Upon leaving the GC, my thoughts returned to Hekate. We had almost lost her to the Titan, Ostasus. She was still recovering, yet helped me find a solution for Sayeh. Perhaps, it was meeting her again that caused memories from our childhood to flood my mind. One particular episode was always close to my heart…
Olympus – A long, long time ago!
Walking into the innards of the Palace, I stood beside Apollo, facing Ares. The boys, my favorite brothers, were at it again. “I bet I can knock you down in one punch,” Ares huffed. I rolled my eyes.
Before Apollo could respond, I said, “I’d take you both down at the same time. Wanna see?” Apollo smirked. Ares patted my cheeks. “I am sure, little sister.”
I scoffed at him. The boys ignored my grumbling and went back to challenging each other.
The pitter-patter of feet from around the corner of the hallway caught my attention. I turned my head slightly towards the source of the sound and saw Clio being yanked by Hekate. Kore stood in the corner, giggling. I turned back to the boys while I kept a side-eye on my sisters. Following in their line of sight, I figured that they were stalking the boys and, if anything, doing a poor job of it. One more giggle and the boys would probably wave at them. I saw them trying to dash across the hallway to the opposite side, perhaps for a better view.
Excusing myself, I walked towards the other side of the grand hall. As I suspected, the girls had no idea that I was onto them. With light strides, I snuck behind them and observed.
“Is he shirtless again?” Kore asked, coming around Hekate.
“Who?” Clio inquired, looking up from her scrolls.
“Apollo! Have you seen him? With his golden locks and muscular body,” Kore replied.
“No, his shirt is on,” Hekate said. She sounded disappointed. A sentiment echoed by Kore.
“I think Ares is cute,” Clio said, timidly.
“Cute?” Hekate scoffed. “Ares is hot!”
I chuckled at their conversation. “Yea, I can agree with that!” I said, leaning in closer to them. The girls had not realized that I was standing right behind them the whole time. Hekate screeched and turned to look at me, closing her hands over her mouth. While Clio was too startled to respond, Kore fell over to her side from the shock.
I crossed my arms and stood there, tapping my foot. I waited for them to compose themselves.
“Artemis! We were just…um…having a little…hunting practice,” Hekate was the first one to speak.
“Is that so? And whoever taught you to hunt?” I caught Hekate wincing as she realized she probably said the wrong thing to a Huntress.
“Definitely not stalking anyone,” Kore added.
“I was just reading,” Clio mumbled, waving her scrolls.
I laughed at the trio of them. “Yes, that is definitely NOT stalking or hunting.” They looked at each other before bursting out in laughter. I hauled them out into the garden. “If you want to stalk, then do it properly. Don’t go around doing what you just did. As the sisters of a Huntress, I take personal offense to it.”
Hekate grumbled but decided to go with it. She found the prospect of learning to stalk from a Huntress exciting. Kore and Clio, clearly embarrassed, followed quietly.
“Let’s go into the woods for a lesson on stalking in style,” I said. Hekate sprinted off, waiting for no one; she ran like the wind. I gave her a few seconds lead before I took off after her.
“Try to keep up,” I shouted out to Kore and Clio as I caught up with Hekate. We sprinted through the tree line, hair tangling behind us, each one hollering with excitement.
We went deeper into the woods where the path and sunlight began to fade. I made a swift turn, stopping at a clearing that was covered by damp leaves over the naked earth. Bending forward, I rested my hands on my knees, trying to slow my breathing as I waited for them to catch up. The girls quickly caught up with Hekate, who was right behind me. We relaxed for a while, enjoying the views.
“Second time today, can’t catch you,” Kore said, looking at Hekate and gasping for air.
“You need more practice, Sis,” I replied.
“She’s getting better, Arty. She almost caught me,” Hekate said, resting on her elbows.
“First things first,” I said, looking at them. “If you are doing this, then do it without announcing your presence to your target.”
“My tunic always gets in the way,” Kore grumbled, trying to tie up the end of her tunic to make it shorter.
“Proper attire is an essential rule of the hunt, Kore. Why do you think my tunics are so short?”
Hekate smirked. “Yea, that’ll go over well with your mom, Kore,” she said as she slipped out of her toga into a silk undertunic.
Kore squealed from the shock. “My mom will lock me up forever if I run in a short tunic.”
“Wait, who all are you trying to stalk?” I asked.
“Um…Ares. And Apollo. Maybe Pan?” Hekate replied.
“Well, Morpheus and the Kings, too. But not Dad!” Kore chimed.
I rolled my eyes at them. “I stalk Dad, too. How else do you think I got him to grant me all those wishes?”
Hekate’s ears perked up. “You’ve got to teach me to do that!”
I rubbed my hands together and stood up. “Okay, show me what you already know.”
Hekate and Kore sprang into action excited, while Clio mumbled about how she was always the distraction.
“That’s what I am here for, Clio,” I said. Kore went first. She tiptoed using the trees as a cover. I walked towards the tree line, focusing on the sound of her dainty feet slapping the ground as she moved.
“You know,” I said, dragging Kore back from where she was hiding, “back in the Palace, it wasn’t your giggling that caught my attention. It was the sound of your movements. Lesson number one, move swiftly but effortlessly. Let your feet kiss the ground, not slap it when you are trying to stalk your prey.”
Clio took another scroll out of her pocket and started making notes. Kore laughed as she practiced walking lightly on her feet. I looked towards Hekate and nodded. She came forward, shaking out her limbs, ready for action.
“Remember, don’t stomp on your feet. Take lighter strides. Let your weight rest on your knees, not your feet, as you move.”
Hekate scanned the grounds, looking for the most unobstructed path she could take. Keeping her eyes straight, she started to move ahead when a snake slithered over her feet. She screamed and fell onto the grass. We laughed as she scrambled, trying to get her hair off her face. Her face a deep shade of crimson, more from hurt pride than anything.
I held my hand out to her. “That’s going to get his attention, Kate. Just not in the way you hope.”
She took my hand, grumbling, “I don’t want to be some damsel in distress.”
“Well then, here’s lesson number two – always be wary of your surroundings before you stalk. This is important. You need a vantage point. Stalk only from a position where you have eyes on your target, but they cannot see you, even in their peripheral vision.”
“Vantage point? Like a tree?” Hekate asked.
“Yes, or even a slightly elevated area.”
Hekate jogged over to a fallen tree lying across the path ahead and walked on until she was concealed by another tree. “Like this?”
“Yes,” I replied. “Now, you have the advantage. Remember, whether indoors or outdoors, keep in mind the wind direction. Not only does it carry your scent, it also alerts your target of prying eyes.”
No sooner had I mentioned the scent that I caught onto a familiar one. I turned to see Pan walking up to us. “Hello, Huntress, what are we hunting today?”
Hekate peeked from the trees, frowning at Pan for being a party crasher. I shifted on my feet as I tried to think of an excuse. I was as good at lying as my sisters were at hunting.
“Are we playing seek and find?” he asked.
“Yes, I had just found Kore, and was looking for Clio and Kate when you crashed our party,” I answered before he could read my face.
Hekate, who had not heard this exchange, came out from behind the tree. “There goes the rest of our stalking lessons,” she said as she flopped down on the trillium, her tunic flashing more of her thighs than she probably realized.
Pan glanced over at Hekate, trying hard not to notice. “You all are learning to stalk? Excellent!” he said, clapping his hands together. “Don’t stop on my account. I can help!”
“That sounds like a wonderful idea! Why don’t you hide, Pan? The girls and I will try to find you. Whoever finds you first, wins!”
“That would be unfair, Huntress! You will easily find me here.”
“Where else then?”
“Well, we have the Palace. There are lots of places to hide. I mean, you taught me to stalk in there.”
“It is our natural environment. It’s where we’d be stalking anyway,” Hekate added.
“Or the garden! I like the Palace garden,” Kore said.
I looked at my sisters, who seemed dejected at the thought of missing out on the rest of the lessons. “Last one to reach the Palace grounds owes the others a favor!” I said before taking off with the girls right behind me. Pan galloped ahead of us, stopping only after he reached the garden. Clio appeared at last panting, her face bright red. Before she could catch her breath, Até came out from the Palace, summoning her. She waved goodbye at us and scuttled after our older sister.
Looking at Pan, I said, “Why don’t you go hide? Anywhere on the grounds. The girls are going to look for you. I will not help them.”
“And what happens if they do find me?” he asked.
“Yes, Arty, what happens if we find him?” Kore probed.
“I am not so sure about this,” Hekate added.
“If you find him, we win, and that means both of you get to ask a favor of him,” I answered.
“Oh. And what if it goes the other way?” Hekate asked. “If he tracks us?”
“Well, if he sneaks up on either of you, then he gets to ask a favor from one of you.”
Pan and the girls agreed to the terms of the game. He took off ahead after transforming into his mortal form. Hekate tossed her shoes aside against the garden wall and wandered in the direction she saw Pan go, then she turned, scenting the air, choosing to move downwind around the outer edge of the garden. She motioned to Kore to take her flanking side. I observed them from a distance while tracking Pan’s movements. Crouched low on the ground, the girls crept along the hedge line.
At least they are not giggling this time!
They moved taking light strides, keeping their breathing in control, but made a wrong turn past the graveled path, stepping onto the grass. I almost put my hands up to stop them from going down that path but stopped myself.
Pan, who was hiding atop a tree, knew that was the last place the girls would expect the goat-legged god. I noticed him looking down, observing the girls as they moved through the Palace grounds without looking up onto the tree branches.
Vantage point, I yelled out to them in my mind.
Hekate darted lightly toward the back of the garden. She pivoted around the corner of a hedge and waited near the fountain. Kore followed close behind her. The girls squealed when Pan jumped on to the opposite side of the basin. Their defeat was apparent!
“Well, it seems you both owe Pan a favor,” I said, walking in from the other side.
I shook my head. How many more lessons would it take before they learned to stalk without getting caught!