Bloody Hell. Thirty Chapters!
To see all other parts of the story of two simple sailors who happen to have accidentally killed and eaten Zeus, please click here.
The radiant moon eased into view from behind breaking cloud and scattered silver light across water that lapped gently onto a deserted beach. Not a soul stood on the sand. Not stood, as such. Nor, technically speaking, on the sand. Three shapeless souls had shimmered into existence and floated just above the ground where a few hours earlier Eris had lain at spear point.
“Welcome, sisters,” said the first wraith.
They stared at each other with eyeless heads atop smoky torsos. The second shape looked down at the sand. “Oh. So we’ve come to the beach this time, then?”
“Well, you did say.”
“I had rather hoped it would be during the day.”
“And with actual limbs,” chipped in the third shape.
“Some people are never satisfied. I won’t bother again.” The first shape appeared to cross it’s non-arms in a clear display of insubstantial irritation.
“Why have you summoned us, anyway?” asked the third, “there’s still three days until the full moon.”
“Yes,” agreed the second, “one emergency meeting is bad enough, but two in a matter of days seems sloppy. We have a reputation to uphold.”
“Exactly,” nodded the third, “we can’t claim to be responding to ‘unforeseen circumstances’; no-one would pay any attention to us ever again.”
“No-one will ever know,” said the first.
“I knew you were going to say that. And you of all people should know that it’s exactly that kind of comment that means that everyone will.” The third wraith turned and looked at the sea with a hint of a pout on its lack of face.
“Don’t throw your predestined temptation logic at me, Clotho, thank you very much. Now be quiet and focus on the problem.”
“Things are getting out of hand.”
“You said that we should stick to the plan.”
“I’ve… I’ve changed my mind.”
Wraiths two and three gawped at the first. After a moment’s silence the second shape double-checked her hearing. “You, Atropos ‘The Unturning’, have changed your mind?”
The first shape shrugged smokily. “If the facts change, so should your plan. I’ve always said that.”
“I’m pretty sure you haven’t,” said the shape named Clotho.
“So,” said the second, “what has changed so much that you feel the need to try something different?”
“We have been concentrating on the Olympians…”
“As we should,” interrupted Clotho.
“…and have ignored our pawns. They are causing wider ripples that I cannot read.”
“The mortals? Their role is fulfilled, they are unimportant.”
“Has anyone told them that?”
They stared at each other as they silently reviewed recent events.
“And who,” said Atropos, “set up that reunion between the animated corpse and the exiled woman? Hmm?”
The other two Fates were silent. All were thinking about their recently departed fourth sister.
“She wouldn’t,” said the second, “not without checking with us.”
“Oh, I think she would if she could,” said Clotho, “but her role was only ever to set the dye. We span the thread, measured and cut it as required. She can’t change what we created.”
“Whoever is doing this, we appear to have at least one rogue destiny on the loose.”
“But how?! I thought I’d accounted for everything,” said the second wraith.
“I know, Lachesis, but perhaps we can take control again.” The shape turned to the third wraith. “Can you spin a new thread, Clotho?”
The third wraith pondered the situation. “What do you have in mind?”
“I was wondering whether we should turn the situation on its head, use the pieces in play to accelerate the fall.”
Clotho stretched out her insubstantial arms and watched her fingers eddy into grey smoke. “I think I can tease something out.”
Not too far away, a boat sailed quietly towards the island kingdom of Psyra, a shadowy figure at the rudder stared out at the dark mass of the island.
“They’re close, I can feel it.”
Sastrios and Amykos, hunched up near the bow, looked at each other. “I’d rather we didn’t stumble across them in the dark,” whispered Amykos, “it’s so much more confusing and therefore so much more dangerous.”
The satyr nodded and peered into the maritime gloom with a frown. He was a woodland creature by nature and the thrill of another sea voyage had quickly worn off. “On the other hand, Amykos, it would be good to get this all over with and go back home.” He could just picture their cosy bed, a soft, snuggly den that grew more appealing with every minute that they sat on this hard wooden hull. He stood up onto his hooves, rubbed his cold, aching back and took a few steps to get the blood flowing again. He immediately tripped over one of the wine-skins that Dionysus had scattered everywhere and smacked his head on the mast.
“Bugger!” he shouted. “Buggery-buggery-bumholes!”
“Sastrios?” called Amykos, “Are you alright?”
“No, I’m not alright. I’m cold, damp and achy and now I’ve got a splitting headache.”
“Guys, can you keep it down, eh?” came the wine-god’s voice from the back end of the boat. “I think we’re close and we don’t want them to know we’re here.”
A cold metal point pressed into the back of his neck. “Why would that be, Olympian?” said Nadina. It sounded like she was right behind him. He swallowed and calmed his breathing even though his heart was hammering from the shock.
“Ah, well, good to meet you again. Hey, guys?” he called out to his passengers, “look who’s come to visit.”
The centaur and satyr made their way cautiously to the stern and could just make out the shape of Nadina holding her spear to the neck of Dionysus. She was standing on the prow of a peculiar shadowy vessel which was almost touching the rear of their boat, keeping perfect silent pace.
“Nadina!” exclaimed Amykos.
She glared at them. “Why are you on his boat? Have you joined his quest to take Xanthius down to Hades?”
Amykos wrung his hands and stepped a little closer. “It’s a complicated but noble tale. Sastrios and I agreed to accompany Dionysus because we thought that we might be able to help.”
“Help how? By betraying the friendship you had with us, with Galapera?”
The centaur peered around the nymph and saw in the background the old woman and the zombie sailor. The couple waved.
“No, no, it’s not like that, Nadina. I think we just need to sit down and talk it through.”
“Yes,” said Sastrios, “I’ve got an idea…”
“We can’t. There’s no time,” said the Nymph. “The Olympians are looking for us and Micon and Philippus are missing.”
“Missing?” said Amykos, “How? What happened?”
“Hey, guys?” said the god of wine, head bent forward to try to relieve the pressure of the spear point, “I’m sure you’re concerned about their welfare but right now I’m the one with a spear in my neck.”
“I should finish you now, Olympian,” spat the Nymph, “you’re no friend of ours.”
“First of all, can you give it a rest with all the Olympian shit? Yes, I’m the son of Zeus but I don’t hang out on Olympus. My mother was mortal, see. I don’t fit in, so I travel. Don’t put me in the same bag as that bunch of arrogant bludgers.”
The pressure on his neck eased very slightly. “And secondly, I don’t know anything about any Olympians looking for you. All Hades told me was that there was a creature of the Underworld walking the Earth.”
Nadina pursed her lips and thought. “So, you are not following Hera’s bidding?”
“Hera? Shit, no. She as good as murdered my mum. I don’t trust her and she doesn’t like me. Is she giving you grief?”
“I think ‘grief’ is too mild a word,” said the nymph retracting the spear from the god’s neck. He slowly turned around to face her; the spear was still there to stop him from doing anything silly. “The last time we saw her was when we escaped from my island – Zeus’s island. She almost had us beaten when Xanthius threw her overboard.”
Dionysus looked at the grinning skeletal sailor with his arm around Galapera.
“You threw Hera into the sea?”
“Yeah, well, it woz all kickin’ off and she woz standing on the gunnul so a quick push and over she went.”
The moonbeams sparkled off the god’s teeth as he laughed. “Oh, mate, I would have loved to have seen that. I owe you a drink.”
“How about you don’t send him to Hades instead?” asked Galapera.
“As Amykos said, it’s complicated.”
“I do have an idea though…” said Sastrios.
“Perhaps we can talk this through later,” said Amykos. “It appears our friends have gone missing and I think we should assist in making sure they are located safe and sound.”
Nadina looked at Dionysus. “Can we trust you? Do you promise not to drag Xanthius down to Hades until we have discussed this further, after we have found Micon and Philippus?”
The God of Wine bowed his head. “You have my word.”
The nymph lowered her spear. “Fine. We’ll tell you what we know. Perhaps together we’ll work out what has happened to them.”
Micon opened his eyes blearily. His head pounded but it was his nose that got his attention. The first thing he noticed was that it bloody hurt, the second that he couldn’t breathe through it and then finally that there was far more of it in his eyesight than normal. Not that he could see much beyond it anyway. He carefully lifted his head and found that he was lying on a makeshift bed in a small room of rough stone and wood. Orange rays of the dawning sun shone through a small window higher up on the wall he lay against. His mind whirled through recent memories trying to make sense of where he was. Sensations of apprehension, fear and panic flitted through his head before being replaced by a large man with a large shield that rapidly got even bigger, filling his entire world. His nose pulsed with pain at the thought of the impact causing him to wince and sigh.
“Oh, so you’re awake then?” came a voice. It sounded a bit like Philippus but was somehow thicker and more slurred.
“Yes. Where are you?”
Micon peered at the dim floor and could just make out a couple of legs splayed out towards him. The rest of his friend was hidden in dark shadow.
“I was going to ask you the same thing,” said Philippus. “One stupid push of his shield and down you went. I hoped you were playing him for a fool but… clearly not. Of course, King Sillysod and his men thought it was hilarious. Funniest thing they’d seen in years, apparently.”
“I’m glad they were entertained,” said Micon bitterly.
“Oh, they loved you. But me, not so much. Said I was a cocky little bastard who needed to learn some manners. The funny thing is that all they actually taught me was that a dozen burly soldiers are able to beat the crap out of me.”
“Shit, Phil, are you okay?” Micon swung his legs off the bed and crawled over to his friend.
“I’m trying to think of a time when I was worse. Maybe that tavern brawl in Lema? Hmm. Maybe not. I’m fairly sure I could stand up and see out of both eyes afterwards.”
“Are you bleeding?”
“I probably was. Don’t know for sure now. Luckily, they concentrated on my face rather than anything important… I only took one proper kick in the knackers. I’ll live but I don’t think I’ll be troubling any female hearts for a while.”
Micon found his friend’s hand and gave it a squeeze.
“Of course,” continued Philippus, “the plan I cunningly concocted was for you to defeat their champion. We’ve killed gods, Micon, how come you couldn’t defeat a man?”
“I don’t know.” Micon shook his head. “I think, perhaps, I can only sense gods. That big bugger with the sword and shield just didn’t register.”
“Wonderful. A fancy ability that you can’t use in normal crisis situations.”
“Don’t get sarcastic. It’s just like your ability to see supernatural stuff. It’s not like you can see through walls is it?” He paused and thought about it. “Or can you?” he asked hopefully.
“I can barely see you at the moment. And no, I can’t see through walls.”
“Well, there you go then.”
Philippus grunted. “Sorry, Micon.”
“Doesn’t matter. I’m more worried about the others. Do you think they’ll come looking for us?”
“Probably. Not sure it’ll be a good idea though. Nadina might be handy with that spear and as strong as Heracles but she’s not invulnerable. And she’s never seen a town before.”
“Tendency to get distracted.”
“She’d keep them working well but she’s not exactly someone who’d help overpower an armed warrior.”
“But she’s quite likely to cut them to shreds with her razor sharp tongue.”
“That, Micon, is something I would like to watch.”
They sat in the gloom as the sun rose higher and slowly revealed their respective wounds.
Philippus adjusted his slumped position and sighed. “As much as I hope they come looking for us, I think that they’d be better off getting away from here.”
“Because they don’t know where we are and I’m not sure that they would be able to help us anyway. It could mean that they get captured too. Or worse.”
Micon looked away. The thought of not seeing Nadina again, or of her being killed, stirred pains far worse than his inflamed nose. “So what happens to us?”
“We join the army, mate, and sail off to Troy.”
“I don’t want to join the army. I’m a terrible soldier. And why are they going to Troy?”
“Something about Menelaus – probably turn out to be nothing. But we’ll be stuck in the king’s army with no way home.”
Micon stood up and began examining their cell. “I’m not waiting for them to come and strap a stupid shield to my arm. If we can’t rely on Nadina and the others to rescue us, we’ll have to do it ourselves.” He rooted around under his wooden cot and pulled out a dusty bronze pin the length of his finger. “We’re busting ourselves out of this joint.”