I couldn't believe it.
I just couldn't believe it.
Here I was, in some strange, unknown world, kneeling before the heavenly mother of everything in creation.
When I was younger, my mother had told me to worship the great Gaia like how the mortals worshiped the gods. She told me that it would have been truly an honour if one was to be in her presence.
So I just simply couldn't believe that I would have that honour.
As I continued to kneel, I whispered blessings for her, because I felt it was the least I could do.
Just then, I felt a small touch to the back of my head and looked up at Gaia, who smiled down at me.
"Rise, my child. I must speak to you," she said.
So, I got to my feet and sat on the edge of the bed as she tells me, "You have certainly been out for a very long time. About three weeks now."
My eyes widened in shock and disbelief. "Three weeks?" I exclaim.
She nods. "You were certainly much drained of energy," she explains. "My nymphs couldn't even wake you up, and they had assumed that you had died. But you proved them wrong by still breathing and by your still-beating heart. Although, I still had to give you some of my energy to fully revive you."
As she explained to me about how I have been unconscious for three weeks, I began to slowly remember everything that happened.
And most importantly, my banishment.
Unable to control myself, tears begin to well up in my eyes as the pain sets in again. I cover my face with my hands and sobbed quietly.
Just then, I felt the bed tip beside me and a pair of comforting arms pulled me into a hug. I uncover my face and realized, in utter shock, that Gaia was hugging me.
She was hugging me like how my mother does whenever I'm upset; gently, protectively, and placing my head on her bosom, near her heart. It felt very strange to think the heavenly mother would even bother to hug me, but I couldn't help but think about how comforting it was. It was as if I was hugging my own mother.
Technically, she is my mother.
As she ran her fingers through my hair, she whispers, "I know what happened to you, Artemis. I know everything. Which is why I brought you here."
"Where am I?" I ask through my now-fading tears, curiosity taking over me. I was still quite awe-struck over the beautiful and mystical green forested land I was in.
"You're in my garden. My abode."
I gaze around at the land once again. It was indeed a beautiful place. Just my type of place of comfort. Maybe Persephone or Demeter would too be in amazement of this land.
"Why did you bring me here, Mother Gaia?"
She pulls me away from her gently, placing her hands on my shoulders and looking at me straight in the eye, and answers, "What Hera did was cruel and unjust. It was an unfair punishment which you did not even deserve. I didn't want to see you walking the lands by yourself, so I took it upon myself to have you stay here."
I blink in surprise. "You… want me… to stay here?"
She gives me a confused look.
"Of course, my dear. You are one of my best heavenly children. I saw how sad you were above, and I didn't want to see you so lost and confused anymore. In simpler words, Artemis, I want to take care of you. I want to help you overcome your weaknesses."
When she said that, my heart was so touched at her kindness and generosity. I gently hug her, and whisper, "Thank you, great Mother."
The next day
"I suggest we just dive in for the kill! Waste no time for strategy!" Ares bellows.
They were holding a special meeting to plan their attack. 'They' meaning Zeus, Poseidon, Hades, Ares, Athena, Apollo and Hermes.
Athena frowns and answers firmly, "Your bloodthirsty ways will not turn out well, Ares. I should know, for I am the Goddess of Battle Strategy. We must hatch an elaborate plan that we are sure will work."
Ares growls, "But that is simply a waste of time! The more time we waste, the more our worshipers decrease! Have you ever thought about that, oh great Athena?"
Before Athena could lash back at him, Zeus decides it was time to put an end to this stupid bickering, by slamming his fist onto the table.
"ENOUGH FIGHTING, BOTH OF YOU!" Zeus yells in sheer anger and annoyance. "What nonsense is this? We are supposed to work out a plan! Not rage war against each other!"
Ares and Athena glare at each other one last time before looking away, trying very hard to ignore one another.
Zeus withdrew his fist and takes a deep breath before saying, "Now, does anyone have any better ideas? Athena is right; we cannot go off to fight these beasts without a strategy. But Ares, on the other hand, is right as well; we cannot waste any more time. I expect us to take off in five days or less. I only hope the mortals would be smart enough to evacuate themselves to safety."
"I am sure they are," Apollo said. And then Hades adds, "There has been a very slight decrease in the number of souls entering the Underworld. That must explain quite a bit of things."
Poseidon snaps his fingers. "I know! I will send an earthquake that would be able to swallow them below ground. We can only hope that they stay there."
Hades shakes his head. "Brother, remember that the world below is my world. Do not think that you can just dump those beasts there."
Zeus agrees, and says, "And we cannot cause so much damage to the mortals' home."
Hermes begins to sigh, and muttered, "If only Artemis was here. She would have been able to tame those beasts in a snap."
Apollo's eyes slide over to his younger half-brother. His heart cringed again at the mention of Artemis and he gazes at his bandaged hand. His mother had patched it up for him, and it was healing quickly thanks to a few drops of ambrosia. But he would still remember the feel of the shard of Artemis' silver slicing through his skin.
Zeus looks at Apollo, who already seems to be lost in his thoughts. He begins to remember how he had found him in the garden yesterday; crumpled to the ground and crying as though he was mourning the dead. From that moment on, a new light shone on Apollo that made Zeus realize that there was more to what his son could feel other than happiness.
"Yes, I know, Hermes. But Artemis is missing from the Earth. Helios has told me that there is still no sign of her," Zeus says disappointedly.
"But still, how could it be possible for her to disappear so suddenly?" Hermes questions. "How could she disappear that even the all-seeing Helios and Apollo, her own twin, can lose sight of her?"
Ares groans irately. "Enough about Artemis! Really, people! She is just a simple hunting goddess! We did not even show much of a care for her when she was still here, and now we only want her to come back just so she can stop these beasts for us? Why? Are we really that weak? Or better yet, are all of you really that weak? And what are we to do with her when she does defeat them? Banish her again?"
The sound of a chair dragging vibrates through the room loudly, followed by Ares' screams of pain.
None of the gods in the room missed Apollo throwing the punch across Ares' face.
The rage on his face made him look absolutely terrifying. With his teeth bared, like a wild animal preparing for an attack, he snarls, "HOW DARE YOU SPEAK OF MY SISTER LIKE THAT! SUFFER, YOU VILE SCUM!"
Ares, feeling anger take over him, throws himself on Apollo and tackles him to the ground.
"YOU DARE HIT ME, SUNNY BOY? DO YOU NOT REMEMBER THAT IT WAS MY MOTHER WHO BANISHED YOUR PRECIOUS SISTER?" Ares mocks menacingly.
In full-on rage, Apollo throws another hard punch to Ares' gut with his bandaged hand, causing the God of War to fall to the floor beside him. Apollo gets up quickly, ignoring the throbbing pain of his bandaged hand, and begins to repeatedly kick Ares in the gut.
"I'LL MAKE YOU SUFFER JUST LIKE HOW YOUR VILE MOTHER MADE MY SISTER SUFFER!" he growls ferociously.
"ENOUGH!" Zeus' yell boomed through the room, and maybe the entire palace.
A pair of hands pulled Apollo away from Ares. Hades tries hard to restrain his nephew, who thrashes in his hold.
Apollo sheds hot tears of anger as he thrashes in Hades' tight hold, and then he begins to wonder to himself; was this how Artemis felt when she tried to attack Hera but couldn't? How she felt trapped in someone's hold and desperately tried to get out of their grip? Was this how she felt?
And then, Apollo laughs. To others, it may seem like a laugh of someone who has finally lost their mind. But to Apollo, it was a laugh of relief. Relief that finally, he can feel the same unbearable pain that his sister had to endure so many times in her life. That finally, he can see how Artemis suffers in silence, and maybe even see how she manages to stay strong through it all.
Ares stands up, wiping away blood that trickled down his left nostril. He stares at the laughing Apollo in anger.
"Look at him, Lord Zeus. Look at your precious son. He has already lost it!" Ares complains.
Apollo hears Ares' statement, but he continues laughing and shaking his head, he says, "No, Ares. I have not lost my mind. I am happy. Happy that now, I can experience the pain that Artemis suffers because of everything on Olympus. The pain that she did not deserve."
Looking at everyone's faces through his hot tears, he mutters, "Excuse me. I think I must rest now."
Hades lets go of him and Apollo leaves. Everyone looks at him, before turning to Zeus.
He sits there, looking frustrated.
"I think, we will continue this meeting tomorrow," he says, before standing from his seat.
Apollo makes his way to the third floor of the palace. He walks past the rows of doors, before finally coming to the one he wants.
Still chuckling and crying a bit, he knocks on the door, and waits for an answer.
His mother answers, her royal blue eyes bloodshot and fresh tear tracks on her cheeks. She sees her son, and gasps in shock.
Apollo falls to his knees before her and hugs her impulsively, his chuckling turning into sobs and his tears becoming those of sadness once again.
Leto falls to the floor as well and wraps her arms around her son, trying hard to comfort him.
Together, the both of them stayed there, wallowing in sadness together.
Gaia's garden was truly amazing.
It was basked in soft sunshine, though I could see no sign of a sun or some sort. There were many types of flora and fauna here. I've caught sight of flowers I have never seen before, and I would catch a few glimpses of small woodland creatures.
As of now, I sit with Gaia at a table for two, partaking in a meal full of delicious food stuff. It was nymphs who served us our meal, and I am told to ask for whatever I want or need from them by Gaia.
She beckons me to take more food, and I comply because I did not want to be rude by refusing her. I was glad I did; I devoured the entire contents of my plate in a few minutes.
I was really that hungry, and the food was just so good.
"Take more if you must, Artemis. You must fulfil your appetite," she says to me gently in a motherly tone.
I proceed to take a second helping, being mindful to watch my manners.
"Thank you so much, Mother Gaia," I say graciously. "I am forever in your debt."
She only gives me a kind smile. And then I ask, "Mother Gaia? Is there anything I can do for you?"
She raises an eyebrow. "What do you mean, Artemis?"
I look down at the skirt of the pale pink dress she gave me. It was long, reaching my ankles, and flowing, but it was soft and comfy.
Flustered, I said, "I feel rude to stay in your grand home without repaying the favour. Your generosity must surely be paid tenfold."
Gaia smiles. "You do not have to pay me as of yet, my dear child. In fact, I do not think that you need to pay me at all. But if you want, you can help me in my garden tomorrow."
I immediately agreed. "Of course. Anything for you."
She giggles, and then says, "Now finish up your food, and then you must be in bed. You still must have your rest."
I nod and began to tuck into the delicious food again.
Selene stands at the gates, controlling the movement of the moon with her hands. She brings the white orb heavenwards, putting sheer concentration on it before it finally situates itself in the dark, starry sky.
She hears footsteps behind her and she turns. She sees a man with shoulder-length burnt orange hair and rust-coloured eyes approaching her.
Her brother, Helios.
"Is there still no sign of Artemis?" Selene asks, hopeful that maybe this time, his answer would be different.
Helios sighs and shakes his head, bringing both his and Selene's spirits down.
"No. I still cannot find her," he answers regretfully.
Selene sighs in dismay, and gazes at the moon.
"Wherever can she be, Helios?"
I have a nagging feeling to do this, so I hope all of you don't mind.
I'm kind of curious to know how my readers picture the age of the characters to be (e.g. How old do you think Apollo looks like, etc.)
So if you are free, maybe drop in your answers. But if you are not, then I don't mind :)
Muse of Fanfiction