Caineopus was revered by all of his people for his stature and his bravery. His scarred, toughened face that resembled old leather instilled fear in even the harshest of men. Behind him stood one thousand men, and Caineopus was loyal to each one of them by all means necessary, no matter what stance or rank they were. Caineopus was a one-of-a-kind individual; despite being head of his army, he would lay down his life, without a second thought, for even the lowliest soldier.
Caineopus was well-known for the battles he won for Saeopiane, a city-state of his father, Ares. Caineopus had driven back the masked minions of Tartarus with their eyes as bright as coals. He’d fought against the Monsters of the Dunes, with their many heads and scaly claws, until the sand was as red as sunset. And if Caineopus had to be known for one thing, he was assuredly immortalized by his chilling, animalistic howl.
But for every famous man, there is his archenemy, and Caineopus’s took the form of a cunning, deceptive woman.
Felianae, a strong, strategic entity, was a wanted criminal throughout Saeopiane. But only was she wanted by a partial few. Otherwise, Felianae was a celebrity, known far and wide as the saving grace of womankind; it would be her, a dark-haired, curvy daughter of Athena, trademarked by her striking amber eyes with strange, elongated pupils, who would bring justice to her followers.
Felianae had not won such extravagant battles as Caineopus’s victories against Tartarus’s minions or the Monsters of the Dunes—but that did not mean she didn’t have a track record of triumphs. Was it not her who compromised a group of Saeopiane’s best scouts—scouts sent on a mission by Caineopus, no less!—and captured every last one, tying them up in the middle of the city with their memories wiped and their tongues cut out? Was it not Felianae and her second-in-command who snuck aboard the warships of the fearsome Spartans when they advanced, crept about its underbelly, covertly steered the vessel into the rockiest cliffs of Saeopiane’s canal, and dove off the ship and onto their rescue boat—all without being seen? Felianae’s victories were fantastical and cunning. And, unlike Caineopus, with his vast numbers and brute strength, Felianae’s triumphs were always accomplished with small teams that relied wit and skill alone.
Felianae and Caineopus knew each other quite well, as enemies sometimes do. Long before Caineopus had risen to the top of the Saeopiaen army and Felianae had left her family to weave together an underground revolution, the two opposites were actually quite friendly; they were even in love once. The hardened, brutish warrior and the sly, beautiful strategist would meet in the night, unknown their respective spouses, and share secrets that no one else could know. But Felianae was soon discontent with her roles in life, and when she expressed this with Caineopus, her lover grew angry, accusing Felianae of blasphemy. It was then that their rivalry began.
The signs were subtle at first, but grew in strength as more and more of Saeopiane picked sides of the famous feud. The men—the soldiers and the followers of Caineopus—believed in setting Felianae and her ragtag gang of roguish women straight. The women—especially those special few who fought alongside Felianae and helped her carry out her multi-step schemes—believed that they had no right to be silenced in this way and would rise against their superiors.
Both the city-state of Saeopiane and the haven of Mount Olympus felt the force of this feud—the two opposing sides crashing into each other and receding like the roughest ocean waters. As Felianae and Caineopus led attacks against the other’s expense (such events including Caineopus’s painstaking search for Felianae’s hideout in the dunes, and the following charge into the area and torching all buildings in sight; and who could forget the weeks of unexplained disappearances, only to result in every missing man’s corpse being deposited anonymously in the town square, the word TRAITOR carved barbarically into their chests?), so did Ares and Athena grow agitated and restless upon their thrones. One could hear the war god pacing in the night, creating such thunder and disruption that every Grecian army found themselves fumbling and making mistakes far more than usual. And if a curious passerby were to peer into her alcove of maps and ideas, he would witness Athena’s struggle as she wadded up useless diagrams and outlines, tossing them into an overflowing wastebasket of failures as she tried in vain to help her daughter.
And oh, the fighting. The fighting was terrible. Blood trickled through the streets of Saeopiane day and night, staining the town a bright scarlet visible to the gods on their thrones. And this only worried Ares and Athena more, and in response, they became furious with one another for petty affairs. Athena’s muttering under her breath as she mentally calculated suddenly made it impossible for Ares to function; the war god’s constant shifting in his creaky throne was too much for Athena to bear, and so began exhausting fights that left the other Olympians wrung-out and cantankerous.
This was no help to Caineopus and Felianae, who unconsciously sensed their parents’ unrest and behaved accordingly. Caineopus’s armies had never before witnessed such rage and rigor as they were put through insufferable training: one hundred miles a day, no breaks, no water, always at full sprint, and afterwards the real training would begin. One would not be surprised to learn that the soldiers’ numbers greatly decreased with an increased death and disappearance rate.
Felianae’s state was no better; she kept her women up all hours of the night, demanding solutions and plans and plots and schemes that she couldn’t otherwise think of herself. One could witness her running about at the night at ungodly hours, waving scrolls of ideas the way one might wave a victory flag. She’d bang on the doors of her followers, and they’d arrive, sleepy-eyed and foggy-brained, as she screamed at them to get dressed—there were men to defeat, cities to conquer! And she found herself steadily losing her fellow strategists as quickly as Caineopus found himself losing soldiers.
“Fine,” they each resolved, their minds clouded by hatred and fatigue. “If I have to fight on my own, so be it.”
And then began what would famously go down as The Very Day, when Felianae fashioned herself the mother of all plots, and Caineopus put together the vastest array of weapons that a single man could have. As the sun rose on The Very Day, the Saeiopiaens closed their windows tightly and locked their doors, clutching their children to their chests as they shielded themselves from what they knew would be an unstoppable explosion of fury.
Felianae had her end of the destruction held up: a lodging in the city’s underground water system would create such pressure that, when she tugged the string and released the boulder clogging the torrent of water, the spray issued would smear her archenemy straight across Saeopiane.
Caineopus came prepared in the only way he knew how: with an arsenal that would’ve brought a Spartan to shame. Javelins; cavalry swords; daggers; bows and arrows—he left nothing to chance and prepared for all attacks that Felianae may or may not have planned.
So donned the hour, and Caineopus marched lividly onto the scene of Felianae’s attack, an arrow already notched into place. His gait was undaunted; his sneer was horrific. He stood, a wall of muscle, and opened his mouth. Every Saeopiaen from miles around cringed and clapped their hands over their ears at the sound of Caineopus’s trademark, bone-chilling howl.
“Where are you, you cowardly fool?!” he cried out into the smoldering morning, the sun baking the sand into glass. “Show yourself!”
Felianae emerged from her hiding place, string firmly grasped in her hand, her hair pulled into a knot at the base of her neck. Her face was creased with hatred so strong it would’ve turned lesser men to ashes.
“Fear not!” she declared, and her voice was strong and unwavering. She would not tremble before this animal; he was nothing more than flesh and bone with no substance beneath—no thought in his dense, mannish head. “I am here! I would never miss an opportunity such as this! No, it is not I who is the fool! It is you, Caineopus, for all your failures and all your stupidity, have arrived at the site of your death!”
And up above, on Mount Olympus, where Ares and Athena were all but drowning in their fury, Zeus witnessed this standoff and felt, for the first time in many millennia, true anticipation of downfall.
No, he thought firmly as he stared upon Caineopus and Felianae’s impending battle. No, now is not the moment. Humanity shall not end on this day.
He turned to his underlings and scowled at them.
“Fools!” he bellowed, startling both Ares and Athena into silence. “Look upon your children in shame! There they stand with all the fury of the gods, and you do nothing to stop them?”
Athena and Ares winced shamefully.
“But what is there to be done?” Ares demanded, striding forward to witness the spectacle himself. “They are too enveloped in their feud. There is no stopping them!”
“Do not be a fool!” Athena chastised. “There is still time!”
Alas, there was not.
Caineopus charged, overcome with years of vendettas, and let his first arrow fly.
Felianae was ready. She ducked forward and rolled in a crouch, laughing like a madwoman. The line tugged along with her, and the rock was removed from its place.
The ground rumbled; a torrential crash could be heard.
Zeus frowned grimly, and he turned away. “That is the end of it,” he told Ares and Athena with quiet wrath. “Saeopiane will be wiped off the planet, and it will have been your fault.” And he stormed off and said no more.
Athena and Ares exchanged grief-stricken looks.
“We cannot sit here and do nothing,” Athena insisted. The war god nodded.
“You are right.”
Meanwhile, the wave had been released and begun ravaging the city-state. Screams rose up from all sides as the water seeped across the streets and swept citizens from their homes, their faces gaunt with horror.
Felianae and Caineopus, of course, were overcome by the wave. Caineopus struggled and strained to keep his head above water, but even his problems became petty in comparison to his nemesis’s, for it seemed—for the first time in her life—Felianae had a flaw in her plan, a flaw that was so obvious and stupid that it was a mark of shame on the daughter of Athena’s life.
Felianae could not stand water.
She thrashed angrily, as if being strangled.
“Mother, please!” she shrieked as she was taken under and spat back up by the tide. “Help me!”
Athena’s heart ached. “Ares,” she said in a low, determined voice, “it is too late for Saeopiane.”
Indeed, the temples and the markets and the houses had long been wiped clean away, and their inhabitants bloated and milky in their watery graves. But Caineopus and Felianae—long revered for being the strongest and most capable Saeopiaens—remained alive, though barely so. Their heads dipped under the water and back as they choked and gasped for breath, and Felianae’s face was etched with fear.
“Yes,” Ares agreed. “But it is not too late for them.”
And so the god and the goddess raised their hands and cast them down before their children, waves of power emanating from each of them, starting from their cores and their souls and radiating out of their fingertips.
Down below, on the soggy remains of Saeopiane, a change had begun to take force. Caineopus and Felianae’s screams dissolved as the two of them morphed and changed into the mirrors of their souls, and their humanities fled the mind.
Caineopus, for all his brutish loyalty and his trademark howl, hunched forward as bristly fur sprouted on his back and face. His nose elongated; his arms and legs contracted; a long, unfamiliar tongue pressed against the backs of his newly-pointed teeth.
Felianae, on the other hand, discovered that her silky locks of hair were now covering her body. Her ears pointed and slid along her scalp; a long, twitchy something grew out of her backside. And taking course of her small, light bones was an inhuman flexibility and ropey strength. Yes, she would get out of this water, and she would lick herself to perfection with her sandpaper tongue and vow never to get wet again.
Caineopus and Felianae—or Canine and Feline, as they would soon be renamed—paddled ardently out of the stream and onto the nearest available landmass, panting and growling quietly. Felianae began to delicately lap at her silky black fur, determined to get it spotless; whereas Caineopus, who had no time for such womanish matters, simply shook himself violently to remove the liquid. His droopy ears smacked him in the face on either side. Droplets of water sprayed everywhere, including over Felianae, who looked up suddenly from her task. Her eyes, newly sharpened and acutely aware of her every surrounding (although this came at the cost of seeing in color), honed in on Caineopus, who was creating a terrible ruckus that definitely needed to be silenced.
Felianae launched herself, claws extended, a hiss emanating from somewhere deep in her throat. Caineopus looked up, flattened his muzzle against his gums, and let loose a blood-curdling howl.
Now, neither Canine nor Feline understood this hatred that overtook their animal bodies—these bodies of fur and tongues and fangs—but they didn’t need to understand it to act upon it. And this hatred, bred from years of humanlike feuding in a city-state long forgotten, never truly disappeared. It was inbred and passed on into Canine and Feline’s children’s children’s children, with each new crop of offspring passing onto Earth immediately despising their counterpart. There was nothing Ares or Athena could do to fix this.
And even today, if one were to come across a cat and a dog tearing each other apart in the middle of the street, they could look closely and see Felianae’s trademark amber eyes with elongated pupils, and they could listen intently and hear Caineopus’s bone-chilling battle howl.