The Odyssey of BARYPOS of TEGEA
The adventures in Hellenistic times of four adventurers
[set in 270bc] Other chapters here
As the ship nears the island the crew becomes visibly more nervous. Telamon is grim-faced too, but orders the ship to perform a circuit of the island looking for a convenient bay. It takes some hours to row around the island. There is one good wide sandy bay on the southern face of the island, unfortunately not one with a shelving beach to run the ship onto, but as, Telamon had said that only the characters and he will go ashore that is no great problem and they will go in the ship’s small boat. The Iris is taken a point about 500 metres away from the bay and anchor is dropped. The skiff is lowered from its position on the ship near the bow rails. The companions decide that they need 7 days of food and wine, some rope, charcoal and Mardonius the Persian slave to go with them. They get a couple of sailors to row the boat to the shore with Telamon the Gold, Mardonius, Barypos and the supplies and return to the Iris. Before he goes Telamon the Gold gives the crew instructions, they need to wait for ten days unless they have to move to avoid danger but are to return as soon as they can. After ten days they are to go to Tyras and do what they need to from then on. They seem quite happy with these instructions particularly as they are promised a bonus if they wait and bring the group home. The remaining companions take there own personal cash and equipment ashore and Jason has wrapped his bow up to avoid the wet. They row themselves to the beach. after getting some instruction first from the crew, who then stand and watch them row. It takes them nearly twice as long to row the distance, going in circles and being dragged by eddies. Wet but still up the right way the three followed by a lot of laughter reach the shore and pull the boat up on the beach. This is a broad, steep crescent beach with white sands eventually giving way to scrub and hardy, thorny plants as the land begins to rise towards the interior. It is very quiet, there is only birdsong and the constant chirruping of insects echoing across the beach.
Telemon says that their destination is the Temple to Adrestia and is found at approximately the island’s centre – a series of caves in a prominent rock formation. “Although I have never seen it, there are good accounts of the formation in the Alexandrian Library archives,” Telamon says. “We are looking for a promontory resembling a huge fist: the Fist of Gods.” However we will camp here for the night and set out in the morning after resting ready for setting out through the scrub and thorns and up the rocky slope. The group set about pulling the boat to a sheltered area so they can make a fire facing the sea with the boat shielding it from the interior. With that the set up a cover over the boat and pulled out to offer them somewhere to camp and while firewood is collected they make supper military style as that is the best they can do. With a clear starry night and a 1/4 moon it is dark but pitch black and so they let the fire go out, it will not be a cold night at this time of year and set a guard. Barypos is first to be followed by Jason then Telamon with Archi last.
Barypos nearly falls asleep and keeps walking around to stay awake, however Jason when he takes over does fall asleep and wakes to the sound of clicking as does Barypos. Jason looking the wrong way sees nothing but Barypos sees a very large scorpion approaching from around 30′ away. He grabs his pan pipes and stares to play and sing trying to ‘charm’ to scare the monster away. His singing wakes all the others.
Barypos stands picking up his Dory and Thureos; Archi stands and starts to ready his sling while Jason stands and strings his bow. The scorpion closes quickly and gets to engagement range. Telamon stands and readies his Akon.
Barypos stabs his dory at the monster driving past its hard shell and impaling it into the area around its mouth and eyes. Jason with his stung bow but not ready for combat disengages and scuttles off out of rang of the stinger. The monster scorpion pulls away from Barypos, who fails to hold on to his dory, and disappears into the gloom of the night. Some very shaken campers realise how much danger they are in here and make sure that the guards need to stay alert and then head back to sleep.
Morning breaks sunny and bright, Barypos sees the blood and tracks of the scorpion and follows them to find his dory slightly damaged not to far away. The companions then bury they unneeded cash and items under the boat and conceal the boat from prying eyes. After breakfast Jason sings to Apollo while Barypos played his lyre for him. Jason then looks at the birds with all but Archi as wittiness to see what warning of future encounters they might have. They then take 4 days of supplies which the slave carries along with some other equipment. They then set off with Jason leading followed by Barypos, Telamon the Gold and Mardonius the slave, followed by Telamon and with Archi at the rear marking the route with the charcoal. After six hours Barypos and Archi are struggling with the climb and cuts, abrasions and injuries as they negotiate the treacherous steep and stony ground Telamon the Gold is also suffering. On top of this they feel they are being watched although they have not seen anything except the odd wildlife. So they stop for a rest and Archi gets his healing kit out. Over the next hour he works on them all and comes to realise that Telamon ahe Gold is suffering from more than just fatigue and seems to be worse than when he examined him before maybe its because they are closer to the source of his perceived problem.
Restarting the upward climb, Jason sees some birds forming the shape of a arrow pointing ahead of them which then turns into the rough shape of a scorpion. Deciding this is a warning they change there route and move around the perceived threat ahead. A hour or so later when the light is beginning to fade the ground finally begins to level and there is enough space to make camp, eat, and recover from the day’s exertions. Jason sees this as part of a pathway and gets Archi to set up a rope around the surrouning trees about 1′ off the ground as a trip warning. Archi tends to their wounds again and gives TG a pick me up. They then have supper and without a fire prepare to settle down. As the sun goes down the drums start, booming from up the slope, mixed with the sounds of singing. This gives them a start and they wonder what it means. Telamon says its a religious song, TG says they know we are here then. Again they set a guard in the same order as the previous night.
The savages of Iaxos have been watching the characters ever since spotting the Iris approaching over the horizon. Fearful and superstitious, they rely on the magic of their priestess to deal with any intruders, but a group of six savages have been sent to watch the ‘intruders’ progress into the heart of the island: it is they that have been trailing the party all day. As night falls and the drumming stops, this small group creeps nearer for a better look. They remain semi-hidden in the undergrowth and are alert for danger; what they want to do is get a better idea of numbers, weapons and, in particular, the old man who appears to be the leader. There is a prophecy among the savages that a man of advanced years will challenge Adrestia’s magic, and so they are keen to see if this is the prophecy being fulfilled. The savages creep to within a dozen metres of the characters camp and observe, quietly. They then take some food and leave. Telamon who is on watch does not notice anything.
As they wake and have breakfast they notice that some food has gone from their stock, Telamon can see no tracks on the stony ground. So they start out on another day of scrambling over thorns, stones and working their way uphill all the time towards the temple. Again they suffer fatigue and cuts to their body and twists of their legs as they go, also the undergrowth is thicker and the insects more of a bother. Jason at the front becomes so tired that he fails to see a trap. He puts his foot down and the ground below him disappears.
Even though tired he reacts quickly and grabs a branch just above his head and swings himself out of danger. Looking down the group see a three meter deep stake filled pit. They were lucky. A little while later they stop for lunch. After lunch the party climbs higher on this second day, and as afternoon turns to evening, the promontory Telamon spoke of reveals itself. It is a massive plug of dark rock set against the sky: an immense boulder thrown by the gods so that it landed on a raised pillar of rock and remained there, dominating all. Known as the Fist of Gods by the historians and the savages, this plug of granite overhangs the surrounding lands casting a long shadow. Even when the characters first see it, some distance away, it is obvious that something special nestles within its natural caves: a vast opening, inaccessible due to the way the promontory over- hangs the surrounding geology, reveals massive steps and carvings clearly belonging to a temple. The path the characters follow curves up towards the western side of Fist of Gods, turning from a track into steep, carved steps. Jason checks the steps as they go just in case. At their summit is another natural opening – a collapsed cave – and this is the easiest way into Adrestia’s Temple.
Moving in this cave is open to the sky, the Courtyard, is 15 metres wide and 17 metres long. There are steps to the and steps to the east. Both entrances are framed by 3 metre-high basalt pillars carved to resemble stylised elephants. The pillars forming the entrance to the east have been hacked and defaced, with attempts being made to restyle the elephants into, unsuccessful, representations of the goddess. Both entrances are reached by sets of broad, shallow stairs. They wonder about a elephant god and decide it must be linked to Persians who came this way some time in the past bringing Indians and elephants with them. They check out the area and find 8 savages hiding behind the statues, they are armed with long flint tipped spears. Barypos speaks in Arcado Greek and they replay in a very old broken type of Greek. Barypos says, ‘We are peaceful supplicants to the temple, we do not intend harm or to stay.’ ‘Go this way’ comes the reply as they point towards the east steps. ‘Why not this way’ asks Barypos as he points to the north steps. The locals point east and try to move the party that way, they seem to be afraid of the other direction. Why Barypos wonders, but the group allows themselves to be pushed east.
The temple area up the steps is 35 metres long, with a high, naturally domed ceiling. Pillars five metres apart divide the temple into its different sections. The pillars are in the old Greek design of plain columns of stone carved with scenes of ritual and myth. Between the entrance and the shrine is a 15 metre long pool sunk into the stone. The pool is 3 metres deep and was once filled with water, but is now dry, it is surrounded by more columns. To the south the cave wall is completely open, flooding the temple with natural light in the mornings and dimmer light in this late afternoon. To the north is a area hidden by a mixture of pillars and crude drapes strung between them. An ornate stepped plinth, 6 metres by 6 metres by 6 metres dominates the eastern end of the main temple area. At the top of the plinth is a 3m tall intricate and detailed statue of Adrestia herself. The goddess is depicted in her aspect of Avenging Mother: She has four faces engraved into her helm one facing each direction, as an avenging deity she can see all that needs avenging. Her powerful legs are wrapped in ankle bracelets of silver. In her powerful arms she carries a sword and Aspis. Her arms are arrayed in a defensive posture. The statue is carved from granite, and is highly polished so that every surface is smooth and gleaming. The eye sockets of her face’s are blank, with no pupils, lending the goddess a terrifying, merciless appearance.
As they take in the sight of this area the drabs to the north are pulled back and a woman, the priestess!, comes out. A formidable extremely majestic presence: a large woman with long, lank, hair. On each side of her face are tattoos of smaller faces, resembling those of Adrestia’s likeness on the statue. She wears many necklaces of bones, teeth, shaped stones and the occasional precious gem. On her ankles and wrists are bangles of silver and jade. Her eyes are accentuated with dark colurs, daubed around the sockets and across her lids. She wears her breasts uncovered and they, like her cheeks, are tattooed but this time with many peculiar runes and sigils. ‘I am Oora priestess of Adrestia, what do you want?’ she says. The party make sure to show proper Greek courtesy to her but not bowing as such. Telamon the Gold explains his reasons. He has felt his health beginning to fail in small, subtle ways over the last few years. He is not ready to die yet and does not want his son, Eurastonos, to share his fate. The old historic curse of Adrestia must be broken. In the past couple of years he has researched the myths and rites of your god Adrestia. ‘I have learnt that if someone cursed by the cult goes to the temple where the curse was made, begs forgiveness, and is prepared to offer a sacrifice, the curse will be lifted. I intend to make this offer to Adrestia a finger from each hand, a toe from each foot and one of my eyes in return for the lifting of the curse.’ He says. ‘I think she has already taken one of my eyes but if need be I will give up the other’ he finishes. The companions look at her for some insight, but she is just majestic and they can read nothing from her.
Oora says, ‘I will commune with my goddess, please wait and be served’ she then goes back behind the screen. TG sits and rests while the companions look around. They count about twenty savage warriors with long spear and a bag of pebbles for a sling round around their arms. The also look at the pillar decorations, Each pillar recounts a key myth of Adrestia, from how she came to be the goddess of revenge through to how she took that revenge on each of the Invader Titans. The carvings are detailed, intricate, and shocking in their graphic depictions of vengeance. There are beheadings, disembowelments, flayings, and someone having their vertebrae removed, one piece at a time. Below these depictions are pictorial illustrations of the rituals associated with each myth. These are dances, and the steps and movements of the dance are clearly shown, with a stylised figure of Adrestia used to demonstrate the requirements. The pillar on the south west corner displays, quite clearly, the processes of ritual killing and preparation for eating of other savages. Telamon and Barypos both recoil at the sight and run but the savage warriors stop them leaving the area.
Archi says maybe we should have gone the other way, TG says they must trust the priestess as he needs to be clear of this curse. Older men and some women offer food and drink to them all, they polity decline and offer it to the warriors who happily take and eat and drink. Now they must just wait as the sun goes down and the evening draws in.