In Search Of Calamus
By Edward C., Garnet Valley, PA
In Search Of Calamus“Your majesty, I have come to bring you news of the rebellions,” a young messenger blurted while kneeling on one knee with his head down.
Surrounding the messenger were 5 royal guards, twice the size of him, on each side. They were each dressed in golden chainmail crafted by the finest craftsmen in all of Greece. Even the tapestries and the dome-shaped room the guards were in seemed to be chiseled by the best.
King Adonis, slouching a bit in his oversized golden chair, sniffled, “Is *cough* it *cough* bad?”
King Adonis was breathing rather heavily and constantly coughed in between words. His health had seemed to be declining ever since the Rebels started an uprising against him in Athens.
“Your majesty, I am deeply sorry to inform you that the Rebels have burned down yet another temple,” stuttered the nervous messenger.
There were only 3 temples in all of Athens. As of now, the Rebels have burned down 2 of them as a symbol of resistance to the King’s rule.
King Adonis sighed and then quickly went into a coughing fit. Aristides, the King’s only son, motioned for the messenger to leave with a quick wave of his hand before going to the King’s aid.
“Father, you must rest. Your health has been declining for weeks now. You have been getting worse. Please rest or else the city will be in ruins,” Aristides reasoned while handing his father a napkin.
King Adonis finally gave in and agreed to go rest. Later that night, a storm suddenly formed over the palace and rain began pouring down like bucketfuls of water. As Aristides was just about to sleep, one of the maids rushed into his room breathing heavily.
“Prince Aristides! Your father is coughing up blood and is trembling and sweating profusely!” the maid stammered with a look of horror on her face.
Aristides immediately rushed to his father’s room to find his mother, Queen Antheia, and a few of the best doctors in all of Greece beside his father’s bed.
One of the lead doctors stood up and faced Aristides with a grave face, “Prince Aristides, your father’s health is in grave danger right now. I have never seen this disease before, and have only heard of it in stories. This is a deadly situation. I am sorry to say he may not live much longer.”
Aristides immediately began shaking and stuttered, “Is there really no cure to this wretched sickness?”
The same doctor thought for a moment. His forehead then wrinkled up before finally mentioning, “Well, there is one way. According to the legends, above Mount Olympia there is an herb called Calamus that may only grow in that high altitude. If I can somehow get that herb, I may be able to brew a potion to cure your father.”
Mount Olympia is the highest mountain in all of Europe. No man has ever successfully climbed it before. Some have tried, but none have ever come back.
Without hesitation, Aristides interjected, “I’ll do it.”
By the next afternoon, Aristides was already scaling the rocks of the lowest part of Mount Olympia. As Aristides slowly outstretched his unusually muscular arms, he kept envisioning the pain his father was currently going through which provided a motivational force that propelled him upward. In preparation for this life-threatening trip, Aristides had worn one of the finely crafted armor plates the royal guards usually wear. On his back hung a large sack filled to the brim with bread and water. For protection, Aristides remembered to carry with him a large saber and a small pocket knife. Each push up the mountain brought forth sounds of metal scraping as his saber swung back and forth grinding against the gigantic boulders.
After what seemed to be hours later, Aristides’ whole body began to start shaking from pain. Each time Aristides stretched upwards to gain a holding of another rock, his arms seemed to scream in pain to him causing him to wince in anguish while his long, brown locks of hair blew all over the place from the incessant winds. Finally, after one more pull upwards, Aristides reached a small clearing in the mountain. He hauled his sack of food off of him before collapsing onto the rocks glazed with a thin layer of ice beneath him. As he ate one of the large royal pieces of bread with him, he gazed upwards at the night sky. At this altitude, the sky seemed to be covering him like a blanket filled with stars. Aristides suddenly forgot about all his pain as he intently looked into the night sky and searched. There it was: the brightest star in the sky. Each night, Aristides could see this same star from outside the window of his room – often marveling at its glamour. One thought drifted into another and Aristides eventually began feeling how much he missed home – eventually crying himself to sleep.
*BOOM* *BAM* A sudden trembling of the ground beneath him caused Aristides to jump awake. His frantic, yet weary, eyes darted all around him searching for the source of noise. Somehow, he had not noticed an outsized opening in the wall of the mountain just a few feet to the right of him. *BOOM* *BAM* The same noise sounded again as little rocks flew from the entrance of the cave. Aristides’ heart began pounding as he gripped his saber with his right hand and cautiously walked towards the side of the opening. Slowly, he sneaked a peek into the cave with the intention of pulling back immediately but what he saw seemed to prevent that. In the back of the monstrous-sized cave stood an unimaginably bulky and hefty giant brown creature with his back faced towards Aristides slamming his oversized fists into the cave wall in anger.
“WHY? WHY? WHY?” boomed the giant with a voice as deep as an ocean.
In shock at the thunderous voice of the creature, Aristides quickly jumped back and covered his ears, unknowingly dropping his saber down to his side. *Clink* The giant snapped his grotesque head backwards as he heard the scrape of metal against the rock. In a split second, Aristides noticed what he had caused and gaped at the creature. His mouth dropped open as he realized it was a monster only heard of in myths and stories. The one-eyed Cyclops’ appearance was hideous. His one eye was completely bloodshot and his large gaping mouth had 3 rows of teeth lined with saliva as his uncombed black hair seemed to dangle from the sides of his head.
“WHO?” sounded the Cyclops as he darted towards Aristides with blinding speed.
Before Aristides could even think of escaping, the Cyclops had him gripped tightly in one fist while glaring his yellow teeth at him.
“I-I-I’m sorry! I w-w-was just on my way to climb to the t-t-top of the mountain to collect an herb. I won’t bother you. Please spare me!” Aristides pleaded with tears in his eyes as he winced in pain.
The Cyclops seemed to immediately understand and let his grip loosen completely. The Cyclops straightened back up and then peered at Aristides with a worried face before returning into the cave. Aristides was stunned at the reaction, yet pleased with the response he got. As Aristides glanced at the Cyclops again, he noticed that the Cyclops had rows of giant boulders ahead of him. The hulking giant would grab a boulder with ease and then use a sharper piece of rock to attempt to carve it. After failing miserably and accidentally cracking open countless boulders, the Cyclops pounded the cave wall in disgust.
Aristides felt bad for the creature and croaked, “Sir, do you need some help?”
Immediately, the Cyclops turned back around but this time with a slight smile on his face.
“YES! YES! COME!” the Cyclops bellowed as he waved Aristides over.
“What do you want these boulders to be carved into?”
“ME! ME! I LONELY. NEED COMPANY,” the giant roared as he shook in excitement.
After what seemed to be hours of diligent work, Aristides finally carved a boulder roughly into the shape of the Cyclops with the help of his saber. Upon noticing, the Cyclops beamed a huge smile and then hugged Aristides – which nearly broke all his bones.
“ME THANK YOU!” the Cyclops barked as he carefully picked up the statue and gazed at it.
Aristides felt proud of himself, but then realized he still had a duty to accomplish. Aristides immediately started panicking as he realized he was wasting time and quickly rushed out of the cave, picking up his sack of food, and proceeding on with climbing Mount Olympia.
By this time, Aristides was already at a very high altitude. Clouds seemed to envelope the air around him and the city of Athens below was nowhere to be seen. It was getting more difficult for Aristides to breath but his plentiful childhood experiences with swimming and rock climbing seem to be paying off now.
While reaching his hand to the limit for the next rock above, Aristides noticed what looked like a giant paw hanging over the rock. Out of curiosity, he climbed all the way up from the side and stared in astonishment as before him laid another mystical creature of which he believed could only be experienced through stories – the Sphinx. The gargantuan creature had a head of a beautiful woman, the body of a lion, and the wings of an eagle. It seemed to be sleeping with its head laying down on its paw as Aristides gaped at the sighting. Remembering his father, Aristides scurried behind the Sphinx and proceeded on to the wall. But within a split second, the Sphinx suddenly awoke from its deep slumber and fanned its wings out – showcasing a wingspan that encompassed Aristides’ entire view.
“No man shall dare travel past me until I get a correct answer to this riddle: Which creature walks on four legs in the morning, two legs in the afternoon, and three legs in the evening?” the Sphinx insisted with a voice that seemed to rival the music of the best musicians in Greece.
After a brief moment of being stunned, Aristides thought. During his free time in his childhood, he would often read books detailing Greek mythology secretly for his father would often complain that reading such “fake” stories was a waste of time. The fact is: Aristides had often felt a passion for Greek mythology and believed the stories to be enlightening and interesting, and so he did it. Never did he ever come across the thought that doing so could save his father’s life one day.
“It is a man,” Aristides boldly replied with confidence.
Suddenly, the Sphinx started flapping its greatly outstretched golden wings – preparing for flight. In the meanwhile, Aristides was literally being blown off his feet due to the ferociousness of the wind directed at him. Aristides clenched his fists and feet and held his ground for as long as possible, but nothing seemed to work. By the time the Sphinx had flown off, Aristides had fallen off the edge of the side of that mountain. While falling, Aristides reached out his hand and envisioned all the harmful consequences of him failing this mission. He closed his eyes and thought: this is the end.
*BAM* *Oomf* Aristides suddenly felt an abrupt jolt of pain up his body and realized he had landed on a large piece of rock jutting out of the mountain side.
“Ouch…oh. That hurt,” Aristides muttered as he winced with pain while trying to get up.
Upon opening his eyes in disbelief of his luck, he suddenly jolted upwards as he noticed what was in front of him. Ahead lay what seemed to be a Griffin, a creature in Greek mythology formed by an amalgamation of 2 creatures, the body of a lion, and the wings and head of an eagle. As Aristides gazed at it in disbelief, the Griffin peered up from under its mane with tears flowing from its eyes and a mournful face. Aristides looked around and then suddenly realized that one of the Griffin’s majestic wings was stuck under a giant boulder on the side of the mountain. Realizing that he had little time left, Aristides quickly ran to the Griffin’s aid and pushed on the boulder with all his physical might. After countless tries and numerous painful moans from the Griffin, the boulder still lay there in the same spot. Aristides thought for a moment before pulling out his saber and collecting a few small rocks to place under the boulder as a lever. Careful to not hurt the Griffin, Aristides heaved on the lever with whatever energy he had left when, finally, the boulder tipped over a little and then a little more. It then hit the tipping point and fell all the way down the mountain.
Aristides collapsed down to the floor in exhaustion while the Griffin shrieked with joy and slowly flapped its colossal wings. After a while of celebration, the Griffin gazed at Aristides on the ground and bowed down. For a few moments, Aristides just smiled and stared at the Griffin. Then suddenly, Aristides realized the Griffin was trying to tell him to climb aboard. With renewed energy, Aristides jumped onto the Griffin’s back and with a ferocious might the Griffin jumped up in the air and flew all the way to the top of the mountain in blinding speed.
Upon reaching the destination, Aristides jumped off the Griffin, and thanked it before it flew off again. Without hesitation, Aristides immediately looked around for the herb, Calamus. Well, it wasn’t too hard to find it. All over the mountain top was snow but the Calamus could be found easily since it was the only bright green plant atop the snow. Aristides went around and picked a few handfuls of Calamus before placing them safely into his sack. With renewed spirit, Aristides prepared to climb down again.
All of a sudden, Aristides heard a distant sound of wings flapping. *Whoosh* *Whoosh* As Aristides turned his head to the direction of the noise, he noticed a beast that he often had nightmares about charging straight towards him with its razor sharp teeth glaring at him. It was the Manticore, a mythological creature that possesses the body of a lion and the head of a human with wings of a vampire bat. In a hurry, Aristides quickly grabbed his stuff and jumped down to the nearest rock beneath him. He could hear the beating of the wings coming closer and closer. With his adrenaline pumping, Aristides frantically jumped from rock to rock, constantly darting his eyes back and forth searching for the safest area to land.
With a quick glance, Aristides looked backwards to see the Manticore where he just was a few seconds ago and still charging at him with full speed. All of a sudden, in the corner of his eye Aristides noticed a long patch of grass that seemed to roll down the side of the mountain for a vast distance. Without thinking of the dangers that could be associated with it, Aristides leaped onto the grass and used his plates of armor as a sled. Behind him, the Manticore seemed to pick up its pace as it dived spiraling downwards towards the speeding Aristides. After a while, Aristides realized the Manticore would catch up any second now and rip him up into pieces. He couldn’t just fail the mission right now. Using his quick thinking, Aristides took out his ruby knife, slammed the blade into a nearby patch of grass as hard as he could, and then let his sled change directions before releasing his grip, sending him flying towards a nearby patch of clear rocks to the side of the mountain. Upon collision, Aristides tumbled over himself a couple of times before regaining balance and immediately pulling out his saber. There Aristides stood in his fighting stance when suddenly the Cyclops viciously leaped out of its cave, bared its teeth, and jumped straight towards the Manticore. Aristides just stood there in disbelief as the Cyclops harshly beat the Manticore that simply stood no chance against the brute force of the Cyclops.
After a quick skirmish, the Manticore escaped by flying off as fast as possible while the Cyclops returned to Aristides and gave him a big smile.
“YOU HELP ME. I HELP YOU,” the Cyclops bellowed as he patted Aristides on the back, knocking him forward a bit.
Aristides smiled back and then proceeded on down the last bit of Mount Olympia.
A few days later, Aristides had returned safely back to Athens to a crowd of welcoming people, presented the Calamus herb to the renowned doctor, and then aided his father back to health.
Completely recovered, King Adonis and Queen Antheia then ruled Athens with a firm grip and prevented any further advancement of the rebellions in the city. Prince Aristides soon returned back up Mount Olympia to keep the Cyclops some company, eventually becoming 2 great friends that were different in all aspects.