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
P A R T
The birds are first up, singing lustily in the dark. Then rosy-fingered light creeps over the edge of the mountains, a few rays sliding down their steep sides toward the little city at their feet.
Next, the wind stirs as the sun itself ascends
over the mountain crests. The wind blows seaward, cool and refreshing from the mountains, stirring the wine-dark waters of the bays and coves of the gulf that connects
the city with the wide world of the Achaeans and Beyond--the vast unknown world that only mainland Achaeans and people of great Minos the island king are brave enough to sail in their small, sleek, fine-crafted ships propelled by oars and sails.
Donkeys braying, dogs yapping, old women complaining of aches, most men still snoring in their beds, morning dawns in Iolkos like any other day, but though people don't suspect a thing, the whole world will change on this particular day.
Having walked during the remaining night hours down from a mountain valley, a young man crosses a remaining stream that separates him from his destination.
Jason, the son of the previous king (who was injured permanently hunting the great-horned wild ox and let the throne go under his brother's aegis until his son came of age), is nineteen years old, and of sufficient age to rule as the heir to the kingdom of which Iolkos, a small, fishy-smelling Aegean port, is the capital. Although he still cannot find much excitement in the idea, his father has grown increasingly restless under his brother's rule, and has prodded Jason to step in as king. Respectful of his father, Jason has come to claim his throne, so he goes first to the royal palace and fortress on the hill where his uncle, Peleus, is reigning in his stead.
On the way, Jason passes a beggar at the city gate, where a stone marks the
As the beggar stares at him, wondering how such a fine youth would pause to greet him and then remove a sandal and put it on the city's name-stone, Jason
says nothing, smiles to himself, and then continues toward the palace. He doesn't seem to notice that people gathered in the busy farm produce and fish markets stop what they are doing and all stare at him, particularly
amazed by his unshod foot. Has Iolkos ever seen the like? This godlike youth, crowned with his lion-like mane of hair, striding with purpose toward the palace as if he were the king and not Peleus!
The guards too, stationed at the palace gate, are just as amazed and taken by surprise. Calling for the king to see him, Jason waited a moment, then when they seemed to
take too long to suit him, strode boldly into the palace through the open doors, which had been opened to admit the fresh cool morning air. In a moment, he was in the throneroom itself, with the gate soldiers running to catch him and the palace guards
just standing, gazing at Jason and not knowing what to do.
Peleus, of course, recognizes him--this noble youth could only be his brother's son, he knew--since there was no one else like him in the kingdom! As the guards rushed to
try to stop the one-sandaled intruder from intruding even further on their king, Peleus waved them away, and they fell back, dumbfounded.
"Father sends his greetings. I've come to sit in my chair, honored Uncle!" Jason announced simply. "Well?"
The "interim" king agrees to the legitimacy of Jason's claim, but taking the whispered suggestion of his wife, Aunt "Queen" Syntyche, he has second thoughts about turning the throne over immediately.
Seeing he has
a high-spirited champion on his hands who can easily take whatever he wants when he wants it, Peleus offers
Jason a challenge of his strength before he turns the throne over to him--a quest over the wide sea for the Golden Fleece. Jason, not so anxious to settle down to the rather humdrum duties of a petty kingship, eagerly accepts the wily Peleus's diversionary tactic as a true test of his own strength and daring.
Argus the master ship-builder of Thessaly hears of the coming voyage and offers
the finest ship in the world to Captain Jason--which he will design and build especially for this voyage.
He already has a prime piece of wood, oak from Dodona, hewn from the very tree that was reputed to tell the future. Whether or not his oak beam will tell the future is yet to be seen--but he intends for it to go into the ship in some good
spot that will give honor to it.
The best and strongest timber for the keel and the main body of the ship grows high on the rocky slopes of Mt. Pelion, so Argus and Typhys
go to the trouble to select it personally and bring every board down, log by log:
The ship will win him undying fame, but when a youth of means offers to buy the vessel so that he could be the captain, he might have
let him have it, except that he wasn't going to sea under such a fool of a captain as this youth would make. That would put two fools to sea, and they'd both drown!
A trial run is necessary for the newly constructed ARGO
NAVIS, not so much to test the seaworthiness of the vessel as the seaworthiness of the
prospective crew. Here we see the sad and exhausted wash-outs, or wannabe Argonauts, recovering in the ship's hold: