Athena stepped out of her staging area onto the entrance to Olympus for the first time in over three hundred years. She’d been here just weeks ago with Crystal and Ryan, but she’d had to climb the mountain like a mortal petitioner. Now she could arrive from her staging area, a proper arrival for a goddess that she’d been denied for far too long.
This wasn’t Olympus as she’d last seen it either. Then, it had been a forlorn place, a hollow shell of what it once had been. Now, however, it swarmed with activity. Gods walked its streets again, dressed in their finery and talking amicably. It was still in ruins – the brief time the Olympians had been back on their mountain had not been enough to repair the damage – but seeing it full of her kin again made the ruin feel less oppressive. More temporary. This was a place that was damaged by the ravages of time, but it was a place that would be rebuilt.
Of course, they’d have to move the entrance. Earth would be devoid of all human life soon, and that had to include the Olympians. As she walked the streets, marvelling in the joy of seeing it teeming with life again, she could hear Hephestus and Hades talking about moving the entrance to Hades’ realm as an interim solution, something to keep them clear of the temptation of Earth until a suitable place could be found on this newly habitable world.
“Athena!” Artemis shouted. She was standing atop a pillar, directing a trio of nereids who were carrying a single finger from a downed statue. Athena smiled and waved at Artemis, picking up her pace to reach the archer goddess.
“How is everything coming along here?” Athena asked, leaping on the pillar alongside Artemis
Artemis grimaced and shook her head, dropping her voice. “I’m keeping everyone busy with reconstruction so they don’t think too much about what’s coming. Only took the remainder of the Twelve I can trust with me to guard the UN meeting. Tensions are high right now.”
Athena looked around. “It doesn’t feel like it.”
“I know,” Artemis sighed. “Everyone’s pleased to be back. Everyone’s even gladder to be out of Tartarus, and looking forward to going back to Earth. It’s keeping things from boiling over, but that last bit is the main problem.”
“Going back to Earth?” Athena asked.
“Yes. The knowledge that it won’t be around for much longer is weighing on people.” Artemis stopped herself to yell at the nereids, who had started to slack off in her inattention. They leapt at the sound of her voice and started to move quicker. “I’d be more worried if there was anyone claiming the end wasn’t coming. Right now the worst that would happen is some more people will slip away.”
“Slip away?” Athena’s forehead furrowed.
“Leave. Abandoned Olympus. They’ve gone to Earth to see what’s new, or get drunk with mortals, or screw themselves silly.”
“That’s imbecilic. Two of those will still be present in the new world.”
Artemis shrugged. “I’m not wasting my time stopping them. We have too much to do instead of wasting time wrangling waste. So far no one of much import has left, save one.”
Athena didn’t ask this time, instead just giving Artemis a raised eyebrow.
“Eris,” Artemis said.
Athena swore, and Artemis nodded in agreement. Eris, goddess of strife. “Did anyone ever find where she hid her children?” Athena asked, dreading the answer.
Artemis shook her head. Eris’s ‘children’ weren’t her actual descendants. They were mortals that Eris had experimented on, playing with divine power to infuse them with energy. They’d created new people that were related to mankind, but also alien and unnatural – and able to breed true. “If she gets them out…”
“Then she’ll find herself trapped on Earth when the world ends, one way or another.” Artemis said grimly. “Or she’ll join forces with Kali, and we’ll have a whole new type of problem. Stars of Olympus, we’ll have that problem if she joins forces with Kali even on her own.”
“She won’t be the only one,” Athena said, slumping down to sit on the pillar. “I can think of at least a few gods who, if they hear of this, will follow Kali straight into hell for their own reasons.”
“I can think of a few as well,” Artemis said. “You really thought you’d be so lucky as to avoid her gathering allies of her own?”
Athena shook her head. “That was a downside of Ryan’s announcement. Battle lines are being drawn. We’re going to be looking at a full on war, unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. It will make the Titanomachy look like a skirmish.”
“Then I’m glad we have you,” Artemis said, glaring at a group of satyrs that had wandered drunkenly into her line of sight. They decided to stagger out of the range of her glare. “We’ll need war leaders.”
“We’ll have them,” Athena said. “It’s been a long time since I lead armies.”
Artemis snorted. “Let mortals have their armies. We need people to command gods. And when it comes to that, few names are more respected than Pallas Athena.”
“A lot has changed in your absence,” Athena said. “I’m not sure how much cache my name carries these days.”
“Then you’ll make them listen. Or is the goddess of wisdom and war going to allow herself to be pushed around?”
Athena laughed. “Hardly. But a leader without followers is just going for a walk.”
“They’ll follow,” Artemis said. Athena turned to ask her what she meant, how she could possibly know when she’d been in Tartarus for three centuries, but Artemis wasn’t looking at Athena. She was looking at where Nike and Kratos were talking with Ares, who was gesturing towards Demeter. Tyche was nearby, rolling her eyes at Dionysus’s antics, and Apollo was leaning against a pillar, eating some fruit. “They know Hera’s exile of you was unjust now. They know that you rescued them from Moloch. That, if not for you, the others that came with you would never have arrived. They know your plan turned the tide against Poseidon. They’ll follow, Athena.”
Athena found herself unable to speak, a sudden lump in her throat obstructing her speech. She smiled at Artemis warmly, then had to sniff and wipe her eyes.
“You’re absurd,” Artemis said, shaking her head. She gave Athena a sideways glance. “I don’t suppose that means you’re reconsidering my offer?”
Athena shook her head. “You have Hades back now. He and Persephone will help you with the parts you hate.”
“I know you won’t take the Veto,” Artemis said. “I meant about coming back here. Rejoining.”
Athena looked again at the group of gods. Kratos had gotten Dionysus in a headlock and was laughing while rubbing his knuckle’s against the wine god’s scalp. Dionysus looked more amused than frustrated, which was a blessing – he was a terror when his blood was up. “If you’d asked me a couple months ago, I would have disemboweled myself if that’s what it took.”
Artemis’s nose wrinkled. “Graphic,” she said dryly.
Athena ignored the comment. “But I’ve found a new Pantheon. One that took me in after I opposed them, just because I said I’d chosen poorly. I’m not going to abandon them, not after everything they’ve done for me.” Athena smiled slyly at Artemis. “Besides, there is always my offer to consider. We only have a few members, and no goddess of archery yet.”
“When I inevitably have a complete breakdown from the burden of leadership and being expected to govern in peacetime, I’ll consider it,” Artemis said. Her voice was so flat, Athena was only somewhat sure she was joking. “Besides, there’s always the-”
“Where! Is! Artemis!?”
The voice cut over the sounds, cut through the air, and shook the halls of Olympus. It was monstrously loud, and full of fury. Artemis’s face went tight, and Athena felt her balling her hands into fists.
Whatever Artemis had to say would have to wait.
Zeus had resurrected, and he sounded furious.