Author's note: Sorry I rushed this with a few editing errors. It's a little shorter than previous chapters, but with my college work, I wanted to keep the story going.
"Look, Lysander, look," Artemis whispered as they sat on a rock overlooking the lake.
She pointed to a mother bear nudging her cub through the brush.
"I see them," Lysander whispered.
"Promise me you won't make the trials of life make your heart bitter," his mother whispered. "It robbed me of valuable time with my cub."
Lysander blushed. He did not know what to say.
He followed his mother off of the rock. It was weird. To others, she was a goddess to be feared.
She let him see another side: gentle, stern but loving.
And the goddess admitted to Lysander that he brought out a side she didn't know existed.
She sat down on a spot by the lake. Lysander started to sit down beside her, but she pulled him into her lap.
"I am so glad you are still not too big to sit in your mother's lap and be cradled by your mother," she whispered as she put her arms around him. "I know Helena has cradled you plenty. I am so jealous of her."
Lysander enjoyed her warmth.
"She says the same thing about you," Lysander said. "She says I look like you and act like you."
Artemis smiled. She compared their arms and hands, which were about the same size, although some day, she told him, his arms may dwarf hers in natural form.
"Of course, I can increase my size if I want to," she said with a laugh.
"Must be fun being an immortal," Lysander said.
"Not always," Artemis said
"This is kind of hard for me to understand," Lysander said. "I mean, you were the goddess of our village. You were always somewhere distant, someone to be feared, as are all of the gods. Now all of the sudden you are my mother?"
"I know it's almost hard for you to believe," Artemis said. "I've known you've existed all of your life. But I did my best to push you away because of what was done to me. I regret that. And I promise you I won't be distant anymore."
She went on to tell him what happened to her that night. As a goddess, she laughed as the Hera worshippers tried to attack her.
"Puny mortals, what could you actually do to me?" Artemis told Lysander. "That's what I told them."
There was a feast on Olympus the night before. Hera offered her a drink.
"She put something in it that restrained my powers temporarily," Artemis said angrily. "They stripped me, they robbed me of my dignity that mortals should never be allowed to do."
"She was there when they did it, and she laughed, didn't she?" Lysander asked.
"How do you ... you know that?" Artemis asked.
"I thought gods and goddesses can read our minds?" Lysander asked.
"Sometimes we can, but we are not all-powerful, sometimes our powers are restricted, unless you happen to be Zeus," Artemis said.
"So tell me how do you know?" Artemis said.
Lysander told her about the dreams in amazing detail, including seeing it all through her eyes.
"It was if you were there," Artemis said. "But, of course, by the end, you were there."
"Because of a spell Hera cast I cannot overturn, I cannot repay those men for what they did to me, especially THAT man, their leader," Artemis said.
"My father?" Lysander asked.
"He is not your father," Artemis said. "He planted the seed. But Zeus extracted all of him out of you, so all that remains is me. You know how I know?"
Lysander asked how.
She pointed to a birthmark on his left shoulder. She bared her left shoulder to show him the same mark.
"We both have Leto marks," Artemis said.
"Leto marks?" Lysander asked.
"You grandmother, the goddess herself, has the same one in the same place," Artemis said. "Your Uncle Apollo doesn't have one. Neither do any of his children. She passed it to me. I passed it to you. The only one who can rightfully call himself your father is a humble farmer named Phillip from the village of Erastus."
Just then a bolt of lighting appeared across the sky on what otherwise was a clear night.
"You're his grandfather, not his father," Artemis said with a laugh.
"There you are, thought I'd find you practicing with your bow," that very farmer, Phillip, told his adopted son.
"It's beginning to feel more comfortable," Lysander said as he pulled an arrow back. He was using an old, dead tree for a tarket. "It was a little tough, but moth ... I mean Artemis ... I mean the goddess said the more I use it, the easier it will feel. The string was a little tough."
"You don't have to worry what to call her when you are around me, son," Phillip said. "Or your mother, Helena. She blessed us by giving us the chance to raise you."
Lysander could still sense the sadness in his father's voice.
"Something is wrong, though, Pa, isn't it?" Lysander asked.
"Well, we were already prepared to lose Arianna to her because of your mother's vow," Phillip said. "I always thought I'd pass the farm to you. It's been in my family for generations."
"Who said I'm going anywhere?" Lysander said. "Maybe it's meant for me to stay around here."
"Oh you think that now," Phillip said. "But you are the son of the Goddess Artemis. You don't think she'll have you on one adventure or another? And you think with your strength and gift with a bow, others won't seek you out for your help? Or take advantage of you? Look at Hercules. Or maybe you'll decide to take advantage of your skills to serve your own ends like your own Olympus relatives?"
Lysander assured Phillip he would not take advantage of his fellow mortals.
"I intend to help people in need," Lysander said. "I've been helping people."
"So I've heard," Phillip said. "Your reputation is already growing son, and it's moving well beyond here."
"You two come and eat," Helena shouted from a window in the cottage.
Lysander took his usual place beside Arianna.
"Your hunting trip with Artemis is the talk of the temple," she whispered to him. "Everybody wants to hear all about it."
Lysander was afraid to talk about his hunting trip. He was afraid of hurting Helena's feelings.
"I have been blessed with two good mothers," he whispered to Arianna.
There were things, he knew, that were best kept between his not-so-earthly mother and himself.
"One small happy family they seem to be," whispered one shadowy figure to another under the tree Lysander had used for target practice.
"I've already set things in motion to change that, Mother," whispered the other. "Persians, they're so easy to stir up. The war in the north will soon be coming here."
"I've arranged for a few of my worshippers to join them," Hera told her son Ares. "Had Zeus not gotten involved, it would soon be a family reunion with your young nephew."
"But how do we keep my dear sister from becoming involved?" Ares said. "Her newfound maternal instincts could foil our plans."
"Oh, leave that to me," Hera said. "You're not the only one who can start a war. I'm creating a little diversion among her favorites, the Amazons, to keep her busy until it's too late."
Ares was curious as to why his mother wanted to stir so much trouble.
"But you know, I'm always in when there is a good war to create," Ares laughed.
"I want to put Leto and Artemis in their places," Hera said. "And I love your father, but he is showing a little too much favor to his grandson."
"I thought you've already put Artemis in her place," Ares said. "Isn't that how Lysander got here in the first place?"
"As long as she pushed him away, that was fine with me," Hera said. "But now she's one happy mother, it makes it look like she's won. When this is over, she will be begging me for a truce."
"A truce?" Ares said. "On what terms?"
"I will grant her a truce on the terms that Lydia will become the bride on your son, Aron," Hera said.
His son with a woman from Macedonia had set himself up as a cruel king in a region north of Greece. He believed that all women should be subservient, and would promise to be a cruel husband.
"Just think of the grandchildren you'll share with Artemis," Hera said.
"How do you know Lysander will even become Lydia to begin with?" Ares said.
"With what's to come, he will have no choice," Hera said. "With some of the tests I have in store, he'd be no match remaining in the form of Lysander."
Lysander had trouble sleeping.
He slipped out of the cottage, and grabbed his bow and arrows. Argo followed as they went into the woods.
He had a lot on his mind as he sat by his favorite stump next to the lake.
He jumped when he felt a hand touch his shoulder.
"Sorry, didn't mean to startle you," a young girl about his age said.
"What are you doing here?" Lysander asked. "Don't you know it's a dangerous place for girls to wander at night?"
"Well I'm not an ordinary girl," she said. "And my mother sent me here to warn you."
"Your mother?" Lysander said. "And who are you?"
"Mylethia," the girl said. "Let's just say that we're cousins. My mother is your Aunt Athena."
It still seemed really strange for anyone to refer to any of the Olympus gods as members of his family.
"And what is the warning?" Lysander asked.
"My grandmother is up to something," Mylethia said. "My mother overheard her talking to a few others on Mount Olympus about something involving you and your mother."
"Do you know exactly what?" Lysander asked.
"Nothing specific, but we thought you should know," Mylethia said. "Wished I could stay and talk, but my mortal parents don't know that I'm out. But I must say ... you really do look a lot like Aunt Artemis."
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