On a hill over the city of Delphi climbed three boys on the verge of manhood. One of them was a young prince with great ambitions and his two friends who asked him to come to an abandoned place because they wanted to tell him something only he was supposed to hear. The young prince was suspicious of why no one else was allowed to hear it but he trusted only a handful of people and these two were among them.
The hill wasn’t high but the landscape surrounding it was so flat one could see far in the distance. Down there were herds of goats feeding on short grass and brown bushes and gardens of olive trees. But they weren’t here to simply admire the view. His suspicion proved right when his friends turned to him, their faces knotted with worry and anxiety. Alexandros was confused by his friends’ secrecy. They were usually straightforward and outgoing, this shyness didn’t suit them at all.
The young king frowned. For a fraction of minute he felt worried he was betrayed by his best friends. Alone on this place, no one would hear his screams and who would suspect those two of hurting him. Then he shooed those poisonous thoughts, a mindset surely inherited from his mother, away. Miltiades and Aigidion would never hurt him. Even now they looked more embarrassed of something than threatening. Still he must be careful, trusting those under your command too much is equally as bad as trusting too little.
Then after the brothers exchanged some glances about who should start Miltiades said: “We’re glad you came with us. I know it’s weird but we have to tell you something.” Aigidion chimed in: “That’s why we took you here. Because we don’t want to tell it anyone else and we don’t even know if it will work.” “Right. We have actually never tried it before with anyone else because we decided that if there’s someone we should tell it to, it’s you,” finished older Miltiades for his brother.
Alexandros grew more and more confused. Confused and curious. “What? What is it?” The brothers looked at each other. Nervous and still unsure if they really shall entrust their big secret to their friend and ruler. The words they finally uttered, struck him to the core: “We can enter the realm of gods.”
Alexandros stared at them. They didn’t seem drunk and the king wasn’t aware of his companions having explored the Elysian mysteries. Nor were they ghosts returned from the Underworld. They stood alive and well right in front of him. “Show me, how you do it then,” he said hesitantly as he didn’t know what to expect. Nothing happened. That’s what Alexandros thought at least. His friends just stood there. They closed their eyes and seemed to be concentrating on something though.
Then it was as if the whole world blinked. The surroundings around him became blurrier as if he had tears in eyes but only for a slice of moment. Then the landscape around him cleared up again. The brothers opened their eyes at the same time. “Did it work,” asked Miltiades and everyone looked around.
They were on the same hill as before. But the surroundings have changed. The buildings were different. Bigger, wider , more decorated. The herds of goats were guarded by satyr shepherds and olive trees were watered by nymphs. Alexandros couldn’t believe his eyes. He closed them. He opened them again. Everything was still there. He turned to his two friends and saw their boyish grins. Finally they found someone they could entrust their secret to.
A figure flew towards them in high speed “Hello, boys,” yelled a small man with winged sandals at them. “I see you’ve brought a visitor with you.” “Hello Hermes, this is Alexandros, our prince and friend. We’ve told you about him,” waved Miltiades back. Hermes understood: “The crown prince of the mortals in the other world.” Alexandros bowed down: “It’s an honour to meet an Olympian.”
Hermes made a salto in the air and smirked: “Thank you for your kind words, king of Macedonia.” “They will be even kinder if you take me to your king and the lord of everything. Zeus.” “I would do it, however Zeus is gone. Maybe chasing a lovely lady in a swan form or raining upon a fruitful lap in golden drops,” Hermes laughed. “He leaves and returns as he pleases,” shrugged the little man hovering in the air.
The not-very-tall god proceeded to show off his flying abilities leaving the three mortals waiting when he’s had enough of air acrobatics.
The brothers growing bored of Hermes games, Aigidion cleared his throat: “Alexandros, I recall you wanted to visit the Delphi temple to ask the oracle about your future.” The young prince lit up: “Yes, I want to know what glorious thread the Moiras and lady Fortuna have woven for me.” “That can be arranged. According to my knowledge the fair Apollo hasn’t left the temple today. Let’s ask him if he grants you the permission to enter,” said Hermes and flew off. The three men followed him by foot.
The Delphi temple was a place that existed on both sides of the universe. But whereas the ‘real’ Delphi temple was supposed to be a housing for a deity but was only a symbol of the sun god’s power, the temple in the realm of mythic figures was the real place where the god Apollo along with his priests and priestesses lived.
As expected of the god of light, Apollo had thick golden hair, the aspect of gold emphasized by the thin golden crown he worn. Clad in a white, long flowing robe which showed only his toned and tanned arms and face. He came to the porch of his own temple to greet the visitors.
When the trio arrived to the temple Apollo bobbed his head slightly, a gesture of one mighty man acknowledging the might of another and said to Alexandros: „It is unusual for a mortal to appear to a god. But you aren’t common mortals,“ he gave the brothers Miltiades and Aigidion a penetrating stare.
After that he turned back to Alexandros: “You may enter, mortal prince. If you’re lucky, goddess Fortuna will speak to you through one of my maiden priestesses today. The message may concern you, your land or your descendants. Whichever it is, it’s solely up to you to find out.”
The Macedonian prince didn’t wait for more and walked into the temple. He stopped right in front of the stage the altar stood on. The altar sounds like a term for something magnificent and lavish when in truth it was a simple wooden stool next to a hole. A constant purplish and bluish smoke was coming from the hole in the floor.
The stool was prepared for a priestess, as the trio learned when a maiden of uncertain age came. She was dressed in long flowing robe, similar to Apollo’s but made from cheaper materials. The woman sat on a stool while murmuring special incantations and inhaling a lot of the strange smoke. The prince and his friends watched her face turning red and sweaty. Then the priestess began swaying from side to side, the words getting more and more incomprehensible. Her eyes rolled inside her head leaving only the whites visible – she was in trance.
The head of the oracle very slowly turned towards the three friends, her unseeing eyes were aimed into the space but the young men were feeling unsettled as if she looked straight into their heart. The Priestess spoke in husky voice, her throat coarse by all the smoke that entered her lungs during her whole life.
“You are going to rule the world.”
The boys, future king of Macedonia and his loyal companions, stood there petrified. They have just heard a real prophecy. Many pilgrims have wandered to the temple of Delphi to hear what destiny awaits them and here they are standing near the god Apollo himself in his very own home.
That evening Alexandros celebrated as if he was already crowned the king of all mankind. The fate has spoken after all. His success was written in the stars. The prince, who became the king, would later encourage his servants and soldiers during his conquests with the words that the oracle has claimed him to be invincible but that was a lie. As he learned there was a foe even the powerful basileus couldn’t defeat. Death itself.
Author’s note: Another piece of the Grimm Brothers’s past was