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 Flames of Courage

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Phantom53
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PostSubject: Flames of Courage   9th July 2014, 4:10 pm

Hello again everyone. Well after Heart of Harmony, I finally finished yet another myth of the ancient Solar System, this time from Mars. Here is a story of Rei's ancestors, why her family became the rulers of Mars, and why they had the Mars Crystal in their care.

I would also like to note that as like with Heart of Harmony, I am posting this literally right after I finished up the story and did some light editing. So I still consider this thing a little rough. I would love to have feedback, good or bad, as long as it is constructive. Please enjoy.

Flames of Courage

In the beginning, Mars was shaped into existence by the god Aries, whose power came forth in the shape of fire. He melted the rocks of space and reshaped them into the planet, before setting himself in a home deep within the molten pits of Olympus Mons. From the same molten stone did he shape and give life to the first Martians, Phrixus and Helle.

And many generations after, there one lived a man named Jason. He was young, and considered handsome by his peers. But he lived in a pasture separated from most of his people. His task was to be shepherd of Aries’s second most favored creation after the Martians, the Martian sheep. To be their shepherd was considered the highest of honors.

So Jason spent many a day lying beneath the shade of trees, keeping watch of this most special of flocks. But one day, Jason heard cries of help from over the hills of the pasture. He rushed in the direction of the voice, fearing some sort of attacker had struck a passerby. Instead he found himself facing a single young woman lying in the grass.

This young woman was Medea. She had grown up to be a follower of Aries, a student of temples and the mysteries of the universe. She herself had been traveling from her temple at the edge of the desert to a village in order to gather supplies. But her horse had become frightened by the sudden appearance of an animal, and had thrown her, spraining her ankle in the process.

Seeing the young woman’s distress, Jason helped her back to his house in the middle of the field, and carefully wrapped her ankle.

Medea stayed there to rest over the next few weeks, and in that time, both Jason and Medea grew to enjoy each other’s company, both having had such lonely lives. Attraction turned to budding love, and by the time Medea’s ankle had healed, and Medea left back to her desert temple, her thoughts kept returning to Jason. So she beseeched Aries, and asked him to let her be free of her temple duties, and instead stay with Jason.

Medea’s request was granted. And so it was that the two married, and there were two shepherds of Aries, each taking turns watching the flock in the day and night. While Jason watched the rams, who were identified by their red fleece that turned crimson with maturity, Medea watched the golden-fleeced ewes. All was peaceful, and all were happy.

But such happiness was not to last. Far away, a great beast came over one of the mountains of Mars. It was a creature like no other. This was Cadmus, the great dragon. He stood taller than any tree, taller than the hills and even some mountains. His scaly hide was black as coal, and his eyes were a glowing, sickly yellow with pupils shaped in narrow slivers. In his great hands, armed with long claws, his could grasp and crush even boulders. His long barbed tail swung to and fro, smashing forests. His great wings, whipped up hot desert winds. And from his mouth and nose there poured a black, suffocating smoke that brought all manners of birds falling to the earth.

His breath was a jet of flame hotter than any furnace, and even the liquid that dripped from his foul maw was corrosive to the touch, and spread plague and blight. Cadmus flew over village after village, poisoning the air and water, burning fields, and devouring any that he wanted. The Martians tried to fight him, but all weapons just bounced off of his hide. Cadmus bellowed like thunder at the warriors that faced him. At one such army, the great dragon simply pulled the teeth from his jaws and tossed them into the earth, the teeth instantly growing back. And from those teeth he had discarded, there grew awful parodies of men, having the shape of man, but the skin and head of reptiles, in full armor.

Cadmus burned village after village, field after field. News of his destruction reached even Jason and Medea, for the village they often visited for supplies had been struck a hard blow by the dragon.

Upon returning home, Jason saw his wife deep in thought. “What troubles you Medea?”

“Something must be done about Cadmus,” she said. “He needs to be stopped.”

“I agree my love, but the warriors of Mars will eventually overcome him.”

“Those warriors have had fared well against him so far,” answered Medea.

“But what could we do Medea?”

“There may be something,” Medea looked away, lost in thought. “I have an idea Jason. But I will need your help. I must go back to my temple in the desert.” She looked Jason in the eye. “Will you go with me my love?”

“I would follow you to the ends of Mars Medea.”

The two quickly packed for their journey, setting aside provisions for their flock and securing them safely indoors while they were gone. Soon they took to their horses and made the journey into the desert, and into Medea’s temple.

Medea took a torch and led the way, Jason following her through the maze like hallways deep into the ancient structure. After what seemed an endless journey, Medea stopped in a large room.

Inside was a statue of the god Aries, depicted as a man in armor with the head of a great ram. In the hands of the statue was a glowing red gem the likes of which Jason had never seen.

“What is that?” he said, pointing at the jewel.

Medea lit the torches of the room. “It is the Mars Crystal, a gem containing the very magic at the heart of Mars, the very fire of Aries. This is the most sacred of shrines within the temple.” She bent down before the statue. “Great Aries, we come here to ask you for the use of the Crystal’s power.”

The statue’s eyes glowed a powerful red, and a voice filled the room, sounding like the eruption of a volcano. The torches on the columns flared brighter than before. Why do you ask for the power of the Crystal Medea? Why do you ask for the most sacred of treasures? You are a shepherd of my flock now, as are you Jason. Why are you here, asking for the Crystal instead of tending to your duties?

“The great dragon Cadmus ravages the land, and its magic may be the only chance of stopping it. Warrior after warrior has fallen to it, and villages continue to burn.”

Cadmus? Cadmus walks upon Mars?

Jason stepped forward, bowing before the statue. “He does great Aries. He has already killed many and blighted countless fields. Even the village nearest us was ravaged.”

“Do you know of Cadmus?” asked Medea.

Cadmus is an evil that I had hoped would never return, said Aries. Look, and see the story of Cadmus. With that, a ball of fire came into being, and within in, images appeared. Long ago, several generations before you, Cadmus had been a mere mortal. He was a man obsessed with power and control, with brining all under his heel. He destroyed village after village with his forces, delighting in killing and maiming innocents.

In the sphere they saw dozens of armed men marching among frightened villagers. In front of them all was the man who was clearly their leader. He was tall and dark haired, but was made him stand out were his eyes. They were wild as they moved about, filled with bloodlust, an untamed desire for murder. He licked his lips as he drove spear and sword into anyone in his path, man, woman, or child.

And one day, he even dared to strike my shepherds. In those days there were two, a man and woman, like you are now. They were orphans I had given shelter to, and had given them the names Phrixus and Helle.

“After the first Martians,” interjected Medea.

Correct. Cadmus came for even them. He killed them both, and drank of their blood, and he slaughtered my flock. For murdering my shepherds and my flock, and for all else that he had done, I confronted Cadmus.

The image changed. There stood wild Cadmus in the very fields Jason and Medea would later call home. The blood of Martian and sheep soaked the grass. Cadmus had a bone in his hands, though from what animal could not be told. And there before him stood a ram, a ram several times larger than any Martian ram, with the deepest red fleece and the greatest of horns. Cadmus laughed at the animal, which glared back at him.

The ram charged head on, faster than anyone could react. It slammed itself hard into Cadmus, sending the man flying back and crashing into the ground. The ram just stood there afterwards, glaring and snorting smoke.

Cadmus struggled to his feet. “You will pay for that.”

The ram merely shuffled a hoof against the soil, and flames shot out to form a ring around Cadmus and his followers.

For his crimes and endless violence, I transformed Cadmus into what he was, a twisted beast.

In the sphere, the form of Cadmus could be seen doubling over in pain. His flesh was transforming into something hideous and reptilian. The ring of flames pushed inwards, becoming a wall that pushed the captives back.

I drove him and all those with him deep into a cave, and blocked the entrance with an avalanche. I thought that was the end of him. But it seems he has escaped, and grown in power and violence.

“Great Aries, I have been a student of this temple for many years,” said Medea. “I know the ways of magic, and of fire. I could wield the Crystal’s power to banish Cadmus back to whence he came.”

You speak truth Medea, and your spirit is admirable. For that, I shall grant you your wish. You may take the Crystal to banish Cadmus. And you Jason…

“What do you wish of me?” stuttered Jason in surprise.

You shall accompany Medea and protect her on her journey. Go, and rid Mars of Cadmus.

Medea took the Crystal from the statue, and put it around her neck with a chain. She and Jason departed the temple to prepare to face the dragon.

“Are you sure you can defeat him?” asked Jason.

“We must try Jason. He must be stopped.”

“I do not wish to lose you my love.”

Medea turned to face him and smiled. “You and I will never lose each other. Trust in that. And trust that together, we will defeat Cadmus.”

Upon reaching their home, Jason began to gather weapons and armor. Medea too made preparations, coming upon an idea to protect them from the dragon’s terrible breath. In her time with Jason, she’d become familiar with sheering the flock and knitting garments from their wool. And being a student of Aries, she’d known one great secret about the nature of these animals.

The Martian sheep had, according to writing, lived with Aries before he’d granted the title of shepherd. In that time, the earliest of their kind lived in the temple, within the glow of the Mars Crystal’s magic, which expressed itself as fire. Medea knew that by living in that magic, the wool of the Martian sheep had become highly resistant to even the hottest of flames.

So she gathered wool from the flock, first from the rams, and next from the ewes. From each set of wool, she made two cloaks, one for Jason and one for herself. These would protect them from Cadmus.

The couple made their preparations, and restocked the supplies for their flock, and bid them goodbye. They set out toward a mountain Cadmus had been known to circle. They climbed the mountain slowly but steady, all the while steeling themselves for the inevitable battle.

And when they reached the summit, they found themselves face to face with the terrible dragon.

“Who dares come before me?” bellowed Cadmus. “Are you here to fight, or have you the sense to just sacrifice yourselves?”

“I am Medea, and this is Jason. We are the shepherds of Aries. We have come here to banish you from Mars Cadmus.”

The dragon simply laughed. “You are fools to think you can defeat me. Now DIE!”

The dragon let out a jet of flame, but Medea just shielded herself with her golden cloak, and Jason did likewise with his. The flames struck the fabric, but could not even singe it.

The dragon snarled. “So you have armed yourselves well. No matter, I will still spill your blood.”

“No you will not” said Medea. She raised her hands, closing her eyes, letting the Crystal’s power flow through her with the ease. Flames appeared in her hands, and she threw them at Cadmus.

The dragon used his wings as a shield, but smoke billowed from the impact. The dragon’s eyes narrowed. “You have great power…”

“It is the fire of Mars, and with it you will be no more!” Medea shot again, and Cadmus took to the air to avoid the flames. He came at her with his claws, but Medea brought a wall of fire to intercept the dragon.

While that battle raged, Jason saw some of Cadmus’s twisted soldiers coming onto the summit. They had their sights set on Medea, on overwhelming her. Drawing his sword, he dove into them. Shepherd he may have been, but he was no novice to the art of combat. And he was pushed on by his love of Medea. They would not lay one mutated finger on her, not while he drew breath. He hacked away at them, even as they tore his crimson cloak.

Back and forth went the battle between Medea and Cadmus. The priestess bend fire to her will effortlessly, and struck the dragon several times, while Cadmus had yet to land a blow. Medea gathered her strength, and took aim at Cadmus.

“Now you shall fall Cadmus!” She let loose a great blast, one that took the shape of the mystical phoenix birds that lived within the Martian desert. The fire bird flew at the dragon, at such speed that Cadmus could not avoid it. It struck him in the chest, making him scream in pain as he fell from the sky.

Jason withdrew his sword from the last of the soldiers and turned to face Medea. She turned to face him as well. She was breathing heavily, but gave a smile at him. “It is over my love,” she said. “Cadmus is…”

But as she said those very words, Jason looked on in horror as the Dragon rose back up behind her. “MEDEA! Behind you!”

Medea turned in surprise. Cadmus lashed out his barbed tail, and Medea gave a horrible scream as she was thrown to the ground. Jason rushed to her side. She laid there, her chest bleeding heavily. He cradled her head, and she strained to open her eyes.

“Medea, Medea please don’t die. Don’t die.”

“I am sorry Jason my love. But don’t despair. You must…you must finish what we started. Take my cloak, and the Crystal, and use them to stop Cadmus.”

“I can’t,” sobbed Jason. “I cannot use them, not like you. I am a warrior, not a weaver of magic. I cannot use the Crystal.”

“Yes you can Jason. I believe in you. Please, you must.” He eyes began to droop.

“I cannot lose you Medea. I love you too much.”

“We will never lose each other Jason,” whispered Medea. “We will see each other again, in the pastures we love. Please, fight on my love. Do not let fear be your master. Fight on.”

With that, Medea passed on. Jason held her close, unable to hold back his sobs.

Behind him there was a bellow of laughter. Cadmus stood there hovering in the air, along with more of his soldiers. “So the witch is finally dead. What a fool she was. I am Cadmus. I slaughtered you Martians once, and no Martian can ever stand against me. Aries was a fool. His imprisonment only made me stronger. And now his pathetic little woman is dead, as she should be. Of all the Martians, women are the most pathetic of them all.”

Jason’s body was trembling. “Stop that.”

“Oh? Do you take offense at that you insignificant little shepherd? Did this bleeding bag of flesh and organs matter to you? No Martian matters to me. From the very moment I was imprisoned, my soldiers and servants became my food. I chewed on their bone marrow. And now I am Cadmus, the all-powerful dragon. Your witch was a failure. She thought she could defeat me, and now her body will rot, here.”

“Be silent! You will stop insulting my wife!” Jason turned to face the dragon, his voice shaking with fury. He looked upon the dragon and his minions with fear. How could he face this monster? He was one man, and not the greatest of fighters. How could he win? The dragon would eat him, tear him to pieces.

But then he just looked back at Medea, and remembered her words. Please, fight on my love. Do not let fear be your master. Fight on.

With new resolve, he took Medea’s cloak and the Crystal. The dragon just laughed at him.

“So the shepherd wants to fight? Well then, have at me! Show me what you can do.”

Jason eyed the dragon. Though Medea’s final attack had not killed him, Jason saw the spot where she had struck. She’d hit Cadmus hard enough that scales had been ripped from his hide, right on his stomach, revealing soft flesh underneath. Her sacrifice would not be in vein.

Jason took his bow and drew an arrow. Remembering Medea, he willed the Crystal’s power to work. His body burned with pain. The magic of the gem flowed most easily through a woman, and Medea had easily bent it to her will with her training in magic. But Jason bore the pain, he had to for her sake.

The magic ignited his arrow. Taking aim, Jason set the arrow free, putting all his will into it, all his rage, all his sorrow. The arrow sailed through the air, striking first the soldiers of Cadmus. It tore right through them as if they did not exist, leaving a burning trail in its wake. It shot forward, and struck the still laughing Cadmus in the stomach.

The dragon roared in pain, his stomach blackened with fire as an explosion burst from it. Cadmus dropped into the mountain. Jason shot again, aiming at the soldiers. The arrow’s landing created a blast that incinerated all of them in a heartbeat.

Jason fired yet again, striking one wing, and then another. Cadmus would not fly again. The muscles and tendons of the wings were charred. The dragon continued to scream, staggering backwards at the blows, and Jason threw down his bow and charged at the beast. Striking him on the chest, both Jason and Cadmus fell from the high summit.

Jason stood there on Cadmus’s chest, fighting the wind as the pair plummeted from the sky. Jason let the fire of Mars pass into his hands and pressed them to the dragon’s flesh, eliciting another scream of agony.

“Stop, please! Stop!” cried the dragon, flailing his head about as the clouds rushed by.

“What is the matter Cadmus? Are you afraid? Are you afraid of dying? Is the great dragon finally terrified that some lesser Martian will bring about his end?”

Jason glared at the dragon, forcing down the pain in his hands. “I have conquered my fears Cadmus. I am not their slave. I am a warrior of fire, a soldier of Aries, and keeper of his flock. I will teach you not to insult my wife, or any of the women of Mars.”

He channeled the power again, drawing his sword. He ignored the searing pain in his muscles as the magic traveled up his arm and into the sword. The blade ignited with magical flames. He aimed it high above the dragon’s chest.

“Do you feel that pain Cadmus? Remember it. And remember that it was given to you by my wife, by a woman. The Martian woman you mocked pierced your armor, and gave you all this pain you now feel.

“And to you, I have only one thing to give. In the name of Mars Cadmus, I give you a command…BURN!” Jason plunged the sword deep into the dragon’s exposed flesh, and the beast erupted into flames, flesh rupturing everywhere. Jason felt the burn of the Crystal, but kept pushing. His heart felt like the center of a volcano, his blood like magma. But still he kept pushing the power of the Crystal into the dragon.

The two became a great fireball, hurtling toward the ground, scorching the very air. Cadmus reached out his claw, trying to kill the source of his agony, but it simply ignited before it could reach Jason, burning down through skin and muscle and tendon, down to the very bone.

Jason pushed the fire more and more into Cadmus, burning every inch of him. Down and down they fell as the flames grew ever higher and hotter around Jason. But still he held on. He could not back down, could not be afraid, even of dying.

The great fireball slammed into the earth with a tremendous crash, whipping up dust and smoke greater than any sandstorm in the Martian desert. Crowds of Martians ran to the crater, drawn by the sight. And when the smoke cleared, there stood Jason, his sword still driven into the skeletal black husk that had been Cadmus.

Jason pulled free his sword, staggering away from the monster, away from the melted ground, still radiating heat. The remains of Cadmus crumbled, becoming a black ooze that seeped through the soil of Mars, back into the dark underground from which he had come.

“Cadmus is dead,” said Jason to the crowd, his breathing labored. “You can all rest easily now.”

“They can indeed Jason” came a voice from the crowd.

The people split, revealing the strangest of sights, a man in armor with the head of a ram, burning with an aura of red. This was Aries.

Jason looked upon Aries, but could not bow for fear his legs would completely collapse. “Thank you mighty Aries. I…I shall go to your temple to return the crystal.”

“That shall not be necessary Jason. I wish for you to be its permanent keeper.” Aries walked forward to Jason and placed a light hand on his shoulder. “You and Medea have done Mars a great service by killing Cadmus.”

“Medea…”

“I am saddened by her loss as well. She was brave soul, as are you Jason. In honor of your bravery, and for that of Medea, I declare you to be the king of all Mars. Rule this planet with the same courage you showed now, and let your family keep the fire of the Mars Crystal.”

Jason looked into the face of Aries, moved to tears. “Thank you Aries. I shall guard this Crystal with my life.”

Aries left, and the people of Mars welcomed their new king. Leaving the crater, Jason returned to the fields of Aries, where he was greeted by his flock. He gathered them together, and took them safely from the field. Then he led a group of Martians back up the mountain, where he took the body of his dear wife and carried it down in his arms, even though his legs shook with the effort. At the base, he built a great bonfire, and set Medea upon it. He buried her in the fire of Mars, as he knew she would have wished for. All of his flock cried with him, for to them Medea had been like a second mother.

Jason gathered her ashes and set them in a jar which he kept as closely guarded as the Mars Crystal. In that village nearest the pasture, there was built the great palace of the king, a palace which turned the village into a great city. But the pasture itself, and the little house which Jason and Medea had shared their time together, so near the palace, was never to be touched by royal order, and remained so to the end. A new shepherd was appointed, and for the rest of Martian history, the flock the two had watched lived there in peace.

Medea’s desert temple grew too, and became the religious center of Mars itself. The members of the temple from that point forward wore cloaks of Martian wool, red for the priests, and gold for the priestesses, in honor of the pair. The golden cloak of Medea was kept in her memory in the same guarded room as her remains.

Jason married again to Creusa, a woman from the village that had been a dear friend to both he and Medea. But though they had many children, Jason’s heart never filled the great hole Medea had left. But still he sat upon the throne of Mars, protecting and guiding its people, wearing the iron crown adorned with ram horns, fighting on in her memory, for he considered her the true hero of Mars.

But a shadow of tragedy followed the life of Jason. The fight with Cadmus had given him long lasting injuries, ones which he succumbed to at the age of forty-two. Several generations after his passing, the people of Mars took Medea’s death as a way to justify declaring women weak, sowing the seeds of misogyny that would haunt Mars for all of its history.

Only when the mantle of Sailor Mars was finally created did the legacy of Medea finally start to see the light of day once again, for those chosen to take it were the children of Medea in spirit as much as they were of Jason in blood. And with the marriage of Ares and Bellona, the mantle saw even greater respect from nobles and commoners alike.

After Jason, the royal house took up the name of Arietis, which meant “of Aries”. But over time, the name acquired another, more common translation in the Martian language:

Dragon Slayer

End of story. I hope you enjoyed it. Again, please tell me what you think, if there are any typos or weak points in it.
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JupiterThunderCrash
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   10th July 2014, 12:21 pm

You're getting really good at capturing the mythical feel with your stories, and this one was a little shorter too, but just as concise. The only real complaint I had other than a random typo somewhere, was the misogynist thing. It felt a little shoehorned in there, and might have worked better if the concept were introduced earlier in the story instead of close to the end of it.
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   10th July 2014, 12:40 pm

@JupiterThunderCrash wrote:
You're getting really good at capturing the mythical feel with your stories, and this one was a little shorter too, but just as concise. The only real complaint I had other than a random typo somewhere, was the misogynist thing. It felt a little shoehorned in there, and might have worked better if the concept were introduced earlier in the story instead of close to the end of it.

Thanks. I never really thought the misogyny thing was shoehorned, but I can see your point.

That was actually one of the things I really wanted to get right with this myth. I had already figured ancient Martian society had a serious misogyny problem. I mean their symbol being used for all men suggested a seriously patriarchal society and the negative side of Mars was serious violence and abuse, so it made sense.

I wanted this myth to both give Rei an ancestor whose actions show you WHY her family ruled and had the Mars Crystal and tie into the symbolism of Aries. But I also figured that Mars's issues with women would probably originate from old misconceptions, so I knew I had to write this in a way that made the woman in the story a strong character, but one who could be used to justify mistreating women. Like in the story that originated the Golden Fleece, siblings Phirixus and Helle both rode the winged ram, but Helle was the one that fell, which my book said could be viewed as showing "the weakness of women". See what I mean?

Would you be able to point out the typos to me? And do you have any suggestions as to how I might fix tying in the misogyny thing?
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   10th July 2014, 12:50 pm

I read this yesterday, so I have to find the typos again, but I can try to help with the second problem.

Maybe build the misogyny into something to do with their god Aries. He's a distinctly male figure, and that could be discreetly taken as showing that men were the superior gender. That thinking would have years to worm its way into Martian customs and traditions. Maybe this is why the women have priestess positions in their society instead of more dangerous ones. This way, when Medea dies or is insulted for being a woman, it becomes a reinforcement of an already existing stereotype instead of coming out of nowhere.
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   10th July 2014, 1:21 pm

That's not a bad idea. I'll start working on a second draft. Thank you. And as for the typos, I don't want you to burn up your time if you have other priorities. I can try to find them myself while doing the next draft.

Despite the difficulties in constructing the story, this was fun to write. I just like the image of Rei's ancestor killing a dragon.

When I though of that, I had this image of a bunch of kids. One of them says something like "My great great great great great grandpa was a general. What did yours do?"

Little Rei's answer: "He killed a dragon."

Winner of a bragging contest hands down.
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   10th July 2014, 1:25 pm

"With his bare hand. Did I mention he was also on fire?"

XD
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   12th July 2014, 4:02 pm

Okay, here's the second draft.

In the beginning, Mars was shaped into existence by the god Aries, whose power came forth in the shape of fire. He melted the rocks of space and reshaped them into the planet, before setting himself in a home deep within the molten pits of Olympus Mons. From the same molten stone did he shape and give life to the first Martians, Phrixus and Helle.

And many generations after, there once lived a man named Jason. He was young, around the age of twenty, and considered handsome by his peers. But he lived in a pasture separated from most of his people. His task was to be shepherd of Aries’s second most favored creation after the Martians, the Martian sheep. To be their shepherd was considered the highest of honors.

So Jason spent many a day lying beneath the shade of trees, keeping watch of this most special of flocks. But one day, Jason heard cries of help from over the hills of the pasture. He rushed in the direction of the voice, fearing some sort of attacker had struck a passerby. Instead he found himself facing a single young woman lying in the grass.

This young woman was Medea. She had grown up to be a follower of Aries, a priestess and student of temples and the mysteries of the universe. Medea lived in a temple at the edge of the desert. A series of wild sandstorms had caused the high priests to hastily abandon it for fear of being buried. But Medea had stayed on despite the way the priests sneered at her decision and labeled her a foolish woman. In the end, the sandstorms passed, and Medea was left alone to care for the temple.

She had been traveling to a village in order to gather supplies. But her horse had become frightened by the sudden appearance of an animal, and had thrown her, spraining her ankle in the process.

Seeing the young woman’s distress, Jason helped her back to his house in the middle of the field, and carefully wrapped her ankle.

Medea stayed there to rest over the next few weeks, and in that time, both Jason and Medea grew to enjoy each other’s company, both having had such lonely lives. Attraction turned to budding love, and by the time Medea’s ankle had healed, and Medea left back to her desert temple, her thoughts kept returning to Jason. So she beseeched Aries, and asked him to let her be free of her temple duties, and instead stay with Jason.

Medea’s request was granted. And so it was that they married, and there were two shepherds of Aries, each taking turns watching the flock in the day and night. While Jason watched the rams, who were identified by their red fleece that turned crimson with maturity, Medea watched the golden-fleeced ewes. All was peaceful, and all were happy.

But such happiness was not to last. Far away, a great beast came over one of the mountains of Mars. It was a creature like no other. This was Cadmus, the great dragon. He stood taller than any tree, taller than the hills and even some mountains. His scaly hide was black as coal, and his eyes were a glowing, sickly yellow with pupils shaped in narrow slivers. In his great hands, armed with long claws, his could grasp and crush even boulders. His long barbed tail swung to and fro, smashing forests. His great wings, whipped up hot desert winds. And from his mouth and nose there poured a black, suffocating smoke that brought all manners of birds falling to the earth below.

His breath was a jet of flame hotter than any furnace, and even the liquid that dripped from his foul maw was corrosive to the touch, and spread plague and blight. Cadmus flew over village after village, poisoning the air and water, burning fields, and devouring any that he wanted. The Martians tried to fight him, but all weapons just bounced off of his hide. Cadmus bellowed like thunder at the warriors that faced him. At one such army, the great dragon simply pulled the teeth from his jaws and tossed them into the soil, the teeth instantly growing back. And from those teeth he had discarded, there grew awful parodies of men, having the shape of a man, but the skin and head of reptiles, in full armor.

Cadmus burned village after village, field after field. News of his destruction reached even Jason and Medea, for the village they often visited for supplies had been struck a hard blow by the dragon.

Upon returning home, Jason saw his wife deep in thought. “What troubles you Medea?”

“Something must be done about Cadmus,” she said. “He needs to be stopped.”

“I agree my love, but the warriors of Mars will eventually overcome him.”

“Those warriors have not fared well against him so far,” answered Medea.

“But what could we do Medea?”

“There may be something,” Medea looked away, lost in thought. “I have an idea Jason. But I will need your help. I must go back to my temple in the desert.” She looked Jason in the eye. “Will you go with me my love?”

“I would follow you to the ends of Mars Medea.”

The two quickly packed for their journey, setting aside provisions for their flock and securing them safely indoors while they were gone. Soon they took to their horses and made the journey into the desert, and into Medea’s temple.

Medea took a torch and led the way, Jason following her through the maze like hallways deep into the ancient structure. After what seemed an endless journey, Medea stopped in a large room whose doors had been disguised to look like stone.

Inside was a statue of the god Aries, depicted as a man in armor with the head of a great ram. In the hands of the statue was a glowing red gem the likes of which Jason had never seen.

“What is that?” he said, pointing at the jewel.

Medea lit the torches of the room. “It is the Mars Crystal, a gem containing the very magic at the heart of Mars, the very fire of Aries. This is the most sacred of shrines within the temple, long hidden and eventually forgotten.”

Medea knew of this room well. Priestesses had only the simplest of tasks given to them, and hers had been the care of ancient texts, written in old and unused forms of Martian. Over time, she’d learned to read them, though she kept such knowledge to herself, knowing the priests would not listen or they would simply claim to have deciphered the text themselves. After the priesthood hastily abandoned the temple, Medea had discovered this most secret and sacred of chambers.

She bent down before the statue. “Great Aries, we come here to ask you for the use of the Crystal’s power.”

The statue’s eyes glowed a powerful red, and a voice filled the room, sounding like the eruption of a volcano. The torches on the columns flared brighter than before. Why do you ask for the power of the Crystal Medea? Why do you ask for the most sacred of treasures? You are a shepherd of my flock now, as are you Jason. Why are you here, asking for the Crystal instead of tending to your duties?

“The great dragon Cadmus ravages the land, and its magic may be the only chance of stopping him. Warrior after warrior has fallen to him, and villages continue to burn.”

Cadmus? Cadmus walks upon Mars?

Jason stepped forward, bowing before the statue. “He does great Aries. He has already killed many and blighted countless fields. Even the village nearest us was ravaged.”

“Do you know of Cadmus?” asked Medea.

Cadmus is an evil that I had hoped would never return, said Aries. Look, and see the story of Cadmus. With that, a ball of fire came into being, and within in, images appeared. Long ago, several generations before you, Cadmus had been a mere mortal. He was a man obsessed with power and control, with brining all under his heel. He destroyed village after village with his forces, delighting in killing and maiming innocents.

In the sphere they saw dozens of armed men marching among frightened villagers. In front of them all was the man who was clearly their leader. He was tall and dark haired, but what made him stand out were his eyes. They were wild as they moved about, filled with bloodlust, an untamed desire for murder. He licked his lips as he drove spear and sword into anyone in his path, man, woman, or child.

And one day, he even dared to strike my shepherds. In those days there were two, a man and woman, like you are now. They were orphans I had given shelter to, and had given them the names Phrixus and Helle.

“After the first Martians,” interjected Medea.

Correct. Cadmus came for even them. He killed them both, and drank of their blood, and he slaughtered my flock. For murdering my shepherds and my flock, and for all else that he had done, I confronted Cadmus.

The image changed. There stood wild Cadmus in the very fields Jason and Medea would later call home. The blood of Martian and sheep soaked the grass. Cadmus had a bone in his hands, though from what animal could not be told. And there before him stood a ram, a ram several times larger than any Martian ram, with the deepest red fleece and the greatest of horns. Cadmus laughed at the animal, which glared back at him.

The ram charged head on, faster than anyone could react. It slammed itself hard into Cadmus, sending the man flying back and crashing into the ground. The ram just stood there afterwards, glaring and snorting smoke.

Cadmus struggled to his feet. “You will pay for that.”

The ram merely shuffled a hoof against the soil, and flames shot out to form a ring around Cadmus and his followers.

For his crimes and endless violence, I transformed Cadmus into what he was, a twisted beast.

In the sphere, the form of Cadmus could be seen doubling over in pain. His flesh was transforming into something hideous and reptilian. The ring of flames moved inwards, becoming a wall that pushed the captives back.

I drove him and all those with him deep into a cave, and blocked the entrance with an avalanche. I thought that was the end of him. But it seems he has escaped, and grown in power and violence.

“Great Aries, I have been a priestess of this temple for many years,” said Medea. “I have learned the ways of magic, and of fire. I could wield the Crystal’s power to banish Cadmus back to whence he came.”

You speak truth Medea, and your spirit is admirable. For that, I shall grant you your wish. You may take the Crystal to banish Cadmus. And you Jason…

“What do you wish of me?” stuttered Jason in surprise.

You shall accompany Medea and protect her on her journey. Go, and rid Mars of Cadmus.

Medea took the Crystal from the statue, and put it around her neck with a chain. She and Jason departed the temple to prepare to face the dragon.

“Are you sure you can defeat him?” asked Jason.

“We must try Jason. He must be stopped.”

“I do not wish to lose you my love.”

Medea turned to face him and smiled. “You and I will never lose each other. Trust in that. And trust that together, we will defeat Cadmus.”

Upon reaching their home, Jason began to gather weapons and armor. Medea too made preparations, coming upon an idea to protect them from the dragon’s terrible breath. In her time with Jason, she’d become familiar with shearing the flock and knitting garments from their wool. And being a student of Aries, she’d known one great secret about the nature of these animals.

The Martian sheep had, according to writing, lived with Aries before he’d granted the title of shepherd. In that time, the earliest of their kind lived in the temple, within the glow of the Mars Crystal’s magic, which expressed itself as fire. Medea knew that by living in that magic, the wool of the Martian sheep had become highly resistant to even the hottest of flames.

So she gathered wool from the flock, first from the rams, and next from the ewes. From each set of wool, she made two cloaks, one for Jason and one for herself. These would protect them from Cadmus.

The couple made their preparations, and restocked the supplies for their flock, and bid them goodbye. They set out toward a mountain Cadmus had been known to circle. They climbed the mountain slowly but steady, all the while steeling themselves for the inevitable battle.

And when they reached the summit, they found themselves face to face with the terrible dragon.

“Who dares come before me?” bellowed Cadmus. “Are you here to fight, or have you the sense to just sacrifice yourselves?”

“I am Medea, and this is Jason. We are the shepherds of Aries. We have come here to banish you from Mars Cadmus.”

The dragon simply laughed. “You are fools to think you can defeat me. Now DIE!”

The dragon let out a jet of flame, but Medea just shielded herself with her golden cloak, and Jason did likewise with his. The flames struck the fabric, but could not even singe it.

The dragon snarled. “So you have armed yourselves well. No matter, I will still spill your blood.”

“No you will not” said Medea. She raised her hands, closing her eyes, letting the Crystal’s power flow through her with the ease that came with being both a woman and a magician. Flames appeared in her hands, and she threw them at Cadmus.

The dragon used his wings as a shield, but smoke billowed from the impact. The dragon’s eyes narrowed. “You have great power…”

“It is the fire of Mars, and with it you will be no more!” Medea shot again, and Cadmus took to the air to avoid the flames. He came at her with his claws, but Medea brought a wall of fire to intercept the dragon.

While that battle raged, Jason saw some of Cadmus’s twisted soldiers coming onto the summit. They had their sights set on Medea, on overwhelming her. Drawing his sword, he dove into them. Shepherd he may have been, but he was no novice to the art of combat. And he was pushed on by his love of Medea. They would not lay one mutated finger on her, not while he drew breath. He hacked away at them, even as they tore his crimson cloak.

Back and forth went the battle between Medea and Cadmus. The priestess bent fire to her will effortlessly, and struck the dragon several times, while Cadmus had yet to land a blow. Medea gathered her strength, and took aim at Cadmus.

“Now you shall fall Cadmus!” She let loose a great blast, one that took the shape of the mystical phoenix birds that lived within the Martian desert. The fire bird flew at the dragon, at such speed that Cadmus could not avoid it. It struck him in the chest, making him scream in pain as he fell from the sky.

Jason withdrew his sword from the last of the band of soldiers and turned to face Medea. She turned to face him as well. She was breathing heavily, but gave a smile at him. “It is over my love,” she said. “Cadmus is…”

But as she said those very words, Jason looked on in horror as the dragon rose back up behind her. “MEDEA! Behind you!”

Medea turned in surprise. Cadmus lashed out his barbed tail, and Medea gave a horrible scream as she was thrown to the ground. Jason rushed to her side. She laid there, her chest bleeding heavily. He cradled her head, and she strained to open her eyes.

“Medea, Medea please don’t die. Don’t die.”

“I am sorry Jason my love. But don’t despair. You must…you must finish what we started. Take my cloak, and the Crystal, and use them to stop Cadmus.”

“I can’t,” sobbed Jason. “I cannot use them, not like you. I am a warrior, not a weaver of magic. I cannot use the Crystal.”

“Yes you can Jason. I believe in you. Please, you must.” He eyes began to droop.

“I cannot lose you Medea. I love you too much.”

“We will never lose each other Jason,” whispered Medea. “We will see each other again, in the pastures we love. Please, fight on my love. Do not let fear be your master. Fight on.”

With that, Medea passed on. Jason held her close, unable to hold back his sobs.

Behind him there was a bellow of laughter. Cadmus stood there hovering in the air, along with more of his soldiers. “So the witch is finally dead. What a fool she was. I am Cadmus. I slaughtered you Martians once, and no Martian can ever stand against me. Aries was a fool. His imprisonment only made me stronger. And now his pathetic little woman is dead, as she should be. Of all the Martians, women are the most pathetic of them all, useful only for the bearing of children and for menial labor. And for all her efforts at magic, all she has earned is death.”

Jason’s body was trembling. “Stop that.”

“Oh? Do you take offense at that you insignificant little shepherd? Did this bleeding bag of flesh and organs matter to you? No Martian matters to me. From the very moment I was imprisoned, my soldiers and servants became my food. I chewed on their bone marrow. And now I am Cadmus, the all-powerful dragon. Your witch was a failure. She thought she could defeat me, and now her body will rot, here.”

“Be silent! You will stop insulting my wife!” Jason turned to face the dragon, his voice shaking with fury. He looked upon the dragon and his minions with fear. How could he face this monster? He was one man, and not the greatest of fighters. How could he win? The dragon would eat him, tear him to pieces.

But then he just looked back at Medea, and remembered her words. Please, fight on my love. Do not let fear be your master. Fight on.

With new resolve, he took Medea’s cloak and the Crystal. The dragon just laughed at him.

“So the shepherd wants to fight? Well then, have at me! Show me what you can do.”

Jason eyed the dragon. Though Medea’s final attack had not killed him, Jason saw the spot where she had struck. She’d hit Cadmus hard enough that scales had been ripped from his hide, right on his stomach, revealing soft flesh underneath. Her sacrifice would not be in vein.

Jason took his bow and drew an arrow. Remembering Medea, he willed the Crystal’s power to work. His body burned with pain. The magic of the gem flowed most easily through a woman, and Medea had easily bent it to her will with her training in magic. But Jason bore the pain, he had to for her sake.

The magic ignited his arrow. Taking aim, Jason set the arrow free, putting all his will into it, all his rage, all his sorrow. It shot forward, leaving a burning trail in its wake, and struck the still laughing Cadmus in the stomach.

The dragon roared in pain, his stomach blackened with fire as an explosion burst from it. Cadmus dropped onto the summit. Jason shot again, aiming at the soldiers. The arrow’s landing created a blast that incinerated all of them in a heartbeat.

Jason fired yet again, striking one wing, and then another. Cadmus would not fly again. The muscles and tendons of the wings were charred. The dragon continued to scream, staggering backwards at the blows, and Jason threw down his bow and charged at the beast. Striking him on the chest, both Jason and Cadmus fell from the high summit.

Jason stood there on Cadmus’s chest, fighting the wind as the pair plummeted from the sky. Jason let the fire of Mars pass into his hands and pressed them to the dragon’s flesh, eliciting another scream of agony.

“Stop, please! Stop!” cried the dragon, flailing his head about as the clouds rushed by.

“What is the matter Cadmus? Are you afraid? Are you afraid of dying? Is the great dragon finally terrified that some lesser Martian will bring about his end?”

Jason glared at the dragon, forcing down the pain in his hands. “I have conquered my fears Cadmus. I am not their slave. I am a warrior of fire, a soldier of Aries, and keeper of his flock. I will teach you not to insult my wife, or to underestimate any of the women of Mars.”

He channeled the power again, drawing his sword. He ignored the searing pain in his muscles as the magic traveled up his arm and into the weapon. The blade ignited with magical flames. He aimed it high above the dragon’s chest.

“Do you feel that pain Cadmus? Remember it. And remember that it was given to you by my wife, by a woman. The Martian woman you mocked pierced your armor, and gave you all this pain you now feel.”

“And to you, I have only one thing to give. In the name of Mars Cadmus, I give you a command…BURN!” Jason plunged the sword deep into the dragon’s exposed flesh, and the beast erupted into flames, flesh rupturing everywhere. Jason felt the burn of the Crystal, but kept pushing. His heart felt like the center of a volcano, his blood like magma. But still he kept pushing the power of the Crystal into the dragon.

The two became a great fireball, hurtling toward the ground, scorching the very air. Cadmus reached out his claw, trying to kill the source of his agony, but it simply ignited before it could reach Jason, burning down through skin and muscle and tendon, down to the very bone.

Jason drove the fire more and more into Cadmus, burning every inch of him. Down and down they fell as the flames grew ever higher and hotter around Jason. But still he held on. He could not back down, could not be afraid, even of dying.

The great fireball slammed into the earth with a tremendous crash, whipping up dust and smoke greater than any sandstorm in the Martian desert. Crowds of Martians ran to the crater, drawn by the sight. And when the smoke cleared, there stood Jason, his sword still driven into the skeletal, blackened husk that had been Cadmus.

Jason pulled free his sword, staggering away from the monster, away from the melted ground which still radiated heat. The remains of Cadmus crumbled, becoming a black ooze that seeped through the soil of Mars, back into the dark underground from which he had come.

“Cadmus is dead,” said Jason to the crowd, his breathing labored. “You can all rest easily now.”

“They can indeed Jason” came a voice from the crowd.

The people split, revealing the strangest of sights, a man in armor with the head of a ram, burning with an aura of red. This was Aries.

Jason looked upon Aries, but could not bow for fear his legs would completely collapse. “Thank you mighty Aries. I…I shall go to your temple to return the crystal.”

“That shall not be necessary Jason. I wish for you to be its permanent keeper.” Aries walked forward to Jason and placed a light hand on his shoulder. “You and Medea have done Mars a great service by killing Cadmus.”

“Medea…”

“I am saddened by her loss as well. She was brave soul, as are you Jason. In honor of your bravery, and for that of Medea, I declare you to be the king of all Mars. Rule this planet with the same courage you showed now, and let your family keep the fire of the Mars Crystal.”

Jason looked into the face of Aries, moved to tears. “Thank you Aries. I shall guard this Crystal with my life.”

Aries left, and the people of Mars welcomed their new king. Leaving the crater, Jason returned to the fields of Aries, where he was greeted by his flock. He gathered them together, and took them safely from the field. Then he led a group of Martians back up the mountain, where he took the body of his dear wife and carried it down in his arms, even though his legs shook with the effort. At the base, he built a great bonfire, and set Medea upon it. He buried her in the fire of Mars, as he knew she would have wished for. All of his flock cried with him, for to them Medea had been like a second mother.

Jason gathered her ashes and set them in a jar which he kept as closely guarded as the Mars Crystal. The village nearest Jason’s home would grow into a sprawling city thanks to the construction of a palace for their king. This palace was built adjacent to the pasture and the little house Jason and Medea had shared, the two always within sight and within the palace’s grounds, but never to be touched by royal order, and it remained untouched until the very end. A new shepherd was appointed, and for the rest of Martian history, the flock Jason and Medea had watched lived there in peace.

Medea’s desert temple grew too, and became the religious center of Mars itself. The members of the temple from that point forward wore cloaks of Martian wool, red for the priests, and gold for the priestesses, in honor of the pair. The golden cloak of Medea was kept in her memory in the same guarded room as her remains.

Jason married again to Creusa, a woman from the village that had been a dear friend to both he and Medea. But though they had several sons and daughters, Jason’s heart never filled the great hole Medea had left. But still he sat upon the throne of Mars, protecting and guiding its people, wearing the iron crown adorned with ram horns, fighting on in her memory, for he considered her the true hero of Mars.

But a shadow of tragedy followed the life of Jason. The fight with Cadmus had given him long lasting injuries, ones he struggled with and ones which he succumbed to at the age of forty-two. Though Medea had given all in the fight against Cadmus, Martians born generations after Jason would look upon Medea’s death as failure, with only Jason bearing witness to her true courage. Her death only reinforced the misogyny that had filled both Cadmus and the fleeing priests of her temple.

Only when the mantle of Sailor Mars was finally created did the legacy of Medea finally start to see the light of day once again, for those chosen to take it were the children of Medea in spirit as much as they were of Jason in blood. And with the marriage of Ares and Bellona, the mantle saw even greater respect from nobles and commoners alike.

After Jason, the royal house took up the name of Arietis, which meant “of Aries”. But over time, the name acquired another, more common translation in the Martian language:

Dragon Slayer

And that's it. How is this version? Better?
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JupiterThunderCrash
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   12th July 2014, 5:27 pm

That's much better. ^^
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Phantom53
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   12th July 2014, 6:58 pm

Thanks. Now I can post it on FF.

Out of curiosity, do you think "Supernatural" would be the proper genre to list this under? Or do you think there would be something else that would fit better? I used "supernatural" for Heart of Harmony, but I was never 100% sure that was the right choice.
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JupiterThunderCrash
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PostSubject: Re: Flames of Courage   12th July 2014, 6:59 pm

It fits the mythical kind of feel it has, so I think it's fine.
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Flames of Courage

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