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Do not get excited please
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Huh, I kind of miss her being the dumb half, I thought to myself and also any Olympians listening.
No one was saying anything, which was suspicious as frick, so I spoke up.
"What? No, don't be ridiculous. Phoebe has been a very good friend to us. She was kidnapped before the contest started; she had nothing to do with it."
When people say that someone is "lying to themselves", they very rarely mean it as literally as is occurring here.
Did I feel bad to not telling half of me that there are a pair of sadistic gods that tortured one of our closest friends and then blackmailed said friend into killing us, just for their sick amusement? No, Emily's been alive for less than a week; she doesn't need to know how evil the world is sometimes. Olympus knows I'd rather not know.
"Thank you," Emily said. "that clarifies things."
The goddesses looked at me with less rage in their eyes than before, which was astounding progress in my book. Thalia was staring at me with a mixture of disapproval and being impressed, so nothing new there.
"Okay, now that that is settled and Aemilia hasn't set us on fire again-"
I opened my mouth, remembered how well they took my joke last time, and shut it.
"-Artemis and I are going to let the Capture the Flag competition resume, and the recombination will occur after the next point. We'll keep you informed of any developments. In the meantime, continue with this training exercise. Don't rest on your laurels yet, Thalia," Diana gave her one of her rare smiles, and then both goddesses disappeared.
I sighed. "Well, I only got tortured a little, which is probably the best outcome I could have hoped for. Now if anyone needs me, I'm going to go shake on the ground."
"We're already an hour behind in the competition. Can you go scout or something useful?" Thalia sighed, looking toward the sun. "You were only hurt a little bit."
I stared at her for a second to gauge her seriousness, and I was pretty horrified at what I saw, which was nothing. No pity, no empathy, nothing.
For the first time in almost two minutes, a huge wave of discomfort washed over me. Are Thalia and I even friends? Would she care an iota about me if I wasn't Diana's daughter?
Emily was standing next to me silently, so I decided to have this conversation with Thalia later.
"Sure. Emily and I will go scout."
Thalia either ignored my terseness or chose not to comment on it.
I stalked off into the woods, barely not muttering profanity and/or glowing. How dare she not-
"Are you okay?" I heard Emily quietly ask me, and it was not the first time that adverb has applied to one of her actions.
With a sigh, I turned to look at her. "I'm fine. I've just bee evaluating my friendship with Thalia, you know, since trying to explain to you that the person with all the zapping is actually one of our good friends. She's not very affectionate, so that means I have to squint so incredibly hard to read between the lines. It just gets tiring after a while. Anyway, once you get your memories back, you'll know what I mean."
I smiled faintly at her, ignoring the lurch in my stomach at the prospect of recombining. It'll be fine. I'll be okay.
Emily stared at me for a second, and then she gave me a slight nod. "She seems like a dangerous person to make an enemy of."
We hadn't walked very far, but we were well out of earshot of the camp, and I felt bad about giving Emily a skewed impression. "Nah, Thalia is cool. We just have different priorities and ways of expressing ourselves. I respect her, and I think she respects me. We've been through too much for any alternative."
Emily didn't say anything, so I was glad to hear I had assuaged her fears, at the cost of exacerbating my own.
Whatever. I have the rest of Emily's life to grumble silently at Thalia.
"So, patrolling the border is super boring, so we're gonna do some scouting of the enemy's territory. It'll be great!"
"I believe you," Emily said in a completely monotone voice.
We made it about twenty feet into Josie's territory before meeting one of her patrols. This was a sizable group of four girls, two of whom I suspected were planning on breaking into Thalia's side.
"Well, well, well, what have we here? Looks like two of the highest prized targets in the game. Josie's gonna be thrilled," one of the girls drawled in a slightly southern accent, because that's the only accent that drawls.
The girl gestured, and two of the girls moved behind us, making us well and truly trapped.
"Now, none of that fake stammering stuff. That shit is twisted. In fact, gag 'em."
The girls behind us apparently had cloth ready, because we were gagged in the blink of an eye.
Now, you may expect me to act like Aemilia previously had. All the twitching, stuttering, etc.
But they severely overestimated how impressive a bunch of teenagers would be to someone whose memories of hell vastly outnumbered any others. This encounter, this level of fear that they thought they were inspiring in me, was honestly ridiculous, statistically.
Oh, wait, these little girls are threatening me, I should probably pay more attention to that.
"You guys are coming with us. Let's go," the Dixie ordered, and the people who had gagged us pushed us, and we started walking towards their camp. We were an odd pair of captives, since they forgot to tie our hands.
We trekked in mostly silence, and the girls missed a chance to try to actually intimidate us. Aemilia was uncharacteristically quiet as we walked, and I figured her fight with Thalia was still bothering her.
Finally, we arrived at the edge of the camp, and one of the girls went to fetch Josie. When the two of them came back, she smiled a big, genuine smile at her teammates.
"Nice job! Was it hard to rustle them up?"
The girls sort of chuckled. "No, they wandered into our side, just the two of them. They didn't even have any weapons with them!"
At this news, Josie's grin disappeared, and her eyes flitted to the woods surrounding us. "And you guys didn't think that was strange? That the second and third most valuable people on the other team went strolling into our territory? Guys, this is the textbook definition of a trap."
"No, they are-" one of the girls tried to interject, but apparently couldn't think of nonmalicious motives for us.
Apparently us just being super dumb never entered their minds.
Josie ran her hand through her hair. "Okay, so, yikes. Heather, take Aemilia to the usual jail, I'm going to talk to them one at a time."
"My name's Laura, still," Laura grumbled as she walked Aemilia away.
Josie groaned and dismissed the other girls, avoiding using any names. Then, she focused her attention on me.
She looked at me with the same deadly serious gaze she had looked at the Hunter who had challenged her in the first introduction. It was the look of someone who had a deep, intimate knowledge of hell, and it was familiar. "Emily, you're first."
We crossed the border back into Thalia's territory, still not speaking to each other.
I squinted at Emily out of the corner of my eye. She seemed unperturbed, or, at least, her normal level of perturbed. I considered asking her what she and Josie had talked about, but figured she would take that as me implying that she was a traitor and freak out.
I prefer myself not freaked, generally.
We arrived back in the main camp, and it was no longer devoid of Hunters. Someone had started cooking in the hour we were gone, and the smell of stew was beginning to waft through the encampment.
I can't remember the last time our author had us eat, so we headed off to the good smells.
There were two girls talking, and they quieted as we approached, cool.
"Hey, folks. Need any help with food prep? I'm really good with fire," I offered helpfully.
I guess they somehow didn't hear about me igniting two deities, so the joke fell flat.
It's not the first time that's happened, but I normally can't identify why so easily.
The girl holding a ladle, and therefore our lives, in her hands smiled politely. "I think we're all set; it just needs to cook for a bit."
There was a silence, and then I realized that I already had a ridiculous excess of characters (remember Amanda? lol), and that I didn't need to flesh out these characters.
We waited in silence for about twenty minutes, except for all my stomach grumbling.
Finally, after I considered bringing up my probable immunity to salmonella, the Ladle Lass tried the stew and proclaimed it ready.
Emily had been hesitant to interact with the growing group of girls waiting for food, so I walked over and ushered her to the line. If it was up to me, I would have been first in line, but my gosh-darned kinda twin would have stood there all sad-like...
Basically, I'm a hero.
Finally, we got our bowls, and we had just sat down to eat when the cannon boomed.
"Was that us?" I asked, already accustomed to a winning lifestyle.
Two of the girls who we had seen Thalia order to scout earlier put down their empty bowls and stood. "Nope, that must have been Josie's team."
Sure enough, Thalia stormed, heh, out of her tent.
Okay, she really just wandered out looking confused, but the joke was right there.
"We don't have any active recon teams, so I think they got us. That's a bummer," Thalia said, a lot more calm than I would have expected. "We'll see what Carly and Charlie say."
She glanced at an opening in the trees, almost as if she expected people to immediately emerge. When they didn't, she looked at the two standing girls. "Go check on them, would ya?"
There was muttering, and so I took the opportunity to eat some stew. "Wait, where's my spoon?"
Emily helped me look for it, but before we could locate it, four girls emerged from the clearing.
Two of the girls had their hands bound and were looking generally roughed up. No bruises or cuts, but one was limping a bit, and the other had leaves in her hair.
"What happened?" Thalia exclaimed. "And why are your hands still tied?"
The two girls who had been sent to find them shrugged. "We thought it might have been a Jessica and Jen situation."
The limpy girl scowled. "We aren't the traitors. Josie herself came after us, there wasn't anything we could do. She did her stupid hellscape thing, which incapacitated us instantly. She also had Bella and Pernly with her, which was really overkill."
Thalia ran her hand through her hair. "Okay, okay. I'm assuming your hair is because you were on the ground, but what's with the limp?"
"Tripped on a root on the way to our shift. Is being clumsy enough to earn my character a name?" she asked, looking hopefully into the camera.
Okay, I almost definitely imagined that.
Thalia sighed. "Huh, they must have scouted it out. We'll hide it better next time."
Limpy coughed a bit. "Actually, Thalia, can I talk to you in private?"
"Uh, sure. We can talk now. Hernet, Lopdor, you both come too," Thalia said, and the two girls who had fetched Limpy and the other one of them followed Limpy and Thalia into her tent. I noticed that Emily and I were no longer on the VIP list, but that's probably for the best, I was still pretty frustrated with Thalia.
"I wonder what that's about," I said, abandoning my hunt for a spoon and getting up to check the serving table for extras. I had just returned to my seat and tried to take my first sip of soup.
And I did so, successfully.
Wasn't that a fun plotline?
There was a faint chatter, and I found myself wondering what these girls who spent literally all day every day together had to talk about. Heck, a week of summer camp and I needed 48 hours to detox, minimum. We were slightly isolated from the other girls, so I couldn't eavesdrop on them, but I was still feeling chatty, so I decided to bug Emily.
"If you lost your left arm and could replace it with any animal appendage, what would it be?"
She set down her empty bowl carefully and frowned.
"I would choose an octopus tentacle, for snacks!" I said, trying to get the conversation started.
She said silent, and I was just about to give up when I heard her quietly say "Elephant trunk."
"I guess that counts as an appendage! But why?"
Emily smiled faintly. "Then I could breathe underwater."
I chuckled a painful chuckle. This was not my preferred line of thought, but oh well. "Solid answer!"
One of the girls who was walking to get a refill overheard us. "What about a sloth arm?" She made a claw with one hand and very slowly brought it up, which was pretty hilarious.
"Okay, okay, how about the front half of a snake? Does that count?" I asked, jokingly, drawing a chuckle from sloth girl.
Her hand finally reached its full sloth potential. "Okay, then I'm going to say a whole lion!"
The mental image was so good that sloth girl and I burst into laughter. And by "burst" I mean burst, the other girls looked over to see what all the hubbub was about.
We eventually quieted down, and there was a brief moment of silence, until Emily quietly said "Udder", which set us off again, louder than before. Even Emily chuckled a bit, which was like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs, but in a not-insulting way.
Sloth wiped the tears from her eyes and started "Hey, what about-"
A gloved hand grabbed my shoulder from behind, which was a bit startling.
I let out a soft, theatrical shriek then turned. "Yes?"
It was one of the scouts from before. "Thalia would like to see both of you in her tent, immediately."
"She can come ask us like a civilized human," I scoffed.
The hand tightened on my shoulder. "You will come now."
Her calm tone wasn't as convincing as her amateur Vulcan death grip.
Emily's not dumb like I am, so she didn't warrant a threatening shoulder grip. We both got to our feet and entered Thalia's tent.
Thalia's tent was oddly dark, considering it was early in the evening. She was sitting on the crate that served as her desk chair, and she nodded at the scout who brought us in.
The girl didn't leave; she merely retreated to stand near the door. The other girls were nowhere to be seen.
"So," Thalia began, not looking up from her desk. "Carly and Charlie had a few interesting observations about the flag being taken."
Now she did look up, and she raised a finger for each observation. "1, Josie herself came, which is extremely rare, as captains are the highest prized targets. 2, Our scouts reported no change in their activities, which indicates that this was a deep, targeted attack. 3, Carly overheard Belle saying, and I quote, 'She said it'd be just a bit further up.'" Thalia leveled a look at Aemilia and me. "So, as two people who disappeared for an hour and whose return prompted our flag to get stolen, you can imagine that I have a few questions for you."
I knew Aemilia would get me tortured one day.
"I'll give you both one chance to confess. Which of you told Josie where the flag was? It'll be easier for you if you just tell me now, as opposed to dragging this. process. out."
The full stops between words were 4/10 on the intimidation scale.
Neither Aemilia nor I said anything, and Thalia sighed. "Okay. Let's go over the facts. Aemilia, you were clearly still angry about the time you set two goddesses on fire and I didn't immediately assuage your hurt ego. Emily, Josie's connection to hell makes her someone you'd especially want to stay on the good side of. Both of you have adequate cause, and I will figure out who it was soon enough. Assuming it wasn't a collaborative effort, of course."
There was silence.
Thalia sighed. "Okay. You guys are now both officially prisoners of our camp. That comes with a certain removal of privileges. Such as vision."
There were footsteps, and we were both blindfolded, I assume. As a fun added bonus, our hands were also tied. Yay, I love being on the good side.
"Tell me everything that happened in the hour you were gone. Emily, you first. Sasha will escort Aemilia out, so you can speak in total confidence."
There was the sound of footsteps, and I was alone and blindfolded with a known sociopath.
"Okay, begin. And don't leave anything out," Thalia ordered, her voice no closer than before.
"So," Josie said "we both have information the other is interested in. I propose a trade."
I was still gagged, so I didn't respond.
Josie rolled her eyes. "You can remove your gag now, since your hands aren't tied and all. This is seriously amateur hour."
I removed my gag and looked at her carefully. "Very well. I know you want the location of Thalia's flag. What information do you have for me?"
Josie took a deep breath. "I know why you died. And I know who's to blame."
"I already know that. A goddess with a feud with Lady Artemis killed me as an act of revenge."
"Ah, I was wondering how much they told you. But Aphrodite didn't kill you. She had someone else do it. And there's more." Josie was watching me very carefully.
I blinked. This was a bit surprising, but it could just be a trick to get me to tell her where Thalia's flag was. "I am not quite sure why I should believe you," I said, cautiously. "No disrespect to the daughter of hell, of course."
Josie sighed. "Wow, this place is a mess. I should not be the one to tell you this, honestly, but I feel more than a little guilty about my dad's role in all this. I'll tell you the truth, and you can decided whether or not to tell me where the flag is. This is pricking my conscious, and that's a tough feat."
She then told me the truth.
Of course, I didn't tell Thalia any of that.
"Aemilia and I were captured. Josie chose to interrogate me first. She didn't ask about the flag. I would have told her where it was if she had. She seemed over her head about the whole affair. She then walked me to the prisoner holding area. Then she walked Aemilia back to her tent. About twenty minutes later, they returned. We were then released. We walked directly back to your camp." I purposely stuck to simple, succinct sentences. It's a lot harder to get caught in the details if you don't supply any.
Thalia was silent, so I hoped she was nodding, which would be a good sign. "If she didn't ask about the flag, what did she ask about?"
"She wanted to know how the camp was run. She seemed to think hers was in a bit of a disarray and wanted tips."
There was another pause, and I really wished I could read her face. "Very well. I'll be honest with you; I am pretty sure Aemilia is the leak. I just wanted to appear unbiased. Is there anything else you wanted to tell me before I send you out?"
It was hard not to show my relief. "No, I don't believe so. They didn't give any indication of where their flag was, otherwise I would have reported it to you."
"I know you would have. Hey, Josie didn't try to threaten you with hell, did she? That'd be too much for even Artemis, she'd have to reinstate me."
"No, she didn't. I got the impression that she would never unnecessarily threaten or harm someone in the Hunters." Saying that was dumb; it just slipped out.
Luckily, Thalia didn't pick up on the accusation. "Well, darn, that's a shame. Ah, well. I'm going to get Sasha, and she'll take you to the tree."
"Am I going to be tied to the tree?" I asked with a fake calmness. I will absolutely not be blindfolded and tied to a tree, hell no.
Or, actually, yes, hell.
"No, no. That would be barbaric. You'll just be seated near it. We're not monsters, Emily." Thalia's tone had a bit of hurt to it, but I didn't know what to say to bolster her feelings.
She left to presumably get Sasha. Sure enough, a minute later, the tent flap rustled and I heard Sasha.
"I know you're the leak."
My heart started pounding, and the blindfold became stifling. "I am not."
She walked in front of me, judging by her footsteps. "You think you can pull off the scared, little girl routine forever? I'm onto you. I won't let you sabotage Thalia."
There was weird whistling sound in the air, and I considered a blind headbutt approach, which would result in my almost certain immobilization and subsequent torture. Remaining passive was the best option. I can bear this. The tent grew cold, very cold, and it gave me an excellent excuse to shake.
Before Sasha could do whatever she had planned, there was the sound of a tent flap opening. "Sasha! Step away from her!"
"She knows more than she's saying, and I can get the truth out of her!" Sasha growled, her voice even closer than it had been.
The setting is difficult to describe with a blindfold on; this was a terrible narrative decision.
"Back. away. from. her. now," Thalia ordered, and there was a crackling coming from where she was standing. "or else I'll remove you from the camp."
Then, angry footsteps as Sasha apparently stormed out of the tent. "I'm so sorry, Emily! I went to get some water. I didn't know she would... Fuck. Okay, one sec, I'll take your blindfold off, this was all a terrible idea." She began to untie the cloth around my eyes. "I thought she would know not to do the follow-up scare with you, of all people. Sorry, I should have told her explicitly not to."
Hearing that this fear tactic was a common occurrence and not a one-time mistake made me wish for not the first time that I was on the other team. My blindfold fell, and I squinted around the tent. It was just Thalia and I, and it looked like it wasn't quite sunset yet. The tent was simple, with a big desk for Thalia, two crates to use as chairs, and a small table with weapons near the entrance to the tent. I looked at Thalia, who motioned with her head for me to stand up.
I followed her out of the tent, and we headed into the woods. Almost immediately we heard a faint whistling, which grew louder as we walked. After a couple minutes, we came to a small clearing illuminated by a couple lanterns. Sitting by a tree, was a blindfolded Aemilia, who was loudly whistling a tune that sounded familiar.
A couple feet away from her was the other Hunter who was leaning against a tree, covering her ears and scowling at Aemilia. She stood at attention when Thalia and I arrived.
"Glad you're here, Thalia! Is it time for you to take Aemilia? Please?"
Aemilia stopped whistling. "Thalia! Finally, I've been going crazy here. You've been interrogating Emily for hours!"
Thalia squinted at the sun for a second, then looked back at Aemilia with a confused frown. "It's been ten minutes. Okay, time for you to come with me."
"Great!" She sprang to her feet, very clumsily with her hands bond, but her enthusiasm was apparent. "What about Emily? Did she confess or anything?"
Thalia looked at me with an eyebrow raised, and I looked at her with a fragment of the scorn I actually felt. "No, she didn't. She's fine, just silent. Say hello, Emily."
Aemilia chuckled. "Yep, that's her! Any chance I could get this blindfold off? I can imagine all sorts of unpleasant situations that may arise that I won't be able to describe to my legions of fans. You know, once I write all of this down. In the future. Definitely not happening right now, in bed, wearing the old type of sweatpants that make the swoosh sounds that I found in a thrift store." Aemilia smiled awkwardly.
Thalia's eyes flitted to me, then she walked over to Aemilia and took off her blindfold. "You two are a very annoying set of prisoners. Okay, come on, let's go. Emily, you stay here. Keep an eye on her."
The guard smiled and jokingly saluted as Thalia left, and I cautiously sat where Aemilia had been.
"Welcome! Please don't whistle," she said, and I slumped back against the tree and closed my eyes for a brief rest.
"So, did you say that Emily gave you trouble? Tell me all about it!" I excitedly pressed Thalia for details the second we were out of earshot. "Did she try to escape? That would be the cutest ever!"
Thalia didn't smile, and then I remembered we were fighting.
"No, but one of my girls almost resorted to physical violence in an attempt to interrogate her."
I froze and then started shaking from the sudden wave of anger that hit me. "What."
It wasn't a question, and Thalia recognized that. "It's fine; I intervened before she could do anything."
"Who was it?" I tried to keep the rage out of my voice, but I was faintly glowing, so it wasn't terribly effective.
Thalia sighed and ran her hand through her hair. "I'll take care of it. I can't have you enacting vigilante justice in my camp."
I nodded, and we kept walking, but only because I had guessed who it was.
We marched in silence for just a couple minutes, and then we were back in the camp. Thalia motioned to her tent, and I walked there completely of my own free will, except for my still-tied arms.
I ducked inside awkwardly, since my hands weren't up the challenge.
"Oh, hello," Diana greeted us. I swear, she grinned proudly at me when she noticed my bound hands. But then she remembered that I set her on fire, and she frowned a bit. "Did you attempt some espionage?"
Thalia kneeled. "Greetings, My Ladies."
Artemis and Diana both appeared unsinged and in good spirits.
"Rise, Thalia! Time to halve our problems. Speaking of which, where is Emily, and why are Aemilia's hands tied behind her back?" Artemis asked, looking at Thalia quizzically.
Thalia paused for a second. "Uh, Emily is by the prisoner's tree; she and Aemilia are sort of under suspicion of treason."
"I knew you were a bad influence on yourself," Diana said, shaking her head. "Well, go get her, it's time to combine them."
A pit fell in my stomach, and Thalia ducked out of the tent.
"So, Aemilia, I know you're probably upset that you have to go back into Emily's head, but she'll need you in there to help her remember stuff. Plus, she'll probably find out about Phoebe, so you'll need to give some context there. And remember, there's still the off chance that you'll be able to resume control of the body someday, so please remember that when you contemplate not helping her take care of herself," Artemis said carefully.
I nodded solemnly. "Believe it or not, I care about her in not just a selfish way. I'll protect her the best I can, but you'll need to check in on her too."
"We will," Artemis promised, and Thalia and Emily entered the tent. "so, let's get this party started. Now, we're going to go outside, and Zeus is gonna zap ya. It'll probably feel a lot like when y'all were separated, so not great. Not as bad as being lit on fire, but still. Let's go."
I dragged my feet a bit, but a stern look from Diana got me moving.
The sun was setting, and there was a nice breeze. I couldn't help but close my eyes for a bit, knowing this would be the last time I would feel this.
The bonfire seemed like the appropriately dramatic background for the recombination, so we headed there.
"Okay," Artemis said, clasping and unclasping her hands nervously. "it looks like we're ready. Wait, Thalia, untie their hands."
Thalia drew one of the probably fifty knives she had on her person and cut us free. I considered running, but only for a split second, which shows my character development.
Wait, since when am I the rash one?
When did I become like this?
Before I could have much more of an identity crisis, Thalia stepped away from us.
"Okay, so, all I need to do is call Zeus and he'll-"
There was a loud crack, and we all jumped back.
In the middle of our loose circle was a person curled up on the ground, who had materialized out of nowhere. Her hands were tied behind her back, and there was a note on her back.
"Phoebe?" Thalia and Artemis said in unison, and Diana and Emily looked startled.
Thalia reached down and touched her lightly on the shoulder, which prompted Phoebe to curl into a tighter ball. "Phoebe, hey, Phoebe, it's okay, you're safe now. I'm going to pull this paper off of you now. You're fine!"
She pulled the paper off, since it was only affixed with tape, read it, scowled, and handed it to Artemis.
"'Dear Sister: Please take this with our compliments; she was surprisingly hard to track down. Sorry we tried to kill your daughter. This is the closest we'll come to a truce. Love, A&A" she finished reading and crumpled the note in her hand, looked at Diana and then looked back at Phoebe. "Phoebe? Phoebe, can you hear me?"
The girl on the ground moved a bit, and she slowly raised her dirty head. "L-Lady Art-" Her voice broke, but it was definitely Phoebe.
"Call Apollo," Artemis ordered, but Diana was already on it.
It was ten seconds before Apollo was here, kneeling on the ground next to Phoebe. "Phoebe? It's me, I'm going to heal you now."
His hands started to glow, and Phoebe slowly uncrumpled.
"It's mostly superficial," Apollo reassured us, not taking his eyes off his daughter. "Let me guess, our favorite sadistic couple?"
Diana sighed. "Yeah, it was them. It seems to have been a peace offering of sorts. Our response is yet to be determined."
Apollo didn't say anything; he concentrated on healing Phoebe.
I looked over and saw Emily watching this scene carefully, and I wondered if she remembered who Apollo was.
Finally, Phoebe sat up, slowly, and coughed weakly. "Hi."
Thalia went to get her a cup of water, but by the time she returned, Apollo had already summoned one. Phoebe was drinking slowly, but she was already looking better. Apollo hadn't untied her hands, which was weird.
After she finished her glass of water, Apollo offered to refill it, but she waved it off.
"Hello, My Ladies," Phoebe said, inclining her head at both goddesses. "Thank you, Father. Aemilia- Emily? You're- you're alive? I k- I thought you were dead."
She rose to her feet and took a step toward her.
Then, Emily pulled out a knife from one of her pockets and held it in front of her, a couple inches from Phoebe's heart "You killed me."
"Yes," Phoebe said, resignedly. "Yes, I did."
Apollo made a movement, but Artemis waved him off. Where did Emily get a knife?
Emily stared Phoebe dead in the eyes. "Why?"
"Aphrodite said if I didn't kill you, she would, and she would have tortured Aemilia and I to death. But it was still my decision." Phoebe was completely calm, not even glancing at the knife.
Emily frowned at her for a second. "When were you and Aphrodite having this conversation? Why were the two of you together?"
"She captured me and held me prisoner for several weeks. It was… rough. At the end of it, they also had Aemilia, and I had to make a deal, otherwise they never would have let us out. It devastated me to hurt you, but I just had to hope that you being in two forms would mean it wasn't permanent. I'm sorry, Emily, I really am. Kill me if you want. I deserve it. Honestly, it has to be better than what my life has turned into these last few months."
Her honesty was heartbreaking, and sure enough, Emily dropped the knife and then lightly traced the scar Phoebe had given her. We all waited with bated breath, and then Emily steeled herself, and lowered her fists to her side.
"I- I forgive you, Phoebe."
She jerkily held her hand out for a handshake, but Phoebe pulled her into a hug, which Emily cautiously returned. Phoebe then started crying, and so did I, if we're being honest. See, I am a reliable narrator.
No one really said anything, and the sound of quiet sniffling was broken by the appearance of an Iris message.
"Artemis?" Josie's voice emanated from the glowing screen-type thing. "Can we talk? Things are pretty bad here, and I need advice."
Artemis glanced at all of us then sighed. "I'll be right there. Are you in your camp's head tent?"
"Yes! I'll see you soon," Josie ended the message.
"Sorry, folks, I gotta take care of that. I'll try to be back quickly," Artemis didn't exactly seem thrilled at the prospect, but she was probably still wary of pissing off Hades.
She disappeared, and Phoebe detached herself from Emily, who was still looking nonplussed, but also softer somehow.
"Phoebe," Diana said, gently "where have you been the past couple weeks? We've had several gods looking for you."
Phoebe chuckled sadly. "Yeah, I figured you would. I went deep off the grid. I was living in the woods up in Canada, foraging for food. At least, until Ares found me yesterday. I had been spotted by some eagles that he had sent to find me, and he got me. I got a bit jostled, but then he just stuck me in a cell and ignored me for a day before dropping me off here."
"Where did the darkness during the awards ceremony come from? How did you arrange that?" Thalia asked, and I wondered if her time with Nyx was on her mind.
Phoebe shrugged. "I honestly don't know. I wasn't expecting it, but it must have been Aphrodite or Ares. Can I ask something? How are you here, Emily? I mean, I definitely killed you."
Emily flinched a bit. "Indeed."
"I can help with that one," I chimed in. "So, first off, we've known it was you for quite a while. My memory wiping didn't exactly stick, which may have been intentional, now that I think about it. And Aphrodite confirmed it a couple days later. Anyway, turns out Emily had tried to kill Aphrodite with a weapon, which is a huge rule no one told us about, which is fine. We had a haphazard scheme about her signing a document of absolution from hell? It was not our best, but that's when we realized she was in the Fields of Punishment. That was too much for Artemis, so we talked to Hades and he let her out, mostly because-" I paused here, barely remembering to not spill the beans on Josie "I was still alive, and half dead is fun for no one. Plus, he found out that Emily didn't actually have a weapon, it was just a ruse, so he let us take her. Her memories were already wiped by the time we got to her, so that explains all this."
I gestured at Emily, who acknowledged me with a quizzical look. She hadn't heard all this before either, but she was handling it all pretty well.
Phoebe looked at us. "Woah, I keep forgetting that you aren't Emily. I legitimately can't tell the difference between old Emily and current Aemilia."
"Hey," I said, slightly offended. "I would never risk my personal safety just for a goof."
Thalia coughed. "What about that time you set Artemis and Diana on fire and then tried to joke about it? And you ended up asking Justicia all those questions? Plus, you haven't bowed or said 'My Lady' in ages. Even your speech patterns are looser."
Before Thalia could further explain the point to which I've regressed, Artemis reappeared, and she had an odd look on her face.
"What did Josie want?" Diana asked, only vaguely interested. "More advice on how to do simple tasks?"
Artemis smiled, oddly. "No, she wanted to resign as lieutenant. Apparently the stress of controlling half the camp was too much, so she didn't want to risk ruining the entire camp. She asked to stay on as a normal Hunter, which I agreed to. I also messaged Hades and checked that it was okay with him and he said he didn't care as long as she was happy."
"What? Her team just got a flag!" I exclaimed.
Artemis grinned. "She said it didn't bring up morale as much as she had hoped and that it was too hard to resolve conflicts when she didn't know the girls."
"Good thing I told her where the flag was!" I laughed, grinning at Thalia, who did not smile back.
"Woah, you pulled a Jen? That's not cool," Phoebe said, pretty judgmentally for someone who had killed another person in this conversation.
Thalia cocked her head, then looked at Emily. "Oh, you weren't the rat? You were sketchy as heck."
"I, uh, also told Josie where the flag was. Seems as though it was a team effort."
Diana, Phoebe, and Artemis all burst into laughter at poor Thalia's plight.
"Well, cool. I'm glad you guys will be one person soon, it'll be easier to keep an eye on you," Thalia said, shaking her head with a chuckle.
Diana and Artemis looked at each other. "Well, then, we should get to recombining. I'll call Zeus. Aemilia, now would be the time for parting remarks."
Artemis walked a few paces away and called Zeus.
"Oh, uh, sure. It was fun being able to walk where I want to, and it was nice to get to know people through conversations not consisting entirely of jokes and bad choices. But seriously though, I'm glad I'll see you all again through Emily's eyes at least. And you can just assume anything intelligent she says is coming straight form me. See you folks later," I nodded at Thalia and Phoebe, and bowed a bit to Diana.
Artemis ended her Iris message. "Here it comes!"
There was a flash, and I was blasted apart.
"Ugh," I groaned. "that wasn't my favorite thing. In fact, that was probably one of my least favorite things."
I looked around, and Thalia and Phoebe were huddled over someone else.
"I feel like y'all aren't as worried about me as one could expect. Wait, Artemis? What happened?" I rushed over there also, but before I could, she rose to her feet, and another deity appeared in our camp.
Zeus was wearing a dark suit, and he surveyed the scene with a slight smile. "Hello, everyone."
"Hello, Father," Artemis, Apollo, and Thalia all greeted him with a bow, so I did the same.
I looked around, and Diana was nowhere to be seen.
"So, I recombined everyone, not just Emily and Aemilia. Now balance is restored. I know Artemis was excited to have her Roman buddy, but that's not what the universe requires. Now everything is as it should be. Congratulations on a successful Games, Apollo, that was extremely entertaining. Congratulations, Greek halves. Now please stop doing so much murder, there's been way too much murder. Have a good night, children and grandchildren and great-grandchild."
With that, Zeus disappeared.
"Ah, that's a bummer, having Di around was nice. So, I need a lieutenant. Thalia, would you like to be the Lieutenant of the Hunters of Artemis?" Artemis pulled the circlet out of one of her pockets.
Thalia took a small step forward, almost subconsciously, and then beamed and kneeled. "It would be an honor, My Lady."
Artemis crowned her, then placed a hand on her shoulder. "It is good to have you back, Thalia."
"This is very touching," Apollo said, ruining the moment only a little. "But what are we going to do about Ares and Aphrodite?"
Artemis ran her hand through her hair. "Honestly, I say we let bygones be bygones. They gave us Phoebe unharmed, and the only proper response to them putting her in that circumstance is to kill them both, but this could be an end to this vicious hate cycle. Unless, Phoebe, if you would like to seek restitution, I will support you entirely."
"I'd be totally fine if we dropped it forever," Phoebe said, a little shiver going down her spine that we all hated equally.
Apollo shrugged. "If Phoebe's content, then so am I. However, I will be stopping in more frequently to check on things. It's going to take some time to heal from all this, but we'll be here for you. But right now, I'm going to return to my date and hope she hasn't noticed my fifteen minute absence. She's pretty dumb, so I have high hopes. See you folks later! Glad to have you back, Greek sis! "
He gave Phoebe a quick hug and disappeared.
Artemis smiled. "Okay, now we can bring these games to an end, finally, and return to normal life. They've served their purpose."
"'Served their purpose'? What do you mean?" Thalia asked, staring at Artemis. "Did you… did you suggest Capture as a way of stressing Josie out so much that she quit?"
Artemis said nothing, but her smile spoke volumes.
"We'll announce the end of games first thing in the morning. And don't be too harsh with Josie, she has actually shown signs of improvement. I won't have you being overly cruel to her because of- oh, wait, I still can't tell you that. Anyway, Josie is a welcome addition to our ranks. Now, Emily, what do you want to do? You can join the Hunters full-time, or go back to your normal life. I can guarantee Diana won't show up outside your house wanting to kill you again."
I bit my lip and tried to figure out how long the past few weeks or months or whatever had actually taken and whether I'd be able to finish my semester. It's really hard to keep track of time when I have double the memories that one might expect.
"I'm tired. Can I go home?"
Artemis chuckled and nodded. "It's been a long couple weeks for you."
"Thalia, it's been real. Thanks for looking out for me all those times, you really came in clutch. Phoebe, it's still cool that you killed me, let me know when I can start joking about that."
Phoebe gave me a pained smile, and I sort of regretted that one a bit.
"Goodbye, folks. I'll probably won't see you for a while, but we've had our fun. Also, is it weird that I don't actually feel any different? Aside from the gnarly new scar, of course." I checked, and it was still there.
Artemis looked at me for a second. "It's weird. It seemed as though half of you was always goofy, and half of you had the respect I've tried so desperately to instill in you. I guess that averages out to who you actually are. Clearly, your ridiculous side dominates, but I guess you are meant to be this way."
"Oh," I said, frowning a bit at the super negative tone in her voice.
Artemis smiled. "It makes sense. The way you are isn't necessarily unequipped for life."
"That is a compliment, I think," I hazarded a guess, and she smiled. "Not, like, a good one, but I appreciate it."
She shrugged. "I mean, you did die that one time. Let's go, fire-starter."
Artemis offered me her arm, and I grabbed it.
"See y'all later!"
We whipped through time and space, and I didn't get nauseous because that's not my style.
We landed in my bedroom, and I briefly debated going to tell my dad that I was back safe but decided I was too sleepy and too terrible of a daughter.
"Thanks for everything, Artemis. I feel like I got to know you more, and it was nice. For the most part. I love you," I mumbled, trying to play it off as not a big deal.
Artemis gave me a quick hug, and it was uncomfortable, but nice. "Thanks for surviving. I am very proud of how you conducted yourself. For the most part. I'll be checking in more frequently now, not just when you want presents from me."
"Oh, speaking of which, can I get that car? It's a little past my birthday, I think, but I'm pretty sure I spent that in hell." I was starting to fade at this point.
Artemis gently herded me towards the bed and tucked me in. "I'll explain everything to your dad, except you dying. We probably shouldn't tell him that you died, dads are weird about that. Then, I'll talk to him about finding you a nice used car. If he feels like you're responsible enough for it, I can make that happen. And no, dying and then coming back to life doesn't automatically make you responsible."
She turned off the light. "And, Emily?"
"Mmmm?" I mumbled.
"I love you too."
There was a soft cracking sound, and she was gone.
I checked my phone that was still charging on my nightstand where I left it, and saw that I had dozens of messages to read.
Yes, I have friends in my high school, even if most of the messages were actually from the Moe's loyalty program.
I considered checking and responding to the messages, but then I heard a little voice say Go to sleep, Emily.
"Good call, Aemilia," I mumbled, and then I slept for a long while.
AN2: Hey, everyone! I figured it was about time to wrap this up, since I hate authors just abandoning stories and I prefer not hating myself. I hope y'all are doing well, and sorry for writing all this violent stuff. It's a weird line to walk between wanting to explore the world of writing while not dipping into the stuff that I shouldn't, as a Christian. I'm not sure I did a good job, but I had fun. Thanks for sticking with this story, and God bless! Let me know how much you liked it but disliked how preachy I got in this author's note. Later!
AN2018: Hello! First off, sorry to anyone who got a notification and thought there was a new chapter. I am very sorry about getting either your hopes or your fears up. I reread this story sometimes, just to spend some time with something I'm proud of, and the typos have been driving me crazy. So, here's a polished version, which clarifies a few plot holes as well. I appreciate all your support, both follows and reviews, and they still mean a lot to me, even five years later. Hope you are all doing well, and I promise this isn't a stunt of any kind.