*Odysseus' Face*

An Old Windbag

Our next landfall was upon a floating island. The unique nature of this place did not strike us until we found that we were chasing it in order to make port. Once we had correctly calculated the wind direction and the ocean currents which carried the island, we managed to come alongside it and tie the ships to its shores.

We were greeted by the graceful children of the ruler of that island, King Aiolos. Aiolos was the executive director of the winds as appointed by the deities of Olympos. They brought us past the shining walls of his bronze castle and into his receiving room where we were invited to eat, drink and take our leisure.

We soon learned that Kind Aiolos loved to talk and laugh. For a month he kept us there, so that I might tell him of all the news concerning the Trojan wars. In the meantime he took lavish care of the entire crew aided by his six daughters, his six sons and their spouses and children. Not a single crew member was left unattended or without entertainment. During the day we would feast, make sacrifices and take in the invigorating and scented airs, and during the night we would be sent to peaceful sleep by the lullaby of warm soughing breezes. I gained five pounds in that time.

When it was time to leave I asked if the king might spare us provisions for the next leg of our journey. Being a generous soul he spared nothing in seeing that we had all we could carry in supplies of food and drink. Beneath the afterdeck he even wedged a large bag made of a bull's skin and secured it with fine silver thread. Inside the bag he had placed all winds, but a gentle westerly breeze which would take us home.

With a jolly send-off party he saw us on our way. I carefully took control of the sheets and sailed the ship for nine days and nine nights. For I wasn't about to waste a single breath of that precious gift from Aiolos. On the tenth day we all recognised in the distance the coastline of home. We could even see people building fires along the shores. I was so bone tired that I foolishly left my post for a deep slumber

Somehow, curiosity got the better of my crew who had been wondering at the contents of the bullskin bag. Such a prodigious sack must carry a prize of great worth and surely now was the time to consider dividing it. Without awakening me they unbound the bag and began undoing its neck. I was not aware of what mischief was at work until too late.

Sensing a change in the air I aroused only to find the bag bursting wide and the fury of all heaven's mighty winds being unleashed. I felt such despair at this turn of events that I considered jumping overboard and giving myself to the waves. But rather than desert my crew, I stayed and began securing the ship against the storm as quickly as possible.

We were blown by that fierce gale in less than a day back to the island of Aiolos. When we had secured our ships once more to that shore, I selected two people to come with me to King Aiolos' court.

He and his family were in the midst of dinner when we arrived. They gaped in surprise to see our return. "What has brought you back to us, Odysseus?" was the question on everyone's lips.

I could only look down at my boots in shame. I would have liked to tell them that some monster such as Ebirah or Ghidorah had forced us to retreat, but I could not bring myself to tell such tales to a man who had treated us with the utmost respect and generosity. "I fell asleep. My crew did not know the significance of the bullskin bag. They opened it. We could see home and now I am here begging you to please lend us your aid once more. I know you have the power."

The court went silent. This was no small gift King Aiolos had given us.

He arose from his throne and sternly pointed to the door, "Go, and do not return to these shores."

 

Land of the Midnight Scum.


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Copyright © 1998 Katherine Phelps