Anatolius awoke. Dust danced in the light that stretched across the wall against the bed floating from shadow to shadow. They sparkled and flew like comets, constructing vast nebulae out of dust and skin and decay. The room smelled of sweat and metal. Anatolius wet his cracked lips and closed his eyes. One more moment.
Anatolius, his feet sticking with each step against the floor, strode stiffly to the small black sack heaped against the corner of the room and reached inward. He felt around and gripped his hand tightly around soft fabric and thrust it from the bag. With an almost cursory wave it emanated smells of baking bread, frying bacon, and a citrus so pungent Anatolius wondered whether the mechanism had birthed an entire lemon grove. Rather, a pot of lemon tea graced the centre of the table, the water clashing like spears against the iron kettle. A feast.
The party descended upon the food, ate, and debated. The meal was tasteless, the company unpleasant, and the talk heated. Anatolius stared out the window. Below a woman sang the Fall of Prythi, “Bones and Bones breed flowers at dawn, though all of the keepers are gone are gone.” Anatolius recalled Trexterios’ account of Prythi. When the pixies fell from the sky, it was ‘as if the sky cried blood.’ Trexterios, supposedly the last seer to leave Sysitar, said that he stepped through crunching fields of bodies that had be eroded against the ground by the feet of frightened giants.
“It is decided.” Oberon said gruffly, his eyes only staring at his crumb. And so it was. Their failure- my failure- would cost us the riskier path. Through the enemy. Into the heart of the Holy Ward and a den of the five-fingered lions. The only hope was luck. Disguise was futile, but our ending choice. We donned minor covers and took to the paved streets of Old Vulturnus and towards the Cathedral. Dufflmyer no more.
Time means nothing to the immortal, but Anatolius felt mortal. And it terrified him. Once, perhaps, Anatolius envied the fleeting. He valued death. The short life.
This life. Watching people die. Making people die. That wasn’t death. No, Anatolius thought, it is only elongated suicide.
At the Cathedral, we concealed our repertoire of mythos that hung from each of us like jewels from a whore. Each was a tale and each had been told to death. Perhaps the two were not so unlike.
Within, we took our seats and watched with bated eyes towards the ends of the sepulchre where marbled stairs led into darkness, obscured by the holiest blackness of Athos. From it, as if breeding taint, rose Vinsanthius, The Defiled Blade. Chosen to fall, he never quite hit the ground.
In haste, as the hall lay full, Anatolius and Valynae had followed Simon Bloom and Oberon who had pushed ahead to a closer row. Anatolius saw each mark on his worn face. Anatolius wondered if Vinsantius too felt the weight of age and war. Perhaps the Earth made raw was not what he desired. His eyes looked out onto the audience and, with the assurance he was always graced to have, lifted his hands over the crowd and gave himself to the lions of his own will. Each word he spoke was like shedding meat. Behind him, the Padros smiled with the teeth of a glutton. The Athori too licked from the blood that dribbled through the air. They lions gobbled down and choked up the tender speech in wanton voracious feasting.
In his speech he had conceded our power to them. By decree we were made Enemies of Athos, the Conclave was dissolved, and in a moment the Demigods were no more. A once powerful title, rendered sullied by its own feet. Anatolius stared blankly into Vinsanthius’ eyes. He would not break them. When he finished, he, the Padros, and the Athori filed out of the room into the right wing of the Cathedral. And down. Down
The demigods looked at each other in the pew. Descend it was. They peered into the darkness and in the general egress made their way across the marble floors textured with open hands ready to clench. The demigod was many things in the stories and tales of mortals. One of Anatolius’ favourites was when they were “like spectres,” appearing and disappearing into the lives of heroes and heroines at a word. Hard to live up to, but not impossible. A stair case would be nothing. And they descended.