Early one bright summer morning, the oracle of Delphi made her way toward the temple of Apollo from her humble lodgings. As she walked, she prayed to all the gods to make her of use to the fellow mortals she served. She prayed to Apollo, of course, but also to Athena as she walked past her temple, which had first been erected after the goddess had mediated the affair of Ion. And the oracle prayed to Dionysus, whose spirit lay slumbering now above the town in the Corycian Cave, and to Zeus, by whose sufferance alone mortal men were allowed to exist.
But when she mounted the steps leading up to the temple of Apollo, she was jerked out of her spiritual reverie. The simple lock on the doors before her — put there more for form than function, for who would dare violate the home of a god? — had been shattered and cast aside, and the doors themselves stood slightly ajar. The oracle first thought to call for one of the town guards, but some impulse gave her pause. Being a woman attuned to such impulses of the spirit, she opened the doors a little further and slipped cautiously inside.
At first, the interior seemed to be deserted. But then the oracle noticed that the door to the inner sanctum, where she alone was allowed to enter to commune directly with the god, also stood ajar. Peering into the small chamber, she saw a man sprawled against the sacred omphalos stone that Zeus had once used to mark Delphi as the center of the world. The man lay there either asleep or unconscious, wreathed in the sacred vapors which, when inhaled, revealed Apollo’s presence. Yet he was blasphemously filthy, and covered with small bruises and wounds, some of them still dripping blood. He clutched to his chest an olive branch, symbol of peace and piety. He had need of any aid it might bring him, for crammed around him in the narrow space were the three most disgusting hags the oracle had ever seen. They snored loudly as they slept — a repellent sound indeed — and green rheum oozed out of their closed eyes. The smell was appalling.
The oracle darted all the way back outside in fright. No stranger had entered the temple’s inner sanctum since Heracles, privileged by gods and men alike, had done so so many years ago. Certainly no beings as profane as these hags had ever crossed the threshold. And what to make of the vagrant who lay beside them? The sacrilege of breaking and entering Apollo’s temple in such a state as he was, then using its most sacred space as a handy bivouac, was so immense as almost to defy punishment. Who would dare such acts at all, much less do so with no apparent regard to their discovery? The very enormity of the sacrilege seemed to portend that all of these beings were something more than ordinary criminals. The oracle hesitated there on the steps, unsure what to do.
Meanwhile, inside the inner sanctum, the man awoke. Orestes — for it was Orestes, fled here with these Furies at his heels — opened his eyes to his familiar nightmares, muttering and snorting in the grip of their evil dreams. He clung more tightly than ever to the omphalos stone and the olive branch, and prayed, silently but frantically, to Apollo for assistance. The god heard his call; from the midst of the vapors that filled the room, there appeared his shining figure, somehow transcending the narrow confines of the space. Still holding onto the omphalos stone like a drowning sailor grips a lifeline, Orestes spoke.
“Apollo,” he begged, “I come to you as the humblest of suppliants. I need your help! For ten years, these hags have chased me across the length and breadth of Greece.”
The god’s response was soothing. “You needn’t fear now. These lunatics cannot touch you here in my inner sanctum.”
“But who are they?” pleaded Orestes. “And why do they harry me so?”
“They are the byproducts of Uranus’s rage against Cronus for the first great act of betrayal in the history of the world. The only motive their cruel hearts know is revenge. They chase you now to avenge the killing of your mother.”
“But you told me I must kill her!” wailed Orestes pathetically.
“Yes, I know this.”
“I can’t stay here forever! Where should I go? What can I do to be free of them?”
“I’m afraid you must flee before them once again,” said the god. “But flee this time to Athens. Go to the statue of Athena in the acropolis there. There we will decide what’s to be done about your case. Your way is bound to be a hard one, I’m sorry to say, but I will ask my brother Hermes to smooth it as much as possible. Take heart, and remember that Zeus is often merciful to the wanderer and the exile. Now, steal a march on the foul creatures while they sleep! Run!” And Orestes ran, as he had been doing for a decade now.
The oracle, still standing there dithering anxiously on the steps outside the temple, was almost knocked down by the disheveled man as he stumbled down the steps and ran away without looking back. So, one of her unwelcome visitors at least was gone. But what of the three hags? Had they been a vision rather than corporeal beings? Steeling herself, she went into the temple’s outer audience chamber again. There she was discomfited to hear a female voice coming from the inner sanctum; if the hags had been a vision, the vision was still ongoing. She slunk carefully up to the doorway and peered inside.
Much to her surprise, four female figures were now gathered there: the three hags and a regal woman with the bearing of a queen, whose beautiful dress was splotched with what appeared to be her own blood. She was berating the others. “What good are you asleep? Look at me! I am dead, and stripped of honor to boot, thanks to the news of my killing of my husband that has spread so far and wide. It’s all really his fault, for killing our daughter and betraying his bonds of wedlock, but no god takes my part, not even after my own son has slaughtered me. Look at the wounds he gave me! Take the sight to heart, goddesses from the time before goddesses. I call on you to avenge me!”
The hags, still bleary-eyed, muttered to each other in sleepy confusion. But their hectorer was relentless. “The man’s run off while you dozed here so pleasantly! Go now! Don’t slack! Don’t soften! Don’t forget what I’ve suffered! Send your breath after him like a storm of gore! Shrivel him with fire! Wither him! Hound him!”
Stirred by her words, the hags soon matched her fury, giving voice to resentments which encompassed more than the temporary escape of one terrified mortal. They pointed to the omphalos stone, still smeared with the blood and mud of Orestes, where the olive branch he had clutched still lay. “He escapes us thanks to the young gods,” they shrieked. “Apollo defies the most ancient of all laws of the world: the one that demands blood for blood, until the bitter end. But no matter. The red gruel of the sinner’s body shall be his atonement. We will slobber it up, then drag the husk of him below the earth for proper retribution.”
But when the Furies mentioned the name of Apollo here in his most sacred space, they inadvertently summoned him to it for the second time that morning. Even as the ghost of Clytemnestra hastily faded away, he towered before the Furies in this room which seemed to grow in dimensions other than the physical to accommodate his glory. “Leave this house!” he shouted in fury. “This is my prophet’s shrine. It’s disgraceful to see you here. There’s no place for your notions of justice here — your beheadings, your gouged-out eyes, your castrations and amputations, your stonings and impalings. You should share a cave with a blood-guzzling lion, not wipe your dirt here in my oracle’s refuge. Move off, you strays, you feral goats!”
Yet the Furies refused to be cowed. “You share his guilt,” one of them ventured.
“What? What do you mean?”
“You told the boy to kill his mother.”
“Certainly — to avenge his father.”
“Well, then,” said the Fury slyly, “our motives are the same. We wish merely to avenge his mother.”
“But she killed his father!” thundered Apollo.
“That’s as may be,” said the Fury obstinately. “A crime is a crime.”
Apollo could only shake his head at this. “You wrong Orestes by making him an outcast. You take his crime to heart, but fail to account for hers. I have already decided that we will settle this in Athens.”
“We will never leave him in peace!” hissed the Furies.
“Then go after him,” Apollo shrugged. “Keep up your useless struggle until he arrives in Athens.”
“Don’t speak so contemptuously of our inheritance! We are the witnesses for the dead, who exact what is owed them in blood.”
“An inheritance?” Apollo scoffed. “I’d hardly consider it a gift.”
“You stand here with your reason and judgment. But we are guided by the original, primal laws of the world. A mother’s blood trail leads us on to exact revenge.”
“And I insist on justice, not revenge!” bellowed Apollo.
“The two are one and the same!” insisted the Furies.
“Well, then, I intend to prevent you from exacting either,” said Apollo. “Not, at least, until Orestes reaches Athens.” And he winked out of existence.
The oracle shrank back into the shadows on either side of the doorway as the Furies, hounds on the trail once again, flashed past her without a glance. What a morning, she thought to herself, and she went to collect water, oil, and scent to rid the inner sanctum of the distasteful leavings of its most recent occupants.
Days later, the people of Athens stared in surprise at the apparent madman who appeared in their midst, running as if chased by the most horrifying of monsters, even though they could see nothing and no one behind him. Some of them followed him as he ran through the streets to ascend the hill which marked the center of the city. When he reached its crest, he ran to the statue of Athena and threw his arms around its knees. As soon as he did so, those Athenians who had followed him gasped — for now they too could see the hags which harried him. From the creatures’ slavering lips came a constant patter, a recitation of the cruel tortures they intended for their victim.
But Athena had heard the latter’s prayer. She appeared out of thin air, hovering magnificently above her statue. “What is your purpose here, vengeful ones?” she asked of the Furies, even though she already knew it full well.
“We’re charged with driving criminals from their homes.”
“And what is the endpoint of a criminal’s exile?”
“A place beyond joy.”
“And what is this one’s crime?” Athena asked, gesturing to her suppliant.
“He killed his mother.”
“But were there possibly extenuating circumstances?”
“What circumstance can excuse such a crime as this? Revenge must be satisfied.”
Athena paused in thought. “If you are so convinced that your purpose is just, you should also believe that it can stand up to examination. So, I propose this. I will preside over a trial, for which I will bring together a jury of mortals — the stranger’s peers. We will weigh the merits of your case against him, as we will those of the case in his defense. If you prove that yours is just, you may have him, to do with what you will. But if not, you must let him go free. What say you to this?”
It may have been a mere figment of the crowd’s imagination, but some of them thought the Furies looked at least momentarily less hideous. For the first time, they abandoned their feral crouch to stand up straight. “We agree,” they said simply.
Then Athena turned to Orestes. “Stranger, will you do the same? Will you agree to present the reasons you feel yourself not to be guilty of a crime against gods and men, and accept the verdict that is rendered in the end?”
“Yes,” said Orestes. “This I pledge to do.”
“Very well,” said Athena. “People of Athens, I charge you with assembling a citizens’ jury, which should consist of the wisest and most fair-minded among you. At noon tomorrow, we shall meet at a promontory just northwest of this one — the promontory which you call the Areopagus. Until the trial, you Furies must cease to harry your quarry. And you” — turning now to Orestes — “clean yourself, find fresh clothes, and make yourself as presentable as possible. Until tomorrow, then.” And Athena disappeared.
The people of Athens treated Orestes as an impoverished guest deserves to be treated, giving him fresh food and clean clothing and ample water for bathing. Meanwhile the king of Athens personally selected the twelve men who were to decide the case, all of whom gave solemn oaths to do so on its merits alone.
Just about all of the people turned out early the next day to see the trial. All of the prime viewing spots were taken long before noon. The people rushed up to the central acropolis where Athena’s statue stood, where there was a good view across to the Areopagus. When it was full, they crowded the balconies, rooftops, and streets down below. But only Orestes, the three Furies, and the twelve white-haired jurors, blinking a little sheepishly in the blazing summer sun, dared to stand upon the Areopagus proper.
The people of Athens got a show that day which they would never forget. Thanks to much haggling and cajoling on the part of Athena and Apollo, all of the Olympian gods assembled together on this day before the eyes of ordinary men, an event which had never happened before and would never happen again. In addition to the two divine instigators of the whole affair, there were clumsy Hephaestus, ugly and lame, caked with the soot and grease of the furnaces and machines which alone gave him solace; slender Artemis, dressed in simple deer skins, all the more alluring for giving no heed to her beauty; lithe Hermes in his winged sandals, as clever as he was dutiful; vain Aphrodite, dressed in a clingy gown of a nearly transparent weave, beguiling to every male and many a female eye, just as she craved to be; hulking Ares, crude and rude, wielding his bloody axe, threatening violence by his very appearance; prim Hera, beautiful but somehow not alluring, wearing her usual expression of vague disapproval; quiet Hestia, looking uncomfortable, happy to fade into the background of her more flamboyant peers; forbidding Hades, black as night except for eyes which shone with either justice or malevolence, it was impossible to say which; burly Poseidon, carrying his enormous golden trident, with skin and hair alike of sea green; and Zeus the father, his splendor dimmed to avoid harming the mortals who looked upon him, but still an awesome spectacle indeed, with thunder grumbling around him and electric energy charging the air in his vicinity. Then, too, there was Demeter, standing demurely next to Hestia in her garlands of wheat and roses, an island of placidity amidst an ocean of bickering conversation. And then there was another, uninvited guest of a god: Dionysus, the beautiful eternal youth, laughing at some joke only he seemed to have heard, happy as usual just to watch and mock the oh-so-serious affairs of the other gods.
All of these immortals assembled on one side of the Areopagus. Athena and Apollo directed the twelve ordinary old men of Athens to the other side, where they gathered behind a table on which stood two urns, one black and one white. The two presiding gods, along with Orestes and the Furies, remained in the center of the space.
“I, who will act as the presiding judge, hereby call this trial to order,” proclaimed Athena. “The mortal man you see before you, whose name is Orestes, is accused of the brutal slaying of his mother Clytemnestra, and of one other besides, a man named Aegisthus. It is down to us to decide whether he should be punished for these crimes. We begin with you, Lord Apollo. What is your interest in this matter?”
“I will act as advocate for Orestes,” answered the god. “I maintain that his actions were justified, not least because they happened at my own behest.”
“And you will act as prosecution?” Athena asked the Furies.
“Yes,” one of them answered. Again, they seemed transformed — or in the process of transforming. They stood upright now as a matter of course, and their expressions were no longer quite such masks of rage and hatred, but had become more pliable.
Yet if Athena noticed it, she said nothing. “We’ll begin with you, then,” she said to the Furies. “Make your case.”
One of the Furies approached Orestes, who stood calmly now before them, his frantic mien transformed into placidity by food, a bath, and a night of rest. “I’ll focus on the greater crime here, that of matricide,” said his prosecutor. “You confess to killing your mother?”
“Yes, I killed her.”
“And how did you kill her?”
“I cut her throat with my sword.” A stir passed through the ranks of both mortals and immortals at this frank admission.
The Fury prosecutor turned to the jury. “There you have it. The man admits his crime — a crime about whose punishment the ancient, primal laws we serve are clear. When Agamemnon killed his daughter Iphigenia, Clytemnestra immediately began to plot her revenge. Therefore we were not forced to act. But when Orestes slew Clytemnestra, there was no one to take up her cause… no one except for us, the last resort of the wronged.”
At this, a babble of argumentation broke out among the observers, and Orestes too began to protest. But Athena held up her hand for silence. “It seems the facts of the case are not in dispute,” she said. “So, I turn to you, Apollo. What defense can you offer?”
Apollo now stepped forward. “Did anyone else direct you to do this?” he asked Orestes.
“Why, yes. You directed me, through your oracle in Delphi.”
“You say that I ordered you to commit matricide?”
“Yes,” answered Orestes. “In fact, you said I myself would be punished gravely if I failed to do so.”
“And did I give a reason for ordering such a thing?”
“You did. As has just been admitted here, my mother had previously butchered her husband — that is to say, my father. I don’t understand why these Furies didn’t hound her for this act, if their laws are so immutable. Perhaps then my own ‘crime,’ as they call it, wouldn’t have been necessary.”
“The answer to that is known to all,” said one of the Furies. “Your mother wasn’t your father’s blood relation. The killing of one’s own kin is a far greater crime than that of murder alone.”
Apollo shook his head in disgust. He turned to speak directly to the jury. “To you, the cream of Athens’s citizenry, I submit that the prosecutors have weighed Orestes’s guilt by an archaic standard. His mother’s crime — that of the killing of the noble Agamemnon, hero of the Trojan War — was in fact as heinous as any that can be imagined. Orestes’s response was entirely justified.”
Suddenly Zeus spoke up. “I agree with my son Apollo,” came his booming voice. “To topple a king, a husband, and a father from his throne by means of violence is a worse crime than the killing of any mere woman.” Hera gave him an evil eye, but said nothing.
The Furies, however, were not so diffident. “And yet you did exactly this to your own father Cronus, if I’m not mistaken,” one of them hissed. “He remains imprisoned still beneath the earth.”
“That was different,” said Zeus, taken aback despite himself. “I did not kill him. Even now, I could remove his chains at any time I chose. Could Clytemnestra say the same if she was still alive?”
Hera could remain silent no longer. “Clytemnestra was herself avenging a yet greater crime, that of the killing of her and Agamemnon’s own daughter,” she shouted. “Will none of you see things from the point of view of a suffering mother? Why must it always be the women who endure silently?”
And so the debate continued for several hours, as every god pronounced at length upon who was most guilty. Only Hestia and Demeter stood quietly in their corner, looking like they wished they were anywhere else. Dionysus too was relatively quiet — but only because he was thoroughly delighted by the show. While the gods argued, the Furies’ gradual transformation continued: they went from feral hags to bereaved old women.
At last, the high, clear voice of Athena cut through the arguments and counterarguments. “Both sides have made their cases,” she said to the jury, whose presence the gods had completely forgotten amidst the tumult. “The real question before you, it seems to me, is whether the primeval laws of blood — as embodied by these Furies, the oldest of all the beings assembled here today — are absolute or can be altered by time and circumstance. Now you must render your verdict. I have just placed a stone in one of the pockets of each of you. Put it in the black urn if you believe Orestes to be guilty, in the white if you believe him to be innocent.” Materializing a piece of cloth, she held it over the two urns on the table, concealing them from the view of the spectators.
One by one, the old men of the jury shuffled forward to the table. The crowd heard each stone plink as it fell into an urn, but they couldn’t see which urn it was.
When the last vote had been cast, Athena removed the concealing cloth. She upended each of the urns; the stones inside could be heard rattling onto the tabletop as she did so. Then, simultaneously, she lifted the two vessels clear. On the table stood revealed two equal piles of six stones each.
The last of the jurors to deposit his stone, the most respected of them all, now took upon himself the role of spokesman. “I apologize for our indecision,” he said. “The case is a difficult one for all of us. We recognize the terrible crime which Clytemnestra committed by murdering her husband, but also recognize that crime’s own extenuating circumstance — namely Agamemnon’s killing of Clytemnestra’s daughter Iphigenia. And we were uncomfortable with the violent, hasty way which Orestes exacted his — or Apollo’s, if you wish — perception of justice. We wish a tribunal like this one could have been convened to deal with the crimes which preceded this one, so that matters never reached this pass. Lacking this, some of us were persuaded to vote one way, some the other. I’m afraid that, instead of black or white, our verdict is a shade of gray.”
“So be it,” said Athena. “The jury has found the defendant neither guilty nor innocent. That being the case, it seems to me that the only wise choice is to err on the side of mercy. Orestes is acquitted. We expect the Furies to abide by the promise they made before this trial began.”
For once, silence greeted this pronouncement. After a beat, it was broken by the voice of Orestes. “I thank you, mortals and immortals alike, for my deliverance,” he said. “I know not what other words to use to express my gratitude. But before I depart for home to take the throne that is mine by right, I swear to all of you assembled here today that no future king of Argos will ever bring war against Athens. And whenever you have need of additional spears to defend you against your enemies, you may always look to Argos.”
But now the Furies spoke up in far less conciliatory tones; the crowd was shocked to see as they did so that their process of transformation had continued. Now they were righteous female warriors, terrifying but pure. “How can this continue?” they asked. “For untold years now, you younger gods have disturbed the order of things with your inconsistent, self-serving notions of justice. ” And they proceeded to accuse the gods one by one, right there before the assembled populace of Athens.
“You!” one of them said, pointing to Dionysus. “You shamed and devastated the family of the noble Cadmus for trivial slights, which were themselves born more of ignorance than malice or impiety. And since then, you have led many a hero and many a hero’s wife to drunken dissipation for no reason whatsoever.” The god of wine tried one of his habitual smirks in response, but couldn’t quite pull it off.
“And you!” said another, facing Zeus. “Your boundless lust has brought disaster down upon countless innocent mortals. Europa, Danaë, Alcmene… the roll call of your rapes and seductions goes on and on. You call yourself the ultimate arbitrator of justice, but how can these acts be just?” Thunder and lightning crackled around the supreme god when he heard this, but, much to everyone’s relief, it never broke over the heads of the crowd; he said nothing.
“And you!” said a Fury, facing Hera. “How many lives have you destroyed in petty revenge for your husband’s many amours? You have tortured the targets of his lust even when they’ve been blameless victims of rape, and driven his children to all sorts of exigencies in order to punish them for the mere fact of their existence.” The goddess of marriage just stood there.
“And you!” said another Fury, pointing to Apollo. “You fancy yourself a paragon of reason and moderation, but your lust too sometimes overflows. How can you explain away what you did to Creusa and Cassandra?” The god of metaphysics and prophecy merely looked down at the ground, saying nothing.
“And you!” said a Fury, pointing to Aphrodite. “You cause constant pain and chaos among mortals and immortals alike every day just to gratify your petulant vanity. And then there’s your horrid little brat of a son, Eros. How many lives has he destroyed with his shafts of love, all for his own frivolous amusement?” The goddess of love simpered and fidgeted, but she said nothing out loud.
“And you!” said another Fury, facing Artemis. “Gentle goddess of the woods that you are, you turned Autonoe into a deer for the ‘crime’ of stumbling across you in the midst of a bath. And then you precipitated all of the tragedies we’ve argued over today when you caused Agamemnon to sacrifice his daughter on your divine whim.” The goddess of the hunt leaned shamefacedly upon her bow, silent.
“And you!” said a Fury, pointing to Athena. “Don’t think these showy exhibitions of wisdom you like to engage in absolve you from the rest of your deeds. The truth is that you’re as vain as Hera or Aphrodite. It was the vanity of the three of you that caused the Trojan War. Had you been as wise as you claim, we would not be here today. You’re hardly the disinterested arbiter you pretend to be.” The goddess of wisdom, shrinking before this assault, said nothing.
“We could go on, but what would be the point?” concluded the Furies, addressing all of the gods now. “All of you love to talk about justice, but your own actions are manifestly unjust.”
It was Apollo who broke the chastened silence which followed. “I believe these beings are right to take us to task,” he said slowly. “These men — these weak, short-lived creatures of the earth, whom we gods of the heavens so like to deride — have rendered a truly just verdict today. They’ve declared that justice is not always black or white — that there is room for shades of interpretation, space for argument. At the same time, they’ve elected to stop the bloody cycle of murder and revenge which has consumed the family of Agamemnon. Can we say that we could have done better? I suspect, based on past performances, that we would have done considerably worse.”
Now Apollo turned boldly to Zeus. “Zeus, father, greatest of all the gods, perhaps the time has come to stop interfering in the affairs of men — to let them find their own way. At one time, you bestowed all of the suffering of mortal existence upon man in revenge for your humiliation at the hands of Prometheus — a humiliation which man had nothing to do with beyond playing the role of the inadvertent spectator. Before he went to his own punishment, Prometheus gave man the gift of hope to make his lot easier. I ask you as well now to give man some partial recompense for all his suffering: give him his freedom. For, as we have learned here today, justice must encompass more than revenge.”
Everyone braced for a storm; Zeus wasn’t accustomed to being scolded. But the god’s response was blessedly mild. “What exactly is it that you propose?”
“I propose simply this: that we stop interfering in the daily affairs of man, and thereby stop the chaos which such interference always unleashes in his life. We have other lands, unknown to man, where we can dwell and amuse ourselves.”
“You propose that we withdraw entirely from this part of the world? That we withdraw from the affairs of the very creatures we created?”
“Not entirely, no. I will still speak through my oracle in Delphi, and the other gods may choose their own mediums. But our presence should be more attenuated. We should no longer appear as physical beings. Neither mortals nor immortals profit by that sort of interference.”
“But it may then come to pass that men find ways to explain away our more ethereal manifestations,” said Zeus. “They may in time begin to deny our very existence. What good are gods without worshipers?”
“That may come to pass,” acknowledged Apollo. “But think again of what we have seen here today. We have seen men temper justice with mercy. What might they achieve if left to their own devices? Wouldn’t you” — and here he addressed the whole divine assembly — “like to find out? We are immortals. Our lives are infinite. Why not give these humble temporal creatures some centuries of their own, just to see? Perhaps they will destroy themselves. So be it. But perhaps they will build something glorious — something made more rather than less glorious by its mortal fragility.”
Much to everyone’s surprise, Zeus nodded his great head. “I see some wisdom in this. I will agree to it. What say the rest of you?”
The rest of the gods too murmured their agreement, some admittedly more enthusiastically than others — but none dared to defy the stated will of Zeus. Out of some shared impulse, everyone gathered on and around the Areopagus looked to the Furies… only to find that those beings could not possibly be called Furies any longer. Three lovely maidens stood there with kindly expressions on their faces. “An epoch has ended today,” they said. “We don’t know what the next one will bring. But we ask that, for now, we be known as the Eumenides” — this means “Kindly Ones” — “rather than by our old name, which is now hateful to us. We will no longer harry mortals, but will hope that another form of justice will prevail — a justice tempered with mercy, of the sort we have seen here today.”
Zeus turned to the men of the jury. “So, then, it’s up to you now,” he said. “I leave this land called Greece to your race, along with all of its neighboring lands and the oceans and islands between them. We will still communicate after a fashion through our temples and oracles, but for the most part you must look to yourselves now rather than to us. The trial whose verdict you have decided today can serve as a lesson on how you may seek justice among yourselves, without relying on our mercurial whims. May it serve you better than we have served you.”
And one by one the gods winked out of existence for the very last time. The Age of Gods had ended. The Age of Men had begun.
(This series's cover art is by Dorte Lassen, who hereby releases it under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license. A full listing of print and online sources used will follow the final article in this series.)