Chapter
VIII

As his eyes adjusted to the sudden light, Kratos could scarcely contain his... disappointment. A library? Athena had focused their tour toward a library? Bah. Kratos was a man of action. The only knowledge a man needed was how to use a sword. Everything else would be gained along his travels. But as his vision cleared, her convictions failed him as he looked upon the immense room. The ceiling reached high above them, with a stained glass window with a visage of the sun. Like the Grand Viewing Room from the night prior, he imagined that the glass was meant to mimic the outside.

Reaching up to the ceiling, separating the high shelves of scrolls that seemed to go on indefinitely, were stone statues of the Three Brothers: Zeus, Poseidon, and Hades. Each statue's eyes and armor glowed with a certain color; Poseidon blue, Zeus gold, and Hades red. Each held their weapons; Zeus with a massive lightning bolt, Poseidon with with trident, and Hades with his claws. Together they stood resolute, like massive guardians. And with what magics he had thus far seen, Kratos would not be entirely surprised to see them launch to the defense of this room.

"Glorious, isn't it?"

Athena's words returned him from his gazing.

"Indeed."

"After my many years of begging, Father finally commissioned that the library be as grand a hall as any other in Olympus."

He could only grunt in reply. And as Athena stepped forward into the library, he could only follow her.

"This library holds the irreplaceable history of Olympus, reaching back to the Great Titan War. Tales of the gods and their ilk, our interactions with the mortals, and even records of the many great empires and wars of mankind."

Again, Kratos was not enthused. His mind wandered to other things; other places in the castle he could explore, and ways he could change his new quarters. As his eyes wandered around the large chambers, staring particularly upon the statue of Zeus, he noticed a silvery glint. He blinked and looked more closely at the statue, stepping around to the left side.

"Kratos?"

Athena followed him, obviously wondering what could be distracting him from her lectures. He stared intently as the Zeus statue's right hand, which was bent down at the elbow and raised to the shoulder, fingers bent in a power-gripping pose. The golden brace on the forearm was much more detailed than that of the other arm. And the fingers were different somehow. Of course! He turned to Athena.

"Is that Zeus's Gauntlet?"

Athena released a short sigh, but her voice still seemed positive.

"Yes, that is father's gauntlet, the key to the Titans' chains. Being that the jailer guarding it was dead, he thought it would be safer here. No one would think to look in a library."

Indeed, it was a clever ruse. The gauntlet had aided Kratos well in his journey to stop Persephone years ago.

"Are there any other weapons stored here?"

Athena smiled cleverly, stepping past him into the multitude of shelves as she replied.

"Oh yes, quite a few. But not all weapons are gold and steel..."

Kratos followed Athena as best he could through the shelves, eager to find another weapon. Or perhaps a battle plan of some sort for wars fought in the past. He had rarely had the opportunity to look through the Spartan records between his many campaigns. Perhaps this was not as pointless a venture as he had thought.

At several points, Kratos lost his way among the volumes, only to be teased by an amused Athena. After a few moments of walking, Kratos caught up to the mischievous goddess. What would he find here? Perhaps Olympian battle plans? If they were crafted by Ares, he could no-doubt improve them. He watched as Athena sifted through the scrolls on the shelf and handed him one.

"I think this may interest you."

He took the scroll by its bronze ends and unrolled it slowly in front of him. They seemed to be blueprints, but he could not tell for what. As he unfolded it further, he recognized it as a city plan. Soon he began to recognize details. The slant of the Northern wall, the wheat fields, the king's palace, the river... it was a blueprint of Sparta! As he took a more cursory glance, he confirmed his suspicions.

"Are these the original plans for Sparta?"

"Indeed they are. Plans for all of the great cities, and several others, are stored here."

Kratos stared in admiration at the original plans for his home. Like the city itself, the design was crude, yet beautiful. But why would city plans be useful weapons? He thought to ask Athena, but suddenly it dawned on him. Plans and blueprints like this were the original designs for the cities, showing all the original foundations. And thus, any inherent weaknesses in the design. A skilled tactician wielding these designs in particular would know how to enter Sparta from the small water inlet from the river, bypassing the defenses entirely. True, a ship could not enter, but a battalion of good swimmers could. At first Kratos feared for Sparta's safety, but then realized that the other original blueprints could be used in the same fashion. Ithaca, Troy, Delphi... the possibilities were endless.

"Ah, I see you've figured it out. You are an intelligent man, Kratos."

Athena quickly snatched away the plans, replacing them on the shelf.

"However, using these plans for warfare is forbidden. But there are other things on these shelves that you may find interesting."

At first he felt slightly cheated. Showing him such things and then snatching them away. It was almost insulting. She led him through more rows of shelves, this time closer to the entrance. She selected a fairly-new looking scroll and offered it to him. He accepted it reluctantly. But as he unrolled it, and began reading the words, he became intrigued. 'A warrior of Sparta, changed by war and made servant to the gods...' he read to himself.

"This... this is my story."

"Stories, Kratos. Stories."

The goddess smiled and flourished her hands to the shelf. Several scrolls, whose outer design matched the one in his hands, lay stacked near the edge of the shelf with room to spare.

"And I believe they are only just beginning."

At first Kratos felt angry. She had written of him without his consent. For years, he had been known as the Ghost of Sparta, unable to escape the sheer horror on the faces of everyone he met.

"How did you write this?!"

Athena merely smiled at him.

"I have been watching you, Kratos. There is hardly a god or mortal that hasn't heard of you. I simply thought it prudent to immortalize your tale, just as that of Hercules and Perseus."

Kratos looked away from her, clutching the scroll tightly, wishing to burn it. But he could hear the change in her voice as she continued.

"I hope I've done nothing wrong. I wrote these volumes with the least bias I could; merely the facts."

She placed a hand on his shoulder.

"You may read them if you like, and change what you see fit."

At first, Kratos merely clenched his fists, poised to rend the scroll in two. But as he looked down and read further, he could see that she spoke the truth. The events were accounted simply, without bravado or damnation. And for the first time since stepping upon Olympus, Kratos felt... un-insulted. Zeus and Dionysus could play their politics, but Athena had... honored him. It was true that his tale was one of bloodshed, horror, and guilt. But to be recorded among those of the gods, for all men to see for eons to come, was something else. Of course, he would see to it that it would be told correctly. Who better to write, or at least oversee, the stories of his life but he?

"I... will do that."

He replied lowly, turning back toward her. Though he could not speak it, he apologized with his eyes and his tone. Athena seemed to accept.

"Brilliant, then. I'll have them sent to your room, shall I? And I've not quite gotten to your latest adventure yet. I was hoping you could... fill in the blanks."

As painful as it would be to revisit Pathos Verdes's labyrinth in his mind, his pride overtook him.

"Of course. The conquest of the great labyrinth would make a thrilling tale. Particularly to fools seeking the power of Pandora's box."

Athena smiled.

"Indeed."

Kratos watched as she sat down on a nearby stone bench at the center of several joining shelves. She patted the space next to her, and Kratos joined her.

"You know Kratos, when I was young, I was a very lonely child. Aphrodite was worshiped by the masses for her beauty, Artemis praised by the huntsmen and warriors for her skill. I seemed to be the odd one out. A fairly unremarkable child."

Athena's face dropped with her tale, to which Kratos was very attentive.

"And as years went by, I found myself alone."

Kratos moved his hand to take hers, to ensure that she no longer felt alone.

"Ah, but oh-so free, I discovered."

Athena rose to her feet, leaving Kratos surprised.

"While the other gods and goddesses were tied down by their followers and obligations, I was able to wander the castle. I found the fastest routes between rooms and floors, I discovered some of the earliest structural foundations, even secrets. Eventually, I found this room."

Athena gestured with her hand as she spun on her heel.

"It was sparse when I discovered it. Histories of the formation of the world, the rule of the Titans, the Great War. Hardly enough to fill a library, but I soon discovered my love for reading and learning. I absorbed it all so quickly. Soon, even Father recognized me. For my wit, at first, but then for my sheer knowledge of things gone by, and the very ways of the world. Before I knew it, I had followers of my own and was dubbed the Goddess of Wisdom."

As Athena concluded her tale, Kratos found himself amused by her bravado. Athena had always been the reserved, cold, calculating sort. Quite impersonal. Hearing the story of her growth made Kratos feel as if he were watching it before him.

"Eventually, Father agreed to expand this room, allowing me to fill it with more and more knowledge. Each god at one time or another donated their stories and wisdom to this hall. Even things the mortals had discovered themselves are stored here."

As Athena locked eyes with Kratos for the first time since she had begun her story, she realized how overcome with pride she had been, and shook herself of it, sitting back down with him.

"The point of my story, Kratos, is that I was once alone. Just as you must feel now. But you can find solace. I found it in these shelves. I hope that you can as well."


Hours later, Kratos sat on his throne, thinking over Athena's words. His world had largely been taken from him. Being a god meant that there were no more personal struggles. No more seas to sail, or battlegrounds to attack. Perhaps it would serve him well, for some time at least, to learn about this world.

But what of his role in it? True enough, he was a god. But he was the god of war. When conquest drove their thoughts, warriors would reach out and pray to him. It was true that he did not care, but his hours of musings had led him to the question: why not? Was it not his mere price for immortality, to lead those below in the ways of war? It was all very troublesome, and it made Kratos anxious. He had been sitting for hours, considering ways to improve his chambers, until Athena's musings had caught up with him. It had put him in a dour mood.

As if on-cue, the doors of Kratos's hall swung open, permitting the hollow sounds of footsteps. With a flicker of will, Kratos brightened the torches at the entrance, revealing the massive form of Dionysus. Behind him came the glow of the lowering sun. It was just entering late afternoon, and the light stung at Kratos's eyes. He had been keeping his hall mostly in shadow.

"Hello there, Kratos. How have you been keeping?"

Dionysus's bellow filled the hall, but Kratos merely responding by sinking his cheek further into his fist, a scowl quickly forming.

"Well enough before you arrived."

The rotund pleasure god's smile never faded as he approached, his brown beard soggy with consumption.

"Oh come now, my boy! There's no use sulking about in your chambers for the rest of eternity. Get out and enjoy yourself!"

Dionysus began to stumble as he reached the steps to Kratos's throne. He rose, but not to help him. He meant to pass him and leave.

"Even if I chose to do so, there is nothing here for me."

No sooner could Kratos react than he felt the large hands of the wine god grip his shoulder, and fling him backward toward his throne. He reached for his blades, but remembered how he had removed them earlier. Even so, Dionysus's massive hand pressed his chest against the throne, pinning him.

"Now look here, boy."

Genuine anger filled the god's deep voice and eyes, both fringed with drunken savagery.

"I have been a good man to you. I welcomed you to the palace when no one else would, I offered you advice, alliance, and I helped put you in the good graces of the few gods that care to know you. I've worked very hard to be very kind to you, and I would appreciate some damn gratitude!"

At first Kratos could only scowl in response to the large god's anger. It had always been his way, even against an opponent such as this. But as Dionysus's anger began to ebb, and his breathing lighten, Kratos saw the truth in his rage. As the first man calmed, so did the second. Dionysus removed his hand from Kratos, and fell to sit on one of the steps.

The two sat there for some time. Until at last, Dionysus spoke.

"I apologize, Kratos. It was not my place."

The wine god's head sunk down between his knees. Normally Kratos would feel nothing but contempt for someone who had attacked him, much less behaved in such a manner. But at this moment, after hours wondering about his own existent, Kratos could only feel pity. And sorrow. He reached a hand out to the large god's shoulder.

"No. I apologize. It was not your place to help me at all, yet you did. You pushed me from my nest, the way a bird does to teach its young to fly. You showed me there is more to being a god than arrogance. I thank you."

Kratos joined the larger man on the steps, feeling very strange for what he had just said.

"I... I do not know what to do with my life. All I have known has been taken from me. And in its place is this strange world of gods, and allegiances, and..."

Dionysus's booming voice interrupted.

"I understand, Kratos."

He did not look at Kratos, but merely out into the clouds.

"I was born not necessarily knowing my divinity. I grew into a man knowing nothing of my purpose in this world. I traveled everywhere, wandering. Along the way I did... terrible things. Twice, I murdered an entire ships crew. I forced Theseus to leave his bride. I forced a queen to slaughter her own son in a fit of insanity. I truly knew not where I was going, as a man or as a god. But then I had a vision. A vision of death. Ampelos, a young satyr, was destined to die. At first I wished to warn him. Perhaps change his destiny. But I was restrained by the Sisters of Fate. They demanded that I allow him to die. For it is not the place of anyone to meddle with destiny. I brooded for days, weeks, even years. I was tortured with the guilt. Eventually I discovered his hubris, and one night found him boasting of his own superiority to the moon goddess Selene. Not since Nemesis, Nike, and Artemis have I seen such a vengeful woman. She had him gored by a bull. And I was helpless. Forced to do nothing but watch the boy die by his own vanity. I felt lost. I questioned my own existence. What was the point of being a god if I had about as much control over life as any mortal? I was exactly where you are now."

Dionysus at last gave Kratos a glance. He could only stare curiously in return.

"But you see, the Fates are not always unkind. Because of my patience, I was allowed to do what I wished with Ampelos's body. Mourn him in an appropriate way, I suppose. Sitting there, watching the blood drain from his body, I had an epiphany. I fashioned the dying satyr into a vine. I tended it, and cared for it, and spread its seed all around. Until finally, from that vine, I made the first cup of wine."

Kratos could only stare in disbelief, lost in thought on the meaning of the wine god's words.

"You see Kratos, this world is what you make of it. Neither of us would repeat the horrors of our pasts. And before I knew my place, I was a burden to everyone, including myself. But then, out of a hardship I had never experienced, I learned to care. Maybe even love. And I created something beautiful, that defined my life. If you must, my boy, think of your godhood as your own Ampelos. It is yours to do with what you please. You may allow it to rot, or bury it deep within you, or even... burn it to ashes. Or you could change it into something grand that you can be proud of. Something... well, something worth living an eternity for."

Slowly but surely, Kratos could feel the hard shell of his sadness and indecision cracking under the weight of Dionysus's words. It was true. All of it. It had only taken a ten-foot drunken man as hairy as a bear to make him face it. But one thing still puzzled him.

"You are a good man, Dionysus. But pray answer me one last question."

The large man sat up straight, looking at Kratos from beneath his unkempt, curling hair.

"Why do you do so much for one who has shown you so little care? Why me?"

Kratos could see the wine god begin to shake, and feared the worst. Would he weep? Was he so thoroughly drunk that he would burst? Both possibilities quickly vanished as the wine god threw his head back in a roar of thunderous laughter almost akin to that of Zeus.

"In truth, Kratos, I've always wanted you. I've watched you from my chambers for quite some time. Quite the busy bee, you've always been. Traveling, warring, plotting and killing. Never any time for fun! No drunken nights of debauchery, even with those whores that accompanied you on your journeys. Your heart was never in it. And that, my boy, is what kept you out of reach. And I had hoped that, perhaps, this new life would afford us the luxury of... friendship."

Now, it was Kratos's turn to chuckle. Such a silly thing, after such serious talk, he could not help it. It did not become a roar, but it was enough. He looked towards the setting sun somewhat... no, definitely... more at wine god unexpectedly rose from his seat beside Kratos.

"Well. I think I've been here long enough. And had just barely enough to drink. Perhaps I had best succumb to Morpheus's charms a bt early this evening."

The mention of the sleep god's name brought a small chuckle to Dionysus, even as he stumbled down the stairs and nearly lost his balance completely. Kratos was able to intervene, but only just. Even with godly strength, it was a chore to keep the large pleasure god on his feet.

"Apologies, my boy. My leg may as well be made of water, for all the good it will do me getting back to my chambers. Would you mind... er... helping me?"

The wine god smiled thinly, pleadingly. Kratos said nothing, but reached out to the statue of Ares. From the chest he retrieved Artemis's sword, glowing red with power. For the moment, it would make a fine crutch. He handed it to Dionysus, and it was accepted gratefully.

"Thank you, my boy. Would you be so kind as to accompany me to my chambers, as well?"

Kratos could only nod. And as strange as he felt for saying it (not that it had been the most agreeable day in his life), Kratos continued, leading the large pleasure god through the doorway into the hall.

"What are friends for?"