Sunday, January 25, 2009

Tyrfanus, Mortal Hero (II/II)

(Continuing from.)

Tyrfanus woke, his body filled with agonies greater and lesser. His eyelids cracked open a slit; his breathing changed in rythym and pitch. Beside him, Artemis rose from a kneeling stance, her face expressionless. "He is awake, O Mighty Zeus," she said, and departed.

"So, pitiful mortal, do you now realize the futility of your ambitions?" Zeus asked, his voice booming and proud. "You have proven a greater challenge than any foe I have faced in a dozen mortal generations - and still there you like, broken and bleeding, while I stand here unmarked! Hubris was your undoing, as it of all mortals. Now, in my divine justice and mercy, I shall leave you here for an hour, to reflect upon your errors before I cast you down to the Underworld. Spend this time well!"

Zeus departed.

Then a shadow fell over Tyrfanus, and a dribble of divine ambrosia passed his parched lips. "Swallow," a voice commanded, and Tyfanus did. The pain all across his body diminished slightly, and when more ambrosia came, Tyrfanus opened his mouth to drink all the more. Soon, the haze of pain that had clouded his vision faded, and he was able to see the face of his benefactor: Hera, wife of Zeus. "Come," she said, and Tyrfanus rose, his wounds healed. "We must be gone quickly, before Zeus returns."

"Will he not notice?" Tyrfanus asked. "Surely there will be suspicion if I vanish-"

"I shall place a mannequin here, cleverly made and painted to resemble you," Hera told him. "Zeus will destroy it, and be content; never will he suspect the swap."

"Very well, then," Tyrfanus agreed, and with her left the summit of Mount Olympus.

From there they arrived to a sumptious home, filled with incense fumes and the warmth that the top of a mountain so markedly lacked. "This is my home," Hera told Tyrfanus. "Here Zeus will not venture; not now, at the least. You are welcome here for so long as you wish to stay."

"I hope it is not impolite to ask," Tyrfanus said, "But why do you shelter your husband's enemy? Surely this is a great risk for you - should he find out, he will be most displeased."

"My husband has many enemies," Hera said, flipping a hand dismissively. "It is good for him - keeps his ego down to a merely divine level. For my own part, I rescued you out of kindness - and appreciation. It's rare that you see a true hero these days, in the old style, and it seems a shame to let one go to waste."

"Go to waste?" Tyrfanus asked, a smile beginning to play about his lips. "And what uses would you put this hero to, if I may ask?"

"Oh, I don't know," Hera said innocently, twirling a lock of her hair about one finger. "There are so many things you can do with a strong, handsome man, especially when his competition is otherwise occupied..."

Tyrfanus smiled openly, and seemed about to respond; then his head jerked, as though he had just remember something, or heard some unexpected sound. "Do the other gods frequent this place?" he asked, his tone still belying urgency.

"Perhaps," Hera said, still twirling her hair idly. "Sometimes."

Tyrfanus thought for a moment. "My lady," he said, "I think I know what you're suggesting, and I think that you have found an excellent use for me - though I would expect nothing less of someone of your beauty and wisdom! But this is not the place - the other gods may care nothing for your activities, but word spreads, and it is best for the both of us if Zeus knows nothing of my survival. Instead, may I suggest this: I descend Olympus, coming back to the lands of civilization. There, I shall worship at one of your shrines, burning a fatted calf in your honor - and events may proceed naturally from there, in more private surroundings."

Hera considered this, smiling thinly. "It is a fair plan," she agreed, "but I must make some amendation to your plan - it is not meet for a mortal to descend Olympus alone, no more than it is for him to ascend it." Tyrfanus bowed his head wryly as Hera snapped her fingers. Instantly, two figures appeared: Hermes, messenger of the gods, and Nemesis*, the masked god. "These two will accompany you," Hera told him. "Hermes is a messenger - his role is to transport secrets, and for all save their recipients his lips are sealed. And Nemesis is silent."

"Ah - very well," Tyrfanus said, bowing quickly, "and my endless gratitude for your gifts."

"Say nothing of it," Hera told him. "You shall have opportunity to repay me soon enough.

Tyrfanus left her presence for the first and final time.

The journey was quickly accomplished. Hermes carried Tyrfanus down the slopes of the mountain, swifter than an arrow's flight: Nemesis followed, as was her role. Only at the bottom, once Hermes set Tyrfanus back on his feet (and his sword back in his hands; "another gift from the Lady," he explained), did he ask a question. "Whatever posessed you to challenge Zeus himself?" he asked. "The fight was impressive - this I cannot deny, no more than I could deny the blood that stains your blade - but what made you think you could kill him?"

"Well, I didn't really," Tyrfanus explained. "I tried - and I really thought I had him there at the end! - but it was a bit more of a distraction, a side-show, than anything else."

"That battle - a side-show?" Hermes asked, flabbergasted. "Were you out to win Hera's affections, then?"

"Oh, no," Tyrfanus told him. "I rather suspected that I might, but it wasn't essential. Any number of gods might have rescued me, for one reason or another - Ares, Apollo, Athena... Zeus is not very well loved by his court!"

"Then... why did you come to Olympus?" Hermes asked. "Simply for the thrill of the fight?"

Tyrfanus checked his watch - sorely battered by the fight, but fortunately still working. He was silent.

"Do you not know?" Hermes asked.

"Oh, I know," Tyrfanus said, looking up. "It was to plant a bomb to kill the Gods."

"What?" Hermes said - before the words had arrived in Tyrfanus's ears he was running, shooting up the side of the mountain - and by the time Tyrfanus's brain had made sense of them, he was back, as fire blossomed atop Olympus, and the Gods were turned to dust.

"But - why?" Hermes asked, his face filled with boundless shock. "And how - I thought you mortals were still in an age of sandals and chariots!"

"You didn't notice my sword?" Tyrfanus asked, raising it to the light. "The Greeks didn't really have access to tempered steel. And that's if nothing else - haven't you lot been paying at all for the last five hundred years?"

"The last five hundred years?" Hermes said incredulously. "We haven't been watching you for four times that long! We got bored!"

"Heh," Tyrfanus said. "Well, you'd probably have noticed what I'm about to do next - and I couldn't afford that kind of attention. Shame you survived, but you're only the messenger god - shouldn't be too much trouble. Farewell!" He turned his back, beginning his walk back to civilization.

"You... you killed the gods to further your own - evil - schemes?" Hermes shouted after him, disbelieving.

"Pretty much," Tyrfanus told him. "Without that second-to-last word. I'm not fond of it."

Hermes stood still for a moment; then vanished towards the smoldering ruins of Olympus. So far as he was concerned, his part in the conversation was finished.

Suddenly, Tyrfanus whirled, calling out "Who's there?" His blade was already in a ready stance.

A paper fluttered down. Tyrfanus caught it in his off-hand and unfolded it.

"Remember me," it read.

Tyrfanus felt a chill run down his spine. Hermes, though he was the only one who had spoken, was not the only god who had survived the end of Olympus. Nemesis, too, had followed Tyrfanus down the mountain - and her purview was revenge.


*Mythological fact: Nemesis is an actual god! Wiki knows all.

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