Athena’s hand slowly traced the line of script on the scroll though her unfocused eyes stared into the gloom. There was a chill in the air, and even the white marble bench beneath her was cold; as cold as the rest of the abandoned temple she sat inside. Once, it barely seemed like a heart beat ago to her, she could have snapped her fingers and repaired the sagging roof, fixed the cracked pillars and restored fire and light and life before the mortals could do more than blink.
She had held power over so much in the mortal world! She had picked cities, chosen armies and changed the fate of humanity on a whim. Everything had changed now though. Oh, she would live on, they all would, even drunken Dionysus. But the Goddess of Wisdom knew that she would never again regain her old glory.
The scroll was tossed aside suddenly and she bent her head into her hands; dark brown locks cascading downwards, hiding her face from view. Despair held her heart in it’s dusty, clogging grip. What was the point of living on, existing even, when you had no purpose? What would she do? What could she even do? Women would not have lasting power in this world for many thousands of years to come; there was no space in a world of men for a woman warrior scholar.
There was a brush of air that lightly touched her cheek. Athena ignored it, but soon a warm presence seated itself next to her and she was treated to a friendly shoulder nudge that only one person dared to do.
“Oh come on Athena, what has a scroll ever done to offend you?” The voice was as light as faint moonbeams on the water and as musical as the running huntsman’s feet. Athena didn’t bother to put on her stern mask as she had been doing on Olympus for the past few decades. She was nudged again and the Goddess of Wisdom huffed before turning away.
“Please leave, Artemis. I wish to be left alone.” Her voice was cold but the Goddess of the Hunt only laughed merrily.
“Mmmm, no. I don’t think I’ll leave you be.” Athena kept her head averted from Artemis, a scowl etched on her face.
“Have you been taking lessons from your brother recently?”
“In what, persistence? I am the Goddess of the Hunt. Persistence is sort of my area.”
“What does that make me, your prey?” Artemis laughed a full, chest-aching laugh and Athena’s scowl darkened into a thunderous rage. Before she could leave, or grab her weaponry, the Goddess of the Moon reached out and placed her hand on Athena’s arm.
“Oh, dear one, don’t scowl so. You know I am not…well….I am mocking you, but only to bring you out of your brooding.” Owl-eyed Athena turned towards her annoyance.
“I do not brood.” Artemis raised her hands in a mock gesture of defeat.
“Alright, alright, over-thinking then.”
“Artemis, could you please be serious? We are facing an unprecedented threat -”
“One we can do nothing about!” a faint, tired, smile played around the huntress’ lips, “We cannot make the mortals believe again, nor should we. They have free will, the ability to choose -”
“I know that! I am talking about what comes next!” Athena stood and the heavens thundered with her displeasure. Artemis ignored the rumblings and looked at her, puzzled for a second, before her eyes cleared with a flash of clarity.
“That’s what you’ve been worrying about then. Not the lack of belief but the fact that you don’t know what is going to happen.” The Goddess of Wisdom breathed out and sank back onto the bench.
“Aren’t you?” Pallas Athena looked down, away from the silver eyes that were watching her intently.
“No. I am not.” Her head snapped up and she looked in disbelief at her calm guest.
“Why not? The fates are silent, our temples are gathering dust and Zeus himself sits frightened in his palace. Olympus might even fall. How can you not be scared?” Artemis smiled with a flash of white teeth before she answered.
“I have never cared for power. Oh I enjoyed the benefits from time to time, I won’t lie about that, but I never liked being beholden to so many mortals. I still have the Hunt, the deep wild places far from human eyes and now I have peace, time to do as I wish.” She looked so calm, like the moon on its steady journey month after month, year after year. Athena could not share in her serenity though.
“I…I liked the mortals. I liked listening to them learn, seeing their ingenuity give rise to wonders. What do I do now? I have no hunt like you do nor any deep wild places. I am tied to civilization Artemis, what do I do when it cuts its ties to me?” Her friend reached out and placed her hands into Athena’s unresponsive grip.
“Come with me. I can hide you away, far from the eyes of everybody else but my own. You can finally start on that history you’ve wanted to do since the Gigantomachy. Or you can come with me on the Hunt, it has been many years since we’ve run together and I can share. Come with me, dear one.” Pallas Athena gripped the hands she was holding and gazed into silver eyes.
“You would…for me?”
“You have done no less for me in the past, even when I fought against Hera at Troy, against you; you still cared for me then when Apollo was unable. Come with me, dear one.” The hands now began to pull lightly and the Goddess of Wisdom rose. She allowed herself to be lead from the dead temple, hand clasped firmly in the grip of Artemis, the Protector of Maidens. They left, walking into the woods, and the only sign that was left of them was an old scroll that lay forgotten on the temple floor.