War Dance | Gary Thomson

Annihilation is the prize, as Ares gambols on the stage Hellenes call Plataea. He knows well this broad fertile plain, nourished with the blood of earlier battles amongst brawling Greek city-states.

The gold helmeted war god awaits this imminent clash of arms with uncustomary patience. A year past he paced the Aegean shoreline, shadowing the jagged horizon of Xerxes’ retreating warships from their crushing defeat at Salamis island. Today he rejoices in the steadfast zeal of the king’s general, Mardonius, to crush this rabble of Zeus-worshipping goat herders who cry freedom in the face of offered Persian greatness.

Ares strokes his cruel two handled whip. A reckoning of fire and massacre is at hand.

Waiting, battle hungry, he lauds the muster of fifty thousand Greek allies under Spartan command. The wily general Pausanias will deliver him many corpses, Persians mostly and his own Spartiates, pledged to fight to their death. The marching phalanxes’ spearheads spark in sunlight, and Ares shivers in delight. Then chuckles at the hoplites’ robust hymns of deliverance to their local deities.

Now, battle-frenzied, Ares soars to thrumming of untold Persian bowstrings, welcomes the darkness of arrow clouds, the hail of slaughter. Blood spattered, he capers alongside yowling Allied swordsmen as they hack at enemy arms and throats. Admires briefly the warriors’ courage to confront bristling spearwalls. Screams of the wounded and dying quicken his step. During periodic lulls he savours the glut of Hades’ chambers with souls of the dead.

But this evening he loses joy. He has overheard the oracle at his campfire interpret the meaning of tossed bones. “Tomorrow we will hear the harper’s song,” the prophet declares. Clean and strong, like Apollo’s lyre. His paean will sing the Allies’ final victory over the barbarian invader.


Gary Thomson is retired in Ontario, Canada. His short fiction has appeared in Windsor Review, fiftywordstories [2], AgnesandTrue, among others. In his rec moments he blows Beatles and blues on his Hohner harmonica

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