Silver and Gold

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  • Published: 3 Apr 2017
  • Updated: 11 Apr 2017
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[Entry for Strange the Dreamer competition - Option One] Artemis and Apollo are brother and sister - two halves of a whole. Artemis has always been the wild one, the dreamer, the adventurer. But her brother has been torn away from her by a vengeful mortal angry with the gods. The sun has gone down on earth and the world is plunged into darkness as Artemis rallies together the greatest hunters the world has ever seen to save her brother, the only person who ever truly understands her. But time is running out, and in a month's time Apollo will die, taking he rest of the world down with him.

(Cover by NamesFromGraves)

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4. EPHESUS

I hadn't visited Ephesus in years, but as Cyrene and I flew across the sea the saltwater tickled my nose and I pushed the deer on further. Just a little further is all, just a little further. Cyrene giggled and whooped and screamed like a child - Apollo never said she could be so immature - as we swept over the waves and between the clouds, and I suppose in a way I couldn't blame Cyrene.

The deer touched down onto a beach, stumbling in the sand. The two of us clambered off of their backs and touched down on the beach, feeling the sand between our toes and the waves crashing at our heels. With a wave of my hand I sent the deer on their way and the galloped into the skies, clip clop, clip clop, until they were beyond my eyes' reach. I turned to Cyrene with a weak smile and took her cold hand in mine. "Where to, my lady?" she asked with a shaking voice, looking just the tiniest bit ill from the flight.

"My temple," I said, making my way over the white dunes with Cyrene trailing behind like I used to trail behind my brother. "Can't you see it in the distance, all shining and white and new? That's where we're going, Cyrene. That's where I'm always going in the end. The Temple of Artemis at Ephesus." A crooked grin crawled over my face as I turned to help Cyrene over a wall, as we descended down a hill into the city of the Amazons.

 

I'd never truly had much of a soft spot for the amazons. Of course, they fought. They fought like they were born for it, like they had nothing else to do in their lives but fight, fight, fight until they were free, until they had built and empire so powerful it could destroy entire villages in a few simple heartbeats. I admired that about them at least, their sheer perseverance. But then they fell in love, then they had children, then they expanded and though I am not the goddess of prophecy, I know that one day this shall surely be their downfall, as it is every empire's downfall. It took them years to build their temple to me, but I would do well to forget that if I am to speak with their queen.

Otrera. The fiercest woman warrior the world has ever seen.

Her palace was simple, all things considered. White marble pillars wrapped in ivy coils decorated the outside, centring around a simple white door atop marble steps. It was with a fluttering heart that I strode up to the door, pounding on it until it was opened up to us by none other than Otrera's daughter herself. "Princess Hippolyta," I said with a curtsy, gesturing for Cyrene to follow suit. I swept a strand of white hair out of my face. "May we speak with your mother?"

The princess frowned, hands on her hips. "Depends. She hasn't got any appointments today, and you don't look like much of an Amazon. We don't take kindly to intruders here."

I laughed then, though it was more out of pity than frivolity. "You're right, princess. I'm not an Amazon." I watched as she unsheathed a dagger, cold glint in her eyes. "I am Artemis. Goddess of the moon, the hunt, and maidenhood. Please, may we speak with your mother?"

The dagger clattered to the ground and Hippolyta's eyes widened. "Right this way, your lady - my lady - sorry, I -" She took a visible deep breath, clenching her fists. "Follow me. My mother is in her rooms, but I'm sure she won't protest against an audience with you, Lady Artemis."

We stepped into the palace and the door slammed shut behind us, a cold draught bleeding through the cracks in the walls. The princess led us along a cold white corridor lined with red silks and curtains, the sound of our footsteps echoing on the cold marble. She kicked open a door with a resounding slam, and from the couch Otrera leapt, eyes fierce. "Hippolyta! I have told you already, do not enter my chambers uninvited!"

The princess bowed her auburn head, sweeping her hair away like a crown of woven bronze. "Mother, this is Lady Artemis, and her..." She turned to Cyrene with a frown, as though just realising for the first time that she was standing there, right there with us, unmoving and cold. "Companion."

"Lady Artemis." To my surprise, Otrera actually managed a curtsy. "I didn't realise."

"I know that." I dismissed the princess, and with a huff she left the room, slamming the door behind her.

"Lady Otrera, I hate to say this, but I need your help." I led Cyrene to the sofa on which Otrera had lounged just moments before, and I took her place with a smile. Her eyes gleamed with steel and ice, and her jaw tensed as though she was about to tell me what to do, though that would be an absurd thought. Obviously.

"Is this about your brother?" A roll of the eyes, a clench of the fists, the tiniest laugh from beside me. "I'm sorry, but I have no time for a stupid man. Don't you know what we Amazons stand for?" I made to grab her, shake her for her insolence, but Cyrene pulled me back, nodded to Otrera, silenced her for just a moment, just long enough for the red to fade. "We do not stand for men."

"And my brother is not a man, Otrera," I hissed, anger blazing in my blood. "He is a god, and he has been captured. He is being tortured, being murdered very, very slowly in the worst way possible, and when his end finally comes, if you let it come, this world shall be destroyed along with him. You've seen it already; the night eternal, the darkness. So, help us."

"No."

"This is not your choice to make, Otrera. You will join us."

"Lady Artemis, I have always respected you, always worshipped you. Have you not seen the temple?" Of course I had, of course I had seen the temple. Of course I had noticed that the amazons 'respected' me in their own strange way, by the simultaneous slaughter and loving of men that they called power.

"Otrera, listen to me." Anger blazed white hot in my blood but I kept it down, swallowed my pride and my anger and let my words strangle me. "This will be the end of your world if you do not help me. Tell me this, Otrera. Would you rather be remembered for saving the world, or letting it die?"

"Would I rather be remembered for giving into a man's stupidity, or saving his life at cost to myself and my own kingdom?"

"Answer me."

Listen to the sound of the swordfight outside, the songs of the sirens who wage war on the sailors, the clamour and the glamour and the hunger for power, for being remembered. "I'll let it die."

"Taking your kingdom with it?"

"We'll prepare. We're amazons - one man's death will not stop us."

Red tainted my vision like wildfire as I stood from the couch, reached out to Otrera and grabbed her, throttled her, shook her until she was screaming in a blaze of white, white light. "He is not a man, amazon. He is a god, and he is my brother, and if you do not agree to help us right now then I shall not hesitate in destroying your entire empire right this second!"

She took my wrists and wrestled them away from her, breathing heavily. "You do not have that power!"

"I disagree! I am a goddess, I am the sister of a missing god, and you will do as I tell you!" I stepped away from her, eyes blazing with anger. "Or would you rather see the amazons destroyed?"

I could see it in her eyes as she considered my words, as she took them and tried to twist them to her advantage in vain, as she imagined the fires, the destruction, the chaos that I could bring. "I apologise, my lady. Of course I will come with you. And your friend? Will she be there?"

"Cyrene? Of course."

"Good."

"Now, come along, Otrera. We have a lot to do."

"Don't I get to pack a bag?"

"Grab a weapon, then we're out of here."

As the door swung open, Otrera slid a dagger of bronze from the table, tossing it up in the air as casually as if it were a juggling ball, and laughed as we led her up to my temple, the next step. I wasn't entirely sure in what way it would help, but I could tell that it would. It pulled at me, tugged at my heart as we drew ever closer, closer, closer.

"Cyrene," Otrera whispered, coming to a halt. "I recognise that name."

"Of course you do," Cyrene laughed. "You may be queen of the amazons, Otrera, but you're not the only one who can fight her way into power."

"Oh, really? Because I thought you were just a plaything of the gods?"

"And I think you're asking for trouble, Otrera." Mortals. They fight so often, and yet, they never seem to master the art of winning.

"Can we please not have a fight right by my temple, girls? It wouldn't be good for the aura."

"No, it wouldn't," Cyrene agreed, in haste. "Sorry, my lady, I shouldn't have been so disrespectful."

Otrera simply grunted as I led the two inside.

It was rare for a god to actually enter their own temple, believe it or not. There were stories of gods who did so and were destroyed by the power, who drove nearby mortals mad, running from their homes as temples were destroyed. We weren't so unfortunate.

Energy crackled in the air around us, as I gazed upon my own statue, my own shrine, and found tears beginning to form in my eyes. I wiped them away.

Stupid, irrational stupid, stupid, stupid - STOP!

Cyrene grabbed my wrist. "My lady, are you alright?"

I nodded, but I could tell she didn't believe me, which was only to be expected. Apollo always said I was an awful liar. Behind me, Otrera was having a little tour around the temple, inspecting every last detail and every tiny crevice until she stood up, eyes wide yet cold, and held a scroll in her hands, woven of silver and gold silk. Without so much as a word, she tossed it to me. It was heavy in my hands, bound in silk and steel. "I'm fine."

"What does it say?" Otrera shouted - far too loud for my liking.

"I haven't read it yet," I hissed.

'For Lady Artemis' the scroll read as I unfurled it.

'I leave this for your eyes only, in the hopes that you may hear my plea and answer it. I am concerned for the people of this great city - and the wider world, too - for I have noticed the sun changing, mutating, and I can hear it screaming. Lady Artemis, I can hear the sun screaming and I am terrified. I have left the city, to return home to my father and my fate of marriage. If you read this, know only my name, and I hope that it shall guide you to me, or me to you. And know that, should I lie, the only place to take me should be the gates of hell themselves.

'My lady, with all my respects,

'Atalanta'

 

"Atalanta," I whispered, laughing hushedly. "Otrera, Cyrene, do either of you know her?"

"Atalanta?" Otrera frowned. "She is one of my amazons. Why are you concerned about her?"

"That's who the scroll's from. She says she's left the city, that she noticed the sun was dying and she'd returning to her father."

"She has no father."

"She clearly believes that she does." Otrera's eyes bore into mine, her chin tilted high and held strong.

"Fine. Last I heard, she was headed to Arcadia, to find King Iasus. She had been told about it by an oracle, apparently - she hadn't seen her father since he left her on a rock in the forest to die."

"Oh. That was a bit... rude ... of him."

"Yes, well not all women are as privileged as you, Cyr - "

I raised my hand in a swift movement and the two of them flinched, turning to me with brown eyes and green eyes and faces of identical terror. There was moonlight dancing over my skin and I could see it reflected in Cyrene's eyes. "Sorry," we all said at once, and the faintest of smiles grew between the three of us, which turned into a giggle, which turned into a laugh that danced over fields and swam over rivers and soared through the skies to our next stop.

"Arcadia."

And so I whistled and we stood and my two deer came again. I clambered onto Calliope while Phoebe took Otrera and Cyrene, and then we were on our way again to Arcadia, the kingdom of the lost souls and hunters. The city I loved the most.

 

 

 

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