The Sword of the Gods

Truth can be deceiving. It can be bent or broken. The truth is, Olympus has always had secrets. Some have been outed, where others will never see the light of truth. Nobody runs from their past forever. Something will always bring you back, whether it’s war or death…or love. I’m going to tell you a story; a memory I cannot escape. It is one that has shifted the minds and hearts of many for millennia. I made a promise, and I aim to fulfill it.

Many years ago, I was a young warrior and a Demigod. However, I cared not for Olympus. When I was yet an infant, my mother, Thetis, dipped me in the River Styx. This, coupled with my Demigod blood, made me impervious to mortal damage. This made me the perfect weapon for war, which I grew to lust for. The power that courses through me was enough to overwhelm a battlefield, and so it did for years.

What my mother failed to realize at the time, was that she gave me my only weakness. Her fingers coiled around my heel. As such, that was the only part of my body that didn’t taste the power of invulnerability. I made a name for myself across countries, and eventually the world. The taste of fame and war was my elixir. That was until my heart changed. I thought I had fallen in love early on during the Trojan War, even got married and had a son. That changed soon after. I found myself falling for another. I left Briseis, and she took my child away. The one I had fallen for was, how to say, out of my league. She drew me closer to Olympus than ever before. She is the reason that I sacrificed everything.

In the tenth year of The Trojan Wars, I was met by someone unexpected. Lady Aphrodite, the beautiful lover of the God of War, summoned me to Olympus. The gargantuan palace was lavish, to say the least. The goldsmithing was unlike any I had seen. I was mesmerized by the beauty of the Gods…and envious.

I did as I was told, and made my way to see her. Immediately in her presence, I felt…entranced. I could not make sense of why she would summon me. I was given an explanation immediately.

“Achilles!” Aphrodite said. Her voice was soft, yet powerful, and resonated into my core. “Come with me, please.” She did not wait for a response. Frankly, I didn’t, either. I instantly followed, almost involuntarily.

As we walked for a few minutes, I sensed something was off, though I couldn’t put my finger on it. “Lady Aphrodite,” I called out.

“Not yet,” she whispered.  Her words were sharp and her tone demanded me to hush. My heart pounded faster.

Where are we going? I thought. We continued our walk until we came to a small garden balcony. Aphrodite walked to the far side and placed her hands on the railing. I halted at the entrance by instinct.

As she tilted her chin up without looking at me, Aphrodite finally spoke. “Achilles, you are supposed to be a hero of Greece, yes?” She finally spoke at full volume.

I looked down the corridors only to find them empty. “I-I suppose I am, yes. I-”

“Good. That was rhetorical, anyway. I have heard a great deal about you, warrior. I’ve heard of your prophecy.” She slowly turned to face me. Her brows hung low with conviction.

“There are always prophecies, Lady Aphrodite.” I swallowed a lump in my throat, hoping I hadn’t overstepped.

This prophecy comes from a higher prophet, and is not to be taken lightly.”

I understood my place. “Apologies, Lady Aphrodite,” I muttered shyly with a bow. I held my tongue.

“The Prophet foretells of your death in The Trojan War,” she continued. “As well as my love, Ares.” She paused and frowned deeply at me. Her face shifted from sternness to worried. Her eyes squinted as they shot at me.

“Mhm,” I hummed.

The Goddess sighed. “Achilles, pay attention, I have a request for you.” Aphrodite’s face grimaced.

“What could I possibly do?” I asked humbly. It was a mixture of fear and vanity, I suppose. I had heard stories of Aphrodite before. She was wondrous. I was also intrigued to serve an Olympian…foolish in hindsight.

“Save him,” Aphrodite blurted remorselessly.

Ares?” I asked. The thought of saving the God of War from war amused me. She wasn’t mutually entertained.

“Yes.” Her face grew straight once more.

“I see. How am I supposed to save him? Does he not fight for the Greeks?”

“No, he does not. He has betrayed his mother and chosen the Trojans.” Aphrodite paused for a moment. I noticed her jaw twitching with frustration.

“Oh, I see. Well, that changes things.”

“Yes, it does, because you’re prophesied to win the war.” Her brows furrowed deeper. 

I was speechless. At that point, the war was nearing its end. Ares coming into the fray, on the Trojan side, was the first scratch of doubt I had in the war. “I-I don’t know what to say, Lady Aphrodite…can’t promise I’ll see him on the field even.”

“You will, Achilles. Save my love,” requested Aphrodite, “…and I,” she smiled innocently, “will be in your debt.” She glared at me in expectation. “Now, that’s more than any other Demigod has done for me. You would be rewarded with love forever.”

“I promise, I will do my best.” I scurried off with a mission: Save Ares. 

I didn’t need to think for a moment what I would request in return…should I break the prophecy of my death.

Only three days passed since Aphrodite’s untimely and strange request when it came to fruition.   I was engaged in battle as always, nearly bored with the mortals’ lack of skill. From the corner of my eye, I spotted a squad of Greeks carrying a golden spear.  The spear in particular was flawless, exactly as the metal was forged in Olympus.

That’s an Olympian weapon, I concluded immediately. I knew who the target was and began to trail the squad. I followed them for several blocks, weaving in and out of shadows. I made a quick decision to get atop of them so I could spy from a linear sight. I climbed atop a balcony and lost sight of the plotters.

“Achilles!” I heard a cry from afar. As I turned, a golden arrow pierced my stomach. I was equally stricken by the weapon that had broken my skin as I was on how smooth the golden finish of the arrow was…like the spear I witnessed.

I felt backward and smashed through the busted balcony, realizing it was above a room. I landed on my back and passed out. It was only the cries of men that woke me. The arrow was still lodged in my chest. Steadily, I pulled it out and looked around for the origin of the cries. The room was dark; it felt more like a hall.

Without warning, a wall caved in behind me. As I leapt aside, I realized it wasn’t a collapsing structure, but the force of a God; Ares stepped into the room. My heart raced for various reasons. “Ares!”

“Well, if it isn’t the Golden Boy, Achilles.”

“Stop, you’re in danger,” I warned.

He wasn’t agreeable. “Is that a threat, Demigod?” Ares boasted as he twirled a golden spear.

“No, it’s a warning.”

“From whom?” he queried.

“Your lover!” I blurted. “You are prophesied to die in this war.”

The God of War snickered as he tauntingly circled me. “As are you, if I recall.”

“So they say, but-“ I was interrupted by a glint of light beaming behind Ares. A sole golden spear soared toward his back. “Ares!” I didn’t hesitate as I dive to catch the spear. I was too slow. Another rush of pain seared through my chest. This time was the last, I was certain.

As I fell, someone caught me. I blacked out. No, let me be honest and humble: I died.

“Achilles!” a voice called to me. It was Mother. I opened my eyes and found myself somewhere unfamiliar.

“Mother?” I coughed. I couldn’t sit. I couldn’t move. Suddenly, I realized I was staring at a ceiling of sorts.

“Is he-?”

“Yes,” another voice called into the dimness.

“This is your fault, by the way.” A third voice spoke; Aphrodite’s tone was recognizable through a whisper.

“Will he live?” begged Mother. I could do nothing but listen. She must not have heard me.

“He will…forever,” boomed a resounding voice.

“Zeus, thank you. My son will be in your debt for all eternity,” Mother whispered.

“No!” bellowed Aphrodite. “His debt was paid before he died. If he wishes, he will live forever with a heart full of love.”

“Yes, Aphrodite,” said another voice I recognized: Ares. “Why did he save me…like that?”

Zeus interrupted with a near echo, “Thanatos, thank you for the reattachment. He is not awake yet.” I heard the clinking of glasses. “He will not know what has happened, and as such, will recover on the battlefield as if he never died. Is that clear?”

The collection of agreements sounded, followed by Aphrodite’s voice, “Why must we forget?”

“Because a lower deity sacrificed himself for a God, Aphrodite.” Zeus’ voice was alarmingly louder than everyone else.  “Because the mortals may think less of us if word gets out. Because otherwise, Olympus will know that Ares has betrayed his mother and Greece…shall I continue?” His voice grew louder and angrier as he spoke.

“No,” answered Aphrodite.

“Where did it come from?” asked Ares.

“It doesn’t matter…drink it,” said Thanatos.

“Why must I?” asked my mother.

“Because, Thetis,” replied Zeus. His voice relaxed. “You need to forget as we all do.”

As I lay still I wondered, why does he think I’m not hearing all of this? The short pause, coupled with silence, startled me in the midst of mass conversation. Suddenly, a rush of wind washed over me as the sound of flapping wings echoed through the room. I realized what, or who, it was. Thanatos picked me up like a child’s toy and carried me into the air.

I was still immobilized. The ceiling was getting closer and closer. Without pause, we passed through it like a cloud. After mere seconds, I saw what I could never unsee: my lifeless body laying on a broken pillar.

“What is going on!” I screamed.

“Rest easy, Achilles,” he whispered. “When you wake, you will be recognized as a hero of Troy…and The Sword of The Gods.”

Suddenly, he dropped me and all was black. It remained unchanged for what seemed hours. I awoke in a well-lit room. My swords and shield lay beside my bed and I was stripped bare, with the exception of a bandage on my chest. It didn’t feel like a wound, so I pulled back the linen. There was no wound!

As I got dressed, I thought about how I would approach the Olympians and their plan to erase what had happened. Suddenly, I realized why Zeus wanted to hide it all: for Hera and Ares.

I sat for several minutes, pondering what I should do. After all, how could I reverse whatever drink they took to wipe away only certain memories? What deity had that power? I had so many questions. How I could I look at her knowing what I know…and lie?

I couldn’t do it. As it pained me to leave her, I could not stay. I could not be torn like that. I was now immortal and could not live an eternity through secrets. I approached Olympus and only had the courage to leave a note.

Ares, God of War, I will return one day. When that day comes, I will return to you what was taken. The truth will be set free.

-Achilles-

Years later, I had returned to Greece following my son’s funeral. I wasn’t much of a father, but it pained me nonetheless. It wasn’t until then I learned the truth of what had happened in my absence. My death was recorded in stone the day I died. It recorded nothing of my rebirth.

That’s when I knew: Zeus knew the truth. The others were actually led to believe I died as the rest of the world had. A large part of me did perish that day. So, I ran into the world as a ghost of a Demigod. I became nothing but an immortal guardian of the world. I became known as…The Sword.

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Achilles (C.S. Ratliff)
C.S. Ratliff is the pen name for a published fantasy author, veteran, and martial artist family man. By day, he is a carpenter full time, and by night, the magical creations happen. He loves his wife and two children, and more than anything hopes one day to inspire them to be themselves and create what they want to share with the world. Achilles in #thepantheon
Achilles (C.S. Ratliff)

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