Friday, June 26, 2015

The Doom of Mars

The Doom of Mars
Bobby Derie

The spear was heavy in his hand as he stood before the entrance to their hall. Carved from the living stone by tides, shaped further by an influence that was half of art and half of nature, Mars paused, briefly, before descending into their quiet twilight catacomb. As would any soldier on the eve of battle, curious of his fate.

Still pools lay here and there, illuminated by small dancing lights that fluttered on unseen breezes, and the paths between them were marked by skulls and bones. The god gave these a professional appraisal. Many had died of violence, their moldering remains a testament to the blow of sword and spear, arrow and sling-stone, knife and cestus; some immediately fatal, others showed signs of knitting and disease. Many showed signs of starvation: victims of siege and famine, and Mars knew these too, for where they not mere weapons in war's arsenal?

Mars' gaze fell briefly on one of the pools, and he saw reflected there a young farmer, bronzed by the sun, waging war on the standing grain. How long the god watched the reaping, he could not tell. Yet as one, farmer and god seemed to be aware of the cloud on the horizon... and then the moment was gone, and blind fish swam beneath the surface of the vision. Ares tightened his grip on his spear and turned once more to the path, this time looking neither left nor right at the detritus of wars and ages past.

He found them sat upon a triple throne, each about their task. On bended knee the god tipped his spear so that the point almost touched the ground, and with his left hand removed the heavy helmet, and held it under his arm.

"Kind ladies, wise counselors, Parcae, who hear the name of every child, be they god or mortal, Nona, Decima, Morta, blessed ladies, I crave a boon."

At these words, neither Nona nor Decima looked up from their work, and the threads of their work continued, the spinning and measuring. Yet Morta looked up, and her knife too did not stop snipping, but she smiled at Mars.

"Son of Jupiter, son of Juno, whose bloody blade has been as the tip of my own; know you well that there are only two boons that any ever ask of us."

Mars' eyes met those of Morta, and not unkindly was the look she gave him. "Fair ladies, gentle women, who end the final pains of soldiers and bring the final peace to broken spirits, I wish to know how and when I shall die."

The Parcae clucked, and perhaps Nona tittered a little, by Morta, he blade flashing through strand after strand, smiled still.

"Old soldier, brother of Enyo, I will tell you what you already know: your time shall come when the last of Rome's legions shall fall, to the final blade on the final battlefield. For though altars may go dry and be stained anew, though your name may be called in strange tongues and the flame of your belief kindled in barbarian hearts, your army is Rome, your heart is Rome, and when Rome's wars are done, so shall the length of your life be run."

Mars offered no kind words nor curses. Yet he smiled, as he placed the helmet on his head, and raised his spear in solemn salute at the triple throne.


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