"Then Circe, that formidable goddess with the beautiful hair and woman's voice sent us the friendly escort of a favorable wind, which sprang up from astern and filed the sail of our blue painted ship"
'Through the night we sailed in the wine dark sea as the island of Aeaea disappeared behind us like a forgotten shadow, but Circe's final warnings still hung in my head. We sailed until I saw that my men were losing energy and each pull of the oars was weaker and weaker. So, I waited until the next island I could see and told my men to take us towards it to sleep for the night. When we arrived on the sandy shore, we ate some of our left over food that the good Circe had given us for our voyage and made sacrifices of wine to the gods, hoping to find more food the next morning.'
The next thing I knew, I was awoken out of my deep, weary sleep by rain pelting down upon us from the gods and a ferocious growl coming from within the nearby forest. As the growl turned into many and they grew closer and closer, me and my men came together and picked up dead branches and stones polished by years of being pushed around by the sea. When I saw the first dog-like dark brown animal, its sheer size and its rippling muscles under its shining coat amazed me. When it opened its mouth, I saw huge, razor sharp teeth, but the eyes were not those of any animal I had ever seen. Clearly they were human. I watched silently and carefully as it slinked out of the woods like a hunter sneaking up on its prey. More followed the first as it raised its paw like a signal and hurried them on. Again, they reminded me more of humans than of animals. I was unable to stop my intake of breath when more and more of the creatures came out of the woods, their tails low and ears back in preparation for the attack. When they finally did attack, it was like an overflowing river coming to flush out a village. I stood up strong with my pointed stick and waited for them to attack me. Instead, the next thing I felt were knives being raked down my back. I spun around to see the huge grey dog's human-like brown eyes meet mine, and I threw my spear with all the strength I could muster. It hit him in the ribs, he yelped before rising and ripping the spear out with his teeth. I became dizzy looking at the blood-soaked beach that so much reminded me of the fierce battle now seeming so long ago in Troy where I had seen my friends die, as the rain poured down upon us. The vicious dogs snarled and my men tried to dodge many attacks at once. I killed many, and watched many get killed, but I knew it was no good; we would never survive such a mass of strong bodies. We were dying.'
'Then, as suddenly as they had come, the dogs retreated, backing into the woods, taking many dead men with them. I looked behind towards the ocean to see what had stopped them and saw dawn rising over the wine dark sea awakening the world with her golden rays. I looked at myself to find much raw skin and deep wounds. My men seemed relieved to see that I had survived even in the state that I was. That day, we held a ceremony for our lost men and gave sacrifices in their name with much of our scarce remaining supplies. We went back to the blue ship and tried to sleep the night, but I knew that the men were in pain and in shock. As I walked around the ship, I saw the shadow of a women standing on the beach, her hair waving in the soft northern breeze. "Odysseus…" she said, her words taking flight and flying to me. I climbed over the side of the ship and went to see the woman. I recognized her at once as the bright-eyed goddess Athene. "Athene?" I said as I approached through the water. "I am here to warn you, my most noble Odysseus, of a terrible fate, for if you don't heal those fatal wounds along your body, you will perish before you reach home along with your men." Athene gestured towards my ship. "There is but one way to heal your gashes, and that is by seeing the famous healer Althaia, for she knows of more medicines then anyone in the world." I took a large breath and asked. "And where does this great woman live, great Athene?" She took a small step back and pointed to the dark woods out of which the dogs had attacked. "On this very island, noble Odysseus, but her home is far in from the shore and the journey is long noble Odysseus and difficult in your condition. But remember Odysseus, you must not give in to the temptations that you will be presented with of else you will all die a terrible fate and never arrive home to your awesome wife who has waited for you this long." I tried to look confident but I know that the bright-eyed Athene saw through my façade. "Good bye noble Odysseus and remember to tell your men of this so that they will be warned." I turned towards the blue ship at the mention of my men and when I returned to Athene, there was nothing but the early morning mist covering the sand caked in blood from the battle that would not fade from my memory.'
'The next morning, as dawn rose fresh and rosy fingered, I told my men of what Athene had said. They became quiet as the sea before a storm as they gathered what little food we had left. When the sun was high in the sky, we set out to find the healer Althaia.'
'Day became evening, and as we trudged on like tired oxen working late into the day, I noticed my good men limping badly and tripping over roots protruding from the dry ground. With the night quickly approaching, I saw a lush meadow, green as the feathers of a quetzal, and thought for a moment of making camp so that we could rest, but Athene's warning echoed in my head and we pushed on, growing with weariness, hunger, and thirst. We had eaten all of the little food we had and were now starving like the scavenging kites1 that flew overhead, waiting for death to take its toll upon our lives, Yet, still, we blundered on, wishing only for the wretched pain of this journey to end. If we had the ability, we would have wept, for our friends, for ourselves but instead, we just continued upon the deer path threw the woods.'
'On the third day, we came out of the trees to find ourselves in a vast desert which seemed to us like an ocean of sand. This sight made any fragment of hope die inside of us and I had an overwhelming temptation to give up, but instead, I spoke to my men. "My good men, shall we end this now then? Sitting here like cowards while there is still something to fight for? We must continue on, for Athene would never deceive me, the son of Laertes." With these words I went around to my men and helped them up, catching glimpses of the skin on their bloody wounds. That evening, no stars shone in the sky, and the beautiful moon was nothing but a sliver of silver in the sky. Still we marched like soldiers, worn by the battle with death. When dawn rose from her bed where she sleeps beside illustrious Tithonus, we did not celebrate, as, with dawn, there came a terrible heat, which burned our gashes, dried our mouths, and made us trip with dizziness. After walking in the sand dunes for what seemed like hours, my men feasted their eyes upon the horizon on which laid the most brilliant oasis a man could ever have seen. There was an alluring sapphire lake and beautiful trees cooling the ground beneath from the sun's ray likes a mother's protective hand over a child's eyes. When I remembered Athene's warnings, it was already too late, as two of my fittest men were already gulping down huge mouthfuls of the clear blue water. I held my breath, sensing that something terrible was going to happen as I watched the men drink from the lake, like tired, hard worked mules. They filled their hands with the stuff like it was liquid gold to a beggar who hadn't eaten in many days and now, this gold would get him the best cut meat the butcher had to offer. When I saw them, I began running but before I could say something, the men fell into the lake, flailing wildly, calling out my name, their voices still weak from thirst for the cursed water brought no relief. Soon, they were pulled under the water, beneath its treacherous surface. Before I could reach the lake, the good men were dead, their bodies taken by the gods.
We grimly set out again, our hope diminishing into almost nothing as we stared ahead of us into the bare soil of the desert. The next day, as were walked along in our worsening state, I saw a cave-like house in the distance and knew at once that it was not a trick. Focused on getting there, I started staggering quicker when I looked behind me to realize that my men had stopped with expressions of suspicion on their beat-up faces. "My most noblest men, do you not see? This is the house of the healer Althaia! This is why we have come so far, why do you not follow me? I can assure you that this is no deception, but the real thing itself, and I will go and enter first to show you I do not lie." With this, my men started to follow behind me as we made our way slowly to the house.'
'When we arrived, I had no time to announce my arrival before a brilliant woman came out to greet me, holding a shining black pot which reflected the shine of the stars. The woman's hair was as black as the night and her eyes, a brilliant blue like the sky over the sea. "Odysseus? Is that you, son of Laertes?" Her winged words flying to me like birds of prey, beautiful, yet strong and capable of destruction. I nodded in reply since my tongue was too swollen to speak. "Then come nimble witted Odysseus, into my home and let you and your men drink fine water and eat your fill of the finest food of this island." We went into the house, and drank and drank until we were satisfied and the strong Althaia started to mix an ointment to put on our wounds, which were still burning from the sun that we had passed through on our way. As she applied the ointment to each of us, I said, " Thank you good Althaia, for treating me and my men for we have endured many hardships. But, forgive me for asking, how you knew my name and why you seemed to have been expecting me?" She stopped mixing the rest of the salve and answered, "I do not blame you for asking favorite of Zeus, and I knew you were coming because Pallas Athene, that awesome goddess, told me to care for you and heal you with all my power as you had been attacked by the wretched beasts of the woods around my home. To this I readily agreed and gathered all of the herbs I needed to mix you this slave, for what bit you was called a Haima, controlled by gods alone, who kill like ghosts, creeping up on their prey and then killing them slowly with their poison. It takes many days to die, so you were blessed to be able to see me this soon." So, when the great Althaia was done with our wounds and we had rested in the night, she sent us on our way with enough food to last us until we got back home. The journey only took half as much time on the way back to our blue ship and, as we arrived, I met Athene on the shore while my men were seeing to the boat. "Odysseus, you are truly a brave man and you will now return on your way, but be careful and remember what that formidable goddess Circe told you about the Sirens. Farewell, resourceful Odysseus" With that, the great goddess took to the air as a black winged bird and flew up into the clouds.'
'I got aboard the blue ship and ordered my men to row our boat towards the open ocean where we would soon face the Sirens.'
1 Bird of prey of the Mediterranean