Phantasms of Amor

Amara Cole, is a 19 year old child of Hypnos and as such is a Celestial. On the run from the Hunt -- a group of elite huntresses lead by The Huntress herself, and goddess of the moon, Artemis. When her loved one is fatally injured she makes a deal with a dangerous god to keep him alive. But her new proves to be just as dangerous as her previous one.
Narrated by Eris, goddess of strife, this a story about two gods trying to prove whether love or chaos is more powerful and whether true love really exists.

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1. The Hunt

I should probably introduce my latest victim. I mean experiment. I mean beneficiary. 
Yes… I am doing Amara a service by teaching her the woes of this world. Which is why I’ve made certain to let her go about her trials without too much of my interferences. Great Nyx knows that child can get herself in capricious situations without my help. 
Even as Amara sat asleep at the cave opening, she reminded me too much of her father, my brother, Hypnos. Her friend, Sienna hovered over her, probably perusing ideas on how to wake her up effectively without scaring her to Hades. I sent her a waft of bitter resentment, laced ever so slightly with the tang of cinnamon.  
They say revenge is a dish best served cold. Personally I think nothing says love like being awoken by the slap of cold water. I might have slain anyone dumb enough to attempt such a thing, but Amara simply spluttered around like a drowning fish.
“I suggest you stay awake unless you want me to throw you in the river,” Sienna said. Then she dropped the bucket and threw a towel at Amara.
“I am totally feeling the love,” Amara said, patting at her braided hair.
“Sweetie, I know that these conditions aren’t ideal for either of us, but we have to make it work.” Sienna’s large afro twinkled brightly in the dim lighting of the cave. 
“Are you getting a vision?” Amara asked. Her hair always shone more exuberantly when the Sight took over her. 
When Sienna didn’t reply, Amara left her alone with her visions. For a time, all was quiet except for the churning of the stream. Amara walked closer to the entrance of the cave with her crossbow at the ready. Tipped with hallucinogenic arrows that I had inspired her to create, she seemed just about as ready as a sleepy-eyed Child of Sleep could be.
Amara yawned widely and almost laughed at something probably ridiculous. Judging from the flowery scent she was emitting, it was doubtlessly something trite and romantic. Never mind how serious the situation was. I blew a waft of sour regret at her. Hopefully the loss of her comrades was still fresh enough in her mind to arouse some common sense. 
 Amara went through her small messenger bag and chugged down the horrible concoction her boyfriend had made. True to his word, it was far stronger than caffeine and it kept her awake most of the time. But there was only so much Varo could do. 
They were all on edge. With each new night, the Hunt persisted. It seemed not to matter which distant part of the world they hid. Apparently they were too much of a threat to be allowed to exist in peace. 
“We’re in trouble,” Sienna said. 
“What kind of trouble?”
“Astraios. They have Astraios.” 

***

For the last few days, Astraios had reduced himself to a taxi service for demi-brats.  Though the children of the celestials had their uses, putting faith in a rag tag team of misfits whilst on the run from the Olympians… Not a smart move. But even a celestial being had their limits, and Astraios had grown weakened with each new day as they travelled state to state, and eventually country to country. To top it all off, Amara was too busy feeling sorry for herself. 
“This is all my fault,” Amara said.
“If I finally agreed with you, would it make you feel any better?” Sienna asked.
“No.”
“Then stop beating yourself up about it. You have enough judgements from the gods. No need to berate yourself. You need to honour their sacrifices by moving on.”  At least someone in the group had some sense. Star-spangled as she was, Sienna’s stupidity didn’t go beyond her hair, which was a beacon for many a dangerous foe. 
But Amara had fallen asleep at many inconvenient times in her life. She had endangered everyone. The guilt emanating from her was a palpable thing to me. Salty sorrow spiralling about her like ribbons. 
“We need to help him,” Amara said.
“Dusk wouldn’t want us endangering our lives for him. He can handle himself.” But she didn’t sound convinced and the sombre blue tones of her hair said as much. There was only so much even a Titan could withstand. 
“What are we to do without him?” 
“The same thing we were always going to do. We find the Ram and any of the other Fallen.” Amara creased her brows. Astraios firmly believed that overturning the reign of the gods was madness, but neither was he willing to put up with their treatment of himself and the other Titans. In the midst of all the madness it was occasionally hard to believe that we were all family. If only they could all accept one another…
“Amara, can you check on Varo and Maricel’s progress?” Sienna asked. “We can’t stay in this cave forever and now without Dusk…” She turned away from Amara then. They both knew what it meant. Without Dusk, they could not travel on the winds to avoid their enemies.
“Yeah. Will you be okay on your own here? If the goddess and her huntresses are near shouldn’t I stay?”
“There will be time enough. I promise.” Amara checked Sienna’s dark eyes so that there was no speck of guilt or worry. There was certainly weariness there. They had all lived in perpetual night for the past few days, travelling country to county and continent to continent in the hopes of outrunning The Hunt. 
Amara nodded at Sienna but passed on her crossbow to Sienna. “Just in case,” she said. 
“What about you?” Sienna asked.
“I’m sure my infamous jazz hands can come up with something.” Granted that Amara had an extra dagger, but having said that, what sort of fool lends out their weapon of choice? I tried to elicit a dash of spicy fury, some bitter contempt… anything to make Sienna give back the crossbow. All I managed was to add fuel to her fears about The Hunt.
Heedless of Sienna’s inner turmoil, Amara walked deeper into the cave, watching out for the stalagmites and other assortment of sharp rocks. Astraios certainly knew how to pick cosy hideouts. Still, it was a thousand times better than the bowels of Tartarus. Not the best sewage system. 
Amara took out a torch from her bag and switched it on. When she passed their encampment area, Amara took the left turn. With only the stream of water to accompany her, Amara’s legs stiffened into a lethargic movement. Another sip of the potion might have done her some good, but then I recalled Varo’s earnest words. Too much could harm her nervous system. She took another sip anyway and unsheathed her dagger. I couldn’t tell whether she was taking one for the team, or being plain stupid. I couldn’t imagine explaining to Hypnos that I had failed to protect her daughter because she was a drug addict. 
When Amara approached the Hecate twins, neither acknowledged her presence. They spoke their incantations as though they did not notice her, but they probably sensed her.  The cave wall they faced shone with undecipherable symbols. If the spell worked, a gate would be opened. If not, they would surely have the fight of their lives. 
“The gate will be ready when it’s ready,” Maricel said, just as Amara opened her mouth. “I thought I asked you to stand guard with Sienna.”
“She asked me to check on you, and to tell you that The Hunt has Dusk.”
Maricel closed her eyes but made no other discernable reaction. But the weight of leadership was clearly a heavy burden. “Then the Ram is our last hope.”
“I don’t think…”
“No, you don’t think. You are a lazy good for nothing…”
“I have let down my guard on several occasions but you and I both know it was not due to laziness.” Amara said. “And I suggest you get a hold of your emotions before you destroy the gate.” From the corner of her eyes, she could see the white symbols on the cave glow red. Varo’s mutterings grew louder in order to drown out their bickering and Amara took this as a cue to leave. 
As she walked through the tunnels of the caves, she heard echoes reverberate across the walls. 
“It looks as though this star will be falling. Have you any final words, Star Child?” Personally I wanted to know who wrote her jokes so I could fire them. With a shotgun. 
“I hope you enjoy eternal sleep.” Amara heard a struggle ensue and she ran towards her friend, dagger at the ready. It seemed pretty meagre surrounded by a dozen huntresses and Artemis herself. 
It was clearly the shock she needed, because for once, Amara’s legs co-operated. She dodged the whiz of arrows and released the Sleep within. Four huntresses collapsed before her but Amara had only eyes for The Huntress. Amara gasped when she saw Artemis still standing, even with two arrows through her leg and stomach.  Olympians were notoriously difficult to defeat. 
“You will die a painful death, child of Stars!” Artemis advanced on Sienna. Weaponless and bloodied, there was little she could do when the arrow came her way. 
“No!” A body collided into Sienna and the arrow pierced through flesh. Varo lay spasming beside the Star Child. 
Intoxicating anger whipped about Amara and she charged at the glowing, dark-haired goddess. Artemis blocked with her celestial bow. She punched Amara square in the jaw and kicked at her leg. Amara lost her balance and collapsed to the ground.
“Yield,” the goddess commanded. She strung an arrow from her bow and pointed it at Amara. This was not how it was to end. 
“So you can drag me to the pits of Tartarus?”
“You are a traitor of Olympus,” Artemis said. No remorse shone from her silver eyes. 
“Because I failed a series of tasks?” 
A wisp of something like the sweet odour of rainfall vibrated from Artemis. “This is the will of my father, Zeus.” Her silvered eyes dimmed a fraction. Was that a trace of regret? But then she released the arrow.
“Artemis,” a voice said. “You missed.”
“What?” She couldn’t have looked anymore gobsmacked if Amara had fallen asleep due to boredom. I on the other hand was rather intrigued. That voice… “I am Artemis,” she said. “I do not miss.”  But she had and Amara was grateful for it. She used the opportunity to roll aside and pushed as much power from within towards the goddess. 
Amara dodged a sword headed towards her and side kicked the offending huntress. Artemis was on her knees. and her eyes were dimmed but anger blazed through them. 
“You have sealed your fate,” the goddess said. She tried to raise her bow but it seemed that the thing had either been stuck to the ground or suddenly weighed a trillion tonnes. A giggle reverberated around the cave. Someone was up to a little mischief. Amara and the huntresses didn’t seem to notice but Artemis roared in rage. 
“Show yourself you little brat!” But I knew the god in question wouldn’t show himself to the likes of her.
Amara threw her dagger towards Artemis throat. The goddess caught it around the hilt.
“You think you can defeat me so easily?”
“Of course not,” Amara replied. “So I coated the dagger with Sleep.” 
Artemis’ jaw tightened and she threw the dagger back at Amara. Amara twisted at the last moment and the dagger hit her in the arm. She cried out in pain and unwittingly  released  a wave of energy as she could muster and a light emitted from her, attacking all those in her surroundings. 
At the last moment, an illuminating shield covered Varo and Sienna before the Sleep could overcome them. Only few gods were this bold and territorial over their beneficiaries. Zeus’ laws had banned the over-involvement of gods over mortal lives, which is why I watched and waited, and reported to my brother, Hypnos, occassionally about Amara’s progress.
Thankfully Apollo was not a stickler for rules. 
He appeared in front of Varo and Sienna in flash of sunlight. Regret flashed in his eyes.
“What are you doing here defending them?” Artemis asked.
“I’m sorry,” Apollo said, and then a bow and arrow appeared in his hands. He aimed and fired between Artemis’ shoulder blades. It wouldn’t kill her, but it would slow her down long enough to allow them all to escape.

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