And now, some mythologizing.
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In the beginning there was a human head.
Then a blade clove the head in twain, and the blade-wielder roared in grim mirth. In the beginning there was Ares, the rampaging God of War.
This beginning was in the time of the dim old Greeks; and among all their gods Ares was always a wolf prowling at the edges, a god of slaughter and unrest; the only one of the Grecian gods that spurred barbarians against the civilization of the thousand valleys and and the hundred harbors. In the Trojan War he cheered for the alien Trojans, and his red face flew like a banner of northern lights over the walls of that city, a mirage in the lights of the besieged and the besieging.
Ever was Ares glad to see battle and slaughter. Some say for the sake of the battle; some say because of the rising blood, or the test of courage, or to woo Death Herself; others say bloodsport was Ares’s nature, as burning is the nature of fire. Men do not ask why fire burns; why should they ask why the Blood Knight wars?
No man asked; not twice, anyway.
Ares never had a wife, but he had a lover: Aphrodite, the loveliest of all the goddesses, and the wife of the gimp god of the mountain, Hephaestus. Often would Ares come from his field of work, from the sowing of iron and salt, come as a tower of black intent, come clad in the entrails of men who’d met their unmaker; and casting aside his armor and arms, he would fall on the Goddess of Love in fierce and insistent embraces.
This was not much to the liking of Hephaestus; but being a cripple and much in the disfavor of the other gods, he could do nothing.
Besides, in those early days this cuckoldry was not such a shame as it later became: for the King of Gods then was Zeus, who loved both flesh and wine, and held no vow of trust or marriage sacred. As there were a thousand bastards of Zeus, so there were likewise many dalliances among both gods and mortals, and between them; and though this was a cause of much disapproval, especially by the parties thus disincluded, little could be done with the Lord of Gods not being inclined to force the general matter.
As for Aphrodite herself, well, she was a nice, obedient girl ever eager to please, and well knew it was proper for one as beautiful as she to have suitors, and paramours, and many daring meetings and contests of love tested and fulfilled — and knowing this, that was ever what she sought to be: a perfect goddess of beauty, grace and love as well as she could be.
In other words, she was a clueless ditz, and Zeus was a horny goat.
Aphrodite was more liked by the men-gods than by the goddesses; and her children were many, though less if they came within a ramming distance of Ares.
Though more, if they strayed so close to Zeus.
From the unions of Ares and Aphrodite, there came three daughters. Two of these were sickly, and were cast into the mortal world by their embarrassed mother. To the cliff of Sparta they fell, where the weak newlyborn of that city were cast into a pit to die. In that pit there prowled a wolf, seeking feed; but coming across the two daughters of Ares, the wolf was torn apart and eaten instead.
These two daughters, weak among the gods, were unsurpassed among mortals; they, though their beauty was not up to the statue-like standards of Aphrodite, were full of life and more beautiful than any mortal or demigod ever was. They came out of the pit of Sparta, and went into the wild lands beyond Greece, and beyond the rude kingdom of Macedonia; in the plainslands of the Scythians they came across a great tribe of that folk, horse-bound and quarrel-hungry; and the tribe’s chieftain made the mistake of thundering these two girls would be his slaves and consummated wives before the moon rose.
As the moon rose, a pair of bare feet danced on the chieftain’s skull, now dead and as bereft of flesh as it had formerly been of wit. The Scythian camp blazed with fire and screams, and with terrible twin gales of laughter; and as the moon grew, that bloody joy howled from a thousand throats more. By sunrise the men were all dead, and in place of a chieftain there were two fell goddesses, two queens unlike anything in the legends and prophecies of any tribe of men.
Ever since in a corner of Scythia soon empty of other tribes there were two new ones. They had few men, and those were cook-slaves and carriers of sofas and pillows, hewers of wood and drawers of water, sports of the daytime arena and the nighttime chamber. The women, formerly so dour and demure, were the warriors of those tribes; their warriors and heroes, queens and deciders; and above all others there were the two queens cold of eye, fierce of temper, sure of hand and shameless in joy, just in judgment and peerless in battle: the Amazon queens Penthesileia and Hippolyte, the forsaken children of Ares and Aphrodite.
This accounts for two of the three children of Ares and Aphrodite: but there was a third, and much to her grief and that of all the world, she was more to the liking of her parents. Of her, soon more.
Wherever Ares went, a flock of his folk went with him, save into the mansion of Aphrodite atop the Vesuvius mountain; that was a place of quiet light and pinksome frilliness the crowd of war could not tolerate, nor pass the efflusively cherub-carved pastel lintels of that place.
Thus whenever Ares and Aphrodite met, these four were left outside; and they sat playing dice, drinking and muttering of bloodsheds past and those soon to come.
The first two were the twins Phobos and Deimos. Their names mean Fear and Terror; they were the heralds of Ares, and one carried a horn and the other a drum; their sound was enough to turn blood to ice-water, to burn hearts and to make men gasp for breath. Their clamor told of every battle ever fought, and all the apprehension and despair felt before those bloody dawns. Theirs was a music that made women weep and men soil themselves; theirs was a sound that struck the wise blind, and made sages into blubbering fools.
The third was the armsman of Ares, and carried his sword. His name was Enyo, which is, Horror. He ever wore a helm because of his ruined face; and he knew the ends of battle as well as Phobos and Deimos knew their beginnings; no death nor injury was alien to him, and his own sword was a jagged thing that was cursed to always maim, but never to kill.
The fourth was a girl, Ares’s adopted daughter, clad in black and crimson silks and scraps of a hundred suits of armor. She was as loud and boisterous as the others; and though she was beautiful even by the standards of the gods, her beauty was disquieting, ever mixed with some subtle wrongness, or something unusual one could never quite grasp.
It was not her attire of silks and scraps of iron, not her scarred gilt and red ruffled perfection.
It was not her mane of black hair bound with silver rings, though it flew behind her and round her like Medusa’s ichory curls.
It was not, quite, the quiet depths of her ever-observing green eyes, nor the golden flecks that hovered closer to the top.
It was not her lanky, boyish frame or her fingers, never free of turning a cup of dice or a bone-handled dagger; not her heedless femininity in the most masculine of acts and appearances.
It was not the barbarian make-up of her face, even, not that one side was painted black as midnight with lips and eye in ovals of oily white, and the other side a negative image of this ghastly monochome ghostliness.
No, there was nothing anyone could actually say that was wrong with her, but wherever she went rest and sleep vanished, and the night was torn with the sound of screams. Wherever she went, people became dissatisfied and ceased to see the world as they had seen it before. Though she was stern in the manner of all Ares’s folk, she was never overly fractious or warlike; and yet her quiet presence was enough to start fights and schisms and feuds. Though she seldom drew a dagger, all discord was drawn to her — her name was Eris, which is, Strife.
Now Eris was an adopted daughter of Ares, and Phobos and Deimos were like sons to him, and Enyo a dear companion; but of children of his own spirit and kind Ares had but one, the third and most woeful of the three he produced with Aphrodite.
This child was golden-locked and pale-faced; sweet and beautiful in the manner of her mother, and insistent and unforgiving in the manner of her father. From birth, she had every gift and privilege the daughter of the most jealous god and the most vain goddess could; from birth, she was never without servants and slaves attending to her every whim, and attenuating her every minor distress.
She grew in the mansion of her mother, the palace of pinks and roses; but her rule of it was that of the iron fist of Ares, though veiled in the finest of brocaded, pearl-encrusted fabrics. She was quick to command, and quicker to assume obedience and punish disobedience; though she called it “disloyalty”, because “loyalty” sounded better than “obedience”. She was ever insistent on courtesies and forms, laws and niceties; and no voice was raised in her presence, save hers alone.
Her name was Harmonia, which somewhat predictably means, harmony; and as her mother was called the Queen of Beauty, she declared herself the Queen of Good.
She is the villain of this tale, if one is to believe the Erisians.
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There may be continuation.