Redeeming Ares, Part 2: In Dio Veritas

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Continued from Part 1

D. Hey buddy, you look like you could use a drink.

E. You can say that again. Make mine a double.

To be honest, I was a little disappointed that the bartender looked like Ted Danson from Cheers. I had somehow been expecting a version of Mr. Tumnus, though fauns aren’t exactly satyrs, and anyway I was confusing Pan with…

Dionysus

D. Sorry, it’s a little early for whiskey. Like a thousand years! I’ve got beer, wine, and mead. Unless you want to try the nectar?

E. Eh, I’ll go with the beer. Care to join me? (tossing a twenty on the bar)

D. Sure, don’t mind if I do! (he draws two
pints and settles down across from me)
. So what brings you to these parts, mister double-whiskey?

E. Oh, the usual. Epic quest to save my civilization, soul, & family. I imagine you get a lot of that around here.

D. Aye, but these days not so much as you’d think. Nowadays most such folks head East. They figure the Western well has all but run dry.

E. Well, I for one am glad they are wrong. (taking a deep draught) Ah, that sure hits the spot.

D. So, how goes the questing?

E. (Already slurring slightly). Not so hot, Dio — I can call you Dio, can’t I?

(He nods encouragingly)

E. Well, Apollo. He seems like a nice guy, right? I mean he asks for an offering, which is kinda harsh, but I figure he deserves it. I mean, he is like literally The Man, know what I mean?

Dionysus is an amazing listener. He gives me his full attention, even while he refills my mug, which has somehow already gotten empty

E. The thing is, he doesn’t ask me to give him money, or perform a task, or even kill a *burp* animal. You know, you know what he asks me for?

D. No, what!

I peer at him suspiciously, wondering briefly if he’s mocking me, then shrug and continue.

E. He said I had to bring him — let me read it to you. I made sure to write it down, so I wouldn’t forget. (fumbling in my pockets) Here it is. (read with exaggerated slowness to hide the slurring)

“Bring me that

Which you value
The most,

But others value
The least”

(Long pause)

D. So, what do you think it means?

E. I haven’t the foggiest idea in Hell!
And I should know, as I’ve been there and back again. Me and Pluto, we are like this!

I try to cross my fingers, but somehow they seem thicker than I remember

D. So is that what you are so upset about?

He asks gently, seeming genuinely concerned

E. Yes. No. I’m not sure. (sniffling). It’s just. It’s just so hard, y’know Dio.

(Noisily wiping my nose with my sleeve)

E. I try so hard to do the right thing. Take people as they are, not as I wish they would be. Be there for them, but not so much that I lose myself. Y’know what I mean?

He nods sagely, again refilling my mysteriously empty glass.

E. Can I… can I tell you a secret?

He nods encouragingly. I lean closer, to whisper in his hear.

E. I… have… NO FUCKING IDEA what I am doing.

I break into hysterical laughter. He joins in gleefully.

D. Well, then you’ve come to the right place, my friend! In my temple, nobody is expected to clever, or skillful, or responsible. Quite the opposite! Come, let your hair down. Enjoy yourself! Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die!

E. I’ll drink to that. (finishing another glass, which is also quickly refilled) To hell with Apollo and his ridiculous riddles. I tell you Di, I wasted way too much of my life at his stupid Temple. Trying to prove how smart I was, make everyone like me, be useful to them. Well, to hell with them! Let them all wander off down to hell without me. Why should I bust my balls to help them, when they don’t even want to be helped. Know what I mean?

I reach over to clap a hand on Dio’s shoulder. He continues to gaze at me with perfect sympathy. Though part of me notices an odd tension in the corner of his eyes.

E. What a stupid, stinking, utter waste of time. Solomon was right, wisdom just brings misery. Apollo was probably just messing with me, asking an unsolvable riddle so I would never come back. Well, we’ll show him, won’t we, Dio?

Dionysus appears to agree wholeheartedly, roaring with laughter and approval. Yet I can’t shake the notion that he’s also watching me, waiting for something.

E. Y’know, I should have just come here first. Screw Apollo and his cockamamie quests. This is where I belong. You, you are my only true friend, Dio. I have been a perfect pig — not to mention a prig! I’m sorry, so sorry for all the nasty things I said about you. But you’ll forgive me, won’t you, big fella?

He nods, and squeezes my arm.

E. Y’know, the only real reason I stayed away from you — the reason I poked fun of those who worshipped here — wasn’t because of any purity of heart, or clarity of purpose. It was just my own damned pride. I wanted to show I was better than them. I liked the idea of being the noble, responsible one — even if I didn’t really have a clue how to actually live up to that image.

Dionysus leans back to listen, with this giant grin on his face. I’m not sure how or why, but whatever tension had been hiding in his eyes now seems to be gone.

E. Well to hell with image, and to hell with pride!

We clink our glasses together, as I drain mine to the dregs. Oddly, he no longer seems in a hurry to refill mine.

E. I don’t know why I even held onto it for so long. My pride never did anybody one damn bit of good, yet I catered to it and defended it like…
Like it was…

I pause and stare at Dionysus, who looks back at me with a knowing smile.

E. Like it was the thing of greatest value to me, even though it was of no value to anyone else.

Dionysus winks and slides my twenty across the bar.

D. This one’s on the house. Happy questing, Ernie. Give my regards to my brother.

To be continued

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