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Daedalus In The Underworld Pt 2: A Cry On The Water

Entrance to the caves was not difficult; not for a cat. It was a short climb up a couple of hundred feet of rock face and then a quick plunge into darkness. The black priest ducked inside with no light to guide him.

Helios was a good man. Few would agree but he knew it to be true. The Stewards of Cybele were hated outside of Iolcos. The wreckage of their pursuits was scattered all over the south lands: defects, deformities, broken families and orphaned children.

Helios put a stop to it. Children with desired traits were no longer carried off, and the required funding was accumulated through rigorous accounting rather than onerous tithes. As a result Helios was tolerated, but only just.

He could afford to be liberal in his reading of the law. His sister was queen of half the world, or so she thought, but it was a large part nonetheless. Her opinion was that work should continue and coffers remain better than barren. She didn’t care how, as long as it was lawful, and as long as one of her brothers was doing it.

One thing he did was to end the husbanding of royal lines. His sister disagreed but he argued forcefully until he changed her mind.

“We cannot with certainty create a goddess!” he declared.

Many believed it could not be done but few would dare tell it to the Great Ladies of the world.

“We may be able to create a Lapraxus, but only if we focus with single purpose upon it’s creation,” he concluded.

Helios had reason to think these things. There was one success already: Cleobis, the son of Cydippe, Queen of Argos. He was more than psychic; he was a true mind reader.

What to do with the one surviving child of the goddess line was a puzzle. Her name was Persea. Her mother had died in childbirth and no other woman would have her. The question was made irrelevant by the decision of her father, Lord Taros, to raise her like a son.

Taros was a rare man who saw no threat in women. He’d been on the receiving end of quite a few threats that came from women but he didn’t judge their gender made it so. He taught his daughter to fight with a sword, shoot from a horse and string a bow in battle, and because she was a goddess child she had talents in abundance. Like Cleobis, who was two months her senior, it was expected that Persea could learn to read another’s thoughts.

Helios suspected it was true.  If it was true then she was aware of her uniqueness and was hiding it from view. Her father was surely guiding her with the help of the king’s steward, Dalius.

Helios assumed she was the reason for Cybele’s distress, but she was not. Persea hardly registered in heaven’s scheme of things.  There was another goddess lurking about who was far more dangerous than Persea could ever be.

Cybele’s older sister, Ishtar, Goddess of Venus, was most vocal in her denunciation of the interloper, but her middle sister, Themis, Goddess of Tiamat, had more reason to be offended. Her youngest sister, Selene, Goddess of the Moon, had slept late, but Cybele should have known better. Their father, Time, was in no way going to let them shut Nibiru, an alien goddess from a far away planet, out of their lives. It would have to be decided, once and for all, and what better venue than the Temple of Shamash?

The Temple of Shamash was lost for an age. Specifically the age that marked the end of the Titan Wars. When the temple sank it took to the depths the bones of Nibiru, buried for all eternity by the Hand of Shamash.

Nibiru was not of this world, but her arrival gave it life. She did not think it out of place to demand a say in it’s evolution, and the mercurial Father Time agreed.

It wasn’t her fault that her children blew up the Sirius star system, and it wasn’t her fault that they hitched a ride on the ruins to a star system just eight and a half light years away. They were still her children and she had every right to decide their futures.

Cybele and her sisters didn’t see it that way. Themis, Goddess of the fifth planet that was once called Tiamat, but is now Ceres, figured somebody owed her for a new home, and when she found out that just ninety-four percent of the genetic material came from beyond the solar system she redoubled her complaints.

Ishtar, Goddess of Venus, was upset because Nibiru had done little more than wake her up; she was never going to have children and that was how she wanted it.  Not every rock was meant to raise a kid.

Persea rode to Far Step on a Gimric pony, which she wasn’t supposed to have, but as they had all entered the caves there was no one to stop her from taking it. She felt she was justified. Taros had a right to go into the caves without her, but he shouldn’t have told her not to show up. He saw her ride in and was annoyed.

“I told you to attend the lecture on offensive archery.”

“When you give me a commission you can tell me what to do,” she replied.

She was eighteen years old and a woman.

“Stay close,” was his reply.

Persea was tall even for a man, and her arms were as big as any eighteen year old in Antallis. She was a good rider because her father kept a horse, and she might have benefited from a lecture on offensive archery.

“The underworld is no place for a woman,” complained Daedalus.

If her father had any lingering doubt they were dispelled then and there. His daughter was coming along.

Entry at Far Step was made by a crevice from out of which blew a hot wind. It was arguably safe, though few had ventured far across the boiling water. Access was limited to a few yards in each direction except when the water was low. It hadn’t been low in years.

The water was only a few yards wide but it’s width was not the impediment. Geysers were just the latest manifestation of a turmoil underground. The hot river began there after being shot from the depths under enormous pressure and splashing all over the chamber.

Daedalus pondered their entrance. He interviewed some who had crossed the water when it was low. Their reports described a muddy plain dense with bones.

Some walked a day on that plain. If they did they told of light falling hundreds of feet from above. Directly below it was a pile of bones atop a mound growing to the sky. Keeping that in mind, Daedalus said he knew where they would find Gilgraith.

The acolytes among the Gimric walked the lake shore but could find no sign of the monster. Sky Crier was getting impatient. He thought he knew where it was.

Sky Crier was twenty years old and itching to fight. He believed he was born to fight and to die fighting. It didn’t matter what he fought, be it a human, demon or monster, but if glory was promised he would have the full measure, so with his father’s blessing he left with his friend Far Talker to find a bat boat.

“Why don’t we just take a bat boat?” wondered Taros.

“A bat boat?” queried Daedalus.

He’d heard of them from Icarus, but thought he was making them up.

“A bat boat,” repeated Taros, “For crossing the lake to collect bat droppings.”

“It is done?” asked the doctor, incredulous.

“I told you so,” said Icarus smugly.

“There are a couple of boats in the slough,” chuckled Taros, “We’ll take both.”

“They weren’t there the last time I looked,” objected the doctor.

“They were probably out on the lake,” reasoned Taros.

“I did not know that sailing here was a common affair,” answered Daedalus.

They sailed three to a boat: Daedalus, Icarus and Ambicatus, a captain of the guard in one, and Persea, Taros and Jurellen, a swordsmen of the guard in the other. It was Dalius who made the decision.

“My lord,” they heard him say, “The expedition is a full complement. Each is expert in their field and none can be expended. Neither is there a third vessel. I’m afraid the time is not yet come for the king to venture on the water.”

“I understand why Deadalus must go, but why his scribe?” wondered Prosus.

“Who will record the events for posterity, my lord?” asked Dalius.

“That is of dubious value,” he replied, “but why must Persea take a place?”

“She is the best archer in Antallis,” reasoned Dalius.

“She does not appear to going,” observed the king.

“My lord, I am merely counting my arrows,” she answered.

“Two soldiers of the guard are required?” asked the king.

“Four if you go along, which only leaves room for Daedalus,” replied the steward.

“Why did you not see this problem sooner?” demanded the king.

“My lord, it was only yesterday the third boat was seen drifting west to the land of the Gimric,” replied Dalius. He didn’t say how it happened.

The king left quickly after the briefest of words and Dalius dutifully followed.

“A bat boat!” cried Far Talker, “How did you know where to find one?”

“I didn’t,” confessed Sky Crier, “I was trying to lose that fool of a Bear.”

“This is great!” declared his friend, wading into the water to haul it ashore.

“It’s not great,” answered the son of the chief, “Now we have to go back.”

“You were going to hunt Gilgraith alone?” asked Far Talker.

“I was going to hunt him with you,” answered Sky Crier, “Don’t you want the glory?”

“Yes, but I’m not a fool.”

“Are you saying I am?” challenged Sky Crier.

“No, but we don’t know what he looks like, or how big he is, or anything about him.”

“I have seen Gilgraith!”

“Why haven’t you told anyone?” Far Talker asked.

“I’m the one who spends time in these caves,” he answered, “Gilgraith is mine.”

“If your father catches us on the lake we’ll be his lunch.”

“I know that.”

“Then how were you going to hunt Gilgraith?” wondered Far Talker.

“I hadn’t figured that out,” he admitted, “That’s why it’s not great!”

Sky Crier hadn’t expected that finding a boat would be fortuitous, but they happened to return just as the hunters were losing patience with Bear and his acolytes. Mountain was pleased to have something to show for allowing his son a bit of leash, and Fearbringer was almost always annoyed with Bear for some reason or another.

A bonfire fed by detritus warmed and lit the chamber though Bear complained it was the reason for his lack of visions. Mountain recalled they were Druids who chose Bear for the job at River Bend. He was quite sure that the Druids had an agenda of their own.

Bear did not want to find Gilgraith. He had made much of the monster before anyone had reason to kill it and he was afraid his stories would be seen for the bluster they were.

He did not doubt Gilgraith existed, but he wasn’t at all sure the monster was the danger he claimed it to be, and if Gilgraith wasn’t a danger he would have to explain what happened to the slaves, criminals and occasional maidens he’d sacrificed to the monster.

Daedalus wasn’t fond of pursuing it either. Gilgraith was a lever to bend the will of a king. He didn’t believe in it but he doubted alone and had to agree. Given that neither man charged with the duty wanted to find the beast, it should have stayed hidden.

They sailed the hot river. As they went, hot and cold waters mixed until a splash no longer raised welts on their faces.

There was some light on the water. Much of the cave was open to the air. It was not roofless.  Years of drought had eroded a dry riverbed until parts of it had fallen. It was still falling. They knew it from the splash.

Old sink holes nurtured gardens of riotous color where light filtered through ground cover fifty feet overhead. Daedalus had often wondered why a dry course of the Nilos river should burble like a stream.

“You must be joking,” scoffed Icarus, “The world’s most learned man surely knows the sound of an underground river.”

“Get a job, boy,” said Daedalus, “When you turn sixteen I’m throwing you out!”

“Sorry,” said the scribe, shrinking beside the soldier, and he said nothing more.

The first signs of trouble were a bat boat on the water and from which was issued a warning.

“Turn back,” shouted a youth, “Gilgraith is on a rampage!”

“I see no rampaging monster,” Taros shouted in reply, when out of the dark a lance flew past his ear. Before he could return it their attacker rowed for the shadows.

“I’ll find out who he is,” promised Taros.

“He is Mountain’s son, Sky Crier,” Persea told him.

“You’re sure?”

“Of course I’m sure.”

Sky Crier rowed hard but the distance between them wasn’t growing fast enough.

“I don’t think they were bat haulers,” said Far Talker.

“Only bat haulers come out here,” insisted Sky Crier.

He knew it was a lie because he saw the man’s face just as he threw the lance. That’s why he turned and ran. It was Lord Taros in the bat boat.  Sky Crier’s one hope was that Taros didn’t know who attacked him.

“Aren’t we going to tell your father?” asked his friend.

“He doesn’t care if we scare Antalleans.”

“You’re sure they were bat haulers?” asked Far Talker again.

“Sky Crier!” came a shout from the shore.

“We’ve got to go back,” advised his friend.

“Who says we heard him?” challenged the boy and they went in search Gilgraith.

Mountain was angry. He knew his son had heard him. His ears were as good as his eyes and his eyes were the best in the clan. His brain left much to be desired.

Mountain was so angry he started walking across the lake, if only so his son couldn’t hide, and he was surprised as anyone that he could walk and keep walking, and walking, and walking, until he was out of sight with his hips still dry.

“No monster can live in this,” he laughed, and his guffaws echoed through the caves.

It wasn’t until he was nearly across that he found deep water. The current told him it was the river course so he walked farther east before taking a swim. His goal was the shaft of light that pierced the cavern dome.

Helios Hyperion saw them coming. It was his intention to keep himself between the humans and the hungry cats.

They circled the light where he sat, waiting for permission, perhaps, for a taste of priest. It didn’t occur to him that he was in danger. Any mind, even an animal mind, was like clay to the potter, but there was an alien mind curling in the mist.

Rising on the heat of the magma, loosed from an eternity locked in stone, long dead bones gave up their secret as the entities within blew in gales around his head.

“Perrrrrseeeaaaaa!” sang the wind, before Helios knew it was a name.

“Perrrrrseeeaaaaa!” whipped the words and a twister grew inside the heart of Helios Hyperion.

The priest stumbled, aware of the danger, as Sky Crier pulled his boat ashore.

Sky Crier didn’t gamble on lions. They were the farthest things from his mind until he saw the lion pride, and the priest battling demons, and Far Talker trembling, and his father fighting the current, and then he saw Gilgraith lurking in the shadow.

“Gilgraith!” he cried, but he was always crying: it was how he got his name.

Mountain saw his son running away with a lance in his hand. He was betrayed and disgusted, but the lions were circling.

Weaponless, Mountain stared down a cat. Reaching behind him he hoped Far Talker would see his need. He did, handing his lance to his chief and replacing it with an oar.

“Papa,” said Persea, “I hear a voice that has come a far distance. It is Nibiru!”

“The lost Goddess?” asked her father, astonished that it could be so, “What is she saying?”

“My name,” said the girl, choosing an arrow and fitting it to the string.

Through a maelstrom of pain the priest saw Mountain just feet away, crouched and ready to throw a lance at one of the eight lions deciding who would be the first course.

Helios crept back to the light and closing his eyes to the world it filled him fully. Nibiru drank deep from it’s rays. As the pain subsided his mind cleared. Then he knew that he was joined by two immortals bound as one, and that both looking for escape.

In that moment of clarity he saw the end of the world in Persea walking ashore.

“No!” cried Helios, “You shall not have that one!” but he lunged for her anyway, unnable to control his own limbs.

Taros saw the madness in Helios and he drew his sword as the priest knew he would. Never before had it been hot in his hand. He knew what it meant.  The Stone of Hephaestus built into the pommel of The Sword of Theosarditis by the great apostate Pateramon was afire in the presence of evil. It was too hot to hold but Persea was worth both hands and more so he let them burn as his flesh peeled away.

Lions charged the man called Mountain just as the black priest’s heart was impaled upon the Sword of Theosadartis. With their screams the soul of Marduk left his dying heart and with the last of his great will he focused on Persea and raced down the steel course of the blade. Just as he was about to explode into Persea’s mind he was stopped by solid rock: the Stone of Hephaestus that Pateramon had set into the pommel of the Sword of Theosadartis.

The pommel burned hot as a coal as Taros thrust it deep into the black priest’s heart, just as Mountain was fighting off of a cat, and while Icarus was seen by the light of the shaft under the tail of Gilgraith coming down.

Icarus rolled and the bat boat was kindling. The tail fell again and he smashed it with an oar. The third time he speared it into the ground with the handle, but the fish pulled it up and sent it flying. Sky Crier laughed, but he was having problems of his own.

Gilgraith’s spines were as thick as his arms. He severed them and they swam in the water like mad things or scurried on the rocks like snakes. He cut them in half and increased their number so he danced away from their stinging tips even as he battled the face to which they were no longer attached.

Icarus took the oar to them, smashing them into the rock a piece at a time, letting Sky Crier get close enough to stab it with his lance, and they saw eels feed on the spines still writhing in the water.

Finally, Taros had to let go of the Sword of Theosardits. His hands were like hamburger drenched in blood. The priest held the sword, and though Taros thought he tried to pull it free, he watched in amazement as the priest sliced his hands pushing it farther into his chest.

All the while lions fed on the guard who came with Taros. As they fed Far Talker came ashore. It was then that Mountain saw his son fending off the biggest fish anyone had ever seen with just the help of a scribe.

“My boy!” wailed Daedalus, “My terrible, beautiful boy!”

Ambicatus held him back.

“Let me go,” cried Daedalus,” Icarus needs me,” but it was futile.

Gilgraith was taking a beating. Sky Crier had it cornered in a dwindling pool. He’d broken his lance over it’s head, poked at an eye, raked a few gills and still it kept coming, but eventually, with no thought of the glory denied to the son of Mountain, the huge fish hauled itself up on it’s fins and crawled off.

“My boy, my boy!” fussed Daedalus, “My beautiful boy!”

“I’m all right,” Icarus cried, fighting off his master, “Let me go!”

“I’m sorry, so sorry, o my, did Gilgraith do that?”

“Yes Gilgraith did that!” mocked Icarus, “Let go. I’ll get myself out of the water.”

Sky Crier had left and so had the eels: Sky Crier to check on his father, and the eels to follow the monster Gilgraith because they were sure of a meal from his leavings.

Icarus and his master found the shaft of light that fell from above to illuminate the cavern. A terrible sight awaited them there.

The black priest sat, his back to a rock. The Sword of Theosadartis was deep in his heart, set there by his own hand. He was imploring Mountain to pull it out.

Lord Taros squatted by the waterside while Persea cleaned his bloody hands. Far Talker and Sky Crier stood guard, lances ready, in case the lions should return. They had dragged the body of Jurellen away. Their hunger was sated. Their curiosity was not.

Sky Crier was more nervous about Lord Taros than he was about the cats.

“The son of Mountain is afraid you’ll try to kill him,” Persea told her father.

“Did you take it from him or are you just talking?” asked Taros, wincing with pain.

“He’s got an eye on us and one on the cats,” she said, tearing the skin from his palms.

“Aaaaaaa!” screamed the priest. Mountain had the steel blade in one hand because it was hot to the touch, but not nearly as hot as the pommel.

“Sorry,” he said.

“It’s funny,” gurgled Helios, the blood spewing from his lips, “You suddenly see fit to apologize.”

“Don’t make this any harder than it is,” warned Mountain.

He took off his green plaid cotton shirt, shook his head at the waste and then wrapped it around the blade. With both hands he withdrew the sword from the black priest’s heart and was rewarded with a terrible cry.

“Noooooooo!” he screamed, or it might have been Marduk, who was fast becoming one with his new host.

The scream was abruptly killed by a cooler light that came into Helios eyes.

“Be warned,” he wheezed, his words almost lost under the gurgling of his blood, “Trapped in the Sword of Theosadartis is the most wicked of evil. She is Nibiru come here from far away. She was a prisoner of Marduk and they fell together to end the Titan Wars.  Such is the fate of this black priest.”

“How is it that you live?” spoke Mountain.

“An immortal has taken refuge in my soul,” said Helios as blood fell over his lips, “I fear I may live forever in this pierced and broken body. Give the sword to Lord Taros. He will know what to do with the Goddess trapped in the stone. Leave me now. I shall live or die by the of will of Marduk.”