Hebe had finally given up on her attempts to charm Ares from his brooding silence. Leaving her brother to glare darkly at the deserted council chamber walls, she went off to continue her chores elsewhere. The God of War sat sprawled on his throne. Freshly washed and healed from his recent injury, he scowled at the line of godly marble statuettes opposite. He growled a sigh, his gaze flitting from one stone likeness to the next. Even alone, miles from the battle, he couldn't escape the censorious gaze of his family. Inevitably, his own gaze came to rest upon the representation of his sister Athena. The statuette showed the Goddess of War and Wisdom dressed in full battle armour, aegis* and all. The God of War snorted derisively: wisdom his godly ass. His right hand slipped down to the still tingling area by his hip. The only wise act he'd witnessed lately from that goddess was her precaution of wearing Hades' 'Helmet of Invisibility' while sticking him with that spear. Bitch! Ares shifted in his seat, snarling at the remembered pain and humiliation. His howl of agonised outrage had brought the battle to an abrupt stand still. The surprise attack, and severity of the resulting injury, had driven him from the battlefield. Confused at the mortal's apparent ability to harm him, Ares had fled to Olympus. There he thought he could reason through the attack in safety. He quickly found that there was no safe haven for a stricken god of war.

The Trojans were first mentioned in Olympian gossip some years ago when Zeus had lent King Laomedon of Troy the services of Poseidon and Apollo. The two gods were to build the city walls, of all damn things. That, of course, gave the mortal king illusions of grandeur. This resulted in a sea monster eating his daughter, and a particularly nasty plague killing off half his subjects. Yet the Trojans hadn't learned their lesson, and continued to play games with the gods. Stupidity must run in the Trojan royal family, as surely as incest ran in Ares' own.

The war god shook his head slightly as he leaned down to pick up the golden goblet of ambrosia wine his sister had left for him. Getting involved in a beauty contest between Aphrodite, Athena, and Hera; what was that mortal thinking? No one, not even the maddest of the old gods, would mess with those three, especially on the subject of beauty. He couldn't really blame the mortal, Paris, for falling under the charm of Aphrodite. He had done so himself on numerous occasions, and the love goddess' promise to give Paris the Grecian Princess Helen had sealed his decision in her favour. Lust, however, did not excuse Paris' snubbing of the two most powerful goddesses on Olympus. That achievement ranked alongside borrowing Helios' chariot** for a little excursion, in the realms of utter stupidity. So, while Aphrodite giggled, clutching her prized golden apple, the Greeks and Trojans went to war over the kidnapping of Helen, and the slighted goddesses plotted revenge on Troy.

Ares swirled the wine in his goblet. Athena and Hera had seized their chance when the mortals screwed up yet again. This time it was the Greek demi-god Achilles who involved the gods. He had gone off in a sulk after he had quarrelled with Agamemnon, leader of the Greek forces, over the possession of a mortal woman. Achilles then appealed to his mother, Thetis (a nice piece of Nereid by any god's standard), to make the Greeks realise his worth. He asked his mother to make it so that the Greeks would lose the battle without his aid. Thetis had gone straight to Zeus, aimed her considerable charm at his baser nature (a wide target by any measure), and received his assent to her request.  It then fell to Paris to display a lick of sense in suggesting a duel to end the war. It could have worked, despite the fact that the Trojan got his ass kicked so badly by Menelaus he had to be rescued by Aphrodite, but the gods wouldn't let it lie. Zeus had managed to phrase his request to allow the mortal's truce to prevail in such a way that Hera had lost her thinly veiled temper. (And if you think that was accidental, there's a bridge in Attica going cheap.) The Trojan War then became a godly free-for-all. Aphrodite helped the Trojans as best she could, and Apollo lobbed arrows at the Greek supply lines. Athena, Hera and Ares himself had aided the Greeks. Ares recalled the short time in battle fighting alongside the soldiers. He had been enjoying himself immensely, rallying the troops in the forefront of battle; the Trojans were soon running back behind their walls. Then Athena had asked the God of War to desist in his efforts. She had reasoned that this war was a mortal affair; it would be wiser to sit back and watch the action, rather than bring down Zeus' ire.

Ares growled and took a calming sip of wine. He remembered his amicable acquiescence to the goddess' request. Then everything went to the Styx. He just couldn't understand his 'wise' sisters' reasoning: why on earth would she support a mortal in attacking the gods? Ares first heard of this outrageous behaviour when Aphrodite came to him, crying and bleeding from the wrist, begging for use of his chariot. The near hysterical Goddess of Love hadn't made much sense. Ares just granted her request and let her depart for Olympus. He then awaited Zeus' verdict on the wounding of his sister. His father's declaration that Aphrodite had no business on the battlefield was aggravatingly predictable; Athena was the golden apple of Zeus' eye after all.

While Ares was digesting this announcement, Apollo had approached him. The haughty Sun God asked why the God of War sat by while mortals raged against their gods? He himself had just been set upon, yet here sat 'Mighty Ares', on a cloud, 'twiddling his spear'.

Ares took a deep drink of wine. Apollo's words, like his arrows, flew straight on target, solidly connecting with the war gods' ego, and rapidly inflaming his anger. Ares had left his smirking brother and raged back to the battlefield, hacking down the Greeks with the immense fury that was War. No mortal stood before him for more than a second. The Greeks rapidly fell back to their ships in sheer terror before his bloody onslaught.

Ares' grip tightened around the goblet in his hand. He had been standing over the body of the giant warrior Periphas, when he caught sight of Diomedes. The upstart mortal who had the gall to attack his siblings was tearing towards him in a wickedly driven chariot. With a sneer at the presuming mortal, Ares brought up his spear and let it fly, on a true course, straight for the mortal's sacrilegious heart. His surprise when his spear flew harmlessly overhead gave Athena time to launch her counter attack. Using the mortal as a guise, his sister put all her godly strength into driving the spear deep into his flesh. Ares would never have expected a mortal thrown spear to harm him; his shock gave the treacherous goddess enough time to make her escape.

In a flash of anger Ares threw his goblet at Athena's pristine statue. He ignored the few spots of wine that splattered him as his missile glanced harmlessly off the marble aegis. A bitter smile twisted his full lips at this irony, before all expression fled from his eloquent face. His dark gaze had come to rest on the largest statue opposite: Zeus, Lord of the Skies.

The God of War closed his eyes against the memory of his recent meeting with his father. He had stood before Zeus, bleeding copious amounts of ichor, asking for an end to the godly participation in this war. He had cited Athena's outrageous behaviour as reasoning, and all but begged for something to be done. Zeus had settled a cold, grey gaze upon his son and answered: "Nay, thou renegade, sit not by me and whine. Most hateful to me art thou of all the gods that dwell in Olympus: thou ever lovest strife and wars and battles. Truly thy mother's spirit is intolerable, unyielding, even Hera's; her can I scarce rule with words. Therefore I deem that by her prompting thou art in this plight. Yet no longer will I endure to see thee in anguish; mine offspring art thou, and to me thy mother bare thee. But wert thy born of any other god unto this violence, long ere this hadst thou been lower than the sons of heaven."***

Ares had stood in silence before the tirade. The healer god, bidden to cure Ares of his wound, could do nothing to abate the cold sickness that had crept into the war god's soul upon hearing his father's words. Athena had wounded him at the behest of his mother, with the approval of his father. However, it was this parentage alone that forestalled his imprisonment in Tartarus for eternity, his nature and deeds so vile.

The dark god stood from his throne, half-heartedly brushing at the few wine stains that decorated his chest, before stalking out the council chamber to locate a scrying pool. Zeus had forbidden his return to earth. He would watch the continuing battles from Olympus; if nothing else, he was still the God of War.


Explanatory notes :

*Athena's aegis is an impenetrable shield.

**The last god who attempted to drive the sun chariot across the sky, Phaethon, was thunder-bolted out of existence by Zeus when he lost control of the horses and nearly crashed into the earth.

***Excerpt from Homer 'The Iliad', end of Book V.