Prologue: Myth of Origin
Ares was bored.
He hated gatherings, most of all those that included those of his ilk.
It annoyed him to bits, no matter how important his father, Zeus, made it out to be. For people who were so ruthless and unstable, they were ridiculously tedious in a formal gathering.
And the gloating! Ares grimaced at the thought. His tribal equals always trying to size him up. If their bragging wasn’t so laughably exaggerated, perhaps he would have found the whole thing amusing. He, Ares son of Zeus, was the greatest Lord of War on planet Mythos, and the others would just have to suck it up. But apparently they didn’t seem to heed to that notion.
Wrong, thought Ares, It’s a fact.
His sister, Enyo, was swaggering her way towards him. Ares scowled at her, as she smirked at his discomfort and turned in the direction of her Roman equal, Bellona. It was funny how they got on so well. Ares never got on with his equivalent [Lesser equivalent, he mentally corrected] Mars. There was always something that bothered him about Mars… though he was quite fond of his rival’s sister, Venus who was supposed to be married to Vulcan… supposed to be. But, to Ares’s added displeasure, she wasn’t present at this gathering.
The room was brilliantly lit, the torches carved into the stone walls burning with intense blue flames, and casting eerie dancing shadows. The marble floor was marked with ancient symbols and writings, foreign to the human intellect. On the edges of the ceiling hung blood-red drapes, only adding to the ominous nature of the hall.
The Egyptians, the Aztecs, the Romans, the Norse, the Celtic, the Japanese, the Indians, and the others of lesser tribes… all taken the names of human, earthly conquered realms. Though, technically, they didn’t own them anymore. Ares begrudged the thought of that half-caste, Perseus the son of his father, who’d bested him and freed Greece of the so-called ‘gods’. It amused Ares every time he thought on the ridiculous ‘god’ notion.
Oh, so gullible.
The intricately gilded doors at the far end swung open with a slight, dramatic creek, and the gathering turned to see those that joined them. The tribal leaders.
The first to step in was Jupiter – dressed in flowing purple robes [the Romans called it a toga], the locks of his dark hair and beard tightly wrapped in infinite curls, and carrying a long staff on which perched a clay eagle.
Zeus, the father of Ares, walked in the shadow of Jupiter. His hair and ample beard was graying, his brows lengthening and the light of his eyes fading with the former life they’d once so powerfully held. He wore plain white robes and a simple wreath wound from olive leaves crowned his head. Ares noticed his father walk with a slight limp.
Beside them were others – of varying descriptions. Ra, walking on his dark bare legs and feet with slow, long strides; walked astride – a kilt-like clothe wrapped around his waist – and wearing a detailed headdress that resembled a large earthly falcon.
Odin – similar in appearance to Zeus – with flashed a smile at the son he loved most fondly, Thor, his one seeing eye sparklingly with pride. He wore long blue robes that covered his arms and feet, and wore a helmet bearing wings on either side. In this belt, Ares saw an axe loosely hanging.
Ares looked eagerly towards the back, stretching his neck this way and that. He didn’t quite know what fascinated him about the person he was looking for.
Taishakuten – the leader of what was considered to be a lesser tribe – stood, dazzling as always. He had a certain beauty to him, ruthless and cunning though he was. Taishakuten’s face was ageless, but his long, dead-straight hairs were like threads of pure milk emerging from his scalp. His two blue eyes observed selectively with mild curiosity – always faraway – whilst his central third eye, a blazing amber, stared everywhere watchfully, constantly roving. He wore white drapes, which only barely dressed his muscular torso, but covered him from the waist-down modestly.
His Indian equivalent, Indra, stood beside him – of a darker skin color but looked to be on the pretty side of handsome. He wore a similar kilt-like garment to that of Ra around his waist, and wore a tall pointed crown upon the dark curls of his head.
Jupiter spread his arms, as silence crept into the room. As he spoke, his voice boomed in the high-ceilinged hall: “The Changeling has plagued us for long enough.”
Ares’s shoulders slumped and he rolled his eyes.
This again? he thought, annoyed.
“We, your elders, have devised a plan and have picked our four champions.”
Everyone in the room straightened [except Ares] as Jupiter paused dramatically, and then continued, “Greek, Roman, Egyptian, and Nose. Each of whom shall have a representative, a tribute.”
Ares saw Mars somewhere in the background, puff his chest outwards and fix his intricate plumed helmet.
Fathead, thought Ares, Wouldn’t I love to see him be put in his place…
“We have selected,” said Zeus, his voice papery, “those that will represent us.”
Ares mentally begged his father: Please don’t pick me.
Ares saw the woman in the lion headdress bridle at the suggestion. She raised a finger and said, “Hold on just one moment –”
Zeus continued, uncaring of Sekhmet’s protest, “Thor.”
Thor smiled expectantly.
Ares smirked at Mars as the latter’s face paled angrily, “Bellona?” he said, fuming, “BELLONA? You picked my sister over me!? How is that even possible? The humans named me their god of war, not HER!”
His belligerent sister strode up to him and flashed Mars a winning smile, “They named me their goddess.”
Mars stomped up to his father, “I was held in higher regard!”
“No,” said Jupiter, unmoved by his son’s tantrum [he’d obviously had a lot of experience with it]; “They venerated Mithras. Your Romans sought a Persian patron.”
“MY OWN SONS LAID THE FOUNDATIONS OF THE GREATEST EMPIRE THAT EVER EXISTED ON THAT PUNY PLANET!!”
“Arguably,” sneered Ra, amused, “I reckon the Ottomans did quite well – not taking any of us as their patrons. Oh, and not forgetting, the Egyptians.”
“This is discussion is over,” Jupiter waved a hand dismissively.
Mars protested, “But –”
“It’s finished!” thunder crackled along Jupiter’s brow, and Mars cowered at the sight of it.
Taishakuten came forward, “Now that all the unpleasantness has passed,” he said, “we will instruct you as to what you will do. As you know, the Changeling keeps to himself on his own planet, Morphus, where he’s devised a labyrinth. Of late he has been robbing our stores and taking our peoples hostage, and we are at a loss of retrieving what is ours. We must be rid of him. There are four entrances to the labyrinth, each riddled with puzzles and unknown dangers. You, our four champions – of whom Mars is not one,” the white-haired man smiled, as Mars glowered at him, “will each choose a tribute to pursue the Changeling and destroy him.”
“This is better said than done,” said Indra, his accent rich with the hint of India, “of course. And, as we do not have representatives to send, we – those of the lesser tribes, who’ve experienced more danger from the Changeling – will guide you and your tributes with what we’ve come to know of our adversary.”
“Where do we get these… tributes from?” asked Sekhmet, still indignant and unhappy about having been selected to chase at this… ghost, this myth.
“The same place we’ve always done,” a smile played on Jupiter’s lips, “Earth.”