In the chaos that erupted after Hermes arrival, Athena and the others used the ability to phase to exit the cafe before it completely erupted into a full blow riot. Three of the people at the cafe suddenly vanishing into thin air did very little to quell the panic, and the cafe emptied around and through them in a cloud of panicked screams.
“Is that who I think it is?” Arachne asked as Athena and Anansi picked up Hermes, Athena taking his shoulders and Anansi taking him by the knees.
“If you think it is Hermes, you are correct,” Athena said with a grunt. It was that Hermes was heavy, it was just awkward to carry him without grabbing onto any obvious existing injuries. Anansi seemed to be having a similar struggle carrying the unconscious messenger god. We can’t risk hurting him worse, Athena reminded herself. If Artemis had sent him even through there was so much danger, the fight must be dire indeed.
“And he said he was battling…Poseidon?” Arachne’s eyes were wide as she lead them down the street.
Athena grunted again, and shifted her weight as she realized the shoulder she’d been using to support Hermes was fractured in no less than three places. A soft moan escaped from the unconscious god’s lips. “A few centuries ago, the Olympians retreated to a paradise they’d built in the heart of Tartarus. Most of them, at least. Hades was trapped in his realm, and I was exiled.” She could see Arachne bite back a sharp comment at Athena’s exile, and appreciated the woman’s restraint. “A little over a week ago, we went into Tartarus to hunt down Moloch. Don’t worry about who he is, it’s not relevant right now.”
Arachne pursed her lips but let that go.
“Poseidon cut some kind of deal with Moloch. Artemis was dealing with it from within the Olympians retreat. He killed Zeus and Ares, possibly others. After Moloch was defeated, Poseidon fled with a few loyalists, and Artemis is in charge of the Olympians until Zeus resurrects.”
“Artemis?” Arachne asked, her forehead furrowing. “You mean your old friend Artemis, the hunter goddess that skulked about and told most people to leave her alone?”
“Yes,” Athena said. They were approaching a hotel, and phased straight through the door to the stairwell. There would be an empty room that could serve as a makeshift infirmary until Hermes woke up, or one of them was able to move their doorway.
“Things must be dire then,” Arachne murmured.
Athena didn’t bother trying to defend her old friend. Artemis wouldn’t care what Arachne thought of her – in fact, she’d probably be livid at Athena for having brought her out – and there was no benefit in contradicting the truth. Artemis was many things, but leadership was not a role anyone had expected from her. What you don’t understand is that Artemis gives any task she has everything she can. She’ll become adept at it because she has to.
All of that Athena kept to herself, responding only with a grunt.
“Those are shark bites,” Anansi said, almost contemplatively as they climbed the stairs.
“It makes sense,” Athena said. “Poseidon is lord of the sea. It would be in his best interest if he’s angered all of Olympus to hide beneath the waves.”
“And makes engaging him infinitely more dangerous,” Anansi added.
Athena didn’t have an answer to that. Just like tricksters found illusions easier, storm gods could command the winds and lightning with more ease, and war gods were stronger and faster, sea gods could command any manipulation regarding water – or any fluid – as naturally as mortals found breathing. Fighting Poseidon in the ocean wasn’t as dangerous as fighting Enki or Moloch had been, but it was the best analogy for those things before Athena had learned dual nanoverses or millions of years of stored power were possible.
“We’ll be able to help,” Athena said. “By the time we show up, everyone will be deep in their Hungers, including Poseidon. We’ll be fresh and ready.”
“If we help,” Arachne said. Athena nearly lost her patience and barked out an argument – right before she saw Anansi nodding. That put a pause to her tongue.
“We have bigger things concerning us, Athena,” Anansi said softly. “We don’t know how long we have, and we don’t know how great the dangers could be. Wouldn’t it be wiser to conserve our strength until at least the others returned?”
Athena pursed her lips at the subtle barb Anansi had placed in the word “wiser.” Athena had once been regarded as the wisest of all Olympians, but the past few centuries Athena had felt like that wisdom was being eroded under a constant barrage of…well, of life. “No,” Athena said, her voice firm. “You two can do as you will. I won’t pretend it’s smart. I won’t pretend it’s wise. I certainly will not pretend it’s even a good idea. But I will not stand by while Poseidon reaches victory. I won’t lie and claim that I’m doing this because, if Poseidon wins, he could pose a real threat to us during the last days. I believe it, but that’s not why I’m doing it. I’m doing it because my gut tells me it is the right thing to do.”
Anansi nodded. “Then I will go with you.” Simple agreement, and if they hadn’t been carrying Hermes unconscious body up a flight of stairs, Athena would have hugged him.
“I wouldn’t miss it, in that case,” Arachne said with a small smile. “The only Olympian you ever let me meet was Artemis. I think it’d make a good impression if I meet them for the first time by coming to the rescue.”
At that moment, Athena could have hugged her former pupil too.