|Faisal Negm ☥ Thoth (divinewords) wrote in paxletalelogs,|
@ 2017-03-27 22:07:00
|Entry tags:||ares, thoth|
not exactly smooth criminals
Who: Ares and Thoth
What: The world's most mismatched divine pair attempt a heist
Where: In the dreamworld, somewhere Greece-ish
When: Outside of time
The waters of the bay were calm, an unbroken expanse of turquoise stretching off to the horizon. Behind it the rocky shore rose up in cliffs and scrubby, sun-bleached hills. Thoth stood between the two, a deceptively small figure on the beach watching neither ocean nor land. Instead his attention was focused skywards. The sun was high and he watched it intently, unblinking despite the brightness as he tracked its path through the cloudless sky.
A presence appeared beside him, sandaled feet standing in a short pool of shadow. A tall, broad-shouldered being stood beside him, armor-clad and bronzed by the sun. A dark head tipped back, peering at the sun through eyes nearly squeezed shut. He raised one hand to his face; sunlight glinted on a golden bracer, its intricately etched designs spattered with what appeared to be dried blood.
"What interests you so, stranger?"
The glance that Thoth spared for the newcomer was brief to the point of almost being dismissive. (Though he did take the time to notice the dried blood and was suitably unimpressed.) He had more pressing matters to focus his attention on at the moment. After all, the barque of the sun wasn't going to chart a course for itself.
“The sun’s path. What else is there to be interested in, stranger?”
"Is that a joke?" The newcomer lowered his hand. With a clink of metal on metal he crossed his arms over his chest. "The sun does the same thing every day. Is this your first viewing, that you still find it so fascinating?" He scoffed. "Dare I ask what else do you do to entertain yourself?"
“I take a professional interest in it,” Thoth replied mildly. His face was still turned in profile towards the sun, deliberately ignoring the other and refusing to rise to the bait. “Do you truly find things so boring after only one viewing? It seems a shame.”
"I have seen the sun's path more times than can be counted," he said. "The only time it was relatively interesting was when Phaethon took the reins and drove the chariot to his ruin." A laugh, then, bright and deep. "What is your professional interest, then?" He gestured toward the sun. "Is this your only concern?"
A brow arched in response to his companion’s tale and the humor he found in it, but other than that Thoth remained unmoved. He might as well have been a statue, deposited on the beach centuries ago and ready to stand for centuries to come.
“Hardly. But the sun is an old friend and I like to keep his progress in mind.”
"A friend," the guest repeated, as though surprised. "Have you any others?" He tapped Thoth's shoulder with the back of his hand. "Would you like one? I could certainly use one of your… particular mien right now."
“Oh?” At that Thoth turned, moving to face the other and shrugging away the hand from his shoulder in the process. “And what particular mien would that be?”
"The strong, silent, intellectually superior mien. Obviously." He wagged a finger at Thoth. "I have kin like you. I know your kind when I see you. And I believe I may have something that may interest you, if you can pry yourself away from your riveting... work."
“And what might that be?” Though he would not admit to it, Thoth was indeed somewhat intrigued by the stranger’s vague proposition. At the very least he wanted to learn just what the specifics were and what made Ares think that he would be interested.
"A book," he answered. "Taken from a man from whom I deeply enjoy taking things."
“I wasn't aware that I gave the impression of being a thief. Or a thief’s accomplice,” Thoth said. His tone and expression were determinedly neutral, but neither could disguise the way that his eyes had initially lit up with a flash of curiosity at the mention of the other’s object. As long as the book in question didn't turn out to be his, of course.
"Anyone can be a thief," he said. "And often has been, whether he recognizes that or not. But you…" He gestured to the being before him. "You are contemplative, curious, and quiet. A book, particularly the only copy in existence, written by a god and from a god's own collection, seems a prize of potential interest to one like you." He grinned, broad and bright. "Or has Ares Laossous read you wrong?"
Thoth spent what seemed an endless minute considering Ares and his offer in silence. Then he abruptly turned and began walking off down the beach. “I fear he has.”
"That is a shame," Ares said, falling into step beside him. His hands folded at the small of his back. He studied Thoth as they walked, that impish smile still playing at one corner of his mouth, all the while. "Then I will walk with you a bit longer, and perhaps learn what it is that motivates you, which I have gotten so wrong."
There was no immediate audible reply to Ares’ words, but a sharp observer might note the agitated set to his shoulders under his broad beaded collar or the way his eyes quickly rolled heavenward. Yet even Thoth’s irritation was something of a sham. Words of power were upon the tip of his tongue, any one of the least of them perfectly capable of bringing the situation to a swift conclusion. So why allow it to continue? Perhaps it was that he was curious, as the other had noted earlier.
“If you must. I will permit it for now.”
Ares laughed. "Yes," he said. "How gracious of you, stranger, to allow me to walk on my own land. How magnanimous." A spring entered his step as they strode down the sand. "I'm surprised to have not seen you here before. The smug self-satisfaction of Olympus would suit you splendidly. Perhaps after you've seen Hephaestus' book, you will have reason enough to return for future treasures, and perhaps theft."
He cut a glance to Thoth, studying his almost -- almost, but not quite -- blank gaze. "What shall I call you, stranger, while I tell you of this book I mean us to take?"
“I am Thoth.” No titles and no elaboration, though he could have provided more than enough of either if he had wished to. More than enough, surely, to put any epithets of his new companion to shame. (His new companion that he still was not looking at.) “If you must call me anything, call me that.”
"Thoth," Ares repeated. If he noted his guest's surliness, he made no comment on it. His own mood seemed not at all dampened by it, either way. "That's far better than any name I'd have made for you. Thoth. Of what provenance is that?"
“My own.” Thoth, Self-created and Self-creating. Thoth, Self-named. “My heart thought it and my tongue said it and it was. Of what provenance is Ares Laossous?”
Ares beamed, proud as ever. "A Greek poet," he said. "A pity you had to name yourself. Do you lack worshippers to give you titles and praise?"
“No,” Thoth replied, finally turning his bright gaze on Ares, head tilted to slightly to the side, birdlike, as he considered him. “Do you lack friends or followers to give you amusement? Or do you make a general habit of harassing passers by?”
"I want for nothing," Ares said, "but I am always intrigued by new faces, particularly ones so interesting as yours. Now. As it happens, we are walking in precisely the direction I need, and we draw very near to the forge where this prize can be found. Are you interested in my proposition, Thoth, or should I seek one more skilled, or perhaps more knowledgable than yourself?"
An eyebrow raised at that, as close to a challenge as Thoth would permit himself. “You would search for a great deal of time, to the edges of the heavens and back, before you would find any to be close to my equal, let alone my rival.”
"I'm not convinced. You speak very little, but you say even less." He arched a brow; his eyes were smiling, reflecting his impish grin. "Will you join me, Thoth, or do you not care to learn the Forgemaster's secrets?"
“I will watch. And if I become bored I will leave,” Thoth said. No promise of help directly. But he never outright said that he would not assist Ares either.
Ares stopped, visibly exasperated. "You seem more a liability than a boon," he said. "I've seen enough conflict to know bad help is worse than none at all. Stay, then, and watch your sun."
“Why did you seek my assistance, then? If your object was conflict from the start, what would have made you think I would be of help to you?” Thoth asked, still curious and frustratingly calm. It was true though. If one were to judge by looks alone, Thoth -slight, slim, decidedly intellectual and impractically dressed in his fine linen and jewels- likely would not be picked to assist anyone in a combat situation.
"My object is always conflict," Ares said, "but I had hoped to find a co-conspirator of a nature more like yours. It seems to me someone bold and someone more… level-headed would make a useful combination for such work. Thus far, though, you seem more obstinate than anything else. At this rate I might have asked Eris and had more luck."
“Perhaps I am merely waiting to hear the specifics of this venture. You have been rather vague thus far when it comes to to just what it might entail. And just what I might stand to get out of it.” Thoth crossed his arms over his chest, fingers drumming contemplatively on an armband. “Surprisingly, curiosity is not my only motivator, even when a book of divine provenance is involved.”
"That is surprising." Ares mirrored the motion, muscular arms folded over a broad, armor-clad chest. "Very well. Hephaestus, Olympus's own not-so-beloved smith, has a book on god-forged weaponcraft that, like so much given to him, he does not properly appreciate. He is away on some fool errand or other, and left his home relatively unattended, save a few servants and perhaps an old dog or two. Ideally I would like to get past these few obstacles without killing… well, all of them, I suppose… and liberate this book. I know it well enough, I would be willing to let you keep it, along with anything else you might like from his estate.
"And before you ask, all I want from this is to cause him a bit of trouble. He has given me more than enough to have earned it."
There were centuries of unspoken stories between those sentences and Thoth made careful note of them all, putting them aside in his mind to be pondered over later at his leisure. Until then he would let Ares keep his secrets in peace. He nodded once, his mind settled on the matter. “I will help you obtain your object, Ares Laossous. Nothing more.”
Ares sighed, blowing a puff of air from smiling lips up to his tousled black hair. "Excellent," he said. "Was that so difficult?"
He did not wait for a reply, nor did he expect one. He merely trudged ahead, following the path that wound up from the beach, up and up into the mountains beyond. Hephaestus's forge loomed large in the distance, drawing nearer with each long stride. A pack of old hunting dogs did indeed wait outside, though they seemed to recognize the god of war. They raised their thickly-furred ears at his companion, however, and one thumped its thick stump of a tail. Ares passed the front door of the home, tossing the dogs scraps of bloody meat from a pouch at his waist as they went. They fell upon the scraps, quiet and happy in their feeding, each of them with plenty to call his own. They did not notice or care as Ares led Thoth through the bushes to the side of the building, where a servants' entrance waited.
"This door creaks," he said, "and beyond there will be a small gathering of house guards." His brow arched; he looked to Thoth, as though taking his measure anew. He gestured toward the door. "Let's see how you help, then, Thoth."
Thoth frowned for a moment before stepping delicately up to the door, looking for all the world as if he was an expected guest. He ran a hand quickly over the door's edges, muttering under his breath. As he spoke his other hand plucked a lapis bead from his necklace and dropped it carelessly into the dust. It looked fumbling, nervous even.
"It might be best if you ducked out of sight," he said to Ares, almost as an afterthought. Then he knocked abruptly on the door.
By the time that it opened, Thoth was nowhere to be seen and in the place where he stood was a large, bristling, angry baboon. It darted into the now opened door. It didn't take long for a cacophony of shouts and shattering pottery to erupt from the servants' quarter. A minute later, the animal came shrieking out of the door, limbs moving in a blur. It was moving so quickly that for a split second there almost seemed to be two of the creatures crossing the threshold. Behind came a group of shouting house guards in various states of vocal indignation and injury -including a few with rather nasty looking bite wounds- as they chased it up and over the crest of the nearest hill.
After a few cautious moments, Thoth sidestepped out of the shadows of the building, stooping to pick up the shattered remains of his bead. "I believe the guards are occupied for the moment. Does that help?" he asked Ares, casually opening the door a bit wider. It no longer creaked.
Ares emerged from the small copse of olive trees in which he had hidden, laughing all the while. He clapped his hands together, still chuckling as they strode into the house. "It does indeed," he said. They walked through corridors and rooms, finding each as silent as the ones before it, entirely devoid of guard or life. Ares sneered at his would-be rival's lack of forethought, but even he had to admit this worked to his benefit. He made one last left turn, and pushed open the door into a dim, cool room, its walls lined with shelves filled with tools and prototypes and the occasional thick, dusty book.
He gestured to Thoth's necklace. "Can your accessories do other tricks?" he asked, crossing the room to fetch up near the first set of shelves. "That seems a useful bauble."
“The accessories are decorative and nothing more. Any power was my own. The bead was simply… convenient,” Thoth answered. As he spoke his eyes wandered curiously over the assembled objects though his hands did not move to touch anything just yet. He knew better than that.
“I trust you know which book it is that you are after. Or did you bring me all of this way to look at shelving?”
Ares waved him off. "Such a surly thing," he said, though his tone remained cheerful enough. "I'm beginning to see why you were alone on that beach…"
The god of war moved slowly down the line of shelves, studying each and its possessions only so long as they held his attention. His burnished gaze danced from one surface to the next; his hands touched nearly everything his eyes had. For a time he saw nothing that appealed to him. Then at last his calloused hand alighted on a book, bound in thick leather and metal that was warm to the touch. Ares tapped its cover, then drifted away, extending a hand toward it as though presenting it to his guest.
Thoth’s sharp gaze flickered between Ares and the book. He honestly looked more unimpressed than anything else. Perhaps it wasn't his place to judge, but if the book was truly so precious then he would have at least protected it a bit more. Put it in a few enchanted boxes maybe. At the bottom of a crocodile and hippopotamus infested river. And cursed the lot for good measure as well. Not left it sitting on a shelf with only a few guards for security.
“That's it? We take it and go?” No reprisals? No challenge?
"You take it and go," Ares said. "I don't care about it. I only want to teach this fool a lesson."
The tome seemed harmless enough. As best Ares could tell, there were no further traps or security in the area. And if he neglected to explain the precise nature of the metalwork that served as the book's cover… well. That was something a wise god such as Thoth would anticipate, he was sure.
Thoth could certainly anticipate it. In fact, his mind was already playing out any number of possible scenarios and their respective solutions in minute detail as he finally took the book from the shelf. He did not look inside immediately, but only gently stroked the cover. He would put it somewhere safe until the occasion when its true owner would come for it. If he ever did, of course.
“Well, then. If that is all there is to the matter I trust you can find your own way out. After all, I got you in,” Thoth said with an air of something almost approaching indignation. Though there seemed no reason for this attitude. After all, he had achieved what had been agreed upon, hadn't he? Clearly, some thanks or recognition was out of the question.
Tucking the book securely under his arm, he nodded briefly at Ares, then stepped back into his own house. Hopefully it would be the last that he saw of the other god for some time.