The Twenty Year Journey By Elizabeth Paull

My dearest wife and son, I have journeyed far and wide, all to find the comforts of home. I have faced the many horrors of the war, and would have proudly faced many more, to find my way back to your arms.

Just after the war had ended, we raided Ismaros, as we were in need of supplies. After the raid, the men became quite drunk on their success, and mulled wine. I told them to make haste and get back to the boat, yet none listened. Once the sacrificial fires had been built, and some livestock offered to the Gods of Olympus, though they didn’t help, when the survivors of our attack came with their army. Out of the woods charged many Cicones with their long spears and sharp swords. The men being drunk stumbled back to the ships, though many were slaughtered. Oh Dionysus, a curse on you for dulling my men’s senses!

After facing a gale for ten days, we stumbled onto the isle of the Lotus Eaters. Once landing, we sent three men to explore the island and report back, and the rest of the crew settled on the beach and ate for the noon meal. Then when the men had still not come back, I set out to find them. Whence I found them, I implored them to return so we could cast off, yet they waved me off. With that final insult, I took the three and herded them back, back to the ship. They had forgotten their homes, their wives, and only wanted to eat the flower.

After sailing on for some time, we came upon another island. I came ashore with a few men, and went inland, looking for any signs of habitation. We came across a large cave well stocked with cheese. We took some as our own and built a fire as we waited. As Helios’ chariot was touching the horizon, the ground was quaking, as if something was walking. With each thundering footstep, the pleading of sheep got louder, and we saw a gigantic, humanoid figure step through the cave entrance. Sheep were a woolly flood between the legs of this giant, and the men were able to keep their wits about them. The horrendous being, if you could even say such a thing was a being, rolled a giant stone in front of the opening, and stooped down and milked his ewes. He notices us and we greeted him, as I explained we were travelers returning from the war. We were expecting him to want to know more about our travels, yet he laughed and said since the gods don’t come here, we need not honor the laws. He asked us the whereabouts of our ship, and my lie already thought up, I had answered that it had sunk. Why else would a monster like him want to know, other then to go about and sink it? No sooner had those fateful words left my mouth, two my men were in his, either stunned or dead from being bashed against sharp rocks. The shock rippled through and all around my men, I had wanted to kill him as soon as he laid down, but then realized we would all die in here as no mater how many men pushed, the prison gate wouldn't move. We waited for the impending doom to come in the morning.

Two more men perished in the morning after the ewes were milked. He then let the sheep out to pasture and then rolled the stone over, before we could leave. When ground stopped quivering and quaking, I sat down and with Athena’s guidance began to scheme. We had found a felled tree and cutting out a large section, my men smoothed it down and sharpened one point. We hardened the spike in the fire until it turned red, glittered and smoldered in the low light. We chose lots as to who was with me to drive and twist this though his only eye. We had long finished by the time Polyphemus and his flock came back, and he feasted on two more. I hate to upset you, my dearest, yet they cannot go in vain. After, I poured him some wine, and got him drunk. He even asked my name and I responded Nohbdy, because if anyone asked who had hurt him, none would be able to find the culprit. Whence he passed out, I made haste with my men to grab the spike and we thrust it into his only eye. How great the plan worked! He awoke with a mighty bellow, and rolled the stone away. Calling to his siblings that Nohbdy had nearly blinded him. Oh, how well this was working! I nearly laughed out loud! He had sent them all away as soon as he called them! Yet, Polyphemus stood couched in the doorway, keeping us from escaping. Quickly thinking, I tied the men to the undersides of the rams who had wandered in. As Helios graced the horizon, the sheep moved out through the opening, us underneath them. What a stroke of luck! Thanking Lady Fortuna, we quickly cut the ropes and ran to the waiting boats. Feeling luck was on my side, I had called out saying he had been fooled by Odysseus. Polyphemus had then decided to throw a rock, narrowly missing us. Once we were farther out, the Son of Poseidon called for his father to avenge him. We managed to sail away.

We sailed away and landed on Aeolia, where Aeolus helped us by capturing all the harmful stormy winds into my sack. Unfortunately, one of the crew opened the sack and let loose a torrent of wind, thinking I had gold or other riches, and was keeping them from everyone. We were unfortunately blown right back to Aeolia, yet this time he would not help us. This is why you should never trust the Gods my son. They will mess with you, as us mortals are their pawns.

We also were unfortunate and we sailed to the Laestrygonians’ island, a race of monstrous cannibals eat everyone but our small crew. The crews of the other boats yells of pain still haunt me, as they were all devoured. My boat was the only one to flee, and we quickly left, all saddened by the many deaths.

We washed up upon an abandoned island, and we were all starving. I sent twenty three men, lead by the most trustworthy of them all, to scout out if this rock was truly uninhabited. When only Eurylochus had managed to return, we were all worried. We kept asking questions, yet he was in such shock, he could not find the words to explain. Eurylochus finally managed to get out that there was a sorceress who had invited them in and treated them well, and yet when they drank the wine, they had been transformed into swine. He also mentioned that there were many exotic animals surrounding her villa. We had lost more men,and we never thought we would see them again. So I set out and had met Hermes on the way. He handed me a plant and told me to eat it, as it would weaken the witch’s magic. I believed Hermes, with a little doubt, yet when Circe’s magic had failed, I silently thanked him. I demanded that she set free our men and she complied. The witch convinced us men to stay for dinner and we feasted with her. This Cice was beautiful, every inch of her, though none are as beautiful as you my dear Penelope. We ask if she could help us get home, and she had replied we needed to go to down to the depths of Hades’ realm. We took her advise and set off to find the blind oracle, Teiresias. Whence we exited we realized that though we had stayed just a few days in her company, many season had passed as she could bend time or our minds. We had run down and seen that the men in had left were no more, for they had wasted away while we were feasting.

Following Circe’s suggestion, we sailed to the land of the dead and there I left my men. I took with me my sword and the sacrificial ewe, and left my men saying to wait for me. Walking through the halls of the dead’s land, I stopped and slaughtered the sheep and this called many of the dead. Stooping low, I pulled my sword and waved the shades off. I bellowed, ”This is for Teiresias, and the prince of Thebes alone!” Finally after ages of wailing of the young women taken to soon, the men still in their battle armor, and old men. So many crowded to the slaughter, until Teiresias stepped through and and called that he headed the summons. Slowly I stepped away from the dead lamb and he surged forward to devour some. After consuming his fill he began to speak and told me that Poseidon would try to give me much trouble, and if any of my men ate a speck of the Sun God’s cattle, they would be slain. If my crew resisted temptation, they would make it back home. I shall also slay the men who court you, Penelope, and will make a sacrifice to Poseidon. I made my way back to the boat after thanking him, and we cast off. The winds blew us back to Circe where she told us how to get back to you, my family.

We set out again, and I knew we had to sail through the Sirens, who would want to lure my crew to their deaths. I wanted to hear what they would say and so I told my men to tie me to the mast, stuff their ears with wax and no matter what to not untie me. Once we had passed the beauteous ladies, the white water was rushing quickly a few meters in front. The men rushed back to set the oars, yet when put in their sockets, the sea quickly ripped the blade off of the oar. I quickly told the men to stay calm, for I had a plan, I had told them to start off towards the land, and soon we pulled up along the cliffs. I had remembered the Enchantress’s warning, yet I did not tell the men, because it would just send them into a panic. Suddenly, Scylla attacked and grabbed six of my best men, yet it was better then the consequences of Charybdis, which was to doom the whole ship. And we sailed on, grief heavy in our hearts, towards Helios’ island.

Unfortunately, we landed at Helios’ island, even after I had tried to convince my men. Yet the men insisted on landing, so I made them promise to not touch any of the cattle no matter how tempting it was be, as the price would be steep. There was a sudden storm that blew up, and so we took refuge in a sea cave. After everything and everyone had been settled in, I had told them to only eat the food from the stores of the boat. The winds were still going strong after a month and the men were hungry, as we had eaten all of the food. I had gone off to pray to the gods and took shelter in another cave, though with the help of Hypnos and Morpheus, I went into a cursed sleep. After a little while, I woke up to smell bonfires and meat roasting on the spit and to hear no wind howling across the cave entrance. I had jumped up and ran, cursing their stupidity. I cursed the many gods for causing my fateful sleep and for causing my men to kill the sacred kine. Still cursing, we put the boat out to sea, had it loaded, and had just gotten into the deep water when another storm hit. This storm, unlike the last, broke our ship and drowned them all. I only survived by clinging to the broken mast.

I floated for days before I had washed up on an island, where a beauteous immortal by the name of Calypso found me. I had washed up upon the shore, to weak to move and she took me to her quaint cave and nursed me back to health. She was lonely, all alone on the island and my company was greatly appreciated, although I knew I needed to get back. I was trapped with her for many seasons, constantly wishing to be on my way home, yet there was no easy way off this island. After a long anticipated time, the Gods must have heard your pleas and took pity because Hermes was trying to convince the sweet nymph to let me go. On my final night with her, she tried to keep me away from this delightful kingdom by offering me immortality, yet I couldn’t do that to you. The next day I had built a raft from the trees and sailed away from the hospitable, and pleasant lady.

The journey home had started out pleasant, but the took a turn south when Poseidon took revenge for blinding his son. He wrecked my raft and then Athena and sea nymph helped me to shore, where I crawled out of the water and slept. I was awoken by King Alcinous’ daughter and brought to court, where I was treated with the utmost respect. After telling my tale, King Alcinous agreed to take me back to Ithaca, and now here I am, back at home, finally safe.

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Created with images by Yoshikazu TAKADA - "Lotus Flower"

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