Alone and Silent
"May you die alone and silent." Auronaar curse.
He doesn't say anything, my prisoner. Even when the guards taunted him, when they took away his clothes and spat on him, pissed on him and jerked off over him, he said nothing. Now they've given up. It's no fun tormenting someone who won't respond. And they're not allowed to hurt him. I've given specific orders. The king can't be killed. Yet. Not until *he* comes for him. So he sits there, this king, in silence. His arms drawn up above his head and chained to the wall, slumped forward, red gold hair hiding his face from me. And still he says nothing.
I don't know what I expected. Threats perhaps. Threats that his lover would exact vengeance on me. Or promises of payment if I let him go. But there's been nothing. Maybe he realises who I am and what I'm doing. Or maybe he's as blockheaded as that bastard half-brother of his. Maybe he's as big a bimbo as that slut of a mother of his.
The sudden charge of energy announces his arrival in my chambers. I turn slowly to meet him.
"Mother." His jaw is clenched, eyes burning on my face. "What the fuck is going on? Where's Iphicles?"
I move very deliberately across the room and put my goblet of wine down on the table.
"Your mortal lover?" My tone is calculatedly insouciant. "What's the problem?"
His jaw tightens ominously, fists clenching threateningly. "Where is he?" His eyes focus past me on the scrying mirror. I hear an involuntary sound from him as he moves forward, reaching as though to touch the image before him. If I had any doubts before, they're gone now. I *have* to do this. With a thought, the picture is gone. I turn on him.
"Your father," I spit, I can't even bring myself to say his name, "You're just like him - a slave to your cock. A slave to mortals. Can't you see what it's doing to you. You are Ares, God of War." I show him the battles, the magnificent bloody wars that have been fought and won in his name, the honour, the fear in which mortals held him.
Then I show him the future. 'Ares, lover of a mortal.' I show him his temples, defaced and crumbling. No offerings. No wars. No battles. Just the diminished god and his mortal lover in an eternal quest for physical satisfaction. No future. No glory. No power.
"It is your destiny, my son. You are the God of War. You cannot deny your godhood." I look at him, my eyes narrowed. "Do you *wish* to renounce your calling?"
His eyes are closed under the impact of what I have shown him of his future. For an instant, I almost feel sympathy for him. But he's a *god*; he knows the responsibilities that carries.
At my question, his head raises. "No! I *am* War." His eyes burn on mine. "War is nothing without me." A brief silence, then a murmur so soft I'm not sure I've heard it. "I am nothing without War."
I nod slowly. He has not lost it then as I had feared, the sense of who he is, of *what* he is. I move to him. "Prove it," I tell him. "Prove that you will not dwindle into nothing, that you will not become a joke among mortals. Prove to me that you are still War."
His proud head raises and he stares me down. "There's nothing to prove," he tells me with utter certainty. "It's the truth. What do you want me to do?"
I hold his gaze as I slip the blade into his hand. "Kill the king."
His hand freezes in the action of taking the knife from me. "Kill him?" he echoes blankly.
I nod once, solemnly. "He is your weakness, Ares," I tell him. "You're a god. The God of War. You are not allowed weaknesses. Weaknesses are how your enemies best you."
His eyes are dark. He doesn't want to believe me, but he knows it's true. I keep my strongest card until last. "And he's Hercules' brother," I feed into his mind. "Hercules won't rest until he's turned the king against you. He's already stolen your father's regard from you - will you let him take your lover too?"
He's angry, I can see that. He's angry and confused, dazed by the images I've shown him. He wants to deny me - he doesn't want what I'm saying to be true. But beneath it all, he is the God of War. He cannot be weak. He knows this. Finally he accepts the knife from me.
I look him in the eyes. "I'm proud of you, my son," I tell him, then I take him to the dungeon. I leave him there. What follows is his decision, his decision whether to remain a true god or to become a laughable figure, despised by both gods and mortals. I go back to my chambers and I watch from there.
For an instant I think he'll break. He stands frozen as he stares at his lover. The king is silent beneath his scrutiny; somehow dignified despite the foulness of his surroundings. Finally I realise why the king says nothing, does nothing. He already knows what has to happen if his lover is to remain true to himself. He knows there is no choice.
Ares reaches out a hand to him, a brief, meaningless gesture. A plea for understanding. There's no response. How can he expect forgiveness for what he is about to do? The king's eyes are closed, as though he can't bear to look his lover in the face. A tear squeezes from beneath his closed lids, but I know it's not for him. It's for the god. And Ares suddenly kneels beside him on the cold stone floor and wraps his arms around his lover, holds him close as though he will never let him go, before the black blade slides easily, so easily, between his ribs and up into his heart. No noise from the king, no final words of forgiveness or blame. The king slips soundlessly into the next world, leaving his lover here. Alone. And silent.