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It was a school assignment.
All was peaceful and well in Mount Olympus, as most would expect. In modern days, the gods found their roles to be less important. Humanity in the bright and shiny age of 2016 had moved on from their ancient fantasies and fallacies; since then the twelve Olympian gods and goddesses had been mostly inactive and lethargic. The people no longer believed in them.
Though, by the time the 21st century had rolled around, Zeus, being the fickle and impulsive person he was, grew bored of the lack of activity. To solve this, he visited Hades deep in the Underworld.
“What do you want?” The god of the underworld grumbled.
“Seeing that little has happened lately,” Zeus said, “I suggest we do something to lift our spirits up.”
“My spirits won’t be going anywhere but down here.”
“Very funny.” The lightning god paused to collect his thoughts. “I’ve heard whispers amongst the mortals of this strange and curious land known as ‘Australiya’, but I have yet to see it for myself.”
“I think you mean Australia,” Hades corrected.
“I had a wonderful idea just a few hours ago,” he continued in complete disregard to the interjection. “Just you and me. I’m certain I could beat you at a game of survival in the wildernesses of this Australiya.”
This made the death god roar with laughter. “You?” he bellowed. “I could beat all of you slugs at such a game.”
Zeus’ eyebrow rose. “All of us?”
“Eleven versus one.”
“Deal. We leave at dawn.” Zeus cracked a smile. “And the last god standing can return home.”
Hades smiled to himself after his departure, pondering deeply over the many different ways such a competition could end…
“He’s dead, Aphrodite,” Poseidon said, watching with slight disdain at the love goddess violently shaking Dionysus’ shoulders.
“First Demeter, and now this?” She cried out. “This is unnatural. It must be Hades! He’s cheating!”
“We never agreed we couldn’t kill each other,” Ares rumbled, sitting in the corner of the dining room.
The doors swung open as Zeus stepped in. His expression quickly twisted from confusion to horror at the sight of Dionysus in his seat, face against the table near his many glasses of wine.
“Are you sure he didn’t just drink himself to death?” Poseidon suggested.
“No, no, he couldn’t have died that way,” Aphrodite insisted. “He’s the god of wine, for crying out loud.”
“Maybe Hades poisoned his drink.”
“What kind of poison is strong enough to cease the golden heart of a god?”
“You’re forgetting that we’re in the middle of a land unknown to all of us. There could be such a thing as a god-killing poison, for all we know.”
“But this is a wasteland with nothing but sand and dunes. Where would one even find or make something like that?”
“Enough,” Zeus roared. “Step away from him, Aphrodite.”
She obeyed, fists up to her mouth. The god of gods drifted over to Dionysus, careful not to touch him. He was lifeless, cold, limp; something you would expect a dead body to be.
Ares spoke up. “Hades is as clueless as us about the lay of the land. He couldn’t have just found a poison to use, let alone snuck all the way in here without anybody noticing.”
“And how do you know that?” Aphrodite retorted. “He could’ve visited this Australiya-place ahead of time, or maybe he’s found some natives that are helping him. He could kill us all!”
“Stop blubbering,” he snapped. “I wouldn’t put it past him, but we’ve no evidence to confirm he is the one responsible.”
“All of you, be quiet,” the lightning god said. “We must discuss this with the others. Leave Dionysus there; gods do not decompose after death.”
Aphrodite twiddled her thumbs anxiously. “Ohhh, I hope this gets solved soon…”
Hades watched the whole thing unfold from the safety of his underground burrow. The bickering of the gods amused him. “So they think I did it,” he mumbled to himself as he sorted through his food stores. Demeter, Dionysus...he wondered if there was going to be a pattern here with whoever was killing them off. But it didn’t concern him too much as long as the alleged killer didn’t target him.
It was another cloudless day in the desert; as the death god stepped out of his enclosure (once assuring himself that no-one was nearby), he took notice of how barren and lifeless the surroundings looked. There was nothing but red sand and dunes, with a few scraggly things that may have been trees or shrubs scattered haphazardly across the landscape. Even as a god, the hot, dry air tickled the skin beneath his thin covering of robes in an unpleasant, painful manner.
The large fortress of the gods sat snug against the side of a large dune some ways off. It appeared to wobble and shake from the heat. Best to avoid it for now. Unconcerned with their turmoil, Hades walked off alone to look for more food.
As he walked, there came into view a small clump of shrubs, with berries growing off of them. They seemed to be edible. He bent over to pick some of them to add to his stash of food, though it was already mostly full, plucking each one by one. The leaves rattled and shook with every touch.
As he picked them, a pair of glowing yellow eyes suddenly lit up from within the bushes. This startled Hades, who stumbled back and dropped most of the berries.
The creature within seemed to laugh. “No need to be so jumpy,” it said in a raspy voice, hidden from view.
He was not expecting to see any sort of living thing in such a desolate area. “Mm,” he grunted. “What are you doing in there?”
“Sleeping,” it replied. “Or, was. Until you woke me up with your racket.”
“My condolences,” Hades said dryly. “I didn’t think anything would have the ability to survive in this death pit.”
“There’s more to this place than what you’ve seen, my friend.” The creature let out a wheezy laugh. “You are not a human, are you? You look more like a walking corpse.”
“I am a god.”
“The god of corpses?”
“The god of the underworld, more specifically.”
“And I have not seen anybody like you around these parts before. Are you a tourist? Survival expert?”
“I come from Olympus,” Hades rumbled, bending over to pick up the berries he dropped. “My fellow gods challenged me to a test of survival here.”
“How delicious,” the creature giggled. “So that’s where that hunk of rock came from.”
“Yes, and they’re all on a team against me. If I die, they automatically win, but all of them have to die before I am victorious.”
“You must be very patient and confident to have agreed to a challenge so heavily weighed against your favor,” it inquired. “And so violent! I hope they aren’t gods of anything major from your parts, or boy, what a commotion that would cause for your people.”
“I’ve better skills in waiting than the likes of them,” Hades said. “And our people have declined interest in us…”
Soon enough the two were talking to each other for what seemed like ages - all the while, the mysterious creature never left the cover of its bushes. Hades explained what Olympus was like, and the unique, flavorful history that the Greek people had.
“What exactly are you?” Hades asked.
It laughed softly. “I’m a malingee,” it replied. “I’m a native here. I usually dont stray near humans, but you gods caught my eye.”
“It’s certainly some interesting things going down right now,” Hades chuckled. “Two of them have been murdered.”
His last sentence seemed to perk the malingee’s interest dramatically. It shifted position slightly, maybe leaning forward, as though it couldn’t believe its ears.
“Murders, you say?”
Nighttime fell. It grew incredibly cold, but not so for the Malingee. Seeing the gods themselves was enough of a surprise, but murder? The cold was not enough to pierce the level of curiosity that spurned and churned in its head.
“What a delicious party this will be,” it droned to itself in excitement. Hades had told it as much as he could remember or happened to observe. Demeter died suddenly to snake venom; Dionysus presumably drunk himself to death, or somebody poisoned his drink.
“The competition should at least be fair,” the god of the underworld had told it. “If there is murder going on, it would be helpful for someone who knows this place to figure it out.”
The stone castle was not hard to locate. The malingee needed to go to the gods there to gather as much information as it could to solve this mystery.
Striding up to the large oaken doors, it softly knocked on the entrance five times; a signal to the others that it was it that stood outside. It took but a few moments for someone to answer the door.
A beautiful woman dressed in white and golden silks swung the doors open, a bedraggled smile strewn across her face. “Oh, thank goodness,” she wailed. “I’m so glad you came! Please, come on in.”
“Thank you kindly,” the Malingee said, walking inside. The hallways were lit with torches, blazing brightly against the chill. The interior was about as drab as the outside; gray, stony, and monotone.
“So, um, I’d like to show you first where Demeter is, since she was the first one to be killed,” Aphrodite buzzed, a mix of fear and relief. “I know the spot by heart. We’ll just need to take a torch outside. And, um...what’s your name?”
It soaked up her words, taking a second to register her last sentence. “Oh, I don’t really care,” it said, shrugging its shoulders. “Call me whatever’s easiest, I suppose.”
“I’ll call you Voithós,” she said quickly. “It, um, means ‘helper’ in my tongue. Is that alright?”
“Not sure if I can pronounce that myself, but whatever floats your boat,” it replied. “And if we’re going outside, why are we walking down the hallway further into the house?”
Aphrodite slapped the palm of her hand against her forehead. “Goodness me! I’m so scattered lately,” she said with a small laugh, reaching out to pick up the nearest torch. “This way, please. And this is the right way, too,” she added heartily.
They walked back outside. Voithós, as it had so been dubbed by the goddess a few minutes ago, followed her, thoughts churning within.
They approached an area where there were many dead and half-living shrubs scattered about. Demeter still lay there; her body had not decomposed. But Voithós’ eyes were well adjusted to the dark, and in the limited torchlight, it could see that her skin was pale and her body stiff.
“So, um, I-I’ll let you do your thing,” Aphrodite said, handing the malingee the torch. It took the burning stick with gratitude and swung it low near where it could see, analyzing the surroundings carefully. Aphrodite stood a little ways behind, fists up to her mouth.
“Hades told me she was killed by snakes,” Voithós said.
“Yes, yes she was,” Aphrodite responded with haste. “I saw her leave last night to go get us some materials, but I was too tired to stay awake for until she came back, so I fell asleep and she still wasn’t there when I awoke. I looked outside and there she was.”
“Delicious,” it mumbled to itself.
“Pardon?” She tilted her head.
Voithós looked back at her. “It’s just a phrase,” it explained. “Like…’wow’, or ‘interesting’. Delicious.”
“Oh. My apologies.”
“She seems to have struggled a lot,” it noted aloud, crouching down to get a better look. There were several snake bites on Demeter’s body, all from a species it knew too well, and some of Aphrodite’s fingerprints. “A little strange that so many snakes would be hiding in one spot. This is usually not a place they come to.”
“Do you think maybe Hades summoned them?” Aphrodite suggested.
It looked back at her, a little incredulous. “Now, what makes you say that, ma’am? Hades is a good sport.” Voithós turned back around to focus on the work at hand. “But, you’re half right. Someone - or something - most likely summoned these snakes, or somehow got ahold of a bunch of them and put them in one place where they knew one of you gods would come to. There’s no footprints here aside from Demeter’s, you see. There’s no place around here to perch above ground without being completely in the open. Either it was a flying creature, or a spirit who didn’t leave behind any tracks.”
“You’re good at this,” she said in wonder.
Voithós only winked. “I have experience,” it said back. “Now, I’m not completely ruling out any of the god’s participation in this, but someone must’ve come here that knew about these snakes. I mean no offense, but you bunch don’t seem to know forwards from backwards in this desert.”
“It was a hallway,” she scoffed. “My friends are dying and I’m stressed, alright?”
“I’m not talking about the hallway,” it said, a little amused. “Now, when did you see Demeter leave?”
“Sometime right before the sun set.”
“Okay...and nobody else saw her leave?”
“Show me the next body.”
All the gods attended Voithós’ inspection of Dionysus’ body. It was pretty surreal having nine supreme deities from another land in one place, but it did not let the honor of it get to its head, or distract it from its mission.
It was rather awkward, if anything. The chairs were slightly too small for their buttocks, and most of them chose to sit against the wall instead. Voithós could feel the tension in the room - there was no telling when or how the next person would be murdered, so solving this mystery was crucial.
“Mm,” the malingee grunted, lips pursed as it studied the body closely. Aphrodite’s fingerprints were all over Dionysus’ shoulders. “Nobody saw this one die, either?”
“No,” Athena replied, after several moments of silence.
“Seems like the killer is only comfortable targeting solitary victims - and at nighttime, too,” Voithós wondered aloud. “No footprints here belonging to anybody except us. It could’ve been someone who flew or someone who was not a physical being…”
They stared at it.
“...which, in all honestly, doesn’t rule any of you out. You’re all suspects.”
Everybody began clamoring over each other at once. “How dare you accuse me of murder?” Aphrodite shrieked. Everyone tried to speak over one another to be heard.
“Enough,” Zeus roared, sparks of electricity dancing around his hands. “There will be silence in this room.” After a few seconds, the noise died down once more to low murmurs. Ares crossed his arms, looking warily at everybody.
“Everybody tell me what you were doing before and after Dionysus was killed,” Voithós requested. “That way, I can get a better idea of who’s still a suspect.”
Nobody wanted to be first. It was like the teacher asking a question in a classroom full of the shy kids.
“No need to be so eager,” Voithós said jokingly.
Ares was the first to stand. He cleared his throat. “I was only hanging around here,” he said. “I spoke to Dionysus before I left to my bedchamber. He claimed that he would drink all the wine he brought over from Olympus. I left him to it.” He paused to take a breath. “He’s always like that.”
“Thank you, ah…”
“Yes, thank you, Ares,” Voithós said. “When did you talk to him?”
“A short time before sunset.”
It took a mental note of this. It’s the same time. “And did anybody else see Dionysus?”
Everybody shook their heads.
“I was grooming my hair,” Aphrodite spoke up shrilly. “I had no part in this, I tell you. I was in my bedchamber the whole time, mourning over Demeter. I’ve not shed a single drop of blood from either of them.”
“No need to get so defensive,” Hermes interjected, squinting in the light. “None of us were accusing you.”
“Yeah, and you were the only one who made a fuss at either of them dying,” Poseidon rumbled from the corner. “And you soiled the bodies by touching them. Don’t you know that throws off an investigation?”
“Oh, are you accusing me now?” She spat bitterly, fists balled up by her sides. “I’ll have you know I was overtaken with grief for my fellow companions. We are gods! Olympians! And you take their deaths so lightly! I still mourn for our beloved Greeks who no longer hold faith in us, and the rest of the world as well.”
“But there’s no need to sprawl yourself over their bodies in your mourning,” Hermes said, tapping his winged foot impatiently.
Aphrodite was on the verge of exploding with rage when Zeus held his hand up to silence her.
“How delicious,” Voithós smiled. “Your defensiveness is rather suspicious, Aphrodite. Would you care to go into detail what you were doing before Dionysus’ death?”
The goddess of love inhaled sharply, composing herself after her fit of anger. “Well, thank you for asking,” she said. “I went into my bedchamber earlier than anybody else. As a patron of love, I found Demeter’s death very heartbreaking, and so I went there to mourn. I braided my hair for most of the time.”
“How did you braid it?”
She snorted a little, as though offended by the question. “What do you mean, how? I braided it. That’s all.”
“French braid? Fishtail? Milkmaid? Waterfall?”
“Why does that matter?” Aphrodite scoffed. “I wasn’t paying attention to how I was braiding it. I was too distracted.”
The gods looked at her warily.
“But not distracted enough to braid it, it seems,” Voithós said, rubbing its chin. “And if you so clearly braided it, why is it not braided now?”
She turned to look at her hair, as though she needed to check. She looked back up at Voithós, indignant. “I unbraided it,” she said.
“That’s believable,” Ares said sarcastically.
Aphrodite spun around on her heel to face the war god. “And look who’s talking!” She spluttered. “You kill people more than any of us as a god of war! Surely someone used to killing would be more willing to do it.”
“I kill people with weapons, not poisons,” he said. “If that’s even how he died.”
The clamor arose once more, Aphrodite being the loudest of all. Voithós took close mental notes of all that had been said. This is much more interesting than I thought it would be. It rose its hands up in the air, signaling everyone to calm down.
“Alright, alright,” it said. “I’m going to have to talk to each of you individually.”
“But it’s late,” Apollo said. “I think we all should get some rest.”
“This killer has only struck at night,” Voithós said. “As long as nobody is alone, we should be safe.”
It was a risk worth taking.
Most of the gods gave similar testimonies. Only Aphrodite and Ares had done anything particularly of interest. Zeus, Athena, Poseidon, Apollo, Artemis, Hephaestus, and Hermes did not seem of much suspicion. However, Hermes’ ability to fly was a small nod, though not much. Voithós left during the late hours, telling everybody to sleep in one place, and nobody could go alone anywhere in groups smaller than three.
Hades was curious to see what had went on when the malingee returned. Voithós clambered into the death god’s burrow virtually uninvited.
“How’d it go?” he asked, pouring a cup of tea.
“It went swimmingly,” it said, sitting on a tiny wooden stool across from him. “Everybody thinks it’s either you or Aphrodite.”
“Mm,” he mumbled, sipping from his drink a little. “Figures. And who do you suspect?”
“Well, if you’re the killer, you’re doing a bloody good job of it,” Voithós chuckled. “I’m not completely swayed either way. My gut tells me a spirit native to these lands is playing tricks. Either Aphrodite is as much of a swine as she appears to be, or she is the most petty goddess I’ve ever met.”
Hades poured the sleuth a cup of tea. “Loneliness drove her mad,” he said nonchalantly. “When people stopped worshipping her in particular, she came running to us.”
“That makes sense,” Voithós said. “I don’t feel much pity for her, though.”
“Nor do I.”
They sat and drank tea in the comfort of the night’s chill, unaware of the things to come.
I didn’t think it would get this delicious so quickly.
Hades really wasn’t joking when he said Aphrodite had gone mad. What used to be frustration was now full-scale paranoia, as was evident when Hermes rushed to find Voithós and urged him to come to the stone palace the following morning.
Aphrodite stood in the back of the main hallway like a cornered animal, waving around a spare torch at anyone who got near. “You’re all killers! I know it!” she shrieked.
“What the hell’s gotten into you?” Ares snapped.
Voithós came running into the palace, its eyes first falling on the love goddess...or whatever she was now. She was certainly not in the same shape as it had seen her the night before. All composure had been lost, replaced by a primitive savagery and panic that one would expect from a madwoman.
“Aph, calm yourself,” Voithós urged, unsure how to ease the feral deity. “We’re not going to hurt you.”
“How do I know that?” she hissed, face contorting with each word. “You’re all blaming me when I’ve done nothing! Nothing! Nothing!”
“Shut your trap already,” Ares reached out to take the torch from her. But Aphrodite lashed out, jerking the burning end towards him. He backed away, unharmed.
“What in the name of Athens is going on?” Artemis groaned, rubbing her eyes having just woken up. As soon as she laid eyes on Aphrodite, however, she fell silent in shock. More of the gods clustered around upon hearing the commotion.
Aphrodite grew more and more panicked as they came in. “You’ve come to kill me, haven’t you?” she wailed. “I know one of you did it! I know it! I won’t let you kill me!”
“Now, Aphrodite, there is no need to be panicking,” Zeus said in an attempt to calm her.
“Don’t tell me to not panic, you insolent cur,” she barked. “I knew this stupid ‘competition’ was a bad idea from the start. I’ve had enough of this! I’m leaving! None of you will be able to lay your hands on me!”
And with that, the crazed goddess pushed past the other gods, torch in hand, to burst towards the exit. Voithós and the others were too slow to stop her as she broke the door down with her food and scrambled away.
“You can’t leave, you fool,” Apollo cried out. “You swore upon the River Styx to stay until the bet was over! All of us did!”
But Aphrodite did not listen. She ran and ran and ran into the distance, Voithós and Hermes hot on her trail.
“Aph, stop,” Voithós begged.
“You’ll kill me! You’ll kill me!” she cried, not paying attention to them in the least.
Then, suddenly, a bright light shone in front of them. Voithós and Hermes covered their eyes. When it looked once more, Aphrodite stood motionless in front of them, back turned.
Hermes stood in shock, unsure of what was happening. “Aphrodite?”
The goddess’ head turned all the way around to face them, bones snapping in the neck while doing so. A spine-chilling grin sprawled across her face. “They’ll never know it was me.”
The smile was quickly replaced by an ear-piercing scream. And just like that, she fell to the ground in the manner of a ragdoll, all traces of life having escaped from her body in an instant.
For once in its life, Voithós felt afraid.
Zeus and Hermes helped carry Aphrodite’s body back to a safe place. Hermes was still shaken by the experience and spoke little the whole time.
It wasn’t at night, and there were people to witness it. Whoever the killer is may be trying to throw me off by disrupting his pattern.
Either that, or this wasn’t a murder.
“I don’t know what happens when you gods try to break the bets you make, but this can mean two things,” Voithós spoke to them as they all gathered around the body, preparing some mounds for burial for Dionysus and Demeter as well (there wasn’t really much to get from out of Aphrodite’s body but the broken neck bones). “Either you guys have a really screwed up form of punishment, or a spirit possessed her and...killed her instantly.”
“Or she did that to scare you,” Poseidon suggested. “She said herself that she was the one responsible. Could have been a fit of madness, too.”
“This is a funeral. Could we at least save the conversations for later?” Artemis said in a soft, tired voice. Nobody could argue with that.
The concept of funerals was new to Voithós, though it found it intriguing how the Olympians mourned the dead. It wasn’t a “proper” modern funeral, as Apollo told it. They merely buried the bodies in makeshift wooden caskets and stood around in solemnity. Hades, as usual, was nowhere to be seen.
There remained eight gods. Most of them were convinced that Aphrodite was responsible, and that now she was dead, there remained nothing to fear. “I suspected her from the start,” Ares had grumbled.
“I don’t feel like this is over,” Voithós said to Hades later on in the afternoon after the makeshift funeral.
Hades sat in his overly tiny stool stirring a bowl of chicken broth. “You could always call it quits on the investigation,” he said. “If the killer happens to still be out there, it’ll help me win, anyways.”
It wasn’t sure if that was sarcasm or seriousness, but it dismissed his comment regardless. Shifty god. First you say I should investigate to make this fair, and now you praise the deaths for giving you an upper hand.
Maybe I was wrong to trust you.
He was the god of the underworld, after all. Maybe he sent a spirit to possess Aphrodite - it certainly seemed possible. No footprints left behind on any of them, either.
What kind of Australian spirit would want to come all the way out here, anyways…
He left to clear his thoughts. Aphrodite’s last words could’ve meant anything. Voithós still hadn’t done a proper talk with Hades about his testimony, either - it had assumed he was innocent because he had employed it to help with solving the murders.
The fear returned to it - a fear it had never felt before. And all this seemed so delicious at first...now I know what the dangers are.
I myself could be targeted.
I have to be more careful…
Ares was the first person that Voithós went to for a second opinion. Dusk was drawing near on the Australian wilderness. The war god sat on a bench with his legs crossed, face blank as he listened to the sleuth pour his false leads and findings to him.
“I doubted it at first, but I see no other way,” Voithós sighed. “Hades has not once shown his face amongst us. And no native spirit in their right mind would stay here long.” And it’s starting to take an effect on me. The malingee was growing scrawnier and less physically formed. Though a spirit, the material world still wore it down over time. The only things around were animals of various sorts who were adapted to the environment.
“Then it’s gotta be Hades,” Ares said slowly. “He must’ve seen how impossible the odds were of winning, and sent his own spirits to do his bidding. It may not even be the same spirit killing us every time.”
“I’ve already had a talk with him, and he’s said nothing remotely suspicious,” it replied. “But, he’s been shifty the whole time.”
He snorted. “Hades is always shifty.”
“I just don’t know how to prove my suspicions correct,” Voithós said.
“You could always try and set up a lure for the killer,” he suggested. “We may be able to see it ourselves.”
A lightbulb went off in Voithós’s head. “You’re right,” it said. “..That’s genius! Thank you, Ares. That’s exactly what we need to do. ...But how are we going to pull it off?”
The war god smiled. “I have an idea.”
“And what’s that?”
“We use you as bait.”
If the malingee had a heart, it would’ve stopped. It was trying to avoid losing its life. Why would it deliberately put it at risk?
“Think about it,” he said. “Hades may not be targeting you because you’re not apart of the oath. But if you disguise yourself as one of us, whatever spirit he’s sending to kill us off may mistake you for one of us. Then, we can catch it in the act and find out who the killer is.”
“That makes sense,” Voithós croaked.
“Listen, this is a matter of life or death for all of us here. Are you going to do it or not?”
“I will,” it said. “I just don’t want to die.”
Ares leaned in, an intense expression on his face. “None of us do, either. But one of us has to be at risk to prevent more deaths.”
Voithós dressed himself up as the most likely person to be targeted next, which Ares believed to be himself.
It was rather awkward and strange having to wear such heavy armor. “How do you put up with this weight?” he asked.
“You’ll get used to it.”
The plan was simple - run out at night and pretend to be looking for the killer, so the killer can come to Voithós. Then, Ares and several of the other gods ambush the killer and capture it alive to get answers, and closure.
It took nearly an hour to get all the apparel on. As a spirit, the malingee had limited shapeshifting skills, but it managed to pull off a half-decent impression of the war god. It would have to suffice. Besides, in the cover of darkness, it would be harder to see the differences.
In the dead of night, Voithós sat nearby the door, mentally preparing itself for what it had to do.
I can survive this.
There’s no other way.
We’ll find out the killer by doing this. It’s for the better good.
It took a deep breath, trying to calm its nerves.
“On my mark,” Hephaestus said.
Time seemed to slow down.
The battle-dressed malingee charged out of the palace and ran as fast as it could across the desert.
“Come out and fight me, you begotten murderer!”
It was now that Voithós found himself alone. Its fear was great, but its determination was greater. The weight of the armor was much too strong; it found its strength draining away with each step, and forced itself to slow to a walk, whilst periodically mumbling to itself in the voice of Ares.
This has to work.
The desert was wearing down on it, on top of the armor. Voithós could’ve swore it heard distant voices. Suddenly it was down on the ground, unconscious, just as a mysterious figure swooped over and picked it up.
When Voithós regained consciousness, there was darkness all around. Its head hurt tremendously. The malingee tried to move around, only to realize it was bound up with ropes around the ankles and wrists.
“You’re awake,” a deep voice rumbled.
Voithós turned its head to the direction of the sound. A torch was suddenly lit, illuminating the face of a twisted and shadonic creature, with eyes as brightly colored as the light of the sun. A disturbingly familiar smile was stretched across its face. Its form seemed to shift and stutter with the movements of the flame, as though it may blink out of existence at a moment’s notice.
“I’m not as stupid as you think I am,” the creature said. Questions were firing off in Voithós’ head like a machine gun, but it had no strength to ask anything. “I see everything you do. I hear everything you say. And I’m always one step ahead of you.”
“Who are you?” Voithós managed to utter.
The creature drew uncomfortably close to it, still that smile on its face. “I am Azlatok,” it said. “And I’m the one you’re looking for, aren’t I?”
“You were the one killing them, weren’t you?”
“I wonder where you could’ve possibly gotten that from,” it said sarcastically.
“And are you working for Hades?”
It snorted and let out an ugly laugh. “I’m not working for that shifty excuse of a god. I don’t work for anyone.” It pointed one elongated claw at itself for emphasis. “I work for me. And you’re going to work for me, too.”
“Why are you doing this?”
Voithós blinked. “What, that’s it? No vengeance? No grudges?”
Azlatok shrugged. “I didn’t think I’d get to see gods around here. But my fun isn’t over.” It turned to look deep into its eyes. “You were stupid enough to think your plan would work, and you’ve stumbled right into my hands.”
Chills went down Voithós’ spine. “What are you going to do?”
The smile again.
A great energy overwhelmed the malingee like nothing before. Its body contracted and contorted as Azlatok spluttered out of a physical form into a wispy, airy energy, rapidly circling its body.
All control was lost; nothing was left but a consciousness.
“They’ll never know it was me.”