The priests made their way through the Tower of Hecate. A black mist roiling through the towers corridors around them. They were in a trance their bodies en-wrapped within raven feather himations [Cloaks]. They entered a large temple, in its centre stood a black cauldron with flames dancing from within. The High Priestess wearing the three faced mask of Hecate, rose her hands and the flames took shape, that of a shrouded face, a pale sickly looking face with wisps of black hair. His voice like sheets of icy winds, cut through the soft chanting bringing the room to silence. ‘It is time… Hunt them down and bring their bodies to me.’ The face faded. The priestess turned to the balcony, a long section of black marble that suspended hundred’s of feet above the Polis. The priests standing their suddenly rushed forward and dropped to the city below. In mid flight their forms turned and twisted until their cries transformed to caws of the ravens they became. Wings flapping they glided between the dark streets and alleys, hunting, searching…
Scene 1: Mistaken Identity
Physis, Petros and Korax had been following a spree of murders, that had been happening across the Polis of Metropoli. Several weeks of investigation, asking questions, intimidation, bargins. But nothing. Every one said the same thing. ‘The Ursos, It’s the Ursos…’ They managed to visit one scene before the Hoplities arrived. A child torn to pieces its face twisted in agonising terror. After studying the corpse, they had to agree with what everyone was saying. It sure looked like a bear of some sort, Something big, something strong something with claws. They knew of only one Ursos in the Polis and decided to confront it. They made their way through the dark streets. Their minds racing searching for answers. How could he? They became angry. He had always been a loyal friend, always been there for them, for their cause? They tried to reason, but felt angered further, their blood pumping! He did sneak off a lot… To tend to ‘Important Matters’ … How could he lie?!
The trio stepped into a small Agora [Meeting square]. A fountain in the middle reflecting the moonlight. Selene was almost full, that’s when her crazies tend to fill the streets, ‘great!’ they thought. Dark alleys and streets lead off from the Agora. Just as they are peered through the darkness, the sound of a scream tore through the stillness of the night. A huge shadowy figure loomed out of a nearby building holding a wriggling girl of about eight years old. She broke free as he roared and towered over her. They recognised their friend immediately. But how can it be? Caught in the very act he swore to protect the city from! About to tear another victim apart! They wanted answers there and then!
As Physis and Korax started forward to confront their friend Petros stopped them. ‘Wait, the girl, look. Notice that she is making no attempt to escape, she is smiling, and her screams are more squeals. Prostátis’s claws are retracted his stance is not threatening, his face is smiling. This my friends, is a rare sight indeed!’ He pointed out.
Just as they started to relax. Suddenly from the shadows of alleys ways around them. They saw armed men come rushing towards the Ursos, screaming ‘Murderer! Get him! Remember we have to take him alive! He wants him alive!’
The group fought hard, Korax flew on winds that whipped about his body to pummel his adversaries. Physis shot the Toxon of Icthys, a bow of celestial origin, with deadly accuracy and Pestros tried to reason with the Misthios [Mercenaries], but to no avail. Prostátis swung his Urson Pelekys [War Maul] in great arcs. Between them they made short work of the mercenaries. After the battle Prostátis noticed Xena, his orphan human cub, missing. His rage echoed through the dark streets, much to the others worry. The curfew was almost upon them and they were still out on the streets surrounded by dead warriors. The Hoplites would not listen to their please if they were caught. Dragging one of the survivors off they interrogated him. Through his cries for mercy, they learnt that they were hired by someone calling himself The Hunter. He also told them that they were to deliver the Ursos to the Northern Sewer entrance in the Navarcus District.
Sneaking off into the shadows of the night they made their way towards the sewers…
Scene 2: The sewers
Prostátis pulled away the grating covering the sewers entrance, it came away easily. This way had been used before. The stench was overwhelming, causing Physis and Petros to gag, they carried although they felt sick. It wasn’t long before they were set upon by a group of Sewer Dwellers, men and women so mutated by disease they could barely be classed as men. dispatching their attackers with ease, they soon came across a shrine. Physis recognised the old statues as representations of Dialocos, a god of the vengeful dead and Sukobaei Goddess of murderous seduction, and torture. There was dried blood over the ritualistic symbols on the floor but it was not fresh. That gave them hope for Xena. Petros hearing the painful wails of a suffering Sewer Dweller. He persuaded it to part with the knowledge they sought. He learnt: The Hunter is called Maraudos a hunter from the Northern forests of Hyperboraea. The Sewewr Dweller saw Maraudos leave through the Doulos exit into the Doulos District [Slave District]. It also overheard one of Maraudos’s men mention the oracle of Byrane (Goddess of Devotion.) and that he had a little girl with him.
They raced through the sewers to exit once more into the streets…
Scene 3: Unexpected seer
As they left the sewers a fog hung in the streets obscuring most of the buildings leaving them as dark silhouettes. They heard the call of the guard in the distance. The curfew was now upon Metropoli. A fluttering of wings was heard nearby as dark shapes fly overhead. But out of place in the gloom was the constant tap, tap, tap. It got closer by the second and a shadow emerged out of the fog towards them. They readied their weapons and prepared to battle.
Out of the fog came an old man, bent over wearing tattered robes. He was tapping the ground with a walking stick. He looked about him and when his weary eyes looked upon them he smiled and approached. ‘Spare a drop of wine for an old beggar?’ He asked.
Physis stepped forward and offered the old man a drink from his wine skin. Thanking him the beggar said ‘It is no accident our paths have crossed. She waits for you, near the junction of Hecates Cauldron. An old run down tavern, here in the Doulos District. If you wish to save the girl you must seek her aid. I would spare no moment on a thought. All balances on this decision you make.’ He gave Physis a wry smile that filled the archers soul with warmth. Giving a knowing nod to the old man Physis turned to his companions and urged them on. When he looked back he saw the tail end of an eagle rising disappearing into the fog.
The street lay dark and empty near Hecates Cauldron. No one was waiting for them like the old man said. They began to suspect a trap. Then at the end of the street they could make out a lanterns light showing the silhouette of a patrol of Metropli Hoplites coming their way! If caught out during the curfew its the dungeons for sure! The group looked about the streets and Alley for an escape route when a nearby door to an old shack squeaked open. The fog rushed into the shack. ‘Hurry…’ A whisper at their ears said. ‘Hurry…’
Rushing into the shack their senses were assaulted by a large array of incense. The door closed behind them. Shelves lined the walls filled with jars containing a multitude of strange objects. Including lizard eyes, strands of black hair and leaves etc… A circular table with a purple silken cloth over it sat in the middle of the room. By the hearth on the far side was a strange sight indeed. A woman with long black hair huddled in the shadows wearing a white hooded clamys [cloak]. Her peplos [dress] a dark violet and strands of violet cloths wrap her forearms. Her eyes covered by a violet gauze like material. Her skin like alabaster. The smell of lavender from her made them feel slightly light headed. In her hands she grasped a glass orb. ‘Sit..’ Her voice like musical chimes and soothing to their ears.
The fog crawled about her. The sound of the patrol got closer to the shack. They all turned to the door expecting the Hoplites to pour in any moment. ‘Worry not about them. You are safe here’ Her tone barely a whisper.
She seemed to stare into the far empty corner of the room. She introduced herself as Anaphea and told them to look deep into the globe. ‘Seek what is dear to you. What does your heart desire?’
As they stared into the globe they all could see different paths. Prostátis saw that fateful night of his drunken rage. But as he was waking he saw the glimpse of his brother leaving the doorway. This confused him. They all saw however a black twisted forest shadowed in icy mists then that of a screaming woman and young child strapped to X-beams! Rotting faces tearing at their flesh with blacked teeth. A burning building. Then the Fall of the Northen black Marble walls and a horde of barbaric warriors pouing through. In the smoke of the burning Polis they could hear women and children screaming. Then the vision passed.
‘What you see is what has been, shall be or may come to pass. The gods have looked kindly upon you to give you such a vision. The Polis is blinded with its own agenda. It will take a band of chosen heroes to save the innocents from what will be or may be or has been. Your paths have not crossed by chance…’
‘That’s not the first time we’ve heard that tonight.’ Noted Physis.
‘There are other like you who think like you. In time the Moirai [Fates] shall make destiny come to fruition. I saw a vision of an Ursos capturing the souls of Olympians. Tearing them from their suffering bodies. This concerns me as I found on the walls of the lower dungeons, writings that say, with the blood of innocents, the voice of Olympos and the jar of tortured souls of the fallen ones, can the children of Tataros come fourth. I believe this is the ritual of the birth of the Hexoi.’
‘What can you tell us of this Ritual?’ They asked.
‘The ritual must be performed under the gaze of Selene, Hecate and Artemis. There is a sacred grove of Artemis deep within the Hades Hayles (The Dead Woods). The Hades Hayles lays to the West of Metropoli and The Highmoon is tonight.’
Realising that is why Maraudos is gathering for the ritual. They raced to the shrine of Byrane…
Scene 4: Shrine of Byrane
As they arrived at the Shrine of Bryane. To their horror it was on fire, A gong ringing through the streets. But, then out of the smoke, A High priest stumbled towards them, holding his side, it was blood stained. He then collapsed, reaching for assistance. They rushed to his side. Prostátis and Korax kept a look out. The Hoplites wouldn’t be too long now!
The High preist introduced himself as Akklyos and told them. ‘In the dim of the night, an Ursos came into the temple and stole away the Oracle. One of his men cut down the priests as they tried to stop him. I over heard one of them mention Artemis. One of priests managed to cut one of the Ursos’s followers. The Oracle of Byrane, Nina, must be rescued, she is Olympian born, who is used as a vessel as a direct link to the Goddess of Devotion.’
Physis a good friend of the Goddess of Byrane when she walked here on Olympus during the Zoidiakos war. Felt rage course through his body. ‘We must rescue her and Xena!’ He called to his companions. ‘Prostátis, one of them was injured can you pick up his scent?’ He commanded.
Prostátis didn’t take long to find the scent. But, suddenly Hoplites of Metropoli started to rush into the square surrounding the Temple. They were led by a Priest of Hecate in his raven feathered cloak! The Hecatean Priest pointed to them and screamed in a crazed voice. ‘Arrest them! Kill the Ursos murderer!’
Akklyos rose to his feet, gasped painfully and said.. ‘run!… Save the Oracle!…’ With that Akklyos rushed forward in the smoke filled streets as the Hoplites charged towards the heroes at the command of Hectean Priestess. Akklyos stepped to interject ‘Please! stop! ‘ but was cut down by the lead hoplite.
There was a stunned silence from the onlookers. As Thunder roared over-head and a torrent of wind whipped up out of nowhere. Lightning cracked across the sky. crashed into a nearby Pillar causing it to crumble, Prostátis rushed it and pushed with all his strength to topple the pillar between the group and the Hoplites…
With that they raced away from the Temple…
Scene 5: The Dark Guide
Petros led them to a trade exit that was nearby. The guard had left it momentarily to aid stop the fire. They set of East across the plains, over the hills of Metropoli, until finally entering the Hyles Hades. [The Dead Woods].
Light was no more within the confines of this dark forest. It seemed even the trees belonged to Hades now. A chill swept up their spine, the warmth sucked from the very air around them. Echoes in the distance made them jumpy, that of screams, soulless screams. Nearby they heard the snapping of twigs and the creaking of the twisted blackened tree limbs. When light did manage to penetrate the thick interlocking branches. It appeared that the trees themselves were watching them pass within their realm. Sometimes their trunks showed twisted hungry faces. On some of the trees a thick dark substance drips from the grooves of their bark. Korax noted that it was blood! … Petros wondered whose blood. Physis guided them through the trees away from several that seemed to walk in the shadows.
They breathed heavily in the icy mist, blood gushed from the dark dead trees. Then in the stillness they became aware of a woman watching them. On the edge of the mists stood a woman dressed in tattered white peplos, blood dripping down her grey burn scarred arms, also she appeared to have no legs and floated on the edge of the the shadows! ‘You are lost?…’ She asked.
‘We are.’ Physis replied.
‘If you hear my tale, I can aid you.’
They gathered to listen intently.
‘I am Meraethe, I was once a sorceress, or others would call me Witch. I practiced my dark arts, here in the confines of these woods and would offer the souls of children I kidnapped from nearby Polis’s to Hades.’ Her face darkened. ‘But The Archon of Kaliox, in the south, ordered the woods burned.’ her words were venom and hatred. ‘I perished in the fires, unable to escape…’ her eyes looked sorrowful at the memory… ‘Burning the woods enraged Artemis who pleaded to Hades to give life to her trees, that she had blessed. Hades agreed to this but tricked the huntress and gave unlife to the forest. My corpse rose as did those of many who resided here and was burnt in these once beautiful woods.’ She looked quizzically at them. ‘Why are you here?’
‘We are hunting a group who has kidnapped an oracle and a child from the Polis of Metropoli, Will you help us?’ They asked.
‘You are not the only living to have entered these forsaken woods. Others have come. Worse they have violated the sacred Grove of Artemis with their presence! There is one with them of great power. I think they plan to sacrifice her. Come, I will guide you safely to them.’
Following the shade the heroes soon arrived at the Sacred Grove of Artemis…
Scene 6: Grove of Artemis
Selene’s full gaze was upon the Grove of Artemis as hid behind a ridge on the edge of the shadows. Silvery light from the moon cast a ghostly image before them. An Alter in the middle of the grove. A hulking Ursos: appeared to be Erastos but he looked shorter?! He stood at the far side overlooking the ritual. Several cultists were chanting in front of the alter while another holding a curved dagger loomed over Xena, who was tied wriggling to the Alter. She spat and and cried muffled curses while her mouth was gagged. Tied to the cross beam at the head of the Alter was the Oracle. There were several other warriors, armed dotted about the grove. Suddenly over the cresendo of the chanting the High Cultist shouted! ‘Children of Tartaros! Hear our cries. Hear our Pleas! Accept this offering of blood of innocents and hear as we tear the voice from an Olympian! Come fourth Lord Belor and your brothers and your sisters! The world of Olympus awaits!’ With that she rose her ebony glass sacrificial dagger ready to plummet it into the heart of Xena!
As she did a shadow swept across the grove as Prostátis came leaping out of the woods. He landed with is maul smashing the skull of the cultist. The grove burst into action. The ground opened up near the Ursos. Prostátis now saw that it wasn’t an Ursos at all. But a man wearing his brothers pelt! His eyes full of rage and horror, he could only watch as Maraudos pointed and said ‘We shall meet again.’ Smiled wickedly then descended into the ground with the Jars of souls followed by the woman with ram skull horns. Then the ground closed behind them. Rushing towards him came a huge hopolite wielding a Dory [Spear] and Xiphos [Sword]. A female archer started pelting Prostátis with arrows that tore into his fur. Physis shot from the cover of the woods as Korax charged the cultists. The noise of battle was deafening. Physis let of a volley at the female archer his arrow hitting her in the unmentionables! Screaming curses she fell to the floor in writhing agony. Then came the dead…
A Horde of zombies started to flood into the grove, hundreds of them. The clashing of weapons and death cries of Maraudos’s warriors and cultists echoed around the grove. Prostátis tore free the bonds of Xena nd the Oracle. Leaping over to the fallen archer he snatched her up, then bound off away from the zombies into the woods. They rest turned and followed.
They raced through the dead trees, the horde of the dead everywhere in all directions appearing our of the shadows. But they fought their way out of the forest and onto the hills of Metropoli.
A Priest of Hecate called out to a phalanx of Hoplites. ‘I want these heretics brought to Justice! Hunt them down! Send for Bounty hunters! Bring them to stand trial before the Faces of Hecate!’
Getting back into Metropoli
As they approached the Polis across the plains, they heard the calling of horns and heavy activity of hoplites at the South gates.
Xena tugged on Peltros’s sleeve and pointed to a hillock. ‘Over there.. My dad used to enter the city that way. It leads through the Dungeons of Erebos.’
The Oracle stopped in her tracks and gasped. ‘The Dungeons of Erebos?! Are you mad. We can’t possibly enter those dark halls. There are things in there far worse then the dead of Hyles Hades.’
Suddenly from the gates cames a patrol of Hipparchos [Cavalry]. Thundering across the plains towards them. ‘WE must hurry! Follow Xena!’ Cried Peltros as he ran after the child back towards the hills of Metropoli.
They ran through the stony ridges and valleys of the hill. The Hipparchos closing on their position. Xena entered a dark crevice and followed the tunnel lit only by moonlight. They followed. Eventually it came to a cave entrance. They paused momentarily then decended into the Dungeons of Erebos. loosing the guards there was only the stillness of the night, the dripping of water and the haunting sound of a wailing breeze echoing into the vast halls that opened before them… A place long ago abandoned by the gods…
The End Cut Scene
Maraudos emerged from a the tunnel in the ground, he squinted at the sunlight and the harsh winds of the plains that tugged at his chiton [tunic]. He turned to the woman with him ‘Come Malika we must report.’…
Next he entered a large citadel made of stone high up on a hill overlooking a large plain filled with hundred of thousands of tents.
He Kneels before a Hyperboraean King, donned in skulls and wold. ‘I have failed. But I have the Jar of Souls.’
The king turns to his shamanic priestess questioningly. She answered his unspoken question ‘Oros Daria Holds the gateway. We must shatter the barrier that holds in my Lord Belor and his five siblings’.
The King asked. ‘What must be done?’
‘For you to rule Olympus, oh King Phalanax, You must invade with the united forces of Galaroi.’ She answered.
The King stood to his ten foot height and belowed ‘We shall sail the Straits of Tarranox! and bring our full force on to Olympos!’
The Barbarian Horde Roared with thunderous applause! Chanting their Titan-Born Kings name. Phalanax! Phalanax! Phalanax!… The king widened his arms and shouted .. ‘War!!’