Greece, 7382 BCE
Acheron felt a presence behind him. He spun around, staff ready to strike, expecting it to be another Daimon attacking him.
Instead, he found Simi hanging upside down in a tree, her long, burgundy bat-like wings folded in against her child-like body. She wore a loose black chiton and himation that rippled gently with the night’s breeze. Her blood red eyes glowed eerily in the darkness while her long black braid dangled from her head, down to the ground.
Acheron relaxed and set one end of his staff against the damp grass as he watched her.
“Where have you been, Simi?” he asked sharply. He’d been calling for the Charonte demon for the last half an hour.
“Oh just hanging about, akri,” she said, smiling as she swung herself back and forth on the limb. “Did akri miss me?”
Acheron sighed.He liked Simi a great deal, but he wished he had a mature demon as his companion. Not one that even at three thousand years old functioned on the level of a five year old child.
It would be centuries before Simi was fully grown.
“Did you deliver my message?” he asked.
“Yes, akri,” she said, using the Atlantean term for ‘my lord and master.’ “I delivered it just as you said, akri.”
The skin on the back of Acheron’s neck crawled. There was something in her tone that concerned him. “What did you do, Simi?”
“The Simi did nothing, akri. But…”
He waited as she looked about nervously.
“But?” he prompted.
“The Simi was hungry on her way back.”
He went cold with dread. “Who did you eat this time?”
“It wasn’t a who, akri. It was something that had hornies on its head like me. There were a bunch of them actually. All of them had hornies and they made a strange moo moo sound.”
“Do you mean cows? You ate cattle?”
“That’s it, akri. I ate cattle.”
“That’s not so bad.”
“No, it was actually rather good, akri. Why didn’t you tell the Simi about cows. They are very tasty when roasted. The Simi liked them a lot.”
“Then why are you worried?”
“Because this really tall man with only one eyeball came out of a cave and was screaming at the Simi. He say the Simi was evil for eating the cows and that I would have to pay for them. What does that mean, akri? Pay? The Simi know nothing about pay.”
Acheron wished he could say the same for himself. “This really big man, was he a cyclops?”
“What’s a cyclops?”
“A son of Poseidon.”
“Oh see, that’s what he said. Only he had no hornies. He had a big, bald head instead.”
Acheron didn’t want to discuss the cyclops’ big bald head with his demon. What he needed to know was what to do to make amends for her voracious appetite. “So what did the cyclops say to you?”
“That he be mad at the Simi for eating the cattle. He said the horny cows belonged to Poseidon. Who is Poseidon, akri?”
“A Greek god.”
“Oh see then, the Simi is not in trouble. I just kill the Greek god and all’s fine.”
“You can’t kill a Greek god, Simi. It’s not allowed.”
“There you go again, akri, saying no to the Simi. Don’t eat that, Simi. Don’t kill that, Simi. Stay here, Simi. Go to Katoteros, Simi, and wait for me to call you.” She crossed her arms over her chest and gave him a stern frown. “I don’t like being told no, akri.”
Acheron grimaced at the ache that was starting in the back of his skull. He wished he’d been given a pet parrot for his twenty-first birthday. The Charonte demon was going to be the death of him…again.
“So why were you calling the Simi, akri?”
“I wanted your help with the Daimons.”
She relaxed and went back to swinging on her limb. “You didn’t seem to need any help, akri. The Simi thinks you did quite well with them on your own. I particularly liked the way that one Daimon flipped up into the air before you killed him. Very nice. I did not know they were so colorful when they exploded.”
She flipped off the limb and came to stand by his side. “Where we go now, akri? Will you take Simi somewhere cold again? I liked that last place we went. The mountain was very nice.”
He paused as he felt Artemis summoning him. He let out another long-suffering sigh.
For two thousand years, he had been ignoring her.
Still she insisted on calling out to him.
There was a time when she had sought him out in the “flesh,” but he had blocked her from that ability.
Her mental telepathy to him was the only contact he couldn’t sever entirely.
“Come, Simi,” he said, starting his journey that would take him back to Therakos. The Daimons there had set up a colony where they were preying on the poor Greeks who lived in a small village.
Acheron. I need your help. My new Dark-Hunters need a trainer.
He froze at Artemis’s words.
What the hell was that?
“What have you done, Artemis?” his voice whispered along the wind, traveling to Olympus where she waited in her temple.
So, you do speak to me.He heard the relief in her tone.I had begun to wonder if I would ever hear the sound of your voice again.
Acheron curled his lip. He didn’t have time for this.
He ignored her.
She didn’t take the hint.
The Daimon menace is spreading faster than you can contain it. You needed help and so I have given it to you.
He scoffed at the idea of her help. The Greek goddess had never done anything for anyone other than herself since the dawn of time.
“Leave me alone, Artemis. We are through, you and I. I have a job to do and no time to be bothered with you.”
Fine then. I shall send them out to face the Daimons unprepared. If they die, well, who cares for a human? I can just make more of them to fight.
It was a trick.
And yet in his gut, Acheron knew it wasn’t. She probably had made more Dark-Hunters and if she truly had, then she would definitely do it again.
Especially if it would make him feel guilty.
Damn her. He would have to go to her temple again.
Personally, he would rather be disemboweled.
He looked to his demon. “Simi, I need to see Artemis now. You return to Katoteros and stay out of trouble until I summon you.”