"Gold, silver, and iron. The man with a golden crown is taken by death itself. The man with dusty knees is exalted and carries a silver bow. The man with untied sandals folds the skies and steps on the gods' head... Beware of the hand that fondles the face, for it stabs in the dark."
Glax immediately looked at his wife's metallic hand.
'Mental note Don't let her touch my balls.'
Her fingers flinched, as if the words of the prophetess had caught her in the act of committing the mentioned crime.
"And the great general Chriseis You came to ask me, about your future husband earlier. You certainly chose him, general. Some won't be happy with this choice."
"You said I would meet him at the games. The man who..." Suddenly Chriseis stopped talking, suddenly aware she could let Glax know more than it would be convenient.
'If it's not the Pythonesses inside a cave, it's the daily horoscope' he mused about how some people were so gullible. 'Was this general really looking for the man of her life in a battle royale?'
"With this man, you will return to your home shrouded in honor and glory, General. This man will undoubtedly do everything for you. The unthinkable and beyond that. And yet, it won't be a fruitful marriage. Is that what you need to know? That's what the gods say."
A gong sounded, echoing through the cave tunnels. The priestess sat on the floor, cowering as if in a cocoon.
Apparently, the consultation was over.
Despite not wanting to be impressed by the words of the seer, Glax had been disturbed. Inside his mind he tried to ignore everything she said about the future. He took a deep breath,
"Okay, if you're done, can we go back?"
Chriseis agreed thoughtfully. When they reached the surface, she asked,
"Why did someone like you decide to participate in the Armoric Games?"
"Someone told me I would marry a great general if I came. Win-win. I would be fed three times a day and she would be famous and such." He gave a sarcastic smile.
Chriseis didn't appreciate the criticism, and shrugged with disdain in her eyes. "If you didn't want any of that for yourself, you just had to stay in Valosia. But you came, to fulfill your destiny."
'It wasn't like that, but ... I'm here.' He changed the subject, though, "Do you really think your destiny is mapped out that way?"
"As you can see, some choices depend on ourselves. I picked you." She started down the stairs. "What is it you have with you? You didn't have a bag when you went up the hill."
"Ah yes. This" How long could he hide from this woman what he had gained from the god? And although the god told him not to trust anyone, Glax knew that nothing in life works that way. You have to trust someone. Furthermore, he had told Proctius not to destroy the machine, as he wanted to show it to the wise men... Whoever they were. He needed to guard against his lie if he was confronted. "Chriseis? What do you know about Armorion Island? About what's there, I mean?"
"Did you bring anything from there? Did you ignore the clan decree, and the emperor's decree?"
"Ah, well It was inevitable. But. About the machines ... Can't we talk about it?"
"You are strange, Glax of Valosia!"
"Why does everyone tell me that?"
"Because it's probably true. Hey, wait. Are you the son of Lady Kalanthe? 'Kalanthe the Traveler'?"
"Erm ..." He gave her a dubious nod, not answering whether or not. The priest had said the name of his mother and father, as well as the name of Chriseis' parents.
"Is it true, then, that Kalanthe of Valosia went to the Outer Realms? Did she really go to Valya?"
"Why do we have to talk about my family now?" Maybe Rasmus could help him with that later. In the meantime, he would take the opportunity to learn more about everything he could. It was amazing what evasions could do.
"My father met her. He was there the day Argos II left the port of Ulbium..." Suddenly Chriseis's face was different and showed admiration. Her eyes shone like a child waiting for Christmas. Glax wondered if this was the equivalent of him being the son of an astronaut. It probably was.
"Considering that we have already been to the Outer Realms, I was shocked to find what I found in Armorion... Ruins of amazing technological advances..." He improvised.
Chriseis sighed. "But all that is past now, 'dear husband'. Foreigners were expelled, and it was better this way. What happened because the ancients dared to imitate the gods and their creations... We still suffer the consequences of all that greed and hubris. Even though it's fascinating... These are forbidden subjects. And as long as we are loyal to the Emperor, we have to obey His Divine Order." Her intimate speech left no doubt for Glax that she repeated the standard speech, even though she didn't completely believe it. After all, how could she? She had a bionic arm, and to deny it was stupid.
"You mean you don't want to see what's in the bag, 'dear wife'?
She frowned, and pointed her finger at him. The metal finger.
" Glax! Don't bring shame to us! If you want a souvenir of Armorion, I can accept that. But don't ignore the ban! I don't want the future father of my children to be executed for disobedience and betrayal!"
Chriseis was still a weird bully, but she was becoming interesting.
Pork, sheep and goat roasted on a spit. Fish grilled in salt crusts, in the Deidhala fashion. Stuffed fowl la Ephere. Assorted cheese and wine _ wine from at least seven different Echelian provinces. Oranges, apples, grapes. Mead and bread with olive paste, juicy figs, Siratta's sparkling cider.
All this the champion had to taste. Glax honestly didn't know whether he could get out of his place of honor at the table without the help of a crane. He laughed at things he didn't understand, because everything seemed funny after he had mixed so many drinks and food in his stomach. If he dared to sip anything else, he was sure he was going to go into an alcoholic coma.
They had already seen attractions in honor of the champions, like dances of beautiful girls with wavy hips and burning sticks, men who performed pyrotechnic tricks with cascading embers, looking like live lava washing them alive. There was a staging of a combat with people in costumes. Then a human sculpture that inflated a fabric balloon, releasing it into the air. After that, fights, and fights, but then Glax couldn't pay any more attention.
Rasmus was also close to him, and in a state perhaps as pitiful as his own. When another wine jug reached him, Glax raised his swinging hand to refuse, and Chriseis asked,
"Bring us some Elixir Bacchante now. The champion deserves to celebrate all night long!"
"No Chriseis ... Irc! I can not take it anymore!"
"For a champion like Glax, the Elixir will have no effect!" Proctius raised his voice. He was also drunk, but he seemed to be better off.
"What are you talking about, Po...ctius?"
"The first Bacchante works, the second maybe, but the third never works!" quoted Jolla, burst out laughing. Rasmus tried to explain.
"Glax, here in the south, they say that the bacchante cuts the effect of alcohol. But it stops working the more you take it "And turning to the others, he spoke. "We in Valosia are very close to Pharys, so we don't drink as much wine as the rest of the Echelians!"
"Do you follow the customs of the Pharysians, or is it for another reason?" Lydia asked.
"Ah ah, how funny! Maybe both. But perhaps it's because southern wine is very expensive for us. They say that Valosia only has two types of people: people who never tasted wine, and the dead." Rasmus laughed at his own disparaging joke. Glax struggled to keep the information in memory.
They served him a liquid in a tiny glass that smelled of blood and salt, and the appearance was equivalent.
"So the first wine virgin, the first Armoric Games champion from Valosia! Irc!" Glax raised his glass, sobbing. A round of laughter followed, and he took the shot as quickly as he could. It was as horrible as it looked and smelled, and he sat up immediately, feeling his head spin.
Suddenly, a woman's cry was heard, loud and painful. The music subsided, and the loud, scandalous crying interrupted the lively banquet conversation.
Someone was suffering very close to the champion's table, and everyone looked at each other apprehensively. Glax felt the elixir's burning scratch his throat, and his sobriety came back like a blow.
Everyone shook their heads, no one knew. But someone came to the front of the table of champions, and spoke to the mayor of Temnos, out loud.
"The Jocasta oil ship was attacked by Sillabot near Hissoria, two days ago. None of the sailors survived!"
The table was silent, and the mayor gave orders for his aides to comply.
"What is Sillabot?" Rasmus asked, after also taking his sip of Bacchante.
His wife replied, "It is a monster that inhabits the Perseic Sea. It appeared less than a year ago and it's unknown where it came from ... And despite the warnings, there has still been no solution to the problem. It continues to plague the eastern region, attacking mainly ships with oil ..."
Megara raised her voice. "I didn't know that. Maybe my father still doesn't know that, either. Did you know that, Chriseis?"
Chriseis didn't reply, just frowned. Megara continued, with a sarcastic smile. "Our Sublime Champion of the Clan, the Mighty Invicta, and her husband Glax, the Champion of the Armoric Games They are the right people to solve this, dear Eudoxos!" She turned to the mayor of the city.
The mayor smiled, approving the idea. "I know that Lady Chriseis didn't come for this, but we can arrange a ship very quickly. A warship! Now alongside the skilled Glax, I believe that finally our cargo and the lives of our sailors will not be lost to a monster anymore!"
'Easy there. Wait ... A monster? What are they talking about?'
"If the 'Archigeos' so wishes!" Chriseis smiled back. Glax was witnessing the rivalry between the two being exacerbated.
"There is no need to wait. The couple of champions will solve this, won't they? Chriseis is indeed a legend, even the Archigeos will understand the urgency of the matter. Or ... Do you need help, Lady Chriseis? Proctius and I can help, can't we?"
Glax guessed that archigeos was the title of the clan head.
Proctius nodded slowly, raising his glass.
"Chriseis," Glax nudged her, trying to whisper so that only she could hear. "Don't get carried away by provocations."
"Lady Megara, you don't even know what that monster is like. How can you be suggesting that I take a ship and a few men to go to the province of Hissoria to fight a sea monster?"
"We'll see when we get there. I mean, since you don't look too excited to go... I can't blame you. As I said, if you don't want to do this alone or beside the Champion of Armorion, you can count on us..." Megara raised an eyebrow and gestured to Proctius.
"It's not necessary. Glax and I will go to Hissoria, and we will get rid of this Sillabot. It's the least expected of loyal Echelian officials. No, I don't need your help, my dear. You can go back to your task and give grandchildren to our Archigeos. I can take care of that."
Glax turned to Chriseis in disbelief. Had she really given her word in front of everyone that she, AND HE, would face a sea monster?