Gifts of the Gods: Iron and Bronze
The 13th day of Metageitnion
August 18, 480BC
The young man was up before the sun, grinding a small amount of barley in a broken clay bowl. Darkness covered the mountain camp, hiding the rivers of blood and the heaps of mangled, rotting corpses.
Not even the small amount of moonlight could soften the images left behind. Instead, it magnified the grotesque spectacle of the accursed. Men cried out for relief in death, their moans echoing into every crevice. There was no escaping it and the lad had tried everything. He looked across the broken, rocky cliff and out over the sea. The dead were the lucky ones. Only the damned remained.
His master would be awake soon if he was not already. The lad mixed the barley with some hot water from the fabled springs and added ground flour and a touch of garlic. He cooked it over a small flame until it formed into a small hard biscuit. The water was sulfuric, but it was all they had.
On some mornings, the water flowed cold and clear while on others it became hot and acidic. Much like the goddess, Persephone, who blessed these waters, the alternating currents reminded the boy of a divided, polarizing world. The young goddess spent half the year above the earth with her mother, Demeter, who gave life to all living things, and the other half deep in the underworld with Hades.
It wouldn't matter anyway. Before the sun set again, their bodies would be added to the rotting piles before him. Such was the choice he had made. It was too late to back out now.