After the… rather strange encounter with Pythia, Achilles is ready to do what he must to complete the task given by the Gods. But first, he must do what the Oracle said he must do before his great adventure. He must go… to the river Stynx. But be aware. No living man can go there. For someone to reach the waters of Stynx, first and foremost… he must be dead.
Achilles sneaked out of the temple. He found Antheia waiting for him, on a hill nearby. He looked at her, with anger in his eyes.
“What about the body?” he asked. Antheia rolled her eyes.
“I told you, it was a necessity… You never appreciate me or what I do for-“.
“What… about… the body Antheia?” asked Achilles again, interrupting her, with his voice louder. She stopped and looked at the ground, frustrated.
“He is buried… About ten stadiums from here. They will never found him”. Achilles nodded. They stayed quite for a moment. At last, she came close to him.
“Look, I am sorry, but you said it was very important. What if he was going to talk? What if the whole mission was jeopardized by this one man? The sacrifice of one man, for the sake of the world”.
“Only if we succeed in our mission” he noted. She sighed and took his hands.
“We will. Together”. Their eyes met. She leaned in to kiss him, but he pushed her back.
“No…” he said. Antheia let go of Achilles’ hands and she put on her “cold” face again. Achilles sighed.
“You know it is not right-” Achilles started explaining, but Antheia interrupted him.
“You know what? Just let it be. I do not care anymore. Just go to the others. I told them to get ready. We must leave as soon as possible”. Again, the face of Achilles darkened.
“Not yet…” he said, with almost his voice breaking. “Where are they?”.
They soon arrived there. The rest of the team stood immediately, when they saw him with his darkened face. They yet did not know what had happened in the temple, or what the Pythia said to him. They just felt something was not right. Achilles stood in the middle. The rest approached him. He unzipped his belt with his Celtic dagger. He gave it to Dienekes.
“Take care of this. The world depends on that thing”. Thalestres put her hand on Achilles’ shoulder.
“Tell us what is going on? You are scaring us”. Achilles fondled her hand and drugged it off his shoulder.
“It is just something that needs to be done. And I must be sure that the world can be saved, in case I do not survive this”.
They started shouting in disagreement with his sayings, but Achilles raised is hand, making them stop. He looked everyone in the eye, with gratitude and affection. But he could not speak or say something about his feelings, or he could never do what he was going to do. Once again he turned to Dienekes.
“This dagger is the well known Sword of Peleus”.
The eyes of Dienekes and the others widened. But Achilles continued.
“I understand your amazement right now. But focus on what I am saying right now. This celestial weapon is the key to save or the way to destroy the world. You must promise me that you will guard this weapon with your life, if I do not make it back to you. And by all means, do not let Alexander get his hand on it”. Achilles reached his hand to Dienekes. He took it and squeezed it, hard.
“I will guard it Achilles, I will…”. Achilles nodded in appreciation. He then turned to leave. He stood for a second.
“Nikolaos, come with me. I am going to need your help. The rest of you go to the foothills of Parnassus. If we are not back by sunrise, leave without us” and he and Nikolaos, vanished in the darkness of night.
Time to play dead
They arrived at the village of Itea two hours later. During the way, they did not exchange a single word. They went at the beach, in a isolated place, so none could see them. Then, Achilles broke his silence and turned to Nikolaos.
“I must go to the river Stynx” he said to him.
“Well, as far as I know. This is in the Underworld and the only way to go there is by dying. Do I stand correct?” he said with irony in his voice.
“Yes, you are correct. And that’s why I need your help”.
“If I understand correctly, you want me to kill you and then bring you back” Nikolaos said. Achilles nodded in agreement. “You know that it is forbidden, right? Apollo himself gave us the order not to do that. It is considered necromancy. Let alone that you may not survive down there. I cannot guarantee safety with that kind of rituals”.
“I know and I would not ask it for you, if I did not know the dangers. But the Pythia said to me to go there. I do not know why, but she said so. She has a reason right?”.
“I suppose…” replied Nikolaos and looked away, thinking.
“So are we gonna do this?” Achilles asked.”The real question is: do we have a choice?”. For the first time, Achilles laughed, after all these hours.
“What do you need from me?” he asked.
“Well, we need to make a poison and then a cure” he answered. Achilles did as requested and found everything Nikolaos asked for. Nikolaos then started a fire, to make the potions. With some kind of ritual, he made a poison and then the cure, with the blesses of Apollo, which were given with the ritual.
“Now, lay down here” he ordered Achilles. He did as asked.
“I will give you the poison. I will pray to Apollo, so your soul to float between life and death. You will not be alive, but you will not be dead either, so Hades can not claim your soul. But be careful. The God of the Underworld, will sense your presence in his realm. You must be quick on whatever you are going to do at the river. And try not to ‘die’ down there. If they stab you or if you drown down there you will die forever. In this world and the other. You will be dead. Like really dead”.
“Alright, I got it. No need to make a big deal out of this. Just let’s get going with that” he said and took a big breath. Nikolaos poured the poison into Achilles’ mouth.
“In two minutes I will give you the remedy”. Achilles’ eyes widened.
“Wait how much time do I have?” he asked.
“Do not worry you have plenty of time. In the realm of the dead, time is not really a concept. But for you to understand, let’s say that time slows down”. Achilles laughed.
“For what are you laughing about?” Nikolaos asked, surprised.
“I do not think that you know these things by following Apollo’s orders, right?”.
“Let’s say that I have learned to improvise”.
Then, without warning, Achilles started have seizures and spitting froth from his mouth. He felt the cold darkness engulfing him. The last thing he managed to hear, was Nikolaos, wising him good luck.