The Punishment of Niobe

The behorned arrow pierced the flesh of Antalus, the hero, bringing him to his knees. His loving brother Rea stumbled to his side when struck in the shoulder and bled to death grabbing the gaping wounds of them both. Lume and Ume scouted the tree line for the assassin. Keen-eyed Ume gave up a yelp as an arrow burst open his larynx and Lume turned to face him and fell with the feathers protruding his powerful back. Swift-paced Frey mounted his horse and rode for the City of Light as his six remaining brothers drew their weapons. Bold Leonidas with his grim visage gave a shout, but the forest only rewarded him with an arrow to the heart of his younger brother Gorm stilling clasping his flute. Leonidas charged the invisible foe followed by the eldest brother Jorgmund thrusting his spear towards the unknown. Trampling the bushes Yme fell down bleeding from the foot, Lyme stayed by his side when the spear returned and caught Lyme and Yme in an eternal embrace nailing them to the trunk of a tree. Leonidas and Jorgmund thrashed the woodland furiously with their sharp steel when behind them Tyr was sucked into the tree tops and out of sight. The youngest of the eleven brothers, Ethos, watched the mutilated bloody corpse of Tyr drop onto the ground next to him, he watched his brethren Leonidas and Jorgmund tear the forest apart, he watched them both transform, neither looked like his brother anymore, their faces and bodies changed shape and colour and they turned to face each other. Ethos watched them stick each other through while still trying to shape his lips to shout. The emptiness in their eyes was followed by a dark silence suffocating all sounds of the forest. Then the wind started howling, it caught Ethos clothing and blew him out of the forest. He couldn’t find the horses and ran home to the City of Light. On his way he passed swift-paced Frey and his horse, both cleft in half lying divided on either side of the road. Ethos didn’t stop to see if it really was his brother, he kept his muddled focus on the road and ran as hard as he could with water-filled sight.

The city of Light was in mourning. The eldest of the Niobid sisters, Avenna, was found dead in her bed. Her ten sisters were kneeling by her death bed when part of the roof caved in and struck the fair Lydia’s head into a mash of pulp on the floor. Ylva, the second eldest, led her sisters out to the city streets in search of the culprit. Behind her hawk-eyed Freya and her twin sister Fyr the archeress sat down on the cobblestones in bewilderment. The caring Rowenna tended to them when a horn-clad arrow screeched through the thick, misty air and burrowed itself in her neck. The twins lay down on the ground, turned a pale green and seized to breathe. Another arrow cut through the silent terror and dug deep in the womb of wise Athena who had not yet reacted. Ylva took the hand of the youngest sister, Embla, and ran across the market place to hide from the arrows, followed by Gina, the gifted. Chavah och Havah, who had painted the Archelios of the Ceil, stood firm next to their fallen sisters and spied along the houses for the murderer. No people could be seen anywhere. The citizens had disappeared. The house nearest to them exploded and an impossible flame engulfed them both leaving only the charred corpses of six sisters in the middle of the streets. Embla tightened her grip in Ylva’s hand. They hid behind a stone wall together with Gina, who fell into a trance and sank onto the floor. Blackness filled her eyes and her mouth opened. Ylva shook her and called her name and when she spoke an arrow shot from her tongue and pierced the left eye and skull of the elder sister. Embla watched Ylva melt onto the ground and Gina, before collapsing dead on the stone floor, spoke thus through the blackness of the gape:

“I am your God unto eternity. I am the master of your soul. I am the judge of your being. I have sentenced vain Niobe to watch her husband die, die from sorrow over the death of all his twenty-two children. Disdainful, scornful Niobe! Neither parent knows the truth. She will cry until there is no more water in her wretched body and be swept away to her origin, where her stone-dry body will be placed by Atlas on his shoulder and whence she will deservedly mourn the loss of her family forever. You and your brother, poor children, will be watched by Apollo and Artemis… as you rebuild the City of Light.”

An earthquke tore down all the walls in the city and Embla watched through the mist of damned Niobe’s waters as Ethos ran towards the city, to her, to tell her.


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