To see all other parts of the story please click here.
The Sun Barge drifted quietly up to the beach at the dark end of twilight. The dying rays of the day, helped by a vague speckling of starlight and a crescent moon, gave just enough of a glow to allow a casual observer, if one had been present, to see four faces peering over the bow at the island. Two of the faces were in possession of scruffy beards, unkempt hair and large, concerned eyeballs that scanned the shore of the island for anything dangerous or supernatural. Another face, encased in a sturdy bronze helmet, calmly gazed at the skyline where a small hill caressed a dark blue cloud that was scudding towards the black of night. The final face was the palest of all and was more concerned with extracting a fly from its nasal cavity.
“Arrgh,” grumbled Xanthius, “it’s gone up me nose. Piss off ya little bastard.”
Philippus and Micon whipped around and began a series of loud shushing accompanied by flapping hands and worried looks over their shoulders at the shadows on the edge of the beach.
“Alright, calm down, lads. I’ve just got to deal with a bit of pers’nul hygiene, that’s all.” The undead crew member then proceeded to strut around the deck like a demented cockerel whilst attempting to snort the invasive insect out of his orifice.
“Xanthius!” hissed Philippus as loudly as he dared, “be quiet, for pity’s sake! We don’t know who or what might be on this island and I don’t want to have to fight some immortal in the dark.”
“I don’t want to have to fight an immortal at all,” muttered Micon.
“’S okay fellas, it’s gone now. What were you saying?”
Philippus took a deep breath and slowly released it along with some of the tension that he’d been storing up since they had spotted the island a short while ago. They had made the decision to head for land because it not only gave them some cover from any Olympians scouring the open sea for them, but also because they could do with any fresh water and food that may be available. Now that they were up close though, Philippus wasn’t so sure it was the right thing to do, particularly in the dark. Black water lapped against black sand and rocks, towered over by black cliffs and trees. He couldn’t see any supernatural activity but that didn’t mean it wasn’t out there.
“What do you think, Micon? Are you getting any bad feelings about this?”
His crewmate stared at the shadowy island. “No more than I normally would about an unknown, scary island at night.”
“We should stay on the Sun Barge tonight,” said Nadina, “stick to the shallows where we can be protected from anything from the depths as well as anything from the island. We’ll get some sleep and then go ashore at first light.”
“Won’t we float away, or get smashed into those rocks?” asked Micon.
The nymph cocked her head as she looked at him. “Do you want the Barge to float away or smash into rocks?”
“Um, well, no, of course not.”
“Well then, it won’t. The vessel of Ra knows our will and is happy to assist.”
“Cor,” sniffed Xanthius. “It’s not like the old days, is it? Messing about with ropes and anchor stones. I could get used to this. All the fun of sailing with none of the hard work.”
“As I remember,” said Micon, “you weren’t much keen on the hard work in the old days either.”
“Weeeell, you’ve got to get the young ‘uns up to speed with everyfink, aintcha? No point doin’ it yerself cos otherwise they won’t learn nuffink. I helped make you the sailor you are today.”
“A shipwrecked sailor pursued by vengeful gods?”
Xanthius grinned at him and shook his head. “A wily survivor pursued by hot totty.” He nodded at Nadina and then gave a series of head twitches that Micon took to be attempts at winking.
“Thank you. I think,” he said. He was glad of the encroaching darkness as it hid his blush of embarrassment.
“Right,” said Philippus. “I’ll take first watch, you lot get some rest. We’ve got some exploring to do tomorrow.” He perched on the edge of the Sun Barge and began to chew on a chunk of cephalopodic Sea God.
As the darkness of night gave way to copper-hued daylight the crew roused themselves and prepared for the expedition. The two mortal men breakfasted on the drying remains of Poseidon and tried to persuade Nadina to eat a little, despite her protests that nymphs didn’t need food in the same way as humans.
“I’ve been meaning to ask,” said Philippus, “what did you eat back on your island? We were starving to death until Zeus showed up.”
Nadina shrugged. “The island was my mother; it nurtured me in every way. Every leaf and root was a source of nourishment. Just being on the island was enough, most days.”
“And now?” asked Micon.
“Best eat some squid, then,” said Philippus.
Xanthius sidled up to her holding a large albeit slightly withered portion of tentacle. “Revenge,” he announced, “is a dish best served by stabbing it in the eye, cutting off all its legs and then ripping into it wiv yer teeth.”
The nymph reluctantly took the pale flesh and sniffed it.
“Don’t try and inhale it, get stuck in,” instructed her undead waiter.
She duly began to devour the remains of the God of the Sea, swallowing the entire piece within seconds, its passage down her gullet clearly visible as a descending lump. She wiped her mouth and looked at the three faces staring at her.
Amidst mumbles of ‘nuffink’ and embarrassed coughs, the three sailors looked around and failed to find any jobs they could pretend to be undertaking.
“Should we, er, make the Sun Barge, erm, sort of go up on to the beach?” asked Micon. Almost as soon as he had uttered the words the boat moved forwards and with a soft grinding noise began to make landfall, eventually coming to rest nestled halfway out of the water.
As Xanthius quietly rattled towards the bow in preparation to jump down onto the sand Philippus caught hold of his bony arm. “Erm, Xanthius, mate, I was just wondering if you could stay here and watch the boat.”
“Why? Wossit gonna do?”
“Well, hopefully nothing.”
“Dun’t need watching then, does it?”
“But just in case…”
“Just in case of what?”
“Well, stuff. And things. Gods, probably,” Philippus said with a desperate smile.
“Right.” Xanthius stared at Philippus and then at Micon. “I’ll just stay here and fend off any Olympian deities that come mooching around our boat, then.”
“Can I have a stick?”
Philippus was thrown. “A stick? I… what?”
“Well, I’m just a pile of rags and bones. I should at least have a stick if I’m to chase off the most powerful beings known to man.”
Xanthius ducked to one side and lightly punched Philippus on the shoulder. “Nah, I’m just takin’ the piss. You prob’ly don’t want a reanimated corpse wandering along wiv ya in case I spook the locals.”
Philippus smiled weakly. “Thanks, Xanthius. I appreciate your, erm, candour and understanding.”
“No worries. I’ll just hide in a corner and wait for ya.” He shambled off towards the stern and collapsed into a pile with a muffled clatter.
“In some ways,” said Micon, “he hasn’t changed a bit.”
The scraggy undergrowth tugged at Nadina’s cloak whilst low hanging branches brushed her bronzed war helmet. Despite protestations from the two mortals that, as men, they should lead the expedition into the unknown, Nadina had simply pointed out that she was more able to protect them from harm if she was in front of them. “Just trust your new senses and let me know if you see or feel anything out of the ordinary.”
“My whole life’s out of the ordinary right now,” muttered Philippus. “I could really do with some nice, simple ‘in the ordinary’ for a bit.”
“Shut up, Phil,” said Micon, picking his way gingerly through some brambles. He stopped suddenly, lifting his nose into the air, eyes almost closed, ears straining to catch elusive sounds. “Something’s coming,” he hissed.
The three crewmates ducked down into the foliage and waited, Nadina gripping her spear, Philippus hefting his long knife and Micon wondering how on earth he was supposed to undo his belt, find a stone, load it into his sling and launch it before being attacked by whatever it was that he could now hear stomping towards them. He could hear voices too. Deep, male voices.
“… but I don’t want fish again,” said the first voice.
“It’s not like we have it every day, is it? And we had a nice bit of roast gull yesterday,” a second voice replied.
“I wish we could have some bread, ” grumbled the first voice.
“Well, without flour it’s very difficult, Sastrios. And you know we can’t get our hands on flour anymore, what with… you know…” The second voice definitely sounded more cultured.
“It’s not my fault-”
“I never said it was. Hello, what’s that?”
“Looks like a big shiny helmet to me.”
“I beg your… Oh, I see. I thought you were being filthy again, Sastrios, but you’re right, it’s a big metal helmet. Perhaps there’s someone underneath it. Excuse me?” he called out, “Can we help you?”
Micon dared to peer over the bush he was crouched behind. He wished he hadn’t. There before him stood an enormous centaur, chest muscles gleaming from mild perspiration in the morning sunlight, powerful chestnut brown flanks above four graceful equine legs. Beside him was a satyr, shorter and scruffier, roughly humanoid but with large goat-like ears, a swishing horses tail and hairy legs ending in compact grey-brown hooves. And the longest erect phallus Micon had ever seen.
“Ooh, look over there, Sastrios,” cooed the centaur, looking straight at Micon, “it’s a little person! Hello little person, what’s your name?”
“Um, Micon,” said Micon, slowly standing up.
“Oh, you’re not so little after all,” commented the centaur with a vague hint of disappointment.
“He was crouching down, Amykos,” said the satyr.
“Yes, thank you, I can see that now.”
The other two crewmates also slowly stood upright, warily watching the fantastic creatures, gripping their weapons in readiness.
“Gosh,” said the centaur, “a trio of guests to our little island.” He clapped his large hands together and smiled. “I’m Amykos and this is Sastrios, my companion.”
The satyr waved a grubby hand. “Hello.”
“We’ve just heard that your friend here,” continued Amykos, “is called… Micron, was it?”
“Micon,” said Micon again.
“Ah, that’s right, because you’re not small, ha-ha!”
“Ho-ho!” echoed Sastrios the satyr, “good one, Amykos.”
“Now, who might you be, fine sir?” said the centaur, gesturing at Philippus.
The supernatural pair hadn’t yet attacked, indeed were being rather welcoming; it seemed rather rude not to respond. “I am Philippus of Kefalonia,” he said with as much authority he could muster.
“Splendid. Kefalonia, eh? I have literally no idea where that is but I’m sure it’s delightful. And last but not least, who is this fine gentleman in the helmet and holding the fearsome spear?”
Nadina removed the war helmet and brushed her fiery red hair back from her face. “I am not a gentleman. My name is Nadina and I am an island nymph.”
“I say!” said Amykos, softly.
Sastrios tapped the centaur on the arm and whispered something up to his ear. Amykos nodded and smiled. “My dear lady, gentlemen, welcome to our humble island. If you fine sirs would like to make your way along the path behind us you will find a small abode where you may rest. We will be with you shortly but have a little task for your Amazonian friend.”
Micon visibly bristled. “No way! I’m not leaving her alone with the likes of you!”
Nadina was also wary. Seeing the salute of Sastrios’s pecker, she attempted the detumescent trick she had employed on Philippus when they’d first met. Sastrios scratched his backside but otherwise seemed unphased and as perky as ever.
“Ah, no, you misunderstand our intent,” said Amykos, hurriedly. “We mean you no harm in any way. We merely wish to introduce your lady nymph to Galapera.”
“Who?” asked Philippus
“Why our own island nymph, or course.”