As he drove across the sky, Apollo looked down on the land of Egypt from his fiery sun-chariot, and was displeased. Not the peasants tilling their fields nor the villages and the sun-baked cities nor the flowing Nile displeased him. In fact, all had seemed normal to Apollo until he gazed into the temples, through their new windows, built to let the sun in. There he could see the new religion the pharaoh Akhenaten had brought. Only the god Aten was present in any of the great temples, he alone was worshiped. Only Apollo's rival.
Apollo turned back to Greece. Through all the hills and valleys, from Thrace to the palaces of Neleus' city, Apollo was worshiped, but only after the other greater gods: Zeus, Poseidon, and Demeter, who makes the crops grow. Compared to the lavish and exclusive worship that Aten received, the honor the Hellenes and Argives gave was nothing.
"And why should they worship me above all other gods if I, unlike the deities of fertility and the crafts, I offer few practical benefits? Only poets and oracles truly require my assistance." Apollo paused and thought.
"I shall have to change this."
Apollo's sunlight glistened brightly on the waves of the sea where old Aegeus had thrown himself only a few years before. It may have been only a few years since Theseus' escape from the Labyrinth of Knossos leading to his father's watery suicide, but to Daedalus those years had felt like centuries. Those same events had brought Daedalus and his son, Icarus to long imprisonment on Crete.
"Now," thought Daedalus as he and his son flew with wax wings towards Sicily, "we are finally free."
Icarus, meanwhile, took a moment to admire the view of the sea and the distant Peloponnesus, a view known only to Daedalus, Icarus and the gods. A youthful desire to fly higher into the blue and orange sky seized Icarus. So he beat his wings harder, and slowly he began to rise towards the sun.
"Icarus, remember what I told you! Don't fly too close to the sun. Apollo's rays will melt your wings!" yelled Daedalus. But the craftsman's son just continued flying higher, and higher into the air. "Icarus come d-! No!" Before Daedalus could finish his latest warning, one of his son's wing peeled away. Apollo's sunrays had proved to much for the wing's wax and now Icarus was without any means of staying in the air. Icarus screamed as he dropped into the sea, the same sea that had swallowed Aegeus.
In his grief, Daedalus flew directionless for some time before he landed near a temple high in the mountains. He walked towards the temple, which was made of laurel wood. Standing before the door was a shining figure.
"I am Apollo. You must come here to my oracle at Delphi. The priestess will tell you my commands. You must obey."
Daedalus awoke suddenly to find himself in his room at the palace of the King of Sicily, Kokalos, were he had stayed since he had escaped from his imprisonment on Crete, almost five years ago.
While he lay awake in bed Daedalus thought over the meaning of the dream. "Why should I consult Apollo, whose sunrays melted Icarus's wings, making him fall into the sea?" mumbled the craftsman, half asleep.
Finally, sunlight came creeping through the window that faced out of Daedalus's room, on to Poseidon's green sea. The light revealed the brightly painted frescoes that covered the walls of his room. Daedalus remained in bed for a while yet, still exhausted from his troubled night. The Craftsman finally got up upon hearing a distant commotion coming from somewhere within the wooden and stone walls of the palace.
Daedalus walked through the palace of the king Kokalos, past storage rooms filled with olive oil and wine imported from Akhaia, and past rooms filled with palace slave girls who were patiently weaving, even early in the morning. Finally he came to the source of the noise: the palace courtyard.
He found several priests and diviners arguing next to the King of Sicily and the corpse of a sacrificed and disemboweled goat.
The High Priest, an old, small man named Ager, dressed in ceremonial robes said, "The omen is very clear, your Majesty. Apollo is angered and he wants something done soon."
"But what?" asked another priest.
The king said, "I agree that this omen is serious, but we need more information, more instructions before we can do anything. It's clear that we must search for more omens." Kokalos paused and turned to Daedalus, who had been politely waiting at the edge of the courtyard, between two columns, "Do you know what the god intends?"
Daedalus thought for a moment then said, "Well, ah, I did dream of Apollo last night."
One of the priests who had been bent over the altar, examining the innards of the sacrifice looked up and exclaimed, "A dream! What did the god say?"
"Well, the dream was of the death of my son and of myself at the Oracle of Delphi, but I can't go to Delphi. It was Apollo who killed my son."
The High Priest said,"I really think you must. The omens are very bad."
Daedalus turned to the king to plead his case, but Kokalos said, "I'm afraid I agree. Because you have been a guest of my house, I shall send you to Delphi on one of my own ships."
The old craftsman could only nod in agreement.
Because of favorable winds, the painted Sicilian ship made the crossing to Greece surprisingly quickly. All too soon, the curved ship had reached its destination, a village on the coast, important only because of its proximity to Delphi.
The second in command of the ship, a young vassal of Kokalos named Kerbasi--and the man responsible for getting Daedalus to Delphi--strolled up and said, "His Majesty has ordered that I escort you to Delphi and then assist you in carrying out the god's commands."
Daedalus just nodded his balding head. He had heard Kerbasi's duties before. They, and much of the crew, departed onto the dock. Daedalus and Kerbasi however, set off for Delphi on a sturdy wooden chariot, just brought off the ship.
The road to Delphi, which ran through a narrow valley, was long but well worn; many worshipers had travelled it before. Many of the more current worshipers were pushed off the road by the passing chariot.
Eventually the temple of Delphi, set on a distant, rocky hill, came into view. As Kerbasi drove the chariot closer, Daedalus saw that, like most temples to Apollo, including the temple in his dream, it was made of sacred laurel boughs.
Kerbasi and Daedalus left the chariot at a place provided near the base of the hill and began the ascent to the sanctuary in silence. They walked along a dirt path, past smaller shrines, to arrive at the main temple.
Before being able to consult the oracle, the pair first gave offerings to Apollo. They gave two great bronze bowls and a tripod, all provided by King Kokalos. After leaving the gifts in an alcove for offerings to the god, they entered the hall of the main temple. The hall was a dark, large room surrounded by laurel walls. Daedalus and Kerbasi shared it with several other waiting worshipers, many of them dressed in simple tunics that contrasted sharply with the rich garments Daedalus and Kerbasi wore.
Almost immediately, a priest came to lead Daedalus and his companion to the oracle, which came as a great surprise. The god often made travelers wait for long periods of time. They followed the robed the priest, who said nothing, to the chamber of the oracle.
The oracle, a young priestess dressed in white, sat on a tripod surrounded by the fumes of a vent from deep in the Earth below.
Kerbasi was the first to ask the question, not to the oracle, but to a waiting priest nearby. "The land of Sicily is troubled by omens, sent by Apollo, and the god has summoned the craftsman, Daedalus. Why?"
The priest turned to the oracle and restated the question. The answer as always, came in verse.The god Apollo has no interest in Sicily only in Daedalus.Phoebus Apollo is not angry or displeased with king Kokalos.He knows Daedalus is scornful of the god, for the craftsman mourns a son,Who died flying the wax wings of Daedalus, melted by Apollo's sun.Despite Icarus's transgression, the god wishes Daedalus to fly,Fly to Crete, and sacrifice the sacred bull to the wife of the god HadesSo as the gods have negotiated Icarus may exit Hades.So fly, Daedalus, and always remember the worship of ApolloLest the god decide you should suffer the same fate as your son, Icarus.
Daedalus and Kerbasi stood stunned in the dark chamber until it was clear that Apollo had ceased inspiring the priestess. The priest beckoned for them to leave through the great wooden doors, and slowly they did.
Outside in the light of the sun Daedalus was still speechless. He was too surprised to even think. Finally Kerbasi broke the silence, "So, my lord, what are you going to do?"
"My only option is to do as Apollo commands. I must fly to Crete, I must conquer Knossos and defeat Ocnus, the successor of Minos." Daedalus was almost surprised to hear the words that came out of his mouth.
"I killed King Minos when he pursued me to Sicily. Ever since then, I have had a claim to the throne of Knossos. When a dynasty becomes weak, it is natural for another to take its place. It is natural for the one who killed the last king to become the new one, not this Ocnus who shares his father's weakness. With Apollo's help, my followers and I can take Ocnus by surprise. I could fly over his ships and the Talos, the monster I built for Minos so many years ago."
"You followers, sir?" asked Kerbasi.
"I..." Daedalus paused and stroked his greying beard nervously. "...Suppose I'll need to get some. I know I'll find some way. It's the only chance I or any other mortal will get to reverse death. It's the only way I'll get Icarus back."
"Well, sir, as the king has ordered, I must assist you. I shall be your first follower," replied Kerbasi.
"Excellent! But I'll need more and we'll need to go to a city from which Crete can be easily reached."
In every town they stopped at on their way to the southern tip of Akhaia, Kerbasi and Daedalus attempted to enthuse the young men of the settlement to their cause. However, a pair of wandering men that claimed to be able to fly met with little success in the villages of Greece. By the time they reached Pavlopetri on the edge of the Peloponnesus, the Army of Daedalus numbered a bare dozen.
As they had in other towns, the small band stayed in the megaron of the local king's palace. Even poor travelers could find a place at the king's house; after all, one could never be sure if a beggar was a god in disguise. But this time the king, a young man named Kyros, took a special interest in the travelers.
As Daedalus was standing next to the central fire of the megaron, the king came up and bowed. "I've always wished to meet you, Daedalus, ever since you landed outside my city's walls during the reign of my father, on your escape from Crete. I've heard of your quest, and I wish to offer any assistance I can. If you need craftsmen, ships, horses, even a group of soldiers, I can give you these. However I will need most of my men at home if that young upstart Nestor, the son of King Neleus, continues his cattle raiding."
Daedalus and his companions, who had gathered around, were momentarily astonished. After an awkward few heartbeats, during which Daedalus found himself staring at the tiled floor, he framed a reply. "Thank you, sire. I would humbly request a number of craftsmen to assist in the construction of my new wings, as well as many warriors as you decide you can spare. They will of course receive their share of the booty. I would also like sacrifices for Apollo when the time to fly to Knossos comes.'
"Excellent. If you need anything else, please tell me. In the meantime you may stay as my honored guests."
After the king departed, Daedalus and his men immediately began talking among themselves. A burly old veteran of many raids in Hellas and beyond, named Aleksandr, stated what everyone else was thinking, "With Daedalus's wings, the blessing of Apollo, and the help of a great king, we cannot fail!"
Daedalus, the great craftsman, watched the score of apprentices and craftsmen King Kyros had provided as they built the wings. Their work continued even though the day was oppressively hot, even in the shade of the stone palace. As he watched, Daedalus could barely contain his excitement and his nervousness. "In as little as a month," he thought, "I will be reunited with Icarus either on Earth or in Hades."
On that note, he left the hall were the craftsmen were completing the wings and walked through the stone palace to a field beyond the citadel's walls. Here his army had gathered to train with the few already completed wings. His army now numbered over two hundred warriors, both from Pavlopetri and from neighboring cities that also contained adventurers.
Daedalus's days continued much the same through the early summer until, finally the army arrayed itself, glittering with bronze and leather, on a cliff overlooking the sea were Icarus had died. Priests sacrificed bull after bull and goat after goat to ensure Apollo's approval of the coming war.
Slowly, the flock of armored, winged men lifted off the ground, now wet with the blood of the sacrifices, and headed southeast, towards Crete. The army flapped through the humid, hot air until they landed on an island called Dia, north of Knossos, the capital of Crete.
On the stony dry south coast of the island, far from human habitation, the warriors gazed across the straits to the invisibly distant wealth of Knossos. Daedalus himself, however, looked beyond Knossos to the pastures of central Crete, where the bull that would return his son grazed.
At sunset, two days after the army arrived on the island, it took off again, this time across the straits, to Knossos. Before the flight began, Daedalus ordered his men to fly high above the Earth, so as to not be seen by the Cretans bellow.
After flying over the fleet of Knossos, over the giant robotic guardian, the Talos, and finally over the fields of Northern Crete, the army came down, like a falcon, directly on top of the ancient palace of Knossos.
Daedalus's boots hit the flat, hard roof with an alarming thud. But Daedalus quickly picked himself up and saw that the rest of the men had landed safely.
"But we won't be safe forever," thought Daedalus as the heads of the first palace guards gazed up in astonishment from the courtyards below. From their positions in the palace, the Argives were easily visible in the light the fading sun.
The Army of Daedalus threw ropes into the courtyards and climbed down the frescoed walls and red pillars into the heart of the magnificent palace. The attackers quickly pushed aside the first band of Cretans that tried to oppose them. It was clear from this first clanging contact between the palace guards and the followers of Daedalus that the palace was not prepared for an attack, particularly one descending from the air.
Daedalus knocked a bronze-clad palace guard to the floor before he called to Kerbasi and several other warriors, "Come, follow me. We must find the king, Ocnus, before he escapes!"
Daedalus and his small band soon extracted themselves from the main battle in the bull court, which was very nearly won. They ran, lead by Daedalus who knew the corridors well from his time in Crete, through the palace. Despite the smoke from a fire somewhere nearby, they reached the quarters of the king.
The lavish rooms soon proved empty and deserted. "Alas, he must've escaped," Daedalus said to the air, and then to his warriors, "Begin searching the room for valuables.
Stomp, stomp. The soldier's search for the wealth of the king came to a halt immediately. Stomp, stomp. Only Daedalus knew what it was.
"The Talos, the bronze, mechanical guardian of Crete. The king must've summoned it! We must get back to the army!"
As Daedalus and the others ran towards the Bull Court, they saw an increasing number of Greek soldiers running in the opposite direction. One of them stopped and said to Daedalus, "Sir, a bronze beast is destroying the army. It smashed through parts of the palace. Now it's in the Bull Court. We have no hope but to flee!"
Daedalus and his companions momentarily joined the escaping throng. Then suddenly Daedalus stopped and said, "I have a plan. To the entrance of the Labyrinth!"
Kerbasi and many others followed Daedalus to the wooden-doored entrance of the Labyrinth Daedalus had built to house the now-long slain Minotaur, deep in the palace.
"Who among you will volunteer for a very dangerous task? You must keep the Talos in the Bull Court." Kerbasi and many other warriors volunteered. After ten heartbeats of discussion, Kerbasi alone ran back to the Bull Court.
Daedalus and the others scurried down into the dark depths of the labyrinth where the only light came from torches they had brought from elsewhere in the palace. The warriors followed Daedalus as he deftly navigated his creation. Then for a moment even Daedalus was lost. His eyes dashed back and forth between the two possible routes. Finally he lead his followers down the one of the tunnels.
They reached a crude section of tunnel held up only by wooden supports. While designing the Labyrinth, Daedalus had lost much sleep over those flimsy foundations, but now they were just what he needed.
"Set fire to those columns, quickly!" ordered Daedalus.
Several torches soon had the columns ablaze, with the soldiers sprinting back the way they'd come.
Above ground, Kerbasi had no trouble finding the enormous, shiny, bronze Talos, dominating the Bull Court. The creature must have been five times the height of a man. The beast's arms were as thick as an oak tree's trunk. He could see its path of destruction through the parts of the palace occupied by the Akhaians clearly. Kerbasi picked up a wall-like shield left from the battle, and hurled it at the monster. The entire palace shook with the clang of bronze on bronze.
The Talos immediately turned, but Kerbasi was already fleeing behind a red column. Still the Talos lumbered forward on its two bronze legs. Kerbasi threw his spear at the robot and was rewarded with another resounding clang. In response, the Talos picked up a piece of rubble and threw it in the general direction of his human assailant. Kerbasi, however, ducked behind his great, bronze shield and avoided the storm of rock and mortar.
Just then, with an enormous sound, the floor of the Bull Court and the ceiling of the labyrinth collapsed into a sunken hole of wreckage, taking the Talos with it. Kerbasi ran to the edge of the pit and looked in to see the body of the Talos twisted, battered, broken and leaking the ichor that was its blood.
From every corner of the palace, warriors reappeared to see the Talos destroyed and wrecked. Soon Daedalus joined them, returned from below the palace. After gazing at the hole, he said to the army, "Now let us capture the city and then find the bull we came for!"
The crowds of Pavlopetri cheered a deafening roar for the conqueror of Knossos. Everywhere along the road to the palace there was jubilation and celebration. At the palace, King Kyros greeted Daedalus, Kerbasi and the other returning warriors with open arms.
At the great feast that followed, Daedalus recounted his tale to dozens of people from across the known world, over and over again and still they were enthralled by his story.
But Daedalus's real prize was the sacred Bull of Knossos that now waited in the king's fields outside the city, having been brought from Crete by ship.
The next day Daedalus took the great black beast to a quiet mountain sanctuary, said to be near a cave that lead to the underworld. The place was sacred to Persephone, wife of Hades, who alone could release Icarus from death.
Daedalus took his sharp, bronze blade and cut the throat of the great bull, after praying to Apollo, Hades, and Persephone, that Icarus might return to the realm of the living.
He waited and waited for his prayers to be answered and to see Icarus walk up through the entrance of the cave. First he saw only a glimmer of movement in the blackness of the cave, then finally, his son, returning from the underworld and back to the land of the living.
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