After a several hour climb up a sheer cliff face, Cletus pulled himself over a massive ledge onto a plateau. A stone table stood at the center of the plateau. A tan, muscular, blonde giant lay chained to the table while four white eagles tore at the giant’s insides. Cletus drew the bow tied to his back and fired arrows. Coated in hydra’s blood, the arrows killed the enormous eagles instantly. Cletus stepped up to the table and tore apart the giant’s shackles.
The freed giant screamed wildly as his body slowly healed.
“Thank you, Heracles,” the giant said. “Or, would you prefer another name? Gilgamesh? Sun Wukong? Monkey King?”
“Cletus is fine.”
“Well, Cletus, I am Prometheus. Thank you for freeing me. Is there anything I can do for you in return?”
“You wouldn’t happen to know of a way to kill a god, would you?” Cletus asked.
“There’s only one real way. People simply have to stop believing in them. However, there are numerous ways to destroy their physical forms.”
“Fire! Why else would I give fire to humans other than to protect them from the gods’ eventual desire to destroy all of mankind. They’d need some way to defend themselves. There’s also the blood of Artemis’s golden hind. It’s severely toxic to them, and able to kill them instantly. There is the precious adamantine metal made from the stars themselves. Basically any weapon crafted by either the Cyclopes or Hephaestus can injure a god as well.”
“Anything else you can help with?”
“I could tell you more about your future. You will not live forever, Cletus. Don’t believe that your luck will hold out. Buddha granted you everlasting life and youth, but you can be killed. One day, you will be. Not to worry though. You’ve a few thousand more years to deal with still. You’ll be king again, more than once. After your death, you’ll be reborn many times.”
“While it’s nice to know I’ll live through this, it doesn’t help me now,” Cletus said. “How can I get to Mount Olympus?”
“Well, you could climb it, but that wouldn’t get you to their kingdom. It exists in another realm. The Olympians’ own little chunk of the netherworld. I have no answer for you, but I assure you that you will find your way eventually, Cletus.”
“Can you at least tell me how to get down from here without having to climb?”
“Take Zeus’s precious eagles. Use them to glide down. Before you go, I’d like you to have this.”
Prometheus placed his giant hands over Cletus’s. Warmth and weight filled Cletus’s palm. When Prometheus pulled away, Cletus examined the glass sphere. Amber mist filled the inside of the ball. The core of the globe glowed gloriously with a golden light.
“This is my power,” Prometheus said. “As much of my immortal essence as I can spare without dying is locked within that crystal. When the time comes, it will protect you.”
Cletus nodded. He tucked the orb away and grabbed one of the limp eagles. Clutching its talons in his hands, Cletus sprinted over the edge of the plateau.
For the second time in his life, Cletus hunted the golden hind. He chased the animal for almost three years. During that time, he slayed monsters, saved cities, killed an ancient centaur, and impregnated a half-woman, half-snake demon.
Chasing the beast for years finally annoyed Cletus into a new plan. He found a mystical grove sacred to Artemis and fashioned a trap in the grove. Cletus concealed himself in the thick grass near the trap. Hidden in the grove, Cletus waited for the golden hind.
Cletus lay motionless in the grass, an arrow always nocked and ready to fire. Hours ticked by. Cletus did not move. Cletus barely even blinked. Night came, and day returned. Hours gave way to weeks. Seasons changed around Cletus as time moved on. Through snow, rain, and blistering sun, Cletus waited patiently for the golden hind.
One morning, close to dawn, the hind came. It walked with such grace and beauty that it seemed weightless, hovering on the very tips of the blades of grass. Soft, fur coat shimmered in the morning light like fields of goldenrod swaying in a breeze. An entrancing light surrounded the creature’s body. The hind walked across the clearing. It approached Cletus’s long-hidden trap. The hind’s front leg stepped over the trigger. Cletus tensed as he waited. The deer’s back leg fell into the circle of rope.
The trap coiled around the hind’s leg. Cletus fired three arrows before the hind realized that it had been snared. Two arrows caught the animal’s throat, and one hit behind its eye. Precious, god-killing blood spilled on the grass as the hind thrashed about, trying to break free. Cletus approached the flailing creature and bashed the beast’s head in with his club until the hind lay still.
“Now who’s the better hunter, you annoying bitch?” Cletus asked the empty air.
“You fool. What have you done?” asked a silky voice from behind Cletus.
Cletus turned to face a young woman. She stood a full head shorter than Cletus. She seemed fair and innocent, almost childlike. However, her large breasts and wide hips betrayed her age. Her dark hair cascaded down her back from where she tied it behind her head. She wore a bright green tunic, a quiver filled with silver arrows, and a golden bow. Her brownish-green eyes burned furiously into Cletus.
“What have you done, Heracles?” she shouted as she shoved him backward with one hand, tossing the caveman several feet with ease. “You come to my sacred grove and defile it with traps. You smear filth upon my name by killing my treasured animal in my own territory. I do not care if you are my father’s chosen champion, I will destroy you, Heracles.”
Artemis drew her bow and fired an arrow at Cletus. The silver projectile transformed into a bolt of beautiful light as it sliced through the air. Cletus threw up his cloak. The arrow hit the pelt of the Nemean Lion and bounced off into the trees.
“It’s great to see you again too, Artemis,” Cletus said.
Artemis rained arrows at Cletus. The caveman easily blocked all of them.
“You know,” Cletus said, “back in my day, a violent girl like you that liked to hunt and fight would have been beaten to be put in her place. Possibly even eaten too depending on how hard times were. I think I’ll introduce you to the ways of man before the gods came about.”
Artemis continued pelting Cletus with arrows as he rushed her. He swung his club with all his strength. Artemis made no attempt to dodge or defend herself. A look of horror coated her face as the blood-soaked club smashed into her side, shattering her left arm. Artemis dropped her bow and tumbled across the ground.
“Were you unaware that the hind’s blood could hurt you?” Cletus asked, tossing his club aside.
Cletus picked Artemis up. Thick, dark blood dried on the hands that held the goddess. He tossed the small girl into the air and punched her with all his might as she descended. Cletus slowly trudged toward Artemis after she crashed to the ground.
“First off,” Cletus said as he slapped Artemis across the face, “my name isn’t Heracles. To hell with that Greek nonsense. My name is Cletus.”
Artemis cried like a child, tears mixing with blood from her busted lip and nose as both streams streaked down her face. Artemis crawled helplessly across the ground as she tried to escape Cletus.
“I violated your holy ground,” Cletus said. “I slaughtered your treasured animal. I used its blood to beat you into submission. I will use that blood to kill Hera and your father and any other god that stands before me. I will also kill you, but before I do, I am going to destroy everything that makes you who are, Artemis. I hope your family hears your screams and does nothing to save you.”
Weeks later, Cletus walked through a dark tunnel with several large bags over his shoulders. Heat bellowed from deep within the cave. As Cletus continued his journey, a faint red glow appeared at the end of the tunnel.
Flames and smoke belched from the earth as Cletus entered a massive room. Numerous flaming pits and geysers coated the floors. Various junk littered the ground including weapons, armor, metallic creatures, and random half-finished scraps of metalwork. Smoke and steam filled the chamber, drifting up and out of shafts in the domed, volcanic ceiling. A giant stone table rested at the center of the room.
A disgusting behemoth slept against the side of the table. Burns and scars covered the thing’s reddened skin. It wore a loose-fitting, black apron that displayed its gargantuan, rotund belly. Aside from the monster stomach, thick, bulging muscle covered the majority of its body. Except it’s right leg, which had been mangled in such a horrible way that it appeared unnaturally thin and long with three joints.
“Smith god!” Cletus screamed over the earth’s rumbling. “Wake up, Hephaestus. I’ve come to speak with you.”
The lame god roared as he woke and stretched. Rolling onto his stomach, he stared at Cletus. The top of Hephaestus’s head lacked hair, but an unruly mane of red fur surrounded his face. His dirty, tangled beard grew so thick it hid his neck and shoulders. His enormous right eye spun in circles while Hephaestus used his good eye to examine Cletus.
“Heracles,” Hephaestus spoke through one corner of his mouth while the other drooped. “There’s been a lot of talk about you lately, Old One. You’ve stirred up quite a bit of trouble, swearing revenge on Hera and Zeus alike. There’ve even been rumors of you killing mighty Artemis, and that you even killed her twin brother when Apollo came to save her. So, have you come to murder me next on your mad quest for vengeance?”
“I have no bad blood for you, Hephaestus,” Cletus said. “I come here to seek your aid.”
Hephaestus laughed gingerly.
“What aid can I possibly give to you?”
“I need a weapon capable of killing the Olympians, even Zeus himself. I have brought materials that I believe can kill the Olympians.”
Cletus tossed his bags onto the table.
“What’s all this?” Hephaestus asked as he rummaged through the bags.
“There’s a sack with the golden hind in it. I have a waterskin filled with hydra’s blood. I retrieved the adamantine sickle Kronos used to castrate Uranus. There’s also the heads of your siblings, Artemis and Apollo.”
“And you desire a weapon that can kill Zeus?”
“Yes. You are the only one who can make this for me, Hephaestus. I value your work high above that of the Cyclopes.”
“If it’s the death of the Olympians you seek, you’ve come more than prepared,” Hephaestus said as he rubbed his damaged leg. “I’ve wanted to see the death of my parents for a long time. Give me a little while.”
Hephaestus gathered the sacks and disappeared deep within his forge. Cletus sat cross-legged in the volcanic ash and waited for Hephaestus to return.
Several hours later, Hephaestus rumbled back into the room. In his right hand he held a sword surrounded by fire. He handed the sword to the caveman. The blade measured almost twice as long as Cletus stood tall. Black leather wrapped the handle, and a glass ball full of dark red ichor formed the pommel. Cletus looked at his reflection in the bright red blade and smiled.
“I call this sword Zeusbane,” Hephaestus said. “It is the finest weapon I have ever made. The blade is bronze and adamantine smelted together, scorched in the flames of Olympus and tempered with the blood of the hydra and the hind. I folded and shaped the blade, dipped it in the hind’s blood, cooled it in water from Styx, and refolded the alloy six thousand times. I installed an intricate system of living metal circulation to constantly coat the blade in fresh hind’s blood. The leather grip is made from the tanned hide of the sacred deer.
“I worked the essence of the Bringer of Light and the Maiden Huntress into the metal. Anyone who wields the sword will gain a portion of the twins’ strength, speed, and cunning. Not that you’d need it, Old One.
“Finally, I blessed the sword with my own power. When it is near a god, the blade will burst into flames. The more powerful the god is, the hotter and wilder the fire burns. The sword is always hot, able to burn whoever touches it.
“I have given you my divine protection, Heracles. Neither the blade nor flames nor heat of Zeusbane can ever harm you. Though I assure you that it can easily sear the flesh from even Zeus’s bones.”
“I am honored and forever in your gratitude,” Cletus said with a bow. “I have one final request. Will you point me in the direction of Mount Olympus?”
Hephaestus chuckled. “I can do more than that. I have a doorway I can open for you that leads to the castle of the Olympians. Before you go, I want you to know that I’ll help as much as I can. I crafted Hera’s throne centuries ago. At any time, I can activate the magic within it to trap her in the chair. I have robotic creatures hiding throughout Olympus. They will take your side in the fight.”
Hephaestus led Cletus to a giant metal ring. The god fiddled with the ring. The ring clicked and spat out smoke, but would not start. Hephaestus kicked the machine, and it buzzed to life. Blue light filled the ring and flickered until a view of a beautiful city made of crystal, marble, gold, and bronze appeared. Cletus nodded at Hephaestus. Armed with the Nemean cloak, the bow of Artemis, a quiver filled with gold and silver arrows stolen from Apollo and Artemis, his club, and the god-slaying sword; the caveman charged through the gate to Mount Olympus.
Cletus stepped out of the gate right at the entrance to the Olympic castle. He immediately heard a frightened gasp. Looking up, Cletus saw a silver-haired boy in a white tunic, winged sandals and a winged cap sitting against the wall above the castle entrance. The boy jumped down and sprinted into the castle before Cletus could draw his bow.
Nocking a golden arrow into Artemis’s bow, Cletus ran into the castle. Hordes of filthy dogs, wild pigs, and vultures greeted Cletus in the entrance hall. Cletus fired arrows that ignited into beams of light as they soared at their targets. Cletus kicked any animals that came too close as he launched volleys of arrows into the swarm of beasts.
A blood-curdling scream filled the hall. A crazed, muscular man sprinted toward Cletus. The man wore only a helmet and a small loin cloth. The man carried a spear and shield. Loose chains wrapped his arms and legs. A cluster of lesser gods dressed in similar fashion raced behind their leader.
“Heracles!” the head god snarled.
“God of War!” Cletus barked back. “Can you not face me without your swarm of underlings?”
Cletus dropped Artemis’s bow as he drew Zeusbane from his back. Brilliant red flame engulfed the weapon. Ares thrust his spear at Cletus, but Cletus knocked the blow aside. Cletus swung his greatsword at Ares. Zeusbane clashed against the war god’s shield. The shield protected Ares, but the flaming sword crushed the shield. Ares threw the twisted metal away and lunged at Cletus. The caveman parried the strike and cut the spear in two.
Ares unleashed a hysterical war cry as he attacked the caveman with his bare hands. The god punched Cletus across the room. Cletus lost his grip on Zeusbane, and the magic sword skidded across the floor. Ares pounced upon the weapon to claim it. The moment Ares grabbed the sword, fire consumed his hands. The god of war screamed in agony as he dropped the sword from his blackened hands. Cletus tackled Ares to the ground. Cletus grabbed the blade and brought it down ferociously. Ares’s head split in half all the way down to his jaw.
Ares convulsed wildly. Flames and red mist poured from his wounds. The body withered into ash and disappeared. A distorted face of anguish formed in the red smoke. The cloud flew around the room, wailing like a banshee before fading.
Cletus returned Zeusbane to his back. Grabbing his stolen bow, he pushed on. At the top of a mountain of ivory stairs, Cletus burst into a massive throne room. A circle of twelve gigantic thrones lined the walls. A brilliant map of the world painted the floor. With the exception of Hades and Poseidon, the remaining Olympians fought robotic spiders in the throne room. Hera stayed motionless on her throne and watched the others battle Hephaestus’s mechanical creatures.
Cletus loosed waves of arrows. Within moments, the dying Olympians filled the room with smoke and lights with only Hera remaining. The caveman tossed Artemis’s bow to the ground and drew Zeusbane, now blazing with a white flame up to Cletus’s elbow. Cletus sprinted at the queen of the gods and cut her head off.
Storm clouds filled the room with darkness. Lightning flashed. Thunder shook the ground. “Cletus!” Zeus bellowed as he appeared at the center of the room.
“I have no desire to kill you here, Zeus,” Cletus said. “It is your fault that I’m standing in this situation now, but you have given me incredible gifts. With your Eyes, I see the world as no other man could. You ensured my life would be one of excitement. Hera and her brood tormented me for years, but now they are gone. I am at ease. Step aside and allow me to leave peacefully.”
“You think that you can murder my entire family, my wife and children, and then leave here in peace?” Zeus asked, shaking the castle with each thunderous word. “You are a fool, Old One.”
An eight-foot bolt of white energy formed in Zeus’s hand. The god swung the rod of light, firing off a jet of lightning at Cletus. The caveman threw up the Nemean cloak, deflecting the lightning just in time. Zeus stormed forward, sliding across the ground on streams of electricity. Cletus threw up Zeusbane to block an electrified punch from the Olympian king. With Zeus so near, the flames around the sword spread into a massive, blue pyre surrounding Cletus. Zeus reached for the caveman’s throat, but Zeusbane’s protective flames charred Zeus to the bone.
“You dare protect him, Hephaestus?” Zeus asked the sky as he backed away from Cletus. “You freak. You are no son of mine.” Setting his icy gaze back on Cletus, Zeus said, “I have made you far too powerful, Ancient One.”
Energy whirled through Cletus, surging from every inch of his body. The power moved to his chest where it launched from his body as a bolt of blue lightning. Zeus collected the energy in his palm, forming a glowing blue sphere the size of a marble.
“Now,” Zeus said, “you lack the power I gave you. You are nothing more than a very old man.”
Fatigue washed over Cletus, but the caveman still laughed maniacally.
“I don’t need that to stop you!”
Cletus swung Zeusbane, unleashing a whirlwind of flames into the room. The flaming tornado engulfed Zeus for a brief moment. The fire died out as power left Zeus. The god crumpled to the floor.
“While I’m technically not human since I’m a Neanderthal,” Cletus said calmly as he walked toward Zeus, “I, like every other person, have a power that you lack and cannot understand. We have imaginations.
“I am over a quarter million years old. You Olympians didn’t exist at all back in my time. No gods did yet. All of you came to life from the imagination of mankind. Since enough people believed that you were real, you became real. Rest assured though. Eventually, people will stop believing in you. Then, when there’s no trace left of you in any man’s mind, you’ll finally weaken and disappear.
“I’m leaving you now. Please, do not proceed with more violence, or I will strike you down.”
Cletus turned to leave. Zeus growled savagely as he heaved his burned body into a final attack. Cletus spun around and stabbed Zeusbane hilt-deep into the god’s chest. Electric blue smoke poured from the wound. The mist drifted, forming a massive cloud. Lightning and storms formed in the cloud of blue smoke. The storm changed into the face of Zeus.
The god’s raw essence launched at Cletus. The caveman threw up Zeusbane to block the ghost’s assault. Uninhibited by his physical form, the powers of Zeusbane no longer harmed the Olympian. Zeus tore through the blade.
Instantly, Prometheus’s crystal exploded into a wave of amber light around Cletus. The Titan’s essence shielded Cletus from Zeus. The ball of energy lifted Cletus into the sky and zoomed toward the horizon.
“Cletus,” Prometheus’s voice filled the bubble, “to protect you, I must take you far away. I must take you to a place where no one worships Zeus. By killing him, you released his purest energy and truest form. Striking Zeus down made him infinitely more powerful. Soon, he will go mad, destroying all that remains of the Olympians before slowly dying.
“I am taking you north. Your new home will be a place where civilized men have not yet lived. Please, try to live a happy, peaceful life there, Cletus.
The sphere of amber light crashed into a muddy riverbank, knocking Cletus unconscious upon impact.