The Archer, by Camilla

Chapter 5 – Colchis/Epilogue

Notes

Chapter 5 combines the end of the story with the epilogue. Well, I told you it was a rather short one. It is therefore you last chance to tell me something. I strayed far from my beloved vampires, yet I hope that I remained true to the spirit of Twilight.

Στᾶθι κἄντα φίλοσ,...
καὶ τὰν ἔπ᾽ ὄσσοισ ἀμπέτασον χάριν.

Face me, beloved...and unveil the grace in thine eyes.

Previously in Chapter 4

I don't know how long I have… how long we have. Kallia, some divinity took pity on me and granted me my heart's desire. But I want it only if I can share this body with you. Will you allow me?"

Kallia awoke. The lamp was still glowing. Like in the dream she had had hours before, she was lying with a man, his warm leg brushing hers. Alexios had become a full man and had loved her with his body. Remembering, she shivered in pleasure and awe. She still did not know how this could have happened, but one thing he had told her: it was not permanent. But he was still here, naked, perfect and so handsome…

Admiring his long, strong legs she let her eyes roam higher and higher and desire overtook her. Surprised but not daunted by her own lust, she straddled his legs and resumed doing what she had done the evening before, when her caresses had set him on fire and compelled him to run away. And there was so much more of him to go over, now.

Under his thick lashes Alexios was watching her, becoming very aroused, but not moving. He felt his new body belonged to her, and she was free to do what she wanted with it. Her wandering hands explored the planes of his chest, trailing downward, tracing the V ending at his pelvis … then her mouth joined her hands, and her tongue…was laving the trail of hair leading to his manhood and, oh gods, her hand was there, stroking him.

Such a delight… he could not believe it. She looked very intent as her hand moved, her pearly teeth worrying her soft lower lip… Alexios realized that if she went on much longer, he would find his release in this way. He moved, so that he could sit, leaning on the wall, then placed his hands on her hips and raised her, positioning her over his straining erection. With a little moan she sank on him. He let her do most of the work, at first, devoting himself to her breasts and hardening nipples, kissing, licking, sucking, basking in her sounds of pleasure, till he could wait no more and started moving...

Deeply satisfied and tightly embracing they slept again, until the sun was high. Alexios found himself still a man after so many hours, something good to know. Looking at his beautiful lover he thought that he would never let her go now, she was his, he had made her his and, if Eugeneia was right, he would be able to give her children. Normal, human children, and afterward…

It was then that realization hit him; other concerns had kept this one obvious thing out of his mind: he had been alive for more than one hundred winters. Chiron had been living for centuries when, hit by a poisoned arrow, he had relinquished the immortality bestowed on him by hisfather Kronos, accepting death. The memory still pained Alexios, he had been the last of Chiron's pupils and had witnessed his passing.

But the point was, of course, that centaurs had a very long life and humans did not. His Kallia would get old and die after a puny handful of years… He had hated the idea of his bleak longevity, but now he would have loved it, if only he could share it with her. Zeus, what would he do, how could he survive when she was no more? Their children, if they were so blessed, would also grow old and die before him... No, he was not going to allow it. He would seek his own destruction and hemlock would serve him perfectly, when the time came. A horse dosage, he snorted to himself.

Kallia stirred. She should not know what he was planning, though. He wanted her to be joyous, today of all days; he would keep from her his morbid thoughts. Plus, he felt his legs becoming heavier by the minute. Imagining what was going to happen he rushed out of the hut, waiting for the metamorphosis, which was quick and, again, not painful at all.

Now was the time to tell Kallia what had passed. He went to her; she was fully awake now, and wondering about his absence. Seeing him again as a centaur saddened her, but she did not say anything. Alexios reclined near the bed and finally told her the previous day's events.

When he had finished, she was silent for a long time, marveling at what she had heard and incredibly happy. So he could become a man again and again, and they would have children and be together all their life. How fortunate that he had saved the Dryad's tree and the nymph had been grateful to him! That "all their life" meant something different for her and for him never crossed her mind.

Alexios rose.

"Come, beloved, our nuptials await." He removed the copper mirror from the wall and took it with him, then, putting her on his back, he went into the forest.

"When Chiron married," he said, "gods and goddesses witnessed the rite, he told me. We can't have that, but there is at least one person I want to be present."

Eugeneia was waiting for them in the little clearing among ancient trees.

"Welcome," she said, waving her hands, "but a bride must have a veil … come, little darlings."

A swarm of white butterflies flew down from the sky, stopping above the head of Kallia, who was now standing alongside her groom. The pretty insects remained together in formation, their shimmering wings barely fluttering. No bride had ever had such a beautiful veil, the princess thought.

Alexios knelt and gave the copper mirror to the Dryad, who, without visible effort, kept it high in front of them, reflecting their solemn faces. The centaur took Kallia's hand in his and placed them both on the mirror.

And then he spoke, reciting:

Golden-throned, immortal Aphrodite,

Daughter of Zeus, Enchantress, I implore thee,

Spare me, O queen, this agony and anguish,

Crush not my spirit

Come then, I pray, grant me surcease from sorrow,

Drive away care, I beseech thee, O goddess

Fulfill for me what I yearn to accomplish,

Be thou my ally,

When I, Alexios, touching your sacred metal,

With Eugeneia of the Oak as our witness,

Take this woman, Kallisté of Kleonai,

To be my wedded wife and mother of my children

Until death will us part.

Despite his prayer, saying the last line almost crushed him. Pressing his bride to his chest, burying his head between her neck and her shoulder, he could barely contain his anguish. Death would surely part them, early, too early…

"Stop this immediately, Centaur," the Dryad scolded, while the princess' gaze moved from one to the other in great puzzlement. "So, instead of rejoicing because you have married the woman you love, you are thinking to end yourself when she dies? Is this that you want me to See?" (And here Kallia gave a little cry.)

"Fool, the future is not set in stone," Eugeneia added severely, "you can change it, if you are willing and brave, if you have faith…

"How? How can I change her lifespan length?"

"It will not be easy, but you can do it. You'll have to cross the Pontus Sea, live with people you don't know, who speak no Greek, who will fear and distrust you. Because there, in Colchis, concealed among many, there is a Spring. Those who found it called it the Fountain of Youth. Your reciprocal love is strong enough for this quest. Go now, take your bride to Colchis, Alexios."

Epilogue

Hidden at the feet of the Kaskar mountains the valley had no name, its inhabitants few and unadventurous. Mostly, they were content with their lot, as the soil of their fields was rich enough and, not needing much, they wanted for nothing. More so now that they had a healer with them, who took good care of any illness. He had arrived a few years before with his beautiful wife and settled in, building a small house some distance from the village. Near it he had planted a herb garden. The couple spoke a language different from theirs, a language that one of their elders recognized as Greek. The elder, Aeetes, had been a rebellious youth and had run away, to come back years later, a broken man. He had fought in wars they did not know anything about and, captured by enemies, he had become a slave and had been branded on his left shoulder. However, he had managed to escape and find his way home, bringing back in his mind the language of his masters.

The healer had been terrifying, at the beginning. Children had run home telling that they had seen him galloping on a horse; Only, he was not riding the horse, he was part of it, they said. The bravest among their parents had spied on the stranger and saw that the children had told the truth, albeit he often walked on human legs. A meeting was called and they did not know what to do, when the former slave informed them that the creature was a centaur, half man and half horse, that is. The Greeks believed such beings existed and he had seen them reproduced on the beautiful vases his masters owned. The centaur was supposed to have untold powers, so they had not the courage to try and kill him or drive him away. Plus, his wife was visibly pregnant and people felt compassion for her. In any case he was armed with a bow and it was obvious that he could inflict heavy damage with it.

An uneasy truce was formed when the visitor came to the village offering some animals he had hunted. With the help of the elder who knew Greek, he explained that he wanted to barter the meat with other items and a deal was struck, as the villagers craved meat and had not enough of it. The centaur, whose name was Alexios, asked Aeetes to come every day and teach him and his wife the language spoken in the valley. He proposed to pay for his lessons with more meat and the elder agreed. The couple's progress in learning was swift.

Then one day a little boy, son of the village chief, fell from a tree and broke his leg. An ugly break that would have surely left him crippled. Alexios, first one to happen on the accident, set the boy's leg carefully and treated him so well that the boy eventually was able to walk without limping. After that, people started seeking the centaur when they were ill, and found him to be an extraordinary healer.

When his wife's time was ripe, their relationship with the villagers had improved so much that the local midwife came to give a hand, but the healer was up to the task, helping Kallia to deliver a perfect baby girl.

So, today, a woman was waiting for the centaur, because he was not at home. His wife, heavily pregnant again, sat on a table outside, making poultices of some of the herbs and seeds she and her husband grew or collected. Their little girl played with her doll, sitting on the grass. Alexios' absence was not unusual, almost every month he disappeared for a few days, followed by his faithful dog Argos. When he came back he resumed his normal duties, but he always looked very sad for a while. Being told that he would probably be back today, the villager waited.

The healer was gentle and caring, she mused, he really was not scary at all. She had whispered to his wife about her womanly ailments and had been encouraged to speak with him, overcoming her shame. And now she felt better, the herbal brews he gave her leaves for were working and she had come to ask him how to continue. At dusk they saw him trotting toward them. Argos was not preceding him and barking his homecoming joy as usual; in fact the dog was nowhere to be seen. Instead, the smiling centaur had a puppy in his arms, a puppy with the same tawny coloring of the older dog. His wife ran to him and quick sentences were exchanged.

Had the woman known Greek, this is what she would have heard:

"Alexios, where is Argos?"

"This is Argos, Kallia. I found the spring!"

_ END _

Notes

Well, that's it, dears, my mythological fantasy tale ends here. I hope you liked it and will send me some love. Reviews are my only reward for the passion and research I put in my stories …

This story is posted also on Twilighted net (Camilla is my pen name). There, I have decorated each chapter with a beautiful image, and the banner is also nice. So, if you want, you can go there and see them. I have not yet figured out how to create a link in my home page. (Don't miss Alexios looking at himself in a mirror! Mmm).

I have been intentionally vague about Chiron's death, as the details did not fit well in my story. According to the myth, he was accidentally hit by Heracles with a poisoned arrow. The wound was incurable, and unbearably painful, so Chiron voluntarily relinquished his immortality and died. However, instead of being consigned to Hades, he was given a place amongst the stars by Zeus as the constellation Sagittarius or Centaurus.

The wedding. Judging by the ancient Greeks attitude to women in general, I can only suppose that brides had not a big role during the ceremony, nor anything to say, just being handed over while blushing modestly under their veils. So don't flame me with feminist wrath: those were the mores of the time and place, much as they may displease you (and me). In any case, what Alexios does is due to my imagination, as I have no idea on how a wedding ceremony was, in archaic times. I only know that there was a lot of propitiatory poetry recited or sung. The first two stanzas of the poem Alexios recites are from Sappho's Hymn to Aphrodite. Copper was Aphrodite's metal, of course

Among the many legends about the fountain of youth (a spring, in fact) I choose the ones related to Alexander the Great. They place it in Colchis, modern Abkhazia that is, a country reclaimed but not controlled by Georgia. The Pontus Sea we call now the Black Sea. Colchis was a land of ancient magic, according to the Greeks. Medea, the witch princess who married Jason the Argonaut, was from there.

I had the whim to call the dog Jakob (an Hebrew name used by the Greeks too), but I refrained…

Surely Alexios will need to experiment a while with the magic water before trying it on Kallia. He wouldn't want to make a little girl of her, LOL!

Finally, I have a story to recommend: YULETIDE CANTICLE by Belli486, AU with vampires, a slightly darker Edward.