Penthesilea’s Demise

© Unknown

The clash of weapons reverberates through the air, humid and hot and heavy with the stench of sweat and blood and ash. A moan escapes the lips of the man before me and I pull my sword out of his stomach as his eyes glaze over, his gaze already drawn past the scorched walls of this great city and towards the Elysian fields, forsaking this mortal body with its gaping wound and its insides spilling out.

An arrow flies past my head. I duck instinctively and roll to avoid the stab of an enemy spear. I am back on my feet before the soldier recovers from his thrust. Surprise flickers across his face, perhaps only now noticing the curvature of my body underneath the boiled leather harness, or from the shock of my knife entering the exposed spot in his bronze breastplate and penetrating his armpit. I cannot tell. It doesn’t matter. Blood gurgles from his mouth.

I move on. Death follows in my wake.

Just as I can no longer stand the stench, my mouth foul with the taste of rising bile and my hands spattered red, the wind changes and fresh air tickles across my face. For a moment, the carnage surrounding me diminishes as if it were an evil dream, and memories of home flash across my mind’s eye.

Memories of the verdant steppes stretching out as far as the sun reaches, of riding bareback on powerful steeds, the wind whipping my long hair behind me. I see Themiscyra shining brightly in the moonlight reflecting off the calm waters of the lake beside it. I see hands stretched out in worship towards the goddess, moon mother, mother of all, life-giver. I see warriors training for battle. I see her, nodding with approval as my arrow hits its mark. I see her hand stretched out to me as she helps me to my feet again, my backside and my ego bruised by her prowess.

And then I see her, no longer a vision but flesh and blood, crumpling to the ground.

A scream rips the air apart, silence trailing behind it. My throat burns.

The world is me and her and the man who looms over her body. A tall warrior, gleaming in bronze armour, muscles slick with sweat, a red plume trailing from his helmet. A hero.

A monster.

He bends over her, his murderous hands remove her helmet. Blonde hair spills across her already-pale face. A smile plays across his lips.

White hot rage. A wordless roar.

The man looks up, startled, his eyes locking with mine.

Adrenaline pushes me forward.

He picks up a spear. Muscles ripple with the powerful throw.

The impact sends me sprawling.

I lie on my back, remembering the wind, the open sky, freedom. A beautiful woman’s smile, a young man’s obsession, and a wooden horse. So dies all that I hold dear.

The light fades. With my last breath, I turn my head to look at her. My fingers tremble as I try to reach for her, but my strength has fled.

Darkness overwhelms me.

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