V O L U M E
C H R O N I C L E
T H E
Q U E S T
T H E
G O L D E N
F L E E C E
A. A . S.
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E A R T H
Though the word goes out by ship to all of Achaea, Jason doesn't want just anyone and sends word to those of his choosing however he can. He uses messengers to some neighboring cities, but men going on foot to more distant cities would take too long, or they might not make it across the mountains, waylaid by "bandits"--the many out-of-pay veteran soldiers turned highwaymen who decided not to to lay down their arms for some petty king in a time of peace and starve in their homes.
Doves, fortunately, are cheap and swift messengers--much better than runners or even expensive, armed couriers on horseback. For a small fee, a palace scribe trained in Crete pens Jason's short message to the famed Orpheus.
A little white bird with Jason's letter wings its way across mountains and plains, ending its westward journey, drops down to Orchomenae, a large, walled city-state set on a lake beside a wide, rich plain. No one in later times knew how the birds could always find their destinations and then return to their original dovecotes kept by the dove-man, but it was not thought any great secret at the time. A little soil of the place the bird was scheduled to go was put in the bird's nest, with a bit of it in a bag tied round the bird's neck, and after a few days, the bird was released--and the bird invariably flew straight to that place--it was that simple. Of course, Greeks of later times tried it--and it would not work for them. What had the Achaeans known about birds that they, the Greeks who thought themselves smarter, didn't know? Well, they had lost something--knowledge of creatures--passed down from generation to generation, from the Forefather Noah himself, who used doves
and was a master dove-man.
Lying in bed at the home he has bought for his parents from his earnings, recovering from the attack of wild women serving the winegod Dionysios (they hated his songs about the follies of wine-drinkers and their tipsy gods), Orpheus writes his response to Jason, attaches it carefully to
the messenger dove's foot, then releases her to fly across the mountains
and back to Jason. How glad he is that he took the opportunity when at the court of the Minos to employ a scribe to teach him the Cretan arts of writing!
Taking his servant, and a donkey loaded up with the fine things given him in the palaces that Orpheus
thinks he may need on the long voyage, they depart for the city of Jason,
which is on the other side of high mountains, nestled on a narrow
and hilly site by the sea which is just big enough to allow a port and
some shipbuilding and a fishing fleet. After three days of hard climbing, they descend into
the outskirts of the little but thriving city, which can boast a king
and a small palace where Orpheus hopes to play his harp and earn some travel
Being highly sought for his services, Orpheus is summoned to an audience with the king, and he arrives prepared to play his harp to the songs about heroes of the past for which he is famous all over Achaea and even in the more splendid
courts of Crete across the Green Sea. He is surprised, however, when he sees it is a private audience, with only the queen and a guard present instead of the full court. If he had known this, he would not have worn his fine cloak given him by the Minos of Crete--a cloak spun with gold and silver thread.
The king, a shifty, dark, little fellow who is not particularly impressive to Orpheus's eyes, keeps him standing awkwardly at a distance and wants to know if rumors are correct, which say Orpheus is joining Jason's crew for the voyage to Colchis. Orpheus, not at all pleased with this petty king plying him with such questions, tells him the plain truth. Yes, he is honored to be called by Jason himself to join the crew as musician, he declares with some haughtiness. The king, after glancing at his queen who looks away, dismisses him rudely with a mere hand gesture, and Orpheus departs from the palace, knowing that the chilly reception ruined his chance of a successful, gift-enriching time as guest musician at the court.
Pausing outside the palace, disappointed, gift-poor Orpheus sits down by the palace wall and sings a song to the public street, whether anyone hears him or not, though there are a few dogs, a pig or two, and small children playing with fish heads providing his only audience. It is a song from the Achaean folk tales about a donkey who acted like a lion and wore royal robes, convincing nobody but himself that he was a lion, king of the beasts.
Simple as it was, it helps calm his spirit after the king's rebuff, and he rises, feeling like he can put the incident behind him.
Wondering what the king has against Jason, he doubts he even will be invited to the homes of the wealthy aristocrats and sea-traders, if so small a capital and kingdom has any! Shrugging off his disappointment with this tinpot principality and its unmannerly tyrant, Orpheus goes directly to the port to find Jason his captain.
Meanwhile, Argus is busy with finishing touches, such as carving the lionhead figurehead for the Argo's stern ornament.
Once the ship is competely finished to the shipwright's satisfaction, Jason has Argus take him and some
picked men out where the fish are big and plentiful.
Mopsos the young seer comes late and reports for duty; he has been busy and could not come sooner, he explains to Jason. He had been detained by every king along his route to Iolkos, who all demanded to know the prospects for their
kingdoms, whether favorable or not. He had not been able to give many of them good news, he added ruefully. A great many of these kings would soon lose their scepters--in a coming great war that would give them a victory that would bless them and curse them at the same time. How could it do both? Jason asked Mopsos. Mopsos smiled. "Too much honey will make a man deathly sick. So victory will make healthy men sick, as they
grow greedy and wanton, and return to their kingdoms so full of themselves and their glory and
laden with such booty they will become boasters nobody can bear, and the treasure
will soon slip from their fingers, as it raises up assassins in their own wives, their sons, their households, and their palace guards!" Jason's admiring eyes shone, and he inclined his head to the younger man. "You truly are a wise head, a prophet, though yet so young," he observed. "That is why I called you. We will need a wise and cool head such as heaven has given you. We have the great songster of the world, Orpheus, who will sing and make our heavy hearts lift and be glad. But you will make our heads wise on this long journey full of perils, so that we will not run and destroy ourselves
over some foolish thing along the way."
Two sets of twins come to sail on the Argo. Of one set, one lad the Argonauts name Apollos is too slight in body to handle
the champion-sized oars, but Jason knows he is an expert archer and will supply
the men with plenty game. They arrive only to grieve as they hear from the men of a ship fleeing from battle that the twins' own city has been sacked by their enemy, the savage, horse-mounted Myrmidons raiding from the tall-grassed, northern plains, and their parents were slain
when they could not pay the money demanded to spare their lives.
Peleus and his wife, not sure how the venture will go, if it will eliminate Jason or not, are anxious to see the ship go--and send frequent word, asking if Jason
is ready or not. They add that they wish to come and give a libation to the gods, that he might enjoy a swift, safe passage and return just as safely and swiftly to
ascend his throne. Jason, with a smile, does not bother to reply, and the king's
messenger goes away, shaking his head, for he knows the king will be angry at him for Jason's shrugging him off that way.
Jason finally, while over-seeing that the lion figurehead is set properly on the bow beam, sets his mind on the following morning. But he tells no one of his plans, except Argus. As for the Argonauts, if they are not in tune with him by this time, they never will be. He is pleased to see, however, how closely they have drawn to him, and knows that very few of them will mistake the date and not be on hand when he boards his Argo.
Please return for the concluding parts of this chronicle.
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