Chapter 29

Artie

Being a god does not make your life easier, not by a long shot. Instead, being a god just make it a certainty that nothing will ever go according to plan. We had planned to become gods in a time of relative peace, Blade ruined that. We had plans to spy on Blade in Hell and determine what he was up to, again Blade ruined that plan. You know, it's not just that the plans go astray, but Blade is normally the one to mess everything up for us New Olympians.

So I wasn't surprised when that loser showed up with a posse of skeletons. I was, however, surprised by our response. With the dual doomsayers of Zack and Mars, I thought it was a given that we'd go in guns a blazing. But not, instead we send in the North Wind to try and give Blade the sniffles. Don't get me wrong, I'm not nearly as blood lusty as the war god, but come! Sending in a breeze to battle is slightly worse that condemning the rainbow and snowflake goddesses to Hell, only very slightly worse though.

"Artie!" I turned around to see my twin approaching me.

"Yeah?" I shouted at her while she was still a ways away.

"I just heard that in the morning the battle is going to start." Paula informed me. "So you should definitely get some sleep."

"I can't." I admitted. "I've been trying." Something about that sight, those thousands upon thousands of skeletal warriors had put me on edge. Every time I had closed my eyes my brain pictured brought forth images of almost every zombie movie that I had ever seen. You make think it's weird that skeletons made me dream of zombies, but in reality how different are they? But are undead, slow, and only a threat in large numbers. And Blade had a LARGE number of skeletons…LARGE.

"Coward." Paula muttered. There it was, my sister's best pick-me-up speech. You should definitely take notes on this, Paula was a great motivational speaker…NOT.

"I'm not a coward. I will fight with the others tomorrow. You can count on that!" I told her firmly. "I'm just not looking forward to it. I hope that shooting skeletons isn't the highlight of my life." In my head I added: 'I also hope that it's not the last thing I do in my life.'

"Humph." Paula snorted. "Good, I'll need a good wingman tomorrow." Paula nodded with pursed lips and turned to walk away. She made it five steps before she halted. She looked over her shoulder and met my eyes. "It would be easier to handle with you next to me, my brother."

I nodded and watched her continue on her way. It heartened me that Paula wasn't as hardened as she appeared. She was probably having similar thoughts to mine, and that was strangely comforting.

I had had enough of skeletons and zombies in my dreams, so I went to go see them in person. I ventured through the abandoned city in the dark. I walked slowly. I guess part of me didn't want to go where I was headed.

I finally ended up at the platform where I had first entered New Olympus, back before I was a god. Hercules was in the same spot as he had been on that first day. He nodded at me as I passed him, but otherwise he remained silent. I journeyed right up to the edge and sat down with my legs dangling off into the nothingness of the sky. Below me was just skeletons as far as I could see.

"You fighting tomorrow?" a voice asked of me. Upon turning around, I discovered that it was Hector.

"Yes, you?" I said.

Hector sat next to me before answering. "I think that I am."

"You think?"

"I know." He said more decisively. "I will march down into the Valley of Death along with the rest of you."

"Valley of Death?" I asked rather confused. "That's not good. The valley is named the Valley of Death?"

Hector smiled. "That would be very bad for us. But thankfully it's not called that."

I let out a sigh of relief. "What is that then, the Valley of Death I mean?"

"Oh, it's just something from a poem." Hector told me. "Nothing special."

"What poem?" I have no idea why I asked this. Even if he told me the name of the poem I would still have no clue about it. I wasn't the most well-read of folks. The only poems I had ever even seen were the Dr. Seuss books.

Hector gazed down at Hades' hordes. "The Charge of the Light Brigade." He whispered, barely audible.

"Never heard of that." I admitted. As I predicted.

"I think it's one of the best pieces ever written." Hector said. "But right now, it makes me scared."

It wasn't fair that Paula had made fun of me for being afraid of fighting endless waves of skeletons lead by the lord of death, while Hector here was scared of a freaking poem. But me, being the nice guy I am, did not make fun of him. "Why does it scare you?"

"Have you ever heard it?" he asked.

"Yeah, no, I'm not really a poem reader." I told him.

"Half a league, half a league, half a league onward. All in the Valley of Death rode the six hundred. 'Forward, the Light Brigade! Charge for the guns!' he said. Into the valley of Death rode the six hundred. 'Forward, the Light Brigade!' Was there a man dismayed? Not though the soldier knew someone had blundered. Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die. Into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred. Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon in front of them. Volleyed and thundered, stormed at with shot and shell. Boldly they rode, and well, into the jaws of Death. Into the mouth of Hell rode the six hundred. Flashed all their sabres bare, flashed as they turned in air. Sabring the gunners there, charging an army, while all the world wondered. Plunged in the battery-smoke right through' the line they broke. Cossack and Russian reeled from the sabre stroke shattered and sundered. Then they rode back, but not the six hundred. Cannon to right of them, cannon to left of them, cannon behind them. Volleyed and thundered, stormed at with shot and shell. While horse and hero fell, they that had fought so well. Came through the jaws of Death. Back from the mouth of Hell, all that was left of them. Left of the brave six hundred. When can their glory fade? O the wild charge they made! All the world wondered. Honor the charge they made, honor the Light Brigade, O the noble six hundred."

"Whoa." I said awestruck. Those words resonated inside me. They stuck with me and ringed again and again in my head. "What does it mean?"

"The simple version goes like this. Soldiers march bravely to their death, even though they knew beforehand that they would die. And that we should always honor them."

Now I understood why Hector was scared. Me, Paula, Hector, and the others were the Light Brigade. And Zack was our fearless leader that was ordering the charge that would doom us all. "Oh."

"Theirs not to make reply, theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do and die." Hector recited. "It's not our place to question our leader. We have a duty to do what is asked of us, even if we are asked to give up our lives."

"No, I'm not dying for Zack." I said vehemently. "He's crazy. This whole feud with him and Blade is pointless! Why should we die for him."

"Zack is still Zeus, and Zeus is our king." Hector muttered. "There must be a reason that he was chosen as Zeus. I do not believe that life is random."

"Acts of bravery are never done to preserve one's own life. Rather they are done so that others may life on after you, in the peace and harmony that you created with your bravery." Both Hector and I were surprised to see that Hercules was standing right behind us.

"What poem is that from?" I asked.

"None." Hercules muttered returning to his post. "Just an old saying that I like to tell myself." With that he was once again removed from our conversation.

"He's right, no matter how much talking and worrying we do tonight. We will still march down this mountain with Zack come morning. Maybe we should stop worrying about us and start worrying about the world. We are gods after all, isn't our responsibility to the world?" I asked.

"Yeah, and who knows? Maybe all those skeletons are the Light Brigade." Hector said hopefully.

"I wish there were just six hundred of them." I muttered quietly.