Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tyrfanus, Mortal Hero (I/II)

Tyrfanus scaled the bare rock summit of Mount Olympus. He fell to hands and knees, scrabbled in the dirt, breathed heavily; then, after several long moments, he stood up. Raising his sword ino the air, he cried, "Zeus, I have come here to challenge you for your throne! Fight me, or abdicate as you should have centuries ago!"

Lightning came crashing down; but Tyrfanus was ready for it, and was already rolling to the side. Zeus emerged from the sizzling cloud of dust, the sickle he stole from Cronus ready in his hand; and Tyrfanus bowled him over with a lunge to the ankles.

"Well done, well done!" Apollo said, clapping enthusiastically. "Haven't seen such fight in centuries!" Others of the gods appeared in a circle around the combatants, watching with a level of interest varying by their disposition.

Zeus rolled about the ground with Tyrfanus: his sickle was still in his hand, but the impetuous mortal he fought was too close for him to strike with it. Instead, he cast a bone-shattering blow towards Tyrfanus with his left fist - but Tyrfanus twisted out of the way, ending with a lock on Zeus's elbow. Zeus broke it contemptuously and swung again, crying "Die, arrogant mortal!" - but again Tyrfanus dodged, and this time he came out of the manuever with his sword posed to strike.

"Oooooo," Hera and others of the gods murmured.

"Enough!" Zeus cried, and hurled Tyrfanus off him, sending him flying several yards away. Zeus rose, his once-white toga covered in dust and rocks. A lightning bolt appeared in his hand - now he would finish this! - but again Tyrfanus was faster than he expected, landing on his feet and charging back into the fray. Zeus barely managed to replace lightning bolt with sickle in his hand quickly enough to block the sword-strike that came at him and push Tyrfanus back. He was granted no time to rest - Tyrfanus came at him again and again, hammering at him relentlessly. Sparks rose as carbon-forged steel met a copper weapon older than the Gods themselves.*

"Smash him, Zeus!" came the hoarse bellow of Hephasteus, blacksmith to the gods. "You've got ten times his strength; stop fighting defensively and just hit the bastard!"

For ten minutes straight, Zeus was given no opportunity to do so, pressed constantly by Tyrfanus's attacks; but then Tyrfanus, drenched in sweat and panting heavily, slowed. Zeus saw his opening, and struck; when Tyrfanus leapt aside from the attack, a shower of debris rose from the crater made by the errant blow. Now Zeus was on the offensive, and he indulged with gusto, striking again and again. What blows Tyrfanus could not duck under he stepped aside from, and what blows he could not step aside from he took cleverly on his blade, turning them harmlessly aside; but he slowed, and he tired, and Zeus continued his attacks, divinely indefatigable.

"Come on, put the poor fellow out of his misery!" Pallas Athena yelled, waving an arm for emphasis. "Just go ahead and strike!"

Zeus stopped entirely for a moment, giving Tyrfanus a second to rest. "Had enough?" he asked with a vicious grin, and then swung - a blow that could shatter yards-thick walls and turn marble columns to powder, aimed at one, exhausted, flesh-and-bone man.

But Tyrfanus was not nearly so tired as he seemed; shedding all his deliberately-feigned sloth in a moment, he hurled himself forward, dashing towards Zeus at a breakneck speed even as the King of the Gods struggled in shock to pull his sickle back, and his sword came up and he leapt and his sword kissed the neck of Zeus, Father of the Gods, and blood welled-

- and Zeus caught him with one enormous knee. Tyrfanus's blade flew aside, pinwheeling into the air; when it landed, Tyrfanus was sprawled on the ground, bones broken and eyes closed. The battle was over. Tyrfanus had lost.


*Mythological note: Cronus's sickle actually did predate the Gods. It was a gift from his mother, the Earth, who requested that he use it to kill his father, the Sky. (He did.) Much later, Zeus stole the weapon and used it to cut Cronus's belly open, the second divine patricide committed with one sickle. The Greek gods had the best families.

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