The war started on a Fall Month Secondday in 221. The real war that is. The skirmishes around the Union borders and over cities like Argos, Edo and Landora had only been forerunners. We knew that the Giants were aiming for a heart-stab. They would be coming for our capital Ekarantanni sooner or later. Apollon's prophecy as well as our spies had given us that much. There were also proof that the Giants were aiming for the other Grand Pantheons, and were planning to take them all out at the same time.
Dad had planted a spy at the Giant high court and was receiving reports of the Giants plans through mindspeech. And together with dad we had been farsighting their leader, the dreaded Porphyrion and his mystery queen, a veiled lady, standing behind and saying nothing.
"She seems subjugated," dad was saying, pointing at the woman. "But don't be fooled by the obvious appearance. I believe she is really the one in control, and Porphyrion only her vessel of speech. "
"Like people say about you and Hera, " Oreynadan tried a lame joke, but dad just glared at him without commenting, saying instead:
"When all this is over I want her. I want to know who she is and why she wants to destroy us. Get me her! Because if she gets away we will only have to do this war again and again. Until she is caught the war won't be over. Am I making myself clear on this? "
Less than a week later Zeus gathered all Ekarantanni gods through mind-linking. Four simple sentences. Tomorrow the Giants will attack. At ten in the morning, Ekarantanni time. Be prepared. Be victorious!
At nine the deities of Ekarantanni started to gather. First there were us. The team leaders. Me, Ares, Hera, Hestia, Astraea, Helios, Hercules, Irdonan, Oreynadan. Androdorus of Angresidor, Xenon of Thessalia-Ekarantanni, Xurasa of Thebe, Kandrios of Elesios, Kephalos of Garondas, Antiope, Donin, Taygeta and Enyo.
Then came all the rest. Hermes, Nike, Alatheia, Sakura, Demeter, Dionysos, Artemis, Poseidon, Aeolus, Arelis, Cassiopeia, Iris, Apollon, Auroanos, Leto, Eleithya, Hebe, Caeros, Aphrodite, Phaeton, Zephyros, Aietes, Argus of Argos, Neyta of Kergandar, Arxora of Atlantis, Amaterasu of Nippon, Pelasgos, Kallirhoe, Callisto, Maia, Philotes, Triton, Pereoe, Orion, Aglaia, Xanthus, Inix, Akiko, Coronis, Aethra, Zoros, Arcas and so many many more. Sisters and brothers. Friends of mine. People I cared dearly about. People I felt indifferent about. And people I disliked but wanted in the ranks anyway, since we shared a common goal in this.
We were forming ranks, hugging, peep-talking, checking and re-checking what we had learned over the last years. Waiting. The sky was overcast, the air felt stale and not a wind moved. The sea below us was calm and steel gray, like a polished sink. At last dad came out to take leadership over the forces of immortals.
"Just like in the old days, " Hera said to me and Ares.
I was staring at dad. Gone was the Divine King, gone was the man in elegant and expensive togas and with long hair adorned with pearls and gemstones. Gone was his golden crown and the trim beard he had sported since his fifties. Now he was clean shaved and with the platinum-blonde hair cropped short and he was wearing the same tight-fitting burgundy leather outfit and big boots as the rest of us. The only sign of his authority was the golden Union Star on his back. And his stance of course. Zeus was still an impressing sight, only in a quite different way.
He carried no arms, but when taking his place in front of us he let off an amazing display of sparking electricity flying off in every direction and hitting high points, like skyscrapers, TV-towers and the spire of Olympos. The booming sound echoed through the city and we answered him with our war cry:
"For the Union! "
Then we saw the attacking forces. Flying Giants. There were thousands and thousands of them, all heading for Ekarantanni and its 350 defenders. I felt tension and fear swirl around in our ranks. Insecurity. The willing to run and hide. The next moment Dad called up the gale wind. A fierce storm blowing out over the sea, halting the attacking enemies, breaking up their lines, creating disorder among them. But when I turned and looked in over 'Tanni the air was completely still, with the flags hanging lifeless on their poles.
After that Dad moved his next pawn, transmitting courage through his aura and across our ranks. It trickled through every pore, connected to every cell, and I felt the blood starting to sing in my veins. Sing our war cry. For the Union!
The enemies were still struggling with the wind and now dad had added tornadoes, hail-storms and thunder too. I turned to my comrades:
"Let's seize the advantage! Let's go get them while they are struggling with bad weather. Remember, they are used to battling on the ground. Let's show them that we are 3D warriors and take them from above and beneath! All out! And fire at will!"
We split in two. I found myself leading the upper edge, flying faster than I'd ever done before. Like a pair of scissors we cut into the enemy lines, using every bit of our element of surprise to kill and maim.
There was bedlam. Disorder. Chaos. I hit at everything that wasn't burgundy, and I soon lost count of how many Giants I had cut down. First I felt revolted, ashamed. Hated the way their scared yellow eyes met mine the second before dying. (Hades, open the BIG gate!) Then I started to picture them as weed and myself as a gardener, just keeping it nice and clean around me.
I spotted little brother Ares, covered in blood and with thirst for more in his brown eyes, plowing himself mercilessly through the enemy lines. I saw Sakura and Irdonan fighting back to back, Hermes helping a cornered Zephyros, Auroanos using a razor-studded iron wire as a whip and Artemis and Apollon shooting piercing arrows. Astraea and Aphrodite were handling one of the rocket guns Hephaistos had invented and Helios and Hestia were fighting with their own pyrotechnics. Hercules had rejected the sword and the rifle and was instead using a large, studded adamantine-club with which he simply smashed the giant's heads into pieces.
Then there was Hera. She had armed herself with an adamantine spear, sharp in both ends, and now she was spinning through the air like a drill, slicing through the enemies like they were made of butter. I saw a troubled Dionysos being chased by a handful of enemies and mindspoke him: Over here! He obeyed and I rendered myself invisible. My brother brushed aside me and when all the enemies were upon me I butchered them, catching them by the element of surprise.
Dad was everywhere with his thunder and lightning, working as much with inflicting terror and fear as with regular killing. He kept breaking up the Giant flanks, using whirling winds and clouds of mist to prevent the Giants from forming themselves into effective attacking groups. And most of all "he was the symbol of courage and inspiration for all of us. Just seeing him invoked strength and hope.
My apprentices were doing good too. Working together in little groups with ambushing enemies the way I had fooled Dionysos' adversaries. I gathered Britomartis, Marpessa and Aeolus around me and we were flying in triangular formations, attacking the enemies like living arrow-heads.
Hephaistos had invented a killer application he called the 'sticky grenade'. It's a kind of small explosives that you pull out the pin of and throw at the enemy. It's covered in a myriad of tiny hooks that make it stick to its goal and then exploding, sending the enemy to Hades. I loved them, used up all of them rather quick and had Paregoros to go back for more several times, picking from Astraios' supplies until there were no more left.
Pelasgos got a sword through his guts, almost cutting him apart, and I caught him falling. Asclepios, help me! The healer doubled back and caught the wounded crime fighter, engulfing him in purple energy, and soon Pelasgos was as good as new and joined me, Phaeton, Britomartis, Pyrrhikhos, Eleithya and Hebe in a race to meet an incoming group of Giants.
"Amazing what Asc can do, right? " Hebe shouted at me. "Too bad he's not Olympian! "
"Can't we have him change his mind, " Phaeton suggested.
Most of these Giants were rather easy to take down. You didn't have to work too hard to get a heart stab. Others were more durable. One large freak had me sweating real hard, refusing to leave an opening or be distracted. Finally I got help from Hera, who thrusted her sword through his guts from behind. Distracted the monster turned to face the new enemy, and I could cut his neck off in a single blow and finally finish him.
Meanwhile Hera dived down in the sea, and came up looking all wet but yet content.
"My, that was refreshing! Was all covered in brain tissue, came too near one who got a sticky grenade in his hair. "
"I know I should go 'Ouch' and 'Yuck' but somehow I don't find these things as revolting anymore. Have seen more gore during these few hours than in my entire life. Think one gets immune after a while. "
"Yeah, welcome to the war, Athena! Come on, let's help Iris over there! "
"Right, five against one isn't fair. "
It was still hailing, and the battle swayed to and from without getting anywhere. I met Nike, she looked tired and disoriented and stared at me with scared brown eyes: Athi, can I go home? I'm so tired! I lost my sword, emptied my rifles and then I started to use thunderbolts instead. They proved to work better than the regular weapons. Dads lessons had paid off. Not only did I get a curse of a lot more Giants this way, I was also scaring the rest, having them loosing their courage. I used that advantage to push them in the arms of waiting burgundy clad comrades. Another Zeus? I heard someone mindspeak somewhere.
But it wasn't enough. It was simply not enough to take the Giants down one by one like this. They were too many. We were slowly loosing ground, retreating beneath their heavy push. I realised that the only way to turn our failing luck was to take out a lot of them fast and in a single blow. But how?
Then I spotted the oil tanker lying anchored a bit outside the harbour, and got an idea. I scanned for mortals and found the ship abandoned. Good. Hercules, I mindcalled my little brother. Can you lift or levitate that one? I indicated the ship. He came up to me:
"Then get it! Now fly it over that contingent of Giants. We're going to shower them in petrol. "
"You'll see. "
I mindcalled Hestia, told her to come over, while Hercules flew down and with the help of Astraea picked up the ship. Then I used thunderbolts to pierce a zillion of holes in the hull of the boat, and Herc and Ea had it flying over the Giants, soaking them in oil. At the same time Hestia showed up.
"Now set these buttholes on fire, Tia! "
"It's not effective, I... "
"Do it! I said, using my business voice. "
Hestia obeyed, and soon the Giant contingent was turned into a burning inferno when the combustible liquid caught fire. Screaming the monsters went down.
This had created a 'hole' in the Giant force which we broke through and caught the flanks from behind, once again on my command. I had them forced several hundred meters down, almost at water level. At the same time I mindspoke Poseidon and his sons Triton and Careidon, letting them know my plan. So when the Giants dived to avoid us, Poseidon, Triton, Careidon and several other deities flew out of the water, taking the Giants by surprise, finishing them off fast.
The Giants didn't learn from their mistakes so we could as well repeat ourselves. The next gang was chased up into the clouds where a continent of defenders led by Aethra, surprised them. I also found that the Giants were sloppy with keeping an outlook of what was happening beneath them, so I directed Amaterasu and her people to attack the enemy from below. At the same time some of Hebe's apprentices showed up, raining stones on the Giants to the right.
Then, suddenly the battle turned. The Giants had lost their stamina and were now retreating instead. Soon they were running away, a lot of us chasing then. Seeing that, dad was mindcalling: Not everyone of you! Someone's better come back here. Some Giants have sneaked inside the city and started to cause havoc there. I need help with taking them out!
So while Ares, Hercules, Sakura, Irdonan, Neyta, Enyo, Hera, Orion and a large group of others went after the fleeing Giants I took Apollon, Artemis, Hermes, Nike, Aietes, Aglaia, Britomartis, Marpessa, Inix, Cassiopeia, Donin and Akiko and and some dozen more and followed dad inside Ekarantanni for a cat and mouse game with these Giants who were vandalising 'Tanni as we mindspoke.
This turned out to be a quite different battle. Now we couldn't just kill and slaughter. There were mortals to take in mind. And the Giants were going for them. Screaming, terrified crowds running down the streets, trying to avoid the monstrosities chasing them. Not only were the Giants big and powerful in the eyes of mortals, they were nasty-looking and scary too. We in turn chased the Giants, trying to finish them off with as few mortal causalities as possible. Artemis and Apollon's arrows were effective in this case. So was Akiko's way of attacking them with kicks at their throats. Sakura's little sister knew exactly where the right spots for a kill were.
Akiko's fighting skills were not that far from the techniques Helios had taught us, and soon I started to do the same instead of using thunderbolts. They were too inaccurate in those narrow spaces, hitting wires and neon lights as well as enemies, and thus destroying more than necessary.
Some of the beasts found their way down in the subway and I had Aglaia, Aithlios and Xanthus going after them ordering them to prevent the tunnels from caving in.
"Subway's full of mortals. Caved in tunnels will kill a lot of them!"
But that turned out to be almost impossible to achieve. Soon I saw the whole Free Trade Plaza collapsing, taking two buildings with it when the Giants started to destroy the Free Trade Subway station. I turned to Pasithea and Acaste and ordered them down to rescue mortals.
"Forget about the Giants! Others are dealing with them. You are to save as many people as you can!"
The next moment a huge monster came for me, striking Marpessa down with one swift move.
"I am Hadar, and I'm going to rape you while your father is watching! he was growling."
"Bah, you ain't got nothing to rape anybody with," I called back, ducked beneath his swinging fists and aimed a kick between his legs. The Giant swayed and screamed but remained attacking me so I finished him off with a thunderbolt. I noted that Britomartis had taken care of Marpessa, who was rising again. Don't worry about me, I'm fine, she mindcalled.
Together with Paladin and Nyx I chased a band of Giants down the broad Liberty Avenue and tricked them out on the Liberty Bridge where Paladin and Nyx took them from behind. I had Hermes helping me taking them up front. One of them jumped up in the air, only to be hit by a thunderbolt. Dad was around somewhere. Or maybe that had been Caeros.
Then I saw Apollon's vision! A couple of dozen Giants were attacking the Nexus building, bolting down the defenders with their javelins and iron maidens. Oreynadan, Philotes, Diamanda of Corinth, Acmoria of Akarnaiya, Pancleia of Attica and Aestarion of Crete were doing their best to save the building. In the pouring rain the shielded immortals looked like shining soap bubbles. And in the background a burning skyscraper.
"Let's help them," I called out to Nyx who had stayed by my side while her husband Paladin had followed Hermes to take out the Giant who jumped from the bridge.
Then we were defending the Home of Democracy, failing to prevent it from having its doomed roof blown to smithereens. In the process I almost caught a javelin in my guts, the Aegis saving me from getting pierced by it's sharp edge.
"How'd you do that?" Nyx asked.
"Aegis. I'll tell you lat... Watch your back! "
In the last nanosecond I managed to pull Nyx out of danger from the attacking Giant, killing him with a thunderbolt. At the same time the burning skyscraper collapsed in a cloud of smoke and dust. But the area around the Nexus was cleared of enemies.
Paladin came flying up towards me with a lifeless shape in his arms.
"Oreynadan's down," he said. "I'm taking him up to Olympos and the healers working there."
"Faith! How bad is it?"
"I don't know."
I managed to put aside the worries for Orey and took off in the sky again, followed by Nyx. There were more Giants there, trying to destroy the great tower Spear of Tomorrow. Focusing on strength I tore the spire off the skyscraper, using it as a real spear and attacking the arriving Giants. They had no chance, I had all of them except for one paled on my makeshift weapon when Hermes came darting through the air.
"Whatcha gonna do, sister? A barbecue?"
"Why not?" I answered, used some electricity to finish off the enemies once and for all. Then I waved the spire with its burning victims at Hermes:
"Want a bite?" I asked him.
"No thanks, I think I just turned vegetarian."
"Watch out for trouble, Athi!" Hermes called out the next moment.
I turned and saw a sight I'll never forget. Perhaps the largest Giant of them all, and in spite of his size he looked oddly normal. He was chasing my poor sister Hebe across the sky. Need help? I mindcalled and got an affirmative answer. I called out for Hermes and Nyx and together we attacked the big Giant. He managed to hit Nyx who fell to the ground, unconscious. I had Hebe catching Queen of the Night, getting her to safety inside a building and then Hermes and I tried to take down this Giant of Giants.
But it was far from easy. We got help from Ares and Hercules, Hermes was also hit and fell, Hebe coming and getting him too. Irdonan and Sakura appeared out of nowhere followed by Akiko, Amphion, and Kandrios of Elesios. And nine deities were too much even for this hulk. When we had wrestled him to the ground I suddenly realised who we had caught. Porphyrion. The Giant leader.
"You're mine, cockroach!" I screamed to the Giant, displaying electricity in my hands.
"Blast him from me too, Athena!" Kandrios of Elesios shouted.
"Wait," dad shouted from above. "Don't kill him!"
"Why...?" Ares sounded quite puzzled.
Dad came diving down, stopping in mid-air just a few meters above his opponent.
"No! Porphyrion yelled. Noooo! I'm not... going to tell! Don't! Don't! I won't..." The next moment dad cut off the growling of the Giant leader with one single, killing thunderbolt.
"That's not fair," Ares protested. "We caught him! Why couldn't we have that final kill... Athena was..."
"Oh, shut up, Ares!" dad sighed. "Be less bloodthirsty and more efficient. I did not want that kill particularly. I wanted what was in that beasts head."
"Which was?" I asked.
"The location of the real one in charge. The veiled queen. "
The death-cry of Porphyrion had echoed through the minds of all Giants and deities in the Ekarantanni area. This wrecked the last piece of courage the Giants had. Now they were fleeing as fast as they could while we were rejoicing.
"Kill as many as you manage!" Dad ordered while we were pursuing the fleeing enemies. It wasn't hard to obey, the lasting Giants were flowers to pick. I think I zapped more in that chase than during the hours spent inside the city. When the last of the Giants had either disappeared or died I realised that it has been dark for hours. And I was tired beyond reason.
"Let's go home!" I told the few gods and goddesses around me.
"Good idea," Alatheia answered.
"To showers!" Astraea said.
"And food!" Caeros added.
"Y' know what?" Ares said. "This was fun!"