When you learned of the god of war, you thought he’d be tall and muscular and angry. When you were about to meet him, you braced yourself for the worst.
You weren’t quite expecting the short, scrawny, shy kid you ended up getting instead.
Olive skin, black hair, skinny, dirty face with pale lines where tears had sliced through the ash and dust. A white chiton dress and a threadbare shawl draped over her shoulders.
A pair of wings - huge, black vulture wings, far too large on her tiny body - were the only things that suggested she was divine.
The general shifted his weight from foot to foot. Obviously respect had to be given to gods, but… “Er - I’m sorry, I was invoking Ares? The god of war?”
The child god shrunk in on herself, and pulled the shawl over her shoulders. She muttered something. “Sorry?” the general asked.
“Ares is the god of slaughter,” the child god said in a slightly louder voice. “Not war.”
The general looked at the priest. The priest shrugged, clearly lost at sea. “Well,” the general said, “then maybe Athena? Goddess of tactics in war?”
“Tactics,” the child god repeated. “Not war.”
There was a long, ugly silence, as the huge vulture wings shifted with the whisper of brushing feathers. “My name is - was - Iphigenia. Daughter of Agamemnon, king of Mycenae, commander of the Greeks who stormed the walls of Troy. When my father disgraced Artemis, and the winds of Greece would not blow her battleships to Troy, I was brought to Aulis. For my wedding, I was told. I was-”
She sobbed. Teardrops dribbled off her chin and fell to the temple floor. “I was fourteen. And then I was brought to the highest altar in Aulis, and - and then - and-”
Another sob. “I was fourteen,” she said.
The vulture wings draped over her, and she disappeared under the cloak of black feathers. When they parted, and when the child god looked up at the general, he fell backwards. Those eyes. Eyes he’d seen a thousand times in battle -
“I am the true spirit of war, general,” the child god said. “I am the goddess of bloodshed, of sacrifice, of the slaughter of innocents. I am invoked when men ravage, burn and pillage. I am invoked when mothers cry out, when sons die, when daughters are stolen. I hear it all, general. I have heard it all since the fall of Troy.”
The terrible wings opened up. The child god loomed over the fallen man, twenty, thirty feet tall. Somewhere, the priest was screaming. “How dare you call upon my name.”