The ordeal with Ananke, the Primordial of Misery was physically over, yet my despair was nowhere near finished. I was the canvas upon which she left her mark: quite the artist, considering my emotional bleeding scars. She broke me from within. How was I ever to get over something like that? Add the fact that I had made no progress in my investigations into the mortal hunting club, I was feeling like an absolute failure. 

I shook the thoughts from my head as I reached the GC building. I was here to visit Dad, who was slowly recovering from his tryst with a particular poet.

Was this the beginning of another Titanomachy?  I shuddered, remembering the ten-year war. 

The sound of the elevator bell jolted me as the elevator doors opened, I stood staring at it for a few minutes. I couldn’t muster the courage to step into the elevator. Every time I tried, the memories of falling, of the darkness and the abyss, flooded my mind. My pulse raced and my breathing quickened; I steadied myself against the wall. 

Relax, just breathe. You are not in the abyss anymore. 

I took a few deep breaths trying to calm myself. 

Oh, forget it! I am taking the stairs! 

I was more comfortable climbing ninety floors than riding an elevator. It was not an easy feat; my mortal legs paid the price. 

Dad was asleep when I walked into his room. Hera, my stepmother, was nowhere to be seen. I sat beside my dad, holding his hands for about an hour or so before I headed out for my meeting with Selene. 

As planned, I stopped by Selene’s floor on my way out. She offered a sympathetic ear to my woes; her reaction to them, though, took me by surprise. For the first time in a few decades, I saw her dark side. We discussed the Titan, Ourea, and the mess he was causing in the woods of Olympus National Park. Just then, I heard a distress call from the animals as they fled from the woods. I reckoned it was Ourea who was terrorizing my wildlife; he knew I would come for them, making me an easy target. Selene offered to help me with the situation. We left the OA building together, she on her chariot, and I on Sayeh. 

After Ananke, I was not only weak, but also apprehensive. I second-guessed everything I did. My once sharp reflexes now seemed less than perfect. My tracking skills were not helping me this time, and my judgment was clouded by fears.

Fears of failure, of letting down my family, of not being strong enough to fight a Titan!

Flying above the park, I witnessed the seething, living tsunami of terrified animals as they swarmed out towards the outskirts of the park. The source for their frenzy lay hidden in the thick woods. I flew along, tracking the movements of the animals, searching for Ourea. Sayeh was not far along when I heard from Selene’s steeds about Ourea’s location. 

I reached the area where I expected to find Selene. Getting off Sayeh, I walked into the woods with my bow and arrow ready to strike. 

“Selene,” I called out, looking for her glow. The drubbing beat of my pulse resonated in my ears. My heart began to race when I realized that I could not find her moonbeam and had also lost my telepathic connections with her steeds. The sound of my breathing was louder than the crunching of twigs and leaves under my feet. Something was off, and I feared the worst. I searched for a few more minutes before I heard groans coming from the branches above. I looked up, slowly, and gulped at the sight of Selene hanging upside down. Long thick vines coiled all around her body, tangled in with her hair, wrapping itself around her face and covering her mouth. I dropped my bow and pulled out my silver blade to cut the vines and free her. Selene twisted and turned, trying to send a beam of light. Her eyes widened as she tried to focus on something behind me. She groaned at her inability to do either. Sayeh was standing guard behind me, so I was not worried about Ourea taking me by surprise. Selene kept trying to tell me something. The more she twisted, the tighter the vines looped around her.

“Sel, I am going to get you out of this, I promise. Please, stop moving, it isn’t helping when you do that,” I pleaded.

She shook her head vigorously in response, causing the vines to tug at her hair and cover her entire face. I reached for the vines and cut across them, releasing it from her face and neck. 

“Arty, behind you!” She screamed as soon as the vines were freed from her neck. I turned around, but it was too late. Ourea had used the time to conjure large quantities of stones and earth fashioning a hill, and he charged at us with it. Sayeh flapped her wings, pushing Selene and me out of Ourea’s path. The vines towed Selene to the other side, but not before she pulled out my broadsword from my quiver. Sayeh leaped to put herself between Ourea and me. Angry at having missed his target, the Titan hurled the hill at Sayeh.  

“No!” I ran towards Sayeh as she fell. Grit and dirt enmeshed with her raw, scarred flesh. Blood splattered on the ground and ran in tiny scarlet streams from her body. She laid there whimpering for a while and then became silent. I listened for her heartbeat; it was dwindling. I must move the heavy stones and silt off her body if not, she would be crushed within minutes. 

Using my terrakinetic powers, I pushed the rocks, sediments, and dirt off Sayeh, but she did not even flinch. Before I could tend to her wounds, Ourea came up behind me and pulled me off her. Selene, now free, was busy fighting the vines from wrapping around her again. Every time she cut them down, they came back longer and stronger.

I knew I was not physically in a position to fight a Titan like Ourea. He is the Titan of Mountains and possessed the strength of a thousand mountains put together. And, me? I was a mess, both physically and emotionally. If Selene and Sayeh weren’t here with me today, Ourea might have already destroyed me.

“Arty, these vines, they don’t stop growing!” Selene called out. Ourea laughed at our vulnerability. 

“Did you two really think I came unprepared?” the Titan asked with a growl. “I have been waiting for this day for a millennium. Zeus’ precious little daughter! What is he willing to sacrifice for your life?” He dragged me through the woods.

I had multiple problems in front of me, and they all needed to be solved at once. Sayeh needed me, the vines had to be destroyed, the wildlife had to be contained before they caused a stampede, and above all was Ourea. I was, now, a mouse in a trap caught between opposing needs. Do I let go of the prize and save my life, or do I sacrifice everything for the prize?

My priorities at this point were clear. Sayeh, Selene, and my wildlife. Nothing else mattered. 

Moxie! If I could only get through to her, she’d find a way to deal with those vines. Selene could escape with Sayeh while I distracted Ourea. 

Where was Moxie when you needed her? I didn’t know who else to call for help in this situation. 

Moxie, Moxie, Moxie! I pinged her again and again. 

I turned to look at Selene, who was relentlessly fighting the vines. She was fighting my battle. My heart wept for Sayeh, who was struggling to breathe. I tried to send a healing spell her way, but Ourea flung me by my braids onto a large oakwood tree. I heard a few snaps as blinding pain fired through my ribs. At the same time, I saw short mirages and glimpses of my experience as though I was reliving it. I realized it was Moxie deciphering my messages to her. 

She did hear my calls after all. 

Moxie…the vines! How do I stop these vines?” I relayed my thoughts to her, looking at Selene and the vines. 

Ourea pulled me up by my feet, he hauled me onto his shoulders and started walking towards Selene. 

“Arty…no! Get up!” Selene cried, unable to come to my aid. One wrong step and the vines would wrap around her again. She glared at Ourea with eyes rimmed red from angry, unshed tears. 

Images of forest fires started popping into my mind. At first, I did not understand why I was seeing them, then I realized it was probably Moxie sending me ideas. But, a forest fire? There was no way in Tartarus that I would burn down my beloved park, even if it meant losing this battle. 

Moxie! I yelped. 

This time, she sent me an image of fire and another of Selene. Before I could decipher her meaning, Ourea threw me to the ground, pinning me down. It seemed he was waiting for someone to arrive. 

In the back of my mind, I kept trying to decode Moxie’s messages. It was only when Selene cut the vines from their roots that I interpreted the meaning of those images. 

The only way to stop the vines was to burn them out. But how?

My thoughts must’ve been transmitted to Sayeh, because I saw her feebly lift her head. She tried to breathe fire, but all that came out from her nostrils was a wisp of smoke. Ourea smirked at Sayeh’s efforts to breathe; however, he did not realize what she was attempting to do. 

No, Sayeh! You’re too weak to do this, save your energy, I need you!

Sayeh and I looked at each other; her emerald green eyes twinkled for just a second before she turned to look at Selene, willing her to move. Selene read the situation and jumped away from the vines just as Sayeh raised her head. I saw a slight flicker of a blue flame before I heard the all too familiar rumble beginning from her belly. She growled, using every ounce of energy, sending large streaks of bluish golden flares at the vines. 

Ourea screamed, running towards them, but they were incinerated within seconds. Before he could react, I conjured a herd of bison in his direction. Selene and I ducked under Sayeh’s wings as a herd of more than a hundred bison charged at the Titan in a stampede. They hauled him to the outskirts of the woods. Breaking free from the stampede, Ourea ran into the city. 

I felt Sayeh’s pulse weakening until it was barely there. I knew I had to act quickly, else, I would lose her forever. 

“Arty, Ourea…he’s fled,” Selene said, running after him, but I stopped her.

“We’ll get our turn, Moonbeam. Lose the battle now to win the war later!”

Artemis (Rashmi Menon)
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