Artemis Chronicles: A Helping Hand
December 7, 2017
Artemis Chronicles: A Helping Hand
Artemis was losing hope. It was a strange feeling, and not one that she or other Gods experienced very often. Olympians didn’t lose hope because they had no need for it in the first place. They ruled, controlled and dominated all. Hope was a mortal emotion. Feeling the loss of it helped her understand the humans just a little more. At least there was that. But she would give up empathizing with the mortal world in a second if it meant having Em returned safely back to her. Yet the weeks dragged on, with no tracks, no rumours, no sign at all of her stag.
She had stayed by the sea for days riding up and down the rocky coasts until she knew in her heart that whatever gossip that had made its way to her about spotting the stag near the sea was false. Em hadn’t been here. She would have known. At one-point Apollo stopped by, claiming to be worried about her, but really hoping to flirt with a few sea nymphs. He tried to convince her to give up. But his pleas only meant that he didn’t know her very well at all.
“I know you loved Em. He was your golden stag, your sacred animal and your beloved friend. But he’s been gone way too long and you’ve abandoned all of your gardens, your forests, all of the animals under your protection and everything else you care about.” Apollo stopped and stared out at the sea. “It’s time to start thinking about ending this pursuit.”
“You know as well as I do that my stag is alive,” Artemis retorted, her words spitting out like molten fire. “This is someone’s cruel ploy and I refuse to give up just because it’s hard.”
“Yeah, but Artemis you don’t know who is holding the stag or why,” Apollo said, before pausing to think. “Or do you? This is more than a mere silly prank. This is someone you’ve seriously pissed off. You must have an idea of who this enemy could be.”
“I certainly do not! I haven’t done anything to any God that would even closely warrant this type of retribution,” Artemis spewed. “I don’t take pleasure from schemes and deceptions. If you aren’t here to help me than you might as well just leave.”
After that Apollo remained quiet, staying only long enough to ask of the whereabouts of a few golden-haired nymphs who might provide better company than hers. Artemis left the seaside a few days later, retracing her steps inland with much on her mind.
She could tell Apollo knew more than he was saying. But how much more was the real question. And why wasn’t he saying anything to her. His loyalty was divided and perhaps this was a clue all on its own. Who could have that sort of power over her resplendent, shining twin? Artemis shook herself out of her musings and looked around at her surroundings. She realized she was only an hour away from Argus and the other farmers she had recently befriended. Thinking about how joyful they were planting their new crops made Artemis smile for the first time in weeks. Their herbs should be tall and fragrant by now, ready to harvest and cure before using for medicine. Artemis quickly hastened her pace as she headed for the farm. She was filled with curiosity to see how these mortals had fared with her plants.
Her mare trotted along the dirt road, and she was surrounded on either side by a sea of rich green. Just as she had predicted, her herbs grew healthy and strong in this fertile soil and abundant sunlight. As Artemis approached the farmer’s cottage the door opened and the Elpia and her children spilled out.
“We heard a horse approach, but didn’t possibly think it would be carrying our one and only saviour,” Elpia said smiling widely. “Girls, fetch Artemis some fresh water. Titos, take the horse to the stable and make sure she is cleaned and fed.”
Elpia’s children scattered quickly, allowing the two women a minute to catch up alone.
“Have you been? How is Argus?” Artemis asked in quick succession. “Have you begun harvesting the herbs yet?”
Elpia laughed and Artemis was instantly warmed by the sound.
“We are all good. Truly Artemis, you’ve saved our livelihoods and our lives,” Elpia paused, moving almost as if she wanted to embrace Artemis, but not of the protocol involved when touching a God. “If you’re back… does that mean you’ve found your stag?”
“No,” Artemis replied softly. “Not yet. I was passing nearby and wanted to check in.”
“You’re too kind. The herbs have been thriving, as you can see. Argus is out in the fields with the other farmers to cut them down for harvest,” Elpia looked around. “But between you and me, he has no idea what he’s doing. And he’s too afraid to admit it.”
“This harvest is definitely a lot different than the crops Argus is used to,” Artemis smiled knowingly.
At that moment Argus appeared in the distance. His pace quickened when he saw his wife and Artemis. After their greetings, Elpia wasted no time getting down to business.
“Artemis is here to help you with the harvest. It’s clear you and the men have no idea what you are doing and it’s about time you admitted it,” Elpia said, apparently knowing this was a moment for tough love. “I can see you’re already forming rebuttals in your head Argus. But just stop that right now. Take the help. We need it.”
Argus started to speak, then stopped and simply nodded. He was a proud man, Artemis knew. First, he needed her herbs and now he needed her help harvesting them. His two young daughters came running back from the farmhouse, one carrying a cup sloshing with water. By this point half had spilled out in the girl’s eagerness to get back to Artemis. She gratefully accepted the water as the two girls bowed and giggled before ducking back behind their mother. Artemis took a long drink of the cool, sweet water and paused to think a moment.
“We will start at first light tomorrow Argus,” Artemis instructed. “It’s too late now to get started and I’m sure you and the men are worn from your day. Spread the word to have both the men and women meet in your fields, near the gate by the road. We will start there. I will show you how it’s done—each step. And then leave you to do the rest yourselves.”
“We are much obliged and unworthy of your continued kindness,” Argus said, full of emotion he was trying to keep pushed down. “Please stay with us for the next few days to rest. Elpia will prepare you a room and we will serve you supper soon.”
Artemis gratefully accepted. Even though it was not quite appropriate to sleep under a human’s roof, she hadn’t slept in a real bed in ages. She followed Elpia and the girls back into the cottage and to her small, bare room. It only held a bed, a small table and a wooden chair, but the linens looked clean and the mattress thick. Elpia closed the door, leaving Artemis alone to blissfully sink onto the bed atop the lavender-fragranced blankets where she very quickly fell asleep.
The next morning Artemis patiently taught the farmers everything they needed to know about harvesting her herbs. First, she showed exactly what the buds should look like in order to know when it’s the best time to begin. Then she did some quick trimming, handling each branch of the herb separately. Artemis had to say over and over again how critical it was to use a gentle touch during this part. The potent medicinal parts of the flower were so easily damaged. Finally, she herded the humans into the barn, where she instructed the art of herb drying and curing. As they worked together she continued her lessons, teaching various groups how to create tinctures, oils and ground powders for healing.
These humans were eager learners and hard workers, with good instincts. Artemis knew they would succeed. As the sun slowly sat Artemis took Argus aside and told him it was time, once again, for her to move on.
“Something was telling me I needed to pass through here again, and I’m glad I did,” Artemis said warmly. “But I can’t stay any longer. My journey must continue.”
“No! I mean, um, not yet. Please,” Argus pleaded quietly. “Elpia and some of the other wives snuck out earlier to prepare a great feast in your honour. It was to be a surprise, but I’d rather you know the surprise than miss the feast.”
“That is too kind of you Argus,” Artemis whispered. “I will stay until the end of the feast tonight and I won’t let it be known you spoiled the surprise.”
Just as she finished speaking Elpia entered the barn and clapped her hands together, ushering the large group outside. Whilst Artemis had been inside, Elpia and her friends had set up a magnificent feast along the long wooden tables. Platters upon platters were laden with mountains of food. The farmers collectively cheered, and then wasted no time grabbing plates and piling them high. Argus poured from a nearby jug and walked to the front of the group.
“Today we have worked hard and learned much,” he bellowed loudly, so that all could hear. “Tonight’s feast is in honour of the merciful, compassionate and wise Goddess who has graced our small community with her presence not once, but twice now. Without you Artemis our future was for Hades to decide. Now we can live and thrive.”
Everyone cheered as Artemis blushed and smiled. She was used to being worshipped, but not when the mortals could see her standing right there to accept the adoration. Usually she was invisible or in disguise. After talking to a few of the farmers she slowly crept into the background, wanting to watch the scene undisturbed for a few minutes before quietly sneaking off.
“They love you so much it’s sickening,” whispered a deep voice behind her.
Startled, Artemis jumped and quickly whipped around to see the mighty Ares standing right behind her.
“Ares!” Artemis said as angrily as she could while still whispering. “What in Zeus’ name are you doing here?”
“Many of us are tracking your adventure Artemis. It’s the most entertaining show in town,” Ares laughed as Artemis scowled at him. “But now the narrative is getting redundant. We’re back to these pitiful farmers?”
“My business is none of yours! Or anyone else’s.” Artemis retorted. “Can’t you all go find a demigod to mess with or something? If you aren’t here to help me, just go away.”
“Actually…” Ares replied, arching one thick eyebrow. “I can tell you something that will get you closer to your answers. I don’t particularly want to help you, but I’m also getting incredibly bored watching you ride around in circles.”
Artemis rolled her eyes, but bit her tongue. Information toward finding her stag was all she wanted, even if she had to listen to Ares to get it.
“Your stag is in the mountains to the east of here. I know this for certain, but I can’t tell you why,” Ares announced with a taunting lilt to his voice. “It’s time to leave these useless humans to their own fates and get moving. After all we’re all watching what you do next.”
Then in a blink he was gone, leaving Artemis angry and frustrated, yet renewed with hope. She took a second to watch Argus and Elpia, arm in arm, as they circulated around the group. Then, she slipped away toward the stables as visions of mountains moved into her mind.