncomfortably in my stomach. I wished I hadn't eaten.

I reached my cabin door, but before I opened it, I turned around, wondering if I could catch his eyes. Apollo pushed his cabin door open and walked inside.

He didn't look back.

That's fine, he didn't have a reason to turn back, it’s fine.

It’s fine.

I took a shaky breath, then stepped inside of my cabin.

The bunk beds seemed to stretch on forever…

Row after row, bunk after bunk. One for each of my maidens.

I found myself leaning against the door, then I sunk to the floor, tears welling up in my eyes.

I felt sick, scared, and so, so mortal.

Chapter Text

I sobbed into my arms, curled up against the door.

No one was here.

I didn't have to be strong for anyone.

Apollo was safe in his cabin, he had his kids, he doesn't need me.

He’s fine.

He is fine.

No one would be judging me if I cried.

No one was here to laugh at me.

No one was here to worry.

No one would worry.

I knew my face was red and ugly, my eyes swollen with tears.

I didn’t care.

I didn’t care.

I don’t know how long I sat by that door.

I don't know how long I cried before I forced myself to stand and stumble to the nearest bunk bed.

I don’t know how long I sobbed into the pillows.

I don't know anything.

What kind of mess have I gotten into?

I’m mortal.

I can die.

I can die.

I CAN DIE.

I wanted to puke, I felt sick and wrong and bad.

Nothing felt right.

This body felt wrong and bad and gross and just wrong and those forsaken chips wouldn't stop churning in my stomach.

I shouldn't have eaten.

I shouldn’t have cried earlier.

I sobbed harder.

Everything is not fine.

Nothing is fine.

This isn’t fine.

I am not fine.

Half of me wanted to run to the Apollo cabin and get Apollo.

The other, more rational side, knew that it was a bad idea.

An idea that would only make him worry.

He already has enough to worry about.

I’m fine, he shouldn't worry about me.

I’m not fine.

He shouldn’t need to worry about me.

Going to his cabin would probably maybe definitely end with me spending the night in his cabin because he wouldn’t let me leave.

He would be too worried to let me leave.

I’m not fine.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m not fine.

Being alone didn’t help the aching sense of loneliness. The feeling that I was completely and utterly alone.

I’m not.

I’m not alone.

I’m not alone.

Then why am I crying alone into a pillow?

 

Why didn’t I make a better case? Why didn’t I defend him better? Why am I so useless?

I couldn't stop crying.

I didn't want to stop crying.

I wanted to go get Apollo. I wanted to cry on his shoulder.

That's.. That's just stupid, isn't it?

I am a goddess.

Was.

Was a goddess.

I’m mortal.

I’m mortal.

I buried my face in my arms.

It was going to be a long night.

Eventually, I ran out of tears.

Eventually, I found myself staring at the bunk above me.

I already knew I wouldn't get much sleep, if any.

I lay awake on the bunk I had seemingly claimed.

Every single damn time I closed my eyes I saw Cade and Mikey kicking Apollo.

Every time I closed my eyes I saw my own hands covering his mouth and nose.

Every time I closed my eyes I saw him falling into that stream in the woods, hands pressed to his head. I saw his glassy eyes, glazed in pain as that… woman made voices scream in his head.

My eyes wouldn’t stop watering.

I knew I needed to sleep. I knew I needed to eat. I knew I had a long day in the morning, but that doesn't mean sleep was coming any easier.

I don't know how long I was laying there, debating if I should go check on him. If only to make sure he’s safe.

Not because I’m crying.

We are in a camp designed to keep up safe, and yet I still found myself worrying about his safety.

That's just so pointless .

Why am I so worried?

I wasn't getting any sleep tonight.

I sat up, running my hand over my face.

Gods… what have I done?

I put my head in my hands.

I guess I was mistaken when I claimed I ran out of tears, as more welled up in my eyes.

We had very nearly died today. We may die yet, and there is absolutely nothing I can do about it.

I didn't even try to wipe the tears rolling slowly down my cheeks, after all, who was here to see them?

There was suddenly a very distant knocking at the door of my cabin.

I froze.

Who…?

Another knock.

..I wasn’t hearing things.

I wiped furiously at my bloodshot eyes.

Another knock, more urgent.

I stood up and slowly walked to the door.

Who would knock at this time of night? Apollo is surely asleep by now...

I opened the door, only to see Apollo standing there.

Guess I was wrong.

I nearly, nearly sobbed when I saw him.

…I’m so weak, aren't I?

A range of emotions passed over his face, relief, confusion, shock, and finally concern.

I felt more tears well up in my eyes.

“Oh, Artie…” His voice was quiet, concerned. “May I come in?”

I tried to respond, but all I managed was a choked whimper, so I just nodded.

Apollo took a step inside, closing the door behind him, and guided me to the nearest bunk, we sat with a dull thud.

“It's okay.. We’ll be okay.. We’ll regain our immortality. I promise.”

I only managed a shaking sob.

He scooted closer to be, rubbing my shoulder.

This is the last thing I wanted… and what I wanted most.

I didn't know what to think.

Him being here… I didn’t want to worry him. He doesn’t need to worry. I’m fine.

I’m not fine.

I’m NOT fine.

I felt like something broke inside of me, I sobbed into my hands.

Apollo pulled me into a hug, I let him. I buried my head into his shoulder.

I’m fine.

I ‘ m   f i n e

I ‘ m   n o t f i n e

I’m fine.

Apollo rubbed my back, rocking gently.

I’m fine.

I’m fine.

I’m lying.

I broke right then and there, I just sobbed, tears gushing from my eyes and soaking into his shirt.

I couldn't stop crying if I wanted to.

I wasn't even really thinking, all my thoughts washed away by tears.

I was just sobbing.

Apollo just kept rubbing my back. He just kept rocking gently. He just stayed.

I lost all sense of time after awhile, I could have been crying for hours, minutes, days even. It wouldn’t have made much of a difference.

Eventually, I couldn’t cry any longer.

Eventually, I was just sniffling every few seconds.

Eventually, I was just hugging him.

I didn't want to let go.

Apollo didn't seem very keen on letting me go either.

Finally, Apollo took a breath. “Artie… Why didn’t you come get me?” He didn’t sound mad or annoyed.. Just.. concerned.

I doubted I could speak without stuttering so I just shrugged weakly.

“You don’t need to worry about bothering me sis.. Okay? I’m here for you.. You gave up returning to Olympus for me.. Being here for you is the least I can do. Alright?”

“Okay..” My voice was quiet and hoarse from crying. “W- why are you here?”

“I was worried” Was his simple answer.

The one thing I wanted to avoid, and the main reason why I didn't go get him. I laughed hysterically.

Apollo squeezed me once, then pulled away.

I didn't want to let go, but I did.

“Do you mind if I spend the night here?” He asks quietly.

I shook my head. “Stay,” I muttered. “There's.. There's not much point in going back.” My voice was shaky and I hated it.

Apollo nodded. “We both need to sleep- It's going to be a long morning.”

“Yea- Yeah” He squeezed my shoulder.

Apollo looked like he was debating something. “Maybe- Maybe I could sing something to make you be able to sleep easier. I don’t know if I can- but maybe it will help..”

I nodded. “That.. That would be nice.”

Apollo smiled weakly. “Want me to tuck you in like a little kid?” His voice was joking. But I knew he would if I wanted him to. I shook my head, laying down. I struggled under the blanket, Apollo rolled his eyes and grabbed it, spreading it over me. I laughed weakly.

He sat next to me, he was silent for a moment, but eventually, he started humming something, A tune that sounded familiar, but not enough to spark a memory. My eyes began to feel heavy.

“G’night sis” He murmured right before I fell asleep.

…………………

……………

…………

……

“Love you.”

Chapter Text

I didn't dream. Hypnos must have been in a good mood or a rather merciful one.

I woke up feeling tired, but better in an odd way.

My chest didn't hurt, and my head felt clearer.

I remembered everything from last night.

I burrowed my head into my pillow, I would have to wake up and face Apollo and his kids- My niblings, eventually.

But not right now.

At least, that was my plan. Stay in bed until I decided I was ready to deal with today.

Instead, someone started shaking me. A clear attempt to wake me up.

Someone, like I didn’t already know it was Apollo.

“No.” I rolled over, my voice muffled by my pillow.  

“Artie.. Come on..” He shook me again.

“Nooooooooooooooooooooooooo let me sleeeeeeeeep”

“Artie… It's time for breakfast… I’ve already let you sleep for 10 minutes…” He sounded exasperated. Good.

I hoped he wouldn't bring up yesterday.

“Liar..” Despite my protest, I sat up, rubbing the sleep from my eyes. “Surprised you didn't throw water on me as revenge.”

“I thought about it, but I’m not that petty.”

“You are very petty” I stretched, my hand collided with the top of the bunk and I jerked away, surprised by the sudden contact.

Apollo had the nerve to smirk. “Glad you're finally awake sis. Brush your hair, get dressed, I’ve been trying to get you up for a half hour.”

“Brush my hair?” What?

Apollo blinked owlishly at me, then he just started cracking up.

“What's so funny?” I demanded. I knew I was missing something .

He held up a finger, shushing me. He was doubled over laughing. What did I say?

“I demand you tell me what is so funny.”

Apollo struggled to gain control of his laughter, when he finally did, the moment he looked at me, he lapsed into giggles again. I glared at him. Eventually, he managed to quell his laughter.

“Artemis.. Artie... My dear sister..”

“Get on with it”

“You have to brush your hair.”

“...I don't understand”

“Do you really not? Okay. You know how you brush a horse down-”

“Not particularly no.”

Apollo kind of stared at me. “What? I never had to learn how to care for an equine! My hunters could always do it themselves!”

“Okay, sister. Have you ever seen your hunters straightening their hair with a brush? Like untangling it?”

“Oh.. You mean.. The hair thing… that my hunters do...” I never actually asked about that… I’ve never had a reason too. I felt idiotic just staring at him.

“Apollo.. I’ve never had to brush my hair…”

“I mean, I don't blame you for not knowing but.. Have you NEVER asked your hunters? Its been forever since you started your hunt… Like over 4000 years.. And you NEVER paid attention to mortals hair rituals? Like I know you could just style your hair however you wanted with a single thought but.. Really?”

“I never had reason to ask! Like never! Never ever!” I tried to hide my embarrassment.

“Okay anyway.. Here I’ll get the brush.” Apollo walked across the cabin. “Don't break it, Kayla’s letting you borrow it.” He grabbed a vaguely familiar object from a nearby bunk. He tossed it to me.

I didn't even know how to begin brushing my hair. How was I supposed to hold it? Move my arm? I tried to recall my hunters brushing their hair. I couldn’t.

Apollo watched me struggle. Rude.

Finally, I figured out how to move my arm so the brush would brush my hair. WHY WAS THIS SO DIFFICULT??

After a few frustrating minutes, Apollo spoke. “If we are ever going to get out of this cabin I’ll have to brush it-ARTEMIS”

I threw the brush at him, nailing him in the arm. I laughed under my breath.

“That was uncalled for” he whined, rubbing his arm.

“Don't be a baby,” I said.

“I’m being nice.

“And I'm glad you are.” I smiled.

Apollo grumbled under his breath, going to retrieve the brush “Didn’t you wear your hair short at one point?”

“Yeah? Why?”

“We can get you a haircut. You won’t need to brush it then”

“That's actually.. A good idea”

“All my ideas are good.”

“Oh?”

“Yeah? I’m the god of truth, I can't lie-”

“Challenging Poseidon to hand to hand combat was a good idea?”

“YOU SWORE TO NEVER BRING THAT UP.”

“Hair.” Apollo squinted at me but ended up smiling.

He brushed my hair with actual skill. I half wondered how he had so much practice.

“Artemis?”

“Yeah?”

“Do you want to talk I mean.. About last night…” No. I did not, in fact, want to talk about last night.

“No.”

“Okay.. If you need to talk...”

“No.”

“...or if you want company…”

“No.”

“..or if you just need a hug or reassurance..”

“No.”

“...I’ll always be here, okay?”

“I’m fine.”

“Just.. Just know that I’m here for you.”

“I know.” He’s never not been there for me. I just don't want to worry him.

Apollo finished brushing my hair. “Do you want it braided?”

“Sure. Why not?”

Apollo started braiding my hair, I stared off into the distance. Now or until he brings it up again. “I didn't want to worry you,” I said.

Apollo’s hands froze for a moment, but he continued braiding.

“I mean.. You already had so much to worry about, and I didn't want to add onto that..”

“I’ll always be worried about you Artie...”

“I mean.. Yeah, but.. I didn't want you to worry more…”

“Artemis…” he paused for a moment. “if you ever need me. Ever. It doesn't matter if we’re mortal or if we’re gods or anything.. No matter what, if you're scared or sad or you just need comfort, I swear on the Styx I’ll be there for you. All you need to do is ask. Okay?”

Thunder rumbled in the distance. Sealing the vow.

“Apollo- you didn't need to.. To make that-” Why would he say that? He didn't need to say that!

“I wanted to make that. I need you to believe me when I say no matter what I’m always here. I’ll always love you. Always.”

I felt tears well up in my eyes… this mortal form is so emotional. I wiped at my eyes.

“Finished your braid.” Apollo stood up. “Oh! And uh, I got some clothes from the camp store from you.” I turned to face him, trying to smile.

I changed into the clothes while Apollo waited outside. An orange camp T-shirt, jeans, sneakers, and a winter coat. So, you know. Normal clothes. Aside from the shirt, it was something I would wear normally.

I and Apollo walked the dining pavilion in relative silence. I kind of wondered how much we looked alike in these forms, do we look related? I decided I would steal his driver's license later. Compare our faces. I don't know.

We took out seats at the table.

Then, Apollo discovered bacon.

So much for ME not being the one to pay attention to mortals affairs.

Even I know about bacon. My hunters have demanded it occasionally.

But.. I guess I do spend a lot of time around mortals. Apollo’s face when he first ate bacon was just.. Hilarious. He took one bite and his eyes widened. Like.. It was just hilarious.

He turned to me with this shocked expression.

It was hilarious.

When he finished shoving his face full of bacon he turned to be and, I’m quoting here, he said, “I promise that when we return to Olympus I am going to assemble the muses and am going to write an ode, a hymn to the power of bacon. It will move the heavens to tears and You Will Watch.”

He actually said that.

That's a thing he said. He was completely serious.

He wasn’t even joking.

We were allowed to sit wherever we chose, so after Apollo went and loaded more bacon onto his tray, he dragged me over to where Meg was sitting. She was sitting on the edge of the dining pavilion’s retaining wall, legs dangling over the edge, staring out across the sea. His explanation was that it was best to be on good terms with her.

I did not want to have to sit with her, because that would probably end up with us talking about the death maze activity, then her probably ordering me to find my own partner.

So no.

I did not want to sit with her.

We sat with her.

“How are you?” He asked, sitting next to her. I sat next to him.

Meg nibbled on a waffle. “Yeah. Great.”

“You are a powerful demigod, daughter of Demeter.”

“Mm-hm.”

I ate my toast in relative silence. I had already stolen some of Apollo’s bacon when he wasn't looking.

I wished they had cookies.

Mortal cookies had always been wonderful.

But, to be fair, cookies, in general, are pretty great.

“Your cabin mate, Billie…Is she nice?” I once debated trying to recruit Billie. I decided against it for a mess of reasons I dont feel like explaining.

“Sure. All good.”

“And Peaches?”

She looked at Apollo sideways. “Disappeared overnight. Guess he only shows up when I’m in danger.”

“Thank the fates…” I muttered. Meg glared at me. “What? It's a peach demon. I’m glad it doesn't have to always be here..”

Apollo cleared his throat. “Well, that’s an appropriate time for him to show up.” I noticed the emphasis on him. I ignored it. If Apollo wanted to refer to that monster as a he, so be it. It is nothing but a monster to be slain. I will not personify a monster. It is not a person. It is a ruthless being that if it were not under Meg’s control would certainly try to maul everyone it lays its beady eyes on.

“Ap-pro-pri-ate.” Meg touched a waffle square for each syllable. “Sherman Yang had to get seven stitches.”

I glanced over at Yang, who sat at a safe distance across the pavilion, glaring daggers at Meg. Unsurprising, as a red zigzag ran down the side of his face.

“I wouldn’t worry,” Apollo told Meg. “Ares’s children like scars. Besides, Sherman wears the Frankenstein look rather well.”

The corner of her mouth twitched, but her gaze remained far away. “Our cabin has a grass floor—like, green grass. There’s a huge oak tree in the middle, holding up the ceiling.”

“Is that bad?”

“I have allergies.”

“Ah…” Apollo stared out into the distance, thinking, then he went pale, sagging forward. I grabbed his arm, trying to steady him.

“Apollo?” Meg asked.

I felt like my toast was expanding in my stomach.

“Apollo! Hey, bro, Apollo can you hear me? Apollo,” He seemed to reanimate after a moment, blinking slowly.

“What was that?” I demanded. “Are you trying you scare me?”

“What?” He sounded confused.

“You blanked out.” Meg scowled.

“Yeah, and, please, for the fates sake, after that scare in the woods, do not act like you blanching and falling forward is nothing”

“I- okay?” He sounded more confused.

“Yeah. Where did you go?”

“..Meg what kind of question is that?” I muttered.

“I—I don’t know. Something about trees….” Apollo's voice was far away and confused..

“Trees,” I repeated. “If this has something to do with that, dream, tell me.

“It’s probably nothing.”

“What did I just say?”

“I- let's talk about this later, okay?”

“So it does have something to do with the dream?”

“I don't know! Its.. Old, by OUR standards old, and those gates, Look, we can talk later.”

Meg looked between us. “O…..kay then.”

“This conversation is not over.” I stated.

Apollo nodded, and immidiately changed the subject. “So! Meg, those swords from yesterday..  And don’t do that thing.”

Meg’s eyebrows furrowed. “What thing?”

“That thing where you shut down and refuse to talk. Your face turns to cement.”

She gave him a furious pout. “It does not. I’ve got swords. I fight with them. So what?”

“So it might have been nice to know that earlier when we were in combat with plague spirits.”

“Yeah, why didn’t you fight them?” I muttered quietly.

“You said it yourself: those spirits couldn’t be killed.”

“But they can be slowed” I interjected. Sadly, i got no responce.

“You’re sidestepping,” Apollo said. “The style you fight in, with two curved blades, is the style of a dimachaerus, a gladiator from the late Roman Empire. Even back then, it was rare—possibly the most difficult fighting style to master, and one of the most deadly.”

Meg shrugged.

“Your swords are Imperial gold,” He continued. “That would indicate Roman training, and mark you as a good prospect for Camp Jupiter. Yet your mother is Demeter, the goddess in her Greek form, not Ceres.”

Why hadn’t I thought of this…

“How do you know?”

“Aside from the fact that I was a god? Demeter claimed you here at Camp Half-Blood. That was no accident. Also, her older Greek form is much more powerful. You, Meg, are powerful.”

Her expression turned guarded.

“I never met my mom,” she said. “I didn’t know who she was.”

“Then where did you get the swords? Your father?”

….And cue the fighting.

Meg tore her waffle into tiny pieces. “No….My stepdad raised me. He gave me these rings.”

“Your stepfather. Your stepfather gave you rings that turn into Imperial golden swords. What sort of man—”

“A good man,” she snapped.

What kind of man makes his daughter live in an Alley? Certainly not a good one. But, I kept my thoughts to myself. There was no point in angering her. Apollo seemed to get that.

“I’m sorry,” He said.

“Mm-hm.” Meg tossed a piece of her waffle into the air. Out of absolutely nowhere, one of the camp’s cleaning harpies swooped down like a two-hundred-pound kamikaze chicken, snatched up the food, and flew away.

I may have squeaked. Loudly.

Apollo may have stuck his tongue out at me.

I am not confirming or denying those events.

Meg continued as if nothing had happened. “Let’s just get through today. We’ve got the race after lunch.”

Here we go... “Apollo is my partner. Find your own.”

“Meg, I’m sorry to say, But I’m partnering with Artemis-”

“I command you to be partners with me, Apollo. Artemis, I command you to find a different partner.”

Apollo tensed at that.  

“Meg!” I snapped, but the command was already setting it.. “Take that back- You can’t just- He’s my brother!

“Artie.. How about if we see if we can be a group of three-”

“I don’t want to be a group of three.” Meg whined in.

“Meg, please-” Apollo was glancing between me and her rapidly.

“No!” Meg scowled. “Besides, its a PARTNER activity, we cant be a group!”

“I’m sure Chiron will allow us to be a trio, Meg.”

I was fighting the command with all of my will, but I found myself standing up.

“Meg, please” Apollo pleaded.

“Fine. Artemis, you can go. Dismissed. Whatever. Go do what you want. Apollo and I will talk about strategy while I think about letting you join. Leave”

Apollo tried to smile at me, but he couldn’t manage one.

I fled.

I know, like a coward. Sure, I didn't have much choide, but I didn’t want to face Meg, certainly not right now. I didn’t want to talk to anyone.

Except maybe Athena. I wouldn’t mind talking to my sister. She could probably give me advice or just.. Solve the issue. Theena is great like that.

The thing was, I didn't want to be in a group with anyone other than Apollo. I know it's childish. I know its stupid. Believe me, I know. The idea of entering that fates forsaken maze without Apollo, well, it scared me. There was also the fact that anything could happen while we were separated. Anything. I wouldn’t even be there to help.

I climbed to the roof of my cabin, sitting on the lookout platform. No one would find me here. At least not anytime soon. This spot wasn’t visible from the ground.

I stared off into the distance for what felt like forever, I watched as the campers milled around, going from activity to activity.

I heard a conch horn in the distance. I ignored it.

I couldn’t bring myself to care.

The campers all headed towards the training grounds.

I identified Apollo and Meg, they seemed to be arguing.

I stared out over the sea.

I didn’t want to talk to Meg.

I sat there for a long time, just thinking. Dreading the future and wondering about my hunters, what was Thalia doing? Were they looking for me?

I heard someone climbing the ladder.

Ah.

So he found me.

I didn’t look in the direction of the ladder. “Artemis.” I heard Meg’s voice.

What?

This was... unexpected.

I turned to face her, not even trying to mask my annoyance. “Have you come to order me to find a new partner? Or force me to sit out? Boo hoo, the wilderness hunting goddess who would probably have no use in a death maze cant join. What a shame that the former goddess who is sworn to protect young girls isn’t allowed to come! It’s a partner activity! It’s not like she would be worrying her mind away!”

“I talked to Chiron. He said we could be a group of three.” Meg said.

Excitement and relief bubbled up in my stomach, but I swallowed it. I laughed humorlessly. “That true? You Certain you don't want to steal my brother? Are you sure you don't want to kick me out?”

“I’m sorry, okay?”

“Sure you are,” I grumbled, surprisingly hiding my relief. “Apollo put you up to this, didn’t he?”

“No!” Meg said quickly. Too quickly. She was lying.

“Where is he,“ I asked, not moving.

“He told me to not leave until you stop being mad.” The truth comes out.

I rolled my eyes. “I’ll be on your team, my marvelous, magnificent, master. I will serve you to the best of my ability.... or whatever." I did my best to sound sarcastic. "Now, where is my brother.”

Meg squinted at me, then called over the side. “She’s demanding you.”

Oh. So this is how it is.

“Apollo. Get up here,” I called, standing up.

Apollo appeared over the top of the ladder. He looked vaguely concerned.

“First of off, you planned this entire conversation. Admit it.” 

Apollo made a sound between a groan and a yes. I walked over to him and patted him on the shoulder.

“Good job. You're a good brother.” I smiled weakly. I quieted my voice. “Thank you for convincing her”

Apollo smiled weakly. “Let's stay up here for a bit, I don't want to go work out with Sherman Yang, we have Music practice next. Something I’m actually good at.”

“You’ll do great.” I smiled. “And did you escape by coming to find me?”

“...yes”

"Typical." 

Meg kind of stood there awkwardly. I sighed. “Come sit, Meg. We might as well plan for later..”

Meg smiled and sat next to me. “I’m not mad, alright?”

Meg just nodded.

“Just…” I couldn't figure out how to word this.

“What Artie wants to say, is that by kicking her out of the group you scared her she freaked out because I’m the only person she knows here and she worries too much”

Meg giggled, but before she could speak I cut her off.

“Apollo, no.

“Apollo, yes.

After some time of planning, another conch horn blew, and we headed to music practice.

Chapter Text

Apollo walked to the amphitheater, talking about nonsensical things. I remember at one point he said something about making a harmonica explode by looking at it. Meg trailed behind us.
We sat down in the amphitheater A satyr named Woodrow taught the class. He seemed nervous.

“I wonder if he heard that stupid legend of me skinning Marsyas alive..” Apollo mused.

It was a fake story.

“Well, you did spread the rumors, Apollo”

“...I don’t get why they believed them though? Do I really strike you as the type to do that??”
“...You, do have quite the temper, Apollo.”

He scoffed. “As if you don't.”

“I’m not denying it.”

“Neither am I, my dearest sister.”

“Sure you weren't.”

“Yep.”

Woodrow reviewed the minor scales, Austin seemed to have no problem with these, even though he was playing the violin. Which Apollo assured me was not his instrument.

That daughter of Aphrodite played a clarinet. Horribly. Even worse than Apollo when he tries the clarinet. Damien White, son of Nemesis, played a acoustic guitar with such force he broke the D string.

Wonderful.

“You killed it!” said Chiara Benvenuti. It occurred to me that she was that girl Apollo was staring at last night.

She looked to be a child of Tyche.

“I needed to use that guitar!”

“Shut up, Lucky,” Damien muttered. “In the real world, accidents happen. Strings snap sometimes.”

Chiara unleashed some rapid-fire Italian that I would much rather not translate.

“May I?” Apollo reached for the guitar.

I found myself grinning. Apollo is the best musician in the world, and anyone, anyone who says otherwise is lying.

He may be annoying at times, but his music is wonderful. Better than any mortals music. Better than anything.

I might pretend not to care, but, in all honesty? I love hearing him play.

Damien reluctantly handed him the guitar, and Apollo leaned toward the guitar case at Woodrow’s feet.

Woodrow jumped several inches in the air. I shook my head.

Austin laughed. “Relax, Woodrow. He’s just getting another string.”

I noticed the smirk on Apollo’s face. I chose not to comment.

In a few moments, Apollo had replaced the sting. He was smiling as he adjusted the pitch, and, as usual, he played a quick song as he tuned it.

Even when he was tuning, he sounded wonderful. Then, as he was tuning, I noticed Valentina burst into tears.

I can honestly say I have never been that confused in the past 34 years.

...Why was she sobbing?

Apollo noticed and stopped abruptly.

“That was so beautiful!” She wiped a tear from her cheek. “What was that song?”

The confusion on Apollo’s face matched my emotions perfectly.

“It’s called tuning.” He said slowly.

“Yeah, Valentina, control yourself,” Damien chided, despite that he had teary eyes.  “It wasn’t that beautiful.”

“No.” Chiara sniffled. “It wasn’t.”

Unsurprisingly, it was my nephew who seemed unaffected. He looked proud, though, I couldn’t imagine why. Of course, Apollo tuned beautifully. He’s the god of music!

Was.

Was the god of music. It’s my fault that he’s not.

I ignored that voice. Banishing my guilt to the back of my mind where is belonged. Apollo was playing music, well, tuning his guitar. I did not have reason to worry right now.

He continued tuning, I felt a grin spread across my face.

It's so beautiful. He’s so talented. I expected nothing else from my brother.

He ran through the scales, I found myself laughing along.

He retained his musical abilities, that was for certain. Maybe we aren't doomed after all. I felt myself tearing up.

He’s so talented. Even in these useless mortal flesh bags, he could still perform. Maybe I still retained my wilderness skills! After my inability to traverse those woods I wasn’t so certain.

“Now this is a Lydian progression,” He started. “It starts on the fourth of the major scale. They say it’s called Lydian after the old kingdom of Lydia, but actually-”

“Blah blah blah you had a girlfriend named Lydia way back in whatever BCE. I know. I know. I am not in the mood right now for depressing music. Can't you play something else? Something not love related? Sing something that you don't play like.. Every single time you have concert.”

He smiled. “Fineeee…” Apollo pondered this for a moment.  “Artie, Do you have a request? A song you wish me to sing? A magnificent culmination of notes and-”

“Shut up and let me think Phoebus” He raised his hand over his heart in mock offense.

I smiled. “How about.. Uhm.. What did you call it. Like.. I don't know… That one about.. Eurgh… I don't know.. You sang it at that concert that Hermes stole the lights mid-show? Like.. 3 songs before the lights went out?” Apollo grimaced at the memory “That one about.. That one about…” I couldn’t remember. I realized suddenly. I couldn’t remember the song. I remembered absolutely loving when he sang it that day. But.. my memory seemed to have clouded over it. I kind of deflated. “I can’t remember.” I muttered silently.  

“Oh,” Apollo said quietly, trying to recall what he sang that day. “..Want me to sing one Mom sang us?”

I forced my fear over my dwindling memory to the back of my head. Where my guilt was still sitting. “That would be nice- just! Sing it in english.. There's no telling what the language of the gods will do to our bodies. We can't eat ambrosia or nectar”

Apollo nodded, then glanced iff into the distance for a moment. He was probably translating it. Then, he started playing, singing the first few lyrics.

He sounded perfect.

A smile spread across my lips, a warm, fuzzy feeling filled my chest. Memories of the seemingly endless days we spent on Delos as young children, not yet old enough to appear older. The days spent exploring and playing. Our childhood. Memories of Mom smiling and watching us grow. A very clear memory of baby Apollo, only looking somewhere around 6, using a little handmade bow and teaching me archery. I smiled.

I glanced around as Apollo sang, strumming the guitar.

Damien and Chiara were both crying, but they were smiling. I noticed they were holding hands.

O kay then.

Valentina sat on the amphitheater bench, her head in her hands. I couldn’t tell is she was laughing or crying.

A common reaction to my brothers singing.

Woodrow was tearing apart his panpipes.

“I’m worthless!” he screeched. “Worthless!”

I put a hand on Apollo’s shoulder. He looked up and stopped mid-word. Confusion crossed his face.

Austin gave him a thumbs us.

Apollo looked absolutely thrilled .

He.. did that thing where he pulls the D string. He once told me it was to keep people from exploding.

He strummed a chord, it was out of tune. I looked at him with a question in my eyes, It was still absolutely wonderful but not his usual level.

The campers seemed to break out of the trance the song put them in. They wiped their tears and watched intently as Apollo played a simple one-four-five progression.

“Yeah, man.” Austin brought his violin to his chin and began to improvise. His resin bow flew across the strings at I speed I could never even hope to manage. He and Apollo locked eyes, I kind of stared between them. It was like they were in a music trance.

Woodrow broke the spell.

“That’s amazing,” the satyr sobbed. “You two should be teaching the class. What was I thinking? Please don’t flay me!”

“My dear satyr,” Apollo said, “I would never—”

His fingers spasmed, and he dropped the guitar.

I jolted back to reality. “Apollo?” He never drops his instruments.

Austin lowered his bow.“You okay?”

“I…yes, of course.”

“Hey, you did great, Pollo.” I smiled. “Absolutely wonderful” I booped his cheek. “I don't tell you how much I love your singing enough”

He smiled for a moment, but it fell quickly. “I’m…tired,” He said, dismayed.

“..Well.. We’re mortal.” I said kinda slowly. “..I’m really happy you can even sing that well. I.. I was worried..”

Apollo smiled weakly, flexing his hand.

“Well.. the way you were playing was unreal! ” Valentina cut in.

“It’s okay, Apollo,” Austin said. “You’ll get stronger. When demigods use their powers, especially at first, they get tired quickly.”

“But I’m not…”

“You’re not a demigod.” I all but confirmed. “Yeah, Apollo. You’re not a demigod. And you’re not a god either” I stated. “Fates Apollo, neither am I. We are both terribly, unfortunately, rather rudely, unnecessarily, annoyingly, mortal. But that doesn’t mean anything, because you are still a wonderful singer and musician.”

He still looked miserable.

“Pollo. You may not be yourself, but neither am I.”

He groaned, probably realizing where this conversation was headed.  

“I couldn't get through the forest Apollo. That's like.. My thing. I’m a hunter. I camp places. I traverse the woods. And yet, I could not safely get us through a forest. So WHAT if you can’t play forever and ever and ages, so what. You are still extremely talented and I love your music.”

Apollo nodded slowly.

After my rather heartfelt and emotional declaration, Damien white had to go out and ruin the mood. He balled his fists. “Don’t you worry, Apollo. It’s not your fault. I’ll make that stupid guitar pay for this!”

...Boys. Why are they like this? Sure he’s a son of Nemesis, and revenge, but.. Why destroy the guitar like an angry toddler? Well... Most males are rather like angry toddlers. Unable to talk out their emotions or communicate in a civilized manner without destroying a few cities or and killing many, It's pointless. A waste of time and energy while they throw their tantrum, when they could just say. “You offended me” or just saying why they are upset and getting to the issue. Or even solving the issue themselves. They.. do so many unnecessary steps. It's pointless.

Girls are just so much easier to work with! They can talk.

I watched in concerned silence as he marched down the stairs and how he destroyed the guitar.

Apollo didn't even try to stop him.

I squeezed Apollo’s hand.

Chiara huffed. “Idiota! Now I’ll never get my turn!”

“And.. I’ll never get mine either” I muttered.

Woodrow winced. “Well, um…thanks, everyone! Good class!”

“..You know guitar?” Apollo asked as we walked towards the archery range.

“..It's kind of hard not too, Pollo. What with my hunters all asking for campfire songs and stuff… I kinda taught myself? I mean.. I’m not good or anything. It.. It can't be much harder than the ukulele”

Apollo scoffed. “You didn’t ask me to teach you?”

“...It was stupid, and I was bored. Plus you were busy, on a tour or something. I can't quite remember”

He squinted at me. “I’m the god of music. And you are my best friend. My sister. Of course I’d teach you. I'd be willing to spend time with you no matter how busy I am. Besides. I'm just passing time.”

“Well anyway..” I decided to change the subject “Just.. You’re still a wonderful singer Pollo. Mortal or not... Singing Mom's song.. I just.. I don't know.. I loved it. I love your singing. I love hearing you sing the songs mom sang us as kids.. It.. It made me forget for a moment that we couldn't go home”

 

Archery.. Was.. well. Archery happened.

The thing was.. I have helped mortals learn how to shoot bows for eons longer than Apollo. Mortals ended up getting the idea and figuring it out pretty fast after he showed them. He never exactly had to sit down a group of teens and teach them how to kill monsters every week for thousands of years. I am far more versed in mortal archery than Apollo. I long ago taught myself to rely on of the surroundings and to take in count the wind and bow itself, instead of just using my powers.

Apollo? Not so much.

Apollo and I challenged each other to see who could hit the most bulls eyes.

I fully expected him to win.

..But well? The outcome was quite depressing.

In the end.. I hit 12 , and Apollo only hit one.

Two of Apollo’s arrows hit outside the black ring. At only 100 meters.  He threw his bow and started crying.

It was really depressing.
I ended up trying to give him a pep talk and he just muttered something about his baby sister being better at archery than him.

So, for the moment, I am ignoring the Archey dilemma to take in count the important fact that I am older than him.

Do not believe his lies.

I am not his baby sister, as he so often claims. I am, in fact, NINE DAYS OLDER . I LITERALLY HELPED BIRTH HIM.

He's my baby brother.

Not the other way around.

He claims that he was conceived first because the 2nd twin born is usually conceived first or some other medical bullshit. So according to that, he is technically older.

But, medical bullshit or not, I am older than him.

That is that is that is that.

I am older.

That is final.

Anyways , Kayla taught Archery

She was.. Extremely patient and kind.

It looked like it only made him feel worse.

She handed his bow back to him.

I decided to sit out on this one.

“Apollo,” she said, “those shots were fantastic. A little more practice and—”

“I’m the god of archery!” He wailed. “I don’t practice!”

I was about to cut in that we are both clumsy and painfully new to being mortal. And that I twisted my ankle on a root. But, before I could speak, the daughters of Nike snickered.

Their names were Holly and Laurel Victor. My first thought when I learned that was that if life were a book, the author wasn’t very creative with naming them.

They made me think of Athena’s nymph companions way back when at Lake Tritonis.

“Hey, ex-god,” Holly said, nocking an arrow, “practice is the only way to improve.” She scored a seven on the red ring, but she did not seem at all discouraged.

I went to snap back, but Apollo responded first.

“For you, maybe,” He said. “You’re a mortal!”

Apollo. We’re mortal.

Laurel, snorted. “So are you now. Suck it up. Winners don’t complain.” She shot her arrow, which landed next to her sister’s but just inside the red ring. “That’s why I’m better than Holly. She’s always complaining.”

“Yeah, right,” Holly growled. “The only thing I complain about is how lame you are.”

“Oh, yeah?” said Laurel. “Let’s go. Right now. Best two out of three shots. The loser scrubs the toilets for a month.”

“You’re on!”

I clenched my jaw. Then exhaled slowly. Anger solves nothing.

The twins went back to doing their own thing.

Kayla grabbed Apollo’s arm and nodded at me to follow. She led us down range.

“Those two, I swear. We made them Nike co-counselors so they’d compete with each other. If we hadn’t, they would’ve taken over the camp by now and proclaimed a dictatorship.”

Apollo looked downright miserable. “Hey, Apollo.”

He glanced at me. “I have eons of practice with teaching mortals Archery, I could help you-”

“That's not the point , Artemis.” He snapped. “It doesn't matter if you could help- I’m not supposed to be this bad”

“You’re not-” He shot me a furious glare “...okay” I murmured.

Apollo stared at his fingers in disgust. They were blistered. I glanced at mine only to find them the same.

I winced. My new hunters often complain about this.

“I can’t do this,” I said to no one in particular. “I’m too old to be sixteen again!”

I flinched at that.

Kayla cupped her hand over his. I was suddenly aware of how she looked so much like her father, Apollo talked incessantly about Darren for a long time.

Mortals and their children always surprise me.with how alike they look, sure, us gods do look like our parents in a sense, but we can shape the form we take however we want, but our true forms do look similar to each other.

Kayla took a deep breath as if preparing for an important shot. “You can do it, Dad. You’re already good. Very good. You’ve just got to adjust your expectations. Be patient; be brave. You’ll get better.”

Apollo looked like that was the most ridiculous thing he ever heard.

Shit

“No,” He said bitterly. “No, it is too painful. I swear—”

“DON'T YOU DARE-” I tried to interrupt him.

“upon the River Styx—until I am a god again, I will not use a bow again!”

“APOLLO!

It took me a long moment to comprehend what he just said.

But when I did? I was pissed.

Idiot.

He was such an idiot.

I take back what I said about anger being pointless.

I feel anger was justified here.

“You idiot.”

I hadn't felt this angry in forever .

He turned to look at me, realization of what he just did filling his face. “Artemis-”

“YOU ABSOLUTE FUCKING IDIOT!” I did not care one bit about how loud I was. “WE ARE MORTAL, APOLLO? DO YOU GET THAT? WE CAN DIE. DIE, APOLLO. AND YOU JUST?? YOU SWEAR. ON THE FATES BE DAMNED STYX. OFF OF YOUR BOW??”

Think what you want of my anger. Apollo’s oath was born of self-pity and anger, but I don't regret it.

He made an oath on the Styx, making him unable to use his weapon.

“APOLLO, YOU ARE ABSO-FUCKING-LUTELY TERRIBLE WITH SWORDS. AND YOU CAN'T AIM A GUN TO SAVE YOUR NOW VERY EASILY TAKABLE LIFE. ” I took a breath of air. “Why? Why? Why in the name of the three fates would you EVER think that's a good idea?”

Apollo was kind of frozen.

“Artemis” Kayla cut in. “That's enough.”

Apollo looked shocked. “I..”

I bit my cheek to stop myself from yelling some more. “Yes, brother?”

Apollo was silent.

He’s such an idiot .

I turned to walk away, I would have if not for the fact Sherman Yang was slowly, almost trancelike, walking into the woods. I kind of stared at him, Kayla followed my gaze.

Kayla started running towards him, and Apollo followed.

My brother may be an absolute idiot, but I was not going to let the woods….do that to him again.

Kayla almost didn't make it, as soon they reached the treeline Apollo staggered. I reached the trees only moments later, and I felt the world shift around me . The horizon extended, and everything got darker. I heard tantalizingly familiar laughter from somewhere in the distance.

Orion?

I almost, almost found myself dashing into the forest. But I caught myself.

Was this what happened with Apollo?

I found myself stumbling towards the laughter anyway.

It was kind of like my body was moving on its own.

I resisted, but if it weren't for Apollo quickly grabbing my hand I probably would have run blindly towards it.

“But…” I found myself muttering.

“It's not real sis,” He said slowly, his voice still kinda quiet. “I heard Daphne. It's not real.”

I jolted aware at the name. I noticed I was crying and wiped my tears.

Daphne… fates… it had been so long since he had mentioned her. Just hearing the name made my stomach churn.

Eros and his bullshit.

I put my thoughts of the achingly familiar laughter in the same place my guilt and fear were shoved. It was getting quite crowded in the back of my mind.

It felt like an eternity before we reached Sherman Yang.

“Sherman.” Apollo let go of me and grabbed his arm.

I felt like the world tilted when he let go. I found myself leaning against a tree.

I felt like I was being called. I focused on staying here. On staying by this tree.

Hey Artemis! I bet you can't make this shot!

A different voice. Hippolytus? He died of old age in Italy.. How?

Come on Artemis! I’m right over here! Just around these trees! Come through the gate!

It's not real. I reminded myself.

Of course, it's real! I’m right here!

I found myself walking in the direction of the voice. Hands were pulling me forward, the shadows lengthening.

See?  It's not so hard!

A hand grabbed my arm, dragging me back.

Arte mis!

Apollo..? No.. That's.. Orion? Why did I hear both of them?

Come on! We’re right here! Called Hippolyotos.

Yeah! Hurry up! Don't keep us waiting! Beckoned Orion .

That's all I really remember before blinking, and I opened my eyes and I was somewhere else. There was a hand on my arm, and I could hear frantic talking between Kayla and Apollo and a third person I learned to be Sherman later.

It sounded… blurry? Fuzzy? Can sound be blurry?

If you could condense 100 question marks into an emotion and that emotion had a word, that's what I was feeling.

Somewhere far away outside of my current confusion bubble, I heard Sherman Yang and Kayla talking. I heard bits and pieces of Apollo here in there, but I don't remember much, really.

Eventually, the blowing of a conch shell jolted me out of the daze I had been in. It must have been obvious as Apollo addressed me immediately.

“Artie? Artie, can you hear me?” I stared at Apollo for a long moment. Trying to make sense of what just happened.  Of why I was here and not where I just was.

Sometimes I don't wake up where I fell asleep, I never get explanations for why I wake up upside down in a tree in the Detroit suburbs when I fell asleep in a camp five states away. But at least then it's not like.. I blink and I’m gone. Even when I teleport I’m at least aware.

I made a sort of confused sound.

“Okay.. Okay good..” I took a half step towards Apollo.

“...Apollo? What.. just happened?” I managed, trying to push my confusion away. I felt disoriented and almost like I was about to throw up, and there was a ringing in my ears that I couldn’t place.

All I could remember at the time was bits and pieces. A few words and a ghost of a memory of hearing something.

It came back over time, but I had no idea what had happened.

I remembered him making the oath, and I was going to yell about that some more later. But I honestly felt like I might fall over, and Apollo looked nervous. Like really nervous.

“What's the last thing you remember?” He asked quietly.

“...my vision going.. Strange when I stepped in the forest.. and.. Now I’m here”

Apollo nodded. “...I managed to resist it. The  er.. Trees I mean”

I nodded. “I.. I don't feel well..” I admitted. “Did you get Sherman..?”

“Yes.. and I’ve uh.. I think I’ve figured out what's going on.”

“You have?”

“Yeah.. I’ll.. I’ll tell you when I get the chance to talk about the dream.”

“Apollo?”

“..Yeah?”

“I.. I think I’m going to fall over if I move..”

Chapter Text

Apollo helped me to a bench in the archery range.

I couldn’t’ve walked by myself. Isn’t that pathetic? All I did was was walk into a forest. A forest. A place where my powers are supposed to be amplified. Where I am supposed to be stronger. But look at me then. I could hardly stumble without falling.

I am truly pathetic in this form.

I felt unsteady on my feet. But the further I got from the forest the more the
dizziness faded.

That only confused me more.

Forests are my domain.

I'm supposed to be stronger there.

Not the other way around..

Kayla walked behind us, even without looking at her that she had pity in her eyes.

I sat down on a bench on the side of the archery range, wrapping my arms around my stomach.

My head ached and my stomach was churning.

What in the name of the fates was that?

I didn't know what to think.

I had no idea what had just happened.

I was angry, Really really angry.

I was confused.

I was scared.

And I was Angry.

I felt sick and wrong and weak and angry.

Apollo’s hand hovered over my shoulder, as if he was uncertain if he should touch me or not.

After a minute, the dizziness was gone and I felt strangely fine.

The headache lingered, sadly. It felt like a pressure in my skull. 

I haven't gotten a headache for thousands of years, not since the last time hundreds were praying to me all at once.

I didn’t understand.

I didn't understand any of this.

Why could Father just have let us remain on Olympus? Why couldn't he have just.. Not cared? Everything turned out fine. 

There was no reason for this.

...and its only day one.

“Artie?” Apollo sounded far too concerned. 

“Yeah?” 

“..Are you.. Feeling any better?” He sounded painfully awkward.

This entire situation was awkward.

Not even 10 minutes ago I had been screaming at him.

Now I was stuck on a bench.

“Yes.”

“That's.. That's good.” He took a moment to compose himself. “Kayla, go on to lunch. We’ll meet you there”

Kayla glanced at me. I nodded. “Go on. You and Austin should start planning.”

“See you later then..” She lingered for a moment, then ran off towards the pavilion.

“Sit. We’re alone.” I pointed towards the spot next to me.

“Artemis-”

“I said sit Apollo.”

He sat down.

“Now. Tell me about the dream. Then explain what happened in the woods. Then explain why the everloving fuck you thought it was a good idea to swear off your bow.”

“Meg will be concerned if we don't show up”

“I do not care what Meg says about us being late. I do not care that we have to prepare. You. Need. To. Explain.” I bit the inside of my cheek. "We both should know this stuff."

Apollo looked anywhere but my eyes. “...When Meg mentioned having grass and stuff in her cabin it made me think of Demeter's old sacred grove. You know the one.. The one she killed like 20 guys in?"

"Yes."

"Then.. Well… There was an older grove, right? The woman.. She.. She wore a crown… and… It's not Hera.. Hera hates us.. so…”

“Rhea.” I breathed. 

“..yeah. Grandma.”

"But- But that's-"

"Impossible? Seems like it, but apparently it isn't." Apollo muttered.

“Did she have a grove?” I asked.

“...I… I think?” 

“You think.” There was no humor. “Great. You think. The god of knowledge thinks something. Did she, or did she not, Apollo? This is kind of important

“I don't know! Probably! I think!”

“You don't know. Great. Because I don't either. Wonderful. This absolutely wonderful. Absolutely effing great.” Sarcasm was dripping from my voice

“It’s not my fault,” He said defensively.
I took a deep breath. “Your right, Apollo it's not. It's Zeus’s.” I glared at the sky. “Did you hear me, father?” I sneered.

There wasn't even thunder.

There was zero acknowledgment.

Rude.

“Artemis.” Apollo hissed quietly, glancing uncertainly at the sky.

What, Apollo.” I snapped.

“You shouldn't.. Nothing.”

“I shouldn’t what?” I growled. I knew I was being unnecessarily rude. But what was he thinking?   Swearing off his bow?

“It's nothing,” Apollo said quickly.

I glared at the sky, then took a deep breath. “Focus, Apollo. Did Rhea have a grove or not?”

“I don't know. The god of knowledge has been trying to remember all morning… But...” He looked up. “I don't know Artemis. I don't know

“...I shouldn’t have said that” I amended. “That was rude. Mentioning that..”

“..Yes. It was.”

We sat in silence for a few seconds. “What happened in the forest?” Time to ask the real questions. I avoided his gaze.

“...I don't know.. But.. I think.. I think she did have a grove.. Maybe? And.. I think it was.. I can't remember. I can't remember. I… If she did… I think it's.. Its an Oracle older than Delphi.”

“...I guess that's better than nothing.”

“Its calling people or.. Or something.” He ran his hand through his hair anxiously.

“About the Oracle. Is it.. That one with the trees? The one that.. Was burned?? That makes the most sense”

“I.. I think?”

“So she had a grove?”

“Probably?”

“Let's go with yes then. Were the trees were calling me in?”

“..I.. I think? The trees are what give the prophecies… Probably.. and They are drawing in those who ask questions. And us for whatever reason....”

I nodded slowly, dropping my head back off the back of the bench, staring at the winter sky. Then I decided that was uncomfortable so I lifted my head.

“Now. Let's discuss your.. oath.” Even bigger topics.

“Artie-” Apollo started.

“No. You are not getting out of this. Do you have any idea how.. How absolutely foolish that oath is? We are what? A day into this sentence? And you already cripple yourself? You are an archer, Apollo. I can only be glad you didn't swear off music. You were foolish.

Apollo was silent.

“What do you have to say, Apollo?”

“Nothing. I have nothing to say.”

“No. You have something to say. You just aren't saying it”
“I was an idiot.”

“That's not it.”

“What do you want me to say Artemis ?”

“I want to know why.”

“Because I felt inferior. Because I felt useless. Because I felt like I was horrible at archery and that if I couldn’t be good at it then there was no point. There. That's why. That’s why, sister”

“Thank you.” I forced my anger to the back of my mind. With my guilt and thoughts of Orion and many other things.

I could be angry later.

Or I could just be sad.

Anger turns to sadness if left to sit.

Anger should not be left to fester.

That's a lesson I’ve learned the hard way.

Learned is an overstatement.

I keep making that mistake.

Repeatedly.

I never learn not to let my anger fester.

“Let's go eat lunch,” I finally said, standing up.

“Okay,” Apollo agreed.

I took a shaky breath. “Yes. I’m mad. Yes. I’m not going to let go of the fact you made that oath. But let's be civil. Lets not fight.. And.. just plan how the hell we are going to go through the maze unscathed..”

Apollo smiled weakly. “Okay,”

I stood up. The dizziness was gone. Apollo stood up. We started towards the dining pavilion.

Chapter Text

No one was paying attention. Not a single person, not one would take the time to listen to us. Everyone was apparently too busy with trivial tasks such as cleaning weapons or lacing armor and planning. They didn't have a single moment to talk to two ex-gods about something important. I was starting to understand the other gods impatience with their spawn. They just don't listen for more than five fates given seconds.

No one took the time of day to listen to us, they just.. Ignored us.

I wanted to scream.

Why don't they listen? I was not asking them to galavant across the world to recover an item of mine, I was asking for a few minutes of time. Is that too much for one to ask?

I was angry. More than angry. I was honestly livid.

First Apollo makes the most foolish oath I have ever seen in over four and a half thousand years, then I nearly get caught.. Lured.. Drawn in? By some litteral trees, not even Dryads no, just trees. Now? Now im being ignored by puny demigods.

I was absolutely livid.

The only thing keeping my me from losing my temper and exploding at some random camper was my will to not do that.

I was very quickly running out of willpower.

But, blowing up at some random camper would be embarrassing. Not to mention that leaving isn't exactly an option. I would have to stay around them stewing in awkwardness for who knows how long.

But fates was I angry.

Even Chiron passed us off. And he’s practically Apollo’s son! Apparently, he was to busy with last minute preparations he couldn't even pause to speak for a minute. Apollo nearly got trampled by merely standing near him.

I of course, noticed the danger of getting to close and volunteered Apollo to talk to him.

I wasn't exactly paying attention to their conversation, and I may or may not have been watching a box of flares explode while he tried, keyword, tried, to communicate with Chiron. Watching explosives shoot off into random directions has an entrancing appeal to it. Apollo sums up the conversation as him worrying about Peru (What?) and being blatantly ignored. About what I figured.

Anyways, I was slowly losing my mind. No one would listen. I am a fates given goddess. People are supposed to LISTEN to me. But, even though this appearance isn't that far off from my typical appearance, I was a sixteen-year-old girl. A mortal sixteen-year-old girl. I no longer had the sway of a goddess.

After watching Chiron frantically attempt to deal with the flares, I went to find Meg while Apollo joined the collection of campers trying to talk to Harley, I assumed he was attempting to postpone the race, but when I glanced over at him, they looked as if they were discussing some sort of metal contraption in Harleys hands. No clue why.

I passed by a group of Aphrodite girls who seemed to be sharpening some sort of knives fused with lipstick. I had always found the creative ways Aphrodite worked lethal weapons into her outfits absolutely amazing. I remember one time she had razor sharp high heels that cut through flesh as well as she cut through the crowds. It made me feel a bit better to see them with weapons like that.

Inconspicuous and absolutely deadly. The best way to be. All while looking great.

Even as a goddess, I have always been horrible at spotting things in plain sight. Those infernal Eye Spy books are the absolute bane of my existence, Apollo took such cursed joy out of watching me struggle to find the objects. I have burned far more of those books than I have turned men into jackals.

So you can imagine the struggle I had picking Meg out of the hoards of campers. Meg was nowhere in sight, or well, I couldn't spot her. She was probably staring at me the entire time, laughing to herself, like the devious anthropomorphic sentient traffic light she is. So I gave up on looking for her and walked back over to Apollo just as he was finishing up his conversation with Harley.

“Any luck postponing the race?”

“Nope.. Harley is building a beacon for Leo Valdez.”

“Oh?” This is important because?

“It..” He paused. Almost like he was bracing himself to say something heartfelt “Well It made me wonder if.. Urgh Nevermind it's stupid.”

“Go on. I'm curious. Besides, it’s probably not stupid. Hardly anything you say is stupid. Unnecessarily and extraordinary annoying at times? Yes. But not stupid.”

“I’ll take that as a compliment.’

‘Go on then?”

“Well..” He took a moment to think. “It kinda made me wonder if you weren't down here with me.. Would you, or anyone for that matter, work so hard to bring me back? Harley made an entire beacon just so his brother had a chance to come back.  I mean... It's a stupid thought but.. I don't know..”

“Oh.” I was speechless. Of course, I would be working to bring him back! Why would he think that?

He must have taken that as a confirmation of his worst thoughts because he immediately seemed to shrink. “It's dumb. I know”

“Apollo.. I would be.. I would be a mess . This.. This is not ancient times. You can't just build a life with only a name anymore! And besides, you're in danger. There are so many things that can happen to homeless teens. So. Many. Things. I would be yelling at Father and trying to help you in any way I could.. Working relentlessly to appeal your sentence. Because honestly, how can Fathereven blame you for this? Like the last two times you were definitely blameable, still an over punishment by all standards, but you could at least see why he blamed you! But your being punished because of a dead demigod. Like this is absolutely pointless. There is no good reason for you to be down here. And don't tell me you didn't even think about Mother?!? ! She would be-” A lump formed in my throat. I suddenly felt slightly sick to my stomach. “Mother,” I repeated softly. “Mothers probably frantic.. Fates..”

“Mama” Apollo whispered, his eyes were glues to something in the distance. “She’s… yeah.. Frantic”

We walked in silence for a bit.

“Both of us are in danger and Mother can’t even do anything,” I finally said. “She’s probably so scared…”

“We won’t die.” Apollo rubbed his eyes. I pretended not to notice. “We can't .”

“Yeah.. We can’t die. It's not even an option. Let's lock that door right now. For Mother's sake, if not our own,” The lump in my throat wasn’t leaving. “Also..” I blinked away tears. Why were there tears in my eyes? Mortal bodies are infuriating. “Think about Hermes . Don’t you think he would vouch for you?“

“..He wouldn’t want to piss off Zeus.”

“Yeah, but you two made a oath of friendship back when he was a baby and stole your cows.”

“Well… Yeah..”

“He would be trying to bring you home too. You being forced down his is VERY CLEARLY over punishing you. Hermes would be doing the digging though laws in his.. Spare time.” I involuntarily smirked. “Yes. ‘His spare time’. He would be fighting for you too.”

“I doubt it.” Apollo murmured. Seemingly not picking out my joke, however misplaced it was.

“You doubt it.

Apollo shrugged. “I guess.”

“He would be so offended if he heard that.”

Apollo was silent.

“Fates, even Dionysus would be fighting for you. This is an unfair punishment. You aren't alone on Olympus”

“Tch..  Yeah.. I guess”

I smiled at him. “Besides, if I learn that Hermes did nothing for this duration of this year, I’ll kill him.”

“Sure you will.” The sarcasm in Apollo’s voice was refreshing.

We found ourselves by the food, I don't know why we had subconsciously walked there, maybe these fleshy mortal forms instinctively did that? I don't know. Apollo handed me a sandwich, then took one for himself. And then a third. And a fourth.

I looked at him like what the actual fuck.

“We’ll burn one for Mama. And another for Hermes. Get him motivated to get off his ass and help us. Also to take my horses out for a ride.”

I felt a pang of sympathy. Apollo treated his horses like they are his children. They are descended from those who pulled Helios’s grand chariot long before he was the sun god. Generations of beautiful horses, they are just as prized to him as his heards red cattle. “Their stuck in their stables, aren't they?”

“My babies are alone. No one to ride them. To brush them. Thank the FATES I got Hephaestus to install those auto feeders… I hope my babies are okay. Asclepius HOPEFULLY has the sense to look after them And EURGH Bagaborp-”

Who names there horse Bagaborp? I couldn't control my snort of barely contained laughter.

“Do not laugh. Don't you dare laugh.  I did not name her. It was not me. Stop smiling. Stop it. Please stop. This one lover from like years ago did! not me. STOP MAKING THAT FACE ARTEMIS. Nooooooo…. FATES STOP IT. Stop. No. No stop smiling. Bagaborp is a perfectly valid horse name. Shut up. No. Shut uuuuup. LONG STORY SHORT she named my horse- STOP MAKING THAT FACE FOR THE LOVE OF ME- are WE MOVING ON NOW . Shut up I can see you laughing. Bagaborp is a great horse name! and uhhhhh Audrey! Yeah Audrey named her well. Yes.  Not me. I did not name her. Anyway. Moving on. Bagaborp was pregnant. Shut up. I CAN'T EVEN SEE THE BABY OR NAME IT. UGH. SCREW YOU, ZEUS.”

Apollo kept glaring at me sideways. “Bagaborp" I whispered tauntingly. "You named her Bagaborp."

Apollo groaned but chose not to comment. “As soon as I get to Olympus I’m taking my babies- ahem horses out.”

“Do I ever tell you how wonderful you are?”

“Yes all the time in fact.”

“Because I don't think I do and you are absolutely wonderful and funny and you let, ahem, 'someone' name your horse, not just any horse a breeding horse, Bagaborp.”

“Shut up.” 

Never.”

“No. Shut up. Stop your incessant teasing. Bagaborp is a valid horse name.”

I wiggled my eyebrows. “Is it?”

“Be quiet. Shoo.”

“No.”

Apollo shook his head, and walked over to the Brazier. I followed. “You do Hermes.”

“Why?”

“Because he listens to you. Probably has messages and shit from you set as priority. More he’s more likely to get it.”

“What if being mortal makes me not priority?”

“You are you no matter your form. Also. Let's chuck the one for Hermes in.”

Why ?” Apollo sounded utterly exhausted. “I thought you wanted him to get it.”

“I do. But maybe it will hit him.”

“..why would you want it to hit him.”

“Because he was a ass of a little brother and didn't bring us to Perseus’s when I asked earlier,” I stated. My logic is solid. And is not illogical logic.

Plus I really wanted to be able to look back at the embarrassing moments (read: blackmail) recordings Athena has of Hephaestus TV and see his expression when a stupid sandwich hits him. That would be hilarious .

“He probably can't help us.”

“I know but I want to see him hit with a sandwich please just let me have this one thing.”

“...fine. If you show me the recording you 100% have somewhere too. And! You let me delete 2 of my choice.”

“DEAL!”

Apollo sighed. With a roll of his eyes, he chucked and sandwich into the fire with all his strength. “THANK YOU”

Apollo shook his head. “Lets both toss in Moms then. She never did favorites…”

“She is the entity of motherhood, brother if she tried she would cry because we are both way too perfect.”

“You’re calling me perfect?”

“I'm calling myself perfect and you came along with the ride because you were in the womb with me.”

Apollo shook his head. “Why are you in such a good mood all the sudden?”

“I am just imagining Hermes’s expression Apollo. It's so great .”

“Less than an hour ago you were pissed off.”

“Oh, Well, I still am. I'm still very fucking pissed. But Hermes getting hit with a sandwich is a much better topic to dwell on instead of the fact you are in so much more danger because of your imbecilic oath. So anyway I said we will talk later so we will talk later.

“..okay..” Apollo looked kind of nervous. “..I’m really sorry-”

“Save it for later,” I took a deep breath. “Let's just throw in Mothers sandwich.. Eat then find Meg.”

“That's a.. good plan.” Apollo glanced at me sideways as we tossed in Mother’s sandwich. I made a silent vow to give Mom at least a little sacrifice whenever I ate. And to burn a few random trinkets I came across as gifts.

Apollo s took a bite of his sandwich as we sat down against one of the pillars, eating our sandwiches. I can't even describe to you just how much I missed godly food. Mortal food is.. Sticky. Solid. It stayed solid in my stomach and made me feel almost sick. I felt heavier and denser and eurgh. There was nothing I could do about it. I knew I had to eat. Eating was absolutely mandatory . This body would fail without nourishment. So despite how disgusting, bland, and solid the food was, I had to eat it.

Being mortal sucks .

I ate the sandwich quickly, to get it over with as fast as possible.

The taste was horrible and the texture was disgusting.

I’ll take my nectar shakes any day. They taste absolutely great and burned into pure energy much faster than regular ambrosia.

About energy, would we need more energy than regular mortals? To eat more? That would be horrible. I would have to eat more of this garbage food that a typical mortal.

Ugh.

I gulped down my punch and glared off into the distance. At least punch had a slightly appealing flavor.

Mortal food is disgusting.

Absolutely vile.

I just realized I won't be able to have any ambrosia square smores for a year. Please just kill me. I practically survive off of those. Fates, Zeus, I don't care. Please Just let me have my ambrosia smores. I’m begging you.

Ugh again.

“So.. We are to be a group of three, correct?”

“Yep.”

“We could just...avoid Meg. And be together.”

“We agreed to a group of three, I don't want her to be mad. Besides, you literally hid on a roof to get to this conclusion.”

“Yes. I did. Also I wasn't hiding so much as waiting for you to come find me.”

“That's the exact same thing, Artemis.”

“Yes.”

Apollo shoved the last bite of his sandwich into his mouth, then made a point of staring me directly in the eyes as he chewed the much to big piece of sandwich.

Why is he like this?

“Lweghs find meugh” He said. With food still in his mouth. Why?

“...what?”

Apollo swallowed. “Let's find Meg,” He stood up, then offered me his hand. I would usually scoff, and stand up on my own, but for whatever reason, I didn't. I don't know. I honestly have no idea. I was angry at him, and yet I let him help me up.

Honestly I have no idea about anything right now.

“And, When I say ‘let's,’ Artemis, I mean Me, because you would start killing people off that aren't Meg in order to find her your so bad at finding things.”

“How dare you imply-”

“Oh don't act like it's not true, my dearest, dearest sister. You know it is.”

“Shut up. It may be true, but you still shouldn't say it. What would Mom say to you being so rude? She would-”

She would probably agree with me. You are terrible at finding things.”

“Shut up.”

Apollo shook his head, and, I shit you not, i absolutely am not joking when I say this, found her within ten seconds. HOW??? “She’s over there.”

And sure enough, she was.

He is a God.

Hahaha. That was horrible.

Meg was stuffing her face with a cheeseburger. I cannot even imagine myself eating one. A sandwich made me feel gross just chewing it.

The Hermes girls, who, now that I'm looking look far too much like their father for ease of mind. I was being forced to imagine what having not one, but two Hermes’s to deal with is like. And there are even more of them not here. Oh, fates no. One is enough for me.

Two Hermes’s. Ugh. No. Don’t misunderstand me, Hermes is easily my second favorite brother, but.. Two of them. No. I deal with enough pranks. Two Hermes’s would drive me insane. Apollo, who is reading over my shoulder right now go away shoo go write in your own diary idiot shoo, wants to add that I’m already insane. That’s his commentary.

Apparently he also wants to add that she eats like Persephone. Drawing a comparison to that time she was eating pork spareribs.

I can still remember Demeters horrified face as Persephone shoveled them into her mouth while looking Hades directly in the eyes.

I may not be one for romance but FATES do those two have the best couple clips on that one show that I can’t think of the name of ugh.

Apollo who needs to stop reading over my shoulder ugh just told me to add that his favorite is the one where Persephone was throwing flowers at him while he was punishing a mortal. And that she totally ruined the effect because he had a loop of flowers hanging off his nose.

Anyways, I just kicked him in the shin. He should stop telling me to add stuff now. Hopefully.

We strode over to Meg’s side, the Hermes girls jumped away from us.

Good. I don't have to imagine what two Hermes’s would be like. Hermes only jumps like that when i'm holding a knife.

Apollo, who still reading over my shoulder, just told me that everyone reacts like that to me holding knives. I am terrifying.

“Hello,” Apollo started. “What are we talking about?”

Meg wiped her mouth on the back of her hand. I can’t blame her. Etiquette is absolutely pointless. There is no reason to put a napkin on your lap or not lick the plate. Sure, it's apparently revolting, but like, tell me that none of you have done it. You haven't? LIARS. ALL OF YOU.

“These two wanna know our plans for the race.”
“I’m sure they do.” Apollo plucked a small magnetic listening device from Meg’s coat sleeve and tossed it back to Alice.

Alice smiled sheepishly. “Can’t blame us for trying.”
“It's a good thing i’m here, Artemis. You would have never seen it. And these mini Hermes’s would know our plan.”
“Screw off.” He’s so rude.

“Anyways, I hope you two like what I did to your shoes. Have a good race!”
The girls shuffled off nervously, checking the soles of their sneakers.

I was plainly confused. I had been with him this entire time. He did nothing? And he’s never lied much as he is the god of truth.

The fact that Meg looked at him with an expression that was almost respect made me jealous though. “What did you do to them?”

“Nothing,” I said. “Half the trick to being a god is knowing how to bluff.”

“God of truth here everyone. God of truth.”

“Shut up.”

Meg snorted. “So what’s our top secret plan? Wait. Let me guess. You don’t have one.”
“You’re learning. Honestly, We meant to come up with one, but got sidetracked. We have a problem.”
“Sure do.” From her coat pocket, she pulled two loops of bronze, like resistance bands of braided metal. “You’ve seen these? They wrap around our legs. Once they’re on, they stay on until the race is over. No way to get them off. I hate restraints.”

“...Restraints. Wonderful” Refused to think of Atlas and holding up the sky. That was very different than this, and should not have been my first thought when I saw them, but it was. And I hated that, Apollo must have noticed my expression because he stepped up. I would have expected him to pin it on me, but he didn't. Surprisingly.

“So Meg. You wanted to be partners with me first, I guess we’re getting our legs tied together.”
Meg shook her head. “I can just order you two to wear them. But the thing is, as a group of three..” She pulled out another set. “You made this that much more difficult.”

I groaned. “Apollo’s in the middle.”

“What?”

“You are a foolish idiot. You are in the middle.”

“What-”
“Apollo’s in the middle.”

Meg’s word is law, and Apollo glared at me.

“Anyways, I was referring to another problem.”

The to be discussed later problem, or the oracle one? I hoped it was the second because the first was for later.

Thankfully, he just explained what happened with Sherman and the trees, I corrected the embellishments of his bravery. But what got to me was when he described how me wandering deeper into the forest as if I was being dragged, pulled even.

I remembered those.. hands that I saw, and felt mildly sick. But maybe that was the sandwich,

Meg went to clean her glasses, or well, I assumed she was because when she looked down at her coat, it was like watching a human toddler get socks for Christmas. She returned them to her face. “You think something in the woods is calling to people?”
“I think something in the woods is answering people. In ancient times, there was an Oracle—”
“Yeah, you told me. Delphi.”
“No. Another Oracle, even older than Delphi. It involved trees. An entire grove of talking trees.”
“Talking trees.” Meg’s mouth twitched. “What was that Oracle called?”
“I—I can’t remember.” He ground his teeth. Wonderful. This conversation again. But with a much more frustrating child.“I should know. I should be able to tell you instantly! But the information…It’s almost as if it is eluding me on purpose.”

Apollo, normally, is a walking encyclopedia. I can ask him virtually anything and he knows. Perks of him being the god of knowledge. It was… disheartening to see him not know something. It has always gotten on his nerves when people act like he doesn't know things. Because he knows so much. My brother may be an idiot at times. But he is not stupid. He is brilliant. Much smarter than people give him credit for.
“That happens sometimes,” Meg said. “You’ll think of it.”
“But it never happens to me! Stupid human brain! At any rate, I believe this grove is somewhere in those woods. I don’t know how or why. But the whispering voices…they are from this hidden Oracle. The sacred trees are trying to speak prophecies, reaching out to those with burning questions, luring them in.”

“You know that sounds crazy, right?”
Apollo’s body grew riged at the insult. He has much shorter of a fuse on his temper than me.

“Apollo.” I put a hand on his shoulder, intending on telling to calm down, but Apollo jerked away, turning to face me.

“What, Artemis? Are you just going to make fun of the fact I’m the god of knowledge and that I don't know? Is that your plan?”

I lowered my hand, hiding my shock, while Apollo steadied his breathing.

“I’m sorry.. I.. I really should not have said that earlier.. It was horrible of me. Insulting you for that. It was too far, I won't try to justify my actions. I’m very sorry..”

He closed his eyes for a moment, murmuring some latin curses I’d rather not repeat.

“It's fine, Artemis” I could tell that it wasn't fine, but his voice told me to drop it.

Another worry to lock up in the back of my head. Fun.

“Just.. Just be on guard, Meg” He said.
Meg glanced at us warily. “But the race doesn’t even go through the woods.”
“Nevertheless…we are not safe. If you can summon your friend Peaches, I would welcome his company.”

I nearly choked on the word friend. ‘Peaches’ as they have nicknamed that fates damned Karpoi. It's a monster. It does not have friends. It has a task and a master. And its task is to protect Meg. If that were not the case? I’d imagine it would devour Meg as well as us.

Meg glares at me. “I told you, he sort of pops up when he feels like it. I can’t—”

Chiron blew the horn again, and it was so loud I flinched, what in the name of the fates is wrong with me. I didn’t miss how Apollo flinched as well.
“Demigods!” Yelled the centaur. “Tie your legs together and follow me to your starting positions!”

Chiron led us to a meadow a hundred yards from the Big House. My right leg was bound to Apollo’s left, and his right to Meg’s left.

Making it there was.. Awkward. But competitions of Olympus had much worse handicaps, everything from having slits on wheels for feet while being tied to a partner, to having to animate a third dummy to walk without speaking or touching or moving other than walking while the other person did the same.

That was annoying.

We figured out how to walk after only a few falls.

Getting up was difficult to say the least.

I mean, this did remind me of Leto’s womb in an odd way. Shoving Apollo around because he wouldn't take his stupid feet off of me. No matter what I did. No matter how I kicked or elbowed him. He kept his feet on my back. It was horrible and cramped and ugh.

We were told to spread apart. Hardly anyone moved. The satyrs looked close to tears.

“Where is the starting line?” Holly Victor demanded, shoving her shoulder ahead of her sister’s. “I want to be the closest.”
“I want to be closest,” Laurel corrected. “You can be second closest.”

“Not to worry!” Woodrow the satyr sounded very worried. “We’ll explain everything in a moment. As soon as I, um, know what to explain.”

From nearby, Will Solace sighed. He was tied to his boyfriend Nico, and had his elbow on Nico’s shoulder as if Nico was a shelf.

Will acted like Apollo, even these stupid little habits. Apollo always did that. I am not a shelf. He does it to Hermes too, but Hermes has never seemed to mind.

Hermes is weird.

“I miss Grover. He used to organize things like this so well.” Will complained.

“I’d settle for Coach Hedge.” Nico pushed Will’s arm off. “Besides, don’t talk about Grover too loudly. Juniper’s right over there.”
He pointed to one of the dryads. A girl dressed in green.

“Grover’s girlfriend,” Will turned to us, how did he know I was listening? More psychic demigods. The confusion never ends! “She misses him. A lot .”
“Okay, everybody!” Woodrow shouted. “Spread out a little bit more, please! We want you to have plenty of room so, you know, if you die, you won’t take down all the other teams too!”
Will sighed. “I am so excited.”
He and Nico stumbled off. Julia and Alice from the Hermes cabin checked their shoes one more time, then glared at Apollo.

Ha.

Connor Stoll was paired with Paolo Montes, the Brazilian son of Hebe, and neither of them seemed happy about it.

……..I only just noticed how he looked even more like Hermes.

There are three of them.

Then I remembered that he has a brother named Travis. And that Cecil one. Five of them. Please excuse me while I scream.

Conner probably missed Travis.

Despite our current quarrel with one another, I don't regret my choice to be mortal one bit.

Once the satyrs judged we had all spread out sufficiently and our leg bindings had been double-checked. Have i mentioned I don't like bindings?

Harley clapped for our attention.“Okay!” He bounced up and down eagerly, reminding me of Hermes when he first arrived on Olympus. “Here’s the deal. Each team has to find three golden apples, then get back to this meadow alive.”

I groaned. Golden Apples. Nooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo.
“Golden apples,” Apollo said. “I hate golden apples. They bring nothing but trouble.”

“Golden apples are horrible” I agreed. “So many issues have spawned from them.”
Meg shrugged. “I like apples.”
Well. She did break that guy's nose in the alley yesterday with an Apple. Maybe we aren't dead.

Laurel Victor raised her hand. “You mean the first team back wins?”
“Any team that gets back alive wins!” Harley said.
“That’s ridiculous!” Holly said. “There can only be one winner. The first team back wins!”
Harley shrugged. “Have it your way. My only rules are stay alive, and don’t kill each other.”
“O quê?” Paolo started complaining so loudly in Portuguese that Connor had to cover his left ear.
“Now, now!” Chiron called. His saddlebags were overstuffed with first aid kits and flares. But, the flares wouldn't do much, as he had them. “We won’t need any help making this a dangerous challenge. Let’s have a good clean three-legged death race. And another thing, campers, given the problems our test group had this morning, please repeat after me: Do not end up in Peru.”
“Do not end up in Peru,” everyone chanted.
Sherman Yang cracked his knuckles. “So where is the starting line?”
“There is no starting line,” Harley said with glee. “You’re all starting from right where you are.”

My only thought was a very dull “Oh no.”
The campers looked around in confusion. Me included. Suddenly the meadow shook. Dark lines spread across the grass, forming a giant green checkerboard.
“Have fun!” Harley squealed.

The ground opened into a put beneath us, and we fell into the death maze known as the Daedalus's Labyrinth.

Chapter Text

If I am to be blunt about it, I had no clue as to what to expect when we started falling.

Not the faintest idea of how to approach the situation in which I found myself.

I am beginning to see a trend.

To be honest, I really. Really. Really hate having no idea what to do next.

I usually have an idea as to what to expect. 4612 years of life tends to allow you to see patterns.

But as a mortal?

All of it is new.

And I was not expecting the ground to open up like that but that's whatever.

My feet hit stone, normally, this wouldn't be a big deal, I could just keep walking. But in this flimsy mortal body?

Nope.

I am aware that mortals can roll to keep the force from jarring their ankles. In fact. I learned how to do it because it makes dramatic entrances just that tiny bit more dramatic.

I like dramatic entrances.

Anyway. I couldn't roll because of the bonds, so, when I hit the ground, I jarred my ankles and a white-hot bolt of pain jolted up my legs.

Normally, I would find this sort of activity fun. But in a flimsy death trap body, I most certainly did not.

We crashed into a wall, I ended up as a cushion for Apollo.
Of course, I did.

I mean.

Karma is a force to be reckoned with.

But having my face squished against an oak wall by his shoulder was decidedly not pleasant.
After a lot of shuffling and shoving, we got back into a standing position. I looked around us, studying our surroundings.

It was incredibly underwhelming.

For I’ve heard of the labyrinth, all the tales my hunters have spun to me, I expected it to be full of gold, shiny metals, and blood dripping down the walls spelling out an ominous message like ‘This is your tomb’. Not some sort of dark oak tunnel braced with oak beams.

I was disappointed, to say the very least.
There was no longer a hole above us, I assumed it was so we wouldn't climb out. 

That, or, the maze hates us.

The other teams appeared to be gone. Somehow. They were likely in other sections of the labyrinth, or maybe we landed in a shallower tunnel and they were simply below us.

Anything goes in this hell maze.
Then, suddenly, there were the muffled shouts of Harley chanting go repeatedly.
This should be.. Fun.

I say fun, as in, not fun.. at all. As in dreadful, tedious, and not fun.

As a goddess, a jaunt through a death maze would be entertaining to me. At least for ten minutes or so. If it were a competition I could kick Hermes’s ass in, (maybe probably) longer, and we would all lose horribly to Athena in the end.

Because Athena always wins stupid games and she never lets anyone else win ever. She has seriously never lost scrabble.
But, anyways,
The main reason this would not be fun was because, well, I can die.

There are any number of ways for me to die in this maze.
And dying is most definitely not fun.
“When I get my powers back,” Apollo grumbled, “I will turn Harley into a constellation called the Ankle Biter. At least constellations are silent.”

I was only 80% certain he was joking, seeing as his quick temper had lead to many rash decisions in the past. I got hung up on that off 20%.
“No, you won't,” I said. “Because Hephaestus already isn't pleased with you, angry over Leo, because of your descendant, and if you kill his son you might start a war. And that's the absolute last thing we need right now. Also. Can we not talk about constellations right now?”

I will not confirm or deny that I thinking about my last lieutenant.
“I was joking,” Apollo grumbled. I wasn't quite certain of that, but I let it slide.
“Sure you were.” No I didn't.
Meg pointed down the corridor. “Look.”
I glanced in the direction of Meg’s point.

Okay, that sentence does not sound right but I'm a goddess so just ignore how off it sounds.

Okay but honestly .
Is there a better way to word that? I don't know .

I glanced the way Meg was pointing? I followed Meg's directioning?

Apollo is the poet here, not me.
Anyway, Meg was pointing at a faintly glowing Apple say... 30 meters away give or take.
“A golden apple,” Apollo said.
"No shit Sherlock." I murmured.

I expected him to shoot back “Fuck off Watson” but Meg lurched forward, dragging me along behind Apollo.
You know those moments where you think "This might as well happen?" Well, I had one at that very moment. If I were to have died, so be it. Being a mortal is just so goddamn weird.
“Wait!” Apollo said. “There might be traps!”
By this point, I was fairly resigned to my fate as being dragged along third behind Meg, but when Conner and Paolo seemed to morph out of the darkness running towards us, I couldn't help but to be surprised.

If I were a goddess I would have heard them. Seen them. Smelt them.
But I didn't. Because mortal bodies are worthless.

Paolo grabbed the Apple, then shouted "BRASIL"
Connor grinned at us. “Too slow, suckers!”
Okay.
Yes.
There was, in fact, immediately a trap after that.
But.
I need to say this.
Connor looks exactly like Hermes. It's terrifying . He has the face of my idiot little brother plastered on with a grin as wide and mischievous as Hermes after he has you tied up in an inescapable web of pranks and traps and all he has to do is watch and record.

And he doesn't look tired.
Its.
Terrifying.
It's hard to even explain just how much Conner looked like Hermes, like, Connor is the spitting image of him. If you grabbed Hermes some 3500ish years ago they would be impossible to tell apart.
Anyways, the ceiling opened up above them and dropped volleys of mango sized spheres of iron on top of them.
Conner yelped "Run!"

(And he even SOUNDS like Hermes. It's uncanny.)
I honestly have no idea how they did it, well I do, because I watched it happen, but they managed an awkward one-eighty and hobbled away, followed by a herd of angry iron orbs.

I couldn't make this shit up if I tried.

I can easily say that was one of the oddest encounters I've had in centuries .
Without the apple, we were left in complete darkness.
Usually, I can see in even the purest darkness, perks of being the moon goddess. But it seemed I had lost my cat-like ability to see in the dark.

So that's fun.

I was not used to darkness like this.

This was new.

Interesting even.
“Great.” Meg’s voice echoed. “Now what?”
“I suggest we go the other direction.”
"Or we could tempt the fates and follow.” I offered numbly. “Haha. Joking let's just get this over with."
Turning around was much easier said than done.

With three sets of legs? It was… difficult.

I remember one time I tried to give myself another set of legs just to see what would happen.

I could not figure out how to balance.

Apollo probably has blackmail photos somewhere. I don't know.

Even in the total darkness, I could imagine Apollo’s expression.

A mix of “Kill me now” and utter confusion.

I didn't mind being blind particularly. Sure. It was inconvenient. But when one participates in blind archery competition you learn .

“So Apollo” I started. “What's it like, being in the middle?”

“Meg seems to dislike the darkness.” He replied.

“That was,, not my question, but alright. How are you holding up with the darkness?”

“I'm fine?”

“Good. You know, you’re still a huge fucking idiot.”

“Do we have to talk about this right now? ”

“If you break your oath, don't cry to me.” I switched to ancient Samoan.

“I won't break it.”

“Archery, Apollo. You swore off Archery.”

“Um.”

“At least you didn't swear off music.”

“..Would you hate me if I said I almost did?”

“Fates dammit.”

“I didn't though!”

“You better be glad you didn't.”

“..yeah.”

“What are you going to do, Phoebus . You are an archer.”

“I beat Ares in wrestling.”

“Sure, you out wrestled Ares, once. But you're a scrawny mortal, you can't body slam a hellhound. Though. The mental image makes me laugh.”

“Shut up”

Meg groaned. “What are you two even saying?”

“I'm calling him a dumbass, essentially.”

“Artemis!”

“You are a huge dumbass. Extremely intelligent and knowledgeable, but an absolute dumbass.”

Apollo scoffed.

Meg looked absolutely lost.

We walked with our arms ahead of us, I listened for any sound of encroaching danger.

Countless explosions, lava, rushing water, molten metal, darts, typical death traps.

Eventually, the three of us fell into a rhythm of sorts, Apollo and I have done these sorts of activities in the past, but never with a third person.

I mean. There was that time Hermes joined us. But. That was one time.

It took far to long, Meg was always too slow or too fast, and we ended up stumbling or veering towards the walls.

She might have been doing it on purpose. I am not certain.
We staggered along for what felt like hours, time was always different in magical spaces. Daedalus's labyrinth was no exception.

The silence stretched time even further.

Then Apollo broke it.
“Austin, my,,, son. Said that the Labyrinth was different now…” Apollo said awkwardly.

“..yes. It appears so. I expected bloody golden walls. Not.. This.”
“I never liked Daedalus,” Apollo muttered. “That old rascal didn’t know when to stop. He always had to have the latest tech, the most recent updates. I told him not to make his maze self-aware. ‘A.I. will destroy us, man,’ I said. But noooo. He had to give the Labyrinth a malevolent consciousness.”

“....I'm just going to ignore that.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Meg said. “But maybe you shouldn’t bad-mouth the maze while we’re inside it.”

“That does sound like a wise idea, Meg.”

“Oh don't you start talking like Athena. Wise this wise that.”

“Hmm. Is telling me to stop wise of you?”

“Stop.”

“In my opinion, it was unwise-”

“No.”

“Yes.”

“shh.”

“I will not-”

“SHH”

Apollo shushed me.

In the distance.

There was.

I shit you not.

Saxophone music playing. Faint. Echoing through the corridors.

And then it was over.

I don't fucking know.

Anyway, eventually, we reached a Y shaped bend.

Apollo stopped.

Forcing me to pitch forward, nearly sending all of us to the floor. If not for my impeccable balance.

Okay.

I admit.

That's a lie.

Somehow Apollo managed to steady me but that means nothing .

My balance is impeccable.
“Why’d we stop?” Meg asked.

“Why'd you give no warning?” I asked after.
“Shh.” Apollo seemingly listened intently. Or well. His body language said so.

I listened as well. I didn't hear much, maybe a faint buzzing, but really, when isn't there a faint buzzing in the distance these days?

The other tunnel smelled of,,, sulfur? I don't know. I had never smelled anything like it,

'Weird maze smells.'

That's the conclusion I came to.

I should have immediately recognized the smell, and so should have Apollo, but we didn't.

I blame it on these mortal noses.

“I don’t hear anything,” Meg complained.
“A sawing noise to the right,” Apollo told her. “To the left, a bad smell.”

“What is it?” I asked no one in particular. “Not quite sulfur, but disgusting all the same.
“I choose the bad smell.”
“Of course you do.”

“Okay. Let's weigh out options. Plan. What could the smell be?” I chimed in. 

Meg blew a raspberry, then hobbed to the left, dragging us behind.

“We should at least discuss it first!”

“Nah,” Meg said, as she continued to walk. “We go this way.”

That, apparently counted as an order, because both me and Apollo began walking to the left. That way it was. Apparently.

I despise bonds. Absolutely hate them. I hate being trapped or confined. Or stuck. These bonds were annoying.

I bet you could guess the reason why, but I'm not going to bring it up.

We inched our way forward. Progress annoyingly slow.

The bonds on my leg were beginning the chafe, I could feel Apollo’s pulse against my leg.

As the volcanic fumes intensified, I could feel his pulse speed up.
“Apollo?” I asked in ancient Greek. So I really just said Apollon, but the thought to disguise the conversation is what counts.

Before he could respond, Meg broke in with an obvious statement. “I see light!”

The darkness had turned to a murky gray,

“We should turn around,” Apollo said.

That, paired with his uneven pulse, was enough to convince me we needed to leave. I didn't know what important fact he was not saying for whatever reason, but this place screamed danger.

“That’s stupid,” Meg said. “Don’t you see the golden glow? There’s an apple in there.”

“Does it really matter? Apple or probable danger. I do believe it's an easy choice, Meg.”

“Also, The glow could be lava,” Apollo added in. “Or radiation. Or eyes. Glowing eyes are never good.”

“You often have glowing eyes,” I stated. “Also, cats eyes could be described as glowing.”

“Cats are evil. Adorable, but evil.”

“It’s an apple,” Meg insisted, cutting our conversation short, “I can smell apple.”

“Oh, now you develop keen senses?” Apollo said.

“We are going for the apple.” Meg insisted.

“Is that an order?” I asked.

Yes.”

We were forced onward. For such a young mortal, she was quite bossy.

By the time we reached the end of the tunnel, we found ourselves on a narrow ledge.

The side dropped off steeply, and seemed to plunge down forever, a fall to Tartarus? A direct link to Chaos? I didn't know.

Quite a ways up it looked as if it opened into a bigger chamber.

Apollo was tense as a deer in headlights.

Then I recognized this place.

Delphi .

I could feel Apollo begin to shake beside me.

Python was here.

Python was here.

I slid my hand into his.

“You’re shaking,” Meg said.

Apollo tried to cover her mouth with his hand, a terrible idea, really, but she promptly bit it. Under normal circumstances, I would have laughed.

But Python was here.

The creature that has haunted Apollo’s nightmares for millennia.

“Don’t touch me,” she snarled.

Be quiet Meg,” I said in a hushed whisper.

“Why?”

“Because right above us—” Apollo’s voice cracked. “Delphi. The chamber of the Oracle.”

Meg looked scared. “That’s impossible.”

“No, it’s not,” he whispered. “And if this is Delphi, that means…”

Be quiet” I hissed. “ Both of you.”

From overhead came a hiss so loud is shook the cavern.

The ledge shook. Pebbles rained down.

I have never seen Python myself.

I have only heard descriptions of it. My mother describing the beast that my brother had slain as a mere babe.

Apollo gripped my hand so hard I felt his nails digging into my skin.

I squeezed his hand back.

The monster that has haunted him for eons was above him.

The monster who chased Mother for many months was above me.

I have long wondered how I would react to being near Python.

The answer?

Terrified.

This monster chased my mother for months. This monster scarred my brother. Being close to it awakened a fear I didn't know I harbored towards the beast.

I felt my heart hammering in my chest.

Apollo was shaking.

I remember seeing him covered in ichor after he fought Python.

I remember those days he would wake up from nightmares screaming and crying and hoe he would never tell me why but we both knew that we knew what the dream was about.

I remember how any serpentesque thing could send him into a panic.

I remember his reaction to finding out Python had risen again. I remember his panic and fear and tears.

Its body slid over the crevasse, covering the opening. The disgusting smell of snakeskin assaulted my nostrils.

“Python.” Apollo’s voice was higher than Megs. “He is here.”

 

Chapter Text

Hey y'all!!! This isnt an update so much as it is an announcement!!

I made an ask thop1 Artemis tumblr, so that's a thing now!!

https://ask-thop1-artemis.tumblr.com

Ask this trash moon goddess all you want!! Want to poke at her insecurities and make her cry? Want to drudge up her past and scare her? Want to tell her stupid jokes and make her laugh? Want to ask her anything?

Well go right there and do it :D

Chapter Text

There have been very few times I have seen Apollo quite this terrified.

His hand was shaking in mine.

His shoulders trembled.

We needed to get out of here.

Python.

This is Python.

I never expected to be so close to it.

I never expected to lay eyes on it.

Much less as a puny mortal cowering in the darkness.

Of course, the Labyrinth brought us here to him it.

I started backing us away.

But Meg stopped me, pointing towards a tiny ledge on the opposite wall, holding a golden apple.

Fuck no.

No.

No.

Python is above us.

The monster who attacked and chased our mother.

No.

Meg whispered, “Easy jump.”

“He- it will hear us” I whispered. My voice sounded to loud.

Everything was too noticeable.

We needed to leave.

I could feel my heart racing in my chest.

We needed to get out of here.

Apollo glares at Meg, but I doubt he managed to look intimidating. “Too dangerous.”
“Apple,” she hissed.
“Monster!” He hissed back.
“One.”
“No!”
“Two.”
“No!”
“Three.” She jumped.

So Apollo Jumped.

And I also jumped.

We made it to the ledge.

We sent a spray of rubble into the chasm, and the only thing keeping us from topping backward was luck.

Thanks, Tyche.

I owe you.

Meg snatched up the apple.

Above us, the monster rumbled, “Who approaches?”

Apollo went still, squeezing my hand.

Well, no.

He wasn't still.

He was shaking.

More gravel spilled into the crevasse.

I could feel his pulse against my leg, it was far too fast.

It had heard us.

Apollo didn’t breathe.

He didn't move.

I didn't know what to do.

I felt helpless.

I felt scared.

I was not in control of this situation.

I was helpless.

Abruptly, a new voice, smaller, more human, spoke from above. “Hello, my reptilian friend.”

Apollo made a sound not unlike a sob, I squeezed his hand.

Thank the fates.

I cared not who this foolish, foolish being was, but they were a distraction.

We needed to get out of here.

Right now.

Python laughed. Apollo was shaking.

We needed to leave.

“Well, I was wondering if you would make the trip, Monsieur Beast.”
“Don’t call me that,” the man snapped. “And the commute was quite easy now that the Labyrinth is back in service.”
“I’m so pleased.” Python’s tone was dry as basalt.

Meg seemed frozen.

I don't know why she wasn't scared earlier, but we needed to go.

We got the fucking apple.

It's time to go.

“Let's go,” I whispered.

Neither my brother or Meg responded.

“So, Python,” the man continued, “any prophetic words to share with me?”
“In time…my lord.”

Was.

Was that sarcasm?

“I need more than your assurances,” the man said. “Before we proceed, we must have all the Oracles under our control.”

All the oracles.

Apollo nearly fell with the words, and he probably would have if I had not slung my arm around him.

“In time,” Python said, “as we agreed. We have come this far by biding our time, yes? You did not reveal your hand when the Titans stormed New York. I did not march to war with Gaea’s giants. We both realized the time for victory was not yet right. You must remain patient for a while longer.”
“Don’t lecture me, snake. While you slumbered, I built an empire. I have spent centuries—”
“Yes, yes.” The monster exhaled, causing a tremor along the cliff face. “And if you ever want your empire to come out of the shadows, you need to deliver on your side of the bargain first. When will you destroy Apollo?”

Apollo flinched.

A sort of protective anger blossomed in my chest.

Fuck no.

If whoever that up there even fucking touches him I will rip off his dick and tear out his tongue.

I spared a glance at Meg.

She looked terrified.

She reminded me of some of my hunters if I'm being honest.

I felt another surge of protectiveness.

I am the protector of young girls.

It's as much of my responsibility to protect Meg as it is Apollo.

The man must have stepped closer to the chasm because his voice became clearer and louder. “Don’t worry about Apollo. He is exactly where I need him to be. He will serve our purpose, and once he is no longer useful…”

It was like a puzzle piece snapped into place in my brain.  

I recognized the voice from that dream we had earlier.

Python shifted and more rubble showered down on us.

“And what of Artemis? She is with him. And how exactly will you convince him to serve our purpose?”
The man chuckled. “I have well-placed help within the camp who will steer Apollo toward us. Also, I have upped the stakes. Apollo will have no choice. He and the girl will open the gates. And Artemis? We will remove her from the equation quickly”

No, you fucking won’t you dumb fucking snake. And man.

I could feel Apollo tense as they spoke.

Some sort of vapor passed us, giving me a distinctly dizzy feeling.

Fuck fuck fuck okay we need to leave before we suffocate

“I trust you are right,” said the monster. “Your judgment in the past has been…questionable. I wonder if you have chosen the right tools for this job. Have you learned from your past mistakes?”
The man snarled, not unlike a werewolf.  Nearby, I heard Meg whimper.

Okay.

Its time.

To go.

“Listen here, you overgrown reptile,” the man said, “my only mistake was not burning my enemies fast enough, often enough. I assure you, I am stronger than ever. My organization is everywhere. My colleagues stand ready. When we control all four Oracles, we will control fate itself!”

I nearly snorted.

Nearly.

The fates?

Control them ?

That's impossible .

They spin fate itself, Oracles just translate the strings they receive.

“And what a glorious day that will be.” Python’s voice was jagged with contempt. “But beforehand, you must destroy the fifth Oracle, yes? That is the only one I cannot control. You must set flame to the grove of—”
“Dodona,” Apollo said.

I tensed.

A million swears from a hundred languages ran through my head.

Idiot.

His voice echoed through the cavern.

APOLLO” I hissed “ Why the fuck did you say that?”

Above us, the conversation stopped.
Meg hissed at him, “You idiot.”
The Beast said, “What was that sound?”

Well.

I wouldn't usually call myself impulsive.

But that's exactly what I was in this moment.

I saw exactly two choices laid out ahead of us.

Death by Python or death by falling.

I jumped off the side.

Yes.

That may not have been my brightest idea.

By jumping, I dragged Meg and Apollo off the edge.

For a long moment, we were falling.

Then with a wet squelch we landed on a mound of garbage bags.

I'm not complaining, we’re alive, but…

Garbage.

Really?

The fates have a surprising sense of humor sometimes.

We tumbled down flailing, a mess of flailing limbs.

If I am to be honest, I’m quite surprised no one broke a arm or leg.

Apollo was pale as a sheet.

Meg looked sick.

I felt dazed.

Python.

I was just in the presence of Python.

Python.

I could hardly believe it.

I had no idea what dream guy was talking about.

Empire? Centuries?

I did not know.

I felt dazed.

Python.

Python.

I giggled hysterically.

“I.. What the fuck? What the fuck?” I wanted to start pacing.  “What the fuck? What the fuck was that? The girl? The gates? He has a spy? What the fuck ?? Python?? I can't fucking?? What??

Meg sat up. She was smothered in coffee grounds.

Apollo had a banana peel on his head.

“I can't?? Who the fuck?? Who??”

Apollo pulled the banana peel off his head. “Artemis why did you throw us off the edge?” He sounded remarkably calm for the given situation.

“It was either that or die,” I said quickly, the impulse to defend myself dumping to the foreground. “I assume neither of you has a death wish?”

“No, but-”

“But nothing. We are away from that beast.

Meg flinched at the word, but I ignored it, deciding to take a deep breath and try to calm my quickly fraying nerves.

“Are you okay?” I asked. By all logic, he really shouldn't be okay. But somehow he was holding himself together better than I was.

“Maybe.” Was his response.

Very helpful.

Maybe.

Not a yes.

Or a no.

A maybe.

When faced with the creature of his nightmares of thousands of years he gives me a maybe??

I don't. Fucking know.

“You're probably not. I just??? What the fuck??? What the fuck???”

“Are you okay?” He asked.

“I don't know??? Fucking??? Python???? What the fuck????”

He seemed to tense at the name.

100% not alright.

“Okay. Okay. What. The fuck. Okay. Okay. We’re away from it. Python is nowhere near us. Okay. Oh. Kay.”

Apollo turned to Meg. “Is there some reason you keep landing us in trash heaps?”
“Me? You,” She gestures at me. “Threw us over the edge!!”

I nodded. “Yes, I did.”

See?”

Meg looked like she had just gone through Hades’s haunted house. Trust me, It’s a terrible idea. She wiped at her face, having very little luck at removing the coffee grounds.

In her free hand, she held the apple, fingers trembling.

Normally, I would have tried to console her. As goddess of young girls, I really should have. But I was still busy digesting the information.

A spy.

A Fucking Spy .

The last spy nearly cost us Olympus.

While in the end, that Aphrodite girl did help win the war, she nearly lost it for us as well.

“Are you all right?” Apollo asked.

We’ve known this girl a day.

A single day.
“Fine,” Meg snapped.

She was not, but I didn't press.

Meg honestly looked terrible. She was pale and looked how I expected Apollo to look.

Why did he look so calm? He has the biggest fear of snakes because of Python? I honestly had no idea what was going on with Apollo.

I felt like I was freaking out more than him.

This is Python. The literal beast who haunted his dreams for thousands of fucking years.

You know, looking back on my confusion makes me think about just how little faith I had in him.

Wow me.

Apollo pressed at Meg though.

“That man upstairs,” He said. “You recognized his voice?”
“Shut up. That’s an order!”

I felt my eye twitch at the order.

Nope.

Not fucking happening.

Not this yaleshit again. “My brother will be quiet, Meg. But do not inhibit his ability to speak. Ever.”

Apollo started to speak but no sound came out.

Hundreds of orders to just be quiet and work flew through my head. Orders I just stoof by on Olympus and watched happen.

Laomedon was not a very kind master.

I will not allow a repeat of that nightmare .

I don't know what I sounded like, but Meg almost seemed to shrink. Then she didn’t.

“I am your Master! I can do what I want!”

Laomedon said the exact same thing, albeit in another language many many years ago. It took almost all of my remaining self control not to just lunge at her.

“We are not your Thralls Margaret McCafferty . We Are Olympian gods, and-”

Apollo put a hand on my shoulder.

I took a moment to calm myself.

“Meg, just give my brother back his voice. Please.”

She frowned, but spoke: “You can talk.”

I nodded, pushing a thousand years of overprotectiveness to the back of my mind. With all the other things in the back of my head. What is it back there? And endless void?

Apollo looked quite embarrassed.

“Anyways, moving on.. I scanned our surroundings. “I don't know where here is but it stinks, Lets get out of here”

The only clear exit was a metal door with a biohazard sign.

Fun.

“Where are we?” Meg asked.

“This is going to shock you,” Apollo said, shrugging off his apparent embarrassment. “but it appears we are in a garbage room.”
“But where?”
“Could be anywhere. The Labyrinth intersects with subterranean places all around the world.”
“Like Delphi.” Meg glowered at us.

“Yes. Like Delphi.” I ignored her jab in favor of turning to Apollo. “Dodona is that grove, correct?”

“Yes.”

“Any new memories?”

“I’ll tell you later, let's just get out of this hell maze.”

“Yeah okay.”

Meg glanced behind us. “Well, it wasn’t a total waste.” She reached into the garbage and pulled out a second piece of glowing fruit. “Only one more apple to go.”

“Yayy. Biohazards her we come.”