“Artemis.” I touched her arm enough to stop her ascent, but not to alarm her. “Talk to me. Are you ok?”
“Uh, yeah, I will be. I’m just going to check on Dad. Have you been up?” Her tone was unsteady, and I knew the state of Zeus was wearing on her, but this seemed more than just worry.
“Artemis, look at me, sweet one. I know you. This is not just worry. We have been friends too long for you to just shrug me off.” I caught her eyes with mine and gave her a solid look of affirmation.
Nodding, she began. “I will be ok, moonbeam, it will just take time. I just came back from fighting Ananke, and she used my own memories against me. Plus Dad…I just have so much on my mind and heart right now.” She shook her head as if trying to get something out of her head. “And now, on top of everything, Ourea has been messing around in the Olympus Forest and my animals are in distress.” She looked back at the stairwell as her thoughts wandered back to Zeus.
Letting go of her arm, I replied, “Go, check on your dad. Then come back here and we’ll plan our attack on Ourea. Okay?”
Her gaze returned to mine as she ascended the stairs. “Our attack?”
“Absolutely. This is my home now, and you are in no condition to face him alone. Come back and let’s talk more, okay?” She nodded in response and headed back to the stairs. I watched her go up, favoring her abdomen, and wondered what she wasn’t telling me. A lump formed in my throat as I watched my friend leave, and I began to realize I felt something awaken in me I thought was beyond me at this point. I shook it off as all that had been happening and the length of time I had known the goddess.
I wasn’t sure how long she would be gone, and I didn’t want her to try to head out alone, so I went to the lobby and grabbed a couple of cups of coffee from Dark Sparks, one of the few places still open and relatively unscathed by Hera’s outburst. I looked around at the lobby and the team of mortals running to and fro, hard at work on the repairs for the home of the gods. One reason I loved these creatures was how hard most of them work. Day after day, they got up and put their best foot forward to do it all again. I thought about the mortals that harmed one another and felt the darkness rising in me, but then, in the back of my mind, there was a little light. Artemis. She worked so hard, like these people, to be a light for the mortals that had been so resilient against such abuse and hurt. Yes, Artemis would be ok, but she needed time to heal. The lump returned to my throat as I thought of her again. I’d better head back, I don’t want her to think I left her, not now.
I chose the stairs again, as the thought of the rickety elevator was unnerving. Plus, I didn’t want to risk missing Artemis. Why was she using the stairs? I wondered and told myself to ask her when we spoke later. I arrived at my floor with burning calves and entered my lab. I shook my head as I walked in, taking in the carnage again. To the left of the stairwell and elevator was my office and the breakroom I had built for my employees. There had been several rows of lab tables with boxes of beakers and supplies, but they were now littered with debris and shattered glass. This was going to take a bit of cleaning, but it was not a total loss. I set the coffees down on my desk and found some cleaning supplies in the partially-stocked breakroom. I wiped down the desk and cleaned off my couch so we had somewhere to sit. I was just about to head to the breakroom when I heard the heavy stairwell door open. “In here,” I called so she knew where I was.
“Moonbeam?” she called.
Heat reached my cheeks at the sound of her voice and instinctively, I raised my hands to my face. Dropping them, I shook it off and answered her. “Yeah, Arty, first door to your left.” She pushed the door open as I continued, “I got you a coffee. I thought you could use one.”
She took the cup I had offered and sat on the arm of the sofa, keeping an arm across her middle. I took my cup and sat near the center of the couch before I got her attention. She was staring toward my desk, but I could tell she wasn’t really present. I slowly moved my hand to rest it on her knee in an attempt to bring her back, but not trigger her. Even at my slow and light touch, she jumped.
“Sorry, Sel, I…what were you saying?” She was looking at me now and my heart sank.
“How’s Z?”I asked softly.
Her face told more than her words and it hit me like a ton of bricks. Her normally olive complexion was placid and her once-bright eyes were grey and sunken.
“No change,” she said, distant.
I moved a little closer. “Talk to me Arty, please.”
Artemis took a sip of her coffee and got up from the sofa. Turning toward me, she started to speak urgently, almost as though she was waiting to pour out the emotions that she had kept locked. “What do you want to know, Sel? How Ananke threw me down the elevator shaft into my own subconscious? How I thought I was going to be stuck there with the Primordial of Misery for an eternity? Or how she made me relive each and every one of my most painful memories from my long, immortal life?”
She took a few quick steps away from me and started pacing up and down the length of the room. “Ananke brought to surface all that I had tucked away into the deepest darkest corners of my mind. She made me watch them unfold again and again until I thought I was never going to be able escape from that misery. I almost failed, Sel! I don’t know how or where I found the strength to fight her and bring us both out of my subconscious.”
I sat in awe as she told her account. The more she told me, the more my heart sank. I wanted to soothe her pain, take it away.
“Sel? Selene? Are you okay?” she asked with alarm in her voice.
“Huh? Yeah, just worried for you, why?”
“Look around. You’ve gone dark.”
I blinked and realized how dark the room was. Damnit, I never wanted her to see this side of me. “I…I’m sorry, I just got upset from your pain, is all. I’ll be okay.” With effort, I checked some of my rising anger so the room wasn’t as dark, and I focused on the matter at hand.
“So, Ourea…let’s split up and look for him. I’ll take my chariot and you can take Sayeh. We’ll cover more ground that way. If I find him, how will I call for you?”
“Your horses. Tell your horses to relay to me he has been found and where you are. And if I find him, I’ll call your horses. So if they veer off the course you set, let them, okay?”
I nodded. I knew from experience, Artemis could talk to animals, so this came as no surprise to me. We trashed our cups and walked out of the office together. I stopped her before we got to the stairwell door, turned, and pulled her into a gentle hug. “Please, be careful out there, okay?”
She nodded, pulling back from me. “I just want this all to be over and Dad to be okay.”
“I know, me too.” With that, I opened the heavy door and we descended together.
Walking out of the GC, I climbed into my chariot, and Artemis mounted Sayeh. We took off over the park and split off in opposite directions. I flew just above the treetops, scanning the forest floor for any movement that wasn’t normal. After about twenty minutes of scanning, a flock of birds flew up in front of me in a startled state, while a small herd of deer bolted from the same direction. I pulled hard on the reins, turning back towards the direction the animals had fled. The Titan was storming through the forest like a berserker, leaving fleeing animals and crushed plant life in his wake.
I called out to my steeds, “Tell Artemis what we found,” and looked for a clearing to set down in. Landing in a small patch of green, I got the horses settled and took off after Ourea. I knew Arty would be right behind me, and I had to catch up to him. I reined in my glow and took a leaping run through the trees in the same direction I had seen the Titan go.
I was mid-jump when I was yanked out of the air by my long hair, which had been flowing behind me. Vines grew out of Ourea and wrapped around my neck and body, holding me still. A growling voice buzzed in my ear, “Did you really think I wouldn’t know you were coming behind me? Even reining in your glow, I can see you kilometers away.”
I tried kicking his shin and flipping him over my back, but all it did was anger him and he pulled me in tighter. “Now, where’s that hunter friend of yours?”