Lysander sat at the river side, his reflection wavering like a candle as he gazed into his own face. Crouching closer to his ever-watching eyes, he cupped his hands as if to grab at himself and splashed water over the grime gathered on his cheeks, his forehead, his hair. His image dashed from the makeshift mirror, the colors splaying across the surface.
He shook out his hair, curls hurling droplets as he stood. He was alone, birds his only company, leaves and branches murmuring in the whispering wind. It had been many months since his father's lifeless body was burned to ash and tossed into the wind to linger eternally. Since the shadow of his soul floated with the twirling gusts of time, Lysander listened; daily reminded of his father as its fingers brushed his cheek and played his hair.
It was one morning he woke to a lonely, beautiful dawn, and the call of the wind. ‘Time, it is time,’ the voice came, his father’s murmur, so familiar, on the breeze. Was it truly his father, beckoning him onwards?
It was enough. It must be a message from his father, from the Gods, even. Long had the thought of revenge burned in his mind, a seed growing in his heart. He had waited months for the proper moment to return the strike which had cast his Father down, and this, this message, was a sign.
Rustling in the underbrush, soft footsteps unmistakable, alerted Lysander to an unfamiliar presence, the feeling of eyes at his back. He swiftly, silently, slid his sword from its sheath, its sharp, arching blade long and silver like pale wisps of moonlight. He gripped the weapon firmly with both hands; listening, waiting.
There was only quiet now – birds, leaves, branches singing their ghostly songs to him once more. Lysander shifted impatiently on his feet, eyeing the clearing around him.
"Who dares follow me, Lysander Son of Ajax?" he challenged the invisible adversary. Silence. "Reveal yourself or else I shall hunt you and force you to unmask yourself, Coward!"
From the shadows stepped the most frightening man Lysander had ever encountered. An armored head high as the treetops themselves, he appeared clothed in shadow, black plates covering broad, muscled limbs. In his fist was a sword stained ruby with the blood of his enemies, the blade alone as long as Lysander’s legs. He swallowed, withdrawing from this beastly man.
"Do not dare challenge me, babe Lysander - I may send you to Hades' dark realm for saying such things to one such as I," he snarled, thunder rumbling deep in his chest.
"Ares," Lysander replied in a considerably smaller voice, lowering his sword. "May I express my sincere apolog-"
"Enough," the God of War waved his giant hand, agitated, though saying nothing more. Lysander waited, gazing into the dark, cold eyes of Ares. “I have come to speak with you, to help you, not to kill you, little runt.”
Lysander swallowed any embarrassment, bowing his head, "What is it you wish of me, Ares?”
"Continue on with your mission, young Lysander. I plan to assist you in this, as it is what Ajax would wish, I know, and we have much in debt to pay him for his great service." Ares declared in his great bold voice. "First and foremost, you are headed in the wrong direction.
“That is why I present you with this walking staff.” Ares drew a wooden walking stick, twisted and knotted magnificently, a glorious black gem crowning the top of it. “It will guide you with extraordinary accuracy. Do not doubt it. Follow it with all possible speed.”
“Thank you, I -,” breathed Lysander as he carefully took the staff into his own hands, openly gazing at its incredible, mythic beauty. He could feel the power at his fingertips.
“Courtesy does not matter at a time such as this. Be on your way, young Lysander,” said Ares sternly. “Walk with bravery, fight with courage, with the name of your father in your heart!”
Lysander did not waste another moment, the staff jerking him eastward, his steps forceful and determined. Ares remained, watching the small figure disappear around the bend. Indeed, a young little runt - barely a man. His plan rested on this boy’s narrow shoulders. And yet, it was all so flawless. Young Lysander could easily stir at the already agitated hornets’ nest; a heart young and full of vengeance so easily persuaded.