21. ”Strategic Thinking”

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Centering Athena,
Goddess of Wisdom and War:

Strategic thought extends outward from the core:
     Defend the self first.
     Protect allies second.
     Control defensible ground third.
     Then secure the homeland,
          last and most importantly.

     To defend the self,
I assume a defensive posture,
     self-secure in an eyeblink.

     To protect my allies,
I consider the needs of Hera,
     who can handle herself against most threats.
I'll help her if I must.
     If she asks.
          Maybe if she begs,
     though she is already headed for her palace,
        oblivious to possible threats.
Others nearby may need me more.

     I could defend the Olympian stables
             by myself
          against most threats.
  It's a good fallback position
       but I can't reconnoiter from within
          or rally others to the cause.

     And securing Olympus
will require gathering intelligence,
          locating resources,
     recruiting and organizing and issuing orders,
so I move to the exit.

     Where is the aegis?

        Where are the thunderbolts?

   Where are the chariots of war?

I find the chariots first.
     They line the grand boulevard that runs
from Father's summit-stradling palace
     to the pearl-inlay gates
          that open only on ceremonial occasions.

The gates stand open now,
     with the chariots arrayed before them.

     "So you've returned."

I spin,
  the weapon in my hand tansforms,
        anticipating my need,
     from spear to sword,
     from sword to machete,
     from machete to assault rifle.

          Aphrodite peers down the barrel
               pointed at her face.
     "Somebody's glad to see me."

"What is happening?"
     I ask her.

     The Goddess of Love and Beauty
          shrugs.
     "Our king is bound for Ethiopia
          with all of Olympus as his retinue.
       Don't even think of asking for a waiver.
                 Apollo has asked already,
          wanting to rain more arrows onto the Achaeans,
     but Zeus likes to keep his entourage intact."

"Ethiopia."

  It's been a while since I've visited the Sunrise Kingdom,
       where the Waaq puts out the finest spread of ambrosia
     whenever planets align with the solstice,
               just so,
          and the Sky Gods gather to frolic under the stars.
  Nabta Playa would offer a welcome change from dreary Troy.

I fondly remember my first open-sky ceremony,
     staring out at the pageantry through Father's eyes,
before I'd yet sprung from within his brain.

     The memory makes me wonder what the Love Goddess remembers,
            from when Ouranos represented Olympus at these events
          in the earliest days of the cosmos,
     and Aphrodite yet resided in a different body part entirely.

I've never been bold enough to ask her about it.

     "You are blushing at your own thoughts,"
          Aphrodite notes.
               "Are you thinking of Memnon?
          I could make an introduction."

     It's a strange suggestion.

"Memnon is a warrior.
     Why would I need a Love Goddess
to introduce me to a warrior?"

     Aphrodite wags her eyebrows at me.

          "Who do you prefer?
               Memnon or Achilles?"

     And again her eyebrows wag.

     It's another strange question,
but interesting to ponder.

"Achilles is the faster runner
          and has the stronger arms.
     He is gifted in many ways,
          but can also be temperamental
     and easily provoked.
Memnon is well-disciplined,
          focused,
     and has the better instincts.
A fight between those two would be close,
          too close to predict."

Aphrodite blinks back at me.
     "Athena.
  I offer you two prime specimens of man
       and all you can think of
     is how they would fare against each other
          in a fight?"

"What else is there to consider about men?"
          I ask.

     "I will never understand you,"
               the Love Goddess states,
          and of course the feeling
             is mutual.

EPIC CYCLE ROADMAP:

* The Kypria
* The Iliad
* The Posthomerica
* Tales of Nostos
* The Odyssey
* The Telegony
* The Aeneid
  Rage is the first book of the Iliad. Amazons is the first book of the Posthomerica.
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