Artemis took a deep breath after Zeus left. “Think that will stay with him? Or are we going to be dealing with him in the middle of everything?” she asked, her voice low for Athena’s ears.
“Zeus loves being glorified. I think we won him over,” Athena said
Artemis sighed and glanced around. The area near the pillar had been completely vacated in the course of their argument with Zeus. He had a tendency to spread his wrath around when he was in a foul mood, and no one had wanted to be the one to catch the brunt of his displeasure. Seeing they were clear, Artemis sat down and started to rub her temples. “This is a mistake, Athena.”
Athena sat next her, folding her legs under herself. “What is?”
“I shouldn’t be on the Council.”
Athena had been wondering when this would happen. “You’re doing phenomenal work. You just survived your first clash with Zeus, you oversaw a rebellion by Poseidon and won, Hades is back…”
Artemis waved her hand dismissively. “I’ve gotten lucky. If you hadn’t been here for Zeus, I have no idea how I would have deescalated that. Poseidon just had inferior numbers – and again, I needed your help for that. Hades is only back because Arthur broke the locks on the Underworlds as part of his war with Heaven.”
“You also saved us after the fight with Moloch. You defeated Poseidon, I just helped. And Zeus…I’ve always been better at handling him than you, but you would have figured something out.” Athena reached over and put a hand on Artemis’s shoulder. “I feel much better about the Council knowing you’re on it. Imagine if we had faced this crisis with Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades in charge.”
Artemis groaned and pulled her legs up to her chest, wrapping her arms around her knees. “I’d rather no think about that. That would be a nightmare.”
“So far better you than them.”
Artemis shook her head. “I want to be away from Olympus. I want to be in the forest, hunting something suitably clever so I get a real challenge, or training a young hunter or two that are actually worth a damn. I don’t like people, and now I’m supposed to tell them what to do?”
Athena chuckled. She’d meant for the sound to be reassuring, but Artemis just buried her face against her knees. “Have you spent much time on Earth since you left the Rest? Time that wasn’t spent in battle, I mean.”
“No,” Artemis said directly to her legs.
“They have this concept. It’s called imposter syndrome.”
Artemis looked up, an eyebrow quirked. “I’ve never heard of it?”
Athena smiled. “It’s a psychological phenomena where someone who has accomplished a great deal feels like they’re a fraud. Like everyone around them is giving them credit for things they didn’t deserve, and at any moment is going to realize they are a fake who has been pulling the wool over their eyes the entire time.”
“I’m so glad to know they have a name for it now,” Artemis said. She was being sarcastic, but there wasn’t any vitriol to the sarcasm. “But Athena, it’s more than just that. I don’t want to do this. I don’t want to be surrounded by people asking me what they’re supposed to do, and then having to yell at them until they actually do it. Why even bother asking if you’re just going to disagree?”
Athena sat back, thinking. Artemis had never been much for Olympus, as long as Athena had known her. She’d spent more of her time out in the wilds, doing whatever she wanted and enjoyed. The conflicts of the gods were something Artemis thought were petty and a waste of time. “Do you think you can hold on for another seven days?”
Artemis sighed. “I suppose if I say no, you’ll try to persuade me to stay with it?”
Athena shook her head. “You’re my friend, Artemis. I don’t want you to suffer. If you can’t stomach it, we’ll find someone else. I’ll help you. Maybe your brother?”
Artemis snorted. “Apollo is as bad as Zeus when it comes to being led by his pelvis, and doesn’t want to lead. He’d be worse than me if he tried.”
“That’s true,” Athena admitted. “Of course, if we’re looking at ‘worse than you,’ that covers a pretty broad range, because you’ve done very well so far.”
“Flattery won’t help you here,” Artemis said, but the beginning of a smile began to play on her lips. “You’re positive you won’t come back? You’d be much better at this than me.”
“No I wouldn’t,” Athena said. “At least, not with the current crisis. I take to long to think things through sometimes. I get stuck in debates and hearing and proceedings. I overthink everything. You have a knack for cutting through to the heart of the matter. Kind of like-”
“If you make a joke about archery here, I’ll push you off the pillar,” Artemis said.
“Like someone who knows what’s important,” Athena said without missing a beat. “And right now, that’s what Olympus needs. It’s probably was Olympus needs all the time, but at least for the next week.”
“Fine,” Artemis said. She straightened out and stretched her back. “I blame you if I spend the next century avoiding all of humanity though.”
“You were going to do that anyway after spending so long in the Elysium Rest,” Athena countered.
“Yes, but I’ll blame you for it.” Artemis stood up and offered Athena a hand. “Speaking of you overthinking things, you finally told Ryan about how you feel?”
If she hadn’t taken Artemis’s hand, Athena might have fallen off the pillar. “You are, as always, the master of terrible segues.”
“It’s a gift. And don’t change the topic. Have you?”
Athena sighed. “It’s that obvious?”
“I know you,” Artemis said. “You spend a tremendous amount of time dithering and waiting.”
“We’re dealing with the end of the world.”
“Yes,” Artemis said firmly. “So tell me…is that really the time to be waiting for the right moment? Because right now, it seems to me that there might not be too many moments left.”
Athena gaped at her. “That’s…I didn’t think you had an interest in romance. Even other people’s.”
“I don’t.” Artemis shrugged. “I have an interest in seeing my friends happy. So do something about it. Before you run out of time.”
“I will,” Athena said, moved by Artemis’s concern.
“Good. Now. Let’s get some more allies for you. Because Kali is gathering her own forces, and you’re going to be in for one hell of a fight.”
Artemis leapt off the pillar. Athena followed, wishing Artemis had chosen any other note to end the conversation.
Hey, guess what? On Patreon, Small Worlds is now two parts ahead. Soon it’ll be up to three parts. Check out part 259 and 260 here!