724 BCE / XXIX Ann. Ab Urbe Condita
The gods often wonder how humans can accept their own mortality. The answer, it seems, is by celebrating their time alive.
Two years to the day since the Fall of Aquitania and the end of the Third Titanomachy, the people of Aeterna had healed enough to seek closure. They gathered in the foothills near Olympus and, together, celebrated a Bacchanalia like had never been seen by mortal eyes. The most festive god, Dionysus — having been reborn in his older, Hellenic aspect after the Battle of Aquitania — led the humans in celebration.
After days of revelry and libations, though, the time came at last for the Ludus Magnus: a great spectacle in the arena. Three brave tributes, chosen from the mortals in the crowd, stepped into the pit, their clumsy weapons scraping the sand. As one, they saluted the gods, voices aquiver:
“Nos morituri te salutamus!”
From a shadowy corner emerged a great beast: the Crab Lord Gigas. Snapping claws the size of each mortal's own body, it advanced on the heroes. The first team of gladiators proved too much for the beast; the trio — reduced to a duo by the end — felled the creature. Their blood lust unsated, though, the spectators howled for more. Into the arena stepped a new cohort of gladiators: this time, two mortals were joined by the divine god Apollo himself. At his side stood a brave merchant, and a mysterious newcomer to the festival.
Reborn, the mighty Gigas attacked with greater fury. He quickly killed the merchant, drawing cheers from the sadistic crowd. Even Apollo himself, with great effort, was no match; the sun god was wounded and withdrew. Alone, the lone gladiator faced his foe. The crowd fell silent, daring not even to breathe. As the solitary fighter danced across the sand, Gigas followed, but the beast’s claw could not find flesh.
As the hum of the crowd mounted around the arena, the hero’s eyes flashed. A faint red glow flickered around him as each slash of his spear struck deeper and deeper into Gigas’ shell until at last, exhausted, the Great Crab keeled over, dead. A tumultuous roar from the spectators thundered skyward. As he stood alone in the pit, eyes blazing with the fire of battle, the mysterious hero’s identity could be hidden no longer: Surely, he was a true son of Ares.
The day thus blessed, the mortals rejoiced even more. The mighty goddess Demeter entertained the crowd, slaying Gigas once more using only her trusty hoe and a bale of hay. At last, the sun set on the final day, and a great shower of fireworks lit the night sky. Prizes were doled out, and laughs were shared. A few final tears were shed for Aquitania, and a few more bottles of wine emptied.
Aeterna was, once more, at peace.