Dancing the Shadows

Proem

© 1999/2000 by Stayka deyAvemta

This page was last modified: 2000/11/13


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Let us sing to praise Kalliope, Zeus' daughter
Who gave us the voice you the epic to tell
Of all the glorious battles and the slaughter
Fought by great Athena's heroes in the hell.

Let us worship the honey-voiced heavenly Nine
Raising their hymns to Olympus' wonderous height;
Apollon's lyre adding his music divine
While eternal Zeus listens in raptured delight.

Let us admire the Muses' dancing afar,
Joyfully, playfully near the Helicon's wells,
Before we are singing of the next Holy War
With the Queen who in terrible darkness deep dwells.

A horrible battle and bloodshed awaits,
But honour and glory for the fighters is great.
Let us praise the heroes who bravely fight the fates
And uphold the banner of Athena the war-maid.

Kalliope with her beautiful voice of gold,
Urania the heavenly, Kleio who praises,
Give us the words the epic tale to unfold
Which lies before you as the song slowly raises.

Hear now the tale of the terrible Shadow Knights
Who, clothed in glorious shining crystal armours, came
And challenged the Goddess of Wisdom for her rights
On behalf of the Queen of Night and darkest fame.

* * *

"I hate it," Iris thought when she spread her pristine white wings to fly westwards from the heights of the Mount Olympos to the gates of Hades. Her golden hair flew in the cosmic currents that bound the realms of the Gods to their creation.

Why had Hephaistos and Ares to quarrel again? And of course the reason was Aphrodite, like most of the times. This time Zeus had decreed they should swear peace by the powerful binding Oath of Styx.

Of course this meant, she, the angelos, the messenger of the Gods, was sent down to Hades' Realm to obtain a measure of the holy water in her golden cup. She was slightly peeved -- actually she was Hera's personal messenger, but Hermes who was supposed to run around for Zeus was nowhere to be found at the time.

Iris hated to dive down into the cleft of storms that guarded the entrance to Hades' Realm. Even she was pushed about by the powerful hurricanes. Moreover, currently the underworld was in severe uproar, now that the mighty King Hades was sealed away once again by reincarnated Athena and her holy Warrior Saints.

Iris wondered why Zeus allowed Athena such deeds. But then, Athena was Zeus' favourite daughter since the beginning, and Hades had played wrong by trying to conquer the Earth Realm which wasn't his to rule.

Poseidon had suffered a similar fate only a short time ago, and Iris wondered whether this was actually a plot by Zeus to obtain the rulership about all the Realms himself. She had to talk with Hera about this, maybe the Queen of the Olympus would like to spoil her dear husband's newest plans.

It was a bit awkward nowadays that the Gods weren't allowed to walk the ground of the Earth Realm in person anymore. Zeus' decree said that they had caused enough havoc in the ancient times when they regularly did this. Now it was required to find some human body to assume a human form on Earth to be allowed to walk among the humans and try to steer their fates. If a God should not heed this interdict, he or she was due one year in the Tartaros under the watchful eyes of the three hundred-armed giants. That is, if he was caught...

Iris was pretty sure that her messenger colleague Hermes never obeyed any command if he could get away with it. Unfortunately he was so cunning that he usually could... After all, Hermes had even stolen Apollon's cows when he was but one day old and still in his swaddling clothes.

She herself wouldn't dare to oppose a decree made by the ruler of the Gods, but then, she wouldn't want to be reincarnated in a frail human body either. Which God in his right mind would? Okay, Athena, but the perpetual virgin wasn't exactly in her right mind anyway.

Suddenly the storms abated and Iris reached the everlasting greyish dark depths of the Hades. Kerberos greeted her by barking from his three heads. Around the hut where it was housed, aconite grew in great amount, growing wherever the hell hound's spittle touched the ground. She ignored the monstrous beast and went on.

Poisonous yew and black weeping willows sacred to Persephoneia lined her way through the pale dusk to the mist-hung shores of the Acheron where Charon waited for her.

The shore was crowded with myriads of desperate souls who hadn't been buried properly and couldn't give the ferryman the payment he was due. Now they would err here until the end of time, for Charon never took anyone in his decaying ship of sewn-together tree bark who couldn't pay him properly.

As messenger, Iris was exempt from the payment, of course, and Charon greeted her rather unenthusiastically. He was still peeved that he had been defeated by two of Athena's boys when they came down into the Hades realm only a short time ago. But of course the underworld and its minions were eternal, and so Charon's ethereal body was recombined to ensure the ferryman's job was continued without pause. Sometimes he wished he could stay dormant for a longer time to have a little reprieve from his boring duty.

In silence, Charon ferried Iris over the underworld river, past the magnificent palace of Styx that was erected under the high rocks where the sky was held by silver columns.

Of course the physical Earth needed no such support, but there was still the ethereal image of the Beyond that was the world of the Gods and that was still ruled by the olden laws.

When Charon let her get off his bark, Iris spread her wings and flew farther, towards the river Styx. From here she could see the City of the Dead where the souls of the dead lived a shadow life like they did when they were still alive, only that the waters of Lethe had wiped their memories and passions and so they were truly only shadows of their former selves.

Iris kneeled down at the shore of the Styx and spoke the ancient formula that allowed her to fill her golden cup with the sacred waters of the much-hated Goddess, before she returned to the river Acheron.

Strangely enough, Iris had the impression that the icy grey world of the Hades seemed even more oppressing today than during her last visits. She wondered whether this was caused by the reactions to Hades' renewed imprisonment. Anyway, everything looked a little different again. Each of the continuous Holy Wars between Hades and Athena usually led to the destruction of the physical representation of the underworld, and when it was re-formed, there were light changes in appearance.

Suddenly poisonous green and purple flashes emanated from Hades' imposing dark castle. One of them barely missed Iris' feathery wings and scorched the hem of her rainbow-coloured robe.

With a shriek, she spilled some drops of the holy water before she safely landed on the ground. Charon, who had watched her approach, grinned at the angelos.

"What was this supposed to accomplish?" Iris cursed angrily.

"Wanna know?" Charon folded his arms. "Then you have to pay me for the information."

"You greedy old bastard!"

"Thanks for the compliment," he smiled. "What about your golden bracelet?"

"Okay, okay..." Iris was curious, after all. She gave the ferryman one of her bracelets.

"You see, Persephoneia is still really furious that her Hades-darling has been imprisoned by the obnoxious little brat Athena again. I guess she plans some revenge on her, then one of her advisors told her it's a bad idea to go against Zeus' favourite daughter, and she fried him."

"I see. So it's nothing new after all. -- And for this piece of worthless information you wanted my bracelet? You usurer!"

"Well, you don't think I could earn my living from the coins I am given by the dead? Too many people don't know the ancient rites anymore. Ever wondered why there are so many wailing souls on the other shore? Who am I? The welfare? -- And I refuse to take credit cards!"

"Well, I have to bring this back to Mount Olympus now." Iris pointed at the golden cup. "These idiots Ares and Hephaistos fight again for Aphrodite..."

"Hephaistos? Hm... I saw him here quite often in the last times..." Charon frowned. "Damn! You should have given me your other bracelet for this additional piece of information!"

"You'll get some more jewellery if you tell me something of real interest."

"I fear I told you too much already. The Queen certainly won't be amused that you know that she calls her beloved 'Hades-darling'." Charon grinned wryly and ferried her over.

"Well, be seeing you!" Iris looked warily up to the raging storms, then she sighed und flew upwards to Mount Olympus again.

Continued in Chapter One: A Message Boding Ill


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