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 N N O
S T E L L A E
What to do? He did not like the sound of this youth's name even--it reminded him of an old, old story he had heard as a boy, someone who was a champion who fought a great serpent and won--could this be someone like that? If so, he wasn't needed here in his kingdom! He had plenty soldiers, who were fierce enough, so that no neighbor round about the sea would dare attack him. What if he coveted his throne and his gold? Champions usually sat on thrones, sooner or later. The unwashed populace of the cities were known for making such mighty heroes their rulers, killing or throwing out their old, feeble, exploitless kings. Had some traitor in his midst sent word to this youth to come and test his might against the king's?
Not that he was old, feeble, and exploitless! He could stand against any champion and send him down to Hades. He had done so already to a number of foolish, brash rivals and contenders from his youth upwards to where he was sitting right now--on the high throne of Colchis, in a splendid hall set close to the gods in their high Olympus!
But this "Jason" might be stronger and know the craft of war better than other men. He had heard additional words too--of his burning a helpless city down, after accepting its hospitality and numerous banquets and every courtesty. Poor Sinopoli--having trusted such a treacherous guest! It had paid for that trust dearly!
Then other reports--killing the holy sicklebird, the sacred, avenging Hound of Zeus the Thunder-Bolt Thrower, which had furnished his own crown's noble crest! Was he not the gods' royal Avenger, appointed to punish all the cities and kingdoms round about that did not yet acknowledge his rule and join his hegemony? How dare this alien commit such an impiety against the gods' chosen mascot, the wonderfully fierce sicklebird! He would be made to pay for it, the king vowed.
So this impious, treacherous pirate who burned and sacked cities was headed for Aea, to no doubt try the same tricks on him and his people! Never! Never!
He would think of something--he would snare this base intruder--without having to use any of his own men and arms. Colchis, he knew well, was full of deadly hazards and accidents, all just waiting to happen to such as this stranger from far-off Iolkos! With a little help, everything could be arranged for a convenient mishap that would remove the nuisance and his pack of beardless bandits forever from the sacred soil of high-towered Colchis!
Thinking this, the king felt much better. He called men, who came running to do exactly what he had in mind, a plan that no man could circumvent or overturn, however smart or powerful-bodied he was. Forces, monsters no man could equal, were plentiful in Colchis, and would be enlisted for the king's cause that would vanquish this "champion" seeking the Golden Fleece--and he would vanish forever like a mere puff of smoke! A mere puff of smoke!
They do not want to leave the ship for an extended time, for pirates infest the sea, and they will pounce on any vessel that is not well defended.
Fortunately, they do not have to go much further, for the mountains that come down to the sea ahead of them are thickly forested. As they look for a safe harbor to pull into, they notice a small town or overgrown village--certainly no city worthy of the name--climbs the slopes behind a small anchorage.
Traders have left behind words of various languages, and the Mossynoeci know enough to get on with most everyone, including Achaeans and their confederates, the Minyans.
Argus and Jason soon make a satisfactory exchange of some silver pieces and a bronze mirror with the locals, and the Argonauts carry the needed beams to the shore next to the anchored ship. They will not mend the ship here, however. Jason sees no reason why the Mossynoeci should be assumed trustworthy hosts, and so they move on, politely declining the invitation to stay and enjoy a "feast" and "games" with this town of rough, half-civilized woodsmen. Their would-be hosts even promise to lend the Argonauts their wives and marriageable daughters for the night when they see the captain's frown.
Jason will not change his mind. The Mossynoeci menfolk are very disappointed, and their faces show how crestfallen they are. They had hoped to capture a fine sailing vessel to convert to a merchant to carry their lumber to lucrative, far-off markets--even if it meant a stiff fight for the ship. Of course, they couldn't set upon such men as these without first getting them drunk and sleepy--as these fellows, plainly enough, were just too alert and ready with swords, shields, and javelins--formidable weapons of war the poorer townsfolk are hard put to rival with their bronze axes and saws.
The Argo is soon gone--and the woodsmen return to their axes and saws and hard labor--until one day, raiding ships come and burn the little town down and kill the men and enslave the women and children--a common enough occurrence along these half-barbarian coasts that it is never thought worth recording by men of letters in colonizing expeditions from Miletus or Ilios who sail by and happen to notice the burned, abandoned ruins.
The Argo, with no more thought given to the town of the woodcutters, sails on to the next landfall. They need to find just the right sort of place, with tall reeds growing in a river's mouth, where they can hide the ship while it is undergoing repair on the the shore. This way they will not reveal their weakness to any passing vessel carrying raiders looking for just such an opportunity to set upon them.
Of course, they could fight and defeat them--but Jason was not looking for opportunities to fight and possibly lose some of his own precious mariners--the whole purpose of the voyage was to gain Colchis and the Golden Fleece.
As for repairs, Argus remains the the only one who knows what needed to be done and could do it--so this will be the opportunity Jason had looked for, not just for the Argo's sake but to give the men a needed time of games and rest. They were, he saw, showing signs of turning "ship sour." Some of his men had not been on sea-going ships for more than a few days at a time, much less a voyage lasting many days, with no end yet in sight. They really needed a change only a pleasant spot could give them, to do some hunting, some playing, and some resting and, of course, much good eating. He knew this, because he himself was young, and able to feel all his Argonauts felt so keenly at their age.
His eye paused more and more on a particular Argonaut, who was causing him some concern--more than before, in fact. The Minyan "prince" aboard who carried a chip on his shoulder and thought himself a notch better than the Achaean "immigrants" to Iolkos--none other than Lukeios, who was named after his family's ancestral homeland of Lukka--he was needing some watching, did he not? His father had warned him--it takes only one bad grape to spoil the bunch! What did this man have in his heart to do, if he took it in his mind to oppose his shipmaster in any way? Would he be able to draw other men to his view, whatever it was? He had seen such men, such rabble-rousing ringleaders, before--they overturned whole kingdoms, by the power of their little, constantly moving tongues! Always carping and complaining, always making the king look bad in his decisions, holding the king responsible for every thing, little or big, that might be going wrong in in the kingdom--that was their tactic, and eventually it worked its evil into every household like someone's drumbeat going night and day, so that they would turn into a mob and support the usurper as their tyrant, until he proved worse as an oppressor than their rightful king ever had been! Then, when he turned to stop the revolt and massacre his former supporters who put him on the throne, they were sorry they had listened to his evil tongue--too late!
Lukeios was no match, man to man, with him, Jason knew--but his unfettered tongue, without sense to guide him as Wisdom clearly guided the good Mopsos and men like him, it was able to influence the unwiser, untaught ones among the crew one way or another, if given free rein.
Lukeios was even at that moment, Jason saw, looking around--yet was it for himself alone or for the sake of the ship? What was he planning? He seemed so restless in his movements. Whatever the plan was, it could not be told, unless...
One thing was necessary, he decided. Just the same, it pained him, the thought of what he must do.
Jason thought as he observed Lukeios, "Well, let's see what his clever, cunning tongue can accomplish. Much cunning? As my beloved father said, much cunning, crafty argument invites nonsense. So let this fine prince of Lukka and Iolkos do his work, since I will not restrain him. If he is bent on treachery, then let his twig be bent all the way to show exactly what crooked tree it came from! Then I will know the true hearts of these men of mine too, whether they truly are for this venture or secretely against it. I don't want to lose one, not even Lukeios, but otherwise, how can their secret hearts be known? And if I don't know them, they will surprise me when I need their loyalty and it is not to be found."
Now the spot he looked for needed to have a good elevation, so that they could see whomever was coming that way and not be taken by surprise. It needed cover too for the drydocked ship, and also game to be hunted, and clean, fresh water for baths and swimming (the salt of the Unfriendly Sea was getting unbearable to their skin, as they were running low on the cleaning, health-giving olive oil to keep their skin from cracking in the almost constant strong wind and burning sun), and their clothes also needed washing. Where was such a fine place?
Hour on hour as they sailed eastward, Jason and every eye of the crew looked for it with growing expectancy. What a relief it was for Jason when they sighted a possible safe landing for a campsite up ahead. And this is what they found. A waterfall up on a high moutain had plunged all the way to the sea, depositing enough sand and silt to build up a cove against the sea waves and tides, and the fresh water had caused tall reeds to grow and flourish, with many birds and small animals living in the abundant greenery ringing the small cove. Some tall trees also grew there at the edge of the cliff where the brook splashed into its little bay, and so there was shade and enough shelter for a few men in a camp.
But there wasn't enough room for all his men, by any means. What to do?
Gazing up, Jason took another look at the fringe of green above, where the falls could be heard thundering down the mountainside. Where could so much water go? he wondered. The brook was not enough to carry off all the water they heard falling above. Something was stopping it or directing it elsewhere, and he meant to find out what it was.
Jason left Argus and some guards for the ship, as they got it close to land, and he took the rest with him to explore the brook's source. Climbing up several hundred feet, they could see a the branches of trees waving high up in the wind. But it took several hundred more feet of rock for them to climb before they saw just what they desired--a small, flat tableland, with much grass and small trees and shrubs, and, best of all, a freshwater lake big enough to swim in! At last, their safe haven of rest!
They lost no time in settling in. Scrambling back down to the ship, they carried back everything they needed, for Argus intended a complete overhaul of the ship for the remainder of the voyage--so whatever they had on board had to go ashore. Packing some things like supplies, shields, and various personal items together, they hid them with reeds, then took only what they needed up to their base by the lake. Jason appointed guards for the next night and the following at both sites, with relieving guards as well--it would not be safe here otherwise along this busy coastline. With that done, it was time to stake out a camp for the night, and make a fire, and then, joy of joys for those who knew how, go hunting for dinner! Baths for the hunters could wait a bit--which would be wonderful in the rainbowed spray of the waterfalls tumbling down the cliff face. And then later they could go swimming as often as they wanted in the lake itself--which lay blue as a sapphire in a hollow shaped like a big, round-rimmed basin for hand-washing.
Did it have fish? They soon would find out. "Fish and mountain goat roasted over the fire--ah, that would make a fine dinner, indeed!" thought Jason.
Jason shook his head, smiling. "What exploits? It will be a very short song!"
As Jason and Orpheus joked together about the town made all of wood, and the Clashing Rocks that nearly clipped their hair, and the armored women of Lemnos who would have clipped more than their hair, Jason's attention was diverted by something he saw happening. It was innocent, seemingly innocent, one Argonaut talking to another like a dear brother, his arm slung across the other's shoulder, but why was Lukeios giving a valuable ring to Zetes? What had Zetes done to earn it? And what favor was Lukeios expecting for such a costly gift of a gemstone set in gold? You could buy a farmer's cottage and cattle for a single ring of such fine quality. Then the ring on Zetes's hand would only make his hot-blooded twin envious, and the other Argonauts would wonder why he was so special to rate a princely gift.
Walking abruptly away, he left Orpheus staring at him with hurt surprise in his eyes, as Jason had never treated him rudely as this before.
But Jason's mood changed soon enough, and he joined in the games and sports once they were free of the work to play.
Finding a suitable stone for a discus, he and Zetes competed for the farthest throw. Being the shipmaster, it was his turn first, with Mopsos appointed as the judge in case Zetes's landed close by Jason's.
How proud he was, flushed with his victory over Jason in the discus, and now strutting about to the admiration of his fellow Argonauts, showing off his valuable ring and gemstone too, which no one but Orpheus could rival with a ring of his own.
Lukeios ran and got a laurel branch, and twined it round and set it on the discus champion's brow, and Mopsos, at this point, almost said something--but bit his lip and held his peace.
Jason, without his weapons, now had nothing to hunt with, and telling Zetes to wait for him, he hurried down to the ship's arsenal for a sword and javelin. As if he had not heard Jason, the exultant Zetes set off without him, anxious to use his winnings to meet the needs of the Argonauts and prove he, not Jason, was the bigger man and could provide for them the best supper they had ever eaten.
Foolhardy Zetes did not have time to regret his leaving without Jason when he was suddenly set upon by a mountain of horned fury that was a wild ox. Cunningly, it hid its bulk behind a huge rock, then sprang out on the lone hunter when he least expected it--the usual tactic of this beast whenever it spotted a man invading its territory.
Jason handed Mopsos a blanket. "Here, take this in case he is hurt and you have to carry him back to camp."
Even though Zetes was well armed and could defend himself against most anything, man or beast, Jason had a bad feeling about Zetes and sent word down to the ship to fetch Zetes's twin.
Calais, who had been standing guard at the ship in the cove, came running. Immediately, he wanted to run and join up with Mopsos, but Jason caught his arm and held him back. Calais protested, but Jason would not relent. "Four are enough to bring him back. We must wait."
Finally, the Argonauts, who had all gathered together round Jason and Calais, saw Mopsos and his helpers.
Calais could no longer be held back. He lunged at the caravan and saw for himself. For a moment Jason thought he might go and throw himself off the cliff, but instead he ran up into the rocks of the mountainside, and vanished.
The details of Zetes's death were now shared round by Mopsos and the others who had gone with him. A wild ox had got Zetes, but it too was dead. No one wanted any part of the ox that had killed their comrade, so they left it, but took the javelin, sword, and shield, and laid them in a safe place where they could later retrieve them.
Jason had them take Zetes to a place overlooking the sea, set in the green grass. There they dug a shallow grave, and laid Zetes in it. By this time an Argonaut had retrieved Zetes's weapons and shield, and they laid them over his body. Then, with Calais still gone, they finished by laying stones over the body, in a big heap that would be his memorial.
Orpheus, without the harp, sang a dirge, from the old sayings of the Minyans, before the Minyans turned away from One God to many gods--
Because He is at my right hand I shall not be moved;
Therefore my heart is glad, and my glory rejoices;
My flesh also will rest in hope.
For You will not leave my soul in Hades,
Nor will you allow Your Holy One to see corruption.
You will show me the path of life;
In Your Presence is fullness of joy;
At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.
Calais went to the grave and threw himself down on the stones.
Jason turned to Calais. "It is time to go."
"I'm not going with you!" Calais blurted out. Jason was surprised, but he recovered quickly. "All right, it is your choice. Remain behind then. All right, men, let's go."
No one moved of the twenty gathered around Calais and--apparently--Lukeios. Jason noticed for the first time that Calais was wearing his brother's ring. How had he gotten it? Had Lukeios removed it? Lukeios was currying favor with Calais now?
Jason decided he would call a council. He sat down. "All can talk. What is the trouble here. Tell me! And I want to hear from Calais and Lukeios too."
Calais moved to step forward to speak first, but Lukeios shouldered him aside. But instead of facing Jason, he turned to the assembly as if Jason were on trial.
"You have all seen how very badly things have gone to this point. There is only one person responsible for these troubles. We have lost many beloved comrades--have we not? All for nothing! And now our dear sweet comrade Zetes has perished needlessly! Why must we suffer any more of these calamities? Why must we too perish like dogs! It is time to turn back! Our loved ones cry night and day for us to return! Do you not hear them crying your names? They are drowning in their tears--fearing that we are dead in some barbarian country like this one! Let us leave it at once! We refuse to go on with this foolish venture of Jason's. Is that right, comrades?"
A shout went up from the twenty or so Argonauts that favored turning the ship around.
Jason let the noise die down, and then he rose slowly. "You have decided this, haven't you? Before I was even back from the ship, you decided this thing--to turn back, and end the quest in this cowardly fashion!"
Speaking right into the face of Lukeios, he held his eyes in his own, and Lukeios looked as if he had swallowed an amphora of salt water and might burst.
"Yes, what of it?" the prince of Iolkos erupted. "We are free men. We aren't your slaves--not yet. We have minds of our own. And so we refuse to go on this madcap voyage of yours, just to give you glory at the expense of all our lives, so that we die miserable deaths like Zetes and Idmon and Typhys and--"
The Argonauts who supported him began shouting. "We're turning back! We're turning back!"
Jason looked at them with sadness, for he knew now, clearly revealed, what was in their secret hearts. They all had been poisoned by Lukeios's evil words--they were not in their right minds and were behaving like children, not valiant men and champions. Just the same, they had made their decision to exchange their rightful shipmaster for Lukeios, and they would have to abide by that decision. He could not take them back and trust them not to change their minds again in even more difficult places than they had already known.
Jason still keeping Lukeios's eyes gripped by his own, replied slowly, "Go then, follow this new leader of yours, and see well how you fare with him. I am returning to my ship, and whoever is with me, may accompany me. The rest I now release from my charge."
Saying no more, Jason turned, and did now show a flicker of fear he would be driven through with a sword or javelin. Behind him he could hear muttering, then a furious argument broke out. "What'll we do now, Captain Lukeios?" "Are you going to let him get away with our ship?" "We thought he would back down, when he saw all us standing against him!" "We're lost if we stay here in this strange barbarian country!" "Do something quick, Lukeios! You got us into this fix!"
Jason, followed by Mopsos, Orpheus, the Sinopolitan newcomer, and other loyal Argonauts, numbering seventeen, returned to the ship to load it for departure.
By the time they finished, it was dusk, and risky to venture forth into unknown waters--so they remained on board, with guards set.
They heard voices up on the table of mutiny, and then silence.
Jason, just in case, passed out swords and javelins, and they slept at their oars, ready to fend off any attempt to capture the ship and also to slip away at the first light.
Whatever the other mutineers felt about the loss of the ship, they got over it quickly, and disregarding their former inhibitions and following their rumbling stomachs, they rushed up the mountain and quickly carved up the ox, and soon they were roasting huge steaks over the fire. Without waiting for the meat to be thoroughly cooked, they were feasting. They feasted until they could eat no more--and then they slept, but soon they awoke with severe belly cramps and aches.
They could not think what was happening to them--they were so ill, retching until they had nothing left in their stomachs.
A few more days like this passed, and the whole camp was silent, and no one stirred about. Only now and then a mutineer staggered to the lake or the spring to drink, and then lay there like a dead man.
After eating only fish for many days, so much rich ox meat at one sitting had sickened them, they realized, but it was too late now.
Calais, who hadn't touched the meat due to the abhorrent fact the ox had slain his twin brother, went off alone, just to get free of the sick and apparently dying men. He could not help them anyway, except to give the sufferers water now and then. He had not gone far when he saw a glorious sight. He could not tell what it was, but the idea of a chariot came to mind, though this was immense and poised on legs, not wheels. As he stared at it where it was set across a crevasse, a door opened, and two splendid-looking gods appeared and motioned to him, evidently greeting him. They were dressed for war like the gods often were dressed, and he raised his hands in salute and welcome.
Gods came quickly down a staircase that unfolded from the chariot, and they carried him up into the belly of the chariot.
Inside, he was left in a brightly glowing room, bound to a hard table top.
He could not fight the invisible net any more when he realized his struggles just made it tighter, and so he just watched as gods entered, then put something into his wrist, and his blood began to flow--he could feel it going from him.
Horror rose up in him. These beings were not his people's gods--but what were they? Struggling to get free, calling to his fellow Argonauts, he was left alone once again, while his life drained completely away.
Such things were known to happen for far less offenses. Right now, as a matter of fact, the king did not want to go to war, leastwise for such a trivial matter as this presumptuous puppy named Jason. What would he gain by it? He might lose many fine fighting men, men he badly needed for the war he had already planned to wage against a powerful neighbor on the Caspian Sea presently occupying the rich land (full of gold and caviar and other good things) where he wanted to extend his kingdom's borders.
How was he to get rid of the young nuisance if he couldn't kill him? His already conceived plan--that would do the job--but could he execute it? He must try something else first, then if that failed, his plan would be his last resort.
Medea heard the about the king's stratagems from her servants. The king's counsellors--sly, treacherous long-moustasched devils who would hang their own mothers for money or the king's favor--advised him to offer various tests of strength and skill and daring to the brash barbarian--which could be arranged, without much trouble to the king, to remove him from the land of the living permanently. Starting off, let him bend the unbendable bow of bronze that the great Hercules had left the king's ancestors, that no human being could bend far enough to send an iron-tipped arrow completely through a thick plank of wood. After that, if it was needed, he could be tested with something else, with real danger to it. When (not if) the young man died in the failing of a particular test or labor of impossible nature, his death could not be held to the king's account due to the beautiful accident, and after burning the remains the young man's ashes could be sent back to his uncle in a nicely figured alabaster urn from Ilios with a suitable memorial gift of fine Colchian gold, of course, that would please both uncle and the mourners in his family.
A most beautiful, excellent, fool-proof plan, was it not? Would could go awry with it? The king's counsellors laughed, assuring the king the plan could not possibly go wrong.
Medea thought about this--for the elaborate maneuvers whose details presently came to her ear as well--only made her think that the young adventurer was worth saving. Why was he being so unfairly attacked? she wondered, taking his side. He hadn't been given a fair hearing before he was being condemned to death! Medea's delicate, pale cheeks and nostrils flushed pink, then red. She got angry at the thought of this injustice--she got very angry indeed!
Rather than tell her dear father, whom she believed had been misled by his malicious, serpent-tongued, slit-eyed counsellors, she took to going forth in the early morning onto the western wall of the palace-fortress to see if the stranger had arrived in his ship. Somehow she would save him by warning him in time before the king got to him with his "tests of strength and daring."
The breaking storm resumes, however, and they have to dive back into their sailcloth tent and spend yet more hours, huddled on the wet and rocky ground, while the Argo heaves at its anchor in the tossing waters. The night comes, and still the storm continues unabated. The Argonauts' hopes die, and their misery increases. Where is there any comfort on the hard, wet rocks and gritty sand? It is freezing cold now, in the long night, and chattering teeth and shivering bodies make the ordeal almost unbearable.
Some would rather be back on board the Argo, but how could they make it there safely, as it is too dark to find it in the water. Has the anchor held? Is the Argo still there? Jason is aboard with Argus--but they cannot even call to them--since no voice can be heard in the raging winds.
Unable to sleep, exhausted, the men suffer without a word--as the long night drags on. The gales of wind, and the driving rain, drive them back whenever one or more try to leave the shelter for some wood for making a fire to warm themselves.
Sometime before morning, the men are startled when Jason and Argus scramble into the tent, like beached fish flopping on their bellies.
It will soon be morning, Jason tells them. They need to repair the ship and help Argus erect some kind of mast before they try to slip out of the storm--since to remain there is asking for more damage, should another such storm strike that coast.
One Argonaut speaks up.
"But why can't we strike inland, and find a city or at least some cottages of farmers, where we can find a little food and maybe a place to get dry and warm in their barns?"
Other Argonauts agree that is a good idea, and say so, but Jason objects, having heard their counsel.
"And leave the ship here? We don't have enough men to guard it--if attacked. And if we lose the ship, we will have to walk back, and we will never reach our home cities in that way, fighting all the way!" The men fall silent, as each thinks of walking back, how long that would be, and how impossible, when everyone along the way would treat them as dangerous, roving strangers would naturally be treated. No, they would all be killed, as strangers would be killed by suspicious barbarians, if they had to walk.
Now that they were so few, they could not go out of sight of the ship--everyone was needed to defend it in an attack. Even then, they were woefully weak in numbers.
So the matter of repairs came back to the fore. Where would they find the beams for the new mast and the other repairs? They must take the axes and hew down the trees. But would they find suitable, straight-trunked trees on this barren, rugged coast? All they could yet find around them were unscalable cliffs and rocks, rocks, rocks, without a tree in sight! It seemed so hopeless!
So they sat in their wretched state, without any chance of escape or bettering their circumstances, waiting for the dawn's first light and the breaking of the storm.
What Jason could not know happened about this time. Back on the table land, one of the dying men summoned his last reserve of strength and seized Lukeios, dragging him to the nearest cliff edge. Alive enough to know his fate was sealed, the prince screeched, crying for mercy that was not going to be his, right to the moment he was sent flying to the rocks below.
His avenger collapsed, then dragged himself to another part of the cliff. He did not want to mingle his bones with those of the hated Lukeios. Then he slumped, slipping over the edge, his hands clawing at it for a moment as if he changed his mind, but he was too weak, and could not hold on, and he fell into the darkness without a sound.
Startling their numb ears, the men heard a low and shaky voice begin to sing. They soon recognized it. Orpheus! After days he was singing something. His husky voice, weak and low as it was, gradually strengthened. But no harp, fit to be heard in the halls of kings, accompanied him. His fingers could no longer make music--ruined by the hours and days of oaring--swollen, blistered, cramped and knotted--they had lost their delicate feel for every nuance of tone and tempo of a singing harp string.
Would he ever play music again? What would his parents do, without his supporting them in their old age? His harps were ruined too--useless in the damp and mildew of the ship's hold, where his royal-like clothes, reserved for kings and their courts, lay turned to rags?
Yet he was singing, by himself!
The light is coming, Orpheus sang. A light with healing in its wings.
"So, Argonauts, let us persevere, be patient, and endure, and play the man until the end. Let us race and gain the prize...for if we still do not see the light, know it is coming to greet us, to lead us and guide us to our destination afar off. If we endure the hardship now as good seafarers, we will receive the crown that, unlike the leaves of a laurel, will never dry and blow away."
When Orpheus had finished and fell silent, nothing seemed changed, at least not on the surface of things.
It was time to fish and hunt, before they started! This they did, with only Jason and Argus standing guard at the ship while working to bail it out and remove everything from the hold.
The men shot some sand partridges and a few ducks down along the shoreline in a freshwater stream and pond, and with some of the best fish that the storm had thrown up into the shallow pools amidst the shore rocks, they rushed back to make a camp and prepare dinner.
The next day dawned, and nobody was anxious to begin work. But Jason was determined to get the ship seaworthy again as soon as possible and rousted them out of their sailcloth tent.
Even if no trees were in sight, they had to find them--and that meant climbing the cliffs to the upper slopes where they might be growing.
They did find them--an entire forest of good trees--and then it was hard work from then on, cutting, limbing, debarking, and then transporting them down the mountain and the cliffs to the ship.
Several days passed in this work, until finally Argus had what he needed to do some serious repairs. As for the mast, it could wait. They might even use their oars and leave the area, Jason thought, to find a new mast somewhere near the waterline. It would be just too difficult, and dangerous, to attempt to bring a beam of that size down the nearly vertical mountainside.
While working on getting suitable trees for the repairs, an Argonaut saw something strange. He had heard how once Phaethon, a daring but foolish youth, flew in a sky chariot of the sun-god's and, since he couldn't control the flying horses pulling the car, burnt up nearly half the world before Zeus the Thunderbolt-Slinger struck him down, lest he destroy all life. Was this the famous sky chariot of the sun-god Helios? But who was flying it now?
Hearing this, the Argonauts were full of questions to ask Mopsos, but he had explained as much as he felt free to tell them, and wouldn't be drawn out on the topic again. Only days later did Boreus get him to speak again on the subject. Mopsos, for some reason, saw that Boreus was after more than just information.
Now Boreus loved the wise Mopsos, and feared him as an elder brother is feared, though Boreus had no elder brother and was an only son.
"Why did Prometheus the Fire-Bringer do that for us, if it cost him so much? What did he have to gain by such a sacrifice?" Boreus asked the Seer of the Argo.
Mopsos shook his head. "You have said it, he had nothing to gain from us, from mankind, for his great sacrifice. He is called a rebel against the gods, but I am not singular if I did not believe that, for my father was a wise man and did not believe it. No, before these gods were said to exist, there was only the Father of All, the Most High God, and this one we now call Prometheus, he bore another name--and only the Father of All knew it, since He was His Son, created before the worlds were created and this wide circle of earth on which we men flourish was framed, with all its creatures and green things."
Boreus, having thought the gods were pre-eminent, as everybody else thought back in his home city, was overwhelmed, his head was spinning.
"But--but--," he sputtered, "if this Prometheus is the Son of the Most High God, as you say, why did he suffer all this for us--who never knew him--before we were even born between our mother's knees?"
"Why?" Mopsos repeated. "The Father of All, who created us men for His pleasure, sent him. So that alone proves He was not a rebel against heaven-- he obeyed His Father, choosing His will above his own, and so ought we to obey Him and choose His will for us, whatever it costs."
Boreus fell silent, and thought about this for some time. Later, he came back to Mopsos. "I have been thinking, sir, on your word about Prometheus. In my heart I believe it, but my head cannot. Too many people believe otherwise-- the whole people, in fact, who worship Zeus as the Most High God who rules over the other gods. They would laugh at me if I told them I believe this thing--that there is only One God, and His Son is this Prometheus who brought fire to bless mankind."
Mopsos turned to look right into Boreus's eyes, and slowly, ever so slowly replied, "So they will laugh at you, dear fellow?--let fools laugh all they like, for it is so!"
"But I will be turned out of my home, if I tell them this. My father will even cut me out of the inheritance! I will lose everything, and I will be rich when I return home--with a house, a well to water it, and servants, and a fine vineyard to claim anytime I want them!
"All that is good enough, but one thing you lack," Mopsos replied to Boreus's protests. "What is that?" Boreus retorted, a bit hotly. "I lack nothing. I will never be a poor man, with my inheritance!"
"Then give it all up, dear friend, and you will find true riches, knowing the One True God and His Son! That is the only lasting inheritance you will need in this life. What you may have to give up is small compared with what you will be given in return!"
Boreus stared at Mopsos as if he had been handed a deadly snake by a treacherous man he had formerly trusted.
"But I have been a good, faithful son to my aged father! How can I give up what he wants to give me before he dies? That would cast shame on his old grey head if I spurn his gifts!"
"No man is worthy of the One True God and His Son who will not first give up what he possesses to gain what no money can buy! Deny Him, and He must deny you. If your lands and houses and possessions mean more to you, then they will rule in your heart above the Father of All, Your Creator." Hearing this, Boreus's resolve to know more about God and Prometheus the Obedient Son of God crumbled, and his gaze dropped to the ground. He sat silent, with Mopsos still gazing at him, and then he walked away.
Mopsos, with sadness, watched him go, and then returned to his work preparing the dinner.
"He almost launched forth--but not quite," he thought. "Not quite."
If they did not keep to the oars, the east and north winds called Notus and Boreus pushed them back and threatened to cast them on the rocks of the shores. Yet the days of sea, fighting the wind without rest, took a grim toll on all of them. Argonauts began to collapse off their benches, and had to be left where they lay as the remaining Argonauts labored to keep the ship from drifting back dangerously toward shore and the pounding surf.
As soon as they did, they revived enough to climb overboard and make their way through the water to the beach, where they collapsed on the sand and lay as dead men for a while.
Unknown to them, this was the Isle of Ares the war-god that they had unwittingly invaded. They had no sooner got to their feet when the birds of Ares attacked (or at least they thought they were birds). Now this island had got the reputation it had due to the attacks it always made on anyone who dared land there and disturbed their nest. The Argonauts were no more welcome guests than other unwary travelers who had visited there. Out of the sky screamed bird-like things that might have been sicklebirds except that their wings did not flap and they moved faster than even diving eagles. Jason was armed, but the others were not, and they scattered into the nearby woods and swamps, for this was the mouth of the many-tongued Thermodon, which had innumerable islands and estuaries in which an army could hide and never be found.
Ares' war-bird made a single pass at Jason, but it was going so fast Jason did not even get a good throw at it, and it flew away unscathed. He got a good look at it, however, and was surprised to see it was part man and part bird--if a bird could be featherless as this one was and still fly like an eagle diving on its prey with tremendous speed.
Jason stood looking after the war-birds as they soared away out of view. Had Ares whistled and called them like a man calls his hunting dogs? Such strange birds! he thought. They gleamed like bronze held in the light of a blazing fire, with not a feather to be seen. And the part that was man, it had a gleaming helmet, though which Jason could see eyes peering at him momentarily with the eyes of a man.
What an ugly, hateful bird! he thought. The look the man had given him was enough to chill his blood.
Whatever had called it away, Jason was glad it had gone. His javelin seemed a petty weapon against such a bird as this--which had a skin gleaming like burnished bronze.
Calling the Argonauts out from their hiding places, Jason got them back onboard the ship and they moved away from that island as fast as they could, even with blistered hands making their teeth clench as they plied the oars. Only when they were safe between reedy channels of the river, hidden from view, did they stop and catch their breath.
The moment he thought this, something seemed to strike his heart--he could feel a real blow--as if he had wounded himself somehow with an evil thought. What had he done? he wondered. Why should he feel so bad, so stricken inside?
Then he recalled something--Orpheus, singing that strange song of his when they all sat huddled under the sail, as if he were calling them to a quest greater than a warrior launched on a sea-quest of adventure and exploits worthy of the god Herakles! Then, all his crazy talk about a "One True God" and His Son, Prometheus the Fire-Bringer--it had made his insides churn at the time, and his head felt ready to burst! Yet... the way Orpheus had sung to them, he could never forget it. His musician's hands, no longer good for harping, no good for field labor either--what would Orpheus the Musician do after the quest was over? Though he had sung before kings and courts of nobles, he would sink into disgraceful poverty, he would starve and die a wretched, poor man in a hovel outside the city!
Thinking about Mopsos, then Orpheus, and all they had said and sung to him, Boreus's heart was deeply troubled. Once his life had been so simple, his plan sure to win everything he wanted in life, but now...now nothing seemed what he had first thought it.