Fall of the Trident @lord22
Troubled Sleep

Chapter Five: Troubled Sleep

When Arkantos slept, it was always the same. His spirit descended into the realm of dreams, and he walked amid ruins.

Sometimes they were the ruins of cities he'd defended. Others were places he'd burned. Still more were broken places that had long since been repaired.

Tonight, he stood upon a peninsula, overlooking a misty sea. The sky was strange and dark, and the dead were all around him.

It was the arena of Morpheus he saw them, climbing out of the underworld. Some friends, some ancient enemies. They stood around him, and he faced them again and again within the mists.

Today it was Theris again. A common enemy. The memory of his sickles ripping up the body of Arkantos' father was a fresh one. Even now, many years later.
The black-furred anubite snarls and charged with savage fury. Once, he was the greatest of Arkantos' enemies. Yet he had faced him many times, and now he held him at bay with his spear. Drawing back his weapon, he watched Theris surge forward like so many times before.

Stabbing upward, the spear was driven through Theris' left breast. The beast howled and fell backward, and Arkantos drew the shaft out. Theris fell back and hit the ground, shaking as it hit there. A minotaur howled and rushed forward to kneel by the body, swearing revenge.

Many people had sworn revenge against Arkantos.

They were all dead now. All save Kamos, at least.

Theris' body began to decay as the spirit of the minotaur faded away rapidly. Looking around, Arkantos saw many others. Some he recognized as usual, like Ajax, clad in a lions skin. But others he did not. There was a centaur with golden fur and a short white beard. There was the image of Hercules as he had been described and painted. Yet he was living.

Arkantos wondered if what he saw were truly visions, or merely a madness. Both were equal possibilities. Standing straight, Arkantos shook the past away. As he did, the spirits around him fell downward, falling to death like so many others. Was Ajax dead? He could have been killed in the time that Arkantos had dallied.

But Ajax lived for war.

Arkantos lived for Atlantis, Poseidon, and the Gods. And he'd had war enough for a lifetime these past ten years.

Then he felt it. His body tensed as a primal force of the universe manifested amid dreams. It emanated an unusual light that brought order to the chaos of the mind.
Arkantos had never felt before, yet knew at once what it was. It was, after a fashion, what he had sought for his whole life. Glancing back, he saw the Goddess Athena, in the form of a beautiful, brown-haired woman, clad in white with a helm. "That looked like Theris. It has been a long time since you sent him to the Underworld, Arkantos. Fighting old battles again?"

"Yes," said Arkantos, feeling things were somewhat anticlimactic. "Old enemies. I still see them here." He wondered where the Gods had been, despite himself. It ought to have been Poseidon here, shouldn't it?

"You have won more battles for Atlantis than can be counted," said Athena. "Faced opponents, no other man dared fight."

Raised on tales of great heroes, Arkantos had once dreamed of being among them. Of hearing, his deeds described as such. Often he'd wondered if some person he'd aided had been a god in disguise, and been disappointed. He'd hoped that his deeds might inspire Poseidon or one of the other gods to give him some great quest. That his name might go down among great heroes, like Hercules and, at the time, Jason.

Eventually, he'd abandoned the idea. Divine missions were something that happened to those with the right parentage. Arkantos realized he would be forgotten. He would be told in a few stories, perhaps a footnote on some scroll. One more name in a long line of men who lived between the great heroes. He'd come to accept that and focus merely on performing his duties for the sake of Atlantis.

He'd finally gotten used to this, and now the Gods decide to appear to him? And anyway, Athena's presence seemed almost too little too late. It was odd. Also, far too convenient for his liking, now that he thought of it.

Not that he meant to say any of this to Athena. Calling a God a deceiver was not someone the wise man did. Even if it was perfectly true. Arkantos remembered what had happened to Arachne, so he wasn't going to speak out of turn. Best to play along.

"That was long ago," said Arkantos. "Today, Atlantis' enemies live only in my dreams. I face feeble pirates now." It ought to have been Poseidon, not Athena, his rival. Though Arkantos supposed, he might still be beneath notice.

"Is that what you believe, Atlantean?" said Athena. "Atlantis still has enemies, and you are still the one who will face them."

Was that a threat? Poseidon and Athena had hated one another for as long as they had been worshipped by men. Arkantos turned around, feeling fury motioned with his spear. "Any who threaten my home, or my family, will soon have a place in my dreams."

And he meant it, he realized. If Athena did begin a war against Poseidon's empire, he would finish it.

Oddly enough, Athena did not seem angered. Her expression did not change, and if anything, she seemed concerned. "These are enemies, unlike the others, Arkantos. Do not let your guard down. Dark times are coming, and you are needed."

The world went white. Would it be too much to ask for a straight answer?

"Arkantos, awaken..." came the voice.

Arkantos opened his eyes and found the morning sun had risen high above the trireme. It was warm and sunny, and there was a stiff wind that saw them cut through the waves quickly. Zethos was leaning over him. The man had shaved since the battle, one of the pirates had grabbed him by the beard and nearly cut his head off. Now he was cleanshaven, a look Arkantos wasn't quite used to yet. "Admiral, sir."

"Yes?" asked Arkantos, sitting up

"We've sighted land on the horizon," said Zethos. "We should reach Atlantis soon."

Arkantos rose up, shaking off the memories. "Excellent. It will be good to see my son, Kastor, again."

So it was that the day of their homecoming arrived.

Arkantos walked to the prow of the ship, as was his custom when returning. There he saw the statue of Poseidon standing high upon a small island of rock near the center of the cove. It loomed over the entire harbor and clenched within its hands a trident of bronze. A trident made in a perfect replica of the true weapon.

It had been a gift directly from Poseidon to the people of Atlantis, and it was among their most sacred relics. The statue itself, appearing as a huge, muscular man with a long white beard, had been expensive. It was far younger than the trident it held, the old one having been felled by a stone during the wars.

Arkantos was quite familiar with it. He'd commissioned the statue himself and paid for most of it. He had to do something with the plunder he'd brought back from the wars, and it seemed the natural fit.

Beyond were the docks where even now ships of war and peace were being built. Fishermen were sailing out to sea and the sun high above. Archers stood on watch along the shore, and towers had been erected along the shore as well. Petroboloi stood ready as well, waiting with supplies of stones.

If an attack did come, Atlantis would stand ready.

Arkantos had insisted that there be men standing by to defend the coast at any time. And he was glad the theocrats of Atlantis had mobilized the army. He had the feeling Kamos would do something more dramatic soon.

His eyes scaled up the paved way to the plateau leading into the main city of Atlantis. Here was where artisans, workshops, and rich patrons resided. There were palaces within. And at the center of it all was the temple district. A place of finely laid tiles and magnificent statues, newly restored. And still being restored, if Arkantos was honest.
It would take more than his lifetime to rebuild the damage sustained over decades of losses. And by the time it was done, new wars will have destroyed more.

Still, here was his home.

Yet Athena's presence troubled his thoughts. In ages past, Poseidon and Athena had competed with one another for the approval of Athens. Both had offered great gifts, but it was Athena who was awarded their fealty. Some stories said that Poseidon had been trying to expand his power beyond Atlantis. Others said that Atlantis was founded afterward. The mists of time were a powerful thing.

Whatever the truth, Athens and Atlantis shared the same relationship as their patrons. And Theseus' growing power on the mainland was a concern to Arkantos. He was, in truth, the principal threat to Atlantean dominance. Even if the war at Troy succeeded, that would remain the case.

"Admiral," said Zethos, "are you alright?" He must have noticed Arkantos disturbed mind.

Arkantos considered what to ask. "If it came to war with Athens," said Arkantos, "what would you think of our chances."

"Athens has a significant fleet these days." mused Zethos. "Not as great as ours. Still, they'd have to journey a long way to get to us. Kamos is a far more direct threat."

"Yes," said Arkantos, "but once we've destroyed Kamos, the seas will be free from piracy for the most part. With no common enemy, Athens and Atlantis will have no one to fight save each other." After that, it would only take one reckless move, and they'd fall on each other like sharks.

"We have the support of Poseidon," said Zethos, "so victory on the seas must come to us." And their fleet was better than Athens, if only slightly. Though it was less dramatic to say.

"Some say that Theseus is a son of Poseidon," noted Arkantos. "We are forbidden from making war on the cyclops people. No Atlantean general had made war on them since the days of the great revolt. Should we begin a confrontation with Athens, I doubt he would be pleased. Athena is the Goddess of defensive warfare. A preemptive strike would put the battle onto her ground."

"Perhaps. Still, we have no great matter of dispute between Athens and us. It would take a grievous insult to make it worth the effort. Is something wrong, Admiral?" asked Zethos. "You seem distant."

"It's nothing," said Arkantos. "Just... omens. Everything that has happened has made be think we are at the edge of a cliff."

The ship docked, and Arkantos began his ascent up toward the Great Temple of Atlantis. He would sacrifice beasts to Poseidon, and throw games in his honor to celebrate the victory. And when he did, he would pray Lord Poseidon would help him make sense of the omens.

But before any of that, he had to meet with the theocrats. Kastor was just going to have to wait.

Author's Note:

Okay, one matter of concern.

Athena and Poseidon are almost each other's archenemies. Both of them are constantly working contrary to each other's interest.

Also, and Atlantis and Athens were bitter enemies. And Athens is Athena's primary city.

All this in mind, I didn't see much reason why Arkantos should be on good terms with Athena at all. If anything, he might regard her as a mild satanic archetype. She is, after all, a lower-ranked deity who is constantly working to thwart Poseidon.

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