“You wouldn’t happen to know anything about babies, would you?”
Artemis tried to brace herself for whatever baby-related disaster was behind her and turned around. Unsurprisingly, her lieutenant was standing there with a very small mortal. Artemis looked at the little creature, walking over to where Thalia was trying to keep it from squirming from her arms and raising a hand. Immediately the baby stilled.
“I am the goddess of childbirth,” she reminded Thalia and held out her arms. Thalia hesitated, but slowly gave the child to her. “I know a thing or two.” She smiled and the baby immediately went to grab Artemis’ hair. “Why do you have this mortal?”
“Because Nico di Angelo is a snitch,” Thalia said without a second of hesitation. Artemis tilted her head. “This is Percy’s little sister. Estelle,” Thalia explained. “Percy has this dumb rule that everyone has to like her. Nico hadn’t really bonded with her so he made him watch her for a while. Then Prince Doom-and-Gloom pointed out that I haven’t had a chance to see her very much since I’m away at the hunt… Pretty sure it’s revenge for letting Reyna join,” she grumbled. Artemis hummed. Reyna had made a fine addition to the hunt even if di Angelo hadn’t been thrilled with the idea.
“Men are petty and often miss bigger pictures,” Artemis said and waved her fingers in front of the girl – Estelle, apparently. “I thought you would know about babies,” Artemis told her. “Given your brother and all.”
Thalia flinched and Artemis internally scolded herself. That had been the wrong thing to say. She had forgotten how long mourning periods lasted for mortals. Even though her huntresses could hardly be considered mortal beings, Artemis tried to remember their roots.
“You need to track down the manticore,” Artemis told her, changing the subject. “I will watch the child.”
“I - my lady, I appreciate the offer, of course, but… I’m really not sure how Percy would feel about that. He trusted me with her. Not anyone else.” She said. Artemis nodded. Her lieutenant was a respectful and loyal friend. It was what made her a good companion within Artemis’ ranks. She reached out to hand Estelle back.
“Then perhaps I will take your place with the manticore-” she began, but was cut off by Estelle screeching. Thalia jumped, almost dropping the girl in alarm as Estelle’s cries only seemed to escalate more and more as she kicked a bit in alarm. Quickly, she handed her back to Artemis and the girl quieted immediately.
“Hurtful, Estelle, but okay…” she said and Artemis scoffed. “Maybe she should be with you,” Thalia mused. “We don’t have to tell Percy. Plus, I think out of all the gods he trusts you with her the most,” she said and Artemis grimaced. That… was probably fair. This poor thing wouldn’t last a day around someone like Athena or Zeus.
“I will protect her,” Artemis said and looked down at the baby. “We will hunt together. I can teach her about the stars,” she added. Thalia blinked a few times.
“…I’m not sure she can walk.”
“This is not my first time taking infants hunting,” Artemis dismissed and shifted her hunting bag into a small backpack to place Estelle in. Thalia looked torn between amusement and concern. “Go. We will explore the forest,” she told Thalia and Estelle gave garbled baby talk from Artemis’ back.
“Yes, my lady,” Thalia said, looking still a bit tentative. “Be good, Estelle.” She added before turning back to where a small group of her huntresses were waiting patiently for Thalia to lead them away. Artemis watched them go before refocusing on Estelle.
“Be sure to listen carefully,” Artemis said, reattaching her arrows to her thigh instead of their usual place on her back. “Your mortal ears may not detect much, but if you listen closely you may be able to learn a thing or two.” She said and crept forward. “When navigating through the forest it is best to use the stars. They don’t just tell you stories, you know…”
The next time Artemis saw Estelle was when she was around four or five.
Thalia had gotten injured. Her lieutenant didn’t have much left in terms of mortal family members, but had insisted in her drunkenly injured state that she would like some of Sally Jackson’s blue cake. Sally Jackson. Artemis shook her head. That was the mortal woman who would sometimes help Apollo with his quests while human. In truth, Artemis owed her a great debt for taking care of her brother back when Zeus refused to allow Artemis such a simple undertaking.
Sally didn’t seem to want her thanks though. Sally only smiled as she fed Thalia cake while she recovered and helped some of the other huntresses get comfortable in their small cabin by the ocean. Montauk, Artemis was pretty sure.
“Apollo has already returned the favor, my lady,” she said warmly and Artemis had frowned.
“Oh… in that case, I apologize for whatever he’s done under the guise of returning the favor,” Artemis said, but Sally only laughed and asked if there was anything she could get for her. Artemis watched her curiously. She wasn’t the type of woman who would make a good huntress, but Artemis did believe quite fully that – while her huntresses were quite extraordinary – there were many breeds of women whose capabilities shone as brightly as her girls’. Sally was one of the rarer ones to be sure. Absently, she drifted through the cabin when noise in one of the adjoining rooms caught her attention.
“…Estelle, come on. Don’t cry.” A voice said when Artemis walked by. She paused. Perseus. Right. She supposed it would be amiss not to speak to the young hero. A voice in the back of her head reminded her idly that Estelle would be his sister. She had forgotten he had one.
“You’re my brother!” A voice sniffed in return and Artemis curiously pushed one of the doors open to find the little girl sniffling loudly as a distraught demigod tried to comfort her. They were both in swimsuits, clearly having just returned from the beach with sand caked in their hair and skin just slightly red from the sun.
“Of course, I am! I’m definitely your brother,” Perseus soothed, patting her head. “But, well, we… we do have different dads. It’s not that big of deal-”
“But you’re my brother!”
“Estelle,” Perseus groaned. “We have the same mom! And I love your dad very much. He just isn’t the same dad I have-”
“But you’re my brother,” Estelle insisted stubbornly. “Same dad. My kindergarten teacher said-”
“I know, I know,” Perseus told her with a sigh. “But Paul is my step-dad.” He tried. Estelle looked back with a tear-streaked face and wobbling lip. “It doesn’t change anything at all, Stella. It just means we are going to have some… differences,” he reasoned slowly. “Like, you know the tricks I do with the water? You won’t be able to do that-”
“But you’re my brother!”
“I should have waited until you were older to talk to you about this,” Percy sighed and his eyes flicked up to where Artemis was watching him. He didn’t seem surprised. Then again, it was quite possible nothing would surprise him after all he had been through. “Hello, my lady.” He said and bowed his head. Artemis swept into the room.
“Hello, Perseus. I hope you don’t mind us taking refuge here.”
“Nah, you guys are cool. It’s nice to see Thalia even if she is out of it,” he mused with a hint of a smile. “She doesn’t annoy me nearly as much when she can’t shock me!” He added brightly. Estelle perked up at Thalia’s name.
“…Thalia?” She whispered and then sat up. “I made her a present!”
“Oh, shi- Estelle, wait!” Percy said and snagged her back. “Let’s wait before visiting Thalia, alright? She’s kind of tired and-”
“Allow me,” Artemis cut in. Perseus paused. It was clear what the issue was. There had been whispers, of course. The words ‘sister of Percy Jackson’ had been uttered once or twice in Olympus’ halls, but it was clear that Perseus himself would rather the gods not know of her existence. Considering how many of Artemis’ huntresses were children of various gods… well, she could understand him wanting her to stay here.
“Oh,” Perseus said and Estelle paused to look at Artemis as if seeing her for the first time. “I… I couldn’t ask you to-”
“Thalia wishes to visit with you more. I will keep your sister… occupied,” Artemis shrugged and sat down. “I am good with children and will not tell my father of her,” she added. At that, Percy’s shoulders relaxed. Artemis turned to Estelle. “Hello, little one.” She added. Estelle waved.
“If you’re sure…” Percy said and bit his lip. Artemis nodded. His eyes flicked between them a few times before he nodded. “Thank you, my lady,” he added and gave a low bow. Artemis bit back a smile. Oh, how Apollo and the others would be indignant if they learned Jackson used such formalities with her rather than them. She waited until he was gone to turn back to Estelle.
“Hi!” Estelle said again and stared at a glass of water. Artemis waited a few moment before realizing what was happening.
“You will not be able to move it,” Artemis informed her. “You are not Poseidon’s blood.”
The girl turned.
“Po-die-in?” She asked and then wrinkled her nose. “Who?”
“Poseidon,” Artemis corrected. “But be careful with that name. It wields power. All of our names do,” she said and Estelle frowned. “Poseidon is the name of Percy’s father.”
There was a long pause.
“No,” Estelle said. “His name is daddy.”
“Your father’s name is Paul,” Artemis informed her as she strained to remember the other mortal. Estelle’s mouth dropped – looking downright offended by the idea her father actually had a name beyond what she called him. “Perseus’ father is Poseidon. They are two different people,” she explained and when Estelle looked like she was about to argue, raised a hand. “You must accept this. It is the truth.”
“…but he’s my brother.”
“He is indeed,” Artemis told her and absently reached out to smooth her hair. “No one has told you of the world yet, have they?” She asked, a little sympathetically. Estelle tilted her head before turning away from the glass of water to face her fully. “You may forget what I tell you, but perhaps I might allow you some knowledge of our universe,” she mused and a glimmer of gold caught her attention. Artemis frowned, leaning forward before raising her eyebrows as she touched the necklace. “…though perhaps you know more than I if you wear such a trinket. Who gave you that?” She asked and Estelle grabbed the pendant to beam down at it.
“Pap!” Estelle giggled and Artemis frowned. Pap? She shook her head. No matter. Back to that later.
“Estelle,” Artemis began and smoothed out her clothes. “There are beings who preside over the world and it’s fruits,” she began. Estelle’s lips puckered out.
“Fruits? Like apples!” She said, eyes brightening. “And oranges and grapes and-”
Right. Artemis forgets herself.
“Not like that,” she said and then reconsidered. “Perhaps… I should tell you a story,” she said and Estelle nodded eagerly. “First, you must know the world around you is alive. The sky, the ground, the sea…”
Estelle listened intently for a good three hours as Artemis tried her best to outline the basics of the universe. Her real interest seemed to be on one name though.
“Poe…sigh…den…” She said slowly and Artemis nodded. “That’s… Percy’s daddy?” She asked. Artemis nodded again. “Not mine?”
“Hm,” Estelle said and crossed her arms over her chest. “Where is he? Doesn’t Percy miss him?”
“I’m afraid they don’t know each other quite well,” Artemis said and Estelle’s frown deepened. “This side of Perseus’ family is very different. Poseidon cannot be a father to him as your father is to you. I’m sure they communicate as they can though. Through offerings and gestures.”
“Offers?” Estelle repeated. Artemis shrugged.
“To give… gifts, of a sort,” Artemis explained. “Many parents on this side of the family like them. It is a good way to ensure they are listening,” she said and Estelle bit her lip. She looked bothered. Of course, Artemis could hardly blame her. It was a lot to take in.
“But,” she began and then glanced back to the cup of water. “I don’t know… Poe-sigh-den,” she said, making sure to say every syllable. Artemis waited. “Percy knows my daddy. I… that isn’t fair,” she decided. Artemis smiled weakly. It wasn’t. Artemis didn’t often approve of her family’s affairs with mortals. It was their job to take care of them and yet – more than anything – her family seemed more willing to drive the world into chaos over order. Her father would never admit it, but… mortals took better care of gods than the other way around.
“No,” she said softly. “It isn’t. You’ll find your brother will prefer the refuge of your mother and father over anything else our family has to offer. We have power and stories and time. It appeals to mortals, certainly, but in the end it is mostly worthless.”
Estelle twisted her hands together.
“Not fair.” Estelle reiterated and Artemis glanced at the sky. It was getting late. She should hurry if she wanted to make that council meeting her father had demanded them to attend. Over what, was unclear. Sighing, she got up and offered a wry smile. She would have to find Sally or Percy. Estelle also got up, clambering over to grab a bucket. “And where are you going?” She asked. Estelle didn’t even hesitate.
“I need seashells.”
Believe it or not, Artemis rather liked visiting her hunters’ families. Not all of them, but it was a nice reminder that her companions’ stories weren’t all tragic and sad. Most would live long enough to outlive their parents, siblings, and friends, so Artemis tried to find time for her younger ones to spend snippets of time with them when they could.
Today, they were meeting out in the middle of the forest not too far from the entrance of Camp Half-Blood. A few demigods were out meeting their half-siblings and some mortal relatives had come to catch-up with her huntresses. Then, of course, was this little one who had (in theory) come to visit her Aunt Thalia.
Artemis chuckled. For all the dramatics she had heard about this child, she was fairly sweet… but maybe that was the flattery. She knelt in front of the girl who was hugging a stuffed snake to her chest with wide eyes and Percy Jackson warily watching with a hand placed on his sister’s shoulder.
“I won’t steal her from you, boy,” Artemis told him. Perseus gave a weak smile and let his hand slip off of Estelle slightly.
“Sorry,” he said and gave a nervous chuckle. “She just… is very impressed with you, my lady. And I know you accept, uh, young huntresses,” he said, eyes flicking to a few of the girls not much older than Estelle mulling about. Estelle also looked at them with wonder before turning around to slightly shove her brother.
“Mom needs you,” she said and Percy blinked down at her. “You should go home and check on her.”
“Mom says she needs you!” Estelle told him and gave another light push. Percy’s mouth dropped open as Thalia began loudly cackling.
“I’m sorry,” Percy said indignantly. “Am I embarrassing you?” He asked. Estelle sighed and pulled on his arm so he leaned down. Estelle quickly cupped her hands together to whisper something in his ear. There was a glimmer of amusement in the demigod’s eyes – along with disbelieving betrayal before stood back up with a grumble and walked over to where Thalia was already snickering at him.
Artemis tilted her head at the girl.
“Are you interested in joining my hunt?” She asked. Though… even if she was the answer would have to be no. Most of her younger huntresses came when they had nowhere else to go and the idea of having Jackson’s sister… well, the girl might be lovely, but if Artemis had to deal with Percy Jackson on a regular basis…
Estelle let her lower lip poke out slightly before shuffling a bit as she looked at the ground.
“I can’t,” she sighed. “I might be in love.”
“Her name is Caroline,” Estelle said, brightening a bit. “She’s pretty like you. I thought she was my friend, but then I found out Piper has a girlfriend so maybe Caroline can be my girlfriend,” she said slowly, brows furrowing in utmost concentration. Artemis nodded. “But… I made you something,” Estelle said with a deep breath.
Artemis tilted her head and waited. Estelle took the backpack off of her shoulders and reached inside before pulling out a piece of paper, looking distressed. It was a map, she realized. All the constellations neatly colored and connected. Artemis wondered if perhaps Artemis’ words to her as an infant somehow wiggled their way into her mind permanently.
“I’m not that good at drawing,” Estelle admitted and shuffled a bit. “But I tried my best.”
“I think this is very lovely,” Artemis told her and smiled. “The best way to navigate on a hunt is to use the stars.”
Estelle’s face lit up.
“You’re the moon goddess,” she said, looking encouraged, but still tugging at her hair nervously. “And my name means star so even though I can’t be huntress I think we could be friends,” she said quickly. Artemis tried to keep a stoic face. She knew mortal children well enough to know it wasn’t an offensive request – and that Artemis would do well to take it seriously.
“Well,” she said and smiled. “We do look the around same age.”
“I’m sorry about my brother. I know he’s a boy and he says you don’t like boys.”
“I do find most cumbersome,” Artemis agreed. “However, your brother has my begrudging respect. You needn’t hide him from me,” she said and Estelle gave a small huff of relief at that.
“Oh, good,” she said. “I like him too. He's definitely not a cucumber,” she reassured her. Artemis blinked a few times as she tried to decrypt that last comment.
“Estelle!” Thalia called from where she had been speaking to the boy in question. “I’m pretty sure you came to visit me!" She said. Estelle jumped before turning to her and waving brightly... then she turned back to Artemis. “Oh my gods. I thought she liked me!” Thalia said and Percy snorted.
“She does – but Artemis is here,” he answered her too lowly for his sister to hear. “I’ve told her every Greek story I know, but she only wants to hear about Artemis.”
Artemis resisted the urge to smirk. She was a rather impressive figure, wasn’t she?
“Wow,” Estelle whispered, regaining Artemis’ attention. “Is that your bow?” She asked. Artemis followed her eyes to where she was eying her weapon with absolute wonder. “It’s so pretty…” She said, looking dazed. Chuckling, she slipped it off her shoulder.
“Would you like to shoot it?” She asked. Estelle squeaked. Most gods were pretty protective of their magical items. Artemis supposed she would kill anyone who tried to take her bow away from her, but she had no qualms with other people admiring its beauty. Mortals were an adoring bunch. Artemis found it charming.
“Really?” She asked and put the stuffed snake down carefully before hesitantly letting her fingers brush the silver. Perseus stiffened at the motion, but Artemis flashed what she hoped was a reassuring smile… he didn’t look too reassured. Boys.
“Here,” Artemis said and shifted her fingers around the length of it so she could have the correct hold on the bow. “You’re young so you do not quite possess the right strength…” She murmured and used some of her power to take off some of the bow’s weight. Estelle held it – looking a little clumsy as Artemis tried to adjust her feet and arms to the correct position. “What would you like shoot at?” She asked.
“Oh,” Estelle said and looked around. “Uh… that tree!” She said with a nod in front of them. Artemis nodded and helped her notch the arrow.
“Alright, so you need to look straight ahead and-”
Whatever else she was about to say by Estelle sneezing. This led to her letting go of the arrow which flew off course and sank directly into one of her huntresses’ legs.
“Rue!” A few people gasped as Estelle slowly lowered the bow with wide eyes. One of the demigods visiting from Camp Half-blood gave a yelp of alarm before running to her sister. At least… Artemis was pretty sure it was Rue’s sister. She didn’t often familiarize herself with demigods not in her hunt.
“I’m sorry!” Estelle said quickly and gave the bow back to Artemis. “I didn’t mean to!”
“It was an accident,” Artemis agreed and dug into her bag to get Rue some ambrosia. The words did not quell everyone, however. The girl Rue had been trying to reassure turned with burning eyes and outrage.
“What’s wrong with you?” She demanded and walked over to shove Estelle. This, predictably, did not go well since Jackson was there in an instant. “You’re too little to even have a bow!” The girl growled. Artemis internally scoffed. This child only seemed about a year or two older than Estelle herself.
“It was an accident,” Perseus said sharply and pulled Estelle away. “We have ambrosia and nectar-”
“And Lady Artemis gave Estelle the bow,” Thalia reminded the girl. “Rue, are you okay?” She added.
“Yes,” Rue said, gratefully accepting the nectar Artemis had handed her. “Injuries like this happen all the time, Chloe. If you want to join the hunt when you’re older then you’ll have to get used to them.” She said and Estelle peaked out from behind Jackson’s elbow.
“I’m sorry-” She repeated and the girl stuck her tongue out at her. Estelle blinked a few times before scowling back. Artemis ended the argument by fixing them both with a look that had the entire group scrambling away. Waiting until she was sure Rue’s leg was okay, Artemis turned back to Estelle.
“…sorry.” She said yet again. Artemis shook her head.
“She’s okay. Perhaps you can try the bow again during the next visit, hm?”
“You would let me try it again?”
“Yeah, what? You would let her try it again?” Perseus asked, looking a little concerned. Thalia zapped him. “Ow, Thals-”
“All skills need to be practiced,” Artemis said and tapped Estelle’s nose. “It is an important thing to remember before deciding something is a failure.” She said. Estelle beamed at her. Perseus, on the other hand, didn’t look nearly as inspired.
“I get the feeling I’m going to hear that whenever she wants to paint my nails…” He sighed.
Estelle stuck by Artemis’ side the rest of the night.
Estelle was back about four years later.
“Come sit, child,” Artemis said and gestured her over. The girl practically tripped in an effort to get to her in a timely manner.
“I’ve sworn off love,” Estelle informed her immediately.
“So, I’ve heard,” Artemis said and glanced at where Perseus was speaking to Thalia and Reyna with wary looks over his shoulder. Artemis wanted to roll her eyes. They were far from the forest this time – all gathered in the Jackson-Blofis residence when Sally Jackson offered to cook them all dinner. Artemis didn’t care much for mortal food, but if the girls were inclined then Artemis could humor it. “And you’re quite sure of this?”
“Estelle, maybe you should help mom with the food?” Perseus called. Estelle sighed.
“Percy. I love you, but I’m making a career decision-”
“No, you’re not-” he muttered and slid over as both Thalia and Reyna snickered at him. “Estelle, you haven’t even finished high school yet.”
“High school is useless,” Estelle said and then held up both hands. “Wait. No, let me channel my inner-Athena,” she said as Percy mouthed ‘your what?’ as she closed her eyes and took a long breath. “Mr. Jackson,” she said, straightening her shoulders. “I would prefer not be placed in an institutionalized system where my value is placed on things like grades and standardized test that reduce my worth to a number that will determine my eligibility – not for life – but for college. Furthermore, do I even want to go to college? Studies show that student debt is a real issue and without the assurance I would get any grants or scholarships – or that the job market would even be conducive for an entry level college student – I don’t see that as a good risk,” she said and clicked her tongue. “So, perhaps, me becoming an immortal badass who hangs out with a goddess in the woods is really the most enlightening path for me,” she shrugged.
Percy stared. Artemis waited. She knew that look well. Apollo used to wear it when they were kids.
Three… two… one…
“MOM! ESTELLE WANTS TO RUN AWAY AND JOIN THE HUNT BECAUSE SHE NO LONGER LOVES YOU!”
“You slut,” Estelle gasped, scrambling up to her feet as Percy frowned at her.
“What did you just call me?” He asked, but Estelle had already raced off towards her mother. “I – did -? What?” He asked and looked around, bewildered. “I’ve dated only one person! What is this?” He demanded to nobody. Thalia coughed.
“Calypso!” Reyna pretend-coughed. Percy held out his hands.
“We were never togethe-”
“Just because they liked me doesn’t mean I dated them,” Percy groused and turned to Artemis. “Can you make them stop?”
“Alright,” he said and took a sip of his blue drink. “I don’t really mind if Estelle joins you,” he sighed a few seconds later, running a hand through his hair. “I just want her to be a little older. Ideally. I keep hoping she’ll just lose interest in the god stuff or maybe just be satisfied with demigods,” he said warily. “Hermes keeps visiting her…”
“I understand, Perseus,” Artemis told him. “Quite frankly, I wouldn’t want her right now. If she ever does join you would annoy me endlessly.”
“Oh. Uh, thanks?” He said and Artemis smiled at him. “Besides, I’m interested to see if she really swears off love,” he added doubtfully. “The girl falls in love at least once week. She called Reyna beautiful twenty times within the first ten minutes of seeing her,” he shook his head. Artemis rolled her eyes. Yes, the girl did seem very… loud with her emotions.
“I’m back,” Estelle said, pushing through the crowd with her face flushed. “Good news. Mom says she knows I love her… the most,” she added to her brother snidely. Perseus put a hand on his chest in offense. “But she also pointed out that she would be sad if I left for the hunt right now because she thought she had a few more years with me so… would it be okay if we re-visted this in a few years?” She asked Artemis hopefully.
“I suppose,” Artemis humored her. “I have yet to see if your archery skills have improved.”
Estelle brightened. Percy shook his head quickly.
“Don’t do this,” he whispered. Estelle, however, was already bouncing eagerly. “I got her a plastic set when she was eleven and she almost lost an eye-”
“I told you that’s where I was aiming,” Estelle said stubbornly. Percy blinked.
“Your own eye?!”
“That’s my business,” Estelle told him and slid up next to Artemis. “I would like to try again, my lady. I think I have a better handle on it now,” she said and Artemis slid he bow off her shoulder, gesturing her towards the window. “Here?” She asked.
“If you aim for the sky I can simply make the arrow disappear before it falls again,” Artemis shrugged. “Besides, the sky seems like a large enough target, don’t you think?” She asked and Estelle laughed as she accepted the bow eagerly. A few huntresses gathered around.
“Try to keep your body weight shifted on your back leg,” one girl said and Estelle’s tongue stuck out slightly as she concentrated. She clumsily reached for an arrow, arms flailing slightly as she tried to pull on the string. Artemis frowned.
“No – don’t,” she began, but Estelle had already released the bow, sending the arrow off towards the building. A loud clang sounded followed by cars crashing wildly below. Silence. Then a burst of sirens and lights went off below. Estelle slowly put the weapon down. “You… need more practice,” Artemis said slowly. “In a safer environment.”
A woman down below screamed.
“Maybe we should wait until you’re a bit older first though.”
How? How? Just… how?
When a girl joins the hunt they are blessed by Artemis herself. It is what gives her hunters things like strength, speed, and immortality… also, archery skills. All her huntresses had stellar archery skills… except… the newest member.
“…do you think Apollo is cursing me because I accidentally broke his piccolo?” Estelle asked sadly as she stared at where he arrow had traveled a measly two feet before planting itself into the ground. “It poked me in the eye,” she grumbled and dropped the bow.
“You need to focus on staying still,” Artemis said. “Do you have ADHD?”
“What? No, I thought that was a demigod thing,” Estelle said and Artemis pursed her lips.
“… it can be a mortal thing too,” she said and then sighed. “Estelle, please stop looking at the butterfly. Your target is in front of you.”
“I could have been aiming for the butterfly…” Estelle grumbled and took a long breath. She released the arrow and watched dejectedly as it flew into the lake rather than the target. “It went in the right direction,” she sighed and grabbed another arrow. “I guess I really fucked a squirrel with a pencil there.”
“You – what?” Artemis asked, legitimately caught off-guard. Estelle glanced up, trying to re-align her bow.
“Athena gave me books in Greek so I’m trying to learn the language,” she shrugged. “I think the English expression is something like ‘patience is a virtue’ or whatever,” she said and Artemis shook her head. “Oh… what did I just say?” She asked and then her eyes widened. “Was it bad?”
“It was… disturbing. And a little vulgar,” Artemis decided and Estelle dropped the bow. “What is it?”
“I have to go.”
“I, uh, might have wrote a letter to Zeus. I thought it would be nice to write it in Greek, but now I’m realizing I deeply… deeply… deeply mistranslated something,” she said and started inching away. “So, um, I should just – Thalia!” She shouted and sprinted off.
Artemis had thought Percy Jackson would be the issue with Estelle joining the hunt… clearly the Fates had set out to prove her wrong.
“Your family annoys me.”
Artemis glanced up.
“Ironically, they annoy me too,” she said and put down her arrows. “You should be careful who you speak of, Estelle. My understanding is you’ve already annoyed a lot of them yourself,” she warned. Estelle sighed and sat down, glowering at the floor.
“Why don’t you let your huntresses fall in love?” She asked suddenly. Artemis raised an eyebrow. This wasn’t where she had anticipated this conversation going. “Do immortals not fall in love? Might explain Aphrodite,” she added under her breath. Thunder rolled. Artemis scoffed.
“Immortals can fall in love. Not quite in the same ways humans can, but it’s still love, I think.” She said. Estelle sighed. “And contrary to popular belief, I don’t hold any ill will towards romantic love. It simply holds no interest to me.”
“But what about the rest of us?”
“You chose to join me,” Artemis reminded her. “Not the other way around. Besides, this world is made for people looking for their whimsy romances and child-bearing ideals,” she said, thinking again to Apollo. The days and days she spent helping her mother give birth to him when she had just been born herself. It seemed unfair that the action had thrust childbirth under other titles. “There is very little in this world that uphold what I consider sacred. Especially now,” she sighed. Estelle nodded slowly. “It is normal for all humans to fall in love among their other ambitions. It isn’t normal to engage in the wilderness alongside other ambitions. Not anymore,” she said.
Estelle mulled that over.
“Alright, you have some good points,” she said and sat up. “I’m ready to try again with the bow and arrows,” she tacked on brightly. Artemis internally winced. Ah. Wonderful…
“Have the others been practicing with you?” She asked and Estelle rubbed the back of her neck.
“They, uh, take turns,” she grumbled with her eyes following to the ground. Then sighed. “Maybe archery isn’t my thing. I could try something else-”
“No,” Artemis interrupted. “If anyone can teach you archery it is me. You have not failed as a student. I have failed as a teacher.”
Estelle looked at her.
“…we’ll see,” she said doubtfully.
Artemis continued to fail as a teacher.
Granted, she had not given up, but she figured it was time to explore… other options with Estelle until they got better with the bow and arrows. Artemis had hoped she might show some other skill in weaponry. She didn’t take after her brother with sword fighting nor could Thalia teach her how to use a spear. Knife fighting was a bust. Battle axe? Nope. In the end, Artemis decided to go to someone more… advanced.
“You again,” Hephaestus greeted as Artemis led her huntress into the forge. Estelle waved. “I thought you might have died.”
“Nope! Technically I’m immortal now!” Estelle told him brightly. “So, unless I die in battle I can live for… pretty much forever!” She said. Hephaestus grimaced.
“…great,” he said and turned to Artemis. “Why?” He asked. Artemis wasn’t sure which ‘why’ question he was asking, so she decided to go with the most productive one.
“Estelle is struggling with…” What was a nice word for ‘everything’? Artemis considered. “Her new role,” she decided. “We are looking for a weapon tailored more to her. I think perhaps something designed with her, uh, talents might be more acceptable.” She said. Estelle gave a small huff at that.
“I suck,” she translated to Hephaestus. “Ideally, I would have a weapon that I don’t suck with.”
Hephaestus gave an appreciative nod at the lack of tact. He put down the hammer he was working with to study her over carefully. Artemis raised her magic, looking warily at the heat rising around them to make sure it didn’t burn her huntress.
“Well,” Hephaestus said thoughtfully. “What weapon do you think you would be adept with?” He asked. Estelle tapped a finger to her lip.
“I play a lot of Call of Duty with Percy,” she offered and Hephaestus frowned. “So maybe a gun? I-”
“Do not give her a gun,” Artemis interjected quickly. Estelle gave her a betrayed look. “Do… do not… give her a gun…”
“Will Solace has a gun!” Estelle offered, clapping her hands together. Hephaestus glanced at Artemis who grimaced in return. “So, even though it’s not really a Greek weap-”
“I will not give her a gun,” Hephaestus decided.
“Estelle, please. Please,” Percy said as he held up both hands. “Just… let me…”
“I’m fine,” Estelle insisted and Artemis could see Percy’s patience rapidly crumbling. “It’s just a little blood! And so, what? My blood is a little black. I think it’s kind of cool.” She said. Artemis inwardly sighed. That was... one way to put it. Estelle's shirt was currently drenched in 'a little blood' with the blood in question a dark, goopy substance that almost seemed to bubble out of her like a pot of stew. Her poor brother had looked like he was seconds away from collapsing when he first saw her.
“I say we knock her out and then drag her over,” Chloe said and Thalia punched her arm. “Sorry - but look at her!” She pointed out. "The girl is half out of her mind," she grumbled. Artemis bit her lip. There was quite a bit of truth to that. Estelle's eyes were glazed over and skin much paler than it should be. Jackson shot Chloe a nasty look over his shoulder before turning back to Estelle.
“I know the venom is making your head a little confused," He coaxed. "But if you just let Artemis heal you then you’ll feel much better,” Percy reasoned and the group all murmured their agreement. Normally, Artemis would be perfectly fine with walking over and zapping away the venom, but the damn demon's curse made things a little complicated. She couldn’t heal Estelle without her walking to Artemis. Not the other way around.
“Right. So, Estelle,” Percy continued reasonably. “If you stand over here then you’re going to feel so much better-”
“What? But I feel great! Being a huntress is great,” Estelle insisted. Percy nodded, though he closed his eyes as he did so. “You know what the best part is? I don’t have a period anymore! Haven’t bought a single tampon in over a year. Wild,” she nodded. “Does anyone else smell coconuts? Coconuts milk is good. Not to fond of the outer part though-”
“Oh my gods. She’s going to die.” Someone whispered. Artemis felt her heart sink. That seemed like a very real possibility. Chloe raised a finger.
“I think I have a solution-”
“We’re not knocking her out, Chloe!”
“No, watch,” Chloe insisted and walked over to stand next to Artemis. “HEY, DIPSHIT!” She shouted. Both Estelle and Percy turned to stare at her incredulously. “BET YOU CAN’T WALK OVER HERE WITHOUT FALLING OVER!” She called. Percy rolled his eyes.
“That isn’t going to-”
“Oh, yeah?” Estelle growled back and Percy frowned at her. “I’m the best at walking. I’ve walked since I was a baby. You don’t even know how good I am at walking. Watch this!” She said and then stumbled forward. “Flawless.” She gasped, clutching her stomach.
Artemis felt Perseus’ exasperation rise as she continued to work her way over to where Artemis was waiting to heal her. Slowly, he looked up at where Chloe was standing smugly.
“I hate you,” he said flatly. Chloe shrugged.
“Must run in the family,” she said and when Estelle managed to get over – still rambling, tripped her. Artemis fixed her with a stern glance. “Sorry, my lady,” she said quickly. Percy’s scowl deepened.
“I see why she complains so much about you,” he muttered and walked over towards his sister. Artemis wanted to roll her eyes, but the tension between Chloe and Estelle was becoming more of an issue. It wasn’t to the point where it was a danger, but… honestly, it might get there if they weren’t careful. Thalia was the one who suggested they call in an expert three days later.
“Here’s my idea,” Piper said, looking between the two. Artemis watched her warily. She wouldn't try to do her mother's bidding, would she? Artemis knew the goddess had banal plans regarding her huntresses. The Mclean girl seemed trustworthy enough... Artemis would have to keep a close eye on things. “Chloe and Estelle need to learn to work together somehow. We just need to send them on a solo-hunt and-”
“I am not going anywhere alone with her!” Chloe said loudly and when Artemis swept her gaze over the pair, pursed her lips. “...unless Lady Artemis wishes it,” she said quickly.
Thalia was already shaking her head.
“I don’t know about that...” she said, looking warily towards Estelle. “I promised Percy-”
“I forgot he was also indoctrinated into the hunt along with his precious little guppy,” Chloe muttered and Estelle’s eyes boiled with rage. “I regret saving your life.”
“You didn’t even save my life!”
“Lady Artemis, please don’t make me go anywhere alone with her,” Estelle begged. “I’m…I’m still learning how to fight! I would honestly just be a danger to both of us,” she pointed out. Thalia gave a nod at that.
“That is a good point…” Artemis trailed off and paused. She tilted her head before turning back to Estelle and touching the golden chain around her neck. It was the same one from when she was a baby. Interesting.
“This is a pretty necklace,” she said slowly. Estelle blinked, eyes flicking down as she shrugged. “Where did you get it?”
“Thank you, my lady,” Estelle said and frowned at the gold plate that was about the side of her index finger horizontally with various markings across it. “My mom said an old friend gave it to me when I was really little. I don’t think she ever told me who,” she said. Artemis’ lips tugged upwards. Interesting. Very interesting.
“An old friend?” She repeated and gave a long-suffering sigh. “Quite the friend, child. It is a very nice necklace.” She said and Estelle blinked. “Well… since we exhausted all other options, I suppose we can postpone Chloe and Estelle spending anytime together until Estelle is more equipped to handle such a trip,” she amended. Both girls sighed. “Estelle, if you want to learn to fight quickly there is only one person I can send you to,” she said. Estelle sat up immediately, eyes going sharp with anticipation.
“I’ll do it!”
“You must be on your best behavior,” Artemis warned. “I know you can rub gods the wrong way so I need you to take this seriously,” she said. Estelle nodded. “Good. If anyone can teach you, it would be Ares,” she said. Thalia’s mouth dropped.
“Ares?” She repeated. “Him and kelp head don’t have the best history-”
“Good thing this Estelle and not Perseus,” Artemis told her and Thalia gave an exasperated look. “Though I do see the concern,” she amended. She sighed. Estelle was watching with wide eyes, looking to where Piper was biting her lip uncertainly to where Chloe was shaking her head. “Estelle. We can do this, but you must promise me you won’t pick a fight with him,” she said.
“I promise,” Estelle said calmly. “Ares and I will be perfectly civil.”
“ARTEMIS!” Ares screamed, silencing the room as he barged in.
“Is it Estelle? I bet it’s Estelle,” Hermes whispered. Poseidon opened his mouth as if to argue and then shut it again.
“If she isn’t in love than nobody cares,” Aphrodite said moodily as she picked absently at her ambrosia. Ares looked foul – well, fouler than usual. Artemis wrinkled her nose. She was suddenly reminded very clearly why she disliked most men. The god strode into the room, eyes blazing on fire and form shaking.
“Do you wish to kill the Blofis brat as well?” Zeus said, looking up with a hint of hope in his eyes. “I was thinking we could perhaps hold a… more universal meeting,” she said and Artemis snapped her gaze to her father in disbelief.
“You want her dead so badly you would risk that?” She demanded. Universal meeting? Oh, that was bold. Too bold. Even for Zeus. Her father seemed to accept this because his skin crackled in frustration. Artemis shook her head. It was a good thing Estelle was now immortal as a huntress… otherwise her trip to the afterlife could be painful. “You forget, even if you did find an acceptable way to kill her that she is under my protection,” she reminded the group. Aphrodite huffed.
“Wait. What?” Hermes frowned. “Acceptable way to kill her? What are you talking about?” He asked. Zeus wordlessly flicked his wrist so Estelle was shown.
“Her necklace,” he said bitterly. Hermes frowned as he leaned forward, examining Estelle closely as she argued hotly with Chloe. There was a pause.
“That… is fucking hilarious,” Hermes finally said and the room shuddered with Zeus’ anger. “Sorry, father… but it kind of is,” he said. Ares cleared his throat.
“I say we risk it.”
“Easy,” Poseidon said. “You would risk much for one mortal.”
“A comedic genius of a mortal, no less!” Hermes said and Ares made a choking noise.
“I don’t think she made the necklace herself,” Artemis said reasonably. She wished Athena was here. Artemis hated being the voice of reason amongst all these fools. “Someone gave it to her, probably-”
“And when I find out who…” Zeus said lowly, room crackling. From the corner of her eye, Artemis saw two people shift in their thrones before meeting the other's eyes. They turned away when Artemis gave them a questioning look. Interesting.
Hermes clicked his tongue.
“I still think it’s funny,” he said and kicked his leg out. “Apollo, back me up here!”
“Eh,” Apollo said and gave a meager shrug. “I wouldn’t mind her gone. She’s caused me some headaches and ruined my favorite flute – sorry, sis!” He added to Artemis hastily. She only raised an eyebrow at her before receiving a slight wink in return…. Oh no. “Also, I have a deeper appreciation of mortals now so I will respect this one!” He added and the room groaned.
“We know, Apollo. Your time as Lester Papa-whatever changed you into… someone far more annoying. Somehow,” Dionysus muttered. Apollo smiled. “Honestly, with how much you still talk about Sally Jackson I’m surprised she doesn’t have another child on the way- come on, Poseidon!” Dionysus complained loudly when there was a sharp smack of water cutting across his face.
“Sally’s standards are higher than Apollo,” Poseidon said coolly. Apollo nodded in agreement.
“Quite frankly, her standards should have been higher than you, uncle,” Apollo said, licking his lips. “Meg still gets to visit her sometimes…” he said wistfully. “Lucky duck.”
“Can we get back on track?” Ares asked loudly. “Her daughter is a pain in the ass!”
“Oh, this should be good,” Hephaestus said conversationally. “Did she call you mean names? Maybe beat you in a fight like her brother before her?” He asked and Ares’ teeth gritted. Slowly, he turned to Hera and Artemis felt a stab of amusement that he was turning to mommy for help. Typical.
“The girl cannot be killed,” Hera finally said calmly. “Not without risking war. Would a different punishment be considered just as offensive?” She asked. Artemis narrowed her eyes.
“While she is in my care? Yes. Besides, she’s already won over Poseidon. Let’s not pretend an attack on her would divide even us-”
“I have not been won over!”
“Oh, shut up. Yes, you have!”
“I, personally, would side with Artemis and Poseidon,” Hermes added helpfully. “The girl is far too amusing-”
“Nobody is touching her until she and Chloe fall in love!” Aphrodite said, talking over Hermes as Demeter began protesting that Chloe would ever end up with Estelle.
“To side against Estelle would mean siding against Sally so…” Apollo shrugged with a grimace. “You got me in a hard place. Where’s Athena? I bet she would join the anti-Blofis side. Also, what about Hades? Let’s get him up here for some opinions-”
“SILENCE!” Zeus shouted and the room went quiet. “The girl is a problem. However, I would like to hear her offenses against my son before we proceed!” He said and the room turned back to Ares. For a second, his eyes dimmed as he shuffled, looking uncharacteristically uncomfortable. “What did she do to incur your anger, Ares?”
“Um… well, she… she’s done a lot of things, but she…” Ares scrambled and huffed. “You know what? I’m feeling forgiving. Let’s not even worry about it,” he said and walked over to throw his arm around Aphrodite. “Besides, dollface here says she wants the girl to live. Who am I to deny her?” He asked. Aphrodite beamed. Hephaestus chuckled lowly. “What?”
“You’re insane if you don’t think I have cameras following you for moments like this,” Hephaestus said and Ares stood up, world rumbling as Hephaestus brought out a small screen. “I…” He began cheerfully and trailed off when the screen flickered to life. “Oh. Huh. I wasn’t expecting that,” he said slowly and then turned to Artemis. “Um…. You might want to see this.”
“Is this about what I did to Ares’ motorcycle?” Estelle asked as she entered the tent. Artemis stared at her.
“No,” she said and narrowed her eyes. “But we do need talk about that-”
“I regretted it as soon as I did it!” Estelle said hastily. “He just… he has this aura that makes me insanely mad and it was right there and Hermes said that he was going to get him a new one-”
“We’ll come back to the motorcycle,” Artemis interrupted evenly. Estelle bit her lip. “Right now, I would like to discuss you and Chloe,” she said instead. Estelle stiffened. Right. This was what she was afraid of. Something was off with her huntresses. Ever since the Aphrodite’s girl proposed solution of a solo-hunt Chloe and Estelle appeared to be on... civil terms? If it could be called that. It seemed now that they were just avoiding one another. They weren’t fighting but this could arguably be considered worse.
“Chloe…” Estelle nodded. “I am familiar with who you speak of.”
“Uh huh,” Artemis said. “My understanding is that you walked three miles from camp,” Artemis was asking Estelle. “To avoid taking the shorter path to the river where you would encounter her?” She asked. Estelle blinked a few times.
“I like the longer way,” Estelle said not meeting her eyes. Artemis sighed. “My lady-”
“This is getting ridiculous – Chloe!” She called, a little irritated. Did Estelle have to cause everyone problems? Even those who should be on her side? It was infuriating. Perhaps her anger was clear because Estelle didn’t object when the flap of the tent open up to reveal a very frazzled Chloe.
“My lady,” she greeted and looked away. “Estelle.”
“What happened?” Artemis said. “You were supposed to come back as friends. Instead there is… this,” she said gesturing between them. Estelle flinched. “Were you attacked?” She said and felt her heart suddenly stutter. “Were one of you unable to provide aid to the other? Was there a man involved? Which man? Where is he?” Artemis demanded, feeling her anger rise at the mere idea of it.
“Chloe made out with me!” Estelle finally burst out and Chloe gasped.
“I - what - why are you making it sound one sided?! You made out with me too!”
“Eh. It was mainly you.”
“What the Hades does that mean?!” She demanded and a burst of thunder silenced them. Within seconds, Thalia was in the tent, looking as if she had just awoken with her hair mused and eyeliner smeared.
“What did you do?” She asked Estelle without a second of hesitation. Estelle’s mouth popped open as Chloe gave a slight hmph in victory.
“You broke your oath to me?” Artemis said, and both went deadly silent. “Answer.”
“Well…” Estelle said and raised both her hands. “In all fairness, it wasn’t like there was any attraction or emotions. We were just fighting and I felt like punching her… her face with… mine…” She said and Chloe nodded. Thalia’s eyes widened slightly as she looked between the girls for a moment in pure horror. Her eyes sent a silent plea as Artemis glanced back at her. Ugh. She was worried Jackson. This was why Artemis hadn’t wanted the girl here in the first place. “It was a lapse in judgement,” Estelle finally spoke again and Artemis narrowed her eyes. “I know that is still a betrayal of your trust and our path. There’s no excuse for it.”
“Lapse of judgement?” Artemis repeated softly. “Is this not the part where you beg for me to understand your love?”
Both Chloe and Estelle laughed nervously.
“Like I said, I wouldn’t say love was a primary focus,” Chloe said flatly. “I remember being angry and then being more angry and the next thing I know I’m, uh, mouth…fighting.”
Estelle glanced at her and shrugged.
“Yeah, that’s a fair consensus.”
“I can’t believe this is the first thing you two have ever agreed upon,” Thalia muttered and Artemis raised her hand. The group fell silent.
“I require an oath of maidenhood when entering my ranks,” she reminded them and sighed when both girls flinched. “However, I will not pretend as if I have turned anyone away for that reason. I simply ask they do not continue such activities here.”
“If this was a simple one-time thing that involved no romantic attraction then I will let it pass,” Artemis said. Both girls nodded quickly. “This one time and one time only. There is no romantic attraction, correct?” She reiterated. Chloe snorted.
“No. Tell them the thing you said about my eyes,” she said and Estelle frowned.
“What? Why? That was a compliment!”
“Tell them,” Chloe said and Estelle pouted for a moment before mumbling something. Chloe elbowed her. “Nobody heard you.”
“I said that your eyes were like the ground without grass,” Estelle said and crossed her arms over her chest. “Which is a perfectly nice thing to say when you’re trying to befriend someone,” she said. The four went silent for a couple seconds.
“So,” Thalia finally said. “Her eyes are like… dirt?”
“No! They… are like… soil…” Estelle said and Chloe turned to her. “Soil is good! It’s like fertile dirt – which, well, not that I’m trying to say you’re fertile. I just – you’re… rich. Well, not rich, like rich with nutrients? No, not… I mean, I’m sure you have a healthy diet. It’s… you know what? I’m going to tap out here.” She said and Chloe gave a vague gestured as if to say ‘so there’.
Thalia let out a long breath of relief.
“…I believe you,” Artemis said finally and Estelle’s pout furthered. “I still consider this a major offense and you will be punished accordingly-”
“I don’t mind taking care of that, my lady,” Thalia said with venomous look at where Estelle was avoiding her eyes. “Unless you want to turn them into rats for a few hours.”
“I would understand that,” Estelle said quietly. Artemis closed her eyes and waved them away. When she opened them again Estelle was still there. Big surprise.
“Must you make enemies of all the gods?” She asked. “Even me?”
That seemed to strike a chord. Estelle moved back as if she had been hit. Then she took a deep breath.
“I don’t think you should allow me to stay,” she said. Artemis internally groaned. Had she fallen in love with Chloe after all? “I… you’ve always been… I’ve always admired you greatly. Before we even met,” Estelle said cautiously. “Annabeth told me that when Percy went missing and Olympus was closed that you still searched for him – and when he was thirteen you voted not to kill him.”
“You’re also the only god who really spends time around mortals enough to understand them. You’re also somehow a better patron to your huntresses than the others are for their own children,” she said with a hint of bitterness. “I feel…” She looked away, frustrated. “I know it is wrong to say given that I am a mortal and you are a goddess, but I do think of you as a friend,” she said softly. “And I let you down… and I suspect you’re only lenient with me because of nepotism,” she added flatly. Artemis laughed.
“I respect all your brother has done, but I can assure you that your relation to him has only detrimented you since being here,” she said and gave a nod towards the tent. “You and Thalia both.”
Estelle rolled her eyes.
“She tells me on all the time. He somehow knew I was hurt last week and she said that she didn’t say anything, but she’s a liar,” Estelle grumbled. Artemis chuckled. Normally, she would be just as outraged that her own lieutenant was putting an outsider above the hunt… but Artemis would not pretend to be ignorant to Thalia’s relationships to be the Jackson boy and Annabeth. After the loss of her brother, the girl seemed to lean on them even more.
Artemis thought to Apollo. She had once thought she would lose her own brother as well. It was stressful still to remember him in that feeble, mortal body… forbidden by their father to receive Artemis’ aid. The thought angered her to this day.
“Siblings are important,” Artemis said calmly. “Even when they annoy us.”
“Brothers are very annoying.”
“Be grateful that yours isn’t the same age as you... and that you only have one,” Artemis informed her with a grin and shook her head, reaching out for her hands. In truth, Apollo was the only brother she felt was really family, but she suspected the relationship between Estelle and Percy was similar. Estelle accepted the touch and squeezed back. “I am loyal to you Estelle. As long as you are loyal to me. Be honest with what you want and I will give it to you. The world isn’t always kind to mortals. It is something to consider before making any decision,” she warned.
Estelle nodded slowly.
“I’ll… think about it,” she said and tucked a hair behind her ear. “I can make the right decision,” she said confidently. Artemis smiled. “And I promise to do right by you as well. I would never want us on bad terms.”
“Then you might want to consider not seducing another huntress again,” she said flatly. Estelle looked a little flattered Artemis had gone with the word ‘seduced’. “Very well,” she said and let go. “Think it over and tell me what you decide. Believe it or not, I would like us to be on good terms too.” She said. Estelle grinned at her before turning to exit the tent. “Estelle? Get Thalia back for me.” She said and the girl nodded before disappearing with one last bow.
“My lady?” Thalia’s voice came a few seconds later. Artemis smiled and gestured her to sit. “Listen, I know Estelle is… an idiot, but-”
“Thalia,” Artemis interrupted and her lieutenant went quiet. “I do not make a habit of letting my huntresses walk away from their oaths freely. There is a chance Estelle may leave. She would be a rare case, but… I would like you to know you would be too,” she said and Thalia stared.
“I know the circumstances of you joining me were not of… particular free will. You were trying to escape the prophecy and a war you would be forced to lead. You were a child and scared and didn’t have any other options considering the gods were about to vote and kill you anyhow.”
“I let them vote to kill Percy instead,” she said quietly, not meeting her eyes. “I was hardly innocent.”
“You were fifteen,” Artemis said softly. “I don’t want you to feel trapped into this life. The war is over. The wars are over. If this isn’t what you want then you don’t need to seek refuge with me any longer. I wouldn’t hold it against you.”
Thalia’s eyes widened. Silence ran between them for several seconds before Thalia shook her head.
“I would never leave your side,” she said. “This is my home. You’re all my family. I don’t want to leave.”
“Good. Now go back and make sure that girl doesn’t accidentally kill anyone.”
“You look exhausted, brother.” Artemis said and sit down next to where Apollo was currently playing his lyre with a look of defeat. She had made it a point to meet more often with him these day - usually in whatever meadow she was nearest. “…did cello lessons not go as planned?”
Apollo slowly turned to her.
“How’s her archery lessons?”
“That bad, huh?” Apollo asked and Artemis stared up at the sky, feeling completely defeated. “Well, I tried to teach her the tuba the other day and somehow she got a satyr stuck in it,” he said, sounding mystified. “You know, I hadn’t known her prayer of asking for a musical skill would be a ten-year endeavor, but here we are!” He said, throwing his arms up so the lyre fell off his lap. Artemis chuckled.
“And why does she need a musical skill again?”
“Well,” Apollo said. “It started with her trying to impress a girl, but that ended quickly. Now it is more of me trying to win a fight against the Fates.”
“And how is that working for you?”
“Must you mock me?”
“Well, archery may be a lost cause, but her time with Ares wasn’t completely wasted. She’s phenomenal with a staff of all things…” She said and shook her head. “Hermes?” She asked. Apollo shrugged. Artemis knew Hermes was fond of the girl, but… it seemed like quite a leap he would aid her with such a skill. Besides, Hermes wasn’t particularly known for his battle prowess.
“Maybe we should try an accordion,” Apollo mused. “I don’t think she can do much damage with an accordion,” he said and paused. Then looked at the sky. “That was not an invitation to prove me wrong,” he told the stars and stretched out on the grass beneath them. Artemis frowned at him. Seconds passed and she tentatively reached out to him.
“Apollo,” she said and Apollo’s eyes met her own. “I know we are very different… but you are still my brother. I can see your time as a human changed you. Will you not let me help?” She asked. Apollo’s expression went blank. Then his form changed – matching hers, she realized. They were the same age. Looking as twins should.
“You help me with everything, Artemis. At some point, I must do things on my own.”
“You often find yourself in deep trouble that way,” she said and raised an eyebrow. “The Blofis girl… should I be concerned?” She asked. Nothing. “Apollo,” she said. “You mention often enough how fond you are of Sally Jackson and her husband. Did you give her that necklace?” She asked. Apollo smiled at her.
“No, sister. I did not,” he said softly. Artemis had no idea if she believed him or not.
“Do you know who did?” She asked. Apollo stared at her for a couple seconds. Not for the first time she wondered what his time as a human had done to him. How it changed him. Sometimes there were pieces she felt she barely recognized… she supposed it should be a good thing, but Artemis would admit it also scared her.
“Probably… someone who needs her,” he said simply and then turned back to the field in front of them. “Maybe we should revisit piano. She only hurt three people with that one – or have we considered maybe her true weapon of choice is music?”
Artemis decided she should be concerned.
“You won’t tell her, right?”
Artemis crossed her arms over her chest as Estelle wrung her hands nervously, bag slung over her shoulder.
“No,” Artemis said. In truth, she didn’t think she needed to. While Estelle’s departure from the hunt was sudden, it wasn’t a secret. She had told everyone she needed to spend more time with her family since she now had a niece and nephew she was visiting more and more. Nobody really believed her. Artemis didn't tend to let her hunter leave over those sort of things. Still, nobody pressed and… well, Artemis would keep Estelle’s secrets.
“She might follow you,” Artemis told her. Estelle scoffed.
“I doubt it,” Estelle told her. “Aphrodite abandoned me a long time ago,” she admitted. Artemis hummed. She had heard. The goddess often complained about Estelle being her greatest failure. Artemis had been grateful at first… up until she realized that perhaps Aphrodite might have gotten her way after all. “Besides, she doesn’t know how I feel, right? She would have no reason to follow. It’s safer for her here. With you,” Estelle said and shook her head. “I never belonged anyways. I’m too mortal… even for you.”
Artemis felt her expression softened.
“It’s your best quality… in doses,” she added, remembering Ares’ bike. Estelle laughed. “I do wish you the best. Please use the experience to make… good decisions,” she slowly. Estelle’s smiled widened. “Better decisions.” She rectified. Estelle nodded. Giving a warm nod, she put a hand on her shoulder and then went to move away.
“My lady?” Estelle asked, voice calling her back. Artemis turned. Estelle pulled out the necklace around her neck. “Do you know who gave this to me?” She asked. When Artemis raised an eyebrow, she shrugged. “You smiled when I showed it to you. I thought…” She said. Artemis considered. What could she say that wouldn’t cause too much trouble among those squabbling siblings?
“Who gave it to you? No. Who is on it? Yes,” she said simply. “I know all of them actually. One much better than the others.”
“I – I’m sorry, what is on this necklace?” She asked, bewildered. Artemis chuckled and walked towards her to grab the end of the pendent showing her the symbol engraved.
“Has anyone else seen this?”
“A few people,” Estelle said slowly. “You, Athena, Ares, and Zeus. Nobody will tell me anything about it though. It made Zeus… really angry,” she grimaced. “Athena said it wasn’t a magic necklace,” she added. Artemis laughed.
“I agree that it is not magical,” she said. Estelle gave a small huff. Ah. Well, she might as well give the poor girl something to work with. “Come, child. Look at the markings. Do you recognize any of them?” She asked, gesturing to the symbols carved into the necklace.
“Uh… thank the Gods you aren’t Athena,” she mumbled and wrinkled her nose. “Nope. Got nothing. I kind of thought they were all pretty designs.” She said. Artemis stared.
“…not even the Greek one?” She asked, a little astonished. Estelle winced.
“Um, which one is the Greek one? Wait. They aren’t all Greek?”
So, this was what Athena had been so annoyed by. It all made sense now. Artemis sighed.
“This one is called a tyet. Most people know it as the knot of Isis,” she explained. Estelle’s mouth dropped.
“Egyptians are protecting me?”
“Not quite,” Artemis told her and pointed to another symbol. “The snake is Loki’s symbol – and no, he’s not the one protecting you. I’m pretty sure he’s tried to destroy the world recently - I deeply suspect he only got involved because of the amount of chaos he knew this necklace would cause,” she told her flatly. Estelle frowned. “This one is Roman. It is the symbol of Mercury.”
“Hermes,” Estelle said slowly. “So, he’s-”
“No,” Artemis said with a scoff. “Just because their symbols are on the necklace does not mean they are the ones defending you exactly. Here. Look, it’s Hestia’s symbol here,” she added, gesturing to what looked to be a pi symbol with the letter ‘U’ on top. Estelle frowned and shook her head.
“I don’t understand. What does any of it mean?”
“Estelle, do you often see different gods collaborating with one another? The Greeks and Romans are one thing, but have you experienced Odin and Minerva? Zeus and Ra?” She asked. Estelle slowly shook her head. “We don’t interact with one another unless absolutely necessary. Even the wars against the titans or giants… we never asked for the other gods to help. I’m sure there were times where the world hung in the balance on the Egyptian or Norse side too, but they did not call to us. If we ended up intermixing too much the universe would descend into chaos.”
Estelle stared with wide eyes before slowly nodding and looking back down at her necklace nervously.
“Does… so, that means…?” She began and Artemis realized she hadn’t fully grasped the implications yet. Scoffing she patted Estelle’s arm.
“You are marked by many powerful gods of different religions. If any of them hurt you then it could be considered a declaration of war. I’m sure Isis would be upset if some Greek god destroyed anyone wearing her symbol. Same with Loki and Mercury. Hestia is… well, she would be upset too, but maybe not start a war over it,” Artemis mused. “I suspect her symbol is there only to hide whatever Greek god really gave you this,” she said slowly. It had to be a Greek god, right? Especially if Apollo knew who it was. “The point is none of us can hurt you without risk of offending one of the other gods on this necklace.”
“…where the Hell did I get this necklace from? Who made this?!” Estelle demanded, voice going a little high. Artemis laughed. She thought back to Apollo. He might not have been directly responsible for this, but certainly seemed linked to whoever was responsible for such a scandalous and dangerous item.
“Someone went out of their way to make that for you, little mortal. I believe it is the only thing keeping you from being destroyed where you stand,” she said and Estelle bit her lip. “My guess is that the person who made it for you owes your family something and this was their offering to even it out.”
“They probably owe Percy,” Estelle murmured and Artemis kept quiet. “Do you know who it is?” She asked.
Artemis only shook her head. Estelle gave a long-suffering sigh.
“I only have guesses… No answers,” Artemis commented dryly. “Though I do ask you for a favor, Estelle,” she said, voice suddenly sharpening. Estelle glanced up at her. “If you find out… keep it to yourself.”
“Keep it to myself? But-”
“I like you, child,” Artemis interrupted calmly and raised her bow so an arrow was pointed at Estelle’s chest. “And I wouldn’t want to offend any gods by killing you. However, the necklace doesn’t guarantee everything in your favor. Us Greeks, perhaps, may be favorable towards your brother or his wife after all they’ve done, but…” she tilted her head. “Chloe really only has my and Demeter’s protection, doesn’t she?” She asked. Estelle’s jaw went tightened.
“You would hurt her?”
“I wouldn’t want to,” Artemis assured her. “Just remember my request… and where my loyalty lies.”
She could not see her brother in such peril again. Wouldn’t. Artemis wasn’t quite sure what he had done, but she would keep him from their father’s ire. That much was certain.
Estelle looked as if she wanted to respond, but Artemis was already gone. She had almost made it to her tent when the crunching of leaves captured her attention. Spinning around, she found herself face-to-face with Chloe Layton. Artemis waited as the hunter looked around, a frown playing at her lips.
"It... where's Estelle?" She asked and Artemis raised her eyebrows. "You really let her leave? You let her leave?" She demanded.
"Her and I reached an agreement."
Chloe looked as if someone had just punched her.
"But... you..." she said and looked away. "You can't let her leave," she said, suddenly sounding uncertain. "We all made that oath. Just because she is Percy Jackson's sister-" she began and cut herself off. Artemis wasn't even sure she was needed here for this conversation. Still, she waited. Watching as Chloe's face worked through various emotions and then finally - "She didn't say goodbye."
Aphrodite was cruel.
"I'm sure you will meet again," she said and Chloe swallowed. Then nodded. Artemis almost called her back, but thought better of it. Perhaps, in time, this would pass. If not, then she might have to find peace with saying goodbye to another hunter. She wondered what exactly had happened between that solo-hunt and this moment to change things so profoundly. Maybe she didn't want to know.
At least she could rest easy... knowing she would not be hit by a stray arrow anytime soon.
Artemis only had a second of warning before an armful of mortal was dumped into her arms.
“Hello, Estelle,” she managed. “I see even after many years you are still affectionate.”
“Oh. Sorry,” Estelle said and let go. “It’s been too long! Look, I have a wrinkle now!” She said, pointing to her cheek. Chloe - who Artemis had also not seen in quite some time now - silently walked over and moved a strand of hair. “…I guess it wasn’t a wrinkle. Anyways, I thought for sure nobody would be here,” she said brightly. “Well, I knew Hermes would be,” she said fondly and waved over Artemis’ shoulder. Sure enough, Hermes was also walking through the door, talking with… was that Chloe’s brother? Artemis would investigate that later.
“If there is one thing I know about you, Estelle Blofis, it is that none of us truly have a choice but to bow to your whims,” she said. Estelle blinked. “Worry not, I’m sure you’ll be a benevolent dictator.”
“Hm,” Artemis smiled. “I heard you found your godly patron after all. How was that?” She asked and Estelle absently touched her necklace. She glanced around – possibly looking for the godly patron in question before leaning forward.
“People are still kind of mad. Zeus especially… and Percy. God, I will never hear the end of it from Percy…” She muttered. “I mean, he's thankful, I'm alive. Obviously. But... you know. I think he's mostly mad that he's on the same side as Zeus for once. At least Apollo is on my side,” she said and took a long breath. “Maybe you too?” She asked. Artemis put a hand on Estelle’s arm.
“You have taught me many lessons, child. Patience and a greater understanding of acceptance to name two. I will not judge harshly,” she promised. Estelle beamed. "I do wonder... how...?"
"Ask your brother," she said. "I believe Lester Papadopoulos over there was the one who delivered Estelle's treason-necklace," she said and Artemis groaned. Of course her brother's human alter-ego was responsible. At least he didn't make it himself. "It's good to see you, my lady." She added and Artemis gave a weak smile. "Stella? One of your guests is-"
"On it," Estelle sighed and stood up. "ARES! STOP HOGGING ALL THE EGG ROLLS! YOU - Oh, hi Hestia. Yeah, just go ahead and sit next to Athena. I - TRY ME, ARES! TOUCH ANOTHER EGG ROLL! I have to go," she added to Artemis and marched off towards the other end of the room. "I just want one nice family gathering. Is that too much to ask? Where - Percy. Get back here. I did not organize this whole thing for you to not participate. Sit down."
"She seems stressed," Artemis noted to Chloe.
"We should probably help her."
"Of course," Artemis agreed and the pair looked at one another. "Arguably, however, this could be considered recompense for how many arrows almost hit us all those years ago," she said and a hint of a smile touched Chloe's lips. "Perhaps we should grab a drink and reassess?"
"I knew you were secretly petty about us leaving," Chloe said and linked their arms. "So, how is Rue? Will she be here? I know Estelle is masking Thalia show up..."
Artemis absently thought back to Sally Jackson. Artemis had thought she wasn't the type of woman to make a good huntress... it seemed as if she had passed that onto her daughter. It appeared both happened to be one of those rarer breeds to shone most brightly out of the moonlight.
She hoped Zeus was ready for it.