Athena and Arachne’s swords rang out in the warm Mediterranean air. Arachne was fast, but all those years had a spider had done nothing to teach her better swordplay. With each blow, Arachne was forced back, step by step. Athena pressed forward, not relenting. A high blow met an angled parry, a low blow forced Arachne to leap back to avoid the sword rising up to meet her stomach. Come on…Athena thought, egging herself onward. Maintaining the anger at Arachne to drive herself to not hold back was hard. Arachne’s threats were terrible, but to really get the most of them, Athena had to believe she would really do it. Would she?
That distraction gave Arachne an opening. She pushed downward with a weaving of Air, propelling herself up and back away from Athena. Athena tried to counter by pushing herself into the air, but Arachne deftly wove a correcting twist in Athena’s attempt. Reality, as if glad for the excuse to return to normal, struggled against Arachne.
Athena rolled to the side as Arachne hurled a lightning bolt across the battlefield. “That’s more like it!” Arachne shouted. “Come at me with everything! No more games, Athena!” Stones began to explode again near Athena’s feet, forcing her to take to the air or be impaled on splinters of stone. This time, Arachne didn’t risk the high power cost of breaking Athena’s manipulation, instead magnetizing the spines of rock she’d already created to come flying after Athena as she rose into the air.
With a flick of her wrist, Athena threw an air bubble between herself and the stones. A few punched through, and Athena fought back a shout of pain as one embedded itself in her calf. She saw her opening here, however. Reaching out, she grabbed bands of Air and Aether.
The sky grew dark, and Arachne looked up in confusion – just in time to see the sunlight gather into a shaft of pure light to come streaking out of the heavens towards her.
The old trick of Tyrs was one of his favorite battle enders. Being struck by the concentrated power of the sun had a way of making opponents simply stop existing. It had one major weakness – the way the sky went dark before it struck, alerting its target that the laws of physics were about to break down in a very lethal way.
Athena had been counting on that. Arachne had throw herself to the side with a powerful burst of air just before the light struck stone with enough energy to vaporize it into plasma. Arachne stared at where the beam had impacted, sweat running down her face. “Now…now I believe you’re taking this seriously.”
Athena gave her a grim smile as she settled back onto the ground, throwing forth a wave of fire that rolled along the ground. Arachne countered with a pressurized jet of water, powerful enough to sear flesh to the bone and easily dousing the flames in front of her. Athena threw up a stone pillar between herself and the jet of water, then – with a twist to give it direction – punched the back of the stone. It went flying at Arachne, slowed by the water jet but given added strength by Athena’s additional twists. Arachne easily leapt out of the way when it got too close to her, and swung down at Athena with a whip of molten rock.
Athena lurched to the side as the whip seared the earth she had just vacated. Coming up from the roll, Athena used one of her newer tricks, one Arachne hadn’t seen before.
She threw her sword. A quick twist gave the blade the mass of an elephant and hypersonic speed. It was the same twist she’d used to punch a hole in a hecatoncheires. Even divine reflexes weren’t enough to save Arachne completely. She started to dodge, but the blade still drew a thin line of blood from her cheek. Arachne’s hair whipped about in the in the shockwave of its passing.
Arachne grinned fiercely and threw her hands towards Athena. Another wave of lightning crackled from her fingertips. Athena twisted Earth, grounding the lightning before it could reach her. She dashed past the lightning to close the distance between herself and Arachne. Swords clashed again, but Athena could tell she was slowing down. Arachne barely seemed tired. The sound of steel on steel rung through the air, each of them putting everything they had into the blows. This was the kind of battle that had made mortals once fear gods, the kind of clash that created the rumors of gods with swords of lightning, bellowing thunder. The each had to weave Earth into their blades to prevent the steel from shattering under the repeated impacts.
Even those couldn’t hold forever. With one final downward strike from Athena, the swords shattered against each other. Arachne was quicker, and with a twist of Air she sent a hail of steel shards flying into Athena’s face.
Athena screamed as the splinters cut into her cheeks and forehead. An upraised hand saved her eyes from being pierced, letting steel embed itself in her palm. Before she could even begin to recover from that. Arachne’s knee shot up to meet Athena’s stomach. It hit with enough impact that it sent a shockwave cracking through the air. Athena rode the impact and the shockwave into the air.
Before she hit the ground, Arachne hurled a bolt of lightning from the sky, drawing it to the metal in Athena’s face.
Athena was too far past pain to scream then. Her vision went white, and her body seized up as white hot electricity lanced through her veins. She collapsed to the ground, the distant sound of thunder echoing in her ears.
Arachne was walking towards her with a slow deliberation. She’d pulled another sword out of her nanoverse, one that trailed the ground at her side. “So, Athena, this is how it ends.”
Athena held up a hand that twitched with the leftover pain from the lightning. Before she could speak, another bolt of lightning flew down from the sky, again drawn to the metal in her face. This time Athena did find the pain the scream. When her vision cleared, Arachne was standing over her, the sword raised and ready to bring down.
“I…yield,” Athena managed to croak out.
Arachne’s face hardened, and she brought down the sword. Distantly Athena could hear Anansi cry out, but he was too far away, too late to prevent it, too late to stop from Arachne from driving the sword through Athena’s heart.
The sword struck the earth next to Athena, sinking into the ground without even touching her. Arachne regarded her coolly as she stared at Athena. Then she nodded slowly. “I accept your surrender.”
Then, with careful deliberation, she turned away from Athena. “Get up.”
Limbs trembling from repeated electrocution, Athena did.