In the time of ancient Greece, there was a fearsome ship that patrolled the seven seas, marauding and pillaging like all other pirates. What made them scarier than even the Dread Pirate Roberts was their captain, Panagiotis. He had tricked a powerful oracle out of a magical ring that showed him the true heart of men. He was even rumored to be blessed by Zeus himself, though he never let it go to his head. Unlike most pirates, Panagiotis only robbed from the rich, and then gave everything but what he needed to run his sip to the poor. He was brave, strong, cunning, level-headed, and kind; a character worthy of an epic. Panagiotis ran his ship like a large family and kept intruders out, but also helped with the daily chores of the ship, earning the respect of all his men.
One terrible day a hurricane tossed and turned his boat around, and Captain Panagiotis was thrown overboard. His men called to him and pleaded to the Gods, fearing for their fearless leader’s life. Knowing he had been flung overboard for a reason, Panagiotis ordered his men to drop a life boat, then sail back home. With heavy hearts his men did as Panagiotis asked and they sailed in their different directions. Panagiotis never picked up an oar, instead he trusted Poseidon to guide him safely. After being lost at sea with no food or water for a week, Panagiotis could feel himself getting weaker and prayed to the Gods. Before he even finished his last sentence, he saw a fin break through the waves and race towards him.
“Well that’s not exactly what I prayed for but at least I won’t starve to death.” He chuckled to himself and prepared to be devoured by the oncoming sea beast (or a shark, if you want to be all modern). He felt the creature bump against the bottom of his tiny boat and felt his faith waver. His eyes closed, creating a furrow in his brow, and he gripped onto the sides of the boat, his lips quickly pleading.
He practically fell out of the boat when about a gallon of water squirted him in the face. He opened his eyes to a squealing, giddy dolphin grinning at him. He chuckled full-heartedly and wiped the water off his face, smoothing his long curly, golden locks out of his icy blue eyes.
“Hello there, little fellah.” He gently reached his hand out to pet the smooth, wet skin of the dolphin, still chuckling. “What’s your name?”
“Nereus. And you’re Panagiotis.” The little voice echoed into Panagiotis’ head, and he guffawed.
“Well you can talk! Isn’t that lovely… I must be drunk.” He chuckled a little more and leaned back into his boat, his arms behind his head. “Wait… I haven’t had rum or wine in a while. Hrm…”
“I promise you’re not. Poseidon sent me to take you to his daughters.” Nereus splashed some water into the boat, trying to get Pangiotis’ attention again.
“Are you trying to sink me? And daughters? His hundredth or his thousandth?” He chuckled a bit at his own joke, halfway asleep.
“The sirens. And you’re quite lucky that most Gods have a good sense of humor.” Nereus grabbed the rope hanging from the bow of the boat between his teeth and swam towards the sun.
“Don’t sirens kill people? And who’s to say I’m not dead already?”
“He’s cute… Can we keep him?” A girly voice barely brought Panagiotis out of his slumber.
“Eww! Ligeia! Father wouldn’t approve.” The second voice was dry and cold, reminding him of winter’s coldest air.
“Come on, father doesn’t come see us anyway. Hey, where did Parthenope go?” Ligeia reminded him of his younger sister back at home.
“Like I know!” Panagiotis sat up slowly, trying not to startle them.
“Oh, Alcyone! Loosen up!”
“So the cold one is Alcyone.” He murmured to himself.
“I will “loosen up” when we start doing what Father told us to do!” Alcyone propped herself onto the smooth rock in front of them.
Panagiotis noticed that their appearances matched their personalities. Alycone’s tail, hair, and eyes were a frosty blue and her features were fiercely sharp. Her face was adorned with icy white makeup around her eyes and lips that glinted in the sun. Ligeia was the polar opposite, her tail and hair a hot pink with lilac eyes and highlights. She wore a rainbow on her round face, light, warm colors sparkling in the sunlight. Panagiotis couldn’t take his eyes off of them, though he wasn’t attracted to them.
Nereus mistook his awe-struck gaze and slapped the boat with his tail. Panagiotis recovered and looked around, noticing the sharp rocks cluttered with rotted bones. Every way he looked he only saw blue, no land anywhere. Nereus splashed the girls with water and they turned back towards him, furious. Once they saw that Panagiotis was awake, they plunged into the water and immediately tipped his boat. Unaware that this would happen, Panagiotis sputtered and flailed until Nereus brought him to the surface again. Panagiotis immediately grabbed for the boat again, but Alcyone grabbed his hand and pulled it back into the water.
“Don’t. You have terrible sunburn. Wait for Parthenope.” Her large eyes bore into his, and he almost lost his composure.
“I can’t tread water forever.”
“It won’t take forever, you silly human.” A new voice came from behind him and he turned his head to see a sea-green tail diving under the waves. He swam around in a circle three times before he saw her again. She resurfaced a few feet in front of him, and he jumped back a little. Her hair wasn’t silky and smooth like her sister’s, seaweed sprouted from her head like Medusa’s snakes. One of her eyes was green, the other an eerie yellow. Parthenope immediately dove under the surface again, grabbing Panagiotis’ ankle and dragging him under. He struggled and grasped for air, flailing and panicking as the surface loomed further and further overhead.
“Be calm, Panagiotis. This will only be but a second.” Parthenope weaved tiny bubbles together into a blanket and draped it over Panagiotis’ shoulders. The bubbles ran all along his skin, ticking him and causing whatever air he had left in his lungs to escape. He tried his best to suck it back in, but only received a mouth full of water. Parthenope held him still, clutching his bicep and digging her talons into his skin. He gasped again in pain, sucking in even more water. His flailing arms and panicked kicking did him no good as he helplessly saw Parthenope swimming towards the surface, and evil grin on her stunning face. Right when he gave up and death seemed inevitable once again, he heard the squealing of a familiar aquatic mammal.
Nereus latched his teeth onto Panagiotis’ loose, white shirt and drug him to the surface. After he gulped in the salty sea air, Panagiotis managed to get out a brief “thank you” to his friend.
“What in Zeus’ name has gotten into you, Parthenope? Did you not hear father’s orders correctly?” Alcyone’s voice was shrill and practically a screech as she shrieked at her devilish sister.
“Come on now, dear Alycone! Do you not remember what we are? What we do day in and day out? Or what we have done before? Killing men is our nature!” Parthenope’s voice was all too persuasive, and Panagiotis was inclined to argue along side her.
“Father said not to harm this man. He directly ordered it!” Alycone’s voice grew a wavering tone of authority, and Ligeia started to sniffle. Panagiotis’ nose started to sting with emotion as he remembered his little sister’s trembling and blubbering as their parents debated whether or not having children was profitable. They ended up deciding that in the end it would be, but not too many. Panagiotis also recalled having to throw the dirt upon the tiny coffin…
“That was years ago, friend. Don’t let it haunt you.” Nereus nuzzled his hand and Panagiotis smiled sadly.
“I’m quite aware.” Turning his attention back towards the bickering harpies, Panagiotis avoided eye contact with Parthenope as best as he could. “Thank you for all that you’ve done but I wasn’t made to live in the water. I was wondering if you fine women could direct me to the closest area of land?”
“What will you do for us in return?” All of the sudden, the three sisters started to speak in unison. Their slippery sweet voices left a tingling sensation in Panagiotis’ head.
“That’s quite alright, I just need directions and I can swim there.” His ring started tingling, and Panagiotis knew that their hearts had gotten colder; greedier.
“You may either let us drown you, or let us help you.”
“It’s obvious that I’d prefer the second choice but it truly isn’t needed.” Nereus had moved to cower slightly behind Panagiotis’ back, practically de-nerving him where he stood… -swam.
“Father told us that we must help you… and so we shall.”
“Why are you so… persistent on going above and beyond?” For once Panagiotis found himself separated from his brain, which worried him more than the vicious sirens.
“We just want to help you… so you can help us.”
“And what can I do to help you?” Panagiotis looked around, then realized with a sinking heart that his life boat was floating at least a hundred miles away, racing towards the sunset.
“It’s more like what you can offer us…” Their voices had developed a sort of lisp, creating a serpent-like appearance.
“And what do I have that’s of any interest to you?” His voice cracked on the “I” and the sirens grinned maliciously.
“Oh nothing really… just your voice.” Parthenope, Alycone, and Ligeia had started circling around him in the water, brushing their scaly fins against him. They also prodded him with sea-withered bones and gently tugged him down below the surfaces, then releasing a high-pitched shrill that echoed both in the water and air. After he surfaced again, he saw Nereus cowering behind their smooth rock.
“Well I’m guessing I really don’t have a choice. But… what if I have something greater than my voice to give?” Panagiotis called together all the wit, courage, and strength he had left in his body. Immediately the sirens stopped swimming and daintily splayed back onto their rock, casting Nereus further into the water.
“Something greater than a voice?” Their moon-sized pupils had a curious glint.
“Yes. Like a ring. A magical ring that can see into the heart of man.” Panagiotis shuddered as his arm brushed against a floating corpse. The sirens squealed and immediately dove back into the water.
“Perfect! It’s a deal!” They held out all of their hands and Panagiotis took off his golden ring… but then paused.
“Whom shall I give it to?” He gripped the ring in his hand for dear life as three pairs of eyes stared at him greedily.
“Who do you think deserves it?”
After Alycone gave Panagiotis a magical bubble that gave him the ability to obtain oxygen from water, the three sisters drew him deep below the surface, passing many animals and forms of life. Panagiotis could still see his ring glimmering on Ligeia’s hand, and his pulse quickened as he realized what exactly was at stake here. After what seemed like forever in the underwater world, Panagiotis noticed that the sea floor was getting closer and lighter, and that the water had also gotten warmer. He checked himself once, then settled on the fact that it was because of the sun. The sirens’ grip tightened as the water became shallow enough for him to stand. Panagiotis motioned for Nereus to go hide behind a ring of rocks a few feet away, then pointed behind the sirens, gasping. Alycone, Parthenope, and Ligeia turned their heads, and loosened their grip just enough for Panagiotis to escape and race towards the surface.
The three sisters flopped themselves onto the sandy beach as close to Panagiotis as they could. Ligeia stared him down as fierce as she could, then stared at her sisters.
“Why can I not see your heart?” Ligeia’s voice was back to her own, and the maliciousness was gone, replaced by a curious threat. “Are you not a man?”
Panagiotis swallowed hard, his Adam’s apple bobbing up and down, “That is correct. I am not a man, but a God trapped in a man’s body. Zeus has cursed me into this form due to my uncontrollable arrogance, so that I may be humbled and learn to be treated like a mere mortal.”
The three sisters nodded and swam off, and Panagiotis waved, the golden ring on his right hand tingling at their now superior hearts. He turned around many times to inspect the land… or Virginia. Granted, back then it was inhabited by Native Americans and probably named something really hard to pronounce but we’ll just say Virginia. Panagiotis ran to Nereus and kissed his friend’s nose, the glee at gaining another day to live overtaking him.
“You did it!” Nereus’ voice echoed in his head, but softer and slower than before.
“Are you alright, dear Nereus?” Panagiotis’ voice came out chocked and worried.
“I’m afraid not… On our journey to this place… it seems that I feel too far behind you all and a sea beast seemed to be a little hungry…” Nereus lifted his backside out of the water to show a bleeding stub where his tail should be. Panagiotis’ eyes immediately filled with tears as the dolphin’s breaths became ragged and heavier. “I hid it from you and the sirens until now, and that took up most of my strength. I’m afraid you’ll have to do the rest of this journey on your own. There…. There is a pool of fresh water in the middle of this island, the only one with a waterfall. If you h-h-have a good heart, the natives of this land will be kind.” The poor little dolphin sank below the surface, his body disappearing into a pool of red…
Panagiotis wondered the fruitful earth, searching for the pool that Nereus had been talking about. He never ran into any living being, just the occasional tree and the ground sometimes when he stumbled on a root. The pain of losing everything he held dear had cut so deeply that he no longer felt anything. It didn’t matter if he ate, slept, drank, or kept track of time… he just trudged forward around the island. One night, he became so tired and weak that he passed out in the middle of jumping over a log, and ending up breaking his head open. He didn’t care though; when he awoke he kept on walking. If he had kept his wits about him, he would have realized that he was walking in circles, but it took a tree down in his path to send him towards the middle.
Eventually he found the pool, and ran to the cool water to drink. The waterfall seemed to stretch up to the sky, and he dove beneath it, finding at least a hint of joy again. He looked around the green, sheltered area and saw many fruits and herbs sprouting from trees and the ground, and the water was clear all the way to the floor. Many colorful fish swam alongside him, brushing their tales against his skin, tickling.
He breathed in the crystal clear air and sighed in content, moving to float on his back. “This is Paradise.”
“I’m glad you see that as well as I do.” A soft, sweet female voice startled him out of his peaceful trance and he sputtered below the surface of the cool water. Two strong yet smooth hands pulled him onto land again. “I’m sorry to have startled you!”
Panagiotis opened his eyes to meet two brown ones, shadowed by long eyelashes and a beautiful face. Her brown ringlets fell onto his chest and face, and her lips moved quickly, though he couldn’t catch exactly what she was saying. His brain recuperated and he realized his head was resting in her lap, the cool fabric of her skirts drawn up by her hand to mop some of the excess water off of his face.
As soon as she realized that Panagiotis was aware, she smiled, “I’m Iris, and you must be Panagiotis!”
“How does everyone come to learn a man’s name?” Panagiotis shook his head and sat up.
“My friend told me.” Her smile was so sweet and pure that Panagiotis couldn’t help but me hypnotized.
“And who is this friend?” He stood all the way up and brushed some dirt off of his clothes, attempting to become more pleasing to look at.
“His name is Nereus, but I’ve never seen him.” Iris stood up, a sad glint in her eye. Panagiotis grabbed her upper arms and stared straight at her.
“You know Nereus?” She nodded and his arms moved to circle her, and she met the embrace.
“His spirit was passing by and so I captured it in this.” She held up a golden nugget, glimmering in the sunlight. “He talks about you a lot.” Iris smiled up at Panagiotis and they shared a moment…
The seasons came and went many times and Panagiotis came to know all of the secrets of the island of Acadia. The inhabitants were all magical creatures that had been driven further and further away from their homelands, with the exception of Iris and Panagiotis. Acadia’s biggest pride was their two trees on top of the waterfall that held all of their magic. Many mystical creatures roamed this enchanted island and the waters surrounding it; fairies, elves, mermaids, unicorns, minotaurs, etc. Everything was peaceful and ran smoothly, unlike the world Panagiotis had left behind. Panagiotis and Iris never aged, either, so they enjoyed their time without any care in the world.
One day while strolling along the forest’s paths, Panagiotis ran into a little puppy. He petted its head as the little blonde dog sniffed, then proceeded to like his hand. Once again a little voice popped into Panagiotis’ hand… but this time it was one of a little girl.
“Big brother, you’re here!” Panagiotis stared at the little pup curiously and she bounced around him. “Panagiotis is here! Big brother it’s me!” Memories that Panagiotis had buried far into the burrows of his mind sprang back and he gleefully picked up Aglaia, kissing her furry head.
“My dear sister… I’m so glad that you are here.” Panagiotis’ eyes pooled with tears as he ran back to Iris, his little sister in his arms with her little pink tongue out.
After many, many years had gone by; a lone arrow struck a tree closest to the water’s edge, the flaming shaft catching the tree on fire. The fire licked another tree’s branches, and then another’s engulfing Acadia in chaos and embers. The creatures knew that the end was near, and rushed to Panagiotis and Iris.
“The humans?” Iris’ voice became quieter than the sea after a storm, and she grasped her lover’s hand for dear life. “My love… there is no escape…”
Before Panagiotis could even speak, a tree tumbled over and crushed them all…
After all the ash had settled down and the humans had sailed past, many spirits lifted up into the air from the dead bodies. Iris stared down at her own self, and then cried into Panagiotis’ arms.
“Iris?” Panagiotis held her tightly against him.
“Y-y-y-y-y-yes Panagiotis?” Her voice revealed the heartbreak mere words could never explain.
“Adrastos… my given name is Adrastos…” Panagiotis- Adrastos, had given Iris the dearest thing he had left, other than her. His true name held the blessing the god’s had given him, and left him without any advantage over anyone. Iris just smiled at him, then weaved her hands in the pattern she used to attach spirits to objects.
“Adrastos again stared curiously, then searched for Aglaia’s spirit, knowing what his dear Iris was doing.”
“So that’s the end?”
“Well, not exactly… Iris had of course mashed all of their spirits together into the golden nugget that Nereus was in, but it wasn’t real gold. Over the years the metal in it had been molded and melted and reused so many times that it couldn’t hold all of their spirits. They had to realize it was time to go, but left all of their love inside of it. Nereus and Panagiotis’ friendly love. The family bond that Panagiotis and Algiaia shared… and the true love that Iris and Panagiotis made known to the world.”
“What happened to the… thing after that?”
“Well… it was turned into a ring. After being melted down and reformed so many times, the metal reduced its value so that it could be sold at local retail stores. Yet it still held all of the love from its brave adventurers. And one day, a very special guy will give it to his very special girl and share the everlasting love withheld in the ring.”
Sophia shook her head at me. “Elaina, you’re crazy.”
“It’ll happen… I know it.”