AN: First off, I'd like to say that this makes me extremely proud of myself. Not because I think it's my best work (it's definitely not), but because it was written in January. Half a year ago. And if I do say myself, I know I could write it exponentially better now. But I'm not going to, because this is where my writing was when I wrote it, and the difference between my style then and now would be weird if I tried to mix the two.
Since you probably don't care much about that, I'll start talking about the fic itself. Yes, it started off as something for English class. Assignment: Add an adventure. This one takes place in book 15, when Pisistratus has just dropped Telemachus off at the port of Pylos. Telemachus is preparing his crew to return to Ithaca. I've invented my own monster, the Thirotios. There used to be a paragraph at the end explaining what happens afterwards, but it was dryer than bone and killed the mood, so it disappeared. Anyway, the first few lines are from the Fagles '96 translation. Enjoy, and please leave a review.
His shipmates snapped to orders,
swung aboard and sat to the oars in ranks.
But just as Telemachus prepared to launch,
praying, sacrificing to Pallas by the stern…
Telemachus caught sight of a dancing ball of fire at the edge of a nearby forest.
"Keep preparing the ship," he called to his crew, "I'll be back soon." None of them saw the floating fire. If they had, they might have warned him. Somewhere in the back of his mind, Telemachus knew that he should stay with the ship and ignore the strange light, but he was entranced by its beauty and mystery.
The prince ran after the light into the trees. Although it was high noon, the forest was dark as midnight, and the only illumination was the ball of fire. There was no sound but the pounding of his own heart in his chest, his ragged breathing, and his quick, sharp footsteps. It was as if everything had died. Had Telemachus taken the time to look closely, he would have seen that even the trees were the color of ashes, cloaked in a layer of the silent, suffocating darkness. Telemachus sprinted deeper into the forest, legs burning and eyes trained on the light. All thought was gone from his mind, and a foreign, unnatural yearning to capture the bobbing orb replaced any reason. He needed the light. He could not live without it. It was always floating just a few feet in front of him, encouraging him to run faster and taunting him when he could not.
After what felt like days of running, Telemachus was able to discern another, larger glow penetrating the black forest. The first orb, gaining speed, drew him towards the new light. The prince hurtled towards the lights, nearly insane from both the eerie forest and his irrational need for the fire. The trees were thinning, although he did not notice, and both glows were getting hotter and brighter as they neared each other. The small orb shot ahead, becoming a part of the larger one. Telemachus sprinted towards the glow into a clearing in the trees and skidded to an abrupt halt, gazing up in horror.
Before him stood a terrible beast made of fire, crouching in the scorched gap in the forest. It had long, muscular legs like a lion's and leathery skin the color of dried blood on an ancient stone altar. Its talons were sharper than any bronze blade, and it was covered in long spikes just as deadly. The barbed tail danced with flames as it lashed like a whip. Its eyes flickered with the eternal fires of the Underworld. With every noxious breath that escaped its teeth that were as black as stone, a column of blazing flame erupted. Though the creature gave off a harsh glow, its very being seemed to be formed out of the evil and desperation of an endless pit leading to the Underworld.
All the strange longing had drained out of the prince, leaving behind only fear and dread. He recognized the beast from stories from his childhood. It was the Thirotios. No hero had ever destroyed it. The monster had burned them all to death, driven the heroes mad, or eaten them—and sometimes, all three. The monster was unbeatable. The Thirotios stared straight at Telemachus, growling, a grisly snarl fixed on its face. Then, suddenly, it pounced.
Telemachus barely had time to draw his sword from its sheath. Just as the monster landed on top of him, he brought the bronze blade up in an arc, slicing off a few of the flaming spikes. He pushed the Thirotios off of him and rolled away, coming up a mere ten yards from the beast, which was crouching again, preparing to strike. Telemachus was breathing hard and already injured, not even a minute into the fight. The monster's talons had dug into his chest, leaving lacerations that stung every time he moved. His clothes smoldered and burned his skin.
Fury filled the prince and he charged, letting out a fierce battle cry. The monster snarled and jumped to the side, skidding on the loose rocks. Before Telemachus could recover, the Thirotios pounced again and slammed him to the ground on his side. His head cracked painfully against a stone, making his vision go blurry. He blindly shoved his sword upwards. The blade clanged against a talon that was raised to strike and pierced the side of the monster. It shrieked in pain and lashed its barbed, flaming tail across his face. The monster rolled off, giving Telemachus the opportunity to scramble to his feet.
There was no way he could defeat the Thirotios by pure force. He was inexperienced, despite the heroic blood that ran through his veins, or, more accurately, soaked his tunic. He already had burns covering his body, and there was something warm and sticky saturating his hair. His face was cut and burned were the monster's tail had hit him. If he continued to fight, he would die. He had no doubts about that. He needed a plan.
Telemachus turned and ran into the forest, making sure to choose the narrowest path possible. The Thirotios crashed after him, but it was slowed slightly by the trees blocking it. For his plan to work, Telemachus needed the monster to be able to follow him, but he definitely didn't want to be caught. The strange race continued through the black forest. The trees started to thin, and suddenly he came to a cliff overlooking the port. Looking behind him quickly to check that the monster was close, Telemachus jumped into the sea. The Thirotios came to the same spot only seconds later and hurtled off the steep face with a shriek, unable to control its momentum.
The man and the monster crashed into the surf on top of each other in a cloud of white bubbles. Enormous waves roared over Telemachus as he struggled towards the surface. He came up gasping for air and looked around wildly for the Thirotios. It had latched onto one of the nearby rocks, desperately trying to escape the water. The monster's flames were extinguished, just as Telemachus planned.
The prince quickly swam towards the monster before it could climb onto the rock. He grabbed its hide and pulled it into the water with all his might. The Thirotios struggled ferociously, clawing and snarling, but the monster kept choking on the seawater. It could not even muster a spark and was clearly terrified without its greatest weapon.
Telemachus drew the dagger strapped to his belt, the blade given to him at birth by his father. Still keeping a firm grasp on the monster, he stabbed between its ribs, piercing the heart. The Thirotios shrieked and writhed in agony, wrestling against its conqueror until it finally became still.
Telemachus swam back to shore, hauling the dead monster with him. He was shaking from exhaustion and each breath burned in his chest. The prince crawled onto the beach, dropped the body of the Thirotios, and collapsed on the sand.