Offerings Part 1
*After leaving the inn from that unusual encounter, Blue, Leon, Bel, and Andrea made their way to look more around the town*
Leon: Wow. I never knew places could be this busy.
Blue: Still not as busy as Athens, though… Or as prosperous.
Leon: We're only so prosperous because Athens is a stone's throw from the Oracle
Blue: Ah, right.
Andrea: So, do either of you have enough money to pay the blacksmith for weapons? I was only able to swipe so much from…from my parents before I ran away.
Blue: Well, my mom gave me about fifty drachma for the journey. What about you, Leon?
Leon: I'm sitting pretty on a hundred drachma.
Blue: *smiles* Yeah, we're good.
Bel: RAWK!!! Rollin' in it.
*The group followed the sound of bellows roaring and a pounding hammer until they reached the blacksmith's shop. In the forge, a large bald man, covered in sweat and ash was hammering a red-hot blade. He used a pair of tongs to lift it from his anvil and dunked it in a troth filled with cold water. There was a great rush of steam and he lifts a perfectly forged blade from the water*
Blacksmith: A thing of beauty. *carries the blade over to another section of the forge and begins to fit a hilt to it*
Blue: *whistles* Would you look at that?
Blacksmith: Nice, isn't it? I do believe this is the finest Gladius I've ever forged.
Blue: You wouldn't happen to be Hephaestus in disguise, would ya? *chuckles*
Blacksmith: No. But I give fine offerings at my personal altar. Anyway, how can I help you?
Leon: We were hoping to purchase some weapons. We're heading…to Corinth, and you know, what with all the bandits and stuff on the roads lately.
Blue: Do you have any that resemble this? *pulls out his sword and presents it to the blacksmith*
Blacksmith: What the…? *eyes widen as he takes a good look at Blue's sword* Oh my… I remember this. Look at the detail work. A masterpiece indeed.
Blue: It was my brother's… Before he was taken…
Blacksmith: *looks to Blue* Minos, right?
Blacksmith: *sighs* His goon squads have come here, too. As if the tribute we pay to Crete every year isn't enough, his soldiers snatch young men and women from any village or city-state they come across… And they never come home.
Leon: Filthy Cretens…
Blacksmith: My father forged this blade. It was one of a pair, as I recall. He sold one and kept the other, said the owner would come to claim it one day. When father died and I took over the shop, I've watched it ever since.
Blue: A duplicate?
Leon: May we see it?
Blacksmith: Uh, yes. Please, come in. But make it quick.
*The Blacksmith lead them to a trunk in the corner of the forge. He lifted the lid and pulled out a blade exactly identical to Blue's, except the blade seemed to be made of silver rather than bronze*
Blacksmith: Here it is. The brother to your sword, young man.
Leon: *takes the sword in his hands and inspects it* Silver… Nice. Very nice.
Blacksmith: Not ordinary silver, by any means. Here. *gestures to a mounted log used to test blade edges* Give it a try and see what happens.
Leon: Alright. *swings the blade in an overhead arc, and it cleaves clean through the center of the log* What?!
Andrea: *eyes widen* Whoa!! It cut the log clean in half!!
Blacksmith: Yes. My father told me the ore he used to make these swords came from the heavens. It was all the same ore, but when he tempered it, it became two different kinds of metal.
Blue: Really? Well, that's cool.
Blacksmith: Indeed. He forged these two blades with that ore and nothing else. He told me the two blades possessed magical properties, but he never told me what the bronze blade did.
Blue: *looks at his sword* Huh...
Leon: How much do you want for it?
Blacksmith: *stammers* For you… It's free.
Leon: Wow, uh… Thank you.
Blacksmith: No. Thank you, my boy. I've been waiting for this day a long time. To see my father's greatest works brought together again after more than a decade…brings warm feelings to my heart.
Leon: Well, I'm glad we could make you feel that way, sir.
Blacksmith: Whatever it is you're doing with these blades, I'm certain it's important. I pray the gods bless your journey, my young friends.
*The three soon exited the forge and continued walking through the streets of Hydres*
Andrea: So, what say we get a move on, huh?
Blue: Sure, where to?
Leon: Whatever town's next… I doubt this place knows anything about the key fragments…
Blue: *nods* Right…
???: Don't be so sure of yourselves…
Blue: *eyes widen* I know that voice…
Leon: *eyes widen* Me too…
Andrea: *raises an eyebrow* Huh? What are you talking about?
???: Behind you…
*All three quickly turned around to catch sight of the hooded Damon who seemed to have stood behind them for a while now*
Damon: *bears a hidden smirk* Missed me?
Blue: *pulls out his sword and aims it at Damon's throat* Don't you come near me, I'm armed!!
Leon: *pulls out his sword and aims it at Damon's throat as well* So am I!
Damon: *lightly chuckles* Come now...I came here only to talk... And besides, your swords wouldn't do any good against the likes of me...
Andrea: And just who are you anyway?
Damon: *looks to Andrea and raises an eyebrow* Hmm… An equitaur? My, my, this day gets more and more interesting…
Andrea: *snorts* I'll make it more interesting by kicking you in the face like the guy who tried to rob me if you try to do the same… Now who are you?
Damon: My name is Damon… And I seek to slay the gods…
Andrea: Oh… So YOU'RE the guy I was told about… Don't seem that scary to me.
Damon: *lets out a low beastly growl* Don't be fooled by appearances, my dear… Sometimes such thoughts can act as the death of such fools…
Blue: What do you want anyway?
Damon: Heh-heh… I just came back to offer you a few words… That's all.
Leon: Like what? "I'm going to free the titans, destroy the Olympians and there's nothing you can do about it"?
Damon: Aww… You spoiled the first part… *chuckles*
Andrea: First part? What's the other, more gloating?
Damon: No, my dear… A fair warning for you all.
Blue: Which is…?
Damon: This town has a secret that few ever know…or ever came during this time. Beware the offerings for they are for things who's avarice knows no bound…
Leon: *raises an eyebrow* Offerings?
Damon: You'll see… *turns around and walks away*
Leon: Well… *puts his sword away* That was creepy.
Andrea: I'll say.
Blue: *puts his sword away* Maybe we should get going, before he decides to come back.
Bel: Rawk!! Full speed ahead. *whistles*
*As the four went their way, Leon caught sight of odd behaviors - the shutting of doors, windows being covered by random material, and vendors quickly closing shop without warning*
Leon: Hmm… Something doesn't seem…right around here.
Andrea: *jumps a bit at a door slamming* What gives?
Leon: Well, it can't be time to close the marketplace. It's still early.
Blue: There's something they don't like… But what could it be?
Andrea: I don't personally wanna stick around long enough to find out. I say we flee while the fleeing's good.
Blue: Andrea, you were able to beat the stuffing out of a guy without a ever dropping a bead of sweat, but shutting doors is enough to creep you out?
Andrea: That was a normal man. *snorts* This stinks of supernatural.
*A while later, the actions before seemed to occur repeatedly with each step. But soon, the trio eventually come across a rather odd sight in the middle of the road. It was a large pile made up of gold and silver coins, along with lots of different types of food, clothing and other possessions. Truly an odd sight for the trio*
Leon: What was it the creepy guy in the black cloak said again?
Andrea: Something about bewaring offerings.
Blue: I have a very bad feeling about this…
Bel: Rawk, Bad feeling, bad feeling! Rawk!! *flapping his wings*
Andrea: *her ears perk* Hey, can ya tell Bel to quit flapping his wings so loud? It's quite annoying now.
Leon: *looks up, eyes widen* Uh, Andrea? I don't think that's Bel…
Andrea: Huh? Then what is that?
Leon: *points upward* Look!
*Just above the three, a band of creatures resembling women with black feathery wings, tails and sharp black talons on their feet glared at the pile with hungry crimson eyes and vicious sneers upon their faces. These were harpies*
Blue: Get back!!
Bel: Rawk!! BIG TROUBLE!!! RAWK!!!
*Blue, Leon and Andrea quickly ran to safety just as the harpies landed on the pile, observing it with greed and hunger. Their leader, a taller harpy with black hair, a chocker around her neck, a faded and worn purple vest, and an eye patch over her right eye, paced back and forth on top of the pile, smiling wickedly to herself*
Andrea: Here?! Of all places?!
Blue: What are they doing here?
Andrea: Looting, it seems like.
Lead Harpy: *looks around and chuckles* Come on out, everyone… We won't harm you… We just want to thank you.
*The other harpies giggled sadistically at their leader's words*
Lead Harpy: Really? No one? Is that any way to treat a very important person such as myself?
Harpy 1: Maybe they chickened out and left the village! *snickers*
*At that moment, some of the villagers slowly opened their doors and cautiously walked out to greet the harpies, all with a look of dread on their faces*
Harpy 2: *giggles* Aww… Don't be shy, we don't bite…
Harpy 1: Hard! *laughs evilly*
Harpy 3: Girls, please, do we need to do this every time? Let's just collect this stuff and head for home. *begins to stuff some bread and fruit into a sack in her talons*
Lead Harpy: *walks off the pile and stands in front of the villagers* But seriously, folks… Thank you ever so much for your offerings. If it weren't for them...who knows what cruel and wicked people would do to your quaint little village?
*The other harpies began to snicker and giggle quietly among themselves*
Andrea: I've heard of this. It's called a "protection racket".
Leon: A what?
Andrea: A band of thugs extort money and goods from local villages and travelers in exchange for keeping other scum away.
Blue: Of all the nerve... Someone needs to stand up to them!
Leon: Are you crazy? Those are HARPIES. They'll tear you limb from limb as soon as they lay eyes on you… And then…they eat your heart!
Lead Harpy: *snaps her “fingers”* Pricilla!
*The third harpy, a slightly smaller harpy with amber hair and a gold bracelet around her neck, approached the lead Harpy*
Pricilla: Yes, Antagony?
Antagony: Make sure that everything we requested is among the offerings…
Pricilla: Yes, captain. *goes back to look over the pile of offerings*
Villager 2: I assure you, that is everything we have. Business has been very good this week.
Antagony: We'll see about that. *bares her fangs and moves her wing through some gold and silver coins*
Pricilla: Uh, Antagony?
Pricilla: Everything IS accounted for, captain. We can pack up and leave at any time.
Antagony: Good… Alright girls, grab as much as ya can take!
Harpy 1: *giggles to herself* This is always my favorite part!
*Soon, each harpy began to snatch at the pile they stood upon, some of them fighting over simple items like a leg of mutton or a few gold coins while others managed to get what they desired without any hassle*
Harpy 2: *snickers as she claims a seemingly lovely red dress* Mine… All mine!
Pricilla: Well, glad they're not picky…
Harpy 4: *fighting over a simple rug with Harpy 5* Oi! Let go!
Harpy 5: *snarls* No, you!
Harpy 4: No, you!
Harpy 5: No, you!
Antagony: *snatches the rug away* It's mine, deal with it!
Harpy 2: Hey… *whimpers*
Pricilla: *calmly sorts some coins into a small purse hanging from her belt and takes off, grabbing a mutton joint in her talon* I'll see you back at the lair, girls.
Antagony: Hmm… What else do I want? *looks at the villagers and spies a little girl holding a doll* Ooh! *walks over and snatches the doll away* I'll take that!
Little Girl: *reaches out for the doll* No! Mine!
Antagony: Oh, you want your dolly back? *rips the doll apart* Too bad!
*The little girl began to cry as she watched the remnants of her doll fall to the ground. Blue, seeing this, growled in anger and clenched tightly at his sword's handle*
Leon: Blue, I know what you're thinking, but there's nothing we can do about it. We're no match for those things.
Andrea: He's right, Blue, they'd tear us to shreds!
Bel: *coos* Leave it be.
Blue: *anger builds* They made that girl cry…
Leon: She can get another doll. She's still in one piece, and that's what important. Leave this to Hercules or one of those other heroes who're always doing this kind of stuff.
Andrea: Just leave it alone, Blue.
Blue: No… *whips out his sword* They need a hero NOW! *leaps out from their hiding place* Grah!!
Leon: Blue, stop! WAIT!!!
Antagony: *spots Blue running toward her* What the-?!
Blue: Hyah!! *swings his sword*
Antagony: *grabs Blue's arms at the last possible second* Well, well, what do we have here? A little would-be HERO! *tosses Blue to the ground and pins him with her huge talons* Did you HONESTLY think that would work?
Blue: How about this?! *grabs Antagony's leg and bites down on it with his teeth*
Antagony: AGH!!! *steps back, grabbing her leg* OOH!!! Just you wait, you little ground-pounder! You're gonna pay for that!
Blue: *gets up and points his sword at the harpies* Come get me, you overgrown turkey!!
*Suddenly, Blue was grabbed by the shoulders from above by another harpy he didn't see, preventing him from moving his arms, let alone swing his sword*
Blue: *struggling in the harpy's grip* Urg!! Ung!!
Leon: Oh crud!
Antagony: If you want to hunt harpies, little boy, remember...we travel in groups! *runs a feather along Blue's face* Because of this mortal's defiance...I have no choice but to demand DOUBLE quota from you humans… By tomorrow! If my terms aren't met…my sisters and I will rip this village apart stone by stone! *spreads her wings and takes off, cackling like a lunatic*
*The harpy that was holding Blue quickly threw him face first onto the ground and flew up into the sky, along with the other harpies as they followed Antagony back to their lair, gathering up every single offering in their talons*
Leon: Well, THIS won't make us very popular around here.
Andrea: *gallops out of the hiding spot and helps Blue up onto his feet* Blue, are you okay?
Leon: *comes out of the hiding spot* I TOLD you not to try and fight those things!
Blue: *breathes heavily* I'm sorry… I was just trying to do the right thing.
Woman 1: Well, because of YOU, outsider, we're all going to die!
Man 1: Those monsters will destroy everything we've worked to build here! What were you THINKING?!
Andrea: Hey, he was trying to protect you from them!! You should at least be thankful that he even stood up for all of you!!
Old Man: Stood up to them? There's no standing against Antagony! Ever since she took over the harpy colony who live in the mountains, she's raided us. Our best warriors were cut to shreds trying to stop her.
Blue: Then what's gonna happen when your village eventually runs out of things to offer? What are you gonna do then?
Woman 2: We do our best to keep that from happening. Eventually, Antagony will lose power to some other harpy and hopefully, things will go back to the way they were.
Blue: And just how long are you willing to wait?
Man: As long as we have to. Yes, we could leave and rebuild somewhere else, but this is the land our ancestors settled. We love our home and we won't leave, no matter what happens.
Blue: *sighs* This is all my fault. Why didn't I listen to you, Leon?
Leon: Sometimes your heart gets in the way of your mind, making it kinda hard to talk you out of things.
Blue: Yeah… *looks at the villagers* People of Hydres, I'm sorry I got you all into this mess… But I promise that I will get you out.
Old Man: HOW? You already proved you don't know how to fight a harpy.
Blue: True… But what if there were a way to capture them, to trap them? Make them serve you instead of you serving them?
*A loud gasp came from the villagers, soon followed by quiet mumbles and murmurs among the crowd*
Man: What's your plan, boy?
Blue: Oh, I don't have a plan. *grabs Leon by the shoulder* But my friend, Leon, does!
Leon: *eyes widen* W-Wait, what now?!
Blue: He's the smartest person in all of Athens, and I'm sure he can come up with an invention or something to capture those harpies.
*At that, the villagers once again murmured and mumbled among themselves, though they seemed a bit interested in what Blue said*
Leon: Blue, what are you thinking? I can't come up with something to stop a band of harpies by tomorrow!
Blue: Look at these folks - they're without almost nothing thanks to those buzzards…
Leon: Exactly, meaning they have no materials I can work with!
Blue: But you always found a way to pull off the incredible, remember? Like that one time with that device...which I forget what it did before… But anyway, you had it almost done, but when one of the parts went missing, you got frantic and began to look everywhere for it but found no trace. Did that stop you? No! Instead, you merely reworked your idea and found a new part to replace the missing one!
Leon: Uh… Um… Well… I suppose I could whip up something… Uh… *begins to dart around, looking at everything he can, muttering to himself and puling at his hair, pausing only to pull out a stick of charcoal and a sheet of parchment from his pack and begin to frantically sketch*
Andrea: *raises an eyebrow* Is…he okay?
Blue: Yeah, he's just brainstorming.
Leon: Ratio of… Counterbalance with… No, no, that'll never work. I know this could… *mutters indistinctly*
*Meanwhile, deep with in a shadowy cavern in the flank of an ancient mountain, the harpies gathered inside to look over their plunder for the day; each enjoying what they got*
Harpy 4: Gold!!
Harpy 2: Ha! Ain't as special as this dress I got… *holds up the red dress*
Harpy 5: *grumbles* Which should have been mine.
Antagony: Rejoice, my sisters!! Enjoy your plunder tonight. For tomorrow…we feast on the people of Hydres!!
*The other harpies cheered loudly at the announcement and began to drink of the mead that had been given. However only of them looks oddly depressed and off - the odd one among the raiders being none other than Pricilla who sighs*
Antagony: *sees Pricilla* Pricilla, what is the matter? You should be celebrating with the rest of us! Come, have some mead!
Pricilla: *looks and blinks* Oh… Uh, right… *tries to smile and takes a goblet in claw and sips*
Antagony: Much better!
Pricilla: Antagony… Suppose the people of Hydres do have enough to give us tomorrow… Do we leave them alone?
Antaogony: Hmm… Well, we could spare them… But…lately, I have craving to spill some blood… *smirks evilly and chuckles*
Pricilla: But if we kill them…we'll have no one to give us offerings.
Antagony: *shrugs* So what? There's another village not far from here… We'll just do what we did at Hydres.
Pricilla: But they're not a merchant village.
Antagony: Sure… But it's still fun to do.
Pricilla: Whatever you say, Antagony…
*Later that afternoon, back at Hydres, Leon was using what tools he had to construct a odd-looking device with what raw materials he can find around the village*
Andrea: That ridiculous thing is never going to work.
Leon: Oh, yes it will! I got this design off an Egyptian fellow who was passing through the city two years ago. *hammers a peg into place* It was meant to be a quick means of transportation, but there was a little problem with the landings.
Blue: So what is it?
Leon: It's called a catapult. I've made my own modifications to the plans, of course. See, hurling a rock at the harpies won't work, but...using all these ropes and smaller stones, I've managed to make a net. When the harpies come, we'll fire the net over them and it'll cover them like a blanket and the stones will hold it down, pinning them to the ground. The harpies one advantage of being able to fly won't help them.
Blue: Ha ha! Perfect!!
Andrea: And what happens if some of them manage to avoid the net?
Leon: Ah, the key is that big one, Antagony. She's the leader of the group. If we catch her, the others will lose their will to fight and flee back to the nest.
Blue: Sounds simple enough. Let's go tell the townspeople.
Andrea: Right. But… How are we gonna get this thing outside?
Leon: *slaps his forehead* Aww, man! I knew I forgot something! *sighs* C'mon, let's take this thing apart and start carrying it outside.
*Later, outside in the center of the village, the villagers gathered in waiting as the group were trying to reassemble Leon's catapult*
Andrea: What is this? *holds up a lever*
Leon: That's the tension winch! It holds the launching mechanism down until we need it to fire! Put it down and help Blue with re-spooling the rope!
*Just then, the blacksmith from earlier approached the group, smiling as he looked over their catapult*
Blacksmith: You made this yourself from scraps, lad? You have real talent.
Leon: Hey, thanks. *smiles*
Blacksmith: Here, let me help. *begins to move a winch into place and hammers it in securely*
Blue: Much appreciated, sir.
Blacksmith: Always happy to help a fellow craftsman. But are you sure this contraption of yours is gonna work?
Leon: My inventions rarely fail. You have nothing to worry about.
Blacksmith: If you say so… Your friend seems to have utter faith in you, if that's the case… Then you have my full support.
Leon: Thank you. May Hephaestus bless this and our plan. *turns to the townspeople* Alright then, we're gonna need a lot of people in order to make this plan work. If we start now, we can be ready before dawn tomorrow.
Village Leader: What do you want us to do?
Blue: Gather up anything you can find and pile it in the village square as usual. In the off chance this fails, I'm asking any mothers with young children to pack what they can carry and flee into the forest.
Blacksmith: You heard him, everyone. We need to work fast!! The sooner we complete this trap, the sooner our village will be free of those dreaded harpies!!
*The villagers cheered in excitement and quickly went off to work on the project*
Leon: You know, Blue, this little detour is certainly gonna throw us off our mission.
Andrea: Indeed. Need I remind you, you have been given a mission from Olympus. I'd say it take precedence.
Blue: Yes, it's important, but I caused this problem. I am going to fix it. If that's wrong…Hades have mercy on my soul.
TO BE CONTINUED...