Athena and the Maze
A myth by Gregga J. Johnn (another uStory custom written by specific request)
Within the realm of Olympus there came a call for great celebrations in the form of games. The gods love these challenges and so Zeus decreed a game of the Labyrinth with a promised prize of great value at the center. The children of Zeus all accepted the challenge and eagerly sought who might win the prize.
The Labyrinth was set up with six entrances as each contestant would begin at a separate gate. They were Aphrodite, Athena, Hermes, Apollo, Artemis, and Dionysus and there was a magnificent parade at the start of the games for the contestants. Each one was allowed to enter with only two items for their aid.
Aphrodite led the parade in the splendor of her beauty with a flask of seawater and a companion Albatross. Athena took her spear and shield with the image of an owl upon it. Hermes always wore his flying shoes but also carried a staff engraved with the image of a serpent. Apollo shone in glory playing his lyre with a quiver full of lightening arrows slung across his back. Artemis, somberly dressed in animal skins, carried only her bow and arrows in a quiver painted with the images of a she-bear and stag. Tagging along behind was Dionysus slinging along only a golden wineskin, smiling and waving to the crowds.
As the contestants entered the labyrinth they were chained with cuffs, each to a separate enchanted strap of leather that looked to wind itself ahead of them throughout the maze. They were to make their way through the challenge connected to the string of leather, bound to their own unique pathway set before them. The leather was charmed so that it could not be broken.
When Zeus’s thunder rolled and cracked over the maze to signify the start of the game, Athena was the only contestant who did not take off immediately. Aphrodite and Hermes took stock of the maze by getting a bird’s-eye view of the course before them. Hermes, flying upon his own sandals set forth over the top of the maze, only to be slammed down to the dirt again by the storm raging above. Aphrodite’s albatross also hit the dirt causing injury to his wing. Apollo knocked an arrow on the ready through the harp strings of his lyre and ran forth with speed and power. Artemis stealthily moved forward in silence, also with arrow on the ready. Dionysus wandered forth after taking a quick swig of his wine for clarity.
Again, Athena alone continued at the gate. She bartered with the gate keeper offering a pouch of magical olive seeds she had hidden within her bosom. The seeds were guaranteed to grow a mighty and productive orchard for any who planted them. She offered these to the humble man in exchange for the end of the leather strap to which she was restrained. He took the seed pouch instantly, handing her the ending of the strap with a gleeful grin and ran away.
Athena began weaving the strap through the chained restraint but found that it would not exit the metal hold no matter how she tried to pull. So, instead, Athena began winding the leather around her spear leaving no trail behind her. She followed the maze pathway into the darkening night as Zeus’ storm raged above her.
There was a cross road ahead of her and as she approached, Athena heard voices in the darkness. Aphrodite and Hermes were arguing caught in a tangle of leather knotting. Athena entered the crossway, still winding her leather strap carefully around her spear.
“I tell you it cannot be broken!” She tugged at the leather that cinched tighter around both Hermes and Athena’s own strapping.
Hermes grumbled, still soaking wet and muddy from being tossed by the storm above,
“How shall we proceed if we are caught up together?”
Athena investigated what the other two already had established,
“I see our pathways separate here, but for the knot that binds us to this place.”
“Welcome to the party,” Hermes grumbled.
Athena took the knot in her hands, it was tight and firm from all the tugging the other two had caused in their argument.
“Aphrodite,” Athena asked, “spill a little of your water upon the knot, will you?”
Hermes scoffed as the protectress of sailors uncorked her flask and plied the knot with a few drops of water.
“Quit your tugging,” scolded Athena as Hermes shuffled, restless in his confined spot.
Athena then pointed her spear head at the center of the knot.
Aphrodite argued again,
“You cannot break the leather. Do you not think we have tried that?”
“I do not attempt to pierce the leather, my sister, rather, I seek to untie the mess.” Athena carefully jiggled her spear until the leather straps loosened in their moist bindings.
The weaver goddess pulled her spear as a shuttle through a tapestry and carefully began untying herself from the tangle. Aphrodite and Hermes became excited and gently pulled at their straps also, but found they could not successfully untangle with the endings of their straps still bound behind them at the beginning. Both turned with a last desperate look at each other and dashed back as fast as they could to see about their own untying.
Athena continued on, free from the knot.
After a few twists and turns, the goddess of war came upon an open garden. It was a serene place in the quiet darkness that held the music of a crystal clear fountain. The fountain was a conglomeration of marble statues, all warriors bound together in memory of past wars, torments, and tragedies.
Athena approached and tested the pool for taste. The refreshment was instant and the thirsty woman drank deeply. But as she drank, the marble warriors began to move. They fell apart from each other in their frozen raging, splashing in the waters, and turned as one to the woman drinking from their memories.
Athena armed herself against them and banged her spear in defiance against her shield awakening from it the mighty owl that slept in its molding. Her owl companion spread forth his wings and screeched aloud in a brazen trumpet of defense.
The statues attacked and Athena attended to their fight with might and fell not back an inch from her stand. The owl, flying low beneath the storm that continued to rage above, attacked with his mistress, gouging stone eyes and cutting deep into the marble veins with sharp claws.
As the battle closed in upon her, Athena stepped back from the waters and set about to defend herself apart from the pool foundations. But in that moment, the warriors paused and sleepily turned back to their crumbling pedestal. As they took pose again, the fountain waters running down their marble forms, they were healed back to perfect memory, standing still in the darkness, glowing in a frozen memorial.
Athena wiped the sweat off her brow and tapped on the shield to return her owl to his slumber. Rolling more of the leather strapping to her spear, she continued on her quest through the maze.
Again, in the darkness of the labyrinth’s winding roads she heard voices shouting ahead, but this time they were being drowned out by a great roaring.
On a cliff-top clearing, Apollo and Artemis were being held down by the raging of a wild bull the size of the very Greek Parthenon in which the mortals worshiped Zeus. They were firing arrows at his tossing head as best as they could, each arrow landing its mark. The sizzling, lightening arrows of Apollo burned the flesh of the beast and the well-targeted aim of Artemis’ arrows also cut extensive damage, yet still the enormous creature raged on stomping closely to the crag the archers were hiding in. Artemis’ quiver still held the images of her she-bear and stag, but both pictured companions now looked wounded and unable to fight.
Athena took aim at the beast’s heart and flung her spear with all her might. The spear, with the leather strap trailing it, flew true and landed deep into the creatures chest causing it to roar with agonized intensity and quiver in its stomping, yet still it did not fall. The rage and pain of the beast echoed off the cliffs causing minor rock slides and mini earthquakes at his hooves.
Athena took cover with her brethren. Dionysus joined them drunkenly giggling,
“Holy wine buckets that’s a big cow.” He hissed heavily into Athena’s face, “You should pull your spear out of him now.”
“What,” coughed Athena in his wine laden breath, ducking from another round of tumbling rocks?
Dionysus handed Athena the leather strap that swung wildly from her spear still stuck deep in the bull’s heart. He winked and pulled on his own leather strapping then clambered up the rocky wall, calling down to them,
“I got this.”
Apollo yelled back at him,
“You drunken fool! You’re going to get us all killed.”
Artemis fired her last arrow into the bull’s eye and it bucked and roared loudly again, blindly pulling Athena too close to his hooves as she was still attached to the leather attached to her spear attached and stuck, deep in his heart.
Wrapping the strap tightly around her arm, Apollo, Artemis, and Athena pulled and wrestled the spear out of the wound causing the blood from his heart to spew forth onto the ground. This slowed the stampeding of the beast dramatically.
Dionysus, hanging from the cliff above the bull, took another courage filled swig of wine, wound his leather strap around a rock, and leaped onto the beast’s head. He screamed a battle cry from midair,
“Greed and vanity defeat you!”
As he landed precariously upon the bulls head he grabbed ahold of one of the mighty horns and with the touch of his hand, it turned to gold. The gold grew quickly from where Dionysus held his stand and spread upon the beast like wild fire, devouring all life left within and leaving only a solid statue of torment.
“Tah dah!” giggled the god of wine as he bowed and slid clumsily off the golden head. The leather strapping around his wrist caught on the horn of the statue and he ended up hanging by it a foot above the ground, wriggling and giggling.
Apollo stepped out and helped him up on his shoulders while Artemis flicked the strap freeing Dionysus in a collapsing pile on the ground with Apollo beneath him. The four laughed aloud at the antics in a moment of relief.
Hermes and Aphrodite suddenly ran up, madly winding their leather straps from behind, and bustling each other in a race to arrive on the cliff edge first.
In a silent pause, the six brethren looked about them remembering the prize for which they all sought. Dionysus led the way as they raced back to the cliff face he’d leaped from. Each contestant climbed their own leather strap up to a cave from which shone a small light. The promised hope of a valued prize pressed them all on and into the cave. But, once inside, the sight cause only confusion.
Another tiny gate, like the ones at the beginning of the labyrinth, was embedded into the rocky entrance. Six solid bars dug deep into the rock and held captive a small child, a human, curled up on a pile of rags with only a flaming torch in the wall as a source of light. Each of the young god’s leather straps was secured to a singular bar of the cage. Athena, Aphrodite, and Hermes wound up the remaining leather from behind them and approached the cage quietly soothing the frightened child within. Apollo, Artemis, and Dionysus looked at their own mess of leather trailing them, tangling together in a massive knot.
Hermes dropped his staff to the ground and it slithered as a snake between the bars searching for a weakness there. But the child was terrified by the snake and began crying. Hermes picked up his solid staff again and Athena comforted the child,
“Fear not, little one, we’re here to free you.”
The opening of the cage was small. It seemed only big enough for the child to climb though. Each of the gods pulled on the strapping that was restraining them and Apollo grabbed and strained against the very bars. But, Aphrodite corrected him,
“No, that one’s mine.” She pointed to the leather hanging from her wrist and then to the bar Apollo held.
Hermes followed the trail of his own leather and took hold of the bar he was tied to. It crumbled in his hand. Then Aphrodite and Athena did the same. The bars crumbled easily in their hands, but still the opening was not quite big enough for the child to climb through.
Apollo, Artemis, and Dionysus then tried the same but it took a moment of arguing and figuring out which leather strap was connected to which bar. Once it was finally figured out where their tangled restraints lead and each took hold of their own restraint, the child was quickly freed and ran off, scampering up the cliff face laughing in the delight of rescue.
When the child reached to top, he turned and waved. At that, the restraints of the god brethren were released. Each contestant had claimed his own binding, untangled his own mess, and passed on the privilege of release. In that, the game was won and the prize of Freedom was enjoyed by all.