Can you do a gods and monsters based on Ares? (This series is amazing!! Thank you for writing it!!!
Ares, the God of War, has a throne on Olympus, has followers and temples and tributes.
Ares, the God of War, has the screams of the dead and damned echoing around in his skull, and has not had a moment’s peace since his father declared his dominion over battle.
He tries to ignore them. He can’t stay on Olympus, not anymore where his father’s proud gaze follows him and he can’t help but flinch from it. At first he hides in his mother’s rooms, curling up on her lap and crying like he hasn’t since he was very small. “I can hear them,” he says, tears dripping down his nose and onto her dress, “I can hear them calling for me.”
She combs her fingers through his hair and drops soft kisses onto his forehead. “I’ll kill him. How dare he – how dare he.”
“You will do no such thing,” he says, and turns so he’s looking up at her. He presses his hand to her cheek, and she leans into his touch. Her eyes are alight with fury and grief, and it soothes him just to see them. Her eyes are his eyes, are his brother’s eyes. “You are the goddess of marriage. To kill your husband would be to kill yourself. Would you make me an orphan, Mother?”
There is a war raging within him now, soldiers and generals and widows crying out for him, but for now all he is worried about is preventing a war within his home.
Nothing would tear apart the pantheon so firmly as to pit Zeus against Hera.
She doesn’t say anything, but her grasp on his hand becomes almost painful, so he will take that as agreement.
He can only stay away for so long. He must go to whoever invokes him most strongly, to who builds him the biggest altars, to who provides the largest sacrifice. He is not a god who is lucky enough to be able to watch his domain from afar, to simply provide blessings and guidance. The screaming inside of him quiets only when he joins them on the battlefield, only when he is in the thick of it with a sword in his hand is it quiet enough for him to think.
Only when his battle fury turns the tide of a war is he, even just briefly, free from the crushing weight of his followers and his domain.
He does not get to choose which side to support. Whoever worships him more, whatever side invokes his name the strongest is the one who gets his aid.
He shows up sobbing at his mother’s door, whole body vibrating in pain because the soldiers shout his name in a glorious chorus and he should be with them now, but instead he’s here. Hera grabs his upper arms to keep him upright, eyes wide and concerned.
“I don’t want them to win,” he confesses, the words making his lips burn, “the soldiers are simply soldiers, but the generals and lords and kings seek glory for money, for profit, for nothing but selfishness. Their enemies only want to live.”
“I will take care of it,” she swears to him, and he has no idea how she expects to do that. Yet he trusts she’ll find a way, because she always does. He comes to his mother, asking her to help him, and she always has. “Now go, before you are hurt even more.”
Hera had no influence on the battlefield.
But it is not solely the battlefield where tributes are made.
She is the goddess of marriage and family.
She goes to wives and husbands, to sons and daughters, to sisters and brothers. She whispers in their ears, speaks of devotion and fealty, makes them all wail for their missing family members caught up in a war none of them wanted.
Hera brings their grief and desperation to the fore, until they’re nearly mad with their need to have their family brought home.
They build a temple to Ares, sacrifice gold and food and anything of value they can spare. They cry prayers over hearth fires, and burn messages to the god of war to bring their family members home.
The tides change. He’s midway through the battle when the he feels the shift, when he realizes his mother somehow did as she promised and he no longer has to fight for these people, that now he can fight against them.
He doesn’t want to fight at all. But if he must, then at least he can fight for those he believes in.
Ares doesn’t allow himself to fall into bitterness or anger at his father often. But he wishes, not for the first time, that Zeus had named him the god of justice, of peace, of fairness, of loyalty. That Zeus had named him the god of something he believed in, something he could believe in fighting for.
All war does is kill good men and women, all it does is breed resentment and anger in the victors and losers both.
Although. Ares is of the opinions that wars never have any true victors. Just people that lose less than the people they’re fighting.
There is a lull. No one is invoking him powerfully enough that he can’t ignore their cries.
He goes to Haephestus’s volcano and slides into a magma pool, the burning heat of the lava the perfect temperature to work out the knots of stress in his back and thighs.
“It’s unnerving to see you in there,” his brother says, and Ares opens his eyes to see Hephaestus looking down at him in concern. “You look tired.”
Permanent purple bruises have formed under his eyes. He can’t remember the last time he saw himself without them. Everything hurts, it always hurts, even when there is peace there are people who covet war and call out to him and it tears at him whenever he leaves a tribute unanswered. He’s exhausted and rode hard, stretched so thin that he’s terrified he’ll snap at any moment.
He looks at Hephaestus’s concern and admits to him something he hasn’t told anyone, something he’s too afraid to say to his mother just in case she decides to smite Zeus for it. “I think that these wars might be killing me.”
His brother’s face goes tight, but he doesn’t say anything. That’s all right. Ares hadn’t expected him to – there really is nothing to say.
He wonders if the screams will still find him in death.
“I need a favor,” Hephaestus says the next time Athena comes to visit, wringing his hands, anxious in a way he usually doesn’t let anyone see.
Athena tilts her head to side. “I’m listening.”
Ares is resting, the moon high as he lays back in the middle of the battle camp and tries to quiet the cries in his head enough to catch even an hour of sleep.
“War is not just about fighting, about blood and battle.”
His eyes pop open and he looks over to see Athena sitting by his side. He pushes himself up cautiously. “Sorry?”
“You should pay more attention to the generals,” she says, “war isn’t won with blood. It’s won with strategy. With planning, with tactics.”
“I don’t know much about all that,” he admits, “it’s enough of a struggle just to keep up with the soldiers.”
Her face softens, “I know. That’s why I’m here. No one expects to win wars alone, Ares.”
This is how Athena, goddess of knowledge and weaving, becomes a goddess of war. She is a master of strategy, of planning campaigns, of ensuring that a victory on the battlefield remains a victory at home.
Some of his tributes go to her. Some people pray to Athena now instead of him.
He still hears the screaming. He still doesn’t sleep.
But it relieves just enough pressure that it feels like he can breathe again.
Ares and Athena are not the only names that get invoked on the battlefield.
Hades’s name has constantly been on their lips. They damn their enemies to a torturous afterlife, to thrice the pain and suffering they receive on the battlefield.
He tries to ignore it. It is not his domain. But the more he hears it, that more it stabs at him. Most of these people are soldiers. Cursing generals is well enough, but most soldiers didn’t choose to be here. He didn’t choose to be here.
Ares has never been to the underworld. It’s the one place his mother never let him venture.
He knows that the smart thing to do would be to go to his brother and ask him to speak to Hecate, the woman who raised him. Or even Hades himself – he doesn’t know how well Hephaestus knows the gods of the underworld. For all that he grew up there, he doesn’t speak of it much.
But if Hades’s wrath is to fall on anyone, Ares would rather it be him.
It’s easy enough to follow the souls of recently departed soldiers to the River Styx. Charon presses a hand to his shoulder and asks, “What business do you have here, God of War?”
“I knew a child who was called Kore,” he answers, and he doesn’t expect this to work, but he hopes it will. “I wish to speak to a woman who calls herself Persephone.”
He can’t see Charon’s face, but the air around him turns thoughtful. “It is summer. The Lady is with her mother.”
He’d forgotten about that.
“Then I request an audience with her husband,” he says, and he clasps his hands behind his back so that Charon can’t see them shaking. He can’t turn into a mess here. People are screaming in his mind, but he can’t let it get to him here, not if he wants anyone to take him seriously, not if he wants to help his fellow soldiers instead of hurting them.
“You are not dead, and so I cannot ferry you across the Styx,” Charon says, almost apologetically. “But – hold on.” He turns to the river, “Goddess Styx, could you come here?”
A little girl with skin even darker than Hephaestus’s and eyes and hair of soft grey appears in front of them. “Yes?”
Charon points to him, “He wishes to speak to our lord.”
Styx turns her grey eyes on him, and he can’t help but feel unnerved. She circles him, looking him up and down, seemingly looking into him. “Very well,” she says at last. She moves her arms together, then apart. Two sides of the river flow in opposite directions so that a dry walking path is revealed in the river bed. “Move quickly. The longer I maintain a break in my river, the longer things besides you may be able to sneak across.”
“Thank you,” he gives her a shallow bow, and then goes sprinting across the riverbed. It takes him longer than it should – the river is not overly wide, and it should be quick, but it seems like he runs nearly an hour to reach the other side. He heaves himself onto shore, panting, and as soon as he’s across the river comes crashing together once more, flowing back into the proper direction.
He makes it to Hades’s palace, but once again it takes longer than it seems it should. It takes too long, he’s been away from the battle field too long, and it shows. He tries to pull himself together, he’s come too far to fall apart now, but it seems to be a wasted effort. The screaming of people crying his name is so loud he can’t hear anything else, and it paralyzes him, he can’t move, he can’t feel, his muscles are tense enough to snap because he needs to answer the people calling for him, but he can’t there’s no easy way out of the underworld so he’s just stuck here –
Suddenly it all cuts off to a dull roar, and he gasps as he comes back to himself, squeezing his eyes shut to keep from crying. Hands cup his face, and calloused thumbs wipe the tears from his cheeks. “You must be Ares,” a soft voice says, “Charon said you were coming. Are you all right?”
He forces his eyes open, and Hades, King of the Dead, swims into focus. “How are you doing that?”
“Doing what?” his eyebrows dip together. “What are you doing here?”
He grabs Hades’s hands, and pulls them from is his face, but leaves their fingers tangled together. Luckily Hades doesn’t pull away. Ares doesn’t know what would happen if he did. “I – I know that they invoke you to punish their enemies, on the battlefield. They dedicate some of the pyres to you and ask you to burn their enemies in death, for eternity.”
“I hear them,” he says, “I know what they say.”
“Try not to,” he begs, and he can hear the screaming still, he’s shaking and can’t stop and he wanted to appear strong while asking the god of the dead for a favor but he’s barely able to keep standing. “I know they ask of it, I know they erect tributes and we must all answer the call of our names, but they’re not evil. They – some of them are, I mean, but don’t – try not to – please,” he ends on, and it’s just not fair that the soldiers must continue fighting after their death. Most of them hadn’t wanted to fight while they were alive.
Hades still looks confused, and Ares will beg if he has to, he knows it’s hard to go against what worshipers demand but this is important. He’s about to try again when Hades says, “I am the god of the death, lord of the underworld. Ares, I hear their cries but I am not bound by them. I rule the dead. The dead do not rule me.”
He stares. He – he’s never heard of something like that before. He answers the call of war because he must, his mother is bound by the chains of her marriage because she is the goddess of family. Demeter’s power is from the earth and of the earth, and when it suffers she suffers, even Poseidon is not immune to the sea’s temperament. Their powers are all double edged, half blessing and half curse.
“Oh,” he settles on finally. “Kore – I mean, Persephone?” They tell tales of the punishments she inflicts on those that have upset her. He knew her as a child, and he’s less surprised than most by what she became.
“My wife does what pleases her, and nothing else,” Hades answers. Ares doesn’t understand. She is Queen of Life and Death, how can that not pull at her, how does it not twist her into a shape she doesn’t recognize?
“Okay,” he says, and he has to leave, but at least he no longer has to worry so much after fallen soldiers. “I apologize for the intrusion. I should go.”
Hades slides his hands up his arms, and settles at his shoulders, and oh, Ares becomes distracted enough by those hands on him that for a moment it’s almost quiet in his own head. “If you like. You may stay as well. It seems as if you could use some rest.”
He drops his head forward on Hades’s shoulder, and he likes the solidity of him, the undercurrent of strength and power he gives off. He’s never met the man before, this is entirely inappropriate, but when Hades’s hands settle onto his hips he wants nothing more than curl up in his arms and ignore the war for a little while.
Hades feels like peace. He’d forgotten what that felt like. “I can’t stay.”
The god of the dead presses a kiss to the edge of his jaw that ignites something in Ares that has been absent since before he was declared the god of war. He wonders what Hades would do if he kissed him properly, he wonders if he pulled off his blood and war stained clothes if Hades would touch his too-hot skin. “Then I request that you return,” the god of death says.
He shouldn’t. The time he manages to not be on a battlefield should be spent with his mother, or Hephaestus. He shifts enough to press their foreheads together. He looks into Hades’s dark eyes, and says, “I will.”
Ares returns to the midst of war feeling lighter than he has in a long time.
gods and monsters series, part xviii