Hunter regained temporary consciousness a few times over the next several days. Usually only long enough to choke down some food and to mutter a few words. A couple times it was Kyle or Marina or both at the same time. Once Hunter even caught Will checking in on him. Every other time it was a woman. A woman he had never met before. She felt familiar. She was the first person he saw when he finally woke up from his sleep. “Welcome back to the land of the living.” she said.
“Thanks. I’m sorry, but have we met?” Hunter said as he rubbed his eyes, readjusting to the sunlight. He looked into the woman’s eyes and saw the silvery old-looking eyes he felt like he knew, but couldn’t place. “Are you…Are you my mother?” Hunter said holding back tears.
“No, I’m sorry, but I knew her. She was a very strong woman. I am the goddess, Artemis. Goddess of the hunt, wild animals, and childbirth. I, along with my hunters, raised you from the age of four. Even though you are male, you were trained as a hunter.” Artemis proceeded to tell Hunter the story of his past. The tragic story of his mother. The 4 years that were taken from him. “And when I sent you off, I left you with Orion and this.” She held up Hunter’s pendant. She held it in her hand and it transformed into the knife which Hunter had used to slay the chimera. The events that occurred right before his injury came flooding back into his brain.
“You gave me that? You’re my…mother?” Hunter felt like he was going to go ahead and pass out again.
“Well, not exactly. I haven’t had any kids, but I’ve adopted many. You’re my first son. And this here is the Ceryneian dagger. When Hercules was given the task of capturing my beloved Ceryneian Hind, I was furious. In the process of its capture, Hercules broke off one of the golden antlers of the stag. I retrieved the antler and brought it to Hephaestus who forged it into this hunting knife. Its hilt is Cypress wrapped in deerskin. I knew that someday, you would have need for such a dagger.” She waved the knife around a couple of times, and then transformed it back into its original form. She handed it to Hunter who stared at it, like he had never seen it before.
“So then why are you here, after ignoring me for twelve years?”
“Hunter, I never ignored you. I had always kept my eye on you. Do you think it was your smile that calmed that bear? Sure you have a way with animals, but that was a bear that you invaded the territory of. I’m here, because my obnoxious, yet useful brother tipped me off with a prophecy. This prophecy seemed to match you perfectly. I have finally decided to claim you. Up until now I was going to let you live your life freely, but I have a feeling that you will make the right choice. There is a condition to me claiming you as one of my own.”
“What is it?! I’ll do anything!” Hunter beamed at the idea of finally having a place. Having a parent that he could claim as his own.
“You need to promise me something. You will have my blessing and all of the abilities and privileges of the Hunters, except for one, if you pledge yourself to me and swear off romantic love.”
“Romantic love? So I can’t ever have a girlfriend? I’ll never be married? I’ll never have kids?” Hunter’s heart sank a little.
“In exchange you will have immortality and will be given all of the resources of the Hunters of Artemis. Unfortunately, because of your…condition, you won’t be able to lie or hunt with the Hunters.” Artemis spoke of being male as being a condition. Hunter ignored her comment and thought about the life he would be giving up. The things he had aspired for. The times he was jealous of all of the many campers who had been claimed. The things he felt he had missed out on because he was unclaimed.
“I accept your terms. I’m ready to be claimed.”
“I accept your oath” Artemis said and then hugged Hunter. As soon as she embraced Hunter all of his memories came flushing back into his mind. The four years he had forgotten. The last time he saw her, his small 4 year old self gave, someone who he saw to be his mother, a hug. “This does not come without its…material benefits. You’ve already received the Ceryneian dagger.” She picked up Hunter’s bow which had broken in the chimera attack. She held it gently. Hunter looked at the carvings he had made in it, and then fell downtrodden. “You’ll be given a new bow, in a way.” Hunter watched as his bow fixed itself and then turned silver, right before his very eyes. She handed him the bow. He held his new bow. All of the carvings and nicks were still in it, but it was made of silver. “And here’s the really cool part.” She took the bow back and held it for a second. All of a sudden it disappeared. In her hand she held a girl’s bracelet. She gave it back to him.
“Uh…not that I’m not grateful, ma’am, but it’s not really my style.” Hunter held it like it was a poisonous snake.
“Oh. Right. Sorry.” She snapped her fingers. The watch turned into a wristwatch the perfect size for Hunter’s wrist. He slid it on. “Now think, ‘bow.’” Hunter closed his eyes and imagined himself holding a bow and suddenly the bow appeared in his hand. “See and when it comes to your pendant, just hold it, and think, ‘knife.’” Hunter grabbed his pendant and pictured himself holding a knife. Immediately he thought of himself holding his bloody knife standing over Kate’s dead body. The knife didn’t appear in his hand. He tried again and still, no luck. “You’re holding on to something. I can tell. Hunter, if you’re going to be one of my hunters you need to get move on.” Hunter tried again and still. Nothing. Hunter focused really hard. So hard that it tired him out. The pendant glowed and then transformed into the knife. Hunter laid back and the knife shrank back into the pendant which fell back around his neck. “There you go. You’ll get used to it. For now, I need to go. I’ll let you get some rest. Recognize that this might be the last time you see me in a long time.” She turned around and started to walk towards the door.
“Wait.” Hunter stood up. He steadied himself on the foot of the bed. He walked over to Artemis, and hugged her. “Thank you.” He said. Artemis smiled and kept walking toward the door.
“Oh and one last thing. Trust Orion. He’s much more than a dog. You’ll need him sooner or later.” Artemis said as she walked over and petted Orion who was staring attentively at the goddess. She stared into the wolf’s bluish-green eyes and then disappeared. Hunter stared at where she was standing. Orion hung his head and then trotted over to Hunter. He put his head on top of Hunter’s thigh and gave a few short whimpers.
“You must really miss her, huh? I’m going to do her proud.” Hunter patted Orion on the head, then stood up and grabbed his clothes. The shirt he was wearing was shredded to pieces in the fight with the chimera so he tore it up and tied some of it around Orion as a collar of sorts. He put on his pants and his shoes and grabbed a ‘Camp Half-Blood’ t-shirt and slipped it on. He walked out of the door of the Big house, with Orion close behind, and shielded his eyes from the bright afternoon sun.