The flux and reflux of immeasurable tides by pythia
The slope was wide and shallow at the upper end, an open funnel which disgorged uncountable thousands – a squirm of multitudes, ranging from the tramp of semi-disciplined troops, through the lope of predators, the skitter of insectoid both large and small, and onto the unspeakable, the squirm of worms, of tentacles, and the creep of flesh, and boneless forms. The shaft below it was deep, twisting away into the depths, and filled with darkness and the shadowy shift of moving, heaving shapes. They crept, they crawled, they leapt and they skittered; they parted to let armies pass, then flowed in again, fighting and clawing among themselves, eager for the furious hellfires of the plain, yet hissing and howling away from the merest hint of purer light. Winged things swirled around and among them, driving them upwards, turning their emergence into a belch of foulness, an endless tide of horror rising from the depths.
The exploratory probe flew deep and deeper still, its tumbling light cutting a swathe through the boiling mass of hate and hunger that flooded ever upwards. The sweep of vast wings had set it dancing, rolling over and over, and the images it transmitted were filled with horror and hints of things that man was never meant to see.
Not see and stay sane, at least.
The eyes that saw what it sent on its sink into hell were not, however, human. The gods are cut from sterner stone than mortal souls, and Ares noted every moment, watched with narrowed eyes and pursed lips as the machine made its willing sacrifice. The pilot that had dispatched it sat with his head lowered, pushed there by a firm hand the moment that things uncomprehendable first crawled across the screen. He muttered an irritated protest from time to time, but Ares ignored most of them, only once allowing the man to lift his eyes at a measured moment ... after which he kept his head down, fighting to keep the bile from his throat.
A mile down, maybe slightly more, huge teeth opened and jaws sntached; the signal from the probe stuttered and then the screen went dark. But it had done its job. Ares patted the man on the head – giving him a little courage as he did so – murmured 'be ready'
and flashed away, reappearing beside Hades in his chariot.
The Lord of Elysium nodded, and threw high his hand: a burning orb arched up, flooding the land with a cold, sharp light. Beneath it, the bubbling, boiling mouth to hell below continued to vomit its flood flood, demons and behemoths and nameless things spilling out to swirl and dance, becoming a tide that churned and turned until it headed, with inevitability, towards the slowly opening Hellmouth and the mortal worlds beyond.
A second nod sent chariots into a thunderous charge: the Athenians on the one hand, and the Trojans on the other. Hooves struck deep, and wheel rims deeper, the charioteers holding a steady gallop as their companions threw a storm of javelins into the mass of demons that turned to meet them. Another storm – a flurry of long shafted arrows – flew over their heads as they charged, thousands of Greek bows unleashed to create a rain of death and disabling pain. Creatures were skewered to the ground, helpless to avoid the churn of bronze rimmed chariot wheels as they thundered through them; others fled before the charge, driven right and driven left, so that the chariots cut a deep wedge into the demonic waves, clearing a space that exposed the open slope to further attack.
As the chariots turned they formed a line on either side, long limbed heroes leaping down to raise a sheild wall that kept the flood from returning. Between their determined stand and the waiting lines of archers and myrmidons that held back from advance lay an exposed expanse of blood spattered rock, its jagged surfaces strewn with decomposing corpses.
Into that expanse there strolled a god.
He walked with casual, almost dancing steps, a knowing smile on his lips and laughter in his eyes. Bare foot and bare armed, he wore nothing but a whip of white fabric at his hips and a crown of vine leaves at his brow. He carried a golden cup in one hand and a staff, heavy with bunches of grapes in the other – and where he walked, vines sprang, curling and flowering across the blood stained soil.
The clamour of the demons fell to a mewling, uncertain murmur; those that strove to break the line of the Greeks and Trojans paused, pushing and pushed by those behind. A flurry of movement rippled through their ranks, forming and reforming into more ordered lines as shock troops assembled to face this unknown threat. The Acheans let out a stern hah
of challenge and praise – and the young god laughed, dipping to his enemies with mockery and mocking florishes.
There, in the darkness of a dark and smoky world, he began to dance.
Wine splashed from his cup, drops of dark red scattering like blood around him. Where they fell curvaceous figures uncoiled from the vines, rising from the swirl of wine to be shaped and sculpted with dark and alluring beauty. Women, bare breasted, draped in nothing but their long dark locks of hair, stepped out to join the god in revelry – and the demons, those who were armed and armoured warriors among the panting, growling horde, began to jeer and laugh. Taunts rose from their ranks, thanking the divinity for this unexpected gift. Offers of rape and slaughter echoed across the silences, loud and raccous against the distant background of on-going battle and unholy birth. Still the women danced with erotic promise, their ranks swelling as their steps grew faster and more frantic, as more and more wine spilled.
The lines of Greeks and Trojans held firm. Not one looked back at the temptation that writhed and undulated behind them. Grapes tumbled endlessly from the young god's staff. They fell to be crushed under the dancing feet, and from their blood more dancers rose, a wild bachanalia summoned by the beat of bare feet and the laughter of the god of wine.
One last slap of toes and drumming of heels. The dance – froze. Wild eyes turned towards the jeering lines of demons. Tangled locks hung low over half glimpsed, estatic faces. Talons curled in expectation. Charioteers reached anxiously for their reins, and heroes shifted their grip on their shields, ready to leap, poised to flee.
Then Dionysus, the raging one, the lord of wine, master of ecstasy and madness, smiled a wide and drunken smile.
And unleashed the Maenads and the Bachae upon the hosts of hell ...