Valentine's Enemy: A Vignette
- by Arianwen P.F. Everett -

     Everybody knows the story of Valentines Day, of the Bishop of Interamna, Valentine, who defied the then Emporer Cladius II, marrying lovers, when Cladius had outlawed the practice. But that was not the whole story. Most say Cladius II was insane with the desire to conquer and demanded more soldiers; banishing marriage to this end, as to keep his army without families to destract them from war.

     But there was no madness in Cladius II, only a God wispering in his ear.

     Mars, Roman God of War had never much cared for marriage. His own parents, known now as Jupiter and Juno, were married, and his father continually cheated, his mother resigning herself to cursing the women and their offspring that resulted from Jupiter's infidelity.

     The Godess Venus, his current lover was good for a roll in the hay, but her incessant talk of Love only sought to remind him of what he did not have, and had not had for over two centuries. Personally, he despised her, always had, but their association was quite politically profitable on Olympus, so he played the game well, pretending to care a damn about their relationship, and pleasing her enough to stay in her bed and her good graces. Besides, she knew he didn't love her. She was the Godess of Love, and so she needed a handsome consort for her image in the increasingly patriarchial Roman world. He provided that for her. He was using her; she was using him. And part of him hated it, hated her, the Godess of Love for abandoning him, letting his only true love wither and die, like all mortals did. Venus, then Aprodite, had known his suffering, his pride forcing him to do nothing, and yet she would not intervene either.

     As always, the only calm he found was the knowledge that now his love resided in the Elysian Fields, happy, nolonger burdened by what she considered her evil past. She rested with heros, his Destroyer of Nations. He wasn't allowed in the Elysian Fields, Hades made sure of that, and even if he was to go there, defy his uncle and his father, he knew she wouldn't be the same. She was now a shade, and therefore dumb as a post, for with the resting of the soul, came the dispersement of all cares, all knowledge, even ones own name. But even if she wouldn't remember, he'd never forget it.

     "Xena!" he wispered in awe. Even her name was enough to conjure up memories, bittersweet though they were.

     He often wondered, had he ever loved her before he lost her that first time to his meddlesome half brother of his, Hercules. Before she had met him, she was just a great warlord, the best of her generation. She was a beautiful woman, but the world and Olympus was filled with beautiful women. Before she had turned good, she had meant very little to him. But it took loosing her to realize what she had meant, and then his pride had kicked in, a defense against his feelings. He had plagued her, tried to have her executed, turned insane, and persecuted her for the rest of her days on Earth. And still, she never had returned to him. But she had saved his Godhood twice and helped in defeating Dahok and Callisto, the two greatest threats to face the Olympian Gods since the day of the Titans. She had been remarkable! And again, at the age of 54, she had left him, this time for good.

     And that bitch Venus had been there at that battle, when that damned blade had run her threw, killing the only love he, the God of War would ever know. And Venus had done nothing to save her, just stood by, not wanting to dirty her hands on mortal blood! She had let his Xena die, and when he had asked her about it, once Hermes had delivered the message from Hades, all she said was 'You never asked to save her."

     They say he'd attacked the Bitch at that point. Mars couldn't remember. He was numb for four decades, four decades in which Greece had been replaced by Rome as the strongest power, and his name had been changed by the mortals. In truth Mars never had existed; Ares had died that day with Xena. Now he was just a shell. He loved war now because of the way it broke lovers apart, but his true appreciation of the beauty behind it was lost with his given name.

     He wispered into the mind of the current Emporer Cladius II, promising him great power if he did away with marriage, rationalized it to the weak willed mortal! Venus would pay! She, loosing her power base of marriage, no one would worship her without fear for their lives. She would wither, though she would never die, and she would be miserable! As miserable as he was now!

     He even came out that February day in 270AD, to watch the monk stoned, clubbed, and decapitated. This man was of another one God religion, and beside that, he sought to give to others what the true Gods were denied themselves. He was also most favored by the weakening Venus. As then bishop's head was seperated from his body, Mars thought of Xena again and wept bitter tears.


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