Achilles, the son of Poseidon, continues his journey to Siwa, in order to find the truth behind his identity.
A Father and his Son
The two friends traveled for a long time through the desert. The heat and the hot wind made their journey very difficult. The water supplies run of from the very beginning. A problem also was that Achilles was away from a source of power, thus he had no ability to use his elemental power us, nor heal himself. They traveled in silence during the heat of the day, and tried to find warmth at each other’s company, during the cold nights.
“I never thanked you” said Achilles to his friend one night. Nikolaos looked at him with question in his eyes.
“I don’t think that I get you…” replied Nikolaos.
“Back when I traveled to the Underworld. Your initiative to throw me into the sea saved my life. I thank you for that”.
“Yeah… That” said Nikolaos, with some uncomfort, knowing that this was not the whole truth.
“It wasn’t me,” said Nikolaos.
“What?” asked Achilles with surprise. “Who was then?”.
Nikolaos sighed. Even though Poseidon strictly ordered not to mention anything to his son, he could not do this. What harm could come from that? For Achilles to realize that his father actually cares for him?
“Poseidon…” said with his voice lowered. “It was your father”.
Achilles did not answer. He merely stood silent for a moment. Then he got up and went to his resting place.
“This went good…” said Nikolaos to himself, while wrapping himself in his cloak, in order to sleep.
During the rest of the journey, the two friends did not exchange a word. They arrived a couple of days later at Siwa oasis. A magnificent place. It had a large pond of water at the middle, with crystal clear water and around were many trees and topical animal species, unknown to the Greek heroes. Their lives were limited to the world taught to them by the Brotherhood of the Temple. Behind the pond there was a large hill, and at the to where the Temple of Siwa, one of the oldest buildings that were linked directly with the Gods.
“It is beautiful” said Nikolaos in awe.
“Indeed, it is” replied Achilles, breaking his silence at last.
They made camp nearby the lake.
“I will enter the temple tomorrow morning. I must do this alone. This is only for me. You will wait for me here”. Nikolaos nodded in agreement.
Next morning, Achilles entered the temple. It was huge and divided into three separate sections. The first one, was a room, lightly illuminated, under the trembling light of some torches, circling around the walls.
In this section, everyone was able to enter, to address their prayers to the God Amun, the equivalent to the God of the Greeks Zeus. Here, in this very temple, Achilles’ nemesis, Alexander, entered some years ago, as the Pharaoh of Egypt, were he was recognized by Zeus, as his son. So, his enemy was in some way his kin, making things more difficult than it already were. What a troublesome family they were… He looked at the wall paintings. They were depicting the stories of the Egyptian gods, so even the least educated could learn about their religion. Achilles could identify some of them, based on some knowledge he had, during his studies at the temple of Delphi.
He recognized the Sun God Ra, fighting against the giant demon Apophis, the adventures of God Horus, the god that was like their Apollo, as he was told by the priests of Delphi. He wandered around a bit more, until his eye caught the figure of a man, staring at him, standing in front of a huge door, which was leading to the second sector of the temple. In there, the purification ritual took place before the faithful enter the third and final sector, where he would speak with the priest of Amun, his representative on earth. Like the Pythia at the temple of Apollo.
Achilles stared back. He looked at him carefully. He was a short, bald man andwas wearing a white rode, with a ribbon in his head, a symbol of the priesthood. The most interesting thing about him, was his face. Strict and calm at the same time, he inhaled wisdom and respect. With a move of his hand, the priest called Achilles to approach. Achilles obeyed. He stood just in front of him.
“Are you ready, Son of Poseidon?” asked the priest. Achilles, accustomed with the knowledge given to some people by the Gods, wasn’t surprised.
“You were expecting me,” said Achilles.
“Indeed, we were, Son of the Sea. Our God, Amun, who is known to you as Zeus, let us know many things. Your coming here is an example of this knowledge because your arrival was expected and foretold by the Oracle of Siwa”.
“Why do I need to be ready?”
The priest almost smiled, upon hearing this question.
“For the truth” he answered.
Achilles stood for a second. But then, without a blink of an eye, he crossed the door.
“So be it” said the priest and closed the door behind him.
Once inside, he crossed a large corridor and entered a much smaller room from the first one, at the entrance of the temple. Two other priests appeared behind a column, to assist the bald priest in the purification ritual. Achilles was left with a linen around his waist. The two priests were chanting mysterious psalms in an unknown for Achilles language, while pouring oil to his head, his arms, his hands and at last his feet.
“Follow me,” said the priest.
They entered a room.
“Wait here” said the priest and left. Achilles and waited. Suddenly, the room started to fill with a weird mist. By the second that was passing, the room was taking life. Demons started crawling on the walls, hellish hounds were encircling Achilles. Not long after, Achilles realized that the room had collapsed, and he was standing in a circle. Below, there was fire.
“This is Tartarus” said a woman’s voice, standing above the ground. “If you want to learn the truth, you must enter this Vault and find this that you really seek”.
“I guess you are the Oracle?”
“How perspective of you, Son of Poseidon. And before you ask yes, I do have the Bow you want. But first you must prove to me that you are worthy”.
“How am I supposed to do that?” asked Achilles.
“By facing the truth”.
“You know, Hades was mumbling about the truth, his truth at least. This makes me at least suspicious of you”. The Oracle came closer and landed in front of him.
“No matter the plans of Hades are, you must not forget that he is a god. He knows the concepts of truth better than anyone” explained the Oracle, with a strict face. Achilles did not answer. His eyes were pinned at the eyes of the Oracle.
“Once you enter the Vault, time will not be the same. But you have already experienced that didn’t you” said Oracle with a smile, exposing he rotten teeth.
“What is it with Oracles and the bad hygiene?” thought Achilles to himself but the Oracle hit the ground with her stuff, clearly annoyed with this thought.
“There much more for us than mortal needs. We serve a higher purpose, than your small human brain cannot compehend. Besides, some of us are thousands of years old” said again with a smile, that it would creep Achilles, if he wasn’t stripped drom emotions.
“Well, I don’t think I need to waste more time” said Achilles, looking below at the flowing river of fire and lava. We walked through a great door, and entered the Vault.
Once inside, darkness engulfed him. He kept walking in a straight line. He had literally no idea where he was going. Suddenly, he heard a scream, but it was not a human one. He followed the sound. He went to pull out his sword but then he remembered that he entered the Vault unarmed. “Stupid” he thought to himself. He heard heavy footsteps approaching very quickly. He stood at battle formation, but yet he had no weapon. This something, that turned out it was following Achilles, was a Minotaur.
Achilles didn’t realize that, not until the very last moment. The Minotaur hit him with great force. If it wasn’t for the Stynx’s waters, he would be dead by the extreme force impact. He quickly got up at his feet. He could not find a source of water nearby, so he had to rely on his fists, not great against a monster that big and heavy. Achilles dodged his attacks. Although the beast was heavy, it was extremely quick and precise with its blows. When the opportunity arrived, he lunged at the beast. He grabbed the beast’s back of the head, grabbed a horn and broke it.
The beast screamed in pain. Achilles plunged the tip of the horn into the eye of the Minotaur. Black blood poured out from the wound. The Minotaur, growling in pain, took the horn out from his eye, and with fury, prepared to attack Achilles. Then it stroked him. Blood magic. Although the Temple had made it illegal, it was the only way to get out from this mess. Only those with water manipulation powers could do that happen. He focused. He felt the blood of the Minotaur running through its veins. The beast screamed in more pain, as Achilles gained control over the beast’s flow of blood.
“I’m sorry mate, but I have to do this…” said Achilles and closed his fist. The veins of the beast just exploded, in a river of blood. The Minotaur dropped dead, without beimg able to do something. Achilles sighed in relief.
“Alright, let’s move on”.
The rest of the way was hard. Tartarus was worse than Hades. It was colder than ice and hotter than melted iron. It was a place of torture, for those condemned for their actions in their life. But this was not the worst part. Achilles had no clue what he was searching for. He was just heading forward, to the center of Tartarus. It felt like an eternity for him, but at last he made it. Suddenly he felt a hand on his shoulder. He turned, ready to attack, only to be stunned by what he saw. In front of him, was standing Phillip, the king of Macedonians, the one that Achilles had killed on his very first mission.
“Why so serious?” asked Phillip, with a voice of a tired man, because his soul was tortured during his presence at Tartarus.
“This meeting is at least to say… uncomfortable,” said Achilles.
“It’s not like every other day that you can meet your killer. Seems that you found me”.
“I wasn’t searching for you”.
“You were searching to find the truth”.
“I was searching for the Bow”.
“You will not find it here,” said Phillip.
“Why the hell I am here?”.
“Because you must know the truth”.
“And what is the truth?”.
“You cannot kill, Alexander. And if you do, you will end up like me, here, tortured in eternity…”.
“Why is that? What’s so bad? He is a king, chosen by the gods?”.
“He is your brother!”.
“What? What are you saying?”.
Son of Truth
“You’ve been so blind to the truth the whole time. I’m not the boy’s father. Zeus is. And you boy, you still don’t know about your mother”
“Olympias…?” asked Achilles not being able to process this information.
“I was not a good husband to her. I had seven wives and did not expect her to stay loyal to me. And Poseidon took advantage of that. Olympias is a witch. She knows her ways around magic. She wanted a son to have tremendous power, because he knew that I raised Alexander to become a great leader”. Phillip stopped and looked at Achilles. “You made me a favor by killing me, Achilles. I would die of sorrow if I lived long to see the world take such a dark turn”.
“Achilles! Achilles! Come out! You hear me? We must leave this place! They need us! We must go!”
Achilles looked around him to see where this voice came from. He turned to Phillip, but nobody was there. But he could clearly listen Nikolaos’ voice, calling him.
“You are ready, champion” he heard the voice of the Great Oracle. “You deserve your prize”.
Everything around Achilles faded. He was standing once again in the middle of the great hall. The Oracle was nowhere to be found. But in the throne, where the Oracle was sitting there was the Bow. The Bow of Hercules. He reached it and picked it up.
“No arrows…”. He put his fingers to the Bow’s chord. He pulled it back. A powerful arrow appeared, made from pure energy, on the Bow. Achilles released it. It hit the wall of the temple, shuttering it.
“Wow” said Achilles with amazement. He walked through the rift, towards the desert. He went right to the oasis, where Nikolaos had made camp. Nikolaos run towards him, to welcome him.
“What on earth happened to you?” he asked him, looking at his appearance. He had grown a beard, his body was badly bruised, his clothes were ripped apart and dusted.
“How long have I been there?” Achilles asked.
“At least a week” answered Nikolaos, confirming the words of the Oracle about the Vault.
“What happened to the others? What do you want to tell me? If I have been in there for too long, then we are running out of time. Tell me,” he requested.
Nikolaos passed to him a letter.
“A convoy from Aristides and Dienekes arrived yesterday. They say the left for Alexander’s camp. He is said to going to Hydaspes. There is a chance that he knows of our plan!”.
Achilles read the letter. “Shit…” he murmured.
“Also, we were attacked by harpies. Only I made it alive… The others… They didn’t stand a chance”.
Hades, Son of Deception
“This is Hades’ handiwork. At least my mission was successful, I managed to retrieve that Bow” he said and showed the weapon. He didn’t even finish his sentence and the shrieks of the harpies were heard from the sky.
“Take care!” shouted Nikolaos. “Here they come again!”.
Nikolaos started sending flame balls up in the sky, killing many of the terrible beasts. Achilles tried to use the bow. The power of the energy was to much for him. The bow thre him away, sending him fly away. the bow landed a few feet from him. With a blink of an eye, a harpy dived and grabbed it.
“No!” shouted Achilles, trying to get on his feet.
The harpies at last, started to withdraw. Nikolaos went to his friend.
“What happened? What was that cry?” he asked.
Achilles pointed at the harpies that were getting away.
“We just made Alexander’s work easier. And we putted the girls in grave danger…”.