Poseidon had dashed away from the blinded Kraken with the arrival of Athena and her cohorts. Athena had lobbed a few lazy twists his way, her usual air blades but woven with water instead. She didn’t expect them to hurt the master of the sea within his domain. It was just about getting some distance. “Artemis!” she said warmly. “I’m sorry we were delayed, Hermes passed out when-”
“Athena,” Artemis said in tones a few shade cooler than her usual, already cold voice. “You brought Arachne back.”
“Good to see you too,” Arachne murmured. “I’m so glad, it’s been so long.”
Artemis just ignored her, instead giving Athena a pointed look.
Athena held up a hand. “Can we discuss that later?”
There wasn’t any hesitation before Artemis gave her a curt nod. “We absolutely will. Right now, we need your help.”
The Kraken blood was beginning to clear out of the water, and Athena could see how correct Artemis’ assessment was. Blood churned with water. As Athena watched, a finned Ara was run through on a nereid’s spear. The underworld spirit clutched at the weapon, trying to free herself, only for a passing shark to casually tear off her head. Scenes like that were playing out across the battlefield. To make matters worse, Poseidon had more divine support than they’d been told.
Athena followed the flow of battle, her eyes rapidly scanning through the ocean. “Give me command,” she said to Artemis after a moment. “I know it won’t be popular, but-”
“You have it,” Artemis said. “We can deal with the fall out after you’ve won for us.”
Athena nodded curtly. “Anansi, get to the Olympian lines. Do whatever you have to. Then I want as many illusionary nereids as you can conjure fighting alongside Poseidon’s forces. Make them as believable as possible – I don’t want everyone realizing that a hundred nereids just popped into existence.”
Artemis and Anansi both looked at her like she’d sprouted a second head that was vomiting bile and satanic curses. “Athena, don’t you mean arae and erinyes?“ Artemis asked.
“No.” Athena bit back a curse. She had a plan. She could win this. But it was going to be razor tight. “You gave me command. Trust me. I don’t have time to explain every decision. Anansi, I don’t have time to explain. We have moments before this battle is lost – just do it, please.” As frustrated as she felt, she forced her voice to remain level. Snapping orders just got you sullen soldiers, and sullen soldiers was just a fancy way of saying future corpses.
Anansi considered for a moment then nodded. He transformed his feet into a dolphin’s flipper and kicked off in the indicated direction.
“Artemis, where’s your bow?” Athena asked, moving on to the next item on her list.
“Shattered.” Artemis reached into her nanoverse and plucked out another. It didn’t have the same craftsmanship as her old one, created by Hephaestus specifically for her, but it would function.
“Unfortunate. Give Anansi covering fire until he gets in among the Olympians, then shift your fire. Any time one of Poseidon’s divine allies engages an Olympian in direct combat, turn them into a pincushion then get out. Don’t shoot Poseidon himself, though. Just his friends. Don’t bother with the nereids or ichthyocentaurs, either.”
Artemis drew an arrow and knocked her bow. “I dearly hope I didn’t just make a terrible mistake,” Artemis muttered.
“You don’t trust me?” Athena asked, frowning.
Artemis snorted. “Athena, I would trust you with my life. I just worry your battle sense has grown addled in your old age. You know the goal is to defeat Poseidon, yes?”
Athena’s frown turned into a smile. “You said the same thing when I suggested Odysseus gift the Trojans a horse.”
Artemis fired three more arrows at Nereids that were approaching Anansi. Each one found their mark. “And you remember what Poseidon did to dear Odysseus after that?”
Athena shrugged. “He got home. Eventually.”
Artemis just snorted again instead of dignifying that with a response. Arachne swam nearby. Somehow, even floating in the ocean, she was managing to tap her foot impatiently. “And what are we doing?”
Athena pointed through the water to a great, dark mass that was looming up towards the Olympians. “We’re going to kill a Scylla.” She shifted her feet into flippers. Athena glanced over at Artemis again. “If Poseidon gets near us, shoot him then. We can’t fight this fight on two fronts.”
Artemis just nodded in comprehension, loosing more arrows into the waves. Athena could see the bands of air and water the archer was weaving into each bolt to let them fly like they would though the air, and reminded herself that before look, the Olympian would be drowning on their hunger. We won’t let it get that far. Checking to make sure Arachne had shifted her form enough to accommodate aquatic movement, Athena kicked off in the direction of the Scylla.
“Any amazing plan for how we’re going to defeat this…thing?” Arachne asked beside her.
“Yes. We stab it until it stops moving, then scorch what’s left,” Athena said matter of factly.
“Oh, wonderful. So long as there is a detailed plan, I’m certain this will go fine.” Arachne didn’t bother hiding the vitriol in her voice. “Are you trying to get me killed?”
“I promise you, that’s the last thing on my mind.” Athena said. The dark shape that was the Scylla was gradually gaining definitions. Athena could see the tentacles gaining definition, could see the wolf heads around the waist of a giant woman with hair that flowed like tendrils and a jaw like a shark.
She twisted reality to send a quick message thrumming through the water to reach Persephone’s ears. “I understand,” were the only two words the underworld goddess could spare for Athena right now, but it was enough. Persephone and Athena had always gotten along. Exiles from Olympus tended to stick together like that.
“Let me draw its attention,” Athena said to Arachne. “Wait here, then join the fight after it’s focused on me.”
“That,” Arachne said, slowing her kicks, “sounds a bit more like a plan. Good luck.”
“You mean that?” Athena asked.
“Of course. If you die, the Scylla’s coming for me next.” Arachne shrugged. “Self-preservation.”
Athena chuckled to herself and kicked through the water.
It was time to poke the monster in her eye.