Atreus batted idly at a mosquito buzzing around his head. He hated them, could never be free of them. They were worse this time of year taking advantage of the high humidity and shade the trees provided. Not that they weren’t bad during the rest of the year but they were worse now. He hated the leeches as well, but for different reasons. The leeches couldn’t be felt when they latched on, or even when they remained getting fat and bloated off of blood. They did itch a bit when they dropped off but that wasn’t the issue. The problem with the leeches was that their victims would continue bleeding for some time, making them easy for dogs to track.
The dogs had nearly been the death of him more than once. In a way they were far more dangerous than the soldiers. Out here staying hidden was the same as staying alive, the dogs could strip away that protection. Atreus couldn’t bring himself to hate the dogs, he had one as a child once. He couldn’t even bring himself to hate the soldiers, most of them were conscripts anyways. They were all too young to remember a time before the priests started pushing their garbage down his people throats. They couldn’t remember a time before the magic of their ancestors has been labeled heresy.
Atreus could hate the priests how could he not. They knew what they were doing, slowly destroying his peoples culture, and burning all those who dare to fight back. The priests knew that every time they said the words heretic someone would die, they did it anyways. Atreus hated them with every fiber of his being, with every remaining ounce of power that flowed through his veins. Some day he would drive the priests from his country, and take it back for his people. The worst of all were the men who were old enough to remember but did not fight.
Those men who had given up their heritage for the honeyed words of those blasted priests. Those traitors, well they would be answering to the gods soon enough. Sooner if Atreus had anything to say about that. It all came back to the gods in the end really. Well it started with them too, but it always came back to them. Until then however it was up to the faithful to fight for them.
“Do you hate yourself?”
Atreus looked over at the phantom that had been haunting him. The phantom looked like a young girl but creatures like her could be deceiving. He briefly considered shooting the phantom again but reconsidered. It would be a waste of ammo, there wasn’t enough of the phantom to shoot anyways. Not that it didn’t appear to be all there but that was only visually, physically it had less mass than a feather. Atreus once again resolved to ignore the phantom. This didn’t really work since the phantom didn’t leave, it just kind of floated there staring at him. Eventually the silence wore on him.
“Why would I hate my self?”
“Because you’re a failure.”
“I’m not a failure.”
The phantom didn’t justify this with an answer and returned to starring at Atreus. It moved around the tented command post silently avoiding any obstacles. It moved so lightly however Atreus would almost think it was floating. The command post wasn’t much, a cot off to one side, some communications equipment and a marked map showing the enemy army locations. It didn’t show his own troops locations, they moved too often and it was poor security to commit those to paper anyways. His forces weren’t what they once were, once they had been a proud army now a few hundred men and boys scattered throughout the forest. Atreus couldn’t stand the silence with those ever watchful eyes of the phantom.
“Why are you even here.”
Atreus wasn’t expecting an answer, it hadn’t answered him before.
“Because I want a monster.”
“I want you.”
“Are you saying I’m a monster?”
“What else could you possibly be? You fight in the name of false gods that are already dead. You fund that fight by protecting fields of coca and selling you nations daughters. Your soldiers are the sons of your nation who you feed that coca and give guns. Your commanders are whichever sons survive. Yes Atreus, I name you a monster.”
“MY GODS ARE NOT FALSE NOR ARE THEY DEAD.”
“All gods are proved false when they fail to defend their thrones. And yours are well and truly gone.”
“Begone foul phantom or I will slay you were you stand.”
“No you won’t, you don’t have the power. Your false gods never blessed you with it. Your only power is to run and hide. You do your best to corrupt your people in some pathetic attempt to bring them down to your level.”
“Stop with your blasphemy infernal being.”
“You name me infernal, I am not a creature that brings foul corruption to the land like you. I am a creature that brings change in all forms. I will grant you a change of sorts if you so chose it.”
“What could a creature such as you do for me?”
“Your country is lost to you, your people converted. You are the last priest of your order and the last one capable of your dead god’s magic. I will change your pathetic existence from one writhing in the mud, to one of honor. I will give you a chance at revenge against the very gods that have put you in this situation.”
“Begone I tire of your false promises.”
They lapsed back into silence again for some time. Eventually it was broken, but this time by the phantom.
“Fine Atreus I will go. Just remember that you will be as dead as your gods with no hope of revenge within the week.”
“Now with the threats, just leave me in peace.”
Atreus slumped down onto the cot, honestly too tired to deal with the phantom. Not just physically tired, but there was that too. No he was spiritually tired, the exhaustion of a man who had never stopped fighting for twenty years.
“If you speak my name I will come for you, even if it is with your dying breath.”
The phantom started to fade away into nothingness. It had barely existed in the first place so it didn’t take long for it to cease.
“You never told me your name.”
A single name hung in the air were the phantom had once been.