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Through The Ages - chapter 11
By
Kari

Through The Ages - chapter 11

“NOOOOO..... COME AND GET ME YOU DEMON FROM HADES!”

Celebrations!

We guys were up pretty early on this very important day. After getting washed and dressed, we fairly raced to the eating hall only to find that the girls had beat us there. There they were, calmly eating as they grinned at us. Kori waved at me to hurry up and sit down. Everyone started talking at once about how our day was going to go. Soon our speculations were quickly put to rest. Both Andros and Duris came striding through the doorway as we were finishing our meal. Andros spoke first,

“Good morning everyone, I hope you had a good night's sleep. With the schedule, we have put together your going to need to be well rested. But not to worry, Duris here will be taking good care of you all. For now, we would like to go over the general plan for the day with you. Let's go outside where it's not so formal.”

We quickly wiped our mouths and hands before filing outside behind the two men. They showed us to an area we had not had the privilege to see before. It was the formal gardens that the high priestess and her many attendants used for their meetings. The gardens had well-trimmed hedges with many kinds of flowers surrounding them. We were silent looking around as we walked towards a small podium encircled by carved stone benches. There was plenty of fruit trees to give shade on hot days. It was truly a beautiful place. Once we were settled down, Andros stepped onto the podium and proceeded to give us a general outline for our day.

“The morning will start with the opening ceremonies, you all will dress in your gold and black loincloths enhanced with gold jewelry. You will be given some extra jewelry the purpose which is to make you stand out much more for the people to see and admire.”

With his hand, he indicated a large pouch on the ground beside Duris. He continued,

“The people will wave and shout their greetings to you and in return, you will smile and wave back at them as you walk in single file into the arena. Once in the center, you are to line up and wait. The priestesses will then come out and solemnly call on the goddess to bless and protect you. They will then turn to the people in the stands and bless them before they leave. As they make their exit, you will one by one follow them. Once your out of the arena go to your right, where you will find Duris. He will take all of your jewelry shoes and the girls tops. Leaving you in only your loin cloths, ready for the bulls.”

He glanced over to Duris to see if he had forgotten anything before continuing;

“I have many things to attend to now, so Duris will give you the rest of the scenario. I know you will give the goddess and the people a grand show. Good luck to every one of you.”

He smiled at us before turning to Duris, nodding his encouragement before he turned on his heels and left the garden. Duris stepped up on the podium clearing his throat before he began;

“OK, people I believe Andros left off where you were handing me the jewelry and extra clothes. Once that is done, I will take you to some side benches right next to the west gate. This is where you will await your turn with the bulls. In the meantime, they will be paraded in the arena. The people take a great deal of joy looking at those magnificent beasts. Plus at this time, the priestesses will bless them as well.”

He paused to look around and see if we were keeping up with what he was telling us. He was pleased to see there wasn't any confusion on our faces. At the mention of the jewelry, my hand had gone to my throat and touched the pendent that Kori had given me. I decided to put it in a small pouch on the inside of my loin cloth for luck and safe keeping. We all sat quietly and listened to what he had to say. He nodded his head in approval as he continued,

“Once the priestesses are done the bulls will be herded out. There is then a small show for the crowd to get a taste of the afternoon activities. This is where Hercules is brought in, and all of you will do some of your simple acrobatics on and around him. I have instructions that Andors and I have put together which I will hand out shortly. 

You will be working in teams of three like you have always trained, but now instead of different partners, you will keep the same ones listed here. I will pass these parchments to each group, and you will then see the list as well as what you and your partners will be doing. The show will only last 30 minutes then there will be a break for you all to have something light to eat. This gives the people some time to take nourishment as well. On your lunch break, I will give you your schedules for the afternoon. Are there any questions?”

Duris smiled and glanced at each of us. We understood well enough and waited for him to pass out the instructions he held in his hands. I hoped to be partnered with Kori since we did make an excellent team. 

I glanced sideways at her for a moment thinking, (“If we're partners I can keep her safe.”) That is when I got a flash of Wicked in my mind and shuddered. I shook my head to clear it of that image before turning back towards Duris. He had begun to hand out the parchments saying,

“I am giving the leaders of each group this itinerary; you will then gather your teams together and go off to the side. I want you to go over each and every detail I have written out for you. There are two spares that are very important. If anyone gets hurt, it will be their job to replace them, so the show goes on. Is that understood?”

Once he was done handing out the parchments, he kept the last parchment calling Calisto and Bion to come to him. He walked away with them indicating he would be going over their part as spares in the coming events. When I got my parchment, I was ecstatic to find Kori was my partner with Helen as our third. With a smile, I noted that Alexis had Melina and Ariadne. We then separated with our partners to go over the instructions.

As we went over the instructions, we found that our part in this mornings activities were well known to us. We were going to breeze through them easily plus working with Hercules once again was really a bonus. We were to do single jumps and run circles around him; I was sure he knew the routine just as well as we did. I realized this small show would give the crowd a taste of what was to come as well as to make us comfortable performing for them. Andors and Duris were very good at their jobs.

Thirty minutes later Duris called us all over. Making sure we were properly attired, he then had us walk in an orderly fashion to the arena. As we drew near, we were able to see the huge crowds that were pouring into the arena. I looked down at Kori,

“There must be people coming from all over the island just for today's events. I hope we are up to pleasing not only the goddess but all these people too!”

Grasping my hand as we walked she looked up at me with a nervous smile nodding her head in agreement.

The arena was made of large stones fitted together by masters of their craft. There were two huge archways on the east and west sides of the circular arena. They had been made large enough for both huge animals like bulls as well as horses and carts. The bleachers around the walls of the inner arena had many levels, and as we were to learn could hold many thousands of people. We made our way towards the large arched entrance on the west side of the arena. Duris put his hand up to stop us,

“OK I want you to walk into the area in single file, don't walk too fast or too slow. Once you're at the center of the arena stop, that is when the next person will start. It should only take about thirty seconds. Let the people have a good look at each of you, smile and wave when they show you interest. Which they will, believe me. Each group of three will go in one by one with a short pause between groups.”

He paused for a moment looking around;

“Nikos...you and your group will be first, then Alexis's group. OK...Nikos go now.”

My heart thudded in my chest as Duris singled out our group to be first. Wiping my sweaty palms on my thighs, I looked at Kori, kissed her cheek and started walking. Duris watched for a few seconds before turning back to organize the other groups into a waiting line.

I walked slowly towards the center of the arena trying to keep from tripping over my feet in my extreme nervousness. That is when I noted that the ground was of clean sand just enough to give a little but not too deep to make moving around difficult. I heard the crowds begin to murmur. I nervously glanced up at them as I walked. Seeing the people smile and cheer at me as they lifted their arms to wave. My nervousness started to drain away. I smiled back raised my arm and waved back. By the time I got to the center of the arena, there were more and more people waving, some stood up and cheered. I stopped and turned around to see Kori, my beautiful Kori coming through the archway now.

Kori walked towards Nikos like he was the only thing she could see. She knew she was working herself into a fine frenzy knowing all those people were staring at her. But as she walked she could hear the excited shouts of praise, she glanced cautiously around. The people smiled and waved at her too, causing her to slowly relax and smile back at them before lifting her arm up to wave at them. By the time she got to Nikos she had put her hand up to her mouth whispering,

“Oh Nikos the people they like us....they really like us! Look at all the waving and cheers!”

They continued to wave and cheer as the rest of the teams joined them one by one. Once we were together the priestesses in their finery made an elaborate show as they moved with great dignity towards our waiting line. In a glorious ceremony, they had us walk around the arena while they on behalf of the goddess blessed both the people and us. Soon afterward the priestesses proceeded to leave the arena. We soon followed. Once we were all outside Duris motioned us away from the entrance so that Hercules could be brought in. At this time he collected all our extra cloths and jewelry, I quickly slipped my pendent in the pouch.

I watched as the regal and huge Hercules enjoyed walking around the arena soaking in the attentions from thousands of waving and shouting people. Once he had trotted around the arena, the rest of us came back in to give them a taste of what was to come in the afternoon.

We showed them what we could do with simple jumps somersaults and plenty of action between ourselves and Hercules. By the time our thirty minutes was up, the crowd was standing and shouting for more. It was the perfect time for a break. Hercules was herded out with the usual treats while we ran lightly behind him waving as we went through the archway.

Duris was all smiles patting our shoulders as he directed us to a quiet place just outside the arena. It was like a small park; we saw a few attendants placing food dishes on blankets around some shaded trees. Duris began speaking,

“You have sixty minutes to eat and rest. I caution you to eat lightly, so you're able to perform at your best. I have with me more instructions for you to look through while you eat. In it, you will find the order in which your team will be performing. It's simple enough; you enter through the west gate and exit through the east. Each group will go through the routines of vaulting over the bull. The bull will come in after the group is introduced to the people." He paused to catch is breathe before continuing,

"I estimate that each performance will take about twenty minutes. After that, the bull is usually pretty tired and doesn't show well. Once he has left the arena through the east gate, the group will take their bows and follow him. The next group is to be ready to go as soon as the last group is out of the arena. I have chosen the strongest groups to be at the end of the show meaning that Alexis and finally Nikos groups will be last.”

He looked at Nikos, walking over with a parchment in his hand,

“Here are the directions with the group's order Nikos, I will leave it to you to organize everyone and see to it that all goes as smoothly as possible. Don't hesitate to put our spares Bion and Calisto in if anyone is hurt or getting tired.” He glanced at everyone before adding,

“Good luck to you all and may the goddess be watching you!”

Smiling, he turned away and went to join Andros for any last minute instructions that may have come up.

I looked the parchment over and directed the first group in, the bull soon followed. And so the legendary Minoan Bull Leaping began! They did their acrobatics well, and thankfully all went smoothly. The crowd loved them, and before you knew it the tired bull was taken out, the group did their bows and quickly left the arena. We crowded around the three clasping them to us; it was a good start to the afternoon. Duris came over to add his congratulations and tell them they were to go to a special area where they could watch the rest of the activities.

Meanwhile, I sent the next group in and we watched from the sidelines as they too went through the routine of bull leaping. Aside from one small mishap where one landing was a bit awkward all went well. In this way, the groups went into the arena and performed for the goddess and crowds of people.

There was one scary time when a leaper hit the ground awkwardly and fell, the crowd rose and exclaimed. When the angry bull came after the boy his partners were there to turn his attention away long enough for the boy to run for safely. Everyone sat down again thankful he was not hurt. Actually, he ended up with a sprained ankle but was able to wave to the people showing that he was fine. Luckily this had happened at the end of their performance, so the three of them walked out of the arena with the crowed well pleased.

The rest of the teams went into the arena did their routines and left without anymore mishaps. Finally, Alexis and his group took their turn. Their performance was the best so far. The people including us were sure the goddess loved how they went about leaping over the bulls making it look like they flew. At the end of the twenty-minute show, the entire crowd stood up clapping and cheering. We at the sidelines did the same shouting their names as they ran back through the gateway. I slapped Alexis on the back when he and the rest of the team came around to our side again. Finally, it was our turn; I glanced at Kori and Helen gave Kori a kiss on the lips and for Helen one on the cheek before exclaiming,

“That is for luck now let's go and outdo the great performance we just saw Alexis' group do!”

We ran into the arena waving at the people one by one until we got to the center. We turned still waving and smiling as we waited for our bull to come through. The crowd waved and shouted back knowing this was the last team.

Meanwhile, earlier in the afternoon Wicked had somehow got in with the herd of bulls that had been separated for the performance. No one noticed since he wasn't his usual nasty self. For a change, he was well behaved having eaten well. When the six plus one extra bull were herded to the paddock next to the area, Wicked was among them. They were given extra hay to keep them happy and quiet until they were each singled out for the show. Still Wicked behaved himself until the last group was called in. The handlers came forward and looked at the two remaining bulls. As luck would have it, they choose Wicked to come forward. He gave them a little trouble but not much more than a few of the others had done earlier. The men didn't think much of it as they got him moving towards the entrance to the arena.

As I waited for our bull to come running into the arena, I felt a shiver run throughout my body I looked at Kori and shrugged it off. Smiling I glanced at the bull that walked into the arena he stopped to look at the crowd high up in the stands. That is when both Kori and I had a good look at him. Kori whispered,

“Nikos....is that who I think it is? No, I know him ...that is Wicked! How did he get here? He is too dangerous to be a vaulting bull. What are we going to do now?”

She looked up at me quickly her face drained of all color. I nodded my head in apprehension trying to think. Helen even though she hadn't recognized Wicked picked up on our fear. 

“Your right he is too dangerous but we have to go through with this now, there is no time to change bulls now. We must be extra careful and watch his every move. This is for the goddess. Come on we can do this. I know we can!”

With that last remark the three of us touched hands and prepared to leap over that bull. It was the worst decision of my young life. The first few vaults went well; Wicked was behaving like he had done this sort of thing all his life. Slowly he started to get frustrated with us; he began to paw the ground and snort as he looked at each of us. His short temper was now getting the better of him.

By this time Duris had realized that the bull was not behaving as he should. Glancing around, he spotted the herdsmen and ran over to them. It didn't take long to figure out that this bull didn't have the temperament of a vaulting bull. He shouted orders for the men to get another bull and quickly. Andors ran over to see if he could help in any way he was informed of the mistaken bull. Time was running out; suddenly they could hear the crowd making sounds of fear for the youths. Things started happening too fast now...men were trying to herd the last remaining bull towards the entrance while getting other men to come and try and get organized to somehow get Wicked out of the arena.

Meanwhile, Wicked was foaming at the mouth and out of control, he wanted blood... our blood. Setting his furious red eyes on Helen he charged. She screamed in fear as she ran for her life. Tripping over herself, she fell heavily. Kori ran and waved her arms to distract the bull from her small friend. I did the same from my angle hoping he would leave Kori alone and go for me. He stopped for a moment before lowering his massive head and charging Kori, I screamed,

“NOOOOO..... COME AND GET ME YOU DEMON FROM HADES!”

He never even glanced my way as he rushed towards Kori. She ran as fast as she possibly could, still the distance between them quickly shrank. Meanwhile, Helen bolted up and ran to the entrance where Duras grabbed and held her shielding her from what he knew was coming. Men were running into the arena now to try and get the bull's attention away from Kori. I ran after Wicked as fast as my legs would carry me, but not fast enough. 

That bull caught up to Kori, lowered his head hooking her small body with his huge horns and threw her up into the air. The people cried out in horror as Kori flew through the air only to hit the wall just below the stands. She fell to the ground where she lay still like a broken doll. My heart stopped!

The bull with blood lust still in his eyes turned to me now ignoring all the shouting men around him. He pawed the ground once lowered his massive head before he rushed at me. I screamed out my rage and sorrow at what he had done to my love. I didn't care what happened to me now; I wanted him to die. Of course, I was too puny to do him any damage; he hit me hard, throwing me up and over his back. I landed in the sand not far from where Kori lay, my body broken.

I could barely breathe as I opened my eyes to see Kori's still form. Slowly inch by inch I painfully crawled towards her. After what felt like ages, I found myself close enough to be able to touch her with my outstretched arm. I swallowed as I dimly heard the shouting men herd the bull away from us. But I knew it was too late; I watched as the blood dripped from the corner of her sweet lips, she was dying. I had failed her; I silently cried out her name as I reached to touch her face one last time. Her eyes opened as I touched her lips, whispering,

“Nikos...I will always love you...”

(As she died she prayed to the goddess to not let Nikos die, to never let him die)

Kori's eyes closed followed by my whisper ....,

“Kori ...I will always love you too...”

As the two young people died a miraculous event occurred. The people watched as the air above the two started to glow with yellow light. The goddess appeared in all her beauty. She looked down at them for a moment before glancing up at the people; she spoke so everyone could hear,

“I lament the passing of these two that love so deeply even though they are young. I will grant the girl's wish. They are blessed by me as you all are, do not be sad. For I am pleased and, therefore, the next seven years will be plentiful and prosperous. Take their bodies to the scared labyrinth to be honored by my priestesses.”

She raised her hand and faded away with the light. The crowd sighed and looked with wonder at each other. Once the bull was safely out of the way, the men went to take up the bodies of Kori and Nikos wrapping them carefully in linen before they were taken to the Labyrinth located atop the cliffs next to the sea. It was a sad time for the rest of the youths as well as for Duris and Andros. They knew this couple was going to be greatly missed even though they were honored by the goddess. Once the priestesses had performed the rituals for Kori and Nikos, they were left in a chamber far inside the labyrinth where nothing would bother them while they slept in peace.

Epilogue;

I, Nikos suddenly awoke in a cold chamber beside my beloved Kori. I sat up glancing around. A small lighted torch had been placed in the wall. I glanced around the dimly lit chamber. I remembered everything and in my bewilderment I cried out,

“How can this be? I am alive, and my Kori isn't? How am I to go on?”

A yellow light began to shine in the chamber; I watched as a beautiful figure appeared. It was the goddess. She smiled as she walked to my side.

“Nikos, I am here to inform you that Kori loved you so much that with her dying breath she prayed for you to live. I have granted her wish you are now immortal. As for Kori, she will be born into this world again and again. You may want to seek her as you go through the ages.” She smiled down at me as I gazed at her, too stunned to speak. Still smiling she faded away followed by that light. I tried to understand what she had told me. After some thought, I knew what I was to do now.

I looked over at Kori, throwing the linen sheet off my body. I went over to her bent down and kissed her cold lips one last time. She was still lovely even in death. I knew the life I had known was now changed forever. I remembered my pendent and slipped it around my neck. Taking the torch, I looked one last time at my love before walking away. I vowed I would find my Kori no matter how many years it took me. I would find her again.

I followed the sound of the sea and after awhile stumbled my way out of the cave. I stood on the top of the cliffs looking out towards the sea, breathing in the fresh air, hearing the sea birds cry out. My heart ached, but I had my plan, letting the torch drop from my hand.... I started to walk.

This story is protected by International Copyright Law, by the author, all rights reserved. If found posted anywhere other than storiesspace.com with this note attached, it has been posted without my permission.

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