Chapter One: Generations
Atlantis had seen better days.
It was an ironic realization that came to Arkantos one day. It happened when he was looking over the silver-engraved spear that had been awarded to him. It had been a gift when he was thirty, granted in acknowledgment of extended service. He'd led an assault upon an island near Egypt.
Memories came to him as he looked over it. A smile came to his lips as he remembered Theris' walls falling. He had surged first through the gap and killed three men, as his soldiers came behind him. Ajax had broken the gate at the same time, and the enemy was defeated.
Yet they fought to the end.
It came to it as Arkantos faced Theris in single combat. The anubite had slashed and hacked at him with duel sickles. Keeping him back with a spear, Arkantos had tripped him. As the jackal-headed man had fallen, Arkantos drove his sword home, and the beast was dead with a scream.
It had been the moment of his life.
Or so he'd thought at the time. Arkantos had seen many a moment like that since and had long-since grown sick of them. Now he was forty-four, with numerous victories under his belt, and he felt as though none of them mattered. There would always be another to win, and he'd be no closer to peace.
The beautiful walls, decorated with images of shells, still stood on the clifftops. The temples were cleaner than before. In some places, construction had begun to repair the damage. New villages had sprouted up, and the seas were clearer than ever before.
Yet Arkantos knew that it was but a pale shadow of what had gone before.
"Father, why don't you want to lead the armies to Troy?" asked his son, Kastor, one day at breakfast. He was growing up quickly, large for fourteen, though he was not quite the warrior he thought he was. His hair was longer than it ought to have been and probably would get in his face during battle.
The boy preferred it long.
"Hmm?" asked Arkantos, putting down the spear. "What do you mean?"
"All of Greece is even now laying siege to Troy; they have been for years," said Kastor, voice holding a hint of impatience. He'd yet to learn to control his emotions fully. "And yet when King Agamemnon requested our aid, you spoke out against it?
"For the sake of the Greek Colonies," said Arkantos. It was a statement with long hours of thought put behind it. More than anything, he was glad he had not pursued Helen's hand when the chance emerged. When the Oracle had proclaimed it would be a long war, he'd been under no obligation to go.
Not that Arkantos had he authority to order that kind of expedition. In law and letter, he was merely the Admiral of Atlantis. This was by design, Kastor did not have the temperament to rule a nation. And Arkantos had no interest in founding a dynasty anyway. The honors he had been awarded should have been more than sufficient for any man.
Kastor remained silent for a moment as if waiting for Arkantos to say more. But Arkantos wanted to know why he was bringing this up now, so he waited. "They are the ones who asked us for help," said Kastor after a moment. "Should we not aid our fellow Greeks?"
Arkantos smiled as he thought of what his father would have thought of that. Twenty years ago, it would have been almost heresy. But the battles alongside the armies of Salamis and others had formed a sense of community. Many in Atlantis regarded themselves as a sort of ascended-Greece. Cut of the same cloth, but superior in breeding and power.
Arkantos thought little of the concept, personally. And he did not want to have this conversation again. He'd had it hundreds of times over the past ten years as he patrolled the seas. "Kastor, the war with Troy should have never happened. It was a mistake. The Oath, which has bound the Kings to pursue this vendetta, was meant to avoid this very disaster. If Paris had behaved as befitted a Prince, Greece would be seeing an era of peace." Though it would give him great pleasure to see Paris dead, it wasn't worth burning Troy.
"As things stand, Atlantis' fleets are better spent ensuring the security of Greece."
"But Paris betrayed the honor of Greece, father!" said Kastor. "If we were to go and aid in the wars, there could be an opportunity for glory!"
"I've had all the glory I can take," admitted Arkantos, remembering the flames on houses. They'd all blurred together, enemy and friend alike. "Besides, the word from the Hippocampus of Poseidon is not good. The last word was that Achilles and Agamemnon had quarreled. Agamemnon stole one of Achilles' slaves, and the fool withdrew from the war.
"Now, the entire war effort is on the verge of total destruction. Agamemnon has repeated the very misdeed that started it in the first place. If I were to set sail with all my fleets today, we'd be lucky to get there and find the Greek ships not burning.
"Hector has all but won." Not that Arkantos felt particularly bad about it. Hector had, by all accounts, been forced into a war. And if he lost, his people would be destroyed.
"Then, you'll just keep our fleets here and do nothing?" said Kastor, voice holding a note of accusation.
"No, I'll keep our fleets here and hunt pirates," said Arkantos, becoming annoyed. Kastor had never pressed this closely on the subject before. "Kamos has found new ports that have aided him greatly. I suspect he may strike soon and-"
Then a servant entered and bowed. "Admiral."
Arkantos preferred to be addressed as Admiral in all things. It was a badge of honor and a reminder that he served Atlantis. Not the other way around. "Yes?"
"Theocrat Krios is at the door; he wishes to speak to you." said the servant.
Arkantos nodded. "Show him in, of course."
Krios came in at a stately walk. He was an old man, but not quite frail. Remnants still remained of old strength born from fighting dozens of battles. He sat down without being prompted, born of familiarity rather than contempt. Arkantos nodded at him. "Krios, what brings you here."
The man had been like a father to him at one time.
"Nothing good, I'm afraid," said Krios. "Some of the younger men are discontent, Arkantos. They see events as a chance to restore the dignity of Atlantis."
"You mean as we did during the wars with the Athenians?" asked Arkantos, remembering that mess in particular. The fires of that conflict had never faded. His wife had died during them.
"You never will forget that, will you, Arkantos?" asked Krios.
"Probably not," admitted Arkantos.
"You should not blame yourself for things that are long past," said Krios. "You performed admirably in that war. No one could have foreseen the minotaur's arrival." He sighed.
"In any case, there were more omens today. A many-tentacled beast, the likes of which we'd never seen, devoured one of our fishing vessels. Only one man swam to shore to tell of it.
"One of Poseidon's creatures has attacked us." Then he drew out a scroll of parchment and offered it. "There is also this."
Arkantos took it and unrolled it, reading through it as had become routine. This ought to have gone to the assembly, of course. But Arkantos' legend had grown to the point where he could have tapped his foot twice and made himself king. As things stood, he'd merely used it to keep them out of the Trojan War by sheer force of will. "Word from our island colonies. A cyclops has been raiding them."
"Yes," said Krios. "Polyphemus claims that he is an outlaw to them, but they will not hunt him beyond their own borders."
"Then it seems I will have work to do," said Arkantos. "I'll speak with Zethos at once. We'll take some of the bolder men among the army and hunt for this killer." It occurred to him that Kastor was chafing at the bit with life lately. Some practical experience at war might do him good. He looked at him. "Kastor?"
"Yes?" asked Kastor.
"I want you to come with us," said Arkantos.
"Me?" said Kastor, standing up in joy. "Well, of course!"
"However, you are to obey orders to the letter," said Arkantos. "When Atlanteans march to war, it is not for personal glory. That comes from victory, and victory cannot be achieved by reckless action."
"Yes, Father," said Kastor nodding.
"Get your armor," said Arkantos. "And tie your hair back. It'll get in the way of battle."
Kastor rushed off.
This was how Arkantos had been keeping the Atlanteans out of the Trojan War. He kept occupied, helping various small islands. Atlantis had become a source of support for those that had been left weakened by the Trojan War. And those numbers had grown higher by the day, as bandits and pirates preyed on Greece. The occasional skirmishes with pirates had kept their army intact. It had increased their influence, but at the cost of constant skirmishing with Kamos and his ilk.
"That boy is a bit young for the task, isn't he?" asked Krios.
"Everyone has to start somewhere, and I was his age when I first held a spear," said Arkantos.
"Perhaps." mused Krios. "But Theris was then threatening to destroy everything we had wrought. He has long since descended to the Underworld."
"And Kamos took his place," noted Arkantos grimly.
"There will always be conflict, Arkantos," said Krios. "Our lot is to deal with the enemy of today and let later generations see to the next." He stood and motioned for Arkantos to follow, which Arkantos did. They made their way out of the manor and onto the shore. From here, you could see the main city up on the cliffs above. Krios continued. "Our youth have had the chance to grow up without being pushed into war before they are ready."
"And who's to say he'll be facing war?" asked Arkantos. "I don't intend to send him to kill a cyclops with nothing but a short-sword and well-wishes.
"I merely want him to get used to the campaign trail."
"Well, I suppose there are worse ways for a boy to come of age." mused Krios. "Atlantis is greater, you know."
"Hmm?" asked Arkantos.
"For your presence within it," said Krios. "When I was young, our society had been falling into decadence. The marble statues and high temples could not disguise the moral decay. Men thought themselves gods and acted without regard for virtue. That was why Poseidon drew back his hand and allowed Theris to come upon us. When it began, there was hardly a man among us willing to stand and fight.
"Our allies, long-held in contempt by us, turned their backs on us, and we were left naked before the storm. Over the course of twenty years, our colonies were taken from us, our great fleets were shattered.
"It was your generation that saved us.
"You kept back the tide from overtaking Atlantis fully. You kept our temples standing and the great walls of marble unbroken. Now, we have reclaimed our island strongholds and are once more a power."
"I know," said Arkantos. "From the way the tales are spun, you would think I the greatest of all the heroes.
"But what we've built is a shadow of what came before. Each generation's heroes shine less brightly than the last."
"I wonder if the light of the last few generations wasn't meant to fade." mused Krios. Then he motioned to the cliffs with his staff. Arkantos followed the motion and saw the great walls of stone. They had been there as long as Arkantos could remember, as long as even Krios could remember. It appeared like choral, yet was stronger than any stonework they knew of. "Do you see that wall, Arkantos? It was built in the days of my grandfather and inlaid with many precious treasures. The means by which it is made has been forgotten. Every time it is damaged, we are forced to patch it up with older styles.
"Look closely, and you can see where we did it."
Arkantos did see them. But he didn't see the point. "What are you getting at, Krios?"
"We never use those walls, Arkantos," said Krios. "Atlantis has grown, and now our villages dot the entire island. More people move to new colonies every year. Most of our citizens have never even seen those walls.
"At one time, they accounted for our entire population.
"I wonder if we haven't, in some ways, become greater than old Atlantis."
"I'll be certain to explain it during the hunt for a killer," said Arkantos.
They set out that very day, with only a small force. Yet as Arkantos watched the harbor grow smaller in the distance, he felt that this would be different.
I've been meaning to do an Age of Mythology fanfic for years, as I found it to be a very well told story. However, I never found the right story to tell. My goal in writing this is to integrate the story of Arkantos into the preexisting myths.
Many people forget that the Greek Myths are not a canon where certain works are legitimate, and some are not. Rather, they are a combination of stories that have in later days been codified as the 'Greek Myths.' So, from a certain perspective, Arkantos is a legitimate part of that mythology.
Let's see if this works.