Ariadne knew that Jason still didn’t believe that he was the right person to be a King. No matter how much Ariadne reassured him that he was the one she wanted to marry and to rule at her side he still truly didn’t accept it. After returning with the Golden Fleece and defeating Paciphae, hopefully for good this time, Ariadne and Jason were finally able to begin their rule how they wanted to. Jason’s first act after his coronation was to fire all of the staff and advisors that Ariadne didn’t trust and bring in their own people. Pythagoras was brought in as the royal physician and Hercules was one of the King’s advisors. Ariadne would never think of leaving Jason’s two friends as paupers with no jobs and Jason’s beaming smile when she suggested it was worth it in the long run. They were hailed as the best rulers Atlantis had while the city was rebuilding.
It was now two years later, and they had another person to worry about. Their son Alexandros was everything the new monarchs could have dreamed of. He was only two months old but Ariadne could already tell he had her eyes and the beginning of his father’s unruly curls; much to her annoyance, as much as she loved Jason’s hair, because it was impossible to maintain them looking presentable. They had broken many protocols with his naming with Jason refusing to name him after Aeson, the man who left his son alone in a new world without an explanation, and his ignorance of naming protocols requiring him to ask his wife for aid. Alex was named to combine the two worlds Jason hailed from. Ariadne loved hearing tales of her husband’s home and to name their first born a name that suited both Jason’s far off ‘England’ and their home of Atlantis was a pleasure. It was after the birth of Alex that Jason began his weekly trips into the city to give aid to those who needed it. His hero’s complex had never faded and they had agreed that trips into the city with Pythagoras and Hercules by his side were the safest ways to provide that help. Ariadne remained in the palace with the infant and resumed prayers and aid at the temple when she was fit enough after child birth. Alexandros was fidgeting in her arms until she gave him his favourite rattle and then the only noise was him whacking the rattle against her arm. “Ariadne,” with her focus on his child Ariadne hadn’t heard Hercules’ approach and so she spun round shocked. His tone was full of regret and quieter than she had ever heard him before. “Jason is missing,” he sighed, lightly pulling her over to a seat as he legs seemed to forget what they were to do.
“What do you mean he is missing?” she practically snarled as Pythagoras caught up with Alexandros’ nanny in tow.
“There was a distraction caused in the agora when Jason was talking to the merchants, he told us to help and when we turned around he was gone. The merchant said there was a man attacking a women and Jason went to help but then all three disappeared,” Hercules explained while Talisha, the nanny took Alexandros to his rooms. Ariadne smoothed out her dress and stood up again. Hopefully it was nothing, hopefully Jason had just run off to save someone like he always did. Despite the thought, she couldn’t help but feel there was something wrong.
Jason wasn’t used to staying in one place for a long time; all through his childhood he was passed around between foster homes with visiting and working with Mac when his family allowed. Before Atlantis the longest he had remained in one place was at Southampton University where he did his degree, even then he spent the summers on Mac’s boat. Atlantis had been his home for four years and he fell in love with the place more and more each day. The people were a major part of that, he knew he was their king and that would never change but the people he knew from before, after much convincing, treated him like Jason. It was one of these people that he made a beeline for when he arrived at the agora; Kaija was always his favourite dairy provider, he had never tasted a better goat’s cheese, and he preferred to go to the provider himself to make sure she was doing alright and to alter their regular order. “Jason, my lord,” he still hadn’t been able to get her to stop that but it was better than my King. “How are you all? How’s little Alexandros?” she beamed, already cutting his usual portion.
“Already growing so quickly, recently discovered his hands and is loving the rattle you recommended,” Jason grinned picking up the wrap of cheese and placing it in his bag. “And we are going to need more milk, his mother suddenly isn’t enough for him if you catch my drift,” Jason added.
“Your drift sir?” Kaija questioned as she noted down the change to the order.
“Oh yes, I mean. If you understand what I mean,” Jason shook his head with a laugh, he was still getting used to the difference in slang.
“Another Jasonism?” she smiled and Jason blushed, Hercules had called them that one day and it had spread like wildfire.
“I’ll see you next week, say hello to the kids for me,” he smiled and continued to roam around the agora.
People continued to kneel or at least bow their heads as he roamed. On his orders the guards were hanging back with his horse but the king who vanquished the witch, killed the minotaur and wielded the golden fleece was pretty well known at this point. Another of the stalls was manned by a young girl and had brilliantly styled elegant dresses. They were no where near as accessorised as Ariande’s usual attire was but he was pulled over by a deep emerald gown. “I’ll take this one,” he smiled at the girl who was gawping and didn’t seem to know what to do. Jason rummaged in his coin pouch to try and distract the girl. She managed to snap out of her daze and hurriedly folded the gown and handed it to him. “Thanks,” he handed her vastly more than the dress cost and waited to make sure the girl stashed the money. “What’s your name little one?” Jason asked.
“Ari my lord,” she stammered out dropping into a clumsy curtsey. She couldn’t have been any older than eight and her dress was as thin and ratty as Jason’s tunics had gotten before his sudden change in paygrade, and her feet were bare. “Hercules,” Jason shouted, gesturing his friend over and patting him on the shoulder when he rolled his eyes before taking Jason’s bag.
“You’re going to bankrupt the city at this rate,” he sighed but the smile was still on his lips. Jason hurried over to another stall and bought the girl a pair of sandals and handed them to her with a little ruffle of her hair. Jason would never be like Minos, he was much more happy to be a king that was loved and respected than feared.
Jason was startled out of his browsing by a whiny and the shouting of his guards. One of the horses had spooked and knocked into a cart that had been holding piles of fruit and vegetables. Before Jason could go to the aid of his retinue in restocking the cart, another cry drew his attention. Down one of the alleys leading off the square Jason could see a woman being pushed against the wall by a man about twice her size; within seconds Jason was jogging towards the attack with his hand on his hidden knife. Despite being known for his recklessness, Jason had actually thought this through; if this was just a row or an impulsive attack then no one would dare continue in front of the king so he could either apprehend the suspect or the attacker would flee. “Hey, you,” he shouted gruffly but he didn’t expect the man to look up and smile at him. Jason slowed after the man released the woman and she didn’t run; the shadows of the alley obscured his view but he continued to move towards them. A blooming pain shot across the back of Jason’s head causing his to stumble and a rag was held over his mouth and nose before he could resist. Despite his struggles and attempt not to breathe the noxious substance in, everything slowly faded away and Jason could feel his body sag.
“Your highness,” General Naoki bowed as he entered the council chambers. It had been hours and Jason had not returned. The guard were scouring the city for him but there had been no sightings or any indication of any wrongdoing. Ariande was starting to fear the worst. “I know you may not want to hear this but it is our belief that the king has been taken,” the general explained with a calmness that reminded Ariande of why she gave him the job.
“Lock down the city, we need to stop them getting him out,” Ariadne commanded and Naoki gestured to his men to get to work. “Once the city has been sealed we need to search the whole area between the agora and the walls,” she continued, but her mind was entirely focused on who. Who would have the audacity to kidnap the king of a power like Atlantis.
“I know you might be thinking along the same lines your highness but it would be advised to reach out to our allies to make sure that none of them are involved. People will believe Atlantis to be weak with no king but there are nations out there that know you are the one of royal blood and respect that,” the general stated quietly and Ariadne tucked her hands under the table to disguise their shaking.
“You think this is a power move?” Ariadne questioned, not really considering that this could be one of their allies. Ariadne and Jason had proved themselves as powerful rulers again and again.
“It is likely to be so from a smaller nation. The throne of Atlantis has passed hands many times over the past few decades,” Naoki shrugged softly and Ariadne nodded, dismissing him. She would have to send messengers to their allies worded so vaguely as to not make them look weak. She needed Jason back, she couldn’t be a Queen at war and a mother without him.
When Jason awoke it was a slow and painful process. It was as if he had been floating outside of his body and his soul had decided to join his organs once again and was pushing through his skin. He could however tell that he had been unconscious for a lot longer than he expected from a simple drug. They must have done something to keep him under. What he truly didn’t understand was the softly springy surface he was laid on. Jason was not a stranger to prison cells, both modern and Atlantean, and this was usual. Forcing his eyes open slowly as not to blind himself, Jason bit back a groan at the sudden light and pulsing world. The ceiling was intricately tilted in blazing colour and as Jason lifted his head the room reminded him of the chambers he lived in when he was first engaged to Ariadne. This was royal but not Atlantean royal. The fuzz in his head wasn’t masking the way he felt the pieces should be falling into place now but they were just painting an even stranger picture. He was all alone in this strange room. The cold ocean breeze caused his skin to tickle and the hairs on the back of his neck to stand up. Jason needed to get out of here. Wherever here was. It took longer than he would like to get to get to his feet and Jason could feel the lethargy seeping through his muscles. Obviously the door was locked, he thought it was worth a try. The balcony, however, was open. Jason peered over the edge and even his reckless courage was not going to manage to justify that high of a drop into the ocean. “I see you are up and about sire. I apologise that your trip here was so hasty,” a women’s voice snapped Jason out of his calculations of what it would take to climb up onto the roof.
“Hasty, is a bit of an understatement,” Jason stated, glaring at the woman. She was elegant and looked refined, royal potentially. Jason was in no condition to fight his way out of here, even if the woman looked around his age and was about half the size.
“We needed to get you here and were not sure your wife,” the word was spat with venom, “would agree for your visit,” she just continued as if there had not been a long and complicated extraction plan to kidnap a royal to get him here.
“Where is here?” Jason asked, there was no advantage to arguing now. He needed information.
“The noble city of Kamerios, Apollo’s safe haven,” she explained, Jason had never heard of it but he knew the gaps in his knowledge were so big you could drive a ship through.
“And why am I here?” he interrogated and this time he touched on a nerve.
“You are hear to save us from Poseidon’s wrath and marry my daughter.”
The expletives that flew out of Jason’s mouth were not appropriate for royal company and he did not care, in the slightest. I was also not polite to kidnap someone who was already married to the love of his life, sail them to a different country and then exclaim that they were there to marry a princess. “We wish to bond Apollo and Poseidon’s chosen to grant good fortune to our beautiful city,” the queen continued but Jason was not in the mood for listening.
“I will never marry your daughter, I’m sure she is a lovely girl but as long as there is a breath in my body I will not betray Ariadne and Atlantis,” Jason snarled but this did not sway the queen.
“You do not have a choice Jason, our seer has foretold Poseidon’s hand in rule and you will not leave here. You are weak and before you begin to fight I will have guards here to subdue.”
“I can bide my time. If you knew anything about me you would know I’m not one for listening to prophecies.”
“Then we will conquer Atlantis, until you have nothing to return to.”
“If you had the strength to then you would have already. The walls will never fall and I trust my love to protect our home.”
“Your wife and son would not survive our onslaught!”
“Do not threaten them? You will feel Poseidon’s wrath if you even think of harming one hair on their heads. I will survive anything you throw at me. Believe it or not but I have defeated minotaurs, leaped the bulls, destroyed witches and come from a realm you would never believe. You underestimate my power.”
Now this was a real jail cell, Jason thought with a macabre humour as he was thrown on to the cold and biting rock floor. Wincing, he rolled onto his back ready to fight off whoever came in but his movements were too sluggish from the impact and he was hauled to his feet and in what felt like an instant his hands were connected to a chain on the ceiling. His bound hands could hang comfortably in front of his stomach but predictably they would not let him reach the walls or the door. Sleeping would be difficult but he was sure that with enough exhaustion, he would learn how to sleep standing. His primary school teachers always called him a quick learner.
Spies were a necessary evil; a key part of maintaining order around Atlantis in the smaller villages and ports out of the main walls. Ariadne, despite hating the art of spycraft, trusted her spies with her life and so through the networks information of Jason's abduction had spread. Quickly, information had surfaced of a plagued man vaguely fitting Jason's description being carted out of the city. Even more evidence this had all been planned. More evidence had come to light and Ariadne, along with Hercules and Pythagoras had been requested for a meeting in the throne room. Ariadne was spending every moment she wasn't hunting for Jason with Alexandros; the fear of losing him too haunted her thoughts. When she arrived, the spy was seated but jumped to his feet on the sound of the tap of her footsteps. “Your highness,” he bowed deeply, the weariness of travel evident in his form and posture.
“Tell me what you know,” she asked him bluntly, there was no time for pleasantries in a time of war. Because that’s what this situation had now escalated to.
“I saw a group of foreigners loading an unconscious man onto a boat. When I questioned their actions they said he was a foreign dignitary and paid my silence. I did not recognise him as the king but I did not get a close look. It only became suspicious when word was sent of the king’s kidnapping and then I rode straight here,” the spy relayed in one hurried breath. Naoki paid the man for his information and his silence and he left as fast as humanly possible.
“Hercules, take Pythagoras and a few of your most loyal men. We need to hunt these traitors down before they have the chance to finish their plans,” Ariadne ordered, clenching her fists and successfully hiding the tremble of her hands.
“We will leave at first light,” Hercules bowed his head. He was not usually the most serious of the royal advisors but could tell when they was no time for joviality. Now was a time for action.
Jason assumed it must be morning when the door to his cell thumped open and one of the guards from the night before stepped inside. “It doesn’t take much to bring kings to their knees,” the guard commented, looking Jason up and down like he was a piece of meat.
“Not on my knees though am I,” Jason muttered, shrugging and smiling as the chains clanged dramatically. It appeared like his captor was choosing to ignore the retort and continue with his previously planned speech.
“It has been decreed that due to your insubordinance and refusal to swear alliance to the crown, Apollo will decide your fate and you will face his champions to fight for your life,” he announced and Jason concealed a wince. It was like the bull leaping all over again; if Jason was a theological man he would believe that this was actually the gods testing Poseidon’s faith in his champion but if there was only one thing that Jason had learnt in Atlantis is that relying on the gods to fix your problem never gets your problem fixed. Or as Mac used to say, if you want something doing right, do it yourself. That didn’t mean he had to tell the zealot sentencing him to death that. “As Poseidon’s champion you will be kept here to ward any of your disciples trying to spare you from the humiliation of failing the trail,” he concluded before abruptly leaving the cell. Now Jason could let out the breath he had been holding and attempt to come up with a plan.
The journey had been long but Hercules, Pythagoras, Melis and Geron had reached the port their spy had drawn their attention to. It was a bustling area with people milling between stalls, houses and boats but thankfully there were only three bays for the boats to dock into limiting their search. “They would need a regular trading vessel,” Melis spoke up as all four men stood in the middle of the square. He was their tactician, Naoki had highlighted Melis as a great young talent through his outside the box thinking. “People would notice a one off ship especially when they were parading and buying people’s silence. And a personal vessel would be to easy to track back to its owner,” he explained, showing his skills. Finding the master of the harbour was the easiest part of their journey but bribing him would only draw attention to their search and origins. Hercules had a different plan.
Had Jason ever mentioned how much he hated the Greek deities, especially Poseidon, for continually getting him into these messes? You would think if he was their champion and destined ruler of Atlantis; they would put more effort into keeping him out of danger instead of throwing him headfirst into it. He was dragged out of his cell at daylight into a wide-open armoury area. His hands remained manacled bringing a strange sense of pride; they clearly feared what he could do if all these precautions were in place. Slowly he was dressed in a similar armour as to when he had arrived in Atlantis and faced the minotaur; the arm braces were wrapped around his forearms and brown supple armour lowered over his head. With a scabbard strapped to his hips, the manacles were finally removed with a smile from the guard who had been watching him all the way through. “Your strength has been admirable, and I hope you give a true fight for your life,” he chuckled and pressed a cold piece of silver metal into Jason’s hands. “Your crown, oh mighty king,” Jason shot a death glare at the mocking soldiers before examining the mockery of a crown in his hands. It was a show; they were selling tickets to the death of the enemy, the mighty king of Atlantis felled by the champions of Apollo. Jason was not going to stick to the script. With a deep sigh, her adjusted his scabbard and placed the crown on top of his unruly curls. Time to go to war.
The roar of the crowd tried it’s hardest to shake Jason’s determination, but he was at peace with his fate. There was no point worrying about the future when that worry may cost him his. The theatre was full to the brim as Jason was shoved out of the door with it immediately closed behind him. He stepped out on to the burning sand, shield gripped in one hand and the other resting on the handle of his sword. “Presenting Poseidon’s champion, the former ruler of the nation in disarray Atlantis,” the aide to the throne announced to ringing boos replacing the cheers. “Facing the disgraced king is Apollo’s champion, the favoured warrior of our mighty crown!” a man twice as tall and as wide as Jason stepped out to the thunderous applause, embracing the adoration of the crowd. Jason drew his sword as they approached one another and lifted his shield. He had beaten worse; he had slayed the minotaur. And he couldn’t die, he had a son to raise and a kingdom to rule. Readjusting his grip on the blade Jason stepped forward, into the fire.
This was nothing like the bull leaping he had been imprisoned for last but as with that moment Jason could feel an unnatural power coursing through his muscles, commanding him what to do. Mentally he cursed his mythical patron before swinging into the rush of the fight. Jason was in no way a pacifist but he knew fighting to the death should not feel this good. The giant of a man was no match for his blade with only a couple of grazes landing and Jason using his size to his advantage and sliding out of any precarious situation he found himself lured into. The arena was silenced when Apollo’s champion tumbled to the floor with a dissatisfying thump. No one knew how to respond to the surprise defeat and the moment dragged on and on; there was no way for Jason to use this to his advantage with so many witnesses and the armed guard at every exit. Eventually one person began to clap and that turned the tide, the crowd began to applaud and Jason turned to the royal box. The queen was there, along with a girl just younger than Jason who he assumed to be the princess. The girl seemed curious but fury was radiating from the reigning monarch. They didn’t see his victory coming but as guards wrestled the sword from his grip and marched him back into the darkness of the tunnel Jason let himself smile. This was not over and Jason swore on his life that he would find a way out no matter how long it took. The chains were replaced around his wrists in the cell but the cheering continued from other cells down the corridor. Maybe a munity was in order?
That night, Pythagoras, Melis, and Geron all vowed never again to listen to one of Hercules’ plans. Melis and Geron didn’t know better and still somehow, despite travelling with the man for days, saw Hercules as their general. Pythagoras on the other hand should have known better. The grand plan had end up with a slobbering and stammering Hercules being dragged through the mud towards where they were staying. As with most of Hercules’ plans, the main factor was to get the other guy drunk and it is only polite that if your aim is to get your drinking partner drunk then you get drunk yourself. Thankfully for all their sanities and the mission, the sober trio had been listening and had managed to remember the information that Hercules had eased out of the master of the harbour. A trading vessel to Kamerios had arrived and left with passengers which was unusual for that boat; one of those was deathly ill and was hidden from sight the whole time. “Put him in bed and we’ll get to work planning,” Pythagoras sighed when they arrived at the room Pythagoras had rented earlier.
They needed a boat to get them to Kamerios as soon as possible. Therefore Pythagoras, Melis and Geron stayed up the whole night scheming how not to be noticed. If the kidnappers from Kamerios were as planned as they believed, then it was highly likely they would also have spies watching for anyone following them. They couldn’t flash the power of the crown without attracting attention to their endeavour. “We could get someone to stop on the way. We can all work on a boat and it is most likely not too far out of the way of some major trading routes,” Melis suggested with his head resting on his arms bent over the table. It had been hours since they had the last good idea.
“That might actually work. It wouldn’t involve using too much cash and free labour is always being offered for passage. We’ll start hunting at dawn,” Pythagoras grinned, dismissing the two soldiers he had grown close to, and preparing to get some sleep.
Hercules could hear the blood pounding in his ears as the group stepped out at dawn. Despite letting him sleep through their discussions, Melis and Geron had been charged with dragging Hercules out of bed and into the cool night air whether he wanted to or not. There was no time to waste; and Pythagoras was not listening to his arguments that time finding food was not wasted time. They also did not trust him to negotiate, which was an affront to his pride, and so Pythagoras was finding them a vessel to continue their journey. “There has been stories of sea terrors surrounding those shores. The waves rebelling and building, you would be wise not to travel there now,” the first sailor informed them and Hercules couldn’t help but think that Poseidon’s chosen one might have something to do with the oceanic troubles. It took many more similar conversations before one foolhardy ship was daring to travel in that direction; “we’ve got trade over there and now everyone is willing to pay than dare the seas in their own ship. Your labour would be much appreciated.” Pythagoras beamed and they were departing within the hour.
The journey to Kamerios was anticlimactic and Pythagoras was thrilled. The seas were calm and the winds favourable; more evidence that their mission was god-blessed and Pythagoras let his grin grow at the thought of how much that would annoy Jason. The sailors couldn’t believe it either and started calling the travelling band their lucky tokens. Kamerios wasn’t a large city, nothing that could ever compare to Atlantis, but even taking that into account it looked run down and decaying. The trade troubles looked to have hit hard and in the moment of good weather the port was bustling sending ships on their way and welcoming the vessel the team of heroes was on with open arms. Because of this jubilation it was easy to use the patented Hercules Method of gathering information, they got some people drunk and heard a very interesting rumour. There was a supposedly fake King of Atlantis competing in the gladiatorial games; their source of information believed it all to be a hoax to bring in more spectators but the competitor was fierce and held himself like he was of higher station than the other criminals that fought. It was worth a look.
Jason had never looked more like a king. Dried blood had knotted in his curls and left a track down the side of his face. The mockery of the crown of Atlantis hung lopsided on the top of his head but yet he looked like he would not be complete without it. Bruises littered his stark thin torso and Jason had subconsciously wrapped his spare arm around his chest in an attempt to hold himself upright. Despite all of this the fiery glower etched onto his face and the fact he could still whole his head high and stare into the royal box defiantly showed the determination and his pride to be Atlantis’ ruler. And in turn Pythagoras had never been so proud of his friend. “Poseidon’s champion is our victor!” the general roared and the arena was a mix between cheers and heckling. It seemed that Jason had won over some of the locals in his time fighting but those unwaveringly loyal to the crown would not like to see Apollo’s champions felled so easily. Jason slowly pushed his sword into the scabbard as he approached the royal box.
“Poseidon has been angered,” Jason’s voice carried over the chants, “you dare disrespect his champion. I am touched by the gods and have seen your demise, the ground will swallow you all and the seas will rise to my aid,” Jason continued but was grabbed by the arms by two guards and had his leg kicked out from under him to force him to kneel. Pythagoras frowned as Hercules smiled with Melis and Geron patting them on the back. Jason looked confident like he knew his predictions were coming to come true; but Jason wasn’t a seer, the Oracle would know if Jason was a seer and she had not told them. While Pythagoras was still thinking, Jason was dragged out of the tunnel he emerged from.
“We need to move tonight,” Pythagoras stated and upon seeing the serious expression on Pythagoras’ face the other three sobered.
Kamerios was a much smaller city than Atlantis but in with that meant there were a lot less guards then Atlantis had patrolling the streets. Geron had scouted out the arena the night before and found that there was a servant’s entrance with only one guard on patrol. Once inside they would be forced to improvise into finding Jason and if they had managed to attract no attention they would be able to get out the same way they got in. Melis and Geron were both confident their plan would work but unlike the other two Atlanteans, they didn’t know Jason; their king had an uncanny talent for attracting trouble and making everything heaps more complicated for his friends. Pythagoras was not going to take anything for granted until all five of them were safe back in the halls of the palace.
“Let’s get moving,” Hercules thrust a sword into Pythagorus’ hands and strapped one onto his own back. “For Jason,” he explained, and the others nodded. Sliding through the city was easy that late at night with the duo of veteran soldiers leading the way. The streets were too empty, there was not a sound. There was no curfew or any imminent threat they were warned about. Walking silently through the dark, Pythagoras could hear a distant rumbling; it sounded like it was coming up from under the ground. “Can you feel that?” Pythagoras squatted down and pressed his palm to the floor. His hand tingled as the ground continued to shake and small grains began to bounce.
“Pythagoras,” Hercules sighed exasperatedly before he pulled Pythagoras back onto his feet. “I’ll be a carriage or something, we have to get moving,” Pythagoras wasn’t convinced. Jason had seemed so convinced that the ground would revolt against the city; what if he was right?
Melis easily knocked out the guard and in a last minute adjustment to the plan they took his armour. It fitted Gelon snuggly but would give them an extra layer of protection if they did get caught. In his role as a Kamerion guard, Gelon slowly pushed the door open with a small smirk when the corridor behind it was empty. The tremors running through the soles of their feet continued to grow in intensity. The urge to stop and research why this was occurring ran through Pythagoras just as strongly as the shaking. The other side of him knew that there was no time for it now. Hercules checked every door as they progressed, but all the cells were empty. They would never put their star performer in with everyone else that fought in the games but they hoped that the promise of freedom would loosen lips amongst the others imprisoned here. Eventually they stumbled upon an open area strikingly similar to the lodgings they were imprisoned in before the Bull leaping. Hercules and Melis hung back to watch the corridor as Gelon and Pythagoras quietly attracted the attention of the closest prisoner. “Who are you?” he hissed, looking cautiously at Gelon.
“We are soldiers from Atlantis, looking for our king and happy to aid anyone that offers us the same kindness,” Gelon replied quietly, holding the key up to the bars.
“Jason’s really the king?” the prisoner frowned but got to his feet, hobbling over to them. “I thought that was always a con to bring more spectators. He doesn’t act like a king,” the man continued, he was clearly injured in the way he moved but when he stepped out into the light it looked like there should be no blood left in his body. Pythagoras gagged as he realised that all that blood wasn’t his.
“Much to the bane of his wife,” Pythagoras joked to try and calm his stomach.
“They take him to a private cell just down the corridor. All these men want freedom as much as you want your king back. Just open the door and we will help you back out of the city,” their helper, kicked the bed of the man next to him and he was quickly dispatched to wake all the others.
“Thank you for your aid sir, what’s your name?” Gelon asked, unlocking the cell.
The shaking had faded but when they were herding everyone of the cell it returned with a new force. Rocks were tumbling from the ceiling and cracks were breaking the smooth surface of the walls. Achilles had rounded up all the prisoners that could fight and armed them. Those who couldn’t were with Pythagoras and Melis getting out near the exit so they could leave quickly. He was almost Jason-esque in his leadership of this ragtag army. Hercules and Gelon went with Achilles to retrieve Jason from his prison. With the guide of an observant fellow prisoner, finding Jason was a lot easier than any of them could have anticipated. There were some more secure cells clearly for the distinguished prisoners but only one seemed to be locked. There was no guard, which surprised them all but again made it easier. Gelon unlocked the door and wrenched it open.
Jason was upside down. Hercules was stood in the doorway to the cell staring at the back of Jason’s mop of brown curls as the king was hanging from a chain. His ankles were wrapped around the chain and he seemed to be lifting himself up and dropping himself to put pressure on it. The persistent shaking was weakening the ceiling and Jason looked to be using that to free himself. “Jason,” Hercules hissed and Jason spun his body around on the chain.
“Hercules,” the kid grinned, dropping down to the floor with a stumble. “Thank the gods you are here. Predicted the damn thing but didn’t plan the getting out part,” he panted. Jason had looked a lot more stable in the arena at the end of his fight. Bruises were dappled along his jaw line and the blood that had marred his features in the arena still remained. As he stepped towards the duo, Jason was limping and his body was slightly crumpled. Despite Hercules’ forward planning, they could not reply on Jason’s sword. The building continued to rumble and crack around them. Gelon hurried over to try all the keys into the manacles on Jason’s wrists and startled him on approach. “Hey, have we met?” Jason asked squinting at Gelon’s face.
“Gelon sir, of the royal guard. I am escorting your friends on order of the queen,” he explained finding a key that fitted and releasing Jason’s arms.
“Good, good, good,” Jason murmured with his voice fading away with each word. As soon as the steady chain was no longer taking the burden of Jason’s weight he folded at the waist and narrowly managed to remain upright, his arms shot out to balance his body. There was something not right. Hercules passed the sword to Jason hesitantly when the monarch refused his arm in aid. Taking a deep breath to steel himself, Jason stood upright and powered to the door. Achilles was stood in the corridor looking nervously at the ceiling which was become decreasingly structurally sound as the trembling increased. Jason’s eyes flitted over the other man but clearly didn’t see the pressing importance of more introductions. His eyes did widen and Hercules had to dodge as despite being unsteady Jason spun on his heels and grabbed something from inside the cell. It was his fake crown. With a weak lopsided smile Jason placed it on his head and set off into the corridor.
“Is he always like that?” Achilles whispered as they followed him at a jog.
Hercules sighed, “Unfortunately, yes.”
As they ran, Hercules could tell Jason was getting weaker but they needed to get out of this building before it crumbled around them. Despite lingering at his shoulder, Jason was not letting Hercules help him. Approaching the end of the corridor they slowed at the sound of voices and the clashing of steel. All four drew their blades and continued their advance. At the entrance where all the others were waiting guards had swarmed; the Atlantean and prisoner army had got themselves out of the way of the debris from the falling building but were barely holding their own. Jason powered out of the door and his diminutive stature meant that initially nobody was any the wiser. Until of course Jason announced his arrival. “Silence!” he shouted, jumping up onto a small wall that surrounded the perimeter. The enemy forces were stunned and gawped up at Jason. “Poseidon has granted me powers beyond your wildest imaginings. If you do not lay down your weapons I will,” Jason paused his tirade, taking a deep hitching breath before he continued, “call the sea to rise and flood your defences.” The conviction in his voice was wavering but as the shaking peaked then dropped away in time with his words the point was made. About half of the enemy guard simultaneously dropped their swords as the sky darkened and they turned to run. Now they outnumbered the locals and Gelon happily lead their forces into battle. Hercules had to lend Jason a hand getting down from the wall, the exertion was not helping his injuries. “Are you done making yourself worse now?” he asked as Jason sagged against the larger man.
“I think I might be,” Jason squinted, taking another raspy breath. “Shall we get out of here?” he asked. Hercules couldn’t agree more.
Ariadne was at a loss. They had heard nothing from Hercules and the travellers and her advisors were constantly pressing for decisions to be made; she could not give up faith in them yet. Alexandros was missing his father too; Ariadne had moved him in to her rooms the night after Jason’s abduction and was frequently woken up by his cries. The only thing that could comfort the young child was the plush jacket Jason always wore on his late night walks round the palace; that would only last for so long if they were forced to continue in this limbo. “Strengthen the guard, recruit if you have to but I want more men on the walls and regular scouts into the woods around,” Ariadne bounced Alexandros up and down on her knee as she spoke. “This could be the prelude to an attack and we will show them that Atlantis is strong even without her king,” her tone brokered no argument and the advisors all nodded along. “What about an offensive ma’am?” one questioned and received Ariadne’s fiery glare in response.
“I will not broker war with an unknown opposition when we do not know what threat it will pose for the king. We wait for word from my scouts and then we strike. Now we prepare,” Ariadne almost snarled and dismissed them all. Alexandros had been watching quietly with a sense that he know how serious these discussions were and he needed to not interfere. Ariadne considered the brief thought he would be a good king but dismissed it. He wouldn't need to be king for a long time. Jason would return to them, she was sure of it.
“Don’t, don’t,” Jason coughed out, tapping Melis on the chest to get their attention.
“What’s wrong sire?” Melis asked, shuffling Jason’s weight to basically carry the monarch with one arm round Jason’s waist and Jason’s arm over his shoulder.
“The beach, it, it’s not safe. Giant wave,” Jason tried to explain but it was clear the words were not coming out. Melis knew of the king’s rumoured powers; he was blessed by the gods, Poseidon in particular, so it was not crazy that he would be making these predictions. It was strange to witness the work of the gods first hand.
“Hercules, we need to head to the mountains. His highness believes there will be a giant wave swallowing the beach path,” Melis shouted to Hercules who was leading the way.
“That means going through the city, is he sure?” Hercules called back, and Melis nodded.
Hercules muttered under his breath at Melis’ response, “why is he always sure when it’s the harder route?” Hercules turned the rag tag group around, sending a scouting party ahead to clear the roads. But as Melis thought, everyone was hiding from the tremors. Melis knew he would be if the fate of his home didn’t rely on his mission. They had only reached the top of the city where it leaded to the mountains when a roar echoed off the stone walls that surrounded them. Their progress stopped. Melis turned slowly to face down the path they had traipsed up, even though he had a strong suspicion of what he would see. Blue. The ocean had risen as the king had twice predicted and flooded through the beach and the lower town; exactly where they would have been if King Jason had not been given the sight. “Thank the gods,” Melis gasped as they watched the mesmerising waves.
“Screw the gods, I have to do everything on my own,” Jason murmured under his breath with a pained frown. Melis’ eyes shot wide, Jason was blessed why would he damn his sponsors. If it was Poseidon’s will for them to dodge the waves then they should be thankful for his benevolence. “Let’s keep moving,” Jason suggested and that snapped all the others out of their awe-struck trances.
“You heard the king,” Hercules shouted and everyone resumed the monotonous march.
They didn’t dare stop in any towns even though all eyes would be on the damaged city. Hercules was leading the march but only had eyes for Jason. Now two men were needed to hold him up and despite his best attempts to hold a friendly conversation, he seemed distant and frequently forgot the thread of the conversation he had instigated. “What is this sub you keep speaking of sir?” Melis questioned as he hauled Jason’s arm further onto his shoulders.
“I keep forgetting you lot don’t know what that means,” Jason chuckled. Enough was enough, if he was back talking about that confounding ‘sub’ again there was something worse going on.
“We’ll rest for the night,” Pythagoras ordered with a knowing look at Hercules, they had both come to the same conclusion. Jason couldn’t walk any further. When the whole group was secluded into a cavern, Hercules called over the two trusted soldiers.
“We need to find a cart or a horse for the king, he will not survive if we continue in this manner,” Hercules stated to the two concerned soldiers. “Scout ahead and bring something back. I don’t care how much it costs or if you have to take it. By first light we must be moving,” Melis and Geron hurried away as Pythagoras tended to Jason’s injuries. There was still a long way until friendlier soils.
The trusted duo returned with a cart strapped to two horses in record time, telling for the less than honourable methods they had used to acquire it, and the next morning they were moving again. Hercules was driving the cart, Geron leading the march and both Melis and Achielles were riding in the back with the stricken king as extra protection. Jason had fallen asleep as Pythagoras had been treating him and was in and out of consciousness all the way through the night and their ride so far. It was possible to get back to Atlantis over land, it would take longer but be less noticeable, so they continued to march. When he was awake, Jason kept mutter about something called pneumonia and something called concussion. Pythagoras recognised the second word as an aliment from when Jason hailed from when there was a injury to the brain that caused loss of balance and confusion; they assumed the other was another condition; Pythagoras didn’t often trust Jason to look after himself when he was hurt but it seemed like the reckless royal had reached the limit of his own mental immortality and understood the severity.
Araidne was informed as soon as the cart was approaching the city. Hercules’ message had reached them safely and the guards on the wall were on high alert. Hercules and Pythagoras had left with two men and it looked like they had tripled their numbers in the time away. However Ariadne only had eyes for one; his signature brown curls could be seen over the sides of the cart as it approached the castle. She had been concerned that Jason’s arrival in such a fashion would spark even more rumour but as Gelon had reported, the king appeared to be unrecognisable as he was hunched over and wrapped in an old cloak. Ariadne set off at an unladylike sprint only taking a moment to call for Talisha to bring Alexandros into the square in front of the palace. Jason had been missing for two months now and is she knew her husband as well as she thought she did then he would want to see his son as soon as possible. Ariadne arrived at the doors as the raggedy band stumbled into the square. “Your highness,” Pythagoras smiled softly approaching her before she could reach the cart.
“You made it!” she whispered breathily embracing him.
“We did, but Ariadne,” Ariadne knew everything was not okay as soon as Pythagoras elected to use her name instead of any title. “Jason isn’t well. It’s going to take him a while to be back to fighting form. But just don’t push anything with him; on the journey he seemed to come to terms with his limitations,” Pythagoras explained as Ariadne watched Jason be helped down from the cart but a man she had never met before.
“Thank you for all you have done for him, for us,” Ariadne nodded, giving Pythagoras a peck on the cheek before heading over to her husband.
Jason had never been so happy to see the sun hitting the sea outside Atlantis. Washing up there after his sub went down was the best thing that ever happened to him but returning now and seeing the waves lapping up on the shore when there had been times in that arena the hope had flickered, it pulled at his heart. Ariadne was just over that hill in the looming palace that consumed the horizon. So was his son, his little Alex. Running a hand nervously through his curls, it finally registered how dirty he was when his fingers caught on snags immediately. “Herc?” Jason slapped on the side of the cart to attract his friend’s attention. He didn’t want to shout, Pythagoras had theorised that there was something irritating his lungs, even with Jason’s limited modern world medical knowledge he believed it was most likely to be pneumonia. Even in the 21st century people died from pneumonia, there was no other illness that would show Jason his mortality like it. So he had promised himself that he would rest, he would look after his wounds; which definitely startled his mother hen Pythagoras. The concussion probably also helped his restful mood as even looking at the sun reminded him of the head trauma he had suffered.
“Jason, what’s wrong?” Hercules came over and walked alongside the slow-moving cart.
“Nothing, nothing I was just wondering if we had any spare water so that I could have a little clean up,” Jason asked, gesturing up and down his bandaged and bruised body.
“Before you see the queen again?” Hercules teased playfully but reached up into the saddle bags of Pythagoras’ horse and pulled out a nearly full bottle. Jason blushed slightly but still took the water. Leaning over the side of the cart Jason poured the water slowly on his forehead, letting it pour through his hair while carding his fingers through to ease out the knots. On the list of things he missed from his old home, shampoo was pretty near the top; everyone always joked about his curls but they were so much worse when only washed with water. The feeling of having the dirt and dried blood washed away was making him feel much more like the Jason of old.
Atlantis had not changed, and in Jason’s weakened state that irritated him. Then the fact that irritated him, made Jason feel guilty. He never did cope well with injury, and resting to heal, but this was worse than anything before. The streets were empty, according to their messenger Ariadne had put the city on curfew since Jason’s abduction, so only the guards lined the road that Jason’s retinue were traipsing down. The raggedy group of soldiers were still clothed in their stolen armour and were walking wearily. Achilles had jumped up onto the back of the cart a few miles back under the pretence of keeping Jason company but it was clear that the real reason was due to his leg. Another thing that worried Jason; everyone knew the myth back in the UK and Jason had became good friends with the star of that story. All the other legends that he had encountered hadn’t gone as expected, even his own adventure on the Argo wasn’t as he was taught in school. He hoped that Achilles didn’t have the one fatal flaw Jason knew. The fact his leg was his only injury worried Jason but it wasn’t anything life threatening. “Have you ever been to Atlantis before?” Jason asked as they trundled on.
“Never but it is a beautiful place you have got here,” Achilles grinned back over his shoulder.
“Think you are gonna stay?” Jason asked again, failing to be subtle about his line of questioning.
“I might do if there is a job waiting for me,” Achilles winked over his shoulder with a smirk.
“Dude, you can have whatever job you want,” Jason laughed hoarsely. The cart rattled over the cobbled streets and Jason smiled up at the place he called home for so long. Pythagoras’ old house still loomed over the streets. The feeling of being home intensified and so did the desire to see Ariadne and Alexandros.
They arrived at the palace to joyed greeting from the palace guard and the royal advisors. Hercules calmly took charge ordering for room to me made in the barracks for their new friends. That left Jason to gather his strength and his thoughts. “Need a hand?” Achilles, who had hopped down onto the tiled floor, offered his hand to the weakened king.
“Thank you,” Jason nodded shuffling over and using the cart walls as well as Achilles’ hand to ease himself to the floor. He vaguely noticed Pythagoras was no longer fussing over him and once he had regained his balance Jason looked around. He laid eyes on the one he missed more than anything; Ariadne was just as radiant as the angel she had been in his dreams; Pythagoras had directed her attention and Jason knew he was the topic of their discussion.
“That’s another beautiful thing in this kingdom there,” Achilles joked, bringing Jason back down to the situation at hand. The hero had already looped his arm around Jason’s chest and Jason gratefully accepted the man’s offer to use him as a crutch. His ribs were still tender and keeping weight off his abused leg was a priority. Ariadne’s eyes burned holes through him as he finally became the full target of his attention. Moving much faster than he could, Ariadne raced towards them and wrapped Jason in a warm embrace.
Pythagoras had not been exaggerating when he described Jason’s condition. Seeing him being held up to even walk pulled at Ariadne’s heart strings. She also didn’t recognise the man her husband was using for support, but Jason must trust him and therefore she trusted him. “Jason,” Ariadne whispered breathily as she threw herself into his arms. The first thing she noticed is that he was warm, too warm implying he was still plagued by a fever. Jason was known in these parts for bouncing back quickly from injury. Her heart twisted with the thought of what he must have been through when he was not by her side.
“Ariadne,” he replied with a smile and a soft kiss to her cheek as she hugged him.
“You’re back. I feared I would never see you again,” her voice picked up in intensity when the hug ended and Jason had to grip onto her arm to stand upright. His follower had stepped to the side to allow the monarchs some time alone but was clearly watching and ready to step in if Jason needed his help.
“I feared the same my love but your rescue party did their job well,” Jason smiled but the little colour there had been was draining from his cheeks.
“Let’s get you inside, your friend can assist,” Ariadne waved in his direction.
“How rude of me, Achilles meet Queen Ariadne, Ariadne meet Achilles,” Jason waved him hand in a vague back and forth manner as Achilles took Jason’s weight and straightened up.
“It’s an honour to meet you your highness,” Achilles lowered his head.
“The same for you. And I wish to thank you for bringing my husband home safe,” Ariadne also nodded her head out of respect to this warrior before Jason began the slow travel into the palace.
“No,” Jason stated as soon as the first idea was introduced. It has been a week since Jason’s return to Atlantis and this was the first time he had left their chambers. A war council had been planned to discuss the response to Jason’s kidnapping and the advisors had clearly not anticipated Jason to be so stubborn; they clearly didn’t know him too well.
“But your highness, this is an affront that we cannot afford to go unpunished,” General Naoki exclaimed but Jason was not to be swayed.
“The city was destroyed and it will take then years to rebuild. I will not waste men on a war that would be redundant in the end anyway. There will be another way,” in a way his determination was backed up and supported by the bruises that mottled the side of his head and the sling protecting his injured shoulder. It reminded all present that it wasn’t only an insult to the city; it was personal for the monarch.
“The gods have punished them on our behalf,” Hercules added, and Jason agreed. He frequently forgot that natural phenomenon was always seen as work of the gods and no other argument would sway the Atlanteans.
“Who are we to go against the work of the gods. I propose we simply, refuse aid and cut of their routes of trade?” Ariadne suggested, Jason was reminded once again why he had fallen for this woman. “It will teach them we will not forget but deem the work of the gods to be better than war,” she continued and no arguments were put forth. “Melis, please spread the word to the traders and our ships,” she requested but everyone knew the queen’s requests were demands presented in a polite manner. Melis rose from the table and bowed as he left.
“We also have to deal with the matter of the soldiers that returned with me from Kamerios,” Jason brought the matter forward before everyone prepared to leave.
“They will be offered positions in our forces or a means of leaving or work if they choose not to fight,” Hercules contributed, he trusted the men and knew Jason did too.
“I want Achilles on my guard. There are few people I trust more to have my back.”
“Consider it done,” Hercules smiled and finally the meeting was brought to a close.
The next week saw Jason taking to the streets once more. He knew of Ariadne’s displeasure at his decision, but Jason was never one to back down from a challenge. Ariadne’s displeasure was also the reason her and Alexandros had elected to join him. An united front in the public eye was the reason she voiced for their group excursion but it was also likely that she wanted to keep an eye on both him and Alexandros at the same time. Jason smiled as they walked the horses down from the palace. The sun was warm on his face and for the first time since his fights in the games Jason felt back to full strength, with his family by his side.