Fall of the Trident @lord22
Hunt for a Killer

Chapter Two: Hunt for a Killer

It was an island with several small villages on it, or it had been when last Arkantos had been here. It had grown since he had last set foot within it. As he waded ashore from his trireme alongside several of his men, he glanced around at the wilderness.

Much of these trees had not been here ten years ago. They must have grown in after the wars. Glancing to Zethos, a man of twenty-four with a long beard, he nodded. Most Atlanteans went clean-shaven.

"This is the area where the beast is said to make its home," said Arkantos. "We'll search for any sign of tracks. Don't separate, remember that the cyclops is a dangerous enemy, even if alone."

"As you command," said Zethos. "Zeno, Kastor, come with us."

"Are you sure we'll be able to track it, Admiral?" asked young Zeno, carrying bundles out.

Arkantos walked along the shore and saw what might have been goat prints, but far too deep and wide. "Yes."

"Are those the cyclops prints?" asked Kastor.

Arkantos gave him a look and then noticed that there were other prints. It appeared that the cyclops had met humans and something else. There hadn't been any fighting here, had there?

"These look like those of men," said Zethos.

"Some of them, yes." mused Arkantos. "But some are the feet of Anubites, you can tell how they walk.

"Zethos, Kastor, and I will follow the cyclops. Take your men and follow the other tracks, see what you can learn of these. I want to know why a cyclops would be speaking with pirates."

"Yes, sir," said Zethos. "Are you certain you wish to-"

"I have no intention of facing the beast until I have met up with you," said Arkantos. "And if it seeks battle." He sighed. "I'll kill it. I just hope we are facing one with the lineage of Poseidon and not Kronos."

"Why would you want to kill one of our lords, children, Admiral?" asked Zeno.

"The Sons of Kronos are more dangerous," said Arkantos. "They are stronger and forge better armor. Though there has been some mixing of the bloodlines since the fall of the Titans.

"Come, Kastor, we'd best get to it.

"Meet us further up the coast, Zethos, beyond the shrine to Zeus. Don't engage if you don't have to."

So it was that Arkantos moved off, spear in hand and armor still on. Kastor walked behind him, carrying a sword by his side. He was clad in his armor, and it fit him well. Even so, the boy looked uncertain, now that he was facing actual danger.

Arkantos took time to admire the ocean and how it shone brilliantly in the sun. There were places farther north where the sea was dark and rough. But the Mediterranean was beautiful and serene. Except, perhaps, when Poseidon called up his storms. The trees here were also nice as well, though he spotted a skeleton amid some of the roots. An unburied corpse.

"Father, are you certain we can fight the cyclops?" asked Kastor.

"Great heroes kill monsters singlehanded," said Admiral. "For my part, I've always preferred to have numbers on our side.

"But, before we take on the mythical creature, we must learn how to march." He felt like someone else was saying that.

"I never imagined this would involve so much walking," said Kastor.

"I'm afraid most wars are like that," said Arkantos. "You spend days walking in all weather, hours waiting around. And, if you're unlucky, you'll have an hour or two of absolute terror before it's over. Then you find out who the gods favored. Then you learn that whatever you did probably didn't have much of an effect on the outcome at all."

"Father, why do you always do that?" asked Kastor.

Arkantos glanced up. "Hmm?"

"Well, whenever anyone starts to become enthusiastic or dreams big, you always try to ruin the mood," said Kastor, sounding a bit petulant.

Still, Arkantos realized he had fallen into that role some time ago. He, the fearless Admiral, was always finding practical reasons to ruin the myth. "It's a habit.

"I'm hailed as an invincible warrior now, but it isn't owed to my martial prowess. I just know when to cut my losses."

"Is that really so significant?" asked Kastor.

"It's a virtue few men have, Kastor," said Arkantos. "Most of the great tragedies happened because the hero didn't leave well-enough alone."

"That's not true," said Kastor, speaking too quickly again.

"Bellerophon was a great hero. He slew the greatest of the chimeras and performed many great deeds," said Arkantos. "He is the only man in history to have ever tamed a pegasus and could have lived out his days in wealth and splendor.

"Instead, he tried to fly up to Mount Olympus and was struck by Zeus' lightning. So he ended his days a cripple."

"Well, yes, but-" began Kastor.

"Hercules was the greatest of all the heroes of the Greeks," said Arkantos. "He slew innumerable monsters and made the world far better. To this day, great heroes and Kings claim descent from him.

"But for all his power, he couldn't master himself.

"He became unfaithful to his wife, leading to her accidentally killing him."

"Didn't he ascend to Mount Olympus after death and become a god?" asked Kastor.

"Don't be foolish, son," said Arkantos. "Mortals can't become gods. It's more likely that they made up a story to that effect to account for the anti-climax.

"Also, there was Oedipus. If he hadn't killed an old man on the highway and had just let the insult pass, none of it would have happened."

"What about Jason?" asked Kastor.

Arkantos blinked up. Why had Kastor just brought up a historical figure with no relevance to the subject? "Jason? What of him?"

"Well, you're talking about heroes who fell because they didn't know when to leave well enough alone," said Kastor. "Jason seems like that."

Oh, that was right; some people did consider that particular scoundrel a hero. Arkantos had best break him out of that delusion. "There are no heroes by the name of Jason, Kastor."

"Yes, there was," said Kastor. "The Captain of the Argo, it was the ship that retrieved the Golden Fleece. Made by Argus, the legendary shipbuilder."

"I was not denying that there was a Captain of the Argo named Jason," said Arkantos. "I was denying that he was a hero."

"But he performed all kinds of mythical deeds," said Kastor in confusion. "A hero is anyone who performs deeds beyond normal human ability."

"He was present for a great many mythical deeds," said Arkantos, feeling angry that his son could even think that. "All of the work on his voyage was performed by the numerous legendary figures on the vessel. With Hercules and so many other great heroes on board, he could hardly fail."

"But he retrieved the Golden Fleece himself," said Kastor.

"Yes, but he was protected and sheltered the entire way by Medea," said Arkantos. "At no point was he in any real danger from the trials he underwent. He deceived Medea into betraying her Father and Brother, and when she was of no further use, he abandoned her.

"The man held no great virtues. He performed no great deeds of any note that he wasn't handheld through. Nor was he even gracious enough to accept his own insignificance."

"He did credit the Aphrodite for his victory," said Kastor. "So he respected the gods. That's a virtue."

"Only as a means of excusing himself from any obligation to Medea," said Arkantos flatly. The anger in his tone was close.

"Why do you hate Jason, so much, Father?" asked Kastor.

Arkantos recalled when he'd met the man. It had been during the days of Theris. He'd been only a hoplite then. They'd been fighting a desperate, losing battle before the Argo had come. He and Ajax had been on the verge of death, and then the ship had plowed onto the shore. He remembered the sight of them, of Hercules and so many great heroes driving the pirates before them. All manner of mythical beasts had descended to do battle with them, and none had helped.

Jason had shown valor then, keeping a clear head and commanding them, and they had listened. His performance in battle had been adequate. But he'd known where each among his crew would perform the best and sent them there. They had routed armies. It had been the foundation of Arkantos' own style of command, inspired him to drive on.

But now Jason was fallen. His children killed by the Mother he'd abandoned. All favor from the Gods had abandoned him, and the Argo rotted within harbor on a distant shore.

"I see myself in him," said Arkantos. "My victories, Kastor, did not happen because of any great power or vision on my part. They were given to me by the will of the Gods, to reward valor performed by better men than myself.

"People speak of my wars as a time of legends, but they didn't seem so at the time. They were one nightmare after another that I wished to wake up from. By the time I was twenty, most of my closest friends were dead.

"Only Ajax and I were left." He wondered how his friend fared. The last word was that he was still alive and fighting well in the Trojan War.

And then he saw something, and he could hardly believe it. It was the temple of Zeus, and it still abandoned. The pillars were fallen, and what was left of the roof caved in. The statue stood undamaged, but it was overgrown with vines. The flagstones had been covered in moss. This was the work of time, not a cyclops.

"Hold a moment," said Arkantos, moving to it.

"What is it, Father?" asked Kastor.

"I didn't think they'd let it fall into this kind of disrepair," said Arkantos, gripping the vines on the statue and tearing them off. Still, there was far too much work to be done here for him to do it now, or alone.

"This was the Shrine to Zeus?" said Kastor.

"Yes," said Arkantos. "It was erected decades ago by my father, Misenus, when he won a great victory. In those days, Atlantis was richer, and there was enough money to build this kind of monument. It might have stood a thousand years if Kamos hadn't burned it."

"The Minotaur King who killed Mother," said Kastor.

"Yes," said Arkantos, feeling hatred returning. "He's hated me with a passion, since I slew his mentor, Theris. Just as I hated Theris for killing my father."

"Well, someday we'll kill him together!" said Kastor. "We'll lash Kamos' head to the bow and bring it back to Atlantis!"

Arkantos wondered which protege of Kamos would stand up to avenge him in turn. He wondered if that protégé would kill him, and in turn, become a nemesis for Kastor. By all accounts, he was well-liked by his men. Yet such depressing thoughts were not the sort of thing you told to an enthusiastic warrior. "Perhaps."

Then Arkantos kneeled before the statue and clasped his hands in prayer. He was not certain why he was praying, only that he felt he ought to. For lack of anything else to ask for, he prayed for victory. At last, he stood again. "That is all the time we have. We must go now."

They moved past that ruined temple, and Arkantos decided that he would rebuild it once he was done here. It was his duty, both to his father and the Gods. Soon they found Zethos and his men waiting.

"Admiral," said Zethos.

"Zethos, you're here," said Arkantos. "What news?"

"They went straight to the shore and boarded pirate vessels. From there, they sailed off," said Zethos. "We never even saw them, just the marks of their boats. It was probably a scouting party."

"I see," said Arkantos. "That means they will be back soon. We'll have to secure the nearby villages once we're done here, then. For now, we'll press on."

"Are you certain we can take on both the pirates and the cyclops, Admiral?" asked Zeno.

"Don't worry, Zeno," said Kastor. "Father can take on anyone."

Arkantos said nothing, and they moved along the shore, still following the trail. At last, they came to a circle of rock, and Arkantos halted. "Look there, the cyclops!"

The cyclops stood looming over the bodies of a dozen men. A camp was scattered, and a merchant's vessel appeared broken on the shore. A great harpoon was stuck in the wood, as though they had been reeled in.

And the cyclops, twelve feet tall with arms as large as a man, was devouring one of them. A single eye looked up at them and narrowed before it grasped a sapling and tore it from the ground.

And then Kastor charged.

Idiot. Arkantos made after him with the rest of the men.

Zeno was quick behind, firing arrows. Two of them hit the cyclops as he swung his huge club. Kastor rolled under it and stabbed upward into the leg. The cyclops roared, before snatching him up and raising him.

"Kastor!" roared Arkantos.

Calling aloud to his men, Arkantos stabbed the beast in the arm, so that it dropped Kastor. With a cry of rage, it brought down its club, but Arkantos sprang aside. Then, leaping into the air, he reached to its face. Bringing down his spear, he drove it down into the beasts single eye.

It screamed and fell backward. As it did, its club descended toward a fallen Kastor. But Arkantos sprang forward and pulled him out of the way.

"Are you alright, Kastor?" asked Arkantos.

"Yes, Father, I just..." said Kastor, obviously terrified. "I thought I would die."

"This is why one should never move with too much aggression. You and I have no divine blood, so we must be especially cautious," said Arkantos. "Still, I can fault neither your bravery or your skill. Only it's application."

"When we return to the villages, you'll be able to say you injured a cyclops," said Zeno.

"When we return to the village," said Arkantos, "we'll have more important matters to attend to."

Back to the grind.

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