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Artemis the Hero

Book #28 of Goddess Girls

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About The Book

Meet the treacherous Alpheus in this twenty-eighth Goddess Girls adventure!

After the sneaky river god Alpheus takes a precious cup from a river nymph, it’s up to Artemis to get it back! When Alpheus challenges Artemis to a surprisingly easy bet, with the winner getting the cup, Artemis thinks it’s too good to be true—and realizes Alpheus will stop at nothing to win. Can Artemis be a hero to her friends?

Excerpt

Chapter 1: A Plea for Help

1 A Plea for Help
AS SOON AS CLASSES WERE over on Friday afternoon at Mount Olympus Academy, the goddessgirl Artemis rushed upstairs to the girls’ dorm on the fourth floor. When she burst into her room, her three dogs wiggled and howled with joy. Arooo!

Her greyhound, Nectar, named after the divine drink that kept Greek goddesses and gods immortal, was especially eager to see her. He leaped to the floor from the crumpled linens atop Artemis’s spare bed, where he’d been napping with her other two dogs.

Artemis quickly threw her bag—full of scrolls for classes—onto the bed on the other side of the room as Nectar scrambled over. He began to dance around her. Leaning forward a little, she braced her hands on her thighs. “Can I have a kiss?” she asked him.

The greyhound stood on his hind legs and pushed his front paws against her chest. Then he licked her cheek. Artemis kissed him back on the top of his long nose. “Love you too, boy!”

Dog slobber never bothered her the way it did one of her besties, the goddessgirl Aphrodite. That, plus the mess Artemis and her dogs made, were the main reasons she and Aphrodite had stopped rooming together some time ago. The two girls’ housekeeping styles were just completely different. Artemis took a relaxed approach, whereas Aphrodite was super-duper-mega-neat.

Luckily, the room split hadn’t affected their friendship. And they were also BFFs with two awesome goddessgirls named Athena and Persephone. Athena roomed in the girls’ dorm too, but Persephone mostly lived off-campus with her mom. When she did spend the night at MOA, she slept in Aphrodite’s room.

“Thanks for the kiss,” Artemis told Nectar before gently lowering his front paws to the floor. Immediately she was ambushed by Amby (her beagle) and Suez (her bloodhound). The name Amby was short for ambrosia, a divine food eaten by immortals. And Suez—Zeus spelled backward—was named after MOA’s formidable principal. Also known as Athena’s dad!

Laughing, Artemis kneeled to accept more kisses. “You guys act like you haven’t seen me for a century instead of just a few hours.” She scratched behind Suez’s ears with one hand and rubbed up and down Amby’s neck with the other.

After greetings had been thoroughly and happily exchanged, she threaded her way past the mountains of laundry piled here and there on her floor. That morning she’d had to kick through the haphazard stacks of clothes to find a clean chiton to put on for class. The flowing gowns were standard wear for Greek mortal and immortal girls and women. The piles had been here for so long that she hardly noticed them. They were almost like furniture! And by now it was becoming hard to tell which clothes were clean and which were dirty.

She supposed she’d better wash the whole lot soon. Sigh. It wouldn’t be that hard, really. It would only require her to do a bit of wash, dry, fold-up, organize, and hang-up magic spells. Still, that would take some time, and there were about a million other things she’d rather do! So… maybe later.

Stepping over dog toys and old discarded school projects, she finally made it to the far corner of her room. There she bent to check that her dogs still had plenty of food and water. They did. On the way back across the room, she stepped on a doggie squeak toy and stumbled to her knees.

When Artemis stood again, she found herself staring at her reflection in the mirror that hung on the outside of her closet door. She noticed that her glossy black curls had sprung loose from the gold band that held them together in a simple twist at the back of her head. She slipped the gold band out, gathered her hair high, and re-clasped the band around it.

Then she noticed that her chiton was kind of wrinkly. There were some dirt spots on it too. But they weren’t very big. Hardly noticeable, really. Probably happened during third-period Beast-ology class today while she was tracking a winged griffin through a place on Earth called the Forest of the Beasts. She sniffed the chiton’s hem. Not completely fresh, but not exactly stinky, either. No reason to change clothes, she decided. She flicked off a piece of dirt and pressed the wrinkles smoother with her palm. There. Grooming done!

“Okay, guys. Ready for your walk?” she asked her three hounds as she turned from the mirror.

They began to bark in reply. Then they ran over to the door and pawed at it.

“Just give me one more minute,” Artemis called as she looked around for her favorite archery bow.

Finally she spotted the polished olive-wood bow leaning up against the side of her spare closet. A closet she let Aphrodite use, because that girl had too many chitons to fit in her own two closets. Her wardrobe was enormous, and she often changed outfits several times a day. Artemis couldn’t imagine doing that. What a waste of time, when you could be out doing fun stuff with your dogs, practicing archery skills, or playing winged-sandal ball games!

Quickly, Artemis slung the bow over her back. “Now, where did I leave my quiver?” she muttered, glancing around. Minutes ticked by as she hunted for it through the many piles and stacks of stuff around her room.

Her dogs pawed faster at the door and began to whine. They got like this every morning and afternoon when she returned from classes. They were anxious to get outside to romp and do their bathroom business!

“Sorry! I’m hurrying, I’m hurrying,” Artemis told them as she frantically dug under a pile of textscrolls atop her desk. Meanwhile, the dogs were becoming more frenzied. “Ye gods! You guys must really need to pee! Hold on just another sec.”

At last she unearthed the tooled leather quiver that held her silver arrows and slung it across her back next to her bow. She and her twin brother, Apollo, who were both thirteen, were the school’s best archers. And, except for when she attended classes, she rarely went anywhere without her bow and arrows. Because you never knew when archery equipment might come in handy.

As goddessgirl of the hunt (as well as the forest and the moon), she served as the protector of animals, nymphs, and other creatures who dwelled in the forests. Hers was a big job, considering she also had to go to classes and keep her grades up, plus find time to hang out with her friends and do sports. No wonder she had no time to clean!

“Finally!” she said, rushing to her three hounds. The dogs barked and wagged their tails. “Okay, okay. Sorry about the wait. I’m sure it felt like forever to you guys, but it wasn’t really. We can go now.”

The second she opened the door, Nectar, Amby, and Suez zoomed down the dorm hallway ahead of her, their nails clicking against the floor. At the end of the hall, she pushed out through the door onto the landing. A few godboys passed her as she started downstairs. They mumbled “hi” and “howsitgoing” before continuing up to the boys’ dorm on the fifth floor. As she and her hounds continued down the marble staircase to the Academy’s entrance, they passed more students on their way up to their rooms.

Several paused to pet the dogs before continuing on up, but Artemis tried to keep moving. They were on a time-critical mission. As in—Mission Dog Bathroom!

Since there weren’t a lot of pets at MOA, Amby, Nectar, and Suez always got a lot of attention. The few other animals here included Zeus’s famous magical, white-winged horse, Pegasus, and a cute black-and-white kitten named Adonis. Aphrodite and Persephone shared the care of the kitten. But since Adonis mostly liked to stay in their room, other students didn’t see him as much they did Artemis’s dogs.

After reaching the bottom of the staircase, Artemis rushed her dogs through the Academy’s massive bronze front doors. Happy to be outside at last, they raced ahead of her down a set of sparkling granite steps to the marble courtyard below. She hurried to catch up with them, knowing they’d be anxious to get to the trail beyond it.

“Hey, Artemis! Wait up!” someone called. She turned to spy a mortal boy with light brown hair and gray eyes. Actaeon! He peeled off from his friends and crossed the courtyard toward her. Her brother, Apollo, plus Poseidon, Hades, and some other godboys, watched him head her way.

On hearing Actaeon’s voice, Suez skidded to a halt. Changing direction, he joyfully raced over to the mortal boy and barreled into him.

Actaeon laughed, stumbling back a step under the dog’s weight. “Hey there. Glad to see you, too.” Squatting down, he ruffled the fur on Suez’s neck. Unwilling to be left out, Amby and Nectar were soon leaping around him as well.

Watching Actaeon, Artemis felt a familiar fluttery feeling in her chest. Against all odds—especially considering that she’d only really gotten to know him after she’d lost her temper and transformed him into a deer a while back—this boy had become her crush. The two of them shared a love of archery and dogs. Aside from that, she liked how good-natured, kind, fun, and funny he was. Plus, he was cute!

Smiling, she caught up to him. “Too bad my dogs don’t like you,” she joked as Amby rolled over to let Actaeon rub his belly, and Nectar nuzzled the boy’s free hand.

Her crush grinned at her. “You guys going for a walk?”

“Mm-hm. Want to come? Fair warning, we’re kind of in a hurry, though,” she told him. If her dogs didn’t get to the trail soon, at least one of them was going to have an accident right here in the courtyard. She definitely didn’t need that to happen in front of Actaeon. It would be majorly embarrassing!

Impatient for more of the boy’s attention, Suez pushed in front of Nectar. Laughing, Actaeon stroked behind the bloodhound’s big droopy ears.

“Sorry, can’t,” he told Artemis. Still kneeling, he cocked his thumb back toward his friends, saying, “Your brother, Hades, Poseidon, me, and some other guys are heading off to Game On! in a few.”

Game On! was this incredible gaming store that had recently opened up in the Immortal Marketplace, which was located halfway between Earth and Mount Olympus. The IM had dozens and dozens of cool shops under its high-ceilinged crystal roof. In Artemis’s humble opinion, though, Game On! was the coolest. It had a sunken arena divided into three play areas. And she had helped design the very first game played at its grand opening!

Trying to hide her disappointment, Artemis shrugged. When her dogs blasted off for the trail, she began backing away from Actaeon and moving after them. “That’s okay. But I kind of need to get going, so…”

She sometimes wished she and Actaeon spent more time together. Like Aphrodite and Persephone did with their crushes, Ares and Hades. On the other hand, she did value her independence and also liked having plenty of time for her pets, sports, and friends.

Perhaps sensing her disappointment, Actaeon called, “Can we meet up in the cafeteria later? Maybe go drink some shakes at the Supernatural Market after dinner?”

Her heart lifted. “Sure!” When he stood up, she thought about dashing back to him to give him a kiss on the cheek. Only she’d never kissed a boy before. He’d kissed her on the cheek once, but that was ages ago. And this probably wasn’t the best time, anyway, with his friends looking on. To tell the truth, she never felt like she knew how to act around him.

Actaeon was only her second crush ever. Her first crush—a mortal actor named Orion—had been a total disaster. Though she hadn’t been able to see it at the time, he’d been way too full of himself to care about anyone else.

“Later, then.” With a wave of his hand, Actaeon pivoted and went to rejoin his friends.

As Artemis jogged across the courtyard after her dogs, she reflected that another reason she liked Actaeon so much was because of how unlike Orion he was. She just wished she felt more sure of herself around him. But despite growing up with a twin brother and hanging out with guys in sports, she’d never been able to figure boys out. Not when it came to crushes, anyway.

Within minutes she’d caught up with her hounds at a small grove of olive trees to one side of the courtyard. These silver-green trees had sprung up after Athena invented the olive as a science-fair project when she’d first come to the Academy. She was the brainiest of Artemis’s BFFs. Pretty much the brainiest immortal student at MOA, in fact. There were many other inventions to her credit besides the olive—ships, flutes, plows, and crafts, too.

After passing through the olive grove, Artemis and her dogs moved onto a trail that wound along a river and would eventually circle her back to the olive grove. It was a three-mile loop—the perfect length for exercise. As usual, she paused now and then along the trail to let her dogs wander off a ways and do their bathroom business.

Since very few paths forked off from this trail, there was little chance they’d get lost. However, Artemis tried to pay careful attention to their whereabouts and her surroundings at all times. She could get lost just about anywhere. For as long as she could remember, her sense of direction had been awful. As Apollo liked to tease, she was so directionally challenged that she probably couldn’t find her way out of a papyrus bag!

When her dogs were finally finished with their business and ready to romp, Artemis called to them, and they continued their walk at a faster pace. They were about halfway around the loop when her stomach began to growl with hunger. Luckily, she always brought snacks.

“Just a sec!” she called to her dogs. Stopping by the side of the trail, she leaned her bow against a big rock and shrugged off her quiver. She pulled out her three magical silver arrows—a gift from her goddessgirl friends on her and Apollo’s thirteenth birthday—then dug around inside the quiver. At the very bottom, she located a Bite o’ Heaven ambrosia bar. She also found the bag of dog treats she kept there. So, before peeling the wrapper from her ambrosia bar, she tossed a handful of bone-shaped biscuits toward her hounds. They scrambled to get them and scarfed them down lickety-split.

Just as quickly, she devoured her snack bar, then shoved her arrows back inside her quiver. “Okay, boys. Let’s keep going,” she said, swinging both quiver and bow across her back. But they’d only just begun to walk again when a feeling of unease came over her and she went still.

Uh-oh! Was Apollo in some kind of trouble? She and her brother could sometimes pick up on each other’s feelings long-distance. And when they did, they paid attention.

Artemis squeezed her eyes shut and concentrated on seeing him in her mind’s eye. Slowly, she recited a chant she and Apollo had made up in childhood: “Come, my twin, give me a clue—a picture I can use to find you!” They’d been born with a special twin sense: the ability to locate each other in this way, as long as the other twin was willing to be found.

Right away a picture swam into her head. She saw a tall, arched entrance inside the Immortal Marketplace, carved with fancy scrollwork entwined with figures of the goddesses and gods of Mount Olympus. They were engaged in a stunning battle against the giant Titans in a long-ago war called the Titanomachy. It only took her a moment or two to realize that what she was seeing was actually the entrance to Game On!

Of course! Apollo was one of the guys Actaeon had just gone there with. She tried to locate both her brother and her crush within the image she’d conjured up, but the picture faded too fast. Well, at least she knew that Apollo must be fine, since he’d obviously made it to where he’d been going.

So why did she still feel uneasy?

As she continued down the trail, her dogs bounded ahead of her. Alongside them, the fast-moving river tumbled over rocks as it flowed down the mountainside. Suddenly she noticed rustling and sighing sounds in the trees she was passing. Yet no wind stirred their branches.

A shiver ran down her spine. Something was definitely up.

Just then, a lovely, clear voice called out to her. “Artemis, most worthy of goddesses. Protector of all who dwell in the forests. A nymph has need of your help!”

“Pitys? Is that you?” Artemis called out, turning in a circle. She’d recognized the voice as belonging to one of the nymphs who lived among the trees along this part of the trail.

Sure enough, Pitys shyly parted the leaves of a nearby tree to peek out at her. One by one, three more pale faces, glowing like fairy lights, peeped from behind tree trunks and in between branches. Then the four nymphs, each around Artemis’s age, swung down to land in her path.

About The Authors

Joan Holub has authored and/or illustrated over 140 children’s books, including the Goddess Girls series, the Heroes in Training series, the New York Times bestselling picture book Mighty Dads (illustrated by James Dean), and Little Red Writing (illustrated by Melissa Sweet). She lives in North Carolina and is online at JoanHolub.com.

Suzanne Williams is a former elementary school librarian and the author of over seventy books for children, including the award-winning picture books Library Lil (illustrated by Steven Kellogg) and My Dog Never Says Please (illustrated by Tedd Arnold), and several chapter book and middle grade series. She also coauthors the Goddess Girls and Thunder Girls series with the fantastic Joan Holub. Visit her at Suzanne-Williams.com.

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