When Shtenno learned it had been Eleima while guarding Demophon who had killed his brother, he remembered the promise he made. He sent a messenger out to Demophon and told him to prepare for war. He called upon the God Kelaino to stand by him.
Finally Shtenno convened his army in the valley of Gaugamela. He had 10.000 horses and ten times as many archers at his disposal, and from the armies he had already conquered he had brought the most horrendous men. If his own soldiers exercised restraint in battle with those they regarded as equals, these conquered men had nothing left to lose, and they feared no one. Shrouded in lion’s skins and armed with hatchets and spears they stood at the ready to measure themselves agains any adversary whenever their leader commanded it, and to rip the flesh from their bones.
While Shtenno was cultivating his army, Demophon was also preparing himself. His archers were famous for their flawless aptitude, able to pierce the heart of an enemy from a distance of hundreds of meters, and many had fallen under their arrows without ever having seen an adversary. These men had died despairing, with dazed expressions on their faces, without any glory or heroism, like animals that can only follow.
Demophon’s cavalry was equally famous, not only because they were strong and rode the most beautiful horses, but also because they were connected to their animals in a way that made both equally agile. Like birds, man and horse flew over the scaffolding of any enemy and upon ascending to the earth they crushed the bones of the other fighters. Those who still lived were hit by great machines spraying a mixture of burning sulfur and tar.
It was not just enormous violence that would soon be unleashed, this war was also different from all that had preceded it. For although these were random armies, many of them knew who they were to face; their fathers had once marched side by side, their brothers in battle were brothers in the flesh to the men of the other army. Many of them had connected themselves through marriage to families that now stood opposed. All knew that every strike would be a wound in their own flesh, but they felt bound to defend the honour of their king, even though they did not know that Shtenno had only committed to this battle for the sake of his brother who had died by his own fault.
Before the great fight was to start, Demophon sent a messenger to Shtenno’s camp requesting to talk to him again. Although Shtenno’s generals had assured him that the victory would be quick and overwhelming, the young king did not wish to reject the request. His generals warned him to be prepared for trickery, but Shtenno said: I have once regarded this man a brother, I shall not deny him his wish. He asked Kelaino to accompany him, and so he rode to the center of the battlefield where Demophon awaited him, accompanied by Eleima.
Demophon said: It is clear that I do not lack the courage to die, and that I will not champion any kind of favour, so that I will not shirk from what is ahead, whether it be peace or war. And yet, only horrors await us. When I think of the tears of all those who will be left behind after their loved ones have died, would it not be preferable to save one? I could see it as my duty to shield you, at the very least, to the extent that it is in my power to do so. I wish you no harm, and I would let you kill me with confidence if that would avert the bloodshed, because what is the life of one man compared to so many? But if I cannot save you, rest assured that I will not let my people perish at your hand.
To that young Shtenno said: I have sworn not to rest until the woman by your side, the same woman by whose fault my brother has died, would lose a child. I have devoted my life to the preparation of this battle.
Thereupon Eleima turned to them both and she said: See how all these people yearn for battle, they wish what you both wish for the reasons you have both given. Honour, pride and the call for vengeance have brought them here, but also love for you, desire, devotion to the greatness of their own powers and trust in your wisdom. But tell me: What kingdom will arise from the blood of those who are prepared to sacrifice their possessions and their life for it? What good can the suffering of so many people bring? Some are fathers and grandfathers, others are sons and grandsons, all are family and friends. They have honourable professions, they love with a love that can transcend the world, and yet they are prepared to die for that which pleases and displeases you. Is what you are offering them worth this sacrifice?
You can both appeal to people driven to extremes, and perhaps they are just blinded by bloodlust, perhaps they do not know that evil resides in fighting friends; but you, who know what is at the root of this battle, should you not turn away from such a great crime?
Shtenno answered: It is peculiar that we are prepared to say goodbye to so many in order to taste the pleasure of our own righteousness, and yet, how can I ever be righteous if I am not steadfast in my convictions?
He turned to his father and asked him: Oh father-warrior, must I not avenge my brother, although I have sworn to do so?
Thereupon his father, the wise king Darius, answered: I have seen many battlefields, I have felt the blood of brave people on my hands. Blood cannot be washed away with blood, the tears of the mourning will not comfort you.You are my son and I will fight at your side, but your brother was my son also and yet he did not stand at my side.
Shtenno turned to Kelaino and asked him: Oh warrior-father, must I not avenge my brother, although I have sworn to do so?
And Kelaino answered: The body is no more than a vehicle for the eternal Heart. It can be used as a weapon or to make someone smile. If your intentions are good, your body may decay but the Heart shall return to the source untouched. But it is said that all harm you do shall be your own, so do not let your Heart be darkened by insecurity.
Death visits all equally. The wise do not mourn the dead, because they know that nothing is permanent except the Supreme Spirit that saturates all that lives and all that is. She is in the Heart of everyone and nothing can destroy the eternal Heart, The Heart is the unchangeable, it shall go where it must go.
This human life is limited, it can be overseen, especially when the end approaches; so why would you refuse to acknowledge what has been was good? Be grateful for what has been given. Remember the days you were happy if you wish, because you have the right to look back when you are about to lose everything. But do not grow attached to what has been, not even if it was good. Do not mourn what has passed, do not mourn what will soon be over, either. Do not mourn what you did not like, even if it could have been different, because it was not different. Do not mourn the person you have been, do not mourn the one you were not, mourn least of all what you will be no more.
Here in this moment you are the only one that matters and all the mistakes you have ever made are equal to all your good deeds, all that have gotten you this far. So now open your eyes and see the task that awaits you. Here, in this moment, you make the choice between honour and disgrace, between sincere intent and low desire, between dwelling in loneliness and becoming one with the many. The decision has already been made, you need only be the instrument.
Hereupon Demophon said: This battle has come to me like the rain comes to the earth. I seek no glory in this battle, nor do I avoid it. For my father’s sake I can do nothing but defend his name, because the honour of the other house is equal to the honour of mine. People come and go, we are nothing special, only what we leave behind determines how the Gods will remember us and how long these remembrances will last. I would rather be remembered as one who was just than as one who won great wars, although I know that people prefer to measure themselves with the bringer of a great disaster rather than with the bringer of a single good deed.
Eleima spoke: The goal of this world is not to escape it, but to blossom within it. This universe is perfect and within it each person creates their own destiny from the inside out. Everything the people do to each other in terms of injustice and cruelty originates in the people themselves, as a result of the structure of truths and convictions they themselves have made. These immovable convictions that people are so attached to are like a castle on a weak cliff that first excludes others and then collapses and buries its inhabitants. Only those who see this can make a just choice.
Upon hearing this, Shtenno rose and drew his sword, saying: Death will not separate us, but we will never be together in this life. He thrust his sword forwards, but Demophon too had drawn his sword. And their armies, seeing that the battle had begun, set themselves in motion and many died in the days that were to come.
For a whole week violence shook the earth, both armies were strong and there was no one among them willing to yield to anyone else, so that together they were like a monster fighting its own monstrous twin. Finally, Demophon en Shtenno stood facing each other once more, both were very battered. All around lay the disemboweled bodies of the people who had fought by their side. Tears were in the eyes of Demophon and he said: Remember what the Goddess told us. All these men have died, they have died for your sake, and yet it is not too late to turn back and realise that you are a prisoner of convictions that could just as easily be other convictions.
But Shtenno said: I have sworn that a son would die by my hand, I am bound by my word. And seeing that the war would bring no victory, he fell on his own sword and died in the arms of the man he had once considered his brother.