Hey readers! Just trying this out. Let me know your thoughts…
A single torch lit the entrance to the private chamber, and as the widows approached, the light revealed their many hues of skin and dress, their jewels sparkled like crystal, rippled like dark red wine, shimmered with the green of a tranquil ocean.
Their collective expressions were somber, sad.
He would be leaving them once again; they never knew for how long, only that they must wake him to go. In their hearts, they grieved, for he would add to their number when he returned.
One of the widows stepped forward, her lithe form whispering against the fabric of her gown; she took the torch in a slender hand, and went into the chamber.
The light almost made it to the high ceiling, and fought bravely against the shadows, but was really little match for the formidable darkness.
“Duilius?” her dulcet voice called, a slight echo bouncing back to her ears.
She waited, knowing he’d heard; as she did, she looked about at the armory surrounding her, weapons he’d inspired in the minds of men. When the carnage was over, he brought them home to show, then to cast aside, as he had all of them, the widows of men.
She smiled at the thought: We, too, are now unused weapons.
She listened as the armored steps reverberated, a measured tread, slow, steady, and ominous. The sound of metal on metal rang out into the chamber, and he emerged from the semi-darkness into the semi-light, his visage scarred and terrible.
The scents of blood and smoke, waste and corrupted death surrounded him in a nimbus of pungent, horrific odors. It took everything for her not to retch.
Rounding the corner, he looked at her. His red eyes, flaring in the torch light, held her in a freezing grip of fear. He gazed at her a time, lust in his eyes; she saw him wrestling with his desire, and prayed that he would not take her.
Turning aside, he came to himself, and she breathed a sigh of relief.
“Vinya,” he greeted her, the rumble of his voice felt in the tips of her toes. “Where are the others?”
“Outside the chamber.” She managed to keep her voice steady.
“And why are you here?”
“Why do we ever come here, lord?”
He moved closer to her, and she stepped back, but held his gaze, moved the torch a little closer to his face.
His red eyes smoldered like embers, and he smiled; it was lascivious and cruel, mirthless and merciless, but she lifted her chin in defiance.
He reached out to take it between his fingers, his touch burning her cheeks like a high summer sun.
Her lips pulled back in a silent snarl, and her own eyes flared with their own heat.
“Ah, Vinya. You are fiery still. I thought once to break it out of you. I don’t know that I want to, but you should know that I can.”
Against the pressure of his fingers, she formed her words carefully, her hatred for him a rising tide that would one day sweep him away without a single regret.
“I am aware of your powers, Duilius. They frightened me once. Your devil eyes frighten me still, but you’ve done your worst, and yet I’m here. You should know, we are not done, not by any stretch of the imagination.”
He released her face, and she wiped away the crimson ashes his touch always left behind with the back of her free hand. He was blood and fire, indeed, but so was she, in her own way.
He nodded once in acquiescence to her standing up to him, but his patience was thinning; she would persist in her insolence, and he would ruin her beauty for it.
With a pompous air, he seated himself on a stout, high-backed chair, his attention no longer directly on her as a servant scurried to prostrate himself, and Duilius put his feet on a human ottoman, the full weight of his boot heels resting on the servant’s spine.
“Tell me, then. Where am I needed?”
She told him.
The torch sizzled and spit in the ensuing silence.
“Shall I help you prepare?” Vinya asked.
He looked up again, as if she’d just arrived and found him already seated.
There was something on his mind when he was hesitant, but she held her peace.
With a wave of his hand, he dismissed her.
“No. I will leave on the morrow.”
He rose, spared her yet another glance, and she hurled him another haughty look, and turned her back on him, leaving him alone in the darkness, with only his terrible eyes to light his way.
She felt those eyes as if they were hands.The heat from the torch was not enough to keep her from shivering under the weight of his stare between her shoulders, sliding down to her backside.
Back in his own tower, he took off the armor he’d made and tested in the underworld.
It bore the brunt of bites and claws well enough, and his newly sharpened blades had proven true, but he was running out of test subjects.
His dungeons were almost empty; he would need to remedy that soon.
The silent servants drew his bath, left his supplies and food, and lots of plum wine, and he was soon done with all of it, his eyes heavy, despite his desire not to sleep. It was happening more and more lately, as he got called more infrequently; peace was never kind to a soldier, whom having violently established it, now had to live in it with no further thought to what he’d done.
The thoughts of those men who killed flitted through his mind, as did the thoughts of those killed. The voices never stopped, and they weren’t always men. The higher voices of women and children carried over the lower frequencies of men, their screams of rage, their shocked questions of why, their desperate appeals for mercy, and then their snapping bones, their final moments before the arrows, the swords, the knives, the bolos, the spears, the stones, the molten metal…
He pushed it all back, and lay down, letting the candles gutter.
His sleep, though sound, was never silent, never fully dark. The deepness of it waxed and waned on the grand scales of wheeling stars, changing seasons, shifting tides, the tilt of planetary axis, and on the minutiae of an impulse of animal rage, the calculated, surreptitious slithering of snakes, the vicious, irreversible clamp of creatures with large fangs and evil intentions, the small dramas of life and death between predator and prey always played out before him.
Before he slipped into whatever level of unconsciousness he’d be able to achieve before his journey, the most unlikely thought flashed through his mind:
I no longer wish to be the god of war.
(To be continued)
© Alfred W. Smith Jr.
December 16th, 2014
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