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Daedalus In The Underworld Pt 1: Gilgraith

Gilgraith was a monster that lived in a cave. Two boys lived on opposite sides of the cave. One lived in a village and the other lived on a mountaintop. The first boy’s father was a chief, and the second boy was the son of a king.

The village people and the mountain people were at war so when a village person died there were none who doubted that the mountain folk did the murder, and so it was on the mountain as well. Meanwhile, Gilgraith grew fat gnawing on the bones of them both.

“That’s it?” bellowed Daedalus, “That’s your great epic!”

“It gets better,” replied Icarus and he read a little further.

“When no one was looking the boys ran into the caves to have adventures.”

“You’re losing me,” scolded Daedalus, shaking his head.

“You read it then,” replied Icarus, handing him the scroll.

“The caves were dark,” read Daedalus, “There were rivers running through them, and lakes, and boats because there were bats, and the boatmen left the boats lying around…no, no, no! Where is the passion? Where is the angst? I’ll dictate.”

“You weren’t there,” complained Icarus.

“Then I won’t be constrained by reality, will I?” replied Deadalus.

“You don’t have time to write,” said Icarus, “You have buildings to build and inventions to invent. Anyone can write a book.”

“But there aren’t many people left who can tell a story,” said Daedalus, “Sit down and take notes while I tell you how it should have happened.”

Daedalus cleared his throat and began.

“It was one morning after I awoke, that I found there a strange occurrence in the reeds by the Bilfrost Road. Read it back.”

“It was one morning when we awoke…”

“We?” repeated Daedalus, raising an eyebrow.

“It’s my story,” reminded the scribe.

“Very well. It was one evening when we found there…”

“Was it morning or evening?”

“It was what I said it was,” the great man replied.

“You said, and I quote ‘It was one morning when I…’”

“Are you writing this story?” complained Daedalus, tapping his foot.

“Never mind,” replied Icarus, tossing it aside, “It’s time to feed your squiggly things.”

“Daedalus!” shouted the king’s steward.

“O my!” gasped the smartest man in the world, “I’m late to see the king!”

“Daedalus!” shouted the steward again. It was not good if Dalius had to shout.

The peak rocked as big men found cover. Stone and dust fell as Daedalus fretted. He did not know why the mountains shook and the sky to the north was blacker than any night.

This day the king had new questions but he did not ask them of Daedalus. He asked them of the priest from Iolcos, the one called the Steward of Cybele.

“WHY have I been charged twice for a service rendered once?” demanded King Prosus.

He was the thirteenth King of Antallis and the sixth to warm the Crystal Throne of Theosadartis. The priest was Helios Phaethon Hyperion and he was called the black priest. He was the son of Queen Clymene of Egypt, and he was the half-brother of Circe, High Priest of the Temple of Cybele.

Circe ruled the eastern world and Cydippe ruled the west. Neither had love for each other and neither concerned themselves with the far east nor the far west.

“I beg the king’s ear,” said the priest, “Two services were rendered.”

“One job was completed,” complained King Prosus.

“Nevertheless, the benefits exceed the temple’s responsibility,” reminded the priest, “Cybele is generous not charging you for a third.”

“Cybele has nothing to do with this!” raged the king, “I will pay half.”

“Great king,” said the priest, “Cybele accepts the half you have promised to pay.”

“I…what…you…” stammered the king.

Dalius frowned and said nothing. Prosus was a nice lad but he was completely outclassed.

“Do not think your offering goes to line these pockets,” said the priest, and it was true that he lived like a pauper, “Some suffer much more than the people of Antallis.”

“I am not the provider for the world,” snarled Prosus.

“Neither is the world a provider for kings,” replied Helios, “yet the woes of one are the mis-steps of the other. No good comes from a jealous god, as no worth may be found in a miserly man. I am forever thankful you are Prosus, King of Antallis.”

The king was silent. He didn’t know if he’d been praised or insulted.

“Whatever do you mean?” challenged Daedalus, “Mis-steps? The worth of a miserly man? It does not take genius to hear the contempt you have for kings.”

“Daedalus,” whispered Dalius, attempting to catch his eye, but the learned Athenian would not be interrupted.

“To say a jealous god grieves for such woe is to judge your hearer a dunce, so be gone with your foul words and foolish ways!”

No one spoke, not Dalius, not the priest, not the king.

Hesitantly, an applause started in back of the hall, and as it grew the smile fell from the black priest’s face. Turning quickly on his heel he made his bow and left.

Once before, Daedalus had made such a speech. It was in Athens when he accused the elders of blatant ignorance founded on superstition and fueled by hubris. One casualty of his truthfulness was his young apprentice, who was poisoned by acid in a way that suggested Daedalus was the murderer.

Daedalus fled Athens under threat of the brazen bull. Along the way he bought Icarus so he would have someone to talk to. That was six years in the past. Icarus was fifteen and a few months shy of his freedom.

“I don’t know what to say,” confessed the king, “Daedalus, I stand in your debt.”

Dalius frowned again because King Prosus was making it worse.

Daedalus took advantage of the fact.

“My lord, you ask why the mountains shake and the sky is black. This morning I awoke and I found there in the reeds by the Bilfrost Road a strange occurrence. A hole had opened by the waterside. All life that came to drink from the pool it made was hauled into the domain of the monster there-in. Gilgraith he is, and the sky is black from the smoke of his fire, and the mountains quake whenever he shakes his terrible tail.”

Murmurs of agreement grew in the hall.

“I have heard of this Gilgraith,” answered Prosus, which was a surprise to Daedalus because he thought Icarus made it up.

“I propose an expedition to the domain of Gilgraith,” continued the king, “to observe the fact of his terrible tail and to rid the earth of his malfeasance.”

Dalius, sensing disaster, bit hard on his lower lip.

“Who shall lead this expedition?” asked Prosus at last.

Daedalus prepared to accept their acclamation, but their shouts were for another.

“Taros,” cried a voice in the back.

“Taros,” echoed more, and then it became a swell.

“Who has seen my brother?” spoke the king.

“I have seen Lord Taros,” replied a leather clad warrior.

“Friend,” said Prosus, “Say to this court what you know of him.”

“I am Jasius of the Cabeiri,” he began.

A hush came over the hall. The Cabeiri were the warriors of Corybantia. Few had seen one. Fewer had heard one speak. On ordinary days none would have lived to tell it.

“What I know of him cannot be told,” Jasius replied, “Instead, I will tell you of Gilgraith. He is as tall as three men men and as long as a ship. His breath is foul and his stench is worse. Even were we not engaged in the capture of the hound Cereberus, again, I doubt we could have prevailed over a monster of such girth and guile.”

“The Cabeiri doubt?” inquired the king.

“After a fashion,” Jasius admitted, “A dearth of hope does not occasion a loss of heart.”

“What advice do you give to this court?” asked the king.

“Fear the beast!” he replied, “It is the best advice I can give, but if you persist in your quest you will come upon the monster’s lair. Naught will reek with disdain for the living that is not disgorged from the guts of Hades, nor shall it’s like be seen again, for he is so old none count his passing, and so terrible that your one look at him will be of his razor sharp spines.”

“Spines?”

“Aye! Spines so sharp they draw blood from the air, and tipped with a poison so fatal the very sea must die whenever Gilgraith does pass, for that is what it is: a monster of the sea, trapped for all time in the dark water below the Bilfrost Quarry.”

In spite of the steward’s warning it was decided that Daedalus would make a descent, body and soul, into the underworld.

Close to the quarry was the village of River Bend. It was settled by a band of hunters of the Gimric people. They were the elite of their clans and were commanded Fearbringer, the cunningest general in the west.

They were led by a man called Mountain: the biggest, smartest, most trusted chief in all the clans, and above all, they were inspired by the voice of Cernunnos himself.

Their Druid was called Bear for the hide he wore. The eyes were lapis lazuli and the lining was silk from the east.

He governed with Mountain and Fearbringer, but any hunter with a sharp enough lance might challenge any chief.

As did the men on the mountain, the Gimric decided Gilgraith was to blame for the trembling of the earth, and like them they thought to make a journey underground. Mountain knew of King Prosus’ decree and thought it a challenge. There was nothing the Antalleans could do that the Gimric couldn’t do better.

One does not venture below the surface without preparing the way, for there one finds passage only to where one is prepared to go, and though Tir Na Nog beckons, a righteous few linger in the land of eternal youth. The rest bear the weight of years as death descends upon a man in the moment his foot hits the ground.

First they had to placate the gods of the earth. The rocks do not easily abide strangers in their abode. Neither does dirt fall upward when the ground disappears, nor when the way collapses under one’s feet. The spirits of the air must be honored as well lest noxious fumes sicken the breather, or flames erupt from pockets in the deep.

Then there was Gilgraith to consider. Why was he trapped below the Bifrost Quarry? What god put him there? For what reason? Was he a demon? Was he a pet? It was Bear’s job to know, and he did not know.

Neither did Daedalus know the truth of things.

“Don’t go,” advised Dalius, “What chance do you have against a creature so great a shake of it’s tail might topple the cliffs of Mount Scylla?”

The more he advised against it, the more of them rose to the challenge, and when Taros arrived their passion became their obsession.

Taros rode into Antallis on a warm summer day on a handsome horse of the Cabeiri. He wore his beard cropped close to his face. His hair was short and his chest was bare but for a baldric and sword: the Sword of Theosadartis.

He was not just any hero. He was said to be the greatest of the age. Those who said it were not to be doubted: they were Perseus, Kadmos, and Heracles himself.

“This is my brother,” said Prosus proudly, “who rides with the Cabeiri.”

Taros did not claim to be a soldier in the army of Corybantia. Even if true it was not to be said so his mystery deepened the more they argued.

“Why must you descend into Tartarus?” he asked them.

The reasons were many and most were unwise, but there was one pressing need that could not be denied.

“The earth does not give it’s knowledge away,” said Daedalus, “Sweat and blood are the proper fee for the secrets of the gods!”

A date was set and Daedalus made ready his engines. The capture of Gilgraith would not be left to chance.

“Capture!” exclaimed the king, “I do not give leave for you to capture Gilgraith.”

“Suppose, my lord, there is another Gilgraith,” answered Daedalus, “Would it not be best to know all there is to know about this Gilgraith?”

“Why would there be another Gilgraith?” inquired the king.

“Why would there not?” wondered the doctor.

Taros had his objections as well.

“How will you get it out of the caves? What engines will you employ? Not even the Gimric would tender such folly,” but he was wrong.

“Capture Gilgraith?” said Fearbringer, “Why would you want to do that?”

“Because,” answered Sky Crier, the son of Mountain, “all who hear of it will bow to the power of the Gimric at River Bend.”

Over the objections of Fearbringer the decision was made, and Bear, because of the visions that did not come, was mute for his reply.

On the high holy day of Lamas the acolytes set out on the Bilrost Road. They made their way to the bridge across the river Nilos, and dipping buckets into the water they brought it up and blessed themselves and the hunters who followed. They emptied the buckets over their naked bodies before donning mendicants robes and entering the caves at Bilfrost.

Meanwhile, Icarus was carefully loading the doctor’s instruments into a cart.

“I care not what the Gimric believe,” insisted Daedalus, “Let them pray to the sun for all the good it will do them.”

“You are not a religious man,” observed Taros, saddling his horse.

“Religious, no. Respectful of the gods, yes,” he replied, “In my experience gods and religion do not well mix.”

“Cybele agrees with you,” Taros told him, “She has little good to say about Circe.”

“Can I get a hand with this?” grunted Icarus, bending beneath the weight of a cave- water pump de-mineralizer.

“Yes, I heard you ride with the Cabeiri,” Daedalus replied, “How is it going?”

“Cabeiri?” repeated Taros, his wide grin growing, “Where did you hear that word?”

“Come, come, Lord Taros, Jasius himself said…”

A crash and a bang accompanied the scribe’s curse.

“Icarus, you bumbling fool…”

“Be careful what words you put into the mouth of Jasius,” warned Taros, “Recall them well or say them not at all.”

“I can’t remember exactly the words he used…”

“Then it is best to keep your opinions of the Cabieri to yourself,” advised Taros.

“Are they really that difficult?” asked the learned man.

“I’ll meet you at Far Step,” said Taros, leaving the question unanswered.

By the time Daedalus and Icarus got to the mineral springs called Far Step columns of steam were rising from the mud pots that made it famous.

The rich and powerful were warned off, though they didn’t need much warning. The reek of the mud pots, which lessened not far from the source, was replaced by rotten smells from under the earth.

“It is the same smell as a breakfast in the east,” insisted Taros, “One can eat a thousand year old egg.”

“I have heard it will not kill you,” answered Daedalus, “but I am dubious of the claim that any person of sound mind has voluntarily consumed a second one.”

Shortly thereafter the king and his court arrived at the newly pitched camp.

“Excellent!” judged the king, “The earth trembles at the fall of my brother’s foot.”

Taros heard and disapproved.

“It trembles at something, my lord, though I fear my foot is not the cause.”

Far Step was not far from Antallis Peak which is how it got it’s name, for it was one step only and the distance could be walked in an hour. It was a retreat for the rich, of which there were many, because it was shunned by the Gimric.

Public pots on Antallis Peak bubbled up from the same source; of this Daedalus was certain. Here was his chance to prove what he’d been saying for many years already.

“You will observe a river flowing west,” he said to his scribe, “It is natural for rivers to flow, one atop another, in the direction of the sea. When you see this river you will render it in drawings, specific to a location and noted there-on. Subsequent to the…”

“I’m can’t write that fast,” complained Icarus.

“Memory must be sufficient,” said Daedalus, “Where was I?”

“Subsequent to the…”

“Discovery of the source of the geysers recently observed,” added Daedalus, “We will expect to find a chamber of immense proportions littered with the Stones of Hephaestus.”

“Stones of Hephaestus,” wrote Icarus, rolling his eyes, “Why are we going to find the Stones of Hephaestus in a chamber under the Bilfrost Quarry?”

“Suppose Gilgraith is a dragon,” explained Daedalus, “What light is brighter than the stones that crush the bones of Marduk? Suppose Gilgraith is a demon. What evil is darker than the undead giving rise to lifeless things? There are so many reasons why the Temple of Shamash must lie below our feet it is folly to suppose it might not be so!”

“Or Gilgraith could be very old catfish grown to the size of a whale.”

“My boy, there are no such things as whales,” chided Daedalus, “Quit this foolishness and construct the de-mineralizer.”

Icarus tried, but it was in pieces, only a few of which still fit together.

Mountain did not like the caves but he could not refuse to go in. He did not like any part of the underworld, but if that is where the prey was then that is where he must hunt. To not do so would be to cede his rule to another less worthy than himself.

His son was not ready to rule. He was old enough but he was not wise. He was not a fool, but was he a danger, so his father kept him close.

Sky Crier had a talent that was rare in River Bend: he could see in the dark.

He could not see well and he had to have some light, but where others saw shadows he saw faces so he was chosen to be first behind the acolytes. With Mountain at his side he strode confidently to the hunt.

The caves were largely unexplored. Chambers close to the quarry were well known, but passage beyond an underground lake was difficult. When the water was low it could be done, but beyond that a raging underground river thrice larger than Nilos blocked all access.

The river could be approached from the far side. It was known from the bones that washed up on the shore of the underground lake. It was not totally dark. Luminous plants grew up the walls and a shaft of light pierced the chamber just beyond the river.

Sky Crier was content to go slowly and savor the first of what promised to be many fine moments.  Daedalus dictated and continued to fret.

“The rock will become more viscous the lower we descend,” he advised, “and if it becomes more heated you are advised to go swiftly lest your soles touch magma and the flesh cleave there-on.”

“It is my expectation the Stones of Hephaestus will be found in the chamber of the Temple of Shamash,” he concluded, “Care must be taken bringing them up, they are…”

“We will not be bringing up the Stones of Hephaestus,” corrected Taros.

“My lord, they are to antiquity what antiquity is to the modern age. The scrolls of the Titans will impart knowledge unknown since the Titan Wars.”

“Let the past stay buried,” advised Taros, “Our search is for Gilgraith!”

The black priest was aware of their search and he was aware of the Gimric vows on the high holy day of Lamas. He knew something else that neither camp would concede: Cybele’s cats hadn’t eaten in some time.

He debated the ethics of letting it remain a secret. There was no reason for them not to know. Lions had not been seen on the savanna for a week. Instead of celebrating the fact they should have been trying to find out why, yet they ventured into the lion’s den as if a dip in a river could shield them from a hungry maw.

They would not heed a warning from him. The fact gave no reason to warn them. If he did it would hasten their demise. It would be easier to reason with lions.