The Labyrinthine Journey | Book 2 Servant of the Gods series

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A mysterious message. A mission from the gods. Can he turn back the clock to prevent his family’s extinction?
First 10 Pages


Evan checked the contents of the wagon. He was impressed with the king of Pylos, who true to his word, had loaded the cart with food, blankets and jugs of wine and water. Standing nearby, were four of the king’s warriors, armed with swords, spears and embossed bronze shields, their gazes as steely and unyielding as a concrete wall.

Evan stepped back from the wagon, and indicated to Phameas, his swarthy Phoenician friend, and Dexion, a Sicilian boy thin in stature with a unique ability to foresee the future, to do the same. As they moved to the front of the cart, King Mentor emerged from the royal private residence flanked by two of his personal guards. The king bowed before the High Priestess, the expression on his face mixed with wonder and reverence when he looked up at her. Evan gritted his teeth and wondered how much more he had to endure of being stuck in the sixth century BCE before he could go home, back to the twenty-first century. Phameas elbowed him in the ribs, disrupting his dour musings, and Evan watched the king fawn over the High Priestess. She reminded Evan of the austere nuns who wore black habits, their heads covered with black and white-trimmed headdresses.

‘My men will take you as far as Mount Ithomi, the border with Messene, where they will leave you to continue on your quest,’ the king said in his deep baritone voice. ‘The Messenians are wary of soldiers from other city-states entering their territory. Once you have crossed into Messene, head to Tegea, then proceed to Corinth, and from there, trek to Mount Parnassos, the home of Delphi.’ He clicked his fingers. A hunched-over man and dressed in a brown khiton, scurried to the king’s side, and with trembling, gnarled hands gave him a scroll. ‘I had my scribe draw you a map with the roads to take.’

At Phameas’ encouragement, Evan moved to take the proffered parchment from the king. ‘Thank you, King Mentor, this will help a great deal.’

‘We are grateful for your thoughtfulness and generosity,’ said the High Priestess.

‘It is I who am forever indebted for the gift from the Mother Goddess, and to you for showing me the true path,’ the king said. He walked over to the cart. ‘There is enough food and drink for the journey to Delphi. I am not sure where your search will take you afterwards, but if you happen to come this way, you are welcomed guests.’

The High Priestess gave a nod. ‘We are honoured, King Mentor.’

Evan stowed the map in his bag and set about assisting the High Priestess when Hektor brushed past him and helped her onto the wagon.

‘Master Evandros, may I sit on the back?’ Dexion asked, tugging at his khiton. Evan drew in a deep breath and reined in his temper, resisting the urge to punch Hektor’s gloating face as the barrel-chested Atlantean turned his back and stood with Leander.

‘Of course you can.’ Evan picked up the eleven-year-old boy and lifted him onto the wagon.

Evan glanced over at the kind-hearted Atlantean, Leander, who waited until the High Priestess and Dexion were settled in their seats, and then coaxed the mule into moving. Homer, at seven foot and broad-shouldered, stood in front of Evan, blocking his view of the cart. He wrote on his wax tablet.

I am proud of you.

‘Thanks, Homer, but Hektor needs to change his behaviour towards me or I will not hold back,’ Evan growled.

The king’s guards assigned to Evan and his six companions led the way out of the palace grounds, and down the ramp. The road flanked the outskirts of the city and around the base of the palace. The guards veered right, away from the Akropolis and out onto a stretch of road that bisected the sandy plains. Scrub trees and tufts of grass sprouted from the ground, making the area resemble a chessboard.

Evan, Phameas, and Homer followed the wagon, while Hektor and Leander walked alongside the mule. No one spoke and Evan didn’t feel the urge to talk. Instead he preferred the sound of sandaled feet slapping against the crude road and the squeak and groan of the heavy load of the cart to fill the void. Evan’s mind drifted to his life in the twenty-first century and his profession as an architect. He tried to determine if there had been any telltale signs while he was growing up that indicated he was from this time period. There were pictures of him as a baby, held by his mother and father, and many subsequent photos from his childhood through to his teen and adult years. If he was from this century, how could there be evidence of his life in the future? And what of this existence? What proof was there to suggest he was even born in this period?

‘See that line of trees a few stades ahead?’ A warrior had dropped back and spoke to the High Priestess, disturbing his musings. ‘We’re going to stop there for a rest before continuing.’

Evan looked over his shoulder and was surprised by how far they had travelled. The Akropolis and the palace were mere specks on the horizon. What he’d give for a car or a motorcycle right now. And a pair of sneakers! He felt every rock, grain of sand and dip in the road under the thin leather soles of the sandals. No cushioning or comfort. In the summertime, as a child, he had gone barefoot everywhere: on the hot bitumen road, the sun-warmed footpath, and even to the beach, where he ran to the water’s edge to cool his feet and escape the scorching sand. His father would often say one could cook an egg on the sand, that’s how hot it got. The soles of his feet thickened and hardened during the Australian summer season, and thereafter, he was not bothered where he walked or ran. He longed for those innocent and carefree days, when the responsibilities of adulthood had been a mere speck in the mind of a youth.

The more Evan thought about home, the angrier he got. Here he was, trapped in world so different and alien, brought here by Zeus so that he, and not his useless supposed ancient other-self, could recover two powerful relics of the Mother Goddess in order to save the Olympian gods from extinction. He recalled the long period of entrapment by Zeus, showing images of how the birth of Christ changed the mindset of people and destroyed the supremacy of the gods. Zeus, his father, went on to explain how He sent Evan to the future, so that the knowledge of the past, comprehensive education and languages he learnt would be used, here and now, to restore the gods’ sovereignty. How he was meant to do it, was still a mystery.

Evan plodded alongside the lumbering hulk of Homer, his newfound brother from the fabled land of Atlantis no less. Homer, Leander, Hektor and the High Priestess had been incarcerated by the king of Kyrene, where the three men had endured many beatings while being questioned as to their origins. The king did not believe they were from Atlantis and tortured them. Homer suffered the most, was beaten until he was unconscious and his throat almost ripped out. He could no longer speak and communicated by writing on his wax tablet.

Evan had been told by Zeus that the Atlanteans were isolated from the rest of the world, a punishment set by the gods for their iniquity, and in return, given a second chance at establishing a society. For Evan, it explained the extreme reactions by the king of Kyrene and Pylos, who remembered the legends of Atlantis and of their tyranny.

He scratched the back of his head, and then glanced over at Phameas, weather-beaten and skin like leather, walking with the rolling gait of a seasoned sailor. Evan looked to where Dexion sat in the wagon, and smiled at the memory of how they had met in Hippo Regius. The boy had intervened when he was propositioned by two street women. An unusual pairing of friends, people he would not have bothered to interact with in his own time. His mouth curved with a slight lilt to one side. He was reminded of an American television series where two men shared a flat, one meticulous and tidy, the other a cantankerous slob. The Odd Couple. He could relate to the characters and their many idiosyncrasies. He was living it.

They rested under the canopy of trees and ate some of the food prepared by King Mentor’s kitchen slaves. The terrain became more mountainous the further inland they travelled, the craggy limestone outcrops punctured the skyline as if to emphasise their existence. Their smaller hilly siblings, verdant with cedar and cypress trees, lay alongside with pockets of valleys and plains. Rich, fertile land, with crops of wheat and barley, rows of chick peas and beans sown next to each other. Plantations of olive trees and grapevines cultivated on terraced slopes where the soil had been wrought by the hardship of the farmers.

The wagon juddered and pitched every second, the track rough and pockmarked. The High Priestess sat erect, her torso swinging with the shuddering movement of the cart, as if she were a pendulum.

‘Not the smoothest of roads,’ Evan said, grimacing as his toe caught the sharp edge of a rock. He stopped and checked his toe, brushing away the dirt. A thin film of blood oozed from the small cut.

‘The roads in Aegyptos were much better,’ said Phameas.

‘And you didn’t stub toes or roll ankles,’ Evan grumbled.

The unyielding path skirted the base of a hill, and ahead, a herd of goats grazed on the meagre foliage on the hillside. The flock began bleating and the goats scattered as they neared. A young shepherd yelled and waved his arms at them before chasing his flock.

‘Do you think we should help him?’ Leander said slowing down and coming to a stop.

They watched the shepherd scramble up the hillside, going one way, then back the other way. He reminded Evan of a pinball, bouncing from one obstacle to the next.

‘He appears to be an efficient herder,’ Hektor said and moved on.

Leander watched the hapless shepherd try to round up his herd. ‘How long did the king say it will take to get to Messene?’

‘At least four days because of the circuitous route,’ the High Priestess said, lurching forward as the mule was prodded.

‘By the gods, I hope this Pythia, the Oracle, is helpful,’ said Hektor.

‘We were told Pythia had information for us,’ said Evan, ‘and Dexion confirmed the message was valid. Besides, Pythia is considered the most renowned seer throughout the Mediterranean. Kings, nobles and ordinary citizens consult her, wanting to hear what she knows.’

‘I am certain Pythia will reveal information that is pertinent to our needs,’ the High Priestess said. ‘There is no point in discussing Pythia’s virtues or the purpose of our visit.’

‘I am concerned about Melaina and why she instructed us to go to Delphi,’ said Hektor. ‘Doesn’t it trouble you not knowing who this lesser goddess is and her interest?’

‘I have learnt the gods need not explain their actions or plans,’ she said. ‘If they require us to understand or be privy to their resolutions, they will tell us, as Divine Poseidon had when he came to Atlantis. We were chosen to prevent the downfall of the gods and the destruction of our people and home. We must concentrate our efforts on finding the final relic, returning home to unite the objects with Mother, and stopping the rise of this new god.’

‘The success of our quest is why I question the motive of this Melaina,’ said Hektor, his lip curling.

‘Instead of trying to determine the negative aspect of the message, perhaps we should consider it as a way to get closer to finding the last relic,’ Evan said.

‘What do you mean, Evandros?’ Leander said, glancing over his shoulder at Evan.

‘Evandros, please come closer so you do not shout,’ said the High Priestess.

Evan lengthened his stride until he was alongside the wagon and the High Priestess.

‘Pythia is the mouthpiece of Apollo and may know more about the purpose of the relics and why the gods need them.’ Evan paused. ‘In any case, we’re going to Delphi, to hear what Pythia has to say. However, I do think we need to protect ourselves and the golden serpent from visible and invisible enemies, even those who pretend to be on our side.’

‘Ridiculous! Our gods would not harm us. They have brought us here to stop their demise, and ours as well.’ Hektor bristled.

‘Even allies can have an agenda,’ said Evan.

‘I agree with Evandros,’ Leander said, cutting Hektor off from an outburst. ‘Our people and home need us to safeguard them, and we must ensure they do not come to harm.’

‘Is there a way to hide the relics somehow, so this old god of yours thinks we don’t have it?’ said Phameas, breaking the gloomy atmosphere. ‘It’s probable the god knows we have recovered the first relic, but He may not if it’s concealed.’

‘What did you say?’ The High Priestess swivelled around in her seat, her ice-blue eyes piercing.

Phameas shrank. ‘I… ah… I… just wondered if the relic could, you know, be made to disappear. You still possess it, but it can’t be seen.’ He moved closer to Evan. ‘A silly thought, never mind.’

‘No, Phameas, that is a clever idea,’ she said, her eyes sparkling.

Evan scoffed. ‘You need a cloaking device, or Harry Potter’s invisibility cloak.’

‘What?’ The High Priestess squinted at him.

Evan felt Homer’s warning glance. He cleared his throat. ‘Well, it would be handy if there was a bag that disguised contents, and when you look inside, you didn’t see the objects.’

‘A disguise…’ She tilted her head to the side. ‘I wonder…’ Her voice trailed off. The High Priestess reached for her rucksack and withdrew the bag with the relic. She undid the drawstring and took out the golden serpent. It remained inert in her hands. She turned it one way, then the other, the object sparkling under the sun’s rays. Her blue khiton contrasted with the yellow hue of the relic. She stroked the head and gazed out over the ears of the mule.

‘Ah… High Priestess… you may want to stop what you’re doing,’ said Evan, eyes bulging.

The High Priestess peeked down. The serpent’s tongue flickered. Its once-inert body stretched and straightened in her now motionless hands. She began to murmur and lowered her head towards the relic. The serpent slithered from her hand, along the length of her arm and coiled around her bicep, then stilled and turned black. She raised her face to the sky and muttered a few more words.

The hair on Evan’s arms stood on end and he shivered. Phameas paled, shades lighter than his natural olive complexion. Dexion reached to touch the serpent, but Evan snatched his hand away. He looked over at the others. Homer, Hektor and Leander seemed unperturbed by what had transpired.

‘What did you do?’ His mouth gaped.

‘All have reunited.’

‘Did you know that would happen?’ Evan said, his mind still reeling from what he had seen.

‘As acolyte to the High Priestess, I was privy to ceremonies that bound us to our Mother.’

‘It’s not what I asked,’ he said. ‘What force do the relics encompass?’

‘Why, the power of Mother,’ she said.

Evan gazed at the jewelled charcoal serpent coiled around her upper arm. He had seen what it had done to the Egyptian High Priest in the city of Thebes. The Egyptian had not managed a few steps before the relic had woken and sunk its fangs into his neck; death had been immediate. Evan shuddered and slowed until he fell back behind the wagon. If one relic could kill a man in an instant, what were the objects capable of when unified?