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Brotherhood of the Damed
Heat. All he could feel was heat. It was penetrating his skin and working its way into his soul. But this had become an all too common occurrence before battle for Heracles. He liked to believe that it was his legendary namesake rising within him to prepare for the carnage ahead. Then again, he hoped all his Spartan brothers had the same passion for bloodshed in his heart as he did. This day was different, though. Today was the day he would finally obtain the eternal glory he had strived for since he was a child. Today he would clash blades in a battle that would define his time as a Spartan warrior and a crusader of freedom. Today, Heracles would die.
It difficult for him to believe that only a mere two days ago this campaign had began. The excitement he felt as he and 299 of his Spartan brethren followed their brave king into this one last stand against an empire whose sole desire was to conquer the Spartan homeland. He knew that the ever vast and powerful Persian army would indeed kill him, the other soldiers, and King Leonidas. These deaths were a sacrifice that would assure freedom in Sparta.
He gazed at the sun as he combed out the last of the dirt, grime, and dried blood flakes from his long, sandy curls. It was Spartan tradition to clean ones hair before battle, so once he was done with his, Heracles sights drifted around the other Spartans readying their hair for battle and attending to their final deeds. His heart swelled with pride as he saw so many brave and courageous Spartans readying themselves for one last stand whether they were sharpening their blades or removing the heads of arrows (a strange weapon neither him nor his fellow soldiers could comprehend, because they seemed to not be as satisfactory as simply thrusting a sword in the belly of an opponent) out of their shields. Feeling around his waist for the handle of his own sword, Heracles removed the blade from its sheath and took a rare moment to look upon it with nostalgia. The freshly sharpened edges glimmered once light came in contact with it. The blood it had tasted over the many years had made it stronger and Heracles felt complete with its handle in his grasp. He closed his eyes to savior the moment, to have one final memory of peace to keep within in him until the very end. Few memories would stay with him until the end aside from this one and those of his son. As much as it brought joy upon him to think of his fellow warriors readying for the fight, the memories he had of his boy Jason would be the ones with which he wanted to fade into death.
But his joyful moment was short lived. Sitting in the dirt with his raven colored hair pushed out of his eyes sat his most detested rival, Diogenes. The grin slowly dropped its way into a scowl at the sight of this man who was to be the bane of his existence. A man of few words, Diogenes kept himself busy polishing his sword. He silently sought to out shine Heracles whenever the Gods presented an opportunity. The swine barley had the courage to look him in the eye half the time, but whenever Heracles was able to land a blow on another student of the Spartan training center, Agog, it was always Diogenes who had to make sure his blow made his partner bleed. If Heracles threw a spear into the wooden chest of a target dummy, Diogenes had to land his spear within its blunt skull. His determination only carried into the battlefield, trying to constantly double the body count Heracles had and it was difficult to get more than a few words out of him so whenever Heracles tried to confront him, the conversation would go nowhere. If he had a rival he at least wanted one with the guts to admit it. He wouldn’t even grant him that so Heracles looked forward to seeing his demise. Heracles vowed to live long enough to watch that glorious moment.
His train of thought was broken by the booming voice of his so beloved king Leoniodas.
“SPARTANS, Persians swarm in from all sides of the gates. We’ve precious little time so get in battle positions. This is it, my sons.Show Xerxes and all Persians how real Spartan men die! Show them that they cannot take away our liberty and freedom. Show them that WE ARE SPARTA!”
The final words of his king jolted him into action as he rushed his helmet atop of his head and retrieved his spear from the boulder it had been leaning against. He could see that the Persians were relatively far away but the Persians were steadily making their way all around the gates. All the Spartans formed an nerd circle at the center of the Hot Gates with their spears thrust outwards and shields braced for whatever blade may try to pierces their final stand. Heracles found himself near the center of the cluster and steadied his breathing. His mind raced thought all his memories of combat and of his many kills, when an unexpected and hauntingly sweet voice interrupted his train of thought. “Heracles?” said Diogenes from Heracles side.
It took a moment for Heracles to realize that Diogenes was actually next to him and talking to him. A scowl once again placed itself across his face as he realized he would soon die next to this silent showboat but he still replied,” What do you want?”
“I need to thank you. I know you may not realize it, but for years now…you’ve been my mentor. I was always a feeble and shy boy in the Agog, but then I saw you. You were constantly the best in class and had this determination in your eyes that always sparked hope in me.” There was a silence between the two men as Heracles slowly processed the information. Diogenes continued, “I’ve always strived to be a warrior like you, to spit in the face of fear as I’ve seen you done so many times in battle and as shy as I am, I refuse to die today without letting it be known that without your unintentional guidance I probably wouldn’t be able to call myself a Spartan. I have learned in the shadows how to be a soldier and even a man because of you. I am proud to die by your side.”
Shame clouded his emotions and his head seemed unmovable as he stared blankly upon the dusty dirt below his sandaled feet. Slowly, he raised his head to meet the eyes of Diogenes. This was the first and unfortunately last time he would be able to notice what a brilliant shade of green his eyes were and how gentle and sincere his face was. For a brief moment, both the men stood locked in a gaze that blocked out Persia, Sparta, war, life, death, and all the world. In that moment, both men could understand one another without the need of communication. Heracles knew he owed this man (this Spartan!) a response. “Diogenes, I have so greatly and misjudged your character. Of the few mistakes I’ve made in this life that one may be the worst. But this of all times shall not be a time to let our minds dwell on regrets. If I have truly given you anything to learn from, then let us use that knowledge here on this battlefield. Let the spark of war ignite a fire of rage within you to die the bravest of all deaths. Die with me today not as my apprentice, fellow soldier, or even Spartan. Die with me as my brother.”
A grin spread across his face as he saw one cross over Diogenes. He gave him one last nod of approval. One last nod of respect. One last nod to say he was proud. Neither of them needed to speak. The Persians had finally made their way to the circle and the time had come for attack. The Spartans began racing towards their fate. And as the two men belted out roars that only lions could rival, they found themselves jolting side by side one another and embracing the carnage of battle with their spears griped in their fist, ready to die with and for one another, both full heartedly ready to die as brothers.