Artemis looked around at the group. "Anyway, I have convinced my brother to help me transport a group of you to the Underworld."
Cohen exchanged glances with Sunny, uncertain of what the goddess's plan exactly was. He was reluctant to speak anyway. "Lady Artemis, I mean no disrespect, but we've already failed. Juliet, she—"
"Insolent boy," Artemis muttered, an eyebrow raised. "I think I and Apollo would know whether you've failed or not. Your… friend Sunny knows what I'm referring to, doesn't she?" Sunny nodded grimly. Artemis nodded in reply, as if she agreed with whatever Sunny was thinking. She turned back to the group. "Remember what young Kaethe said to your quest members?"
The group looked at each other, each one remembering that part of the prophecy. Milo recited it for everyone anyway. "When all is lost, never give up, even when you think you have to. Failure is the only way to succeed."
Artemis smiled softly at Arsinoë. "I think I can help you out with that part. You just have to trust me." Arsinoë glanced up at her, brown eyes inquisitive, surprisingly lacking in the smouldering prideful ire that the others' had gotten used to seeing.
"I need four of you—Arsinoë, Sunny, Mouse, and Demi, this will be you—to come with us. Your task is to retrieve the Stygian Roses from the Underworld."
The four girls had drastically different reactions. Mouse raised an eyebrow, but said nothing. Arsinoë agreed almost immediately, Demi cautiously accepting seconds later after a quick glance at Günther to her right and Arsinoë to her left. Mouse looked at Brandt, who shrugged. After a few seconds, only Sunny didn't agree, instead biting down on her quivering, bottom lip with a hesitant look between Cohen and Artemis.
Artemis watched her almost curiously, before sighing. "Speak your mind, maiden." She said.
"I mean no disrespect, but I think, Lady Artemis, that I must decline." Sunny said, choosing her words carefully.
Artemis scowled, but her expression wasn't aimed at Sunny. Cohen, however, felt the fear of being smited by a god for the first time in his life. Artemis seemed to be that livid.
She turned suddenly, back to an uncomfortable Sunny. "Have you forgotten your vow to my sister, Athena Parthenos?"
"I haven't forgotten." Sunny claimed, guilt practically on her face with a small glance at Cohen, who seemed to be increasingly confused. The others, all understanding where the goddess was getting at, sort of felt bad for him. Every single one of them had been the last to know something in their lives.
"Hmmm…. Well, you may as well stay with the boys, then. You're too tainted anyway." Sunny sucked in a breath and several people in the group quickly noticed that the usually strong girl seemed to be holding back tears.
Cohen frowned, reaching out for to grab his girlfriend's shoulder in comfort. She tensed up and pulled away swiftly. He frowned, his expression barely concealing his anger. "What do you mean?" He asked Artemis. He had an idea, though it didn't make sense. Mouse and Brandt seemed to be interested in each other, but Mouse wasn't "tainted." Maybe it was that Artemis was just angry she'd declined.
Artemis said nothing to him, only glared with a scowl on her face. For a split second, her glare became just a pitiful stare, the same look that he often got from many of the others, ever since he'd started dating Sunny, actually…. It was quickly gone. In its place was another disapproving look directed at Sunny once again. It was hard to tell what she was thinking.
Arsinoë and Demi stepped away from the group tentatively after looking at each other. There was no time to waste, and neither girl truly wanted to see Artemis get angry enough that she actually would kill either the daughter of Hedylogos or the son of Ichnaea.
Mouse gave Brandt a quick hug before joining them. Artemis scowled at Sunny and Cohen, then at Milo. Finally full out glaring at Günther. Günther shifted awkwardly, realising that Artemis probably saw what had happened the night before as him forcing himself onto Arsinoë—who she was clearly fond of—though of course he'd never do that. Still… he was sure that didn't look good for him.
Finally Artemis's eyes landed on Brandt, who got a soft look from her. Günther decided it was because Scottish boy's balls hadn't dropped yet. She smiled softly, suddenly. "I realise that none of you have gotten to eat in… more than a day?" She asked, suddenly sweet.
She was clearly asking Brandt. "Yes, uh, Lady Artemis." He answered, before looking at Sunny and then Mouse, as if not completely sure if he'd said the right thing. In answer, Sunny gave him a look of approval, a small smile starting to spread across her tan skin.
Mouse, Demi, and Arsinoë watched the exchange from where they stood next to Apollo. All three girls were uncertain of what Artemis was doing. They quickly got their answer. "You're lucky, you know." Artemis said, turning back to Sunny. "That I will not let an innocent child starve if I can help it, especially if they are attempting to save Olympus. Even if they will, unfortunately, grow up to be an insolent boy."
Sunny felt a sudden heaviness in her backpack and the girl realised that Artemis had conjured up some food of some sort. She bowed her head in thanks. Artemis bitterly nodded before gesturing for Demi, Mouse, and Arsinoë to follow her.
Demi and Mouse hopped cautiously on board of the flying golden chariot that Apollo was jumping into at that moment. Arsinoë suddenly turned around and yelled out to Sunny. "Meet us in Ephesus!" She practically yelled it, as if she was worried that the girl wouldn't hear. Sunny nodded in reply.
Demi turned to Arsinoë as the olive-toned girl climbed on board. "Why Ephesus?"
Arsinoë shrugged. "Because that's where Xanthene went." She sighed. "Xanthene asked me just before she started pushing for Turkey where the Temple of Artemis was. It's in Ephesus. In Turkey."
Mouse frowned. "That sounds off."
Arsinoë glared. "It's what happened."
"I'm not saying you're lying." Mouse said. "It's just Xanthene and Zuko are pretty good at geography. At least, I would think so."
Demi looked at her quizzically. "What do you mean?"
"When we were on the boat…. I questioned the two because they'd clearly never been in a foster home during the time they were away…. Me and Brandt had a few questions for them about it. They had safe houses all over Afro-Eurasia. They've been all over the map."
Artemis looked at Mouse as she climbed up next to Apollo. "Well, maybe the person who Xanthene is trying to help knew that Turkey was one of the places that Xanthene and Zuko haven't been through enough to scope out. Besides, you'd know where my old temple would be, Arsinoë. Xanthene knew that too. And someone had to know where to follow them to."
"I told that insolent son of Ichnaea that, didn't I?"
"Was it the two of you that—"
Apollo grinned. "Nope. But we knew about it."
Artemis shrugged. "I thought her plan was stupid, but she convinced me. I thought I would feel guilty about it, but know that I've gotten to know—"
Apollo shushed her. "We don't know what she'll decide yet. Actually, I only realised about the boy when she put the plan into action… I am worried about the prophecy." His eyebrows burrowed as if he was concentrating. "The Grief of Crete is a problem, not a solution… Though considering Juliet's godly parent…"
Artemis tensed at the mention of the Grief of Crete, looking visibly uncomfortable. "I don't think the Halfling will be a problem. Now, let's hope that wretched woman doesn't interfere any more. She's a disgrace of a maiden goddess. Luckily, your oracle said it was just the five or six…" She trailed off, seeming to remember that she had three confused demigods in the backseat. "Forget all that, though. You three must be starving. Well, I can't have three maidens go hungry, now can I?"
Demi, Mouse and Arsinoë gave her their appreciation and suddenly in front of the girls was three filled water bottles, as well as a platter of a few of their favourite foods—corn and cheese for Demi, olives and grapes for Arsinoë, and some carrots and poutine for Mouse.
"I'm not as good as your mother or my Aunts Demeter and Hestia." Artemis said ruefully to Demi. "But as the goddess of the wilderness I can do alright with that power. Unfortunately, with Hestia, Demeter, Dionysus, and Hera all out of commission right now, that's the best I can do. It's incredibly wretched quality of food, particularly the grapes. You're lucky though. The group you were with got even worse quality."
Demi felt bad that Günther, Brandt, and Milo were being treated the way they were by the goddess because of something so trivial as what parts they were born with. It sounded silly to her. Though, she wondered if maybe it had a little bit more to do with her apparent dislike of Sunny and Cohen, especially considering the fact that Demi wasn't stupid. She knew what Artemis had been referring to. They all did.
"So what's the plan? Since Juliet isn't here." Demi asked as she sipped from her water.
Artemis smiled. "Your friend Juliet was brave. Agreeing to remain on the quest even knowing…." She trailed off and looked at Apollo uncertainly, who snuck a quick look in return to her before going back to the road. She turned back to the group of girls. "That doesn't matter now, I guess. Lady Styx would understand better than I do. Anyway, Juliet isn't the only child of the Underworld on the quest."
Demi, Mouse, and Arsinoë all looked confused and then Demi gasped and looked at the Greek girl next to her. Mouse looked confused for a few seconds as well, before glancing at Arsinoë too.
Apollo stopped the sun for a few seconds as the concept Artemis was relaying dawned on him. Only Arsinoë looked puzzled.
"Arsinoë… That's you. You're the only one of us who didn't know their parent." Demi said quietly.
"Who is my father?" Arsinoë asked. She knew that it had to be a male. That was the only way that mysterious man's comments about making her father proud made a lick of sense.
"First off." Artemis stated. "What do the three of you know about the Titan War?" They looked at each other in confusion. Even Apollo.
I was going to include the actual explanation, but I'm saving it for next chapter so the story line doesn't get too non-linear by focusing exclusively on these guy's trip to the Underworld entrance. Next chapter will be the explanation you guys have (probably) been wanting as well as snippets from Leah/Wyn/Xanthene/Zuko and an interesting conversation between Sunny and Gunther.
This chapter will make much more sense as the story goes on... I promise.