Sing, O Muse, the Rage of Achilles

Story Info

Series Stories of the Puppeteer
Word count 787
Characters Achilles, Mahál, Nyx, Talagbusao
Places Myrmidicus
Other Vohdan Era
smoke holding up a finger with an exclamation mark.

Content warnings:

Death, Suicidal thoughts

Before Amaryllis was even a thought in a dragon’s mind, there was a war. This war had been waging for ten years, two tribes against each other. The spark that first began the war had been forgotten long ago, and the only thing on each tribe’s mind was winning.

At the front of the battlefield, the greatest warrior to ever live— Achilles. Tall, strong, and handsome. Behind him was the greatest strategist— Mahál. Lean, athletic, and beautiful. It was said that no warrior could compete when they worked together, as it was easy to become distracted when two gorgeous men stood back-to-back, skin glowing in the sun.

Due to a moral quarrel with his superior, Achilles chose to return home, watching the battles from afar. The surges of raw magic and glints of gigantic weaponry could be seen across the continent. Despite the loss of their partner, Mahál continued to fight. The enemy tribe was resourceful, however, and one night Achilles heard Mahál’s footsteps as they entered their bedroom.

“My love, if you don’t return, I fear we’ll be defeated,” Mahál whispered, taking Achilles’ hands in theirs. “You must fight. If not for our tribe, for me.”

Achilles looked away. “I refuse to fight for that bastard— he threatened to sacrifice the babaylan to Talagbusao, knowing full well our need for her.”

“Don’t worry, she would send her parent Bathala after him before ever sacrificing herself.” Mahál chuckled. Then they frowned. “But you know that you must return, yes? For the good of our people.”

“I can’t,” Achilles muttered, and said no more.

Mahál watched the candlelight flicker, deep in thought. “Let me wear your armor, then. The enemy will believe it’s you about to fight, and they will flee before I can even come close.”

Achilles looked into Mahál’s eyes, and nodded.

The battle roared, and Mahál felt their blood thrumming in their veins. The battalion was almost at the tribe’s center, soldiers fled after one look at Achilles’ armor, and nothing could stop them now.

Until a glowing spear phased through the bronze chestpiece and into Mahál’s heart.

They fell, vision turning dark as the enemy’s prince smirked down at them, calling out to his peers that he’d killed the great Achilles.

Achilles was sewing a tunic when a messenger collapsed at the door, breathing ragged and eyes wide. He frowned, a deep dark feeling rumbling in his belly.

“What is it?” he murmured.

“Mahál, they’re—” the messenger took a gulp of air. “Mahál is dead.”

Mahál always wore a shoulder decoration, a bronze circle carved with depictions of life. Farms, parties, battles, lovers. They’d left it home when they took Achilles’ armor.

Achilles held it in his hands and prayed. “Thanatos, god of death, please bring back my beloved Mahál from the afterlife. Carry their soul on your scythe and return them to the living. If you don’t, I fear I may have to join them, for I cannot inhabit this plane if my soulmate does not.”

Thanatos did not answer, but the prayer caught the ear of Talagbusao, god of revenge and bloodshed. The god smiled and put a wicked hand on Achilles’ shoulder, whispering rage into his heart.

With anger enough to light Araw’s sun, Achilles devastated the enemy tribe, carving through soldiers like a farmer through stalks of wheat. His eyes were red from tears and magic, teeth bared as he screamed. Talagbusao followed close behind, delighting in the carnage left behind.

Achilles saw the prince and knew it was him who killed Mahál. In one deft motion, he stabbed the prince through the heart. His sword tore the prince’s amulet in half, a symbol of the tribe’s devotion to Nyx, god of night.

The tribe declared their surrender, and Achilles returned to his home. The spirit of Talagbusao left him, and he collapsed on the bed he used to share with his lover.

That night, Nyx appeared in a haze at his bedside. “Stand, warrior.”

Achilles did not respond.

“You have no honor,” she spat, stepping around the bed. “Refusal to obey a god is to wish death upon yourself.”

“That was the intention, god of night,” Achilles said quietly.

Nyx paused. “I will kill you, great warrior, but not without repayment for the anguish you caused my tribe.” She closed her eyes, remembering a conversation she had with Fate, many years ago. “Thanatos will send you to the underworld. You may only reunite with Mahál in the skyworld when the hundredth babaylan casts her first spell.”

Achilles paled. “God of night, that is much too long. I cannot go without Mahál.”

She smiled, and set sleep upon him.

When a servant found him in the morning, he was dead.