I tried on my black and golden mask and looked at myself in the mirror. The mask complimented my look and the theme of the masquerade ball. I settled on a dark blue and silver strapless silk gown after trying what felt like a few hundred dresses from my closet. I wished I could wear my jumpsuit and accessorize with my bow and quiver of arrows, but the dress code endorsed elegance, which meant I had to wear something chic, yet graceful. I pulled my hair into a French twist, adorning it with a small shimmering antler hair accessory and finished my look with a pair of silver strappy stilettos. 

We were all ready at last, and for the most important of the fundraiser events, it felt exhilarating. Everything had gone perfectly well, so far, despite the hiccups with a few nightgoyles during the auctions. Of course, my brother Ares took care of that, and the guests were none the wiser. The foundation had already raised a few billion drachmas from the camping and deity auctions. We had made enough to set up and get started grandly! The masquerade ball was the final step of the grand opening of the Silver Bow Foundation.

The camping and campfire stories were entertaining. Thanatos, Nike, and Aunt Hestia shared terrific stories from their past. I have to say, though, my favorite event was the deity auction. Not only did I have fun auctioning my family members and making money off it, but I also got to watch them request some very appealing favors from each other. It had been a while since the Pantheon had come together, and I enjoyed every second of it. Perhaps it was the fact that my dad, Zeus, took an active interest in the bidding for his Queen, Hera, or maybe the fact that Hera not only participated in the events, but also offered to be auctioned, that added to my elation. The memories from the auctions made me chuckle.

I looked at the clock and knew it was time to leave. I was to meet Orion, my nymphs, Iain, Jamie, and the rest of my team at the ball. With a pop, I landed at the gallery. I was happy to note that everything was ready for the gala. Kara was so busy walking around with a notepad, checking things off her list and talking into her headset that she almost missed my arrival. She stopped to look at me, smiled, and continued with her tasks. My nymphs and satyrs were busy giving instructions to the servers, musicians, and donation desk staff. Orion walked up behind me and held me by my waist, I turned to look at him. He looked handsome, dressed in a dark blue suit and silver mask.

“You look stunning, Arty,” he said, as he kissed my hand and bowed.

I did a curtsy before answering. “You look rather handsome yourself, sir.”

He tucked my hand into his arm and led me to the part of the gallery that housed the main ballroom.

It was a sight to behold, decorated in the evening’s theme of blues, black, silver, and gold. The main ballroom was large, about five hundred feet long by three hundred feet wide, with the ceiling stretching up a few hundred feet above my head. The walls were decorated in glittering gold and silver with a tinge of shiny blue and black wallpaper to ease the glare of glitter. Dozens of crystal chandeliers spiraled from the ceiling, sending lovely diffused golden light across the length of the ballroom.

“Wow! Please remind me to thank Urania for allowing us to use her gallery for this event, Orion. Oh, and I must also do something to thank my staff. They have done an outstanding job with the décor. Look at all this, so magnificent!” I squealed with excitement.

Orion smiled. “We brought your vision to life. Now it is time to relax and enjoy it.” I gave him a quick peck on his cheek and whispered a thank you before walking over to the entrance of the ballroom to welcome the guests as they arrived. The musicians in the corner podium started playing Strauss. Banquet servers, dressed in crisp white shirts with black bow tie and vests, scurried around, carrying trays of champagne and appetizers. Most of the mortals had arrived by now, and all of them made a donation to SBF. I made my rounds, talking and thanking everyone.

I spotted Aunt Hestia and Connor and made small talk with them before I moved on to speak to Nike, followed by Eros and Nyx, who had arrived together. Melinoë, as smug as ever, was busy making her moves on Nemesis, who looked sultry in her black gown and silver mask. I noticed a grumpy looking Ares standing by the bar with a drink in his hand. I walked over to my brother, I had to thank him for his help in saving the auctions from the nightgoyle attack.

“You clean up well, brother,” I said.

Ares smiled. “You look good, Arty,” he replied. The music changed to another one of the popular waltz tunes. I pulled my brother into a dance.

“I know parties are not usually your scene, but I am grateful to you, brother, for coming and also for helping keep the nightgoyles off the auctions!”

He twirled me around and answered before leading me into a dip. “Anything for you, sis.” 

We laughed and danced for a while. A commotion among the guests when the usher announced the arrival of Zeus and Hera cut our conversation short. I hurried over to welcome my father and stepmother, both impeccably dressed, with a hug. They were soon surrounded by patrons who were patiently waiting to meet the King and Queen of Gods.

I turned my attention to Urania; she looked stunning in a shimmering silver gown with a mask and accessories made of stardust. My soul drank in the sight of her as our eyes locked, the galaxies visible through her eyes. She smiled and I felt like I was finally home. This was a strange feeling to me, one that I realized I felt only around her. Before we could say anything, Orion stepped in between us. Urania looked between the both of us, nodded, and walked towards Adrian. I turned to look at Orion, my frustration evident on my face. He, however, had downcast eyes and crinkled brows as though he was trying to make sense of what transpired between the three of us. I excused myself from him and took a seat by the bar before ordering a neat shot of Dionysus’ special brew.

“A neat shot of Dion’s brew? What’s going on, Didy?”

I knew there was only one in the whole universe with that voice. I turned towards the source of the sound and screamed, “Mos! You’re here!” I jumped off the stool and into Apollo’s arms, and he twirled me around. I laughed and hugged my twin, pulling back to look at him again.

“I knew you’d make it, Mos. I am so pleased you’re here. Are you planning to stay this time?”

“Yes, Didy, I am planning to stay,” he answered with a grin as bright as his aura. I squealed and danced in the joy that my brother was back home.

The usher announced that the countdown for the ball drop was about to begin. Apollo and I made our way into the center of the room. The countdown to the New Year ended, and the ball dropped with a million balloons that looked like tiny stars, and the room erupted with cheers. The last year had been good, although I had to move back to earth. It was a good move, and now I was looking forward to the new year and everything we could accomplish through SBF.

As I stood there reminiscing about the year bygone, I heard someone speak and turned my attention to face him.

“You Gods do know how to throw a mean party,” he said, raising his champagne glass to me in a toast. I clinked my glass with him, “I am glad you enjoyed, Mr. uh…”

“Laudner, Stephan Laudner,” he answered, extending his hand out to me. I tried to keep a calm expression as the color dropped from my face. 

Just the mortal I was hoping to meet.

“Ah…Mr. Laudner. I’ve been waiting to meet you,” I said as I shook his hand.

Artemis (Rashmi Menon)
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