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Rated: 18+ · Non-fiction · Mythology · #1944822
The story of Arestes, the son of Ares, who becomes a hero of Ancient Greece.
PART 1


Arestes Is Born, Orphaned and then Raised by a Slave, Classindria, Who Is Not Yet Even a Woman Herself


    In ancient times in the court of King Mylander, ruler of the City of Agrippos, there lived a slave, Periphena.  King Mylander, desiring her for himself, locked her away for his own pleasure, threatening penalty of death to any man who dared have union with her.  But edicts of death issued by mortals mean nothing to the gods, and Ares, the god of war and battle lust, needed no key to enter Periphena’s room.  From their joining Periphena bore a son, Arestes, and died soon after from her labor.

    King Mylander took no interest in Arestes, and so he was raised in the manner of bastard, motherless slaves.  Arestes earliest custodians were conscripted wet nurse-slaves who viewed him solely as a burden.  He was fed (when they remembered), then neglected and passed on to the next wet nurse as quickly as she was able.  Eventually, long after he was weaned, a slave girl, Classindria, took pity on him and, though she was only a handful of years older than he, became his charge.  She took this upon herself and, despite her youth, his state of care improved immensely thereon.

    Nevertheless, Arestes grew into temperamental youth, prone to impulsive fits of anger and fighting.  Classindria, knowing nothing of his divine parentage, attributed the cause of this to his early upbringing.  As a slave herself her duties were exhaustive, and there was only so much nurturing and care she could provide for him.

    Arestes was difficult and unruly in other ways too.  He was often truant from his duties in the kitchen, preferring to ramble afar in the King’s fields or woods, or to swim in the nearby sea, or to explore the city of Agrippos itself.  When he did manage to perform his duties, he usually did poor work, and the cooks frequently punished and thrashed him for his infractions and noncompliance.  He most likely would have been killed outright if not for Classindia’s auspices; that and for the fact he was held in high favor among King Mylander’s guards and soldiers, whom he amused with his precocious talents in the fields of crude humor, cursing, and his proclivity to fight…anyone…without fear.

    One night the drunken guards used Arestes thusly, as entertainment.  They encircled him and gave him an older boy to fight, whom he defeated easily.  He was then given an even older boy to fight, whom he also defeated.  And so on.  Eventually he was presented with a veteran of the guard to fight; Slypiomedes, a brutal man and one of the few men in the guard who hated Arestes.  Some in the guard balked at this unfolding of events, but Arestes insisted he wanted to fight on, for Arestes hated Slypiomedes in return.  Arestes willingness to carry on sent up a boisterous cheer from the guard.

    The fight went poorly for Arestes at first.  Slypiomedes, towering above him like a titan, viciously pummeled Arestes.  Arestes, his reach much shorter than Slypiomedes, was unable to land any blows, and soon he was thoroughly blooded and bruised.  He remained resolute, biding his time.

    The moment came and Slypiomedes let his guard down.  Arestes whirled in and delivered Slypiomedes a sharp blow.  As Slypiomedes bent over in pain, Arestes grabbed his arm and twisted it behind his back.  There was a loud snap, followed by Slypiomedes gape mouthed expression as he gazed at his own arm hanging uselessly by his side.  Most of the guards roared in appreciation at this deed, laughing cruelly at Slypiomedes, but a few murmured in wonder and fear.  Fortunately, a handful of them had the presence of mind to drag Arestes away from Slypiomedes for the cheers of the guard had filled Arestes with a hateful joy - and he wanted nothing more than to send Slypiomedes on his journey to the underworld.

    The guards roiled with exuberant indecision.  Some said the contest was done, while others said let the entertainment continue, noting Arestes willingness, nay, his desire, to proceed further.  Despite their inebriation none were foolish enough to volunteer to take Arestes on themselves.  After some debate they decided to send two guards into the circle with Arestes for his next bout.  They had just begun to draw lots to determine which two men would go in when Classindria intervened.  She pushed through the circle and ran to Arestes, dropping to her knees as she threw her arms around him.

    “Beasts, all of you!  You ought to be ashamed of yourselves; he is just a child and has not even grown his man’s hair yet.  This is an act against the gods.  For Zeus’s sake, are you men or monsters?”

    A voice called out, “That is easy - we are monsters!”  Raucous laughter burst forth, but many knew the game was done.  Another voice called out, “If our sport with the boy is finished, let us take our merriment with this slave.  She is scrawny, yet she has some charms and I have wanted her for some time.”  Most in the guard laughed at this, although a few were also of this sentiment and they began to organize a new sordid and vile drawing of lots.

    Instantly Arestes smile vanished.  With inhuman celerity he ripped the sword from the nearest guard’s sheath and shouted above the din, “Dare you touch her not.  The first worthless son of a whore who lays his filthy hands upon her loses them.”

    Again the guards roiled.  A sea of harsh laughs and cheers went up, although a few went for their swords at this insolent, audacious act of a mere slave-boy drawing a guard’s sword, in very defiance against them no less.  Still others in the guard, less drunk and belligerent, tried to calm them, and blows threatened to break out between these two camps.

    “Cease!”  Over the tumult a voice bellowed with such wrath and authority the guards startled to silence.  Their circle parted for Yingolon the Centaur.  “This foulness is done.  Go, and if you choose not to return to your quarters to sleep off your wine, then go elsewhere.  But go now and with haste.”  And since Yingolon’s word was as good as law in the court of King Mylander, the guards departed without anyone doing more than grumble a few complaints under his breath, although some were already wondering if they could find another slave boy capable of finishing Slypiomedes off.

    Classindria fussed over Arestes and cleaned his wounds, which looked awful.  “Zeus, look at you.  Those guards should be flogged for their cruelty.  Oh, Arestes, my doll, does it hurt?”

    Arestes thought for a moment then said, “I feel well enough,” for under her preening care he had all but forgotten his previous rage, as well the pain of his wounds.

    Classindria worriedly cast her gaze at Yingolon who, for the first time, looked thoughtfully upon the boy Arestes.

Yingolon the Centaur Takes On the Challenge of Arestes
   

    Now Yingolon, in the tradition of wise centaurs of Ancient Greece, was the tutor and teacher of the children of the high court.  He petitioned King Mylander to permit him take Arestes on as a student.  This perplexed and bothered King Mylander - to have a slave join the ranks of the court’s noble children was unheard of; but Yingolon was adamant, and he was a free “man,” so King Mylander had little sway over him.  Thus Arestes became a student of Yingolon the Centaur. 

    Yingolon soon discovered that Arestes was a student like no other he'd ever had.  In all martial and physical pursuits he excelled.  He was superbly accurate with a bow, javelin and sling.  He ran fast, swam like an eel, and his horsemanship was masterful.  He was a natural fighter, mixing boxing, wrestling, and kicking in such an inventive and effective way even Yingolon had not seen anything of its kind before.

    But when Arestes took up a shield and spear (or sword) something frightening happened.  His talent and ferocity with these weapons was so complete he terrified the other students, and Yingolon had to take to teaching and training Arestes apart from them.  Soon Arestes was able to match even Yingolon’s impressive abilities, and eventually he abandoned trying to “teach” him how to use these weapons for there was nothing left for Yingolon to share with him that Arestes did not already instinctually know.

    In other areas, however, Arestes struggled.  He chafed at sedentary study and he displayed little intellectual curiosity.  At first Yingolon feared he had discovered Arestes too late and wondered if he may have grown too wild to be teachable.  It was only through painstaking effort that Yingolon was able to teach him to write.  Languages also came slowly to Arestes.  Ethics, mathematics, astronomy, oratory, philosophy and the like often left Arestes baffled while his peers readily grasped these.  Yet Yingolon discovered if he was persistent, Arestes could learn even the most complex of subject matters, he just needed more time than most.  Yingolon arranged to have Arestes removed from his remaining duties in the kitchen, as to have more time with him.  Arestes, not to mention all who worked in the kitchen, celebrated this momentous decision joyously.

    Often Arestes was a difficult and arrogant student.  One day as Yingolon’s class practiced wrestling, it came Arestes turn.  All of the students refused to wrestle him; even the older and bigger ones for Arestes had bested them all, numerous times.  A few he inadvertently hurt in past bouts.  They feared him.

    Arestes laughed at them all, mocking their lack of bravery and fighting spirit.  Eventually he turned to Yingolon and said, “It looks as if I have graduated to you, my teacher.  Will you wrestle with me Master Yingolon?  Or are you too a cowardly woman as your students are?”

    “Arestes, not a day goes by where I do not grapple with you, and I fear I will never teach you to be civil with your peers, to be modest about your gifts or when it is best to hold your tongue.  But let us leave off our metaphorical wrestling and begin our literal bout and see if maybe I can teach you...whatever it is I can manage to teach you.”

    The fight commenced.  Arestes launched himself and took hold of the much larger Yingolon.  Yingolon was fast and inhumanly strong, but Arestes was also and the two seemed evenly matched.  Most of the students cheered Yingolon on, for Arestes was not well liked and Yingolon was loved.  Yet some cheered for Arestes, for it took courage, and it was exciting, to see someone challenge the indomitable Yingolon with whom no other student could hope to compete;  and Arestes was giving a very good account of himself - to watch Yingolon struggle (as they themselves did every day in his class) was something new to behold.

    Indeed, after a time it seemed as if Arestes’ strength and speed were getting the better of Yingolon.  Yingolon’s breathing became labored; his back and haunches wet form sweat.  Nevertheless Arestes, despite his best efforts, could not bring him to the ground.  Frustrated, Arestes pushed Yingolon who leaned heavily forward, resisting.  Despite his efforts to hold his ground, Yingolon's hooves carved four, neat, straight furrows into the earth as he strained against his godling student.  Arestes changed his plan from pinning Yingolon - to exhausting him into submission.

    The students cheered and yelled.  Arestes pushed Yingolon such a distance that they began to near the cliffs that met the sea.  Arestes endurance was flagging, yet he felt Yingolon’s strength ebbing more so and this rejuvenated his will.  He would push Yingolon to the very edge of the cliff where Yingolon would have to yield.

    He did indeed push Yingolon to the brink of the cliff, but Yingolon made a stand and, with more strength than Arestes believed he had, halted Arestes advancement there.  Arestes decided to push Yingolon off the cliff into the sea.  He mustered his strength and pushed mightily into Yingolon.

    Or pushed mighty into where Yingolon had been, for with a nimbleness that belied his size, Yingolon slipped away, eluding Arestes' final push.  He aided Arestes’ momentum by grasping his arm and pulling him as he stepped aside then pushing his back as he went by; and thus Arestes was thrown off the cliff into the foaming sea below.  The students laughed and cheered at this ending of the match; many were relieved that not only had their teacher had won, but also entertained them all by the clever way in which he had managed to do so.

    And when Arestes eventually arose to the surface of the roiling sea below and swam with his strong, graceful strokes to shore below, all could hear, even from their great distance atop the cliff, his laughter as well.

Arestes Grows To Manhood and Takes Ill But is Reluctant to Reveal Its Cause


    As Arestes matured Yingolon and Classindria succeeded in tempering his character to a degree.  Yet, there always remained about him a fierceness that threatened to erupt at any time.  He had not quite achieved full adulthood, yet he already stood taller than most men.  He had long black hair and dark, deep set eyes, and he was handsome.  Many men respected him and most feared him, but none loved him and he counted no man, except Yingolon (who was more of a beloved mentor), as a friend.  Women, however, were a different matter, and in the ilk of those who possess the blood of the gods, Arestes was lusty, and engaged in trysts with women, slaves and high borne alike.

    Yet, after a time, Arestes became troubled and so he lost his eye for women.  He slept not, and took no pleasure in hunting, swimming, entertainments, or engaging in sport of any sort.  He ceased to groom himself.  He was miserable and despondent.  His condition only worsened in the passing of time.  Even his fits of temper vanished and no affront or threat against him could rouse any of his infamous anger.

    Classindria found him thus one morning in the dining hall, brooding and alone.  As she she neared him she sniffed, then halted short.

    “Zeus, you stink!  The gods could smell you from atop Mount Olympus.  When is the last time you bathed?  And your hair is a greasy, tangled mess, as is your scraggly boy’s beard.  Why are you not in Yingolon’s class today?”

    “He sent me away in disgust for I could not mind what he was teaching.”

    “What was he teaching?”

    Arestes closed an eye and his brow furrowed.  His eye reopened and he said, “I do not recall.”

    “Zeus, give me strength.  Go down to the ocean and wash yourself, and pray Poseidon does not take any personal offense to the blasphemous act of you entering, and thus polluting, his domain.  Tonight, take supper with me, for you are worrying me and I want to talk to you.”

    Arestes went down to the beach, disrobed and entered the water, ruminating darkly as each of his arm strokes carried him further out to sea.

    After darkness fell, Classindria searched frantically for Arestes, as he was remiss in meeting her for dinner and his earlier behavior had alarmed her.  She could not find him in the court, and since none had seen him since morning, she ran down to the beach to seek him there.  She found him finishing dressing himself.

    “Where in Holy Hades have you been?” she asked angrily.

    “Swimming.”

    “You were swimming this whole time?” she asked, her anger changing to concern.

    “Yes, just as you bade me to.  You told me to wash my stink off into the sea, so I swam to the Island of Dellios and back.  I was very dirty so I hoped that would suffice,” said Arestes managing some grim humor.

    Most others would have taken this as ridiculous boasting, but Classindria knew what Arestes was capable of and she said to him, “Zeus, what is wrong with you?  Dellios is leagues away.  Are you now seeking your own death?  What is this sad affliction you are suffering from?  Is it some kind of madness, or perhaps a fever?”  She placed her hand on his forehead.  “You feel cool enough to my touch.”  She sniffed the air.  “Zeus, what is that stench?”  She looked around the beach for some offending sea creature’s rotting carcass, but saw none.  A knowing look crossed her face and she smelled him.  “The smell is still coming from you!”  Her eyes grew big, her jaw dropped as she gasped in realization.  “It’s your clothes!” she said with such horror that one might have thought his offending clothes in question were made of writhing, poisonous adders woven together by clever demons with the use of black magic.

    They made their way back to Agrippos - Classindria berating him for his uncleanness and his foolishness.  Arestes lagged behind too slowly for her taste, so she impatiently took him by the hand and pulled him insistently - for not only was she angry and fretting about his behavior, but she risked punishment for leaving the court without permission, so she worried about that too.

    Her worries came to naught for none had taken note of either of their absences.  Classindria brought Arestes to his own, small room (a privilege Yingolon was able to grant him).  “I dare not trust you to do this yourself, so take off your clothes and give them to me, although I haven’t decided if I want to try to wash them, or if I should simply burn them.”

    Without a word Arestes disrobed and Classindria gasped at what she saw.  Arestes’s once beautifully sculptured and heavily muscled body had wasted away to a thinness that pained her eye, his every rib showed.  She grew afraid and, for the first time, feared he might be dying.  “Arestes, my Arestes, what is ailing you so?”

    “I have not had much of an appetite as of late.”

    “Much of an appetite?  Hera, help me!  You’re starving.  I am going to try and fetch the physician.  You stay here and wait,” said Classindria but as she made to go, Arestes stepped in front of her, barring her way.

    “Remove yourself from my path,” she said.

    “No.”

      Classindria attempted to dash past him, but he easily caught her wrists.  She struggled and thrashed about trying to break loose of his hold.  She vented and ranted about men, stubbornness, doctors, and certain persons she suspected of being half gods, but whom she definitely knew possessed quarter sized brains.  Despite her anger, she could not help but marvel that, as sick as he was, he was still as strong as Heracles as her frantic efforts budged him not one bit.  She told him through her gritted teeth (for the countless time) how she always hated it when he did this to her, and she prayed out loud to the gods to grant her the strength to beat him up, just for once.  Arestes’ face remained morose throughout it all.

    She changed tactics and stopped struggling, “Ow, you are hurting me Arestes.  Release me, please.”

    Arestes answered flatly, “That trick worked on me as a boy, but no longer.  I know how hard to hold you now as to not hurt you, yet still keep you fast.”

    “You still are a boy, you bastard,” said Classindria immediately renewing her efforts to break free, her slender arms and legs all flailing uselessly and comically about.

    “I am no longer a boy, although I shall always be a bastard, true enough; as far as a physician goes, that will do no good.  What I suffer from no doctor can cure.” 

    Classindria ceased struggling against him.  “You know what’s wrong with you?  For Zeus’s sake Arestes, hold your tongue no longer!  Tell me what it is!”

    “What I suffer from is a curse and an affront to the gods.  I have fallen in love with one with whom I should not.”

    Classindria’s face was a cloud of confusion.  Her mind whirled and then she had it.  “It’s Yingolon!  You’ve fallen in love with Yingolon!”

    Despite his sadness, the absurdity of her accusation brought a smile to Arestes’ face and he said chuckling, “No, it is not Yingolon,” but his smile and laugher vanished as quickly as they had come.  “Do you really not know?”

    “No, who is it?  Who is it that is sickening you so?”

    “Apparently, I must lay myself bare to you for yet a second time this night.  So be it.  It is you, Classindria, my mother.  I have fallen in love with you.”

    "Oh, for Hades's sake, you're mad.  Why do you think you love me?"

    Arestes was quiet and with a strange pained look he studied her and thought in earnest.  Eventually the pained look broken for a moment by the familiar flash of one of his wry smiles.  He said, "I love you because you are the best person I know of."

    Classindria moved not at all and Arestes released her wrists.  She studied his face but could read nothing new as it still held the same listless and sad expression it had for worn for some time.  She embraced him silently, since she knew not what to say - for she had always thought of him as her son and had never considered him as a potential paramour.  Eventually she said, “Speak of this to no other.  I must try to sort out what the import of all this is.”  That night, as she lay in bed, she thought about how much she enjoyed his company and how they got to laughing, and how at certain times he looked decent enough...all right, she admitted to herself, he is as handsome as Apollo, god of light.  She thought all these things and was startled to discover new stirrings inside she had never felt about Arestes (or any other man for that matter) before.

Classindria Satiates Arestes Hunger When She Returns His Love


    Later that week Classindria attended to her duties in the dining hall as Yingolon’s class finished their lunch.  She was about to clear their table when another scullery slave, Desteria, moved to attend to this task.  Desteria was generally indolent, and so Classindria watched her suspiciously.  As Desteria came to Arestes she laughed and jested with him, laying one hand upon his shoulder as she picked up his full, untouched soup bowl with the other, nearly (and not by accident) spilling her voluptuous bosom out of her tunic as she bent over to do so.  All of the students’ eyes were upon her for she was as beautiful as a nymph.  Classindria watched this all unfold (as she ruefully felt her own non-ample chest), and suddenly she had the urge to slap Desteria's hands away from Arestes; now Desteria had began to tussle his hair too.  Desteria looked over and saw Classindria glowering jealously at her, and she shot Classindria an impish, defiant look back. 

    Meanwhile Arestes, awoken from his stupor by these unwanted touches, removed Desteria’s hands from his hair and shoulder.  He thought a moment then gently placed them where he thought they belonged – residing back at her sides.  He never once paid her a glance, which made him singularly distinct from all else present in the hall.  Classindria gave Desteria a closedmouthed, squinty-eyed smile that all but spoke the words ‘ha-ha, bitch’ and the vanquished Desteria moved on further down the table to collect the bowls from Yingolon’s other students who, watching her in stunned awe, were not immune to her charms (as Arestes seemed to be), to say the least.

    Arestes looked up and saw Classindria smiling his way; thinking it was intended for him, he smiled back.  The effect of this on her was immediate causing her pangs of jealousy and anger to dissipate.  Her cold, malicious smile warmed instantly to a pleasurable one and she suddenly realized she loved Arestes - as a woman loves a man and not as a mother loves her son.  Her heart leapt in surprised joy at this revelation, but she was afraid too because, as everyone knows, no good ever comes to slaves when they fell in love.  She said a silent prayer, right then and there, to Aphrodite for divine help and guidance as to what course of action to pursue.

    Later, as Yingolon’s class filed out of the dining hall, Classindria caught Arestes as he passed and told him she wished to meet him in his room for supper that night, adding that he should make sure he was bathed.  He thought nothing of this for his mind was dull from sadness and he wasn’t naturally the optimistic sort anyway.  Also, despite being the son of the god of war, and as a young man who had already had more than his fair share of women, he still somehow managed to possess a ridiculous amount of innocent naivety.

    That evening, just as darkness was falling, Classindria entered Arestes small room, closed his door, placed a small tapered wooden block on the floor, and wedged his door fast.  From a sack she produced some bread, cheese, a handful of grapes, a bit of pork and, since he had no table, she laid them out on a plate on his cot.  “Eat,” she said.

    Arestes looked dolefully at the food and said, “I cannot.”

    “Well that's a shame for both of us, because if you can eat this food laid before you, I too will lay myself before you here and you could partake of me as a second meager picnic of sorts, but only if that interests you, of course,” she said, and although this may sound crass and abrupt, you must remember Classindria was a slave, and that is how slaves are when dealing in the matters of sex and food.

    Arestes was confused for a moment, not comprehending her.  Then he understood what she meant, and he promptly bolted the food down in three bites, as he found that his appetite had magically returned.  True to her word, Classindria disrobed and barely had time enough to lie down on his pallet before Arestes was upon her.  His joining with her lasted not any longer than the time it took for him to devour his food, and so, afterword, when he sat up in bed his shame was such he could not face her and thus presented her his back.

    “That could not have been anything but beastly for you.  I am sorry beyond words.  That was so selfish and rough I feel as if I just raped the woman I love.” 

    Classindria chuckled and ran her hands soothingly on his shoulders and back, “Come now Arestes, be not needlessly distressed.  I liked it since I could feel your urgent passion, and that enveloped and excited me.  And rape me you certainly did not, for truth be told, of the men who have taken me, you are the first to have had me willingly without a fight and certainly the first I have enjoyed.”  As Classindria spoke Arestes back tensed beneath her fingers and she knew he wanted their names and so she continued, “Please, make me speak no further of that evilness at this time, for lately I feel overcome and very weary of the burdens of being a slave.  Tonight, I need your love to make me forget my lot in life, and give my heart’s pain some respite.  I beg you, please turn around to face me again, and let us carry on romantically, for I have brought more food and a skin of wine I stole from the cellar.  I wish to eat and take drink with you, and afterword amorously entwine again with you, and when we take up those delightful pursuits, we will taste each of them in slower measure.”

    They proceeded to put her night’s agenda into action and after it’s unfolding, both were surprised it was better than they dared to hope it would be, but the most pleasurable time was yet to come, when they lay in bed together afterword.  They talked and made plans the way men and women do when they are in love and feel like it is them against the world, and Arestes was reminded for the thousandth time of how much smarter Classindria was than he – so much so he actually started to believe perhaps they actually could prevail.



PART 2


Arestes Joins the Army and War Comes To the City Of Agrippos


    Their plan was simple.  Arestes would join King Mylander’s army, serve his time and thus earn his freedom, as was the law and custom of Agrippos.  Once free, he would buy Classindria’s freedom and they would begin their new life together.

    Yingolon mediated with King Mylander’s staff and got Arestes a favorable arrangement on the term of his service, and a position for him in King Mylander’s guard.  This saddened Arestes, who felt like there was much he had yet to learn from Yingolon, but Yingolon promised him that he would always remain his student, and this cheered him to a degree.  Arestes, already on friendly terms with many in the guard, impressed his superiors with his amazing fighting talents.  Even as discipline went, Arestes handled orders adequately enough, for Yingolon had, through his exhaustive efforts, managed to teach him enough self-control to fit in.

    As Arestes and Classindria carried on romantically, they tried to keep their love and rendezvous covert, but soon this became the proverbial worst kept secret of King Mylander’s Court.  Arestes did not mind this, for few dared to cross him and Classindria was thereafter left alone by men.  Some in the court gossiped about the delicious incestuous romance, but Classindria was not blood related to Arestes, so talk and tease as they might, no real sanction or condemnation could come from their new relationship.

    And so, for a time, Arestes and Classindria were more joyous and at peace than they’d ever been, but this is a story of Greek myth, so you know that bliss wouldn’t be long lasting.  King Mylander soon died, leaving no male heir to his throne, as his first wife had died without bearing him any children.  He had remarried a few years before his death and his second wife, Isettia, also had no children.  She was young, beautiful - and unprepared for the throne.

    The King of Thelopolis, Teraneus, hearing of King Mylander’s death, decided he would use this development to extract some resources from the young, novice queen and Agrippos.  He demanded a doubling of the yearly tribute they already paid to him, the conscription of one thousand Agrippan Hoplite troops for use in his upcoming campaign, and for an arranged marriage between Queen Isettia and one of his sons, Hycerius.

      Queen Isettia called together her advisors and generals for counsel.  Yingolon was among them.  Some argued that the Thelopian army was too big and that King Teraneus’ demands should be met with acquiescence.  Just as many rebutted they should not, fearing King Teraneus’ demands would cripple the city.  Yingolon was silent on the matter, although the talks became heated.  Queen Isettia listened to what they said and weighed it all carefully.  She despised King Teraneus’ last demand the most, for she had been forced to marry King Mylander in much the same way, and that marriage had been an unhappy one. 

    “We will not meet his demands and go to war if we must,” she said.  “Prepare our defenses and fill the city’s storehouses.  Send messengers out to our allies and to the surrounding city-states also chaffing under Teraneus’ taxes and burdens.  See if we can obtain their aid.”

    They next discussed how best to go about the potential fight.  Many recommended for the Agrippan fleet to meet the Thelopians at sea.  A few argued against this, including Yingolon, who contended their fleet was too small and so would be ineffective, but those who proposed this were out-numbered.  In this way Queen Isettia came to decree that the Agrippan navy would meet the Thelopians at sea.

    The Thelopian fleet was already at sea, for King Teraneus had already gathered much of his army together for his campaign.  His first order of business was to stop at the city states who had defied him in paying him his tribute in coin, rations, supplies, and troops.  He would extract these things (and more) by threat of violence or sack the defiant city if they did not.  Soon enough he would reach Agrippos and they could only pray for time to prepare.

    They received very little of that.  In just four days time word was brought that King Teraneus and had captured the city of Hellina, pillaging its wealth, making slaves of the women and putting the men who would not join his ranks to the sword.  His next stop was Agrippos and the message was he would attack.  The Agrippan navy was sent forth to meet them and hopefully take them by surprise but, just as Yingolon feared, the Agrippan fleet was overwhelmed and destroyed by the Thelopian armada.  Queen Isettia called her generals and advisors to counsel together again. 

    This second meeting was even more contentious than the first, and those who had argued for compliance to King Teraneus asserted their sentiment with renewed vigor, but Queen Isettia was not ready to concede, so she asked for more advice.  They discussed the defense of the city and weighed whether or not to meet the Thelopians on the beach as they attempted to get their toehold on Agrippos.  Most argued against this saying it would be better fight the Thelopians from behind the advantage of their tall towers and thick walls.  Yingolon, this time, did not hold his tongue.

    “Queen Isettia, the time will come when the battle is at our city’s walls, but we must first fight the Thelopians at the sea’s side.  Our allies and those who will not yield to the Thelopians have had little time to heed our calls for help, so each hour we can hold the Thelopians from surrounding our city is more chance we gain in those parties joining us behind our walls.  Our own seasoned warriors in fields far flung who still owe you service, are still mostly yet to come too - as are your stores of food, water and such.  True, at the sea’s side we will not have quite the advantage of the walls and towers provide, but the ground will still be in our favor and perhaps we can catch the Thelopians unaware.  And lastly, I fear allowing the Thelopians and their allies to land without contest will lower morale.  Their army is enormous and they will intimidate the populace.  We need some kind of victory against them, particularly after our naval rout, to bolster confidence if we are to eventually repulse them.”

    Those in the war council who opposed this (which were most) once again voiced their dissent, and Queen Isettia heard them out again.

    “I have heard enough from both sides.  Yingolon has made the best case and so we go with his vision of the city’s defense.  And since General Tromaeus perished in our naval debacle and I need a new war leader, Yingolon is now promoted to that position.  He will direct our overall defenses; you are all underneath him and will do as he says.  Now leave us and begin to prepare what you all need to do, except for you, Yingolon - I will have more words with you now.”

    Queen Isettia and Yingolon spoke at great length.  She asked him what he needed and he listed all he required among which, were a few hands to serve as his staff.  She granted this request.

    Yingolon picked his staff and surprised everyone when he chose Arestes as his aide-de-camp, including Arestes himself.

The Agrippans Meet the Thelopians on The Beach And Are Led By Arestes
   

    The Thelopians' fleet was large and this made them overly confident.  A storm had struck the night before they arrived near Agrippos, so their ships ranged even farther apart than usual.  When the first ships arrived at the harbor of Agrippos they were indeed surprised the Agrippans had set up defenses upon the beach.  They assumed they would make their stand at the city’s famous walls and not venture so boldly forth.

    The Thelopians, bolstered by their recent victories and eager to take advantage of what they thought would be more favorable terms to engage the Thelopians, began to beach their ships in the harbor.

    The Agrippans greeted them with a hail of sling stones, a wave of arrows, and a barrage of javelins, and many Thelopians were slain on the very decks of their ships.  Those that jumped forth from their ships found the water to be over their heads.  The men that couldn’t swim, or push their way forward from the sea floor fast enough, drowned under the weight of their armor and weapons.  And they soon discovered the waters of Agrippos Harbor teemed with sharks and a few wounded soldiers even fell to them, for Arestes, days before, had come up with the grisly idea to bleed off many of the goats and pigs that were being brought into the city in preparation of a siege, and cast this blood into the sea to attract sharks there.

    Those Thelopians who managed to push forth past the arrows, javelins, sling stones, rough sea, and sharks and made their way onto the beach were met by the Agrippan infantry.  Organized, rested and defending their home land, they slaughtered the first Thelopians who slogged ashore.  Four Thelopian ships were emptied in mere minutes thusly.

    After the first wave was destroyed more Thelopian triremes arrived and gathered, growing in numbers, off shore.  Arestes and Yingolon watched the ships gather and planned their strategies.

    Soon the Thelopians had enough ships they thought would be needed to take the beach.  They coordinated their efforts and then in unison began to row toward the beach.  They numbered ten ships.

    This time the Thelopians better executed their attack and as they grounded their ships a contingent of their own archers and slingers on board sent their own volleys of missiles ashore covering their infantry’s assault.  The Thelopians disembarked coolly for many were seasoned troops of King Teraneus’ endless wars.  With impressive discipline they quickly formed a phalanx waist deep in the sea, and then as one unit they crashed into the Agrippan defensive line.

    The battle was pitched and hotly fought by both sides.  After a time the battle started to go the Thelopian’s way and they threatened to break through the right side of the Agrippan’s line.  Arestes, seeing this from afar, raced across the beach to meet them.

    Two Thelopians cut down the last hapless Agrippan hold out, breaching the line, and had just turned to attack the vulnerable Agrippans to the right and left when one Thelopian hurtled backward from a javelin protruding from his helmet’s eye slit.  The warrior next to him was slain a moment later, as Arestes’s threw his second javelin with such force, it pierced through his shield and continued on into his heart.

    And then Arestes was in the line’s rift, yelling savagely above the battle’s din.  To the Thelopians he seemed not a man, but a spear-wielding, armored, dark maelstrom born of some unholy sorcery.  The first Thelopian he killed with his spear did not even see him coming.  The second did see him and dared stand against him, but Arestes skewed him through the chest nonetheless.  However, in doing so, his spear broke in half and an opportunistic Thelopian sergeant closed upon him instantly hoping to slay him now that he was without his spear.  Arestes, however, drew his sword with such swiftness; he caught the surprised grizzled sergeant in the neck, just below the protection of his helmet, with a deft thrust.  Arestes threw himself wildly at the Thelopian line of shields, and held those warriors at bay long enough for the Agrippans to rally to him.  Then together they began to push the Thelopians back, and sealed up the gap.

The Agrippans Win the Day and Prepare for the Next Day’s Battle


    Hours later the battle finally went to the Agrippans, and the handful of Thelopians left on the beach yielded, as did the few remaining Thelopian archers on the beached ships.  The Agrippans gathered the Thelopians together in a group on the sand as the Agrippan higher ups began to discuss with Yingolon what should be their fate.  They contemplated bringing them to Agrippos and holding them captive there.

    A voice called out from among the troops, “Take them captive?  You jest, right?”  Are you blind to all of our dead that litter the sand, which is our land I remind you.  Look there, there lies Menides, he is the very brother of Erippiden here, who stands in silent, distraught mourning beside me.  We should slay them and not even give them the honor of burying them.  Let us kill them and cast them into the sea, or better still, leave them right where they lie as food for the crabs, sea gulls and other vermin of the sea.”

      The generals angered at this soldier who dared speak out beyond his station and wanted to discipline him, but Yingolon told them no.  Nevertheless he said to the soldier, “We cannot do that.  We must remember and try to retain our humanity.  It is always important to do so, but it is never more crucial than when we are at war.”

    For a time there was silence and then Arestes spoke.  “My master, why do we just not let them egress?”

    Many of the generals laughed thinking this was a jest, but Yingolon, who knew his student better than they did asked, “Bid them go?”

    “Yes, my master.  I know it seems lenient, but what are we to do otherwise?  Bring them back to Agrippos where we must feed and guard them, which will only cost us troops we cannot put on the walls.  And so what if we have to face them again morrow?  They are disgraceful spear, sword and Aspis droppers, but if they do manage to find their courage against us tomorrow then we will slay them for good.  Let them swim naked back to their ships that ride at anchor yonder at sea, if they can make it.  Then they can tell their fellows what a festive time they had in trying to wrest the Agrippan beach from us.”

    Yingolon was silent for time as he weighed this and then he said.  “So be it, we will let them go, but many of them cannot swim, so having them swim for their ships is as good as a cruel death sentence.  We will give them one of their ships to take back.  Make sure that there is not an arrow or bowstring aboard that ship.  They go back weaponless, without amour, and naked, just as you have said.  Take the ship’s mast and anchor; take everything but its oars.  Now go do as I say for we have many more matters of import to discuss.  For certainly the Thelopians will attack tomorrow, if not again, today.”

      The Thelopians did not attack again that day, but were content to gather their incoming ships off shore, and by evening there were more than forty and they assumed more would arrive over night.

    “We will not be able to hold them off again tomorrow,” said Yingolon watching from atop a dune on the beach.

    “No,” answered Arestes, “But the Copittes showed up with their contingent of troops today, as well as some more of our reserves from afield, which now we add both to our defense line.  Tomorrow we will probably be driven back, but we will slay more them then they will off us, before we are forced to leave the field.”

Arestes Makes a Vow of Battle


    They were silent for a time, each thinking their own thoughts.  Arestes gazed out at the gathering ships, squinting in his effort to make something out among them.  “Do you see that man on the fifth ship to the west?  The one who towers above all else,” said Arestes.

    “I do see him and I know of him.  He is Anjix, King Teraneus’ champion.  He slew the monstrous wolf which terrorized both Thrace and Gaul, for it had acquired a taste for human blood.  He killed the twins Portendes and Tsores in the battle of Dardinopolis, and so helped break the siege and the morale of that city, for those two heroes and defenders of that city were loved by the Dardins like gods.  Those are just two of Anjix’s many renowned exploits, and his legend grows by the day.”

    “Never heard of him.”

    “Well, you are they only one in the known world who has not, but I suppose I should not be surprised since you daydreamed through all of my lessons.  Many say his strength is second only to Heracles, which should not be a surprise, as they share the same father, Zeus.  You have heard of Zeus, right?  Do not engage Anjix, for he is stronger and faster than you.  Avoid him at all costs for I think even you cannot best him.”

    “Stronger and faster than me?  There is more to fighting than being fast and strong.  Certainly you recall the day when you defeated me on that very cliff yonder.  Was I not faster and stronger than you?”

    “Yes, but I used my wits.”

    “Well, then I shall have to use my wits too.  That should be easy enough for I use them so infrequently they are quite well rested.  Tell me my teacher, where does Anjix hail from?”

    “From inland, from the Wild Hills of Cracey.”

    Arestes was quiet for some time.  Then to Yingolon he coldly said (as Yingolon feared he would), “If we are to beat back the Thelopians we must defeat them at every turn.  Who will challenge Anjix if I do not?  I will meet Anjix in battle and one of us will perish.  This I vow before you my teacher.  This I vow to the gods.”  Then he became quiet for a time before he added a little sheepishly, "But I would appreciate it, my master, if you would not tell Classindria."

    The Agrippans spent the rest of the day removing the dead from the beach, attending to the wounded, and preparing their defenses.  Arestes and Yingolon would not leave the beach and Classindria, worried about them, brought them their evening meal.  When she arrived at the beach she gasped at what she saw, for they were using slave boys to gather up all of the arrows for their army to reuse.  Some of the boys were actually swimming naked in the sea to do this, and although the sharks had gorged upon their fill, it was still dangerous, and grisly, for the Agrippans had yet to completely clear out the dead and Thelopian bodies still rolled around in the waves.  Some of the boys had climbed abroad the Thelopian ships to retrieve the arrows that were left there, or were stuck into the ships themselves.  She found Arestes and Yingolon and started to berate them.

    “Holy Hades in a hand basket!  Are you two mad?  You cannot use these boys for such for such a horrid task.  See yonder, that child over there struggling to pull an arrow from out of the chest of that dead man.  That child can be no more than eight, for Zeus’ sake.  Cannot you imagine the twisted dreams he will have tonight?

    Yingolon looked and saw what she saw for the first time, the young boys amid the dead, but Arestes laughed.  “We need those arrows, for before the battle end’s today we had already run out.  Now we can retrieve most of our arrows, as well as the Thelopians, and use them all against them again tomorrow.  And see, the boys do not mind.  Look how they frolic and laugh in the surf and on the beach.  It is a break from their drudgery and less taxing than their usual tasks.  Were we not forced to do worse as children?”

    “Good point there, Socrates.  I mean look at how unscathed and well adjusted we turned out.  Especially you!  Just because we were forced to do awful things, does not make it right to have children do things that are only slightly less evil.”

    Arestes was about to reply when Yingolon held up his hand to silence him.  “Classindria is right.  I have so many tasks before me I am not even clearly seeing what is before my eyes.  Send the children back to the city!” he ordered.  “And have the men finish the task of collecting the rest of the arrows.  Now let us see what you have brought for us to eat, and stay with us while we sup for I think we may need some more of your maternal influence to ground us from the horrors of the day.  Then maybe we will feel a little more humane and civilized again.”

    That is what they did, they ate their meal together on the beach as darkness fell, and if it hadn’t been for the Agrippans dragging away the last of the dead bodies, it might have been a very pleasant evening to the eye for the Agrippans finished stripping the Thelopians’ beached ships, and they set them ablaze.  The burning ships therein illuminated up the night sky and surrounding waters in soft orange and yellow colors in a very beautiful manner.

Arestes Meets Anjix in Battle and Both Make Good Upon Their Pledges


    Arestes did not have to wait long to make good upon his pledge from the previous day.  The next morning the Thelopians began to beach their ships in earnest and attack.  They were met again by hundreds of Agrippan arrows.  The bravest among the Agrippans met the Thelopians at the water’s edge and slew many of them for, once again, the Thelopians already had to fight through the sea in their armor just to get there.  The ship that carried Anjix soon beached too.

    Anjix leapt so mightily from the ship his jump carried him halfway to the beach.  He looked for Arestes, for he had heard from the returning men how he had wantonly slain many Thelopian warriors the day before.  And so Anjix, on the prow of his ship, had made the same battle oath as Arestes – to seek out this captain of the Agrippans and not rest until one of them was fit for the grave.

    Meanwhile, from atop the sea's cliff, interested parties of Agrippans watched the battle below, Classindria among them.  She watched Anjix disembark from his ship (how could she miss him).  Please, Zeus, please she thought.  Please, do not let happen what I think is going to happen, but her fears were confirmed when she saw Arestes, who was making things easy on Anjix, stride out to meet him.

    "Really?  Really?  Would you just look at that huge bastard," she said.

    "He is a giant," said the man next to her.

    Without removing her eyes from the pair below Classindria said, "No, you misunderstand me.  The huge bastard I am referring to is smaller sized one," and so great was her worry her knees felt weak.

    Yingolon's prediction was right.  Physically, Arestes could not match Anjix’s strength and speed.  Anjix’s blows from his spear hit Arestes’ shield with the force of a battering ram, each thrust knocking him violently backward, and it all he could do raise his shield in time to deflect the next rapid blow to come.  When Anjix’s massive spear broke, he wrested Arestes’ spear from his grasp, turning his own weapon upon him.  Arestes, who had not fought with an opponent who was stronger than he since he was a boy, grew afraid he would fail and be slain, and so he had to fight his own mounting terror, as well as Anjix himself.

    Classindria ceased to fight her wobbling legs and sunk to her knees.  She prayed to the gods for Arestes to prevail.  She prayed he would slay this Thelopian man she did not know.  She had never prayed for a man's death before, not even the beastly men who had raped her, and she felt guilty about this, so she prayed for their forgiveness about this too; although she did not stop wishing for his death, nonetheless.

    She made her own promise, silently, there and then on the sea's cliff's; If Arestes dies then I take my own life, and if you think about her life with without him, can you really blame her for vowing so?

    Below, the surrounding battle momentarily halted as each side was transfixed by the eerie spectacle of the two men’s supernatural contest, and the portent and gravity of what the outcome of the duel meant.  Each side began to cheer and cry for their champion and soon not one Thelopian and Agrippan engaged another, yet none were silent, their yells were so cacophonous they drowned out the very sound of the sea’s crashing surf.

    Somehow Arestes’ and Anjix’s positions on the beach became turned around, and now each blow Anjix struck pushed Arestes into the sea.  Anjix knocked Arestes’ sword from his grasp, leaving him weaponless.  Anjix discarded his unwieldy shield and soon Arestes was backed up into the water up to his neck.  Arestes deftly shed his shield, and then his armor, as he swam backward just beyond Anjix spear’s reach.  Anjix followed until the waves lapped his chest, and then he would go no further.  That might be far enough thought Arestes.  Anjix, frustrated that Arestes was getting away, threw his spear at him, but Arestes dove under water and it missed.

    Classindria watched all this in horror, her stomach sick and she fought fainting.  She ground her teeth so audibly the man next to her became concerned, and gave her a piece of cloth to bite down upon.

    A moment later Arestes sprung out of the water before a surprised Anjix.  Arestes, who was inside of Anjix’s arms, bear hugged him about his chest.  Arestes took a deep breath and with a powerful kick of his legs managed to topple Anjix over, dragging him under water.  Arestes wasted not a moment and kicked his way deeper into the sea, constricting so mightily he crushed Anjix’s breastplate trying to squeeze the air from Anjix’s chest as they went.  Anjix, who was not as familiar with the sea as Arestes, panicked.  When Anjix finally managed to set his feet upon the sea’s floor, Arestes had succeeded in dragging him to a depth where even he could not raise his head above the sea’s surface.  Arestes pulled him off his feet again, and kicked more, taking them even deeper into the sea.  Now it was Anjix’s turn to feel terror, and so thoroughly did fear grip him that he completely forgot about his sword that was still hanging from his belt and instead of using it against Arestes, he spent that last moments of his life flailing in vain to try and reach sea’s surface.

    And thus Arestes drowned the giant Anjix, the champion of King Teraneus, hero of the Thelopians, the son of Zeus.   

Arestes is Saved by Yingolon and Nycius


    Arestes’ efforts carried him so far out to sea that when he surfaced to take some air into his burning lungs, he saw he was out beyond the Thelopian ships that were anchored closest to shore.

    A nearby Thelopian saw him and called out Arestes’s position.  He hurled a javelin at him, but Arestes dove under quickly, so he missed.

    When Arestes resurfaced again he was closer to shore.  A handful of Thelopians had their weapons ready but they were late again in firing them before Arestes submerged again. 

    A Thelopian leader aboard one of the ships called out, “Niggard not your precious arrows and javelins, men!  Aim and fire at will to where you think this scourge will break surface and take his next breath, for if you fire when you see him you will fire too late.  He is unarmored and for just the chance to kill him it is worth one thousand costly arrows and javelins!”

    Usually Arestes would have been able to swim further underwater, but his battle with Anjix had exhausted him, so he soon had to surface again.  When he did he was close to shore, but he broke surface amid a hail of Thelopian fire.  A slinger got lucky (or perhaps Zeus was watching and helped guide the stone with his hand to avenge his son’s death) and his stone struck Arestes in the head.  Arestes stopped swimming and floated there face down in the water.

    Instantly an Agrippan broke from the line and sprinted into the shallows.  He discarded his shield and then dove headlong into the waves and swam toward where Arestes drifted unconscious.

    Classindria's distress became so thorough she began to babble nonsensically, ceasing only for a moment when she vomited.

    The Agrippans cheered the man on and their archers moved forward, firing upon the closest Thelopian ships.  The Thelopians returned in kind upon Arestes, the swimming man, and the archers on the beach, and the sky filled of whistling, deadly arrows from both sides of the conflict.  The warriors on the beach instantly reengaged fighting against one another more savagely than before.

    Yingolon, who was further down the line of battle, came galloping furiously up beach.  He crashed into the water and made his way toward Arestes too, who, to the dismay of the Agrippans, had sunk beneath the water’s surface.

    Another Thelopian arrow found its mark and the man swimming toward Arestes was pierced in the back shoulder.  Amazingly, this seemed not affect him and he redoubled his efforts when he saw Arestes go under.  It took him fifty more strokes to reach where he had seen Arestes sink.  When he got there he took a large breath and dove underwater seeking Arestes.  When he eventually arose again to the sea's surface, he came up empty-handed.

    Classindria gasped in horror, then cried out in pain and her vision whirled.  She rose unsteadily to her feet, looked into the roiling sea below, then jumped.

    But the man next to her, watching her closely, caught her arm and snatched her back.  "Are you mad woman?  Look there, he dives yet again to search for your man whom apparently you think you can not live without.  At least wait until the hunt is played out before you try to end your life."  But Classindria could not hear him, so wild was her grief, so the woman on the other side of her helped him restrain her.

    Yingolon was almost there now too, holding his shield, as huge as a chariot’s wheel, above him.  The man went under again, and stayed under for so long that many Agrippans feared he too was now lost to the sea, but when he came up finally he had Arestes in his arms.

    He held Arestes across his chest with his one arm and set his hip beneath his back.  With his other arm he pulled toward shore as he kicked powerfully.  Yingolon, who could just barely stand here with his head above water, reached them both and raised his shield to cover them.  And so the three of them made their way to shore like thus, to the cheers of the Agrippans on shore and the curses of the Thelopians as their arrows and sling stones pinged harshly off of Yingolon’s giant shield of bronze he held overhead.

    Classindria was released by the concerned pair and ran faster than Atalanta down to the beach below.

    As they made their way to the shallows yet another Thelopian arrow struck a blow, striking Yingolon in his side, for in protecting the other two with his shield, he had left himself exposed.  Once the man was chest high to the water, he slung Arestes over his good shoulder making his way through the shallows and then through the Agrippan line, beyond the range of the Thelopian arrows and the frantic melee that was occurring on the beach.

    The man lay Arestes down upon the sand, who moved and spoke not at all.

    Yingolon knelt down next to Arestes.  He put his mouth to Arestes’s mouth and hoped it was not too late to put breath back into him.

    It was not and soon Arestes coughed out what looked like half of the Aegean Sea upon the sand.  All who were crowded around them breathed a sigh of relief and then rousing cheer went up for their new champion lived.

    Classindria frantically pushed her way through the circle of men, crying for them to get out of her path.  She finally made her way to the three of them and gasped in horror at what she saw.

    “Back up and make way all of you!  All three here are gravely wounded, so stop shouting, unless it is to call the physicians.”  She ran to Arestes, who lay limp upon the beach, and dropped to her knees.  He was bleeding, so she ripped a bit of her clothing and placed this against the wound of his head.  She said, “Oh Arestes, my love, Arestes, are you all right?  I can not live without you.  Please speak to me, please speak to me, I beg of you.”

    Arestes said nothing for quite some time, then he said weakly, “I feel well enough now,” for his fear, anger, and pain from the previous ordeal were all but forgotten under her touch and preening care.

    Yingolon, the man who had saved Arestes, and the crowd all laughed and cheered.  Classindria would have certainly told them to back up and be silent again, but she could not speak for she was weeping too much.

    Yingolon turned to the man and asked, “I’m Yingolon, what is your name?”

    “I am Nycius,” was all he said for in his exhaustion and pain that was all he could manage.

    “The honor is all mine, Nycius.  We are forever in your debt,” said Yingolon as they shook hands.



(I think this is about half way done and there will be two more parts to come, by my figuring.  Also, the prologue is pretty much done too.  It is below and is full of spoilers, so don't read it if you don't want to "skip ahead" to the end.)







EPILOGUE


    Arestes and Classindria married and settled upon a farm adjacent to Nycius’s vineyard.  They had one child together, a boy they named Clarestes.  It was Arestes destiny to have many more adventures, for Ancient Greece was a land fraught with monsters, bandits, evil kings, wars and such.  Queen Isettia would call upon him, but (good to her word) she only did so in time of great need.  Arestes also performed undertakings for his friends and neighbors who had no other recourse, so those kept him busy as well. 

    Even the gods had occasions when they required his aid, and Arestes was surprised, once he got to know them, how foolish they were and how ridiculous were the troubles they often found themselves in.  The first time they asked for his aid he balked, for it was such a Herculean task (and Heracles himself was unavailable).  Nycius offered to go with him and this bolstered his courage, and it is good he went along with Arestes for during this trip Nycius again would save Arestes' life.  Arestes and Nycius made for a good pairing (Nycius being more level headed than Arestes), and that quest became just their first of many.

    So successful were the two in what they could do that, years later, the gods called upon Arestes again.  Arestes feared this duty as well and thought he could not accomplish it alone, but Nycius would not go as he had grown too old.  Arestes understood, even he did not feel like the hero he once was.  His son Clarestes, on the threshold of manhood, offered to go with him.  Arestes’s and Classindria’s instincts cried out against this, but this task was important and larger than them all.

    There was little joy in that quest for either of them and that foul journey eventually brought them into the underworld before very Hades himself.  By the end of it all both Arestes and Clarestes had to do things of which they were ashamed.  When they returned home they made a pact never speak of the horrors they saw, and committed, to anyone, but most particularly Classindria.  They knew Classindria worried incessantly about their safety and since that journey was rife with danger and horror both feared her biting tongue of reproach.  Arestes and Clarestes kept their word.  They were forever silent as to what all exactly occurred, which is a shame, since the account of that dark journey is now forever lost.

    Arestes and Clarestes had more adventures too, until Arestes, like Nycius, grew too old.  Clarestes began to attend to these tasks by himself, and Arestes knew these labors were in the best of hands, for Clarestes was brave, strong and quick - although he never did fully become the physical phenomenon his father was.  He did, however, inherit every bit of Classindria's intelligence, patience and kindness.  Clarestes, like Nycius and Yingolon, seemed to have a knack for oftentimes being able to complete tasks and solve problems without need to draw his sword (or even drawing blood for that matter), and so he became an even greater hero to Ancient Greece than his father ever was.  But those are Clarestes’ stories and we will save them for another day.

    And speaking of stories, it is time to tell the end of Arestes’s tale, which sadly begins with Classindria’s death.  She caught the White Plague, which first robs a person of their sight, then causes madness and ends in death. 

    She gathered up a special herbs and roots from the land.  On the day her vision left her she prepared a tea from them.  She drank that toxic poisonous drink and died, sparing Arestes from her madness to come.

    As you have probably figured out by now Classindria’s death meant the death of Arestes for he would not go on living without her.  He prayed to the gods to take his life and put an end to his grief.  They refused, or perhaps ignored, his prayers.  One morning he found himself half asleep and groggily feeling for Classindria in his bed next to him where she used to lay.  When he finally awoke fully and realized his dreamy mistake - that was it, he would spend not one more day upon Gaia without her.  If the gods wouldn’t take his life, then he would do so himself.  He fetched his sword and, without a moment’s pause, thrust it through his heart.

    Only one of gods witnessed this for, despite all Arestes had done for them, they remained pretty much a self centered lot.  Ironically, the god who saw his death was Ares, Arestes’s neglectful father.  So admirable was Arestes’s devotion to Classindria that it moved even his unsentimental heart.  Additionally, he was proud of his son, who seemed to be the only child he ever fathered able to earn the respect of…anyone…with his brave and amazing deeds.  Ares sent Hermes, the messenger god, to the underworld to offer Arestes a place on Mount Olympus as an immortal god.

    Hermes eventually found Arestes on the bank of the Styx, the mystical river that serves as the border between the living and the dead.  Charon, the deity boatman who ferried the dead across the river, had refused passage to Arestes for no one had yet placed a coin in Arestes's mouth as payment to him. 

    Arestes, who was in a hurry to find Classindria, took exception to this and said, "Nobody leaves me in Limbo, figuratively or literally speaking, you putrid, stinking demon dog of death," and promptly began to strangle Charon on the river's bank.  Hermes tried to intercede, but was surprised even he could not break Arestes's grasp, and it was only when he hurriedly told Arestes about Ares’s offer that Arestes released his stranglehold from the frantic Charon's neck.

    But Arestes surprised Hermes for his answer was no.  Arestes would not leave the underworld, dreary and desolate as it was, without Classindria.

    This put Hermes in a bind.  Classindria was a mortal, without a drop of divine blood, and so there was no place for her among the gods and goddesses on Mount Olympus.  Hermes too, like Ares, was touched by Arestes’s loyalty and he loathed leaving him behind.  Hermes took Arestes by the hand and whisked him up, winging off upon his fleet feet in search of Classindria.  After a time they found her, wandering that bleak world seeking Arestes blindly (for she was still without sight).  This shocked Hermes, that she remembered Arestes, for those who commit suicide forfeited their earthly memories as punishment.  Yet she still called out Arestes name as she stumbled blindly about.  "Who was this woman?" Hermes thought.  He took her up as well.  Then he carried them both out of hell.

    Hermes carried them higher and higher; past Gaia and beyond Mount Olympus and into the heavens where he placed them among the stars.  They remain there to this day.  If you look into the north’s night sky you can always see Classindria’s slender form.  Hermes set Arestes next to her, with his spear, sword and shield, yet he is not always visible.  Each spring he disappears, traveling below the horizon, beyond both your and Classindria’s sight, to perform yet more fantastic labors for the gods in celestial lands afar unknown to any man.  When this happens and he leaves the night sky, any shooting stars you see are said to be the Classindria’s falling tears, born from her lonely anguish and worry.  But never fear, during mid autumn Arestes always returns to her, joining her clearly again in the night sky, just as he did in his mortal life.

    And so it is said, dear reader, if you are a woman whose man is often gone from home causing you fierce heart wrench, Classindria knows of your pain.  Understand that she is not a goddess and has no actual power to bring him back safely to you, but perhaps you can take some solace in knowing your thoughts and prayers have most certainly been heard.  Although Classindria is a being of the stars now, she is still a woman and, as everyone knows, nobody listens better, and feels more compassion, than one woman does for another woman who is struggling alone amid a world (like this one) where it is men and gods who make the rules.
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