Continuing on their way,
they searched for sight of land or any indication of life outside Praxis. After
some time the lookout indicated a ship ahead of them. They strained their eyes
trying to identify it. It seemed to be of foreign design and of a similar size
to the Greek ship but whether it was friendly or not they could not tell. The
other ship turned towards them and it soon became apparent that their
intentions were anything but friendly. Xenon shouted an order. "Ram them, ram
them.” The two ships were on a collision course but the other vessel narrowly
managed to out manoeuvre our heroes and the crews prepared for a boarding
A bloody fight followed. The
Greeks were quicker than their opponents and boarded first, beating back the
defenders and killing them easily without loss to themselves. Eventually the
enemy was forced to surrender. The new ship, on closer inspection, turned out
to be an eastern pirate vessel.
"What are we going to do
with it?” asked Ajax.
"Burn it as a sacrifice to
Poseidon.” A voice from the crew shouted.
"No, throw the captain
overboard as a sacrifice,” another urged.
Xenon pondered for a while.
The crew waited expectantly for his decision.
"Right. The pirate chief
goes overboard and we put a handful of our crew on the pirate ship and send it
back to Praxis as a prize. Those that go back will make certain the rest of us
will get our money on our return.” A cheer went up and a plank was brought. The
pirate chief was forced on to it at spear and sword point. He reached the end
of the plank and fell into the sea, going under almost immediately. "Poor
feller couldn’t swim,” one of the pirates was heard to say. They waited for
some sign that Poseidon had accepted the offering, but all remained quiet.
"Well, it was worth a try,” said Xenon resignedly.
The pirate ship and the
Expedition wished one another a safe journey and parted company. The Expedition
sailed eastward, searching for any sign of life.
"I hope we sight land soon
as we only have a few barrels of water left, enough for a day or two, maybe a
week at most,” said Orpheus.
"Land to port,” the lookout
shouted and there was an island just visible on the horizon.
Xenon ordered a change of
heading towards the island. It took them a few hours to reach the land and they
soon found a welcoming beach. They ran the ship onto the shore, gathered
canteens and set off inland. The majority of the crew went to the left and Ajax,
Xenon and Cassius set off to the right. Along the way they rested and sat down
among some rocks. Cassius leant back and stretched his arms, yawning and
feeling relaxed when he felt a jab in his back.
"There’s something strange
about this rock I’m leaning on” he said, puzzled’. Then two pincers appeared and
legs began to sprout from the sides of the ‘rock’. A giant crab awoke, angry at
being disturbed from its slumber, and attacked the heroes. Protected by its
carapace and attacking with its large pincers it put up a strong fight. The
heroes were able to strike the beast but rarely did their blows do damage. They
kept hitting the crab’s natural armour. A few blows, however, were able to
penetrate but it was a long struggle with Ajax finally delivering the death
"Crab meat for dinner, then,”
he said, catching his breath before they continued. They found a small stream
which fed into a pool of clear, fresh water and they began filling the
canteens. Xenon tilted his head. "What is it?” asked the others.
"I thought I heard someone
crying,” he replied; "Yes, there it is again. Definitely crying. It seems to be
coming from the other side of the pool.”
They scanned the pool and
caught a glimpse of a figure in the bushes. They crept closer, trying to stay
hidden. They came to a rocky formation jutting out into the water. Sitting on
it was a beautiful naiad, sobbing whilst combing her long hair. She started as
she saw the heroes watching her. Embarrassed, Ajax and Cassius turned away but
Xenon spoke to her, asking her name.
"I am Ophelia and before you
make any rude jokes I’ve heard them all before so don’t bother.”
"That was furthest from my
mind” said Xenon, lying through his teeth. "But why do you weep? This is such
an idyllic place.”
"Idyllic, yes, but hard to
bear when one is alone. I crave the company of others. I want to laugh and
enjoy myself, perhaps have adventures.”
"How lucky we met” said
Xenon, "my comrades and I are on a quest. You’re welcome to join us. I can
promise you adventure and plenty of laughs.” He winked knowingly. Ophelia
blushed and agreed to join the heroes. With a wave of her hand her fishlike
lower half changed into human form "easier to walk this way” she explained.
"If I could walk that way..”
"Shut up Ajax”, interrupted
The four then made their way
back to the ship to continue their journey.