Odysseus stood only a moment puzzled by her little guide. She then turned to the grand doors of the palace covered by beaten gold and set in a bronze frame. They easily gave to her touch and the fog entered with her, wrapping itself around her figure as she wandered through the structure toward the inner court. She knew she was near her destination when she was met by two imposing hounds made of silver and gold. They were so finely wrought as to appear to breathe while eternally guarding their posts. She entered a great hall with tall columns made of azure lapis lazuli and walls covered in thick tapestries woven in the true colours of life. Nobles were seated at bronze tables having a last cup of coffee and some tira misu before retiring.
Still masked by the fog Odysseus made her way to their majesties' thrones. In a flash she was at Queen Arete's knees, to everyone's surprise, as the mist dissolved. She spoke aloud,"Queen Arete, I am a man bruised by adversity and at the mercy of yourself and your husband the king. My friends and family are far away and I beg you good people to grant me passage to my homeland. I have experienced far too much pain and simply wish to be with my loved ones." It was a sincere plea and Queen Arete could see plainly that Odysseus was speaking from her heart. Before tears could come to her eyes, Odysseus moved beside the fire and sat in its ashes.
Demodokos, the blind harper blessed with second sight, felt a movement, a wave like electricity, tingle through his body. He focussed on the sense and felt strong, far-reaching patterns flowing from Odysseus. He rose and spoke out kindly to King Alkinoos, "What is this? We can't have a guest sitting all forlorn in the ashes. Quickly, give him a seat of honour and send for more wine and food."
This broke the stunned silence in the hall. The queen immediately ordered a meal and the king released all but the senior nobles to retire for the night. He gave Odysseus his eldest son's own seat next to him. Odysseus felt nothing but relief and gratitude.
"Our banquet is ended leaders of Phaiakia," said King Alkinoos. "I say that on the behalf of our guest, tomorrow shall be declared a festal day where we can make offerings to the deities. In due course we can then attend to how we may deliver him to his own blessed shores, no matter how distant they may be. Sir, you have come to us like a disguised deity. You will find no one who ranks closer to the divinities than ourselves and we shall prove it at our celebrations."
Odysseus replied, "It is unlikely that I am any deity. I break wind like any man. I am mortal, weary and sick at heart. And all I can focus on right now is the leg of lamb before me. I beg that you please let me finish dinner. Tomorrow I hope you feel as impelled to send me to my home and family as I am to fill my belly."
The nobles laughed and were pleased with Odysseus' humanity. They finished their caffe lattes and one by one went home. While the servants were clearing away the dishes Queen Arete noticed that Odysseus was wearing one of the shirts she had made for her sons. She also recognised the cloak and trousers. "Sir, I seem to recognise the embroidery on your shirt and cloak," she commented.
"My noble and most generous lady, these are indeed clothes given to me in my need by your gracious daughter, Nausicaa. She found me after I had been stripped naked and washed upon your shores. Unlike many thoughtless youth, she was able to show great compassion and immediately saw that I was fed, washed and clothed. I did not wish to embarrass or compromise her. So I came here on my own. She is a young woman that any parent would be proud to call daughter."
"She did well, but really she should have insisted that you come home with her. After all once she found you, you came under her charge of care."
"Nevermind, I'm here and she was a great help."
King Alkinoos clapped Odysseus on the shoulder. "You are well-spoken and a gentleman. I could hardly ask for better from a son-in-law. If you chose to stay, I could promise you a handsome mansion, olive orchards and all sorts of riches, including that greatest treasure after my wife, my own daughter. Be assured you have passage to your own country even if it is so far as to drop completely off the map. In fact tomorrow I can show you ships that can skim the waters faster than a swift breeze can carry them."
Odysseus brimming with joy said, "Dear Zeus in heaven let this be and bless this man with whatever may fill his heart. Home, what a wondrous place." The only finer thing that Odysseus heard that night was that her bed was ready, so that she could sleep well and peacefully, dreaming of her beloved Penelopos and the daughter she was yet to know.
Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps